If you’re looking to add some Southern comfort to your Thanksgiving feast, look no further! This article will explore the mouthwatering world of traditional Southern meals for the holiday season. From savory cornbread dressing to juicy smoked turkey and decadent sweet potato pie, we’ll guide you through the iconic dishes that make Southern Thanksgiving meals so special. So, gather ’round the table and let’s indulge in the flavors of the South this holiday season. Yes, absolutely! Southern cuisine is known for its delicious and hearty dishes, and Thanksgiving is no exception. In fact, many families in the South have their own cherished recipes that have been passed down through generations. If you’re looking to add a touch of Southern comfort to your Thanksgiving feast, here are some traditional Southern meals that are sure to please everyone at the table!

Fried Turkey

History of Fried Turkey

Fried turkey has become increasingly popular in recent years, but did you know that it actually has roots in the South? Deep-frying turkeys originated in Louisiana, where it was a common cooking method for Cajun and Creole dishes. The practice eventually spread throughout the South and has since become a staple of Thanksgiving feasts. The process involves immersing a whole turkey in hot oil, resulting in a crispy and flavorful bird with moist and tender meat.


To fry a turkey, you’ll need a few key ingredients. Of course, the main ingredient is the turkey itself. It’s important to choose a turkey that is not too large, as larger birds can be difficult to fry evenly. You’ll also need a large pot or deep-fryer filled with oil, as well as seasoning rub or marinade to add flavor to the bird. Common seasonings used in the South include salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.


Before frying, it’s essential to prepare the turkey properly. This involves removing the giblets and ensuring that the turkey is completely thawed and dry. The seasoning rub or marinade should be applied generously, both on the surface and inside the cavity of the bird. The turkey is then carefully lowered into the hot oil, taking caution to avoid any splatters or accidents. The cooking process takes around 3-4 minutes per pound, and a meat thermometer should be used to ensure that the turkey is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Serving Suggestions

Fried turkey is a centerpiece on its own, but it pairs wonderfully with traditional Southern sides and sauces. Serve it alongside cornbread dressing, collard greens, and sweet potato casserole for a truly authentic Southern Thanksgiving feast. Don’t forget the cranberry sauce and homemade gravy to complement the crispy and juicy turkey!

Cornbread Dressing

Overview of Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread dressing, also known as cornbread stuffing, is a classic Southern side dish that takes Thanksgiving feasts to a whole new level. It’s a savory dish made with crumbled cornbread, onions, celery, and a blend of herbs and spices. The combination of flavors and textures creates a comforting and satisfying addition to any Thanksgiving table.


To make cornbread dressing, you’ll need a few staple ingredients. Begin with a batch of homemade cornbread or use store-bought cornbread mix for convenience. You’ll also need onions, celery, unsalted butter, chicken broth, eggs, dried sage, dried thyme, salt, and pepper. It’s a simple yet flavorful combination that brings out the best in this Southern classic.


To prepare cornbread dressing, start by crumbling the cornbread into small pieces. In a large skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onions and celery until they are tender and fragrant. In a separate bowl, combine the crumbled cornbread, sautéed vegetables, chicken broth, beaten eggs, and a mixture of dried sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix everything together until well-combined and pour the mixture into a greased baking dish. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the dressing is set.

Serving Suggestions

Cornbread dressing is a versatile dish that can be served as a side or even as a main course for vegetarians. It pairs perfectly with roasted turkey or ham and complements a variety of other sides such as collard greens and macaroni and cheese. Top it off with a dollop of homemade cranberry sauce for a burst of tangy sweetness. Your Thanksgiving guests will surely be coming back for seconds!

Collard Greens

Overview of Collard Greens

Collard greens are a staple in Southern cooking, and they make a delightful addition to any Thanksgiving spread. These dark leafy greens belong to the same family as kale and cabbage and are known for their robust flavor and nutrient-rich composition. Collard greens are traditionally slow-cooked with smoked ham hocks or bacon, resulting in a tender and flavorful side dish that perfectly complements the other Thanksgiving classics.

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To make collard greens, you’ll need a bunch of fresh collard greens, smoked ham hocks or bacon, onions, garlic, chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. The smoked meat enhances the flavors of the greens, while the onions, garlic, and seasonings add depth and complexity.


Begin by washing the collard greens thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris. Remove the tough stems and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. In a large pot, cook the smoked ham hocks or bacon until they render fat and become crispy. Add the onions and garlic into the pot and sauté until they are soft and fragrant. Then, add the collard greens and chicken broth to the pot, along with a splash of apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cover the pot and let the greens simmer for about 1-2 hours, or until they are tender and flavorful.

Serving Suggestions

Collard greens are often served as a side dish alongside other Southern classics like fried turkey and cornbread dressing. They can also be enjoyed on their own with a slice of cornbread or a warm buttermilk biscuit. For an extra touch of Southern flavor, drizzle some hot sauce or vinegar over the cooked greens. You’ll find that collard greens bring a vibrant and nutritious element to your Thanksgiving feast.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Overview of Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potato casserole is a beloved Southern dish that adds a touch of sweetness to the Thanksgiving table. Made with mashed sweet potatoes, butter, sugar, and spices, this rich and indulgent side dish is often topped with a crunchy pecan or marshmallow topping. It’s the perfect balance of flavors and textures, and it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.


To make sweet potato casserole, you’ll need sweet potatoes, butter, sugar, milk or cream, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract. For the topping, you can choose between a classic pecan streusel or a gooey marshmallow layer. Both options lend a delightful contrast to the creamy sweet potatoes.


Start by peeling and boiling the sweet potatoes until they are tender. Once cooked, mash them until smooth and creamy. Add melted butter, sugar, milk or cream, beaten eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract to the mashed sweet potatoes. Mix well until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Transfer the mixture into a greased baking dish.

For the pecan streusel topping, combine chopped pecans, brown sugar, flour, and melted butter. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the sweet potato mixture in the baking dish. If you prefer the marshmallow topping, simply layer mini marshmallows over the sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the sweet potatoes are heated through.

Serving Suggestions

Sweet potato casserole is often served as a side dish alongside savory meats like ham or turkey. Its natural sweetness makes it a wonderful accompaniment to the heartier flavors of the main course. This dish pairs exceptionally well with other Southern classics like collard greens and macaroni and cheese. Serve it warm and watch as your guests dive in for seconds!

Pecan Pie

Overview of Pecan Pie

No Southern Thanksgiving feast would be complete without a deliciously decadent pecan pie. Pecan pie is a beloved dessert that originated in the South and has long been a staple on Thanksgiving tables across the region. It consists of a buttery, flaky crust filled with a sweet and gooey mixture of pecans, sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla extract. The combination of flavors and textures creates a dessert that is rich, nutty, and downright irresistible.


To make pecan pie, you’ll need a pre-made pie crust or you can make your own from scratch. For the filling, you’ll need pecans, sugar, corn syrup, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract. The pecans can be either whole or chopped, depending on your preference.


If you’re using a pre-made pie crust, simply follow the instructions on the package to prepare it. If you prefer to make your own crust, combine flour, salt, and cold butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Slowly add ice water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling, combine sugar, corn syrup, beaten eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Mix until well-combined. Arrange the pecans in the pie crust, then pour the filling over them. Make sure the pecans are evenly coated. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 50-60 minutes, or until the filling is set and the crust is golden brown. Let the pie cool before serving.

Serving Suggestions

Pecan pie is often enjoyed on its own, but it can also be served with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an extra indulgent treat. Its buttery and nutty flavors pair wonderfully with a hot cup of coffee or a glass of milk. As you savor each bite of this quintessential Southern dessert, you’ll be transported to a place of sweet nostalgia and pure culinary delight.

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Ham with Honey Glaze

Overview of Ham with Honey Glaze

While turkey may be the star of the Thanksgiving show, many Southern families also serve a deliciously glazed ham alongside the main bird. The ham is slow-cooked until tender and then generously coated with a sticky-sweet honey glaze, resulting in a mouthwatering dish that is both savory and sweet. The combination of flavors is simply irresistible and will leave your guests raving about your culinary skills.


To make a ham with honey glaze, you’ll need a fully-cooked spiral-cut ham, honey, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The ham should be pre-cooked, which makes the preparation process much simpler and quicker.


To prepare the ham, preheat your oven according to the instructions on the ham packaging. Place the ham flat-side down in a large baking dish. In a separate bowl, whisk together honey, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well-combined. Pour the glaze over the ham, ensuring that it covers the entire surface. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake the ham according to the instructions on the packaging or until the glaze is caramelized and the ham is heated through.

Serving Suggestions

A glazed ham is a show-stopping addition to any Thanksgiving table. It pairs perfectly with other Southern classics like macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, and sweet potato casserole. The sweet and savory flavors of the ham create a harmonious balance that complements a variety of side dishes. Make sure to slice the ham into thin pieces and serve it alongside the glaze. Your guests will be impressed by the delightful combination of flavors.

Buttermilk Biscuits

Overview of Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk biscuits are a quintessential Southern staple that adds a warm and flaky touch to any Thanksgiving feast. These delectable treats are made with simple ingredients like flour, buttermilk, butter, baking powder, and salt. They’re best enjoyed fresh out of the oven, slathered with a pat of butter or seasoned with a drizzle of honey.


To make buttermilk biscuits, you’ll need all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, unsalted butter, and buttermilk. The butter is responsible for the flaky layers and the buttermilk adds tanginess and moisture to the biscuits.


Begin by preheating your oven to 450°F (230°C). In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add it to the flour mixture. Use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Gently stir until the dough comes together, being careful not to overmix.

Transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it a few times until it becomes smooth. Pat the dough into a disc about 1-inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out biscuits from the dough, pressing straight down without twisting to ensure they rise evenly. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top.

Serving Suggestions

Buttermilk biscuits are incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Serve them as a side with fried turkey or honey-glazed ham, or use them as a base for a breakfast sandwich. For a traditional Southern touch, enjoy them with a smothered breakfast of sausage gravy or buttered grits. Whatever way you choose to savor these warm and flaky biscuits, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with their irresistible charm.

Green Bean Casserole

Overview of Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is a beloved staple on Southern Thanksgiving tables. This classic dish combines tender green beans, creamy mushroom sauce, and crispy fried onions for a flavorful and comforting side that is sure to please both young and old alike. It’s a crowd-pleaser that adds a delicious pop of color to the Thanksgiving feast.


To make green bean casserole, you’ll need fresh or frozen green beans, condensed cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, crispy fried onions, and salt. The cream of mushroom soup adds creamy richness to the dish, while the crispy fried onions provide a satisfying crunch.


Start by preheating your oven to 350°F (175°C). In a large pot, bring water to a boil and blanch the green beans for a few minutes until they are bright green and slightly tender. Drain the beans and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, and salt. Pour the mixture over the green beans and stir until they are coated evenly.

Transfer the mixture to a greased baking dish and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the casserole is heated through and bubbly. Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle the crispy fried onions on top. Return the dish to the oven for an additional 5 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown and crispy.

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Serving Suggestions

Green bean casserole is best served immediately after it comes out of the oven. It makes a fantastic side dish for roasted turkey, ham, or even fried chicken. The creamy mushroom sauce coats the tender green beans in a luscious blanket of flavor, while the crispy fried onions provide a delightful crunch with every bite. Add this Southern classic to your Thanksgiving menu and watch as your guests dive into this irresistible dish.

Macaroni and Cheese

Overview of Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a comforting and indulgent dish that holds a special place in Southern cuisine. Creamy, cheesy, and bursting with flavor, it’s the ultimate comfort food that is often served at Thanksgiving feasts. Whether you prefer a classic stovetop version or a baked casserole, macaroni and cheese is sure to be a crowd-pleaser among both adults and children.


To make macaroni and cheese, you’ll need macaroni pasta, sharp cheddar cheese, milk, butter, all-purpose flour, salt, black pepper, and spices like mustard powder and paprika. You can also add additional cheeses like Gruyere or Parmesan for extra flavor and richness.


Cook the macaroni pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Just be careful not to overcook it, as it will continue to cook when baked. Drain the cooked pasta and set it aside. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two, until it forms a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the milk, ensuring there are no lumps. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens and starts to simmer.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the grated cheddar cheese, mustard powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Keep stirring until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Add the cooked macaroni to the sauce and mix until the pasta is well-coated. Transfer the mixture to a greased baking dish if you prefer a baked version. Sprinkle some additional cheese on top and bake at 350°F (175°C) for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

Serving Suggestions

Macaroni and cheese can be served as a side dish or even as a main course for vegetarians. It pairs wonderfully with other Southern classics like cornbread dressing, collard greens, and sweet potato casserole. This timeless comfort food is loved by all ages, making it a must-have on your Thanksgiving menu. Prepare yourself for the ultimate cheesy delight that will warm hearts and satisfy appetites.

Red Velvet Cake

Overview of Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake is a Southern classic that deserves a spot of honor on your Thanksgiving dessert table. Its striking red color and luscious cream cheese frosting make it a show-stopping centerpiece that is just as delicious as it looks. The moist layers of cocoa-infused cake are incredibly tender, and the cream cheese frosting adds a delightful tangy contrast. One bite of this indulgent dessert and you’ll understand why it has become a beloved Southern tradition.


To make red velvet cake, you’ll need all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, unsalted butter, granulated sugar, eggs, buttermilk, red food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla extract. For the cream cheese frosting, you’ll need cream cheese, unsalted butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.


Start by preheating your oven to 350°F (175°C) and greasing and flouring three 9-inch cake pans. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, red food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk mixture. Mix until all the ingredients are fully incorporated, but be careful not to overmix.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Smooth the tops with a spatula, then bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the cream cheese frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract, continuing to beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Once the cakes are completely cooled, frost the top of one layer with cream cheese frosting. Place the second layer on top and repeat the process. Finally, frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. For an extra touch of elegance, garnish the cake with red velvet cake crumbs or chocolate shavings.

Serving Suggestions

Red velvet cake is a stunning dessert that is sure to impress your Thanksgiving guests. It pairs beautifully with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk. Slice into the luscious layers and enjoy the perfect balance of sweetness and tanginess from the cream cheese frosting. Add a slice of this Southern classic to your Thanksgiving menu and watch as the room fills with applause and contented sighs.

And there you have it, a comprehensive guide to traditional Southern meals for Thanksgiving. Each dish brings its own unique flavors and traditions to the table, adding warmth and comfort to your holiday feast. Whether you’re a Southern native or simply looking to incorporate some Southern charm into your Thanksgiving celebration, these dishes are sure to make your gathering a memorable one. Enjoy the rich flavors, hearty portions, and warm hospitality that Southern cuisine has to offer. Happy Thanksgiving!

Jenny Jones

By Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones is a passionate culinary enthusiast hailing from the heart of the South. Born and raised in a small town known for its rich culinary traditions, she developed an unwavering love for Southern cooking from an early age.