North Carolina offers a unique food experience, from its cherished fast-food restaurants to its super-specific products everyone in the state uses to make their favorite dishes. If you’ve ever visited this Southeast state, you’ve probably scratched your head wondering why there’s a Cook Out and Bojangles on every corner or why you can only find Texas Pete hot sauce in the store. And don’t get North Carolinians started on the BBQ debate – chopped versus pulled. One thing’s for certain, the folks from this part of the country know a thing or two about food. Check out these nine food dishes that are absolute symbols of North Carolina, from fried fish and greens to grits and hushpuppies.
1. Carolina BBQ
What constitutes Carolina BBQ may be right or wrong depending on who you ask or what region of the state you’re in. Pork, in general, is used for authentic BBQ in the state, but how it’s eaten gets a bit more tricky. Barbecue in Eastern North Carolina is typically whole hog and chopped and served with a thin vinegar sauce. But in the west, you will find smoked pork shoulders, either chopped or pulled and dressed in vinegar and tomato sauce (Lexington style). Pork BBQ in North Carolina is generally served with slaw and a Mount Olive pickle.
2. Fried Green Tomatoes
A staple in Southern cooking, fried green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes coated in cornmeal and fried to golden perfection. Putting heat to the green tomato gives it a juicy and sweet flavor that pairs well with seafood or cheesy grits. You can expect to find this delicacy in many restaurants across the state.
3. Fried Catfish
Fried fish of any kind is a common food you will find in North Carolina. But catfish, in particular, is abundant in the state’s rivers and deep reservoirs. Calabash seafood is one of the most popular ways to eat fried fish. This style involves freshly caught fish lightly battered and quickly deep-fried. It gets its name from the Seafood Capital of the World, Calabash, North Carolina.
Migrating with German settlers from up north, livermush is a mixture of ground hog meat, liver, spices, and cornmeal. It’s a common cuisine in Western North Carolina, where people consume it for breakfast or lunch. This Appalachian delicacy even has a festival dedicated to it, featuring livermush-themed food trucks. You slice the meat mixture, dredge it in cornmeal, and fry until crispy. You can then serve it on white toast with a slice of American cheese and a fried egg.
Hailing from Surry County in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the sonker is a type of fruit dessert similar to a cobbler. Many believe the sonker was originally passed down from Scottish immigrants and became a favorite among Southern farm workers. During the summertime, North Carolinians make a thick fruit-filling and top it with unanchored buttery, flaky dough. You can also make it with sweet potatoes.
6. Cheerwine Float
Made in Salisbury, North Carolina, for over a century, Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored soft drink and iconic among Southerners. It’s similar in taste to a Dr. Pepper mixed with cherry syrup, with a stronger carbonation. One of the best ways to drink this soda is to pour it over creamy vanilla ice cream.
Because Carolina has its own way of doing things, it’s no surprise Carolinians put their spin on hushpuppies, too! In Eastern, NC, you might be surprised to find the hushpuppies in strips rather than balls. This Southern staple is made from thick cornmeal batter and seasoned onions fried to a golden perfection. You will typically find it served with french fries and fried fish or alongside fried chicken, greens, and mac and cheese.
8. Greens With Texas Pete
If your greens aren’t topped with fatback or ham hock and Texas Pete, it’s not from North Carolina. Southern greens are typically made from collards, ham hock, apple cider vinegar, and bacon, then set them to simmer low and slow for several hours. It is a common side dish for many recipes in the South.
9. Pimento Cheese Grits
Southerners don’t play about their pimento cheese or their grits. If you come to North Carolina, expect your grits to be made with this cheesy, tangy delicacy and maybe a splash of Texas Pete. To complete your breakfast, fry up some eggs and bacon and add a fresh, flaky biscuit.
A Recap of the 9 Food Dishes That Are Absolute Symbols of North Carolina
|Number||Food Dishes of North Carolina|
|#2||Fried green tomatoes|
|#8||Greens with Texas Pete|
|#9||Pimento cheese grits|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Angel Simon/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.