10 Divisive Holiday Dishes That Southerners Either Love Or Hate

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
PHOTO: JENNIFER CAUSEY; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX; PROP STYLIST: CLAIRE SPOLLEN

One of the things that people look forward to the most during the holidays, besides spending time with family and bringing back old traditions, is the food. There are often dishes that make appearances year after year, often even brought to the family meal by the same person. While most of these classic Southern holiday dishes are gleefully anticipated—such as cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, and pecan pralines—there are some that are not quite so universally beloved.

It just so happens that the most polarizing holiday foods are quick to receive hate from many, but also are secretly enjoyed by some. That’s why they continue to show up to the holiday dinner again and again. Even if you swear no one likes the jiggly jello salad or out-there vintage casserole, there are always a few scoops missing from the serving dish.

Here are 10 divisive holiday dishes that Southerners love to hate—or just love in general.

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Really Good Fruitcake

Really Good Fruitcake
SOUTHERN LIVING

There’s perhaps no holiday dish more infamous and polarizing than fruitcake. The vintage dessert might be a risk to bring to the family meal, but trust us on this best-ever version that contains a combination of fruit and spices that’s guaranteed to make your tastebuds sing, including apples, persimmons, peaches, and pecans.

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Pineapple Casserole

Southern Living Pineapple Casserole serving on a plate
ROBBY LOZANO, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL

Southerners don’t blink twice when this casserole dish shows up to the holiday meal, from Christmas to Easter. Some might scoff at the flavor profile, but don’t knock it until you try. Sweet canned pineapple, buttery cracker topping, and surprise addition of cheese is a favorite of many.

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Spiced Cranberry Mold

Spiced Cranberry Mold
GREG DUPREE; PROP STYLING: AUDREY DAVIS; FOOD STYLING: EMILY NABORS HALL

Consider this the next level beyond cranberry sauce—and even more contentious. Gelatin molds, or jello salads, are as retro as it gets, but you’ll still see them at the holiday table. Because it just wouldn’t be the holidays without Grandma’s cut-glass dish holding a jiggly, wiggly gelatin salad—in all different colors.

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Oyster Casserole

Oyster Casserole, easter casseroles 9x13 casseroles
GREG DUPREE

A slightly less recognized holiday dish, oyster casserole—also known as oyster dressing, oyster pie, or even scalloped oysters—is certainly an acquired taste. But as any coastal-dwelling folks will tell you, it’s a delicacy. Our delicious version includes plump oysters baked in a rich Parmesan cream sauce and topped with buttery breadcrumbs.

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Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
JENNIFER CAUSEY; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX; PROP STYLIST: CLAIRE SPOLLEN

This familiar Thanksgiving side dish is very divisive—on whether or not belongs beside all of the savory dishes, or if it should be homemade or strictly of the jiggly canned variety. However, it is a classic for a reason. Just like how pineapple works with ham, a little cranberry sauce on turkey never hurt anyone.

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Homemade Eggnog

Homemade Eggnog
JENNIFER CAUSEY; FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL; PROP STYLIST: AUDREY DAVIS

Eggs? In a drink? That is enough to send most kids into shock upon learning what eggnog is made of. As we get older, more people try and actually enjoy the frothy holiday drink, but there are always naysayers who would rather have a glass of mulled wine. If you’re making a batch of Clark Griswold’s favorite celebratory drink, we’ve got the best homemade version.

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Slow-Cooker Grape Jelly Meatballs

Slow-Cooker Grape Jelly Meatballs
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLING: ALI RAMEE; PROP STYLING: SARAH ELIZABETH CLEVELAND

Jelly meatballs have seen many 1970s-era holiday parties, and why mess with perfection? The thought of plopping a jar of jelly over a batch of meatballs might seem odd to some, but it becomes delightfully sweet and sticky after hours in the slow cooker.

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Our Best Ambrosia Ever

Our Best Ambrosia Ever
GREG DUPREE; FOOD STYLING: CHELSEA ZIMMER; PROP STYLING: KAY E. CLARKE

This isn’t your old-school, soggy ambrosia. We don’t blame anyone for being put off from the marshmallow-laden fruit salad, but it is a sleeper hit for those who like a sweet addition to the holiday side dishes. This modern take on a Southern classic has layers of texture from creamy yogurt, juicy fruit, and crunchy coconut chips.

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Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie

Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie
ALISON MIKSCH

“What even is mincemeat?” That is a familiar question to arise when this pie is brought to the holiday potluck. Traditionally, mincemeat pie is made with boozy, heavily spiced, fruit-and-meat fillings that were able to preserve meat without smoking or salting. Our version forgoes meat altogether for a nostalgic-tasting dessert.

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Chicken Liver Mousse Crostini with Pepper Jelly

Chicken Liver Mousse Crostini with Pepper Jelly
HECTOR MANUEL SANCHEZ

Kids at the Christmas party have been tricked into trying this, er, interesting spread for generations. We make the smooth, velvety mousse a little more palatable for newbies by adding a layer of Southern pepper jelly on top.