28 Holiday Dishes You’d Only Find At A Southern Family Gathering

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

There are certain iconic Southern dishes, like pimiento cheese and gumbo, that have made their way beyond the South, while others like fluff salads and pineapple casserole have stayed a little closer to home. These unique and nostalgic recipes have been prepared in Grandmother’s kitchen for as long as we can remember, and for many Southerners it wouldn’t be the holidays without them. From vintage recipes like molded salads and corn pudding to new favorites that call for Alabama-made Conecuh sausage and once-a-year-crafted desserts like caramel cake, love them or hate them, these 28 holiday dishes are ones you’ll only find on a Southern table.

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Cranberry Fluff Salad

Southern Living Cranberry Fluff Salad in a bowl to serve
ANTONIS ACHILLEOS, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY

During the holidays, there’s always a place for a retro fluff salad—even though it might only be true Southerners who will appreciate when this smooth, creamy dish graces the table. You can’t go wrong whether you serve it as a side or dessert.

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Savory Corn Pudding

Savory Corn Pudding
PHOTO: VICTOR PROTASIO; PROP STYLING: GINNY BRANCH STELLING; FOOD STYLING: EMILY NABORS HALL

Some might only associate corn pudding with Thanksgiving, but Southerners know it’s a staple side dish at any holiday gathering from potlucks to Christmas dinner. While some recipes are sweeter, this one leans on garlic, chives, and thyme for a more savory version.

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Pear Salad

Pear salads with mayonnaise, lettuce, cheese, and cherries - Southern Living
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

We can’t let the holidays pass by without serving this nostalgic five-ingredient dish. At Ivy Odom’s house you’re guaranteed to find pear salad on the menu, just without the cherry on top.

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Conecuh Sausage Pigs In Blankets

Southern Living Fancy Pigs in Blankets on a plate to serve with sauce
GREG DUPREE; FOOD STYLIST: MICAH MORTON; PROP STYLIST: GINNY BRANCH

You’re bound to find this Alabama-based conecuh sausage in some form on any Southern table around the holidays—roasted, grilled, pan-fried, baked, diced as is or added to another dish like these pigs in a blanket.

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Punch Bowl Cake

Southern Living Punch Bowl Cake with two servings scooped out
MORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: JENNIFER WENDORF, PROP STYLIST: SHELL ROYSTER

We love anything in a punch bowl—and dessert is no exception. Similar to a trifle, this layered dessert transforms boxed cake mix and instant pudding into a party-ready treat.

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Scalloped Oysters

Scalloped Oysters - Southern Living
ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; PROP STYLIST: KATHLEEN VARNER; FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL

A seafood casserole might send some running, but not in the South. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, you’ll see this beloved dish gracing more than one table. Layers of crushed cracker-butter mixture and fresh oysters ensure every bite is delicious.

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Southern-Style Collard Greens

Southern-Style Collard Greens - Southern Living
FRED HARDY II; FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL; PROPS STYLIST: CHRISTINA BROCKMAN

No wintertime holiday table in the South is truly complete without some form of greens, but collards will always be a staple whether you make them with bacon, a ham hock, or sans-meat.

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Little Layer Chocolate Cake

Little Layer Chocolate Cake - Southern Living
GREG DUPREE; FOOD STYLIST: JULIAN HENSARLING; PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA DALEY

While this impressive, height-defying cake often makes appearances throughout the year at bridal showers, birthdays, and potlucks, many reserve the tedious 18-layer assembly for the holidays.

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Layered Cranberry Salad

Layered Cranberry Salad on a cake stand
PHOTO: JAMES RANSOM; FOOD STYLING: RUTH BLACKBURN; PROP STYLING: CHRISTINE KEELY

It wouldn’t be a holiday in the South without at least one molded dish on the sideboard and the pretty red and pink layers of this beauty make it the perfect addition for Christmas parties.

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Cheddar Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws
ANTONIS ACHILLEOS; FOOD STYLING: EMILY NABORS HALL; PROP STYLING: MISSIE NEVILLE CRAWFORD

While these delicacies can truly be found at any gathering across the South no matter the time of year, no holiday fête is complete without their buttery, cheesy goodness.

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Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Kentucky Bourbon Balls plated and ready to serve
STACY K. ALLEN; FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER; PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINE KEELY

Straight from the Bluegrass state, these confections are sure to make an appearance at any Southern holiday party. From gifting to serving, these no-bake candies are a classic.

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Pineapple Casserole

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

The secret to many Southern casseroles starts in the pantry—and this classic is no exception. With just five ingredients and canned pineapple as the star of the show, this dish proves why anything served in a casserole dish and smothered in cheese will always be a hit.

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Watergate Salad

Watergate Salad
ALISON MIKSCH; FOOD STYLIST: KAREN RANKIN; PROP STYLIST: JOSH HOGGLE

Made with pistachio-flavored instant pudding mix, whipped cream, canned pineapples, toasted nuts, and mini marshmallows, this vintage salad is served interchangeably as a sweet side dish or dessert at holiday gatherings.

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Savory Sweet Potato Casserole

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole - Southern Living
 VICTOR PROTASIO; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX; PROP STYLIST: HEATHER CHADDUCK HILLEGAS

Traditional sweet potato casserole gets an extra Southern twist with a crunchy pecan topping. As a modern take on a classic dish, our Savory Sweet Potato casserole is a gorgeous addition to any holiday meal.

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Pecan Pralines

Pecan Pralines
CAITLIN BENSEL, FOOD STYLING: TORIE COX

Be prepared for these authentic Texas pecan pralines to melt in your mouth. Though pecan pralines are enjoyed as a year-round treat, their make-ahead and pop-in-your-mouth characteristics make them ideal for holiday gatherings and gifting.

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Pineapple Fluff

Southern Living Pineapple Fluff in bowls to serve with glasses of wine beside
MORGAN HUNT GLAZE, FOOD STYLIST: JENNIFER WENDORF, PROP STYLIST: JULIA BAYLESS

Grandma says can never have too many fluff salads. She also doesn’t specify if they should be enjoyed alongside your main course or as dessert. This retro tropical treat is made with pineapple gelatin, crushed pineapple, coconut, and macadamia nuts.

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Classic Deviled Eggs

Classic Deviled Eggs
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

Some might say deviled eggs are reserved for specific times of year, but in the South these bite-sized favorites are welcome by the dozen anytime. Though they’re especially prized during the holidays.

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Mama Mae’s Ambrosia Salad

Southern Living Mama Maes Ambrosia Salad in a serving bowl
FRED HARDY, FOOD STYLIST: MARGARET MONROE DICKEY, PROP STYLIST: HANNAH GREENWOOD

While there are slight variations of this retro cold salad, some use canned fruit while others call for fresh, the beauty of ambrosia salad is its simplicity. This recipe only requires three ingredients: oranges, pineapple, and shaved coconut, plus pomegranate seeds for garnish as desired.

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Classic Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie - Southern Living
ROB CULPEPPER; FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER; ASSISTANT PROP STYLIST: JOSH HOGGLE

When sweet potatoes are in abundance in the region, we’re eager to trade pumpkin pie for a sweeter version that uses roasted spuds. For an extra decadent finish, top with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.

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Oyster Casserole

Oyster Casserole, easter casseroles 9x13 casseroles
GREG DUPREE

Oyster casserole might not be your first choice on the holiday buffet table, but once you try a bite you’ll see why its a Southern household staple. It’s hard to beat fresh oysters served in a creamy parmesan sauce with crispy bread crumbs.

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Old-School Squash Casserole

squash casserole on a plate with a casserole dish behind it
PHOTOGRAPHER: FRED HARDY II, FOOD STYLIST: EMILY NABORS HALL, PROPS STYLIST: CHRISTINA BROCKMAN

Cheesy, crunchy, and full of goodness, you can’t go wrong with adding this dish to your menu. Best of all, it can be prepared the night before serving, then baked fresh.

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Cherry Delight

Cherry Delight
PHOTOGRAPHER: JENNIFER CAUSEY FOOD STYLIST: MELISSA GRAY PROP STYLIST: HEATHER CHADDUCK HILLEGAS

This cool and creamy church cookbook classic starts with a graham cracker crust and only requires 20 minutes of hands on time. The fluffy middle layer is topped with a can of cherry pie filling that gives the treat its holiday-worthy coloring.

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Southern Cornbread Dressing

Southern Cornbread Dressing
PHOTOGRAPHER: BRITTANY CONERLY; PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINA BROCKMAN; FOOD STYLIST: KAREN RANKIN

Around here, dressing isn’t just for Thanksgiving. The classic dish gets an extra Southern touch using cornbread instead of bread.

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Giblet Gravy

Southern Living Giblet Gravy in the gravy boat to serve
CAITLIN BENSEL, FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

This isn’t your average gravy and you definitely won’t find giblets in gravy outside of the South.

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Old-Fashioned Apple And Cheese Casserole

Old-Fashioned Apple And Cheese Casserole
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLING: TORIE COX

If you like pineapple casserole, then you’ll love this cinnamony apple cobbler version. Layers of gooey cheddar cheese, sweet and crunchy apples, and a buttery cracker topping make this a Christmas casserole must.

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Chocolate Gravy

Southern Living Chocolate Gravy ready to serve with biscuits
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

While chocolate gravy might not be a true Christmas main dish, it isn’t everyday that you can drown your buttermilk biscuits in chocolate.

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Rosemary-Brown Butter Pecans

Southern Living Rosemary-Brown Butter Pecans in a bowl to serve
GREG DUPREE, FOOD STYLIST: CHELSEA ZIMMER, PROP STYLIST: CHRISTINE KEELY 

With pecans hailing from Georgia, you’ll hardly find a cheeseboard or bowl of nuts without them in it around the South. For an extra celebratory take on roasted pecans we dressed these up with nutty brown butter, rosemary, and sea salt.

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Fruitcake

Southern Living Fruit Cake sliced and ready to serve
CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLIST: TORIE COX

When it comes to fruitcake—you either love it or hate it. For those who can’t imagine their Southern Christmas without the iconic dessert on the table, we love this flavor-packed recipe.