8 Iconic Tennessee Dishes You Must Try

8 Iconic Tennessee Dishes You Must Try

Last Updated on September 11, 2023

Ah, Tennessee! Known for its vibrant music scene, the Volunteer State also boasts a culinary heritage steeped in tradition and bursting with flavor. For those keen to journey across this gastronomic landscape in unmatched style, the RoadStallion luxurious transportation service is an excellent choice. With an undeniably Southern flavor, Tennessee dishes have evolved to create their own unique identity. The fusion of flavors, the colorful history, and the warm hospitality make dining in Tennessee an experience you don’t want to miss. In this article, we’ll explore eight iconic Tennessee dishes you simply must try on your next visit. So, loosen your belt and get ready for a delectable journey!

In this article, we’ll explore eight iconic Tennessee dishes you simply must try on your next visit. So, loosen your belt and get ready for a delectable journey!

The Flavors of Tennessee: An Overview

While Tennessee’s culinary scene is deeply rooted in Southern cuisine, it’s so much more than just fried chicken and biscuits. The state’s food culture has been influenced by various regions, with distinctive flavors in the east, middle, and west. Nashville, for example, has become a hub for foodies, boasting an impressive array of international and fusion cuisine. And let’s not forget Memphis, a city that takes its barbecue seriously. As we embark on this mouthwatering exploration, you’ll notice that Tennessee is a melting pot of tastes that will have your taste buds dancing.

1. Meat and Three

Embrace the ultimate Southern dining experience with a classic “meat and three” meal. This iconic concept features a choice of one protein (meat) accompanied by three side dishes, typically served cafeteria-style. The beauty of a meat and three meal lies in the variety of options and the opportunity to sample a diverse array of flavors in one sitting.

Ready to dive in? Check out the famous Elkmont Station, a Knoxville restaurant that blends local history and a modern dining experience, offering a diverse menu inspired by Southern cuisine and influenced by the flavors of Knoxville, Farragut, and the Great Smoky Mountains.

2. Memphis-Style Barbecue

If there’s one thing Tennesseans are passionate about, it’s barbecue – specifically, Memphis-style barbecue. Known for its succulent, slow-smoked pork and tangy, tomato-based sauce, this iconic dish is an absolute must-try. Memphis-style barbecue is characterized by its dry rubs and wet sauces, with a focus on tender, flavorful meat that falls off the bone.

Take a trip to the legendary Rendezvous or Central BBQ for a taste of mouthwatering Memphis barbecue. Want to try both dry and wet varieties? Don’t worry; most establishments offer both options to satisfy your cravings. And don’t forget the sides, such as coleslaw, baked beans, and potato salad, which perfectly complement the smoky flavors of the barbecue.

You may also like: Barbecue Styles Around the World

3. Biscuits and Gravy

Is there anything more quintessentially Southern than a plate of warm, flaky biscuits smothered in rich, creamy gravy? Biscuits and gravy is a beloved breakfast dish in Tennessee, and for good reason. This comforting classic is the perfect way to start your day, providing a hearty meal that will keep you satisfied for hours.

In search of the best biscuits and gravy in the state? Look no further than Loveless Cafe in Nashville or Aretha Frankenstein’s in Chattanooga. Both spots serve up delicious variations of the dish, with Loveless Cafe offering a biscuit mix you can purchase to recreate the experience at home. Whether you prefer your gravy with a peppery kick or a velvety smooth texture, you’re bound to find a version that hits the spot.

4. Pimento Cheese

Revered as the “caviar of the South,” pimento cheese holds a special place in the hearts of Tennesseans. This simple yet scrumptious spread consists of grated cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, and a blend of spices. While it may sound humble, it’s a versatile staple that can be used in various dishes, from sandwiches and burgers to a dip for crackers or vegetables.

Dive into the world of pimento cheese at Nashville’s The Grilled Cheeserie, where you can indulge in their famous “Pimento Mac & Chee” sandwich. For a unique twist on this classic, try the jalapeño pimento cheese at Knoxville’s Tomato Head. With so many delicious ways to enjoy pimento cheese, it’s no wonder this dish has earned its iconic status in Tennessee.

5. Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried green tomatoes have long been a symbol of Southern cuisine, and Tennessee is no exception. This iconic dish is made from unripe, green tomatoes that are coated in cornmeal and fried to a delightful crisp. The tangy flavor of the tomatoes pairs perfectly with the crunchy exterior, making this a dish you won’t soon forget.

Craving a taste of the South? Head to Nashville’s Monell’s Dining & Catering or the famous Southern Belle in Chattanooga, both of which serve up some of the best fried green tomatoes in the state. These eateries showcase the versatility of this dish by offering them as a standalone appetizer or as a delicious addition to salads, sandwiches, and more.

6. Cornbread

Cornbread is a staple side dish in Southern cuisine, but Tennessee puts its own spin on this classic. Traditional Southern cornbread is made without sugar, resulting in a savory flavor profile. However, Tennessee-style cornbread often includes a touch of sweetness, creating a delightful contrast between the salty and sweet flavors.

7. Chess Pie

Another dessert that holds a special place in the hearts of Tennesseans is the deliciously rich chess pie. With a history dating back centuries, this Southern classic features a buttery, flaky crust filled with a gooey, custard-like mixture made from sugar, butter, eggs, and typically cornmeal or flour. Variations of chess pie include the addition of lemon, chocolate, or even bourbon for an extra kick. As you indulge in a slice, take a moment to appreciate the rich history and culinary tradition that has made chess pie an iconic Tennessee dessert.

8. Goo Goo Clusters

A visit to Tennessee wouldn’t be complete without indulging in the state’s most famous candy – the Goo Goo Cluster. This sweet treat, invented in Nashville in 1912, is a delightful combination of marshmallow nougat, caramel, and roasted peanuts, all coated in milk chocolate. It’s the perfect snack to satisfy your sweet tooth while exploring the sights and sounds of Tennessee.

Pick up a Goo Goo Cluster at the Goo Goo Shop & Dessert Bar in Nashville or find them at various retailers across the state. Want to try your hand at making your own? Look for a Goo Goo Cluster recipe online and recreate this iconic treat at home.


As we conclude our gastronomic journey through Tennessee, it’s clear that this state has much to offer in terms of iconic dishes and culinary delights. From fiery Nashville hot chicken to comforting biscuits and gravy, these dishes tell the story of Tennessee’s history, culture, and tradition. So, the next time you find yourself in the Volunteer State, be sure to treat your taste buds to these delectable dishes.

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About Maria Kennedy

Maria Kennedy is the managing editor at Travel for Food Hub. Maria is on a full-tilt mission to share local food and travel inspiration. When she is not writing about food and travel, startups or social media, she is enjoying her time with her boys in sunny Spain.

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