The 12 Best Southern Cookbooks in 2021

Get inspired for your next great meal

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Our Top Picks

Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing at Amazon

"It's an excellent resource for those looking for more allergen-friendly dessert recipes."

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South at Amazon

"Get expert insight on how the food culture of this region is able to serve as a bridge between different races and ethnicities."

Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South at Amazon

"Take a deep dive into how cooking factors into her upbringing in Georgia as a Latina with strong familial ties."

Heritage at Barnes & Noble

"Chef Sean Brock repurposes Southern staples, such as pig ears, field peas, and pork shoulder."

Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking at Amazon

"This is an ideal pick for anyone looking for a singular compendium that includes a wide assortment of entrées."

Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned at Amazon

"Booze and food go hand in hand, which is why pro mixologist Alba Huerta curated this delightful compilation of cocktails popular in Southern culture."

Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou at Amazon

"This cookbook is a picturesque primer on Cajun cooking."

Son of a Southern Chef: Cook with Soul at Bookshop.org

"The author provides a 'behind-the-screens' glimpse at what he learned being raised by soul food restaurant owners."

Soul: A Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes at Barnes & Noble

"It showcases the progression of soul food through an extensive collection of recipes."

Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking at Amazon

"Enjoy more than 100 recipes that attest to the influence African Americans have had on culinary trends in the United States."

The Taste of Country Cooking: The 30th Anniversary Edition at Bookshop.org

"She paints a vivid picture of what it was like coming of age and learning to cook on a farm in Virginia."

Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine at Amazon

"It's a definitive guide on making Southern and Afro-Caribbean fare using plant-based ingredients."

Southern hospitality is steeped in ritual. Cultivating a welcoming home environment and entertaining guests is central to the folklore many attribute to this region of the United States that stretches as far as the western borders of Texas to the northern borders of West Virginia.

Characteristics frequently used to describe southern living are charming, polite, charitable, and “good home cooking.” Mastering dishes popularized in the South, such as barbecue, hummingbird cake, hush puppies, and buttermilk biscuits, can be challenging for seasoned home cooks and novices alike.

Sourced from top food critic picks, reader reviews, and bestseller lists, the following books provide a comprehensive introduction to eats likely to win over the most die-hard Cajun, soul, and fried food fans. These selections are also packed with expert tips from numerous award-winning chefs on how to stock a pantry, meal plan, and select the perfect boozy cocktail for long sips on a porch swing at sunset.

Here are the best Southern cookbooks.

Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing

black-girl-baking-cookbook

Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

What We Like
  • Gluten-free and vegan renditions

  • Healthy, innovative ingredients

  • Gorgeous imagery

What We Don't Like
  • Novices may find some recipes too complex

This guide is poised to satisfy the most insatiable sweet tooth with baked goods inspired by food stylist, photographer, and Chocolate for Basil blogger Jerrelle Guy’s passion for “food storytelling” and childhood memories from Florida. This 2019 James Beard Foundation Book Award nominee is also an excellent resource for those looking for more allergen-friendly dessert recipes.

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

the-cooking-gene

Courtesy of Barnes & Noble

What We Like
  • Includes origin of dishes

  • Insightful, poetic storytelling

What We Don't Like
  • Less than 25 recipes

Chosen as the 2018 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year, Michael Twitty’s soul food retrospective highlights the massive influence Black Americans have had, and still do, on Southern cuisine. Drawing historical references and his lived experience, he provides expert insight on how the food culture of this region is able to serve as a bridge between different races and ethnicities.

Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South by Von Diaz

coconuts-and-collards-cookbook

Courtesy of Barnes & Noble

What We Like
  • Includes recipes for cocktails and desserts

  • Soul-baring story

  • Stunning, coffee table-worthy photography

What We Don't Like
  • “How to” steps might feel too concise

Author Von Diaz takes a deep dive into how cooking factors into her upbringing in Georgia as a Latina with strong familial ties. She also gets inventive with traditional fare, like grits, by incorporating plant-based ingredients, like coconut milk and seitan. In addition, Diaz clarifies Spanish culinary terminology referenced throughout in the intro for non-native speakers or beginners.

Heritage

heritage-cookbook-sean-brock

Courtesy of Barnes & Noble

What We Like
  • Includes details for garnishes and plating suggestions

  • Recipes range from comfort food to fancy dishes

  • Uses creative ingredients, techniques

What We Don't Like
  • Recipe length may be overwhelming for beginners

As a New York Times bestseller and winner of the James Beard Award for Best Book in American Cooking, this cookbook has gained steam as a contemporary classic thanks to chef Sean Brock’s adept advice on repurposing Southern staples, such as pig ears, field peas, and pork shoulder, in a variety of dishes.

Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking

What We Like
  • Culinary history and backstories on every page

  • Suggested substitutions for certain ingredients

  • Includes side dishes, beverages, and breads

What We Don't Like
  • Many recipes not accompanied by photos

The rich roots of African Americans’ impact on home chefs to high-end cuisine are explored in this impressive cookbook by award-winning food and nutrition writer Toni Tipton Martin. Her inclusion of more than 100 recipes also makes it an ideal pick for anyone looking for a singular compendium that includes a wide assortment of entrées.

Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned by Alba Huerta

What We Like
  • Instructions are succinct and easy to follow

  • Included recipes for bar snacks

  • Historical overviews

What We Don't Like
  • Handful of recipes require specific bar tools

Booze and food go hand in hand, which is why pro mixologist Alba Huerta curated this delightful compilation of cocktails popular in Southern culture, such as fizzes, juleps, and Collinses, in addition to more than a dozen bar snacks well-suited for times when functions feature drinking as the main focus.

Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou

What We Like
  • DIY visuals show how to correctly execute certain tasks

  • Writing has heart

  • No obscure ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • Highlights climate change, which may be triggering

Selected as a Best Book of the Year in 2020 by NPR’s "The Splendid Table," chef Melissa M. Martin's first cookbook is a picturesque primer on Cajun cooking. Her Bayou-living and eating in Louisiana are the dominant narrative threads weaving together detailed instructions on whipping up delectable gumbos, jambalayas, and pecan pies at home.

Son of a Southern Chef: Cook with Soul

What We Like
  • Foodies will appreciate author's success story

  • Vibrant, artsy photography

  • Uplifting, inspirational quotes

What We Don't Like
  • Photos are aesthetically pleasing rather than instructional

Vibrant photos fill this print debut by Food Network’s "Comfort Nation" host and former "Chopped" champion Lazarus Lynch. The author provides a "behind-the-screens" glimpse at what he learned being raised by soul food restaurant owners, plus a plethora of modernized versions of his parents' most sought-after meals, like saltfish, maple syrup and sriracha-glazed bacon, and cornflake-crusted fried green tomatoes.

Soul: A Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes

What We Like
  • Pairs perfectly with the author’s podcast "Soul"

  • Wine, beer, and playlist pairings

  • Traditional recipes and contemporary twists

What We Don't Like
  • Limited options for those with food allergies/sensitivities

"Iron Chef America" competitor and two-time James Beard Award semifinalist Todd Richards showcases the progression of soul food through an extensive collection of recipes. Plus, his personal and professional culinary journey is demonstrated through his innovative cooking style, which he puts to good use by offering unique reworkings of Southern country grub, like collard greens, ham hocks, and fried chicken.

Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking

What We Like
  • Recipes yield a large number of servings

  • Diverse side dishes, main courses, and desserts

  • Easy to follow

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't provide many vegetarian or vegan modifications

Most museums aren’t known for the food served at an onsite eatery, but the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Sweet Home Café is such a hit with visitors that the Smithsonian published this cookbook with more than 100 recipes that attest to the influence African Americans have had on culinary trends in the United States. Southern crowd-pleasers, like the Texas caviar and high mesa peach and blackberry cobbler, are must-try entries, as well as the Chesapeake corn and crab chowder.

The Taste of Country Cooking: The 30th Anniversary Edition of a Great Southern Classic Cookbook

What We Like
  • Includes useful info on farm-to-table eating

  • Marvelous menus for four seasons

  • Reads like a novel

What We Don't Like
  • Long narratives lacking in quick, succinct tips

Renowned culinary icon Edna Lewis’ first cookbook is a quintessential reference on preparing seasonal meals to satisfy Southern palates. Part memoir, part heirloom recipe collection, Lewis uses candid storytelling to paint a vivid picture of what it was like coming of age and learning to cook on a farm in the Piedmont region of Virginia.

Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine

What We Like
  • Modifies classic recipes to be more nutrient-dense

  • Albeit vegan, recipes are familiar and comforting

What We Don't Like
  • Not suitable for paleo- and/or keto-eaters

James Beard Award-winning chef Bryant Terry’s breakout book is the definitive guide to making traditional Southern and Afro-Caribbean fare solely using produce and other plant-based ingredients. Terry knocks it out of the park by combining basics to create new original favorites. Examples include baked barbecue black-eyed peas and blackened tofu slabs with succotash salsa.

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Rachel Werner is a culinary writer, book reviewer, and former World Food Championship judge. Her product and restaurant reviews, food styling, and photography have appeared in a variety of regional and national publications including Fabulous Wisconsin, BRAVA, and Hobby Farms Magazine. A selection of Rachel's recipes is also included in "Wisconsin Cocktails," a regionally-themed mixology book.

Continue to 5 of 12 below.
Continue to 9 of 12 below.