Whether you have cooked and baked for your family for years, or you don’t know a cookie sheet from your Crockpot, cookbooks are a wonderful addition to any kitchen. I love being surrounded by the Southern cookbooks, even though I’m hardly a gourmet chef, because they so often have the stories and meaning behind each recipe.
This inspired me to come up with my own list of personal favorites I consider some of the best Southern cookbooks.
If there’s one thing Americans agree on it’s food is one of the ultimate comforters. We enjoy it, share it, love it, or create it. When someone is sick, we nourish them with it. When we need a pick-me-up, we use it to forget our troubles. Whether it comes from our kitchen or someone else’s, a favorite recipe connects us.
And when we need extra inspiration for one of these situations, it’s those dependable cookbooks that come to the rescue.
I’ve relied on my cookbooks for years. And as much as I love searching for blog posts from amazing food bloggers, there’s something about walking past these special copies in my kitchen that brings a smile to my face.
Now it’s time to share my favorite Southern cookbooks. It’s not based on anything scientific, other than my own love and experience with each one of them.
Tea Time at the Masters by the Junior League of Augusta
I wish you could see my physical copy of the Team Time at the Masters. Some of the pages are stuck together from food spatter and a few pages have come out of the binding. But I can’t bear to replace it with a new copy.
This was originally given to me by someone very special when I first moved to Augusta, back in 2005. To this day, it is still my most referenced cookbook. Although it was written in 1977, most of the recipes are timeless. The recipes range from super simple, to more advanced techniques.
There’s not a tailgate, football party, Christmas dinner, or beach trip I’ve taken where one of the recipes has not made an appearance. Here are a handful of my favorites —and now I’m thinking I need to dedicate a post to each of these…
- Cheese straws (page 11)
- Hot curried fruit (page 163)
- Sour cream muffins (page 197)
- Sour cream pound cake (page 210)
- Dot’s butterscotch brownies (page 251)
Unfortunately it’s not available on Amazon, other than in the used book section. However, you can purchase brand new copies directly from the JLA. It is worth adding this into your collection, trust me!
Once you fall in love with Tea Time, there are others in the series to enjoy too. The Second Round and Par 3 Tea Time at the Masters are also worth purchasing.
I first fell in love with Vivian Howard’s cooking when I was fortunate enough to eat at her world-renowned The Chef and the Farmer restaurant located in Kinston, North Carolina. The restaurant is in the middle of nowhere but the cookbook provides the next best thing if you can’t get there.
Deep Run Roots pays homage to Howard’s hometown of Kinston and deep appreciation for her own Southern heritage. She may be an award-winning chef, but she doesn’t forget where she comes from. Her recipes are inspired by what is available locally and the way her family taught her to cook.
Another reason this cookbook is so special to me is because one of my dearest friends Julie gifted it to me. Every time I pick it up I think of her and our trip to the restaurant together. I love how much a cookbook can conjure up memories far beyond the food.
From collards to preserves, you do not want to miss her recipes or her stories behind each one. And I highly encourage you to purchase the hardcover and not the kindle version. You have to see it to believe the gorgeous pictures.
Any Cookbook from Southern Living
You know I can’t have any list for a Southern kitchen without including a Southern Living option. The problem is, there are so many amazing, tried-and-true collections, it’s tough to narrow it down to one.
So I’m not going to choose only one. I choose them all.
Although I’ve yet to make a bad recipe from a Southern Living collection, I’m particularly fond of the Christmas books. Last year, my mom gave me the 2020 Christmas with Southern Living. I find myself looking at the pages all throughout the year, seeking inspiration for my holiday menus.
If you’ve ever purchased an SL cookbook, you know the photography, food styling, and decorations are unrivaled. But the Christmas collections are stunning.
Every Christmas I make a vow to myself that my holiday tablescape and menu will mirror what I’ve seen in Southern Living. Although I’ve yet to accomplish this, I promise one day I will and I will post pictures to prove it. I’m getting ready to order the 2021 Christmas book too and can’t wait to dive in.
Southern Keto by Natasha Newton
Let me go ahead and address the elephant in the room on this one. If any of you know me then you likely know I’m hardly a follower of the keto diet. Yes, I’ve tried it more than once, and yes, I’ve seen results from the three days I was able to stick with it. I have a hard time staying committed to one particular lifestyle, but I know keto provides amazing results to many people.
At some point during my last attempt, I stumbled upon the Southern Keto cookbook from Natasha Newton. Unfortunately, the book is the only evidence I have of the Keto lifestyle. But it was worth it to discover this!
Newton clearly has a passion for Southern cooking and baking, but she’s committed to a healthier lifestyle. She’s developed so many mouthwatering, comfort food recipes, all within the Keto guidelines. However many of the recipes are great options for anyone who would like to limit carbs while keeping full flavor.
The photography is beautiful and the instructions are easy to follow. Whether you follow a keto diet, or have a love affair with carbs, this is a good one. My personal favorite recipe is on page 72, the Drop Biscuits. If you’re looking for a Red Lobster cheddar biscuit dupe, even while on keto, then you will love this.
Oh and don’t forget, if you do follow a keto diet, my pimento cheese recipe is actually a keto-friendly option.
Charleston Receipts by the Junior League of Charleston
If you love low country cuisine, this is another must. I was personally intrigued by the rich history of the recipes. If any of you have been to Charleston, then I’m sure you appreciate how much effort Charlestonians put into their meals. There is such a deep connection between the low country cuisine and the city of Charleston.
The Charleston Receipts collection is the oldest cookbook published by a Junior League chapter. The recipes definitely reflect the heritage of the city. If you are interested in a history lesson and a glimpse into low country life, then definitely add this one to your list.
The Betty Crocker Cookbook, Everything You Need to Know to Cook from Scratch
This is such a great resource for beginner cooks! I know Betty Crocker doesn’t scream “Best Southern Cookbook,” but if you are looking for a great place to start, then I highly recommend this one. This is how I taught myself to start cooking more family friendly recipes, instead of my usual ramen noodle and grilled cheese meals.
This technically may not be classified as Southern, but learning to cook from scratch is something any good Southern cook will claim. And if you’re like me — someone who had zero knowledge of cooking until after college — then you will like this one.
My mom also gave me an earlier edition of this cookbook. Now that I think about it, I feel like she’s trying to tell me something by giving me all of these cookbooks of recipes she likes.
I hope you are able to use this roundup of best Southern cookbooks and add a few new ones to your personal collection. Even if you don’t love cooking, you likely know someone who does, and all of these make thoughtful gifts.
And if you do start cooking your way through any of these, let me know how you like it, or which ones are your favorites.