11 Dishes From The State Of Georgia You Have To Try At Least Once

With its amalgamation of cultures spanning various ethnic groups throughout the centuries, American cuisine has come to be defined as an umbrella term for a variety of regional food specialties. Whether European, Native American, Cajun, Tex-Mex, Jewish, or Asian, each state offers tempting signature appetizers, dishes, and desserts that celebrate its rich and diverse heritage. The Midwest is particularly praised for its strawberry rhubarb pie, Cincinnati chili, and Portesi cheese fries. Kentucky is celebrated for its fine bourbon distilleries, barbecue mutton, and transparent pie. As for Florida's most famous foods, it goes without saying that key lime pie, the Cuban sandwich, and Apalachicola oysters are some of the first unmissable items that come to mind.

But about the Southeastern state of Georgia's own renowned culinary delights? It's one of the country's top producers of poultry, eggs, peanuts, pecans, blueberries, and, of course, peaches. With such a diversified culture and so many premium ingredients to offer, Georgia boasts many specialty dishes that should be sampled at least once, whether at one of its fine restaurants and cafés or prepared at home.

Peach desserts

The peach may have become Georgia's official fruit in 1995, but it had already made an indelible mark long before that. As for the first record of commercialized peaches in Georgia, it apparently dates back to 1851, thanks to the endeavors of an agriculturist from Columbus, Raphael Moses. Georgian peaches are thought to be some of the sweetest in the world, and their peak season starts from mid-May till the first week of August. It's the ideal time to taste those juicy and perfectly ripened fruit in cobblers, pies, and ice cream, or incorporate them into jams and jellies for an equally flavorful treat later on.

You could even sample peach cobbler for free at the yearly Georgia Peach Festival, which takes place in Fort Valley and Byron. Otherwise, some of the best places to enjoy that traditional treat include Anna's BBQ, Aunt Evelyn's Peach Cobbler, and Busy Bee. Fancy making a peach cobbler yourself? Here are some tips on how to select the perfect peaches, then you could try this classic recipe and serve it with vanilla ice cream.

Fried chicken biscuits

Golden, crunchy, juicy, well-seasoned fried chicken may be a Southern staple, but did you know that it apparently was first popularized by Scottish immigrants in the 1700s? In recent year, Georgians have especially indulged in buttermilk-brined, deep-fried chicken with fluffy, buttery biscuits. That hearty and comforting combination has become a favorite at brunches, whether the biscuits are delicately flavored with lavender or chives, or the entire dish is drenched in peppery sausage gravy, topped with cheese and bacon, or simply served with a refreshing slice of orange.

Want to sink your teeth into the flakiest biscuits in Georgia? We recommend places like Stilesboro Biscuits, Beaver Creek Biscuit Company and Barbecue, The Red Eyed Mule, and Star Provisions Market & Café. As for the state-famous Mary Mac's Tea Room, founded in 1945, it serves excellent fried chicken that has been officially recognized by the Georgia House of Representatives.

Fried veggie sides and appetizers: okra, Vidalia onions, and green tomatoes

Whether lightly battered or breaded, fried okra, Vidalia onions, and green tomatoes are widely found in Georgian restaurants and diners under appetizers or sides, served with cornbread.

Vidalia onions can only be grown in Georgia, as its sandy soil renders them particularly sweet. Their production started in the 1930s, and by the 1970s, it covered 600 acres. Their season runs from mid-April to early September. In fact, it's illegal to slap the Vidalia label on onions that were not actually grown in the Vidalia production area. 

Fried green tomatoes were popularized following the release of the 1991 comedy drama film "Fried Green Tomatoes," which was filmed in Juliette and Senoia. The Whistle Stop Café, featured in the movie, still attracts tourists, who rush to order this appetizer. It's the first item on the menu, battered in "secret seasonings" and "served with a special sauce." But until you give it a try, you can easily prepare these veggies yourself. 

Lowcountry boil

In Georgia, a Lowcountry boil is a common treat in cookouts and events like graduation or fundraisers. With a history that dates back to the Gullah Geechee people, who dwelled on the island and coastal plantations of Georgia and South Carolina, this classic, one-pot dish is sometimes called Tidewater, Frogmore, or Beaufort boil or stew. It combines potatoes, sausages, corn on the cob, shrimp, and/or crab and oysters boiled in broth. Quite a flavorful feast that can easily be enhanced with boiled eggs, celery, garlic, lemon juice, bay leaves, peppercorns, butter, and onions (Vidalia or otherwise).

No side dishes — or actual dishes — are needed! One of the things that makes a Lowcountry boil so fun to order is that it's often served on a newspaper-covered table, which will significantly simplify the disposal of the shells and the messy brine. Erica Davis Lowcountry in Savannah is a recommended Lowcountry boil experience.

Shrimp and grits

Grits have Native American origins and are a classic Southern dish that was declared the official prepared food of Georgia in 2002. It's basically coarsely ground corn, a crop that is extensively produced in that state. Shrimp, a widely available seafood in the Southern region, is a common main ingredient; here is an old-fashioned recipe of this creamy dish to get you started.

For those who are in a festive mood, there is even a two-day Shrimp & Grits Festival on Jekyll Island, with art and craft vendors, live entertainment, fireworks, and food trucks that offer their own take on this Georgian staple. Meanwhile, if you should ever visit Savannah, local favorite venues that serve the best shrimp and grits  include The Olde Pink House, which adds country ham gravy and collard greens; The Public Kitchen & Bar, which also incorporates sweet peas, chorizo, sherry cream, and tomatoes; and The Shrimp Factory, whose jumbo shrimp is sautéed in garlic butter and chardonnay and sprinkled with candied ham.

Fried apple pies

Apple cultivation and production are mostly centered in the mountains of Northern Georgia, and Ellijay, in Gilmer County, is considered the state's apple capital. An apple pie is a commonly ordered dessert, and especially if it is fried. Whether they are savory or sweet, fried pies were actually popularized in the South, mainly in the Appalachian region, by Irish, Scottish, English, and German immigrants, with later contributions by the African-American community.

Today, this tradition is celebrated in an annual festival in Buchanan, and also in the Georgia Apple Festival Arts & Crafts Fair, held on two weekends in October in Ellijay. But these are not the only places where you can sample those mouthwatering treats. People from every corner of the U.S. travel to a small family-owned farm in Blue Ridge, called Mercier Orchards, expressly for the fried apple pies it offers. No matter where you grab one to try, fried apple pies are a Georgia staple.

Pecan pie and pralines

According to Georgia Grown, the Peach State ranks number one in the U.S. for the production of pecans, spanning an area of over 144,000 acres. Pecan trees were first planted in Southwest Georgia in the early 1900s, and, today, it's the city of Albany that holds the title of the "Pecan Capital of the World." As to who were the people who whipped up the first pecan pies, it was allegedly French settlers. Today, this classic dessert is prepared from eggs, corn syrup, melted butter, sugar, and vanilla, and it is served either on its own or with a scoop of vanilla, caramel, or chocolate ice cream.

Other popular pecan-centric treats in Georgia include pralines. River Street Sweets, for instance, is famous in Savannah and beyond for its gourmet pecan pralines, perpetuating a family tradition since 1973. As to where you can order some of the finest pecans in the state, Ellis Brothers Pecans, in Vienna; the Pearson Farm, in Fort Valley; and Merritt Pecan, in Weston, are solid choices.

Brunswick stew

While a traditional beef stew mainly includes only beef as a chief ingredient, mixed with vegetables in a mildly seasoned tomato sauce, a Brunswick stew is spicier and has more presence. It contains both BBQ sauce and ketchup and can be prepared with either beef, pork, or chicken, or your preferred combination. As for the added vegetables, they consist of lima beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, and potatoes, among others. You might want to try this perfect supper recipe and serve it with a side of bacon-roasted roots with rosemary honey.

This popular Southern dish apparently owes its name to the eponymous city that was settled in 1738 and is famous for its Victorian Old Town. A camping trip in 1828 allegedly resulted in the creation of the very first Brunswick stew, using squirrel as a star component. Fans of this typical dish often gather at the annual Brunswick Rockin' Stewbilee, which is held in January and attracts thousands of visitors from the U.S. and even Canada.

Coca-Cola cake

Coca-Cola made history when it was introduced in a soda fountain in downtown Atlanta in 1886. Nowadays, it is sometimes used in baking instead of (or even in addition to) eggs, water, and oil, acting as a leavening agent and rendering a cake more velvety and tender.

Cola chocolate cake apparently gained popularity in the Southern states in the 1950s. Try this layer cake recipe to test its moisture, and you could also make a cola frosting by boiling it in a saucepan and pouring it over some sugar, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, and crushed Georgian pecans.

Often served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in restaurants, the vintage Coca-Cola chocolate cake makes a decadent addition to Georgian cuisine, combining two widely popular flavors. It's good for three days at room temperature and for up to five days in the fridge, if you can wait that long.

Pimento cheese sandwich

Sometimes known as Southern pâté, Pimento cheese is a tangy, peppery spread containing cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos. It seems it didn't originate in the South, though, but rather in New York State in the 1870s. Since the spread called for the use of canned pimentos, namely the Spanish variety, when those became expensive, Georgian farmers around Griffin started growing their own crops. They apparently even created a roasting machine that helped peel the peppers. It's no wonder, then, that in the 1930s, Georgia was dubbed the pimento center of the world.

What's in a classic homemade Georgia pimento cheese sandwich? It consists of two buttery toasted pieces of bread and a spread made with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped pimentos, mayonnaise, hot sauce, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.

You might also want to give Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville a try. That place has adapted the classic recipe with a smoky flavor and a creamier texture and won two awards for its creations. Or you could head to Suga's, in Powder Springs. It's the state's very first pimento cheese-themed restaurant and it proposes eight original dairy flavors and four vegan varieties.

Boiled peanuts

Though not a dish per se, boiled peanuts are a beloved snack all over Georgia. Boiled peanuts may have originated in the Southern African-American community, and their nutritional benefits could include antioxidant properties, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and weight management.

They are hearty, filling, and satisfying to snack on. It's also important to note that Georgia is now the number one producer of peanuts in the U.S., providing over 45% of the national peanut crop every year, according to the University of Georgia. Many Georgians express their enthusiasm and love for boiled peanuts, and you can find them in any grocery store in the state, as well as any fun roadside stand pull-off advertising them. If you have not tried boiled peanuts specifically before, they can be known as a comfort food down south, so expect a savory, crunchy treat that is worth your time to try out.