When one talks about Southern cuisine, it’s all about great home-cooked comfort food. No one does fried chicken and barbecue better than a Southern cook.
But there’s more to Southern food than just deep-fried goodness and delicious breakfasts. Traditional Southern cooking is diverse and includes recipes that rely on seasonal fresh produce, like okra, collards, and tomatoes. It also includes classic recipes that may have the same evolution but will vary by taste and smoke region by region.
Another important aspect of this cuisine is that it is deeply intertwined with Southern hospitality. It is considered comfort food for a reason, as the food makes your guests feel welcomed and relaxed. There’s nothing better than enjoying a delicious meal in the company of friends and acquaintances.
In this post, I’ve selected the best cookbooks that feature authentic delicious Southern recipes that will be a highlight in any meal, whether you're cooking for simple, everyday meals or for special occasions.
Some of these cookbooks blend recipes with historical anecdotes of a by-gone era. Others infuse them with modern twists to elevate them into gourmet delights.
There are also cookbooks that have practical recipes for everyday use. And another for entertaining the Southern way. These cookbooks offer not only a wide variety of dishes but also useful tips and recommendations to make your dish as authentic and delicious as it can be.
Here are my top 10 best Southern cookbooks.
Best Southern Cookbooks
- South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations Hardcover
- Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History Paperback
- Old Southern Cookery: Mary Randolph's Recipes from America’s First Regional Cookbook Adapted for Today’s Kitchen Hardcover
- The Southern Entertainer's Cookbook: Heirloom Recipes for Modern Gatherings Hardcover
- The Taste of Country Cooking: The 30th Anniversary Edition of a Great Southern Classic Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
- The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners Hardcover – Illustrated
- The Good Book of Southern Baking: A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes, and Cornbread Hardcover
- For the Love of the South: Recipes and Stories from My Southern Kitchen Hardcover – Illustrated
- Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook: A Cookbook Hardcover Magnolia Table Hardcover – Illustrated
- Magnolia Table Hardcover – Illustrated
1. South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations Hardcover
This is a cookbook that reimagines classic Southern cuisine. The recipes have been updated so they can be mixed and matched to make a variety of meal options. It includes many Southern staples like grilled/fried okra, fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, and hot water cornbread. There are also useful tips about Southern cooking techniques, as well as a list of ingredient sources.
Most of the recipes are time intensive and will require planning ahead. Not all come with photos but those that do have gorgeous food photography. The technique section also has several photo vignettes. Because this is a gourmet cuisine book, most of the ingredients are specialty ones so sourcing ingredients may be difficult for some.
Recommended for experienced home cooks, pro chefs, and fans of gourmet modern Southern cuisine.
2. Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History – Paperback
This is a classic cookbook for Southern cuisine that collects 150 authentic regional recipes like barbecue, spoonbread, muscadine jam, and key lime pie. It also provides a snapshot of the Southern restaurant scene in the 80s, with the specialties of over 200 restaurants in 11 Southern states featured.
Recipes are generally easy to follow but because some of them are dated, some will require equipment that’s no longer available, like a specific pan size. Black and white photos accompany some of the recipes.
Readers love its nostalgic food trip through the restaurants of the South, some of which still exist today. Those who’ve tried the recipes found them reliable and authentic; one found its barbecue recipes a lifesaver.
Recommended for foodie historians and serious fans of Southern cooking.
3. Old Southern Cookery: Mary Randolph's Recipes from America’s First Regional Cookbook Adapted for Today’s Kitchen Hardcover
This book is a collection of the best original recipes from America’s First Regional Cookbook that have been updated for use in a modern American kitchen. It also includes interesting food histories about each recipe as well as a discussion on topics like butchery and firewood cooking.
Recipes are presented in their original and updated versions. The original ones incorporate ingredients that were available in Virginia in the 19th century while the updated ones have modern measurements and ingredients that are easily obtained in local stores. Most of the recipes have color photographs of the featured dish.
Recommended for home cooks and those interested in heirloom Southern recipes.
4. The Southern Entertainer's Cookbook: Heirloom Recipes for Modern Gatherings Hardcover
This is a primer on how to entertain the Southern way. It features party-friendly recipes that will are great for entertaining or for enhancing any meal. It also includes tips on table-setting and party-planning.
The heirloom recipes featured in this cookbook have been updated for the modern cook. They range from appetizers and salads to entrees, drinks and desserts. There are lots of gorgeously styled photos for inspiration.
The book’s instructions are easy to follow with useful tips that allow the reader to create their own Southern-themed parties. Recipes are simple and use ingredients that are easy to source. Samples include Louisiana Hush Puppies with Comeback Dipping Sauce, Poppie’s Fig Jam & Prosciutto Crostini, Southern Fried Chicken Cobb Salad, and Carolina Blackberry Cobbler.
Recommended for anyone looking for an easy Southern cookbook primer for entertaining.
5. The Taste of Country Cooking: The 30th Anniversary Edition of a Great Southern Classic Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
This book is a portrait of a more genteel period in Freetown, Virginia that highlights farming community life and seasonal produce. The menus presented in the book are based on the four seasons and focus on buying local and sustainability.
Recipes and ingredients are written in narrative so this book reads more like a memoir than a recipe book. The recipes are, however, straightforward and easy to do for confident home cooks. There are no photos of the featured dishes.
Recommended for fans of Edna Lewis, sustainable foodie enthusiasts, and anyone looking for authentic Southern Appalachian recipes.
6. The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners Hardcover – Illustrated
This cookbook showcases practical recipes for Southern cooking. It includes classics like Fried Chicken, Crab Cakes, Pecan Pie, and Shrimp Burgers and sophisticated ones like Blackened Potato Salad, Saigon Hoppin' John, and Buttermilk-Sweet Potato Pie.
Most of the recipes are typically Low Country food and have been collected over the years from different sources. For some recipes, the book presents two versions; the “Sunday” version which requires several hours of prepping, and the “Tuesday” version which is faster but still tastes close to the longer version. There is also an emphasis on auxiliary dishes and preparations like beverages, relishes, dips and spreads, and appetizers.
Readers found this book organized and well written. Those who tried the recipes have found them accessible and reliable. Another liked the cookbook because it highlights important food histories while developing the reader's own cooking abilities and tastes.
Recommended for home cooks of all skill levels and anyone looking for Southern-adjacent, Low Country home cuisine.
7. The Good Book of Southern Baking: A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes, and Cornbread Hardcover
This cookbook highlights 100 recipes for quick breads muffins, biscuits, cookies and bars, puddings and custards, cobblers, crisps, galettes, pies, tarts, and cakes. It also includes information about essential ingredients, how and why these work, as well as techniques on cake and pastry making.
The recipes are clear and easy to follow. Some familiar favorites have dozens of variations which should please the creative home baker. Some may require intermediate and advanced skills but overall, the recipes are accessible for the experienced home baker. There are color photos of the pastries.
Readers loved its biscuit recipes. One compared it to the BraveTart dessert book. Another enjoyed the stories behind each recipe.
Recommended for all home cooks and anyone interested in Southern baking.
8. For the Love of the South: Recipes and Stories from My Southern Kitchen Hardcover – Illustrated
This cookbook combines traditional recipes with more modern takes on Southern classics. There are 100 recipes here that will show you the correct way to make a roux, fry okra, assemble a latticed pie crust, and cook irresistible gumbos and jambalayas like a true Southerner. It also includes a lot of useful tips for the kitchen, ranging from seasoning cast-iron skillets to storing leftovers.
Recipes are simple, easy to prepare, and are accompanied by beautiful photos of ingredient prep and finished dishes. Samples include Pimento Hush Puppies, Corn Bisque, Spicy Oven-Roasted Okra, Tomato and Bacon Sandwich with Chipotle Mayonnaise, Nashville Hot Chicken, Cajun Jambalaya, and Bacon-Latticed Apple Pie.
Readers liked the variety of the recipes. One called it a “cleaner version of southern food with a Louisiana twist.” Another liked the home cooking vibe of the selection.
Recommended for anyone looking for easy modern Southern cuisine recipes.
9. Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook: A Cookbook Hardcover
This cookbook collects recipes from the Mississipi Delta region and which have been tweaked to reflect the author’s widespread culinary experience. There are more than 150 recipes here, ranging from Green Chile Rice, Lady Pea Salad, and Sweet Tea Pie to Blue Cheese Pecan Bread, Catfish in a Paper Bag, and the Sunflower Squash.
It also includes useful information on ingredient staples and their substitutions, techniques and shortcuts, and numerous recipe variations.
Recipes are not complex but many are time consuming since they involve long, slow cooking. They range from the simple fried okra to more challenging dishes like turtle soup (complete with tongue-in-cheek directions on how to shell a turtle). In general, however, the recipes use everyday ingredients.
Recommended for anyone looking for modern Southern dishes from the Delta region.
10. Magnolia Table Hardcover – Illustrated
This is a compilation of mostly Southern food that’s family-friendly and ideal for weeknight entertaining. There are 125 recipes here that range from breakfast, lunch, and dinner to small plates, snacks, and desserts. The selection includes all-time favorites like Chicken Pot Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Asparagus and Fontina Quiche, Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon, Toasted Pecans, Balsamic Reduction Peach Caprese, and Mac and Cheese.
Recipes are accessible and incorporate home grown, seasonal produce. Most of them have color photos. Those who have tried the recipes found them simple and easy to do. Others found this a useful cookbook for finding recipes great for entertaining.
Recommended for casual and experience home cooks.
THE LEE BROS. SOUTHERN COOKBOOK: STORIES AND RECIPES FOR SOUTHERNERS AND WOULD-BE SOUTHERNERS by Matt Lee, Ted Lee
With this cookbook, one doesn’t have to be a Southerner in order to cook great Southern food. Written by food writers from the New York Times, this cookbook is a practical collection of Southern recipes and their culinary histories with enough options for variations for the creative cook.
One reviewer called it a smart and respectful book on Southern cuisine with a pronounced Charleston flavor. The recipes are easy to do and are a good blend of classic and modern Southern recipes. This is a great introductory book for anyone interested in Southern cuisine.