What food is Alabama famous for? The dishes you need to try

Find out more about the flavours of the Deep South.

Sweet home Alabama may sound comforting, but the state has a savoury side as well. What food is Alabama famous for? Let us guide you through the cuisine of this part of the Deep South.

What to eat in Alabama

Forget sweet tea clichés – Alabama’s culinary heritage is a fiery blend of flavours forged in community kitchens and smoky barbecue pits. This is a state where fried green tomatoes are a rite of passage, and ribs seem unfinished without white barbecue sauce.

But it’s not all about flavours from the past. New chefs and new ideas are ringing in the changes

Alabama’s food, much like the 22nd state itself, tells a story of resilience and a deep connection to the land. And it’s a land that has been through a lot.

Ready to explore? Welcome to the Yellowhammer State!

For more, check out our USA travel information page.

What food is Alabama famous for?

Savoury dishes

Alabama has greater biodiversity than anywhere else in the U.S and so it’s no surprise that the bounty of the land turns up on people’s plates.

Whenever you’re taking a road trip through Alabama, make sure to try out these staples.

Fried green tomatoes, what food is Alabama famous for?

Fried green tomatoes

One bite of a fried green tomato, and you’ll understand why this unassuming dish has become a symbol of Southern cuisine. Tangy, slightly firm, green tomatoes encased in a cornmeal crust offer a surprising burst of flavour.

While their exact origins remain a subject of debate, some food historians believe fried green tomatoes were introduced to the South by Jewish immigrants who brought similar recipes across from Europe.

Where to try it

One of the best places where you can try this iconic dish is Wintzell’s Oyster House in the city of Mobile, where they’ve been perfecting their recipe for generations.

Alternatively, make a pilgrimage to Irondale Café, the real-life inspiration behind the Whistle Stop Café made famous by the film with the say-it-like-it-is title: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.

The restaurant even hosts a Fried Green Tomato Festival each summer, bringing locals together to celebrate this culinary treasure.

Plate of barbecue with white barbecue sauce from Big Bob Gibsons - what food is Alabama famous for
Big Bob Gibson’s is home to some of the best white barbecue sauce in the state © Art Meripol

White barbecue sauce

Now, if fried green tomatoes are the star of the show, then white barbecue sauce is the unsung hero, one of those iconic foods found in the kitchens of home cooks and professional pitmasters alike.

Unlike the tomato-based barbecue sauces you might find elsewhere, Alabama’s signature white sauce is a creamy concoction that’s both tangy and peppery.

Mayonnaise, vinegar, horseradish, and a blend of spices like black pepper and cayenne create a flavour profile that’s unique to this state. Its the perfect complement to smoked meats and also makes for a surprisingly delicious dip.

Legend has it that Big Bob Gibson, a larger-than-life figure in Alabama’s barbecue scene, dreamt up this iconic white sauce in 1925. What started as a way to spice up smoked chicken at his Decatur establishment, soon became a state-wide obsession.

Where to try it

Today, you can find white barbecue sauce slathered on everything from pulled pork to potato salad, but to experience the original, head straight to the source – Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q.

Or, if you prefer a history lesson with a meal, visit Brenda’s Bar-B-Q Pit in west Montgomery. Brenda’s namesake and founder secretly tutored neighbourhood residents to pass the literacy test, which was required for them to register to vote. Ask about the photo of her on the front lines of the Selma to Montgomery March. 

The Alabama BBQ Trail

The Alabama BBQ Trail is a free smartphone app that can tell you about more than 75 barbecue restaurants in 52 cities and towns across the state. 

The app includes background information on each of the restaurants and their best dishes, and can even notify you when you are within 20 miles of one of the top barbecue spots.

The app is based on the book Alabama Barbecue: Delicious Road Trips. You can find more information on the Alabama Tourism Department website here.

Grab some napkins and get started!

The smoking house at Fat Boy’s Bar-B-Que Ranch - what food is Alabama famous for
The smoking house at Fat Boy’s Bar-B-Que Ranch © Art Meripol

Conecuh sausage

Introducing the undisputed champion of Alabama meats: the Conecuh sausage. This hickory-smoked pork sausage, known for its signature peppery kick, is a state staple that you’ll find gracing breakfast plates, topping pizzas, and tucked into some of the best sandwiches across the land.

Produced in the small town of Evergreen since 1947, Conecuh sausage has a rich history that speaks to Alabama’s deep connection to tradition and craft. While the original recipe remains a closely guarded secret, the sausage’s distinct flavour comes from a blend of spices, including black pepper, red pepper, and garlic, as well as a slow smoking process over hickory wood.

Where to try it

You can experience the magic of Conecuh sausage firsthand at their gift shop in Evergreen, where they offer a variety of sausage flavours and other gourmet treats.

But for a true taste of Alabama, pick up a pack or two at any local grocery store and create your own culinary masterpiece. Trust me, whether it’s a simple sausage and egg breakfast or a gourmet Conecuh sausage pizza, your tastebuds will thank you.

Shrimp and grits, what food is Alabama famous for?

Gulf shrimp & grits

For some reason, international visitors often forget that Alabama is by the sea. The state’s embrace of the Gulf of Mexico means that seafood plays a starring role in many dishes, none more iconic than Gulf shrimp and grits.

This seemingly simple combination of creamy grits (a corn-based porridge recipe from Native Americans) and succulent Gulf shrimp is one of those delicious dishes you wonder why you can’t find at home.

Whether served in a classic butter sauce, a spicy Creole rendition with a squeeze of lemon juice, or even with a splash of Worcestershire sauce for a bit of tang to finish, shrimp and grits is a dish that cannot be missed.

Where to try it

You can sample shrimp and grits from Gulf Shores to Mobile Bay, but one of the most memorable experiences is at Felix’s Fish Camp in Mobile, a local institution known for its fresh catches and laid-back atmosphere.

The Original Oyster House, with its multiple locations along the coast, is another excellent choice, offering a taste of the sea – not just shrimp, but oysters and crab meat too – with every bite.

For a more casual experience, head to Tacky Jacks, where you can enjoy your shrimp and grits with a side of live music and stunning Gulf views.

Of course, every restaurant along Alabama’s Gulf Coast has its own spin on this classic dish, making it a delicious adventure to sample them all.

If it’s seafood you’re into, don’t miss our guide to the best seafood destinations in the world.

Two loaded hotdogs

Alabama hot dogs

Even the humble hot dog gets a makeover in Alabama, becoming a staple of tailgates at the University of Alabama and a beloved snack during college football season. Forget the plain ketchup and mustard you might be used to; Alabama hot dogs are a culinary adventure in their own right.

Piled high with toppings like chilli, slaw, onions, mustard, and a secret sauce that varies from vendor to vendor, these aren’t your average franks. While hot dogs themselves aren’t unique to Alabama, the state’s Greek immigrant community in Birmingham is credited with elevating them to an art form in the early 20th century.

Where to try it

The variations are as diverse as the state itself. Birmingham-style hot dogs feature a hearty topping of seasoned beef, mustard, kraut, and a special sauce that’s both sour and sweet.

Sneaky Pete’s, a local chain, has built its reputation on a secret sauce that’s the stuff of legends, often paired with chilli and slaw for a flavour explosion.

And for the truly adventurous, there’s the Conecuh Dog, featuring Alabama’s beloved smoked sausage on a bun, adorned with all the fixings. To experience this, head to Gus’s Hot Dogs in Birmingham, something of an institution in operation since 1947.

Tony’s Hot Dogs, another local favourite, offers a no-frills experience that focuses on the quality of the dog itself. For those seeking a modern twist, Bama Hot Dogs in Birmingham has a menu that includes classic and creative hot dog combinations alike.

But the king of the hot dogs resides in Montgomery, at Chris’s Hot Dogs. It’s the oldest family owned and operated restaurant in the city and previous guests include both Elvis and Martin Luther King Jr.

Southern fried chicken in cardboard container, Alabama food

Southern fried chicken

In Alabama, fried chicken is an institution, a tradition passed down through generations, with each family claiming their own secret recipe. It’s the dish that graces Sunday dinner tables, fuels tailgate parties at Auburn University, and evokes a sense of home and warmth that’s hard to beat.

This crispy, golden-brown delight is a beautiful fusion of culinary influences, taking inspiration from several African approaches to seasoning and frying.

While modern techniques have refined the process, the essence of Alabama fried chicken remains unchanged: juicy, tender meat encased in a perfectly seasoned, shatteringly crisp crust.

Where to try it

For a taste of fried chicken that’s steeped in history, head to Martha’s Place in Montgomery, a soul food haven that’s been serving up Southern classics for decades.

Champy’s, with its multiple locations across the state, offers a more modern take on fried chicken, but its commitment to quality and flavour is undeniable.

Southern potato salad

While potato salad may have its roots in European cuisine, the Southern version evolved with unique regional twists. It’s now a quintessential part of barbecues, picnics, and family gatherings across the state, so be prepared to find it everywhere.

Red-skinned potatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, celery, onions, and hard-boiled eggs form the building blocks of this Southern side dish.

But it’s the little details that set it apart: a pinch of paprika for warmth, a dash of dill for freshness, or a generous dollop of sweet pickle relish for a tangy twist. Sometimes, Alabamians add a hint of sugar or crumbled bacon for a soft but smoky touch.

Where to try it

Everywhere? To get a taste of this iconic side dish, you don’t have to look far. Most barbecue joints, soul food restaurants and casual eateries across Alabama will have Southern potato salad on the menu.

What’s a soul food restaurant? Soul food is an ethnic cuisine traditionally prepared and eaten by African-Americans in the Southern United States.

Side of collard greens, what food is Alabama famous for?

Collard greens

Fried chicken is often accompanied by a humble yet hearty side dish that’s equally emblematic of Alabama’s culinary heritage: collard greens. These leafy green vegetables, with their slightly bitter taste, are a staple of soul food – a cuisine born out of the resourcefulness and resilience of African Americans in the South.

Brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans, collard greens have become a symbol of Southern tradition. They’re slow-cooked for hours, often with smoked meats like ham hocks or turkey necks, absorbing the rich, smoky flavours and transforming into a tender, savoury delight.

The addition of vinegar, onions, and spices like garlic and red pepper flakes elevates the dish even further, creating a complex and satisfying side that’s perfect for soaking up the juices of your fried chicken or barbecue.

Where to try it

You’ll find this side dish on the menu at most soul food and barbecue restaurants across Alabama. But for a truly authentic taste of Southern hospitality, seek out those family-run establishments where recipes are passed down through generations, and the greens are cooked with love and care.

Sweet treats

Now that we’ve had our fill of savoury delights, let’s take a closer look at the sweeter side of Alabama’s culinary heritage. After all, a true Southern meal wouldn’t be complete without a bit of indulgence.

Lane Cake

Imagine a cake so exquisite that it found its way into the pages of Harper Lee’s classic novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” That cake is the Lane Cake, the official Alabama state dessert.

This multi-layered masterpiece consists of a delicate sponge cake filled with a concoction of pecans and coconut, together with a bourbon-laced frosting that’s both rich and intoxicating.

Created in the 1890s by Emma Rylander Lane, this cake quickly became a favourite at social gatherings and special occasions throughout the state. Its complex flavours and labour-intensive preparation have made it a symbol of Southern hospitality and culinary artistry.

Where to try it

While you might not find it on every menu, some bakeries and restaurants across Alabama still offer this treat, often made to order for weddings, holidays, and other celebrations.

Banana pudding in glass container, Alabama food

Banana pudding

If Lane Cake is the elegant grande dame of Southern desserts, then banana pudding is its playful, approachable cousin. While Lane Cake might be reserved for special occasions, banana pudding is a year-round comfort food, a nostalgic reminder of childhood summers and family gatherings.

Layers of crispy vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, creamy vanilla pudding, and fluffy whipped cream create a delightful dance on the tongue. Each spoonful is a delicate balance of sweet and creamy silk, with the slight tang of the bananas adding a refreshing counterpoint.

Like many iconic dishes in the South, this dessert can be made in a variety of ways, with each family and restaurant guarding their own secret recipe.

Some prefer a thicker pudding, while others opt for a lighter, more airy texture. Some add a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon for warmth, while others might even incorporate a bit of meringue for an extra layer of sweetness.

Where to try it

The beauty of banana pudding lies in its versatility. You’ll find it on menus across the state, from unassuming diners to upscale restaurants. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for their favourite spots; they’ll be eager to share their recommendations.

Slice of pecan pie, what food is Alabama famous for?

Pecan pie

Pecans, with their rich, buttery flavour and satisfying crunch, are native to Alabama, making pecan pie a natural and beloved dessert.

In the perfect slice of pecan pie, you’ll find a gooey filling in harmony with a flaky crust. The pecans, often toasted to enhance their nutty essence, are bathed in a mixture of corn syrup, eggs, butter, and sugar, creating a flavour profile that’s both decadent and comforting.

Some recipes even call for a splash of Golden Eagle syrup (a local favourite) or molasses for a deeper, more caramel-like sweetness.

Where to try it

Countless bakeries and restaurants across the state offer their versions of pecan pie, each with its unique twist. But whether you prefer a classic recipe or a more experimental take, one thing’s for sure: pecan pie is a true taste of Alabama.


Peaches are a summer staple that epitomize the bounty of the Deep South. These juicy, sun-kissed fruits find their way into a myriad of Southern dishes, adding a touch of sweetness and a burst of flavor that is a hallmark of the region’s cuisine.

From the classic peach cobbler, where warm, caramelized peaches meld with buttery crusts, to refreshing peach iced tea that offers a respite from the Southern heat, you will find peaches across the state.

Although, they’re something of a sneaky entry here, since you’ll also find them in savoury dishes, such as peach-glazed pork chops or grilled peach salads, showcasing their versatility.

Where to try it

The annual Clanton Peach Festival is the perfect place to seek out these juicy fruits in all their glory. And all year round, Clanton’s Peach Park welcomes visitors with beautiful gardens, homemade cobblers and a traditional hickory-smoked barbecue.

Bonus bites

While the dishes mentioned above are undoubtedly the best food you can try in Alabama, there’s a whole constellation of snacks, treats, and drinks that add their unique flavour to the scene.

Consider this section a guide to those delicious detours that might not be as famous as Lane Cake or fried green tomatoes, but are just as essential to the Alabama experience.

Chocolate and cream moon pies

Moon Pies

Let’s start with a taste of nostalgia: the Moon Pie. These marshmallow sandwiches dipped in chocolate may have been invented across the state line in Chattanooga, but they’ve found a passionate following in Alabama, particularly in the Tennessee Valley region.

Enjoy them as a sweet treat on a road trip or a midnight snack after a night out. They’re particularly popular in Mobile, home to the oldest Mardi Gras parade in the U.S.

Bowl of boiled peanuts, what is Alabama famous for?

Boiled peanuts

For a taste of the unexpected, try boiled peanuts. This Southern roadside snack might seem unusual, but for those in the know, these soft, salty legumes are an addictive treat.

Boiled in their shells and sold by the bagful, they’re a flawless companion for a scenic drive along Alabama’s backroads, especially when paired with an ice-cold glass of sweet tea.

You can find boiled peanuts in many Southern states, but they don’t get much better than those found at the Alabama Peanut Company in Birmingham.

And if you want to take it further? Shell out for the annual peanut festival in Dothan and go nuts in the peanut capital of the world.

Two glasses of sweet tea with ice, Alabama

Sweet tea

Speaking of sweet tea, this overly sweetened iced beverage is practically synonymous with Southern hospitality. From barbecue joints to fine dining establishments, you’ll find sweet tea on menus across Alabama.

While its origins are debatable, one thing’s for sure: it’s the perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer day.

West Indies Salad

Finally, if you find yourself in Mobile, don’t miss the chance to try West Indies Salad at Wintzell’s Oyster House. This refreshing crab salad, a local speciality, is a delightful combination of sweet, salty, and tangy flavours, perfect for a light lunch or starter.

And that’s Alabama for you – a great place to try incredible food, in between the beaches, nature reserves, space cities and Civil Rights trails.

It’s time to see it, and taste it, yourself.

2024: The Year of Alabama Food

If you’re keen to immerse yourself in Alabama’s culinary scene, there has never been a better time to do it.

The Alabama Department of Tourism has officially declared 2024 the ‘Year of Alabama Food’, making it the perfect time to sample everything the southern state has to offer. Bring your appetite and an open mind and let this list of 100 dishes to eat in Alabama be your guide.

Whether it’s delicious goat cheese, fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood, home-grown collards, or mouth-watering barbecue, foodies are guaranteed to discover new favourites.

And don’t miss the oldest restaurant in the state: the Bright Star in Bessemer.

So, what are you waiting for? Book your trip to Alabama and start eating!

More information

Taste of Alabama” is a 7-night self-drive tour taking in the best of what this unique state has to offer.

Prices start from £1,999* (per person) in June-September and from £1,599* (per person) in October – March. Prices are based on two adults sharing.

For more information visit Alabama Travel or Purely Travel.