Soul Food You Should And Shouldn't Be Eating

There can be a lot of confusion surrounding soul food, but it is one of the best American cuisines to explore. Soul food has become a term for most African American cooking, and it is generally Southern food with heavily amped-up flavor and spice within the South. More specifically, soul food is the food that was developed and came from landlocked regions of the Deep South (via All Recipes).

While some took the dishes with them to the North, Midwest, and West during "The Great Migration," the cuisine never shed its southern roots. African Americans created the fusion cuisine in the south, which is actually a combination of culinary techniques and heritage that stems from West Africa, Western Europe, and the Americas.

Soul food is an entirely different category of food from coastal cuisines like Creole or Lowcountry, and primarily consists of a meat entrée and sides as well as cornbread and dessert. The main entrée is typically fried chicken or fish or smothered chicken or pork. Sides are usually dishes like macaroni and cheese, blackeyed peas, candied yams (or sweet potatoes), and stewed greens like collard greens. Don't forget the red drink too. There are few soul desserts better than banana pudding, a cobbler, or pound cake too.

Soul food to avoid

There are a lot of dishes out there that claim to be soul food. While many of them are delicious, only a few are the real deal when you're in the Deep South. Some dishes are staples and include collard greens, fried chicken, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese. These dishes can greatly vary depending on who is making them, so you can't go wrong trying them over and over (via Spoon University).

Some dishes claim to be soul food, though, but are just not in that category. One dish to avoid, at least if you're looking for authentic "soul food," is chicken and waffles, which some believe were invented in Harlem, but actually date to the 1700s when Germans introduced the food to America (via First We Feast). Anything to do with seafood like fried shrimp, gumbo, or shrimp and grits is also not soul food. These dishes were primarily developed along the coast where shrimp were available and are considered Creole or Lowcountry cuisine, depending on the area of the Deep South. Red beans and rice is typically a Lowcountry or Creole side too.

Sweets like pralines are also not a soul food dessert. The sweet treat actually originated in France and first made its way into America through New Orleans (via Southern CandyMakers).

So if you see a "meat and three" option on the menu, chances are you've found a true home of soul food.