A Gulf Coast state that’s known for its seafood and Southern cuisine, Mississippi is home to an assortment of delicious foods. Whether you’re craving a sweet treat or want to try something freshly caught from the Mississippi River, there are plenty of meals to try in the Magnolia State.
In no particular order, here are seven of the most famous dishes in Mississippi:
Mississippi Mud Pie
While the exact origin of the Mississippi mud pie within the state may be disputed, it’s agreed upon that its name comes from the resemblance of its components to the sediment of the Mississippi River. With a gooey chocolate interior that looks like wet mud and a chocolate crust that is similar to the sun-dried river clay, this sweet treat is a popular dessert across the state.
There are many variations of a Mississippi mud pie, but it typically has a chocolate or graham cracker crust. Dense brownie serves as the sturdy bottom layer, and chocolate pudding makes up the middle layer. The top layer is usually a light dairy, such as custard, yogurt, or whipped cream. Common additions include ice cream, sliced fruits, and nuts.
All together, you have a rich, sweet pie that’s sure to please all chocolate lovers. No matter how a Mississippi mud pie is made, one thing is certain: it’ll be delicious. You can find them at Walmart stores around the state, or you can pick up a fresh one at Jody’s Bakery in Hattiesburg.
Every Mississippian knows what you’re looking for if you ask for soul food: a home-cooked comfort meal that will leave you full and satisfied. Soul food became popular around the country during the civil rights movement, when African Americans embraced the cuisine as a way to reclaim and find pride in their heritage (soul food dishes were the kind given to enslaved people).
Known for being high in calories and incredibly filling, soul food typically features a meat, which is usually breaded and fried. A soul food meal will also include vegetables, with common ones being cooked collard greens and fried okra. Add macaroni and cheese or cornbread on the side, and you have a hearty, filling meal.
The American South, including Mississippi, is the heart of soul food. For an authentic taste, head to Nana J’s Soulful Kitchen in Ocean Springs.
In a state full of seafood, catfish is the most widely-eaten fish in Mississippi. When the cotton industry crashed in the 1960s, cotton farmers flooded their fields to create catfish farms. With an abundance of catfish being raised state-wide in the 80s and 90s, restaurants all over began adding them to their menus.
While catfish can be prepared in a number of ways, frying is a preferred method by many. One of the dish’s main appeals is its mild flavor, allowing chefs the freedom of altering their seasonings to create a meal that can be enjoyed even by those who don’t typically like seafood. Catfish are soaked in buttermilk, then dredged in seasoned cornmeal before deep frying. Properly-fried filets will be somewhat thin, and curled around the edges. Fried catfish is usually dipped in ketchup or tartar sauce and served with hush puppies, fries, or coleslaw.
Mississippians love to have their catfish at a fish fry—social events where the dish and its sides are served, often for fundraisers and parties. You can also try fried catfish at most restaurants, including Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant in Ocean Springs.
Pressed Po’ Boys
Like many regions around the country, the Mississippi River has its own favorite type of sandwich: the po’boy. Said to be invented in the 1920s in New Orleans by brothers Clovis and Benjamin Martin, the po’boy was a staple in the diets of streetcar strikers (or “poor boys,” which when said in a New Orleans accent sounds like po’boy). Although the sandwich was creating in the neighboring state of Louisiana, Mississippi puts its own spin on the po’boy by pressing it in a sandwich iron.
A classic po’boy includes French bread that’s stuffed with roast beef and gravy, fried shrimp, or fried oysters. After dressing the sandwich to your liking, it’s pressed until the outside of the bread is crunchy and flaky and the inside is soft and chewy.
Ordering a po’boy “dressed and pressed” means your sandwich will be filled with meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise before receiving the signature Mississippi press. Rosetti’s Old Biloxi Cafe on the Gulf coast offers several types of po’boys, so you can decide which type is your favorite.
Biscuits are known around the United States as hockey puck-sized parcels of leavened bread. But it’s an old town in Mississippi that has held the title of “Biscuit Capital of the World” since 2008.
Natchez native Chef Regina Charboneau, also known as the Queen of Biscuits, pushed to allow the city of Natchez, MS the official claim of this title. And for good reason—Natchez is full of restaurants that serve delicious biscuits, and have for generations.
The story of Southern-style biscuits began in the early 1800s when cooks came up with a cheap and sturdy bread to dip into gravy. With its humid environment, Mississippi has an advantage when it comes to biscuits: soft wheat flour, which thrives in moist southern regions and gives biscuits the perfect texture.
Once baked, the biscuits have a crisp and flaky outside while the inside remains light and fluffy. They’re often buttered and served with jelly and honey, or made into sandwiches. While finding an establishment that serves biscuits in Mississippi is no problem, narrowing down where to go can be a challenge.
Consider Biscuits & Blues in the biscuit capital of Natchez, a restaurant run by Chef Regina’s brother Peter Trosclair.
Whether it got its name from a traditional Mississippi goodbye of “y’all come back” or due to the fact that you’ll want to come back for more, comeback sauce is a condiment that will hook you from the first taste. While it was once debated which Greek restaurant created the sauce between Mayflower Cafe or the now-closed The Rotisserie, the current owner of Mayflower Cafe has given credit to The Rotisserie. Comeback sauce has since spread throughout the state and has become a staple on menus all across Mississippi.
Food historians say that The Rotisserie created the sauce as a house dressing for its salads in the 1920s. Now, comeback sauce is a recipe that most restaurants will tweak to create their own unique variation. However, most iterations have a base of mayonnaise, ketchup, chili sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Salt, black pepper, onion, and garlic are used to season the mixture and add a round, umami flavor.
Great on salads, for dipping fried foods in into, and drizzled on po’boys, comeback sauce can be found online (affiliate link) and in local groceries and gas stations in Mississippi. And while the Mayflower Cafe in Jackson may not be the originator of the sauce, it’s still a great place to try it.
Oysters are another prominent seafood eaten in the Magnolia State, as they are found in the Mississippi River year-round. For centuries, local Native American tribes harvested them from the river, and later taught European settlers how to do the same. Today, the oyster industry is one of the most lucrative in the state.
Oysters naturally have a slightly salty flavor and can be prepared in several ways, including fried, charbroiled, and grilled. However, most methods involve keeping the meat on the half shell. Additionally, oysters can be covered in sauces and herb blends that both accentuate the natural saltiness of the meat and impart other complementary flavors.
While there’s no shortage of restaurants serving oysters in Mississippi, a fan-favorite franchise worth visiting is Half Shell Oyster House, which has locations in the cities of Biloxi, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Flowood, and Madison.
True to Southern fashion, Mississippi prides itself on its cuisine. With a wide range of famous delicacies, everyone can find something they enjoy eating in the state. From the Gulf Coast to the banks of the Mississippi River, to the hills in its northeastern corner, Mississippi is a beacon of fantastic food.