9 Foods You Need to Try in Tennessee


When you set foot in Tennessee, you step into a world rich with culinary delights that mirror the state’s vibrant culture and history. Among the many treasures Tennessee offers, its food scene stands out, offering a unique blend of flavors that you won’t find anywhere else.

Pigeon Forge, a mountain town in eastern Tennessee, is not only famous for Dollywood but also serves as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, attracting visitors with its beautiful landscapes and outdoor activities. However, it’s the local cuisine that often captures the hearts of those who visit.

From savory meats slow-cooked to perfection to sweet treats that delight the senses, Tennessee’s food scene is a journey worth taking. Here’s a list of some must-try foods that embody the essence of Tennessee’s culinary spirit.


1. Tennessee Poutine

While poutine might hail from Canada, Tennessee has embraced and reimagined this comfort food with a Southern flair that’s hard to resist. By adding slow-cooked pulled pork or tender brisket to the classic

recipe of fries, cheese curds, and gravy, Tennessee poutine becomes a savory dish that perfectly encapsulates the fusion of Southern and Canadian cuisines. If you find yourself in Pigeon Forge craving poutine, you have to visit Junction35 Spirits. Not only do they have their own delicious take on Tennessee Poutine, but it’s also one of the best things to do in Pigeon Forge for adults, with a tour of their distillery being a must.

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2. Fried Green Tomatoes

A beloved Southern classic, fried green tomatoes are much more than just a delicious appetizer; they are a symbol of Southern hospitality and tradition. This dish takes the unripened tomatoes that Southern gardens produce in abundance and transforms them into a crispy, tangy treat. The key to their irresistible flavor lies in the contrast between the acidic bite of the green tomato and the rich, golden cornmeal crust. Often served atop a bed of lettuce or alongside a creamy dipping sauce, fried green tomatoes offer a delightful beginning to any meal. This dish’s popularity isn’t just confined to home kitchens; restaurants across Tennessee have adopted and adapted this recipe, each adding their own twist to this timeless classic.

3. Smoked Wings

In Tennessee, smoked wings are a testament to the art of smoking meat, a technique that has been perfected over generations. Unlike traditional fried wings, these are marinated in a special blend of spices that penetrate deep into the meat, infusing each wing with a rich, complex flavor. The slow-smoking process, often using local hickory wood, imparts a distinct smokiness that sets these wings apart from their counterparts. Served with a variety of homemade sauces ranging from sweet to fiery hot, smoked wings offer a versatile dining experience that caters to every taste preference.

4. Strawberry Fields Salad

The Strawberry Fields Salad is a testament to Tennessee’s agricultural bounty, particularly its famed strawberries, which are celebrated for their sweetness and vibrant color. This dish combines fresh, juicy berries with the crispness of mixed greens, the creamy tang of feta cheese, and the subtle crunch of candied pecans, creating a harmony of flavors and textures. The salad is dressed in a homemade vinaigrette, often incorporating local honey or balsamic reduction, to enhance the natural sweetness of the strawberries. This dish not only offers a refreshing and healthy option but also highlights the importance of seasonal and local produce in Tennessee’s culinary scene.

5. Pulled Pork

Tennessee’s pulled pork is a true labor of love, embodying the passion and patience that go into Southern barbecue. The process begins with selecting the finest cuts of pork shoulder, which are then seasoned with a dry rub of spices that can include anything from paprika and garlic powder to more unique blends passed down through families. Slow-cooked for hours over low heat, the meat becomes incredibly tender, absorbing the flavors of the spices and the smoky essence of the wood used in the

cooking process. The final step involves “pulling” the pork apart into succulent strands, which are then often mixed with a homemade barbecue sauce that adds moisture and tanginess.

6. Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs in Tennessee are more than just a dish; they represent a culinary tradition steeped in history and flavor. These ribs are meticulously prepared, starting with a generous application of a spice rub that imparts depth and complexity to the meat. The rub’s ingredients can vary by chef or household, but they typically include a blend of sweet, spicy, and smoky elements. After the rub, the ribs are slow-smoked over carefully chosen woods, such as hickory or applewood, which contribute to the meat’s signature smoky flavor.

7. Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits is a dish that showcases the versatility of Southern cuisine, blending the flavors of the ocean with the comfort of homestyle cooking. This beloved meal starts with stone-ground grits, which are cooked to creamy perfection with butter and cheese, providing a rich and comforting base. The shrimp, often sourced from nearby waters, are sautéed with a mix of garlic, spices, and sometimes a splash of lemon juice or white wine, adding layers of flavor that elevate the dish. The combination of the soft, creamy grits with the tender, flavorful shrimp creates a dish that is both simple and indulgent.

8. Hot Honey Pecan Chicken

Hot honey pecan chicken is a dish that sings with the flavors of Tennessee. The chicken, often a boneless breast or thigh, is coated in a crunchy pecan crust that provides a delightful contrast to the tender meat. The pecans, a nod to one of the state’s favorite nuts, add a nutty depth and crunch that elevates the dish. The hot honey sauce, a blend of sweet honey and fiery spices, is drizzled over the cooked chicken, creating a glaze that is at once spicy, sweet, and irresistibly sticky.

9. Smoky Mountain Chicken

Named after the majestic Smoky Mountains that grace Tennessee, Smoky Mountain Chicken is a dish that embodies the rugged beauty and rich flavors of the region. This dish features a grilled chicken breast that is marinated in a blend of spices and sauces, infusing it with moisture and flavor. The chicken is then topped with a slice of smoky ham and melted cheese, often a sharp cheddar or Swiss, creating a melt-in-your-mouth combination of flavors. The dish is frequently served with a side of barbecue sauce for dipping, adding an extra layer of tangy sweetness to the smoky flavors.

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In Tennessee, the food is more than just nourishment; it’s a way to connect with the state’s culture, history, and people. Each dish tells a story of tradition and innovation, inviting you to sit down, relax, and enjoy what this beautiful state has to offer. Whether you’re a fan of hearty barbecue, fresh seafood,

or sweet treats, Tennessee’s culinary scene has something to delight every type of food lover. So, next time you’re in the Volunteer State, make sure to indulge in these culinary delights. They’re not just meals; they’re an essential part of the Tennessee experience.

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