When you think about southern cooking, what do you imagine: gut-busting breakfasts and fried everything? Or mouthwatering slow-smoked barbecue and melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork?
There is a counterpoint for every calorie we all heard about in our childhoods (think Mom’s pecan pie!). Southern cooking has a bad rap, but the chefs who have dedicated their lives to this cuisine prove that it can be delicious and healthy.
In this review guide, I’ll share my knowledge of the best southern cookbooks available today to afford you the luscious food without the guilt!
3 Top Southern Cookbooks From Amazon Best seller list.
You can check 3 Popular southern cookbook from amazon best seller list.
Is a Southern cookbook essential?
A Southern cookbook is obviously necessary for your case if you are already here. But suppose someone challenged that notion, may be out of average skills in Southern cooking?
As opposed to learning this delicate culinary from other sources like articles and Tube videos, a cookbook is by far your best shot at replicating the Southern culinary experience, away from the Southern culture. Here’s why:
- A cookbook is an everlasting reference
YouTube videos get deleted, and web pages or even entire websites go down. But a cookbook is something that’s here to stay– unless the publishers go bankrupt or stop publishing!
- A cookbook is precise
Don’t you loathe it when cooking turns out opposite of what you expected? It’s because, in most cases, even if the recipe is your favorite, it’s almost always incomplete.
Don’t you think it’s time to call off the search for a comprehensive cookbook and get a Southern Cookbook?
- A cookbook will allow you to avoid trial-and-error learning
You know how it is with trial-and-error learning: you’re going to have a lot of failures (and time and resource wastage) before you get something right!
But, assuming that the cookbook you’re getting right now is your first, then there’s nothing to learn from trial-and-error. You just need to follow the book’s instructions, and you’ll seldom go wrong.
- A cookbook will allow you to avoid the internet
The internet is fantastic for research but not for learning. You need to have some skills in the area you’re learning before looking for stuff related to it online.
Nevertheless, internet addiction is a problem nowadays, and it’s only getting worse. A cookbook will allow you to avoid this addiction by providing everything at your fingertips in one place.
The best Southern cookbooks reviews
Now you understand why a southern cookbook is essential. Let’s understand the reviews you will want to read before purchasing any Southern cookbooks:
1. Magnolia Table by Marah Stets and Joanna Gaines
The Magnolia Table is one of the best starting points for anyone aspiring to conquer Southern cooking but does not have the time and maybe resources to attend a culinary school. Joanna and Marah encourage their readers to embrace their personal tastes and try out new techniques and ingredients through their 125 recipes included in the cookbook.
For example, they share breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes while still throwing in ideas on smaller plates, desserts, and snacks. Do you want to turn around your meals to the Southern style? Try out these dishes:
- Chicken Pot Pie: This is a classic dish with a cubed biscuit crust.
- Mac and cheese: Probably everyone’s favorite, but learn the three different ways to prepare it!
- Peach Caprese: This will be your new healthy, low-carb breakfast option.
- Asparagus and Fontina Quiche: Turn your quiche into a Southern delight with just a couple of ingredients.
- Chocolate Chip Cookies: No one would say no to this classic yet simple recipe.
If you are more inclined to try customer recipes, these should give you a head start:
- Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon, Toasted Pecans, and Balsamic Reduction: This is a plate that certainly impresses! It’s ideal for those who love salt but still have a sweet tooth.
- Fried Chicken with Sticky Poppy Seed Jam: A meal that will remind you of your childhood, plus you can swap the jam as you like.
- Overnight French Toast: Perfect when you have guests to impress.
- White Cheddar Bisque: A cheesy twist to a classic, creamy soup.
If you are looking for a way to incorporate Southern cooking in every meal, this book has you covered. It covers a wide selection of modern American classics and many personal favorites from the authors.
From their love for gardening, Joanna and Marah incorporate homegrown, seasonal produce in most of their recipes, which gives them a fresher taste.
What we like:
- Includes 125 Southern cooking recipes
- Easy to follow steps and instructions
- Beautiful illustrative photography
- Available as an Amazon Kindle and hardcover
2. I Heart Soul Food: 100 Southern Comfort Food Favorites by Rosie Mayes
Rosie Mayes brings the heart of her home, Alabama, to Quebec with this collection of 100 recipes. She teaches us to prepare Southern-style classics such as fried chicken fingers, buttermilk biscuits, macaroni, and cheese or peach cobbler.
By employing an authentic and approachable tone, Rosie makes it look easy to reproduce family-style meals in a professional setting. This is arguably the perfect cookbook to polish up on Sunday suppers or any other festivities you’d like to impress your guests with.
Some of the irresistible main and side dishes include:
- Oxtail Stew: This is a classic preparation of oxtail with rich red wine sauce.
- Smothered Chicken: A southern delicacy, this dish sounds rustic but is quite simple.
- Soul Food Collard Greens: A Southern touch of soul food with satisfying results.
- Baked Candied Yams: You can’t go wrong with a family favorite made of sweet potatoes and caramelized brown sugar.
If you’re a fan of the classics, these breakfast options will be an absolute delight:
- Blueberry Cornbread Waffles and Shrimp: No syrup required; these Southern waffles are simply delicious.
- Andouille Sausage and Grits: A hearty breakfast made with a Southern-style sauce… yum!
Drinks are also catered for. Enjoy Sweet Iced Tea, Pralines, and Peach Cobbler, the Southern way.
Ever find it hard telling whether what you ended up with is what the author intended? No worries! With over 90 photographs, it is easy to visualize the dish as it should look after following the instructions.
Rosie also provides advice on navigating your kitchen and supermarket shelves and other restaurant-style tips, such as how to tell if your cast iron skillet is ready for use.
What we like:
- A section on kitchen essentials
- Detailed step-by-step instructions
- Includes over 90 color photos of the recipes
- Available in Kindle, hardcover, and spiral-bound versions
3. The Southern Entertainer’s Cookbook: Heirloom Recipes for Modern Gatherings by CourtneyWhitmore
There is no better place to keep up with Southern cooking trends than in the Southern Living Magazine. And having been endorsed by this magazine as a must-have in the 2020 December issue, The Southern Entertainer’s Cookbook is definitely the go-to book for every party planner’s library.
From introducing a successful lifestyle site Pizzazzerie.com to earning a feature in HGTV, Southern Living, Better Homes & Gardens, and Martha Stewart, Courtney Whitmore is an ardent believer in making entertaining a breeze. She already has five books under her belt, so you can be sure this book will give you value for your money.
Some of the favorite dishes include:
- Appetizers and salads: Learn how to impress your guests with a range of appetizers, from a simple Tomato and Cream Cheese Tart to Savory Pimento Cheese Straws.
- Entrees: It is time to relax and enjoy the party with some of these crowd-pleasers such as Horseradish-Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin, Slow-Roasted Pork Loin, or the delicious Harvest Pumpkin Risotto.
- Drinks: Drinks are the cherry on the cake, and Courtney does not disappoint with some delightful options such as Holiday Sangria or Pumpkin Spice White Hot Chocolate.
- Desserts: As the host, it gives you great satisfaction to provide guests with an equal amount of sweet delights for them to enjoy. This book has a wide range of tasty options.
What we like:
- A clear photo of every dish
- Detailed ingredients and equipment lists
- Appeals to both beginners and experienced cooks
- Written by a reputable author
- Available as both soft and hard copy
4. The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen
Have you ever wanted to prepare dishes that remind you of home? If so, then look no further than America’s Test Kitchen.
Compiled by the editors and test cooks at Cook’s Country TV show, this compilation will be your go-to cookbook for all family gatherings and dinner parties. This bestselling book has become a favorite among many households, providing a touch on classic and regional favorites, widespread among America’s small and big towns.
Most importantly, the cookbook features Season 14 of the show. Some of the classics explained and featured here include:
- Italian Meatloaf: An Italian-style meatloaf with garlic, Parmesan cheese…
- Ground Beef Stroganoff: The perfect family-style dish for a busy night, and
- Bacon-Wrapped Pork Roast with Peach Sauce: The perfect centerpiece for a winter dinner party.
And if you like the more straightforward and more replicable down-home favorites, some intrigues include:
- Texas Potato Pancakes: A breakfast hash dish with red bell pepper and onion,
- Strawberry Cheesecake Bars: A summery dessert with a graham cracker crust, and
- Lowa Skinnies: These savory pancakes are a local favorite of cornmeal and cheese.
Supplementing the 500+ recipes is a backstory or inspiration for most of the included dishes. There is also a comprehensive shopping guide list and substitution for ingredients like garlic. You’ll also find information on buying electric deep fryers and skillets.
What we like:
- A wide variety of home-style dishes for all occasions
- Clear instructions and easy-to-follow recipes
- Compiled by America’s test kitchen experts
- Available as both hard and soft copy.
5. Magnolia Table, Volume 2: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gainnes
This is my second favorite Southern cookbook by Joanna Gaines. I love the warmth and comfort you get from the photographs. This book will keep your family and friends engaged and talking about it for months to come.
The book is a result of the first one’s success. Joanna was more than happy to see her family’s dishes served in restaurants and touted by individuals who bought the first volume. This prompted her and her family to dig deeper into their recipes to improve and add up to the collection.
In this book, you’ll find 145 new recipes created from scratch by Joanna, her husband, and their five children. And unlike most cookbooks that contain the usual few dozen recipes, Magnolia Table’s collection has more than 100 original recipes with several others from Joanna’s family restaurant (Magnolia Table) and their new coffee shop named Magnolia Press.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, this book will transform your cooking style. There are some recipes worth mentioning here are:
- Grilled Bruschetta Chicken: A simple yet unique dish for all seasons
- Chicken-Pecan-Asparagus Casserole: The perfect casserole dish for dinner,
- Mushroom-Gruyére Quiche: A dish of the finest quiche you will ever taste.
- Lemon-Lavender Tart: A delightful ending to a meal
- Zucchini-Squash Strata: A perfect dish for brunch on a warm day.
- Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread: A unique traditional cheese bread recipe variation.
- Stuffed Pork Loin: A tender pork dish with a delightful filling.
- Magnolia Press Chocolate Cake: A recipe modified by the restaurant’s founders.
And we haven’t even mentioned the pie and ice cream recipes.
What we like:
- Great collection of recipes with easy-to-follow guides
- Beautiful photographs and engaging stories of Southern living.
- 145 authentic and practical recipes to try with your family.
- Available as Amazon’s hard copy or as a Kindle edition.
6. Southern Grit: 100+ Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Cook by Kelsley Barnard Clark
Unlike most Top Chef winners who have rather sophisticated cookbooks, Kelsley manages to make the Sothern Grit an easy and weeknight-friendly cookbook. As a restauranteur, mom, and wife, she’s always wanted to share her cooking ideas that satisfy even the pickiest eater.
Apart from being a great author, she also keeps chickens and does a bit of gardening in her backyard. A possible reason why she can relate with the everyday home cooking through the cookbook.
With over 100 perennial and straightforward recipes, you’ll get to explore Southern cooking for whatever occasion, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Every recipe is accompanied by beautiful photographs of the final dish and an insert on how they were created.
So, how do you know if this cookbook is for you?
- You are a Southerner, or you fancy Southern cooking
- You are a home cook who prefers entertaining guests with exquisite dishes
- You have a job but still like entertaining your family the Southern way, or
- You are a fan of the author (Kelsey), or the show (Top Chef)
If you fall in any of the above clauses, congratulations, cook, you have found the best Southern cookbook for your kitchen.
What we like:
- More than 100 recipes
- Fan Favorite title winner on Top Chef
- Excellent food photography
- Non-threatening recipes for the everyday cook
- Available as a hard copy or as a Kindle edition.
7. Sweetie Pie’s Cookbook: Soulful Southern Recipes, from My Family to Yours by Robbie Montgomery and Tim Norman
How about a cookbook from a renowned restaurant owner? Sweetie Pie is a popular restaurant owned by Robbie, who is also the start of her own Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s reality TV show.
At 72, and with vast experience in Southern cooking and traditions, Robbie has finally decided to put her story on paper through this book.
Sweetie Pie’s Cookbook features foods like baked chicken, salmon croquettes, and smothered pork chops. He tells her career as a single and how it evolved into successful restaurant business with humorous stories.
If you have watched Robbie’s show, you will simply love the dishes from her cookbook. It also features over 75 dessert recipes, from pies to cakes and custards.
What we like:
- More than 75 delicious dessert recipes
- An excellent reference book from a restaurateur
- Soulful and humorous stories make it lively
- Available as a hard copy or as a Kindle edition
Best Southern cooking cookbooks buying guide
Even after narrowing down the search to just the seven best southern cookbooks, it’s not like you’ll be purchasing all of them– you need to buy one that fits your needs most. Here is what to look for in an excellent southern cooking cookbook:
Recipes that are easy to follow and practical
Some recipes can take days before you get your hands on the meal. Others can be complicated and full of ingredients that not everyone is used to. If you’re a working mom, it’s best to go for a more straightforward and practical cookbook, so you won’t spend most of your free time cooking.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the words of a good cookbook, but if there are no photos, you don’t know what you’re working with. Ideally, recipes should have an accompanying image of the final dish or how it was made.
A cookbook that features your favorite recipes
Loved a specific cookbook so much you have got to have all their books? Congratulations! Make sure the recipes are family-friendly and possibly include your favorite dish. It’s even hard to stay motivated if none of your favorite dishes is part of the cookbook.
A cookbook that is adaptable to different cooking styles
It would be best if the recipes were compatible with your lifestyle if you’re vegan. If you enjoy cooking on weekends, it would be best if the recipe is flexible enough to adjust to your schedule.
A cookbook that’s easy to follow
If you don’t have much cooking experience, consider getting a cookbook with large prints and a simple overall layout. Avoid recipes that have too many ingredients and complicated instructions for a start.
What should you know about Southern cooking?
As exciting as it may sound, choosing the best southern cooking cookbook is not an absolute guarantee that every dish you make will be out of this world.
There are a few factors that affect the quality of your cooking:
- The attitude to food in the South is markedly different from the rest of the country, which profoundly affects its cuisine. There is no other place to find such an abundance of flavors and dishes based on local ingredients.
- Southern cooking is one of the oldest forms of American cooking. Its food traditions are over 200 years old, separating it from other North American cuisine styles. The dishes in these cookbooks are highly refined and diverse- if not eclectic.
- Southern cuisine uses many meat products and vegetables, but you shouldn’t think that their diet is limited to that. For example, they love seafood and can use it in various ways. The main thing is not to overcook it!
The most important thing is to enjoy what you do and be patient if your dishes aren’t perfect. Southern cooking requires a lot of practice, so don’t give up too soon! The best southern cooking hack is to learn the techniques first before delving into the recipes.
Southern Cooking Techniques
Southern cooking techniques are very diverse and require some time to master. As an example of the most important ones, I’ll cite:
- Cooking Method
Most Southerners prefer frying, though baking and steaming are also common. It’s always essential to use lard or other animal fats instead of vegetable oils because the latter are high in Omega-6 fatty acids.
However, if you feel like it’s an issue using saturated oils, lard, or animal fats, you can go for safflower or corn oil. Also, if you make a dish that doesn’t require cooking at high temperatures, extra-virgin olive oil is a fantastic choice.
- Cooking Time
Vegetables make up a large part of southern dishes. However, these veggies are cooked for unusually long periods, compared to other areas like restaurants and homes. Like okra, collards, green beans, mustard, and turnip greens, some do not end up crunchy and bright colored like you’d see in a Chinese stir fry. It’s only okra that attains the crunch upon frying, but still, the okra needs to be cooked near-burned for this to happen.
Except for Cajun cooking, you’ll rarely find hot spicy flavors in southern cooking. The most used spices include salt, onion, and bacon. Greens and other boiled in water are usually priced with an onion slice, salt, and bacon drippings or slices.
For a traditional Southern meal, you need to combine foods of different textures and flavors, which means that you’ll frequently use a combination of spices in one meal. For example, cornbread and peas, fried pork chops, fried okra, etc., are all distinct parts of a Southern meal.
- Cooking Utensils
Southern dishes such as chicken and dumplings, crawfish etouffee, and cornbread are cooked in cast iron skillets. Cast iron is a popular material for cookware because it retains and transfers heat well. Anyone who has cooked with cast iron knows that cast iron skillets have a layer of oil on them from the factory, so they are ready to go right after you buy them.
You should season or cure cast iron skillets to make them easier to clean, prevent rusting, and improve your cooking.
- Regular milk or buttermilk?
Most Southern recipes that require milk often work best with buttermilk. This is mainly for biscuits and cornbread, for the signature ‘Southern’ flavor. But what if you don’t have buttermilk? You can easily make some by mixing a cupful of regular milk with a tablespoon of white vinegar. However, do not drink this conjured up ‘buttermilk,’– it’s suitable for the bakes only.
How to Read Southern Cookbooks
Southern cuisine is a unique and exciting cooking style that has evolved over many years. The dishes in these cookbooks are refined and diverse, making them perfect for any occasion. If you’re looking to add some new recipes to your repertoire or just want to learn more about this iconic cuisine, then be sure to check out any of our best southern cooking cookbooks reviewed.
Jennifer D. Simon has spent the last 26 years studying and practicing nutrition science. She has used a larger part of this time in improving people’s livelihoods. She has done so by coming up with unquestionable ideas on how to tackle food problems in her community. Read More