Tennessee, famous for its spellbinding landscapes, rich history, and energetic culture, has much more to offer. Beyond its scenic appeal, the state has an exquisite dining scene, introducing you to a range of flavors of the American South.
From delicious comfort food to spicy barbecue, you come across many flavors as you visit various parts of the state. Knoxville, for example, is known for its southern classic food, such as fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, and much more. Similarly, visitors and residents can enjoy Nashville’s fluffy biscuits and a meat and three.
And to treat your sweet tooth, you can enjoy a variety of Tennessee’s desserts that take you to another world of flavors. All in all, this state has no shortage of taste and flavor.
With that said, if you are in Tennessee or planning to visit the state soon, here is a list of famous Tennessee dishes you must try.
- Biscuits and Gravy
Tennessee and southern food experience is incomplete if you miss biscuits and gravy—Tennessee’s iconic food. The combination comes as delicious buttery biscuits in a country-style gravy or creamy sausages.
The iconic gravy made by browning sausage (often pork sausage) and then creating a roux by adding flour and milk enhances the dish’s flavor.
The biscuits are made from scratch with simple ingredients like flour, buttermilk, baking powder, and butter or lard, making them light and airy.
You can enjoy the biscuits and gravy as a fulfilling meal anytime, but it is especially preferred for breakfast and brunch. In addition, you can pair the dish with eggs and other breakfast options.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a sweet but similar buttermilk biscuits option, you can find a premium restaurant in Knoxville that offers biscuits and jam on its brunch menu. Look for restaurants that prefer using local ingredients to get authentic flavors.
- Meat and Three
You haven’t enjoyed your stay in Tennessee like a true Southerner yet if you overlooked meat and three. At its core, the dish includes one meat option and three side dishes from the menu.
Often, meat and three accompanies cornbread and sweat tea—the staples in Southern food. Various places in the state offer meat and three, but Nashville is one of the famous areas for its true experience.
- Hot dogs in Knoxville
The city of Knoxville, Tennessee, is known for its innovative dining options and for serving delicious handcrafted food and drinks.
When visiting Knoxville restaurants, try their hot dogs, also known as the “Knoxville Dog,” served with a variety of toppings, including chili, coleslaw, and onions.
- Sweet potato fries
If you are in for enjoying snacks in Tennessee, try their sweet potato fries, famous for their distinctive taste and texture. They can be easily found in different eateries and restaurants across the state and can be enjoyed on the go.
The secret of these fries lies in the use of freshly cut sweet potatoes. Later, they are deep-fried to get a crispy, crunchy exterior and a beautiful golden brown color. Sometimes, you will also find restaurants twisting the flavor of the fries by adding spices and dipping sauces such as chili lime.
- Barbecue in Memphis
In Memphis, enjoy pork ribs and pulled pork cooked in a slow smoker, resulting in tender and palatable meat. All credit goes to the dry rub (dry spices and seasonings) applied to the meat before smoking. These spices and herbs give a unique and enriching flavor to the meat.
When trying the BBQ, don’t forget the special tomato-based barbecue sauce, which enhances the flavor even more.
- Fried catfish
The next thing you should try in Tennessee is fried catfish, which you can easily find in Memphis, Nashville, and rural areas. Catfish has been the specialist of Tennessee for generations, satisfying the taste buds of the locals and visitors using various recipes and preparations. Whether you want it in the classic Southern style or with a regional twist, you can find everything you like.
The Tennessee catfish is prominent for its crispy, flaky exterior and juicy, succulent interior. Every bite explodes tinny flavor bombs in your mouth, offering you an experience of a lifetime.
The best thing about catfish in Tennessee is that you can be sure of its freshness—the state has many catfish farms supplying fresh stock to restaurants and dinners.
You can enjoy the catfish with various sides and sauces such as tartar sauce, coleslaw, collard greens, cornbread, and more. All these options enhance the flavor of the fish, making it a hearty and satisfying meal that you can enjoy to the fullest.
- Hot chicken in Nashville
Your visit to Tennessee is incomplete without trying the hot chicken in Nashville, which gives a very tough time to other dishes.
The classic Nashville hot chicken is prepared by folding it in a spicy mixture of hot cayenne pepper, onion and garlic powder, paprika, and more. Later, it is deep-fried and served on delicious toasted buns, making you fall in love with its intense heat and bold flavor.
If you are trying the authentic Nashville hot chicken, get the dill pickle slices and white bread to balance the spice level and enjoy a fulfilling meal.
- Macaroni and Cheese
Undoubtedly, macaroni and cheese are loved throughout the US, but it is a specialty in Tennessee, offering you a taste and flavor that is on another level.
At the heart of it, this simple dish is made with creamy and cheesy sauce and macaroni, often topped with buttery breadcrumbs. This tinny addition imparts it with a delightful crunch.
Depending on the restaurant you are visiting, you can find a lot of variations within macaroni and cheese. Some restaurants serve the classic version, while others twist the recipe by adding jalapenos, chicken cubes, bacon, lobsters, etc.
- Country ham
The Country ham is the food you should not miss in Tennessee. The salt-cured and aged ham quintessences the Southern tradition and flavor—the robust taste and savory aroma are definitely to die for.
You can enjoy the ham on its own or as an ingredient in various southern dishes such as biscuits, quiches, red-eye gravy, soufflés, or a breakfast sandwich.
The use of age-old methods of curing and aging makes Tennessee’s country ham a masterpiece unlike any other. Its preparation includes rubbing the salt and other seasonings before dry-curing and aging it for a few months. During this time, the spices make the ham flavorful while preserving it.
So, while in this beautiful state, look for a place to have an authentic experience of enjoying country ham and appreciate its long history.
Besides the beautiful landscape and outdoor activities, Tennessee is known for its variety of food offerings. From Fried chicken and catfish to cornbread to sweet potato fries, visitors and residents have various food options to enjoy. The best part is that you can find delicious food in premium restaurants as well as small dining options, so eating within your budget is quite easy.