Best Southern Cookbooks | 18 Books You Need In Your Kitchen

You can’t not love Southern food. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you grew up eating, there’s no resisting butter-laden biscuits, fatty meat-decked beans and greens, fried vegetables of every variety, Cajun spices, rich meaty soups, and BBQ’d bits of any kind dripping with sauce.

In the South, cookbooks are viewed as just as high an art form as literature. So much more than recipes, cookbooks convey our culture in palpable terms and enrich the stories passed down in them. They help us discern our sense of place and home.

Are you looking to brush up on your Southern cooking skills? We are here to help. At Lowcountry Style and Living we love to cook and entertain family and friends, yet we all need a little cooking inspiration from time to time. With that in mind, we rounded up some of the best cookbooks that’ll help your Southern hospitality grow in the kitchen (even if that kitchen is north of the Mason Dixon line).

These cookbooks will help you dazzle your family and guests with true Southern cuisine. Each of these 18 Southern cookbooks would be perfect to add to your collection, use for kitchen decor, and give as the perfect gift.

No matter your culture or background, if you’re a Southern (or just love Southern food) there is no better guide to Southern cooking than these 18 cookbooks.

The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis (30th Anniversary Edition)

The Taste of Country Cooking: The 30th Anniversary Edition of a Great Southern Classic Cookbook
  • Hardcover Book
  • Lewis, Edna (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 268 Pages – 08/01/2006 (Publication Date) – Knopf (Publisher)

While this list is in no particular order, if you had to just pick one book on the list, it probably should be this one. This iconic book is written by none other than the great Edna Lewis, a beloved Virginia home cook. Edna’s recipes tell the story of a Southern woman in love with food, family, and tradition.

Ms. Lewis was born in 1916 in Virginia in a community established by African Americans, some of whom were former slaves. She left the South as part of the Great Migration to ultimately end up in New York City. Prior to becoming known for her cooking she experienced a fair amount of success in the fashion world. Later in life, she moved back to the South, to Atlanta, and in 1976 she published The Taste of Country Cooking, which quickly became a classic.

This book is presented in four seasons, each with their own specialties, feasts, and delights. These are old-timey recipes with old-timey ingredients and old-timey methods of preparation. Some of the recipes are difficult to replicate exactly, others are still doable. However, this is one cookbook where the book transcends the recipes. It is a story about nature and home, childhood and family, community and hard work. It is a gem.

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Gullah Geechee Home Cooking Recipes from the Matriarch of Edisto Island by Emily Meggett

Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from the Matriarch of Edisto Island
  • Hardcover Book
  • Meggett, Emily (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages – 04/26/2022 (Publication Date) – Abrams Books (Publisher)

Emily Meggett never used a cookbook, but she released her own (and very first) cookbook at nearly 90 years old. As the title suggests, Emily was often called “the matriarch of Edisto Island.” Edisto Island is a South Carolina sea island where enslaved African Americans of the Gullah Geechee heritage were isolated in the 1800s.

Her cookbook offers 100 delicious recipes including her famous fried rice, fresh mashed potatoes, butter beans, hush puppies, and more.

Southern Cooking Bible: Smokin’ Tasty and Authentic Southern Recipes by Daniel Cook

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Daniel Cook traveled all over the South to visit and cook with as many people as he could. He collected some recipes from each person he visited and compiled them into the Southern Cooking Bible which covers all aspects of cooking in the South, making it as authentic as Southern cookbooks can get. Some of his recipes include Arkansas Green Beans, Georgia Pecan Pie, Southern Fried Rice, and Whisky Grilled Baby Back Ribs.

Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: A Mouth-Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes by Pamela Strobel

Princess Pamela’s Soul Food Cookbook: A Mouth-Watering Treasury of Afro-American Recipes
  • Hardcover Book
  • Strobel, Pamela (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages – 10/12/2021 (Publication Date) – Rizzoli (Publisher)

This is a great soul-food cookbook. In addition to straightforward recipes for fried chicken, every cut of pork, grits, and other Southern staples, it’s filled with Stobel’s own poetry and musings, tales of her restaurateuring, and the entire book sings of her style. Strobel’s food has panache and endless appeal. Don’t put it down without giving the green tomato mincemeat recipe a try!

Heritage by Sean Brock

  • New York Times best seller Winner, James Beard Award for Best Book in American Cooking Winner, IACP Julia Child First Book Award
  • Hardcover Book
  • Brock, Sean (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages – 10/21/2014 (Publication Date) – Artisan (Publisher)

Chef Sean Brock eats, sleeps, and breathes Southern cooking. Having grown up in Appalachia he relocated to Charleston. (He was behind the Husk restaurants.) Now his base is Nashville, TN. Brock understands the history of Southern food and the importance of sharing it.

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This book explains how to make flavorful dishes like pickled shrimp, chocolate Alabama stack cakes, baked Sea Island red peas, slow cooked pork shoulder with tomato gravy, wild ramp and crab-stuffed hush puppies, alongside essays from Sean explaining what the dishes mean to him.

Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day: A Cookbook by Rodney Scott & Lolis Eric Elie

Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day: A Cookbook
  • Hardcover Book
  • Scott, Rodney (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages – 03/16/2021 (Publication Date) – Clarkson Potter (Publisher)

You may have visited one of pitmaster Rodney Scott’s restaurants in South Carolina, Alabama, or Georgia, but now you can bring home a taste of his famous barbecue, thanks to his debut cookbook. Rodney shares lots of secrets such as what makes his barbecued spare ribs so tender and how to recreate his award winning whole hog. Whether you’re a barbecue expert or just starting out, Rodney’s recipes are equal parts delicious and chewable.

The book is co-written by award winning writer Lolis Eric Elie and includes heartwarming stories about Rodney’s journey from working in tobacco fields with his father, moving to Charleston, SC, to becoming a barbecue elite.

A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen by Dora Charles and Fran McCullough

A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen
  • Hardcover Book
  • Charles, Dora (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages – 09/08/2015 (Publication Date) – Harvest (Publisher)

There are intensely satisfying dishes at the heart of Dora’s beloved Savannah cookbook including: Shrimp and Rice, Simple Smoky Okra, Buttermilk Cornbread from her grandmother and, of course, truly incomparable Fried Chicken. Each dish has a “secret ingredient” for a burst of flavor: mayonnaise in the biscuits, Savannah Seasoning in her Gone to Glory Potato Salad; sugar-glazed bacon in her deviled eggs. All the cornerstones of the Southern table are here.

The Southern Slow Cooker Bible: 365 Easy and Delicious Down Home Recipes by Tammy Algood and Thomas Nelson

The Southern Slow Cooker Bible: 365 Easy and Delicious Down-Home Recipes
  • Algood, Tammy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages – 02/11/2014 (Publication Date) – Harper Celebrate (Publisher)

Here’s a cookbook that serves up 365 recipes (one for each day of the year) that lets you effortlessly pair the flavors of the South with the conveniences of slow cooking. This book covers all the favorites, including a whole chapter devoted to Southern mainstays such as grits, macaroni and cheese, stuffed peppers, and pulled pork. You’ll find yourself returning to this collection over and over again.

Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes by Todd Richards

SOUL: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes
  • James Beard Award-nominated Chef Todd Richards shares his personal culinary exploration of soul food.
  • Hardcover Book
  • Richards, Todd (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages – 05/22/2018 (Publication Date) – TI Inc. Books (Publisher)

In Soul, Richards shows us the traditions and diversity of soul food but he also reimagines it. He both embraces stereotypes and defies them. The cookbook is organized by types of food: collards, corn, tomatoes, and melons, just to name a few.

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In each section you will find more traditional recipes as well as Richard’s spin on tradition such as the recipe for Collard Green Ramen. In addition, he gives beer and wine pairings for the food and a playlist to listen to while you cook.

In this absolutely gorgeous cookbook, you’ll be tempted by recipes of Shrimp & Grits with Grit Crusted Shrimp Butter; Okra, Andouille and Crab Fritters; and Grilled Peach Toast with Pimento Cheese.

Hot Little Suppers: Simple Recipes to Feed Family and Friends by Carrie Morey

Hot Little Suppers: Simple Recipes to Feed Family and Friends
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Morey, Carrie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages – 11/02/2021 (Publication Date) – Harper Celebrate (Publisher)

Written by Carrie Morey, founder of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, this book features over 120 recipes, divided by seasons, from low maintenance meals to more involved recipes you can whip up on the weekend.

Standout dishes include meatloaf with crispy onions, fried green tomatoes, and tangy chicken salad.

Each chapter also includes “Hot Little Tips” from Carrie that give you suggestions on how to involve your kids when cooking, sides and drinks that pair well with the book’s recipes, and tips for feeding a large crowd.

New Orleans Cookbook by Lena Richard

New Orleans Cookbook
  • Richard, Lena (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 158 Pages – 04/30/1999 (Publication Date) – Pelican Publishing (Publisher)

From Lobster Salad to Baked Stuffed Oysters and Crawfish Bisque, this compilation of recipes offers the best of New Oeleans cuisine. Chef Lena Richards pulled inspiration from her Southern roots and her experience in the catering business to create delicious and delectable dishes. In addition to recipes, this comprehensive cookbook offers menu ideas for formal and informal dinners.

The Big Bad Breakfast Cookbook by John Currnece

Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day [A Cookbook]
  • Hardcover Book
  • Currence, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages – 09/13/2016 (Publication Date) – Ten Speed Press (Publisher)

If you want to know how to make a good breakfast, look no further than Chef John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast. This New Orleans native lays out 75 recipes from his restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi. Currence, and most Southerners for that matter, know how to do breakfast right.

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Some of the famous dishes that he shares in this cookbook include Banana-Pecan Coffee Cake, Spicy Boudin with Poached Eggs, Oyster Pot Pie, and more. They all contain a comforting, soulful, Southern flavor.

Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration by Carla Hall

Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration
  • Hardcover Book
  • Hall, Carla (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages – 10/23/2018 (Publication Date) – Harper (Publisher)

Former co-host of ABC’s The Chew and a beloved Top Chef contestant, Carla Hall has published two previous cookbooks, but her most recent effort might be her most personal. In this book, Hall invites readers into her childhood in Nashville and helps to anchor her story in the larger narrative of African Americans in the South. The effect is a book that is full of both delicious recipes and culturally significant stories.

Root to Leaf by Steven Salterfield

Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons
  • Hardcover Book
  • Satterfield, Steven (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 496 Pages – 03/03/2015 (Publication Date) – Harper (Publisher)

Southerners know that the true beauty of the region’s food lies not in the fryer but in the fields, gardens, and groves. James Beard Award-winning chef Steven Satherfield (of Miller Union restaurant in Atlanta) gives readers a comprehensive guide to cooking with Southern produce through a seasonal lens. It’s a cookbook that will truly make you rethink vegetables with new appreciation and knowledge for what can be delicious on the table year-round.

Southern from Scratch by Ashley English

Southern from Scratch: Pantry Essentials and Down-Home Recipes
  • Hardcover Book
  • English, Ashley (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages – 04/24/2018 (Publication Date) – Roost Books (Publisher)

English’s cookbook is all about preparing meals from what’s at hand (which also means ensuring that your pantry is replete with the essentials and more) so that it’s possible to produce a great Southern dish on the fly.

Focused on canning, preservation, and the home pantry, she’ll teach you how to make pickles, jams, and essential sauces first, and then how to use them into your seasonal dishes.

She will also prompt you toward Grit Cakes with Country Ham and Applesauce, Pecan Coins and Pimento Cheese, as well as Ambrosia and Southern Greens with Chow Chow.

Down-home, bright photographs make the experience of English’s book all the more comforting and mouth-watering.

Black Girl Baking by Jenelle Guy 

Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing
  • Guy, Jerrelle (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages – 02/06/2018 (Publication Date) – Page Street Publishing (Publisher)

Janelle Guy was raised in a Florida town where the flavors were informed by Jamaican, Haitian, and Cuban cultures, and where her childhood kitchen experiences were more about the necessity of cooking than the joy of it. Guy is positioned to discuss the “romance” of food with nuance, and she does so in her cookbook, which centers on baking.

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Go for Saffron Soymilk Pie, Pepper Jelly Thumbprint Cookies, or Cajun Rubbed Flatbread to liven up your meal. Shift homier with Blueberry Drop Biscuits or Pecan Pie Rugelach.

This cookbook is a sensory experience as Guy doesn’t forget that mouthfeel and aroma are as important as taste in enjoying food.

Son of a Southern Chef: Cook will Soul by Lazerius Lynch 

Son of a Southern Chef: Cook with Soul: A Cookbook
  • Lynch, Lazarus (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages – 06/11/2019 (Publication Date) – Avery (Publisher)

A two-time Chopped champion, an internet personality, and the genius behind Son of a Southern Chef (the blog), Lazerus Lynch puts his unique spin on more than 100 traditional Southern recipes like Brown Butter Candy Yam Mash with Goat Cheese Brulee, Shrimp and Crazy Creamy Cheddar Grits, and Dulce de Leche Banana Pudding.

Lazarus successfully challenges the boundaries of Southern cooking and brings you along for the dazzling ride.

The Southern Cast Iron Cookbook: Comforting Family Recipes to Enjoy and Share by Elena Rosemond Hoerr

The Southern Cast Iron Cookbook: Comforting Family Recipes to Enjoy and Share
  • Rosemond-Hoerr, Elena (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 188 Pages – 05/16/2017 (Publication Date) – Callisto (Publisher)

Most southern cooks know about cast iron cooking, or at least the benefits of using it. If properly taken care of, a cast iron frying pan can last a lifetime or two. It can be handed down from generation to generation.

This book not only shares recipes such as Fried Grits with Country Ham & Red Eye Gravy, Monkey Bread, Spicy Boiled Peanuts, and Blueberry Mountain Pie, but also contains a lot of information about cast ironware and tips to season it as well. Adding this book to your library of southern cookbooks is a must.

In the rich and vibrant world of Southern cuisine, traditions are cherished, and flavors tell a story. These 18 Southern cookbooks encompass a wealth of culinary wisdom, from time-honored family recipes to innovative modern twists.

Whether you’re a seasoned Southern chef or a newcomer eager to explore this flavorful cuisine, the books on this list will guide you through the delightful complexities of dishes that have been savored for generations. With fried chicken, buttery biscuits, zesty gumbo, and luscious peach cobbler at your fingertips, these cookbooks provide not just recipes, but a genuine taste of Southern hospitality.

Invest in these essential kitchen companions, and you’ll have the tools to bring the heart and soul of Southern cooking right into your own home.

What is Southern Cooking?

Southern cooking, also known as soul food, is a cherished culinary tradition that originated in the southern regions of the United States. It is a rich tapestry of flavors and techniques passed down through generations, reflecting the diverse cultural influences that have shaped the South’s history. This style of cuisine celebrates comfort, indulgence, and hospitality, with its hearty dishes and bold flavors.

Southern cooking is all about embracing simple ingredients and transforming them into something extraordinary. It often includes staples like cornmeal, okra, collard greens, and pork.

The recipes speak to the soul, evoking warmth and nostalgia with each bite. From crispy fried chicken to smoky barbecued ribs and creamy shrimp and grits – every dish tells a story of resilience and joy.

Historical Influences

To truly understand southern cooking, it is vital to explore its historical influences. The roots of this cuisine can be traced back to African traditions brought over by enslaved individuals who worked on plantations in the South during colonial times. These African culinary practices blended with Native American ingredients like corn, beans, squash, wild game meat, creating a distinct flavor profile.

Additionally, European settlers from countries such as England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany contributed their own culinary customs to southern cooking. They introduced techniques like frying food in animal fat or lard which has become synonymous with comfort food in the South.

Over time these various cultural influences intermingled while adapting to local availability of ingredients resulting in uniquely Southern dishes such as gumbo or jambalaya which reflect both West African and French cuisines. Understanding these historical influences allows us to appreciate Southern cooking not just for its deliciousness but also for its role as a testament to cultural resilience amidst challenging times throughout history.

Blair Witkowski
Author: Blair Witkowski

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