Tennessee, nestled at the heart of the American South, boasts an abundance of delectable culinary traditions that reflect its vibrant culture and history. From succulent barbecue to decadent sweets, Tennessee boasts an exquisite culinary scene sure to please even the pickiest palates. Food has long played an integral part in Tennessee culture as a means of uniting its citizens and fortifying bonds of family and community; therefore, this article explores Tennessee by featuring some iconic and lesser-known dishes you must taste during your next visit.
- Roasted Carolina Trout
Roasted Carolina trout is an irresistibly succulent dish, celebrating Tennessee’s refreshing rivers and lakes with every bite. This delightful meal consists of whole trout deboned and stuffed with aromatic herbs before being slowly roasted until done to perfection, yielding tender meat with crisp exterior layers and a tantalizing aroma.
Roasted Carolina trout’s origins date back to early settlers of the region who relied heavily on fishing as a source of sustenance. It was traditionally prepared over an open fire using freshly caught fish, with various herbs, spices, and other ingredients added to increase the flavor of this popular seafood dish.
Roasted Carolina Trout may not be unique to Tennessee. Still, it is present on the menus at many places to eat in Knoxville TN. This fish is caught in this city’s rivers, leading to fresh high-grade trout. Visitors looking for a taste can visit the popular eateries throughout Knoxville, TN, where talented chefs serve their unique interpretations of this delectable meal.
- Nashville Hot Chicken
Nashville hot chicken has become the signature fried chicken dish of Tennessee cuisine. The chicken is marinated in an aromatic blend of spices before being coated in an irresistibly flavorful batter and deep-fried to crispy perfection. Nashville hot chicken’s star ingredient is its fiery hot sauce made with cayenne pepper, which is applied liberally after cooking to give its signature heat and bold flavor.
Nashville hot chicken can trace its roots back to the 1930s when it was created as a revenge dish. Soon after that, however, its popularity skyrocketed, and eventually, it became an integral part of Nashville cuisine.
- Memphis-Style Barbecue
Memphis-style barbecue (MSB) is distinguished by succulent slow-smoked pork dishes such as ribs or pulled pork, often using dry rub marinades with various spices and herbs applied before smoking for maximum tenderness and flavor. A side of tomato-based barbecue sauce completes this classic American dish.
Memphis-style barbecue dates back to the early 20th century when Memphis emerged as a center for the meatpacking industry. Over time, barbecue culture in Memphis evolved, with pitmasters experimenting with various techniques and flavors until dry rub and slow smoking became signature elements of Memphis-style BBQ.
- Country Ham
Country ham is a classic Tennessee dish of cured and smoked pork. The process includes dry-curing the ham with salt, sugar, and spices before smoking and aging it, resulting in an irresistibly tender yet salty product that pairs beautifully with many different side dishes.
Country ham originated in the American South, where it was widely used to preserve meat before refrigeration became an option. Due to Tennessee’s abundance of pigs and natural resources like hickory wood for smoking purposes, country ham quickly became a beloved dish among its citizens.
- Meat and Three
Meat and three is an iconic Southern meal with one meat and three side dishes. Popular choices for meats include fried chicken, pork chops, or country-fried steak. At the same time, vegetables, casseroles, or bread may make up the side dishes.
Meat and three was created in Southern cuisine during the early 20th century as an economical yet satisfying lunch for workers needing fuel for their day.
- Goo Goo Clusters
Goo Goo Clusters have long been a favorite in Tennessee since they first hit store shelves during the early 20th century. These decadent confections combine gooey marshmallow and caramel centers with crunchy peanuts encased in milk chocolate for an irresistibly delicious treat that locals and visitors love to devour!
Goo Goo Clusters were first produced in Nashville in 1912 and soon became one of the earliest-ever combination candy bars. Their unique name may stem from the gooey texture of marshmallows and caramel centers.
- Benton’s Bacon
Benton’s Bacon, famous for its unique flavor and exceptional quality, is an irresistibly delicious, mouthwatering smoked treat made from premium pork bellies dry-cured with salt, brown sugar, and pepper before being slowly smoked over hickory wood for an unforgettable taste.
Allan Benton began producing Bacon under this name in 1973. Benton has used traditional methods and locally sourced ingredients in producing his delicacy. Benton’s Bacon can often be featured at farm-to-table restaurants and markets throughout Knoxville and elsewhere throughout Tennessee.
- Moon Pies
Tennessee residents love Moon Pies! These delectable treats consist of two round graham cracker cookies filled with abundant marshmallows and covered in chocolate or another flavor. Moon Pies are perfect for snacking on the go, offering sweet satisfaction without breaking the bank.
Moon Pies were created in 1917 as an innovative solution to meet coal miners’ need for filling portable snacks that provided energy during shifts. Their iconic shape and name came from how their size reminded miners of that of a moon pie.
Visit local grocery stores, gas stations, and general stores across Tennessee to discover Moon Pies with various flavors – from classic chocolate to banana and salted caramel.
- Chess Pie
Chess Pie, a traditional Southern dessert, boasts an irresistibly decadent combination of rich sweet flavors with subtle tart undertones. Made with a flaky pastry crust filled with an egg, sugar, butter, and cornmeal/flour mixture often enhanced with lemon, vinegar, or vanilla flavorings, Chess Pie offers something deliciously distinctive for every palette.
To taste Chess Pie, visit local bakeries and dessert shops throughout Tennessee’s Smokies or dining establishments offering traditional Southern fare.
Tennessee boasts an expansive and varied culinary landscape representing its vibrant culture and history. Tennessee offers many mouthwatering flavors, from beloved staples like Nashville hot chicken and Memphis-style barbecue to lesser-known gems such as Benton’s Bacon and Chess Pie. Tennessee offers a diverse cuisine, so let this journey be your guide as we continue our adventure together. Unleash your inner foodie, discover hidden gems, and make unforgettable memories by indulging in its flavors! From your first bite, every time you savor one of Tennessee’s iconic dishes, it will strengthen your connection to its people and the land while honoring its unique culinary history. Bon Appetit!