5 Traditional Holiday Foods to Add to Your Feast

The holidays are just around the corner, which means thinking about family, travel, gifts, memories, and great food! I’m probably not the greatest cook, but I have attempted a traditional Christmas dinner once in my time! I tend to leave the cooking to others during the holidays (or we may end up eating chili or pizza). That being said, I enjoy learning about specific foods and traditions that people have around the holiday. In particular, there are some holiday foods you may be more likely to see in Mississippi (or you may even try these yourself!).


When I think of the South, one food that quickly comes to mind is a pot of gumbo. On Christmas Eve, you may be apt to find Mississippians enjoying a big bowl of gumbo complete with sausage, chicken, shrimp, and/or venison. If you are looking for a gumbo recipe for this year’s holiday season, try this one: holiday gumbo recipe from a Cajun.

Deep-Fried Turkey

Deep-fried turkey is crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, which of course, makes it delicious! This tradition started in Louisiana and is only a few decades old. In 1982 there were some cooks in Church Point, LA who decided to try deep-frying a turkey in a 10-gallon cooking pot in pure lard. Eventually, this new way of cooking turkeys spread throughout the south, and turkey frying equipment started making way their way into stores. Just be careful about winding up as one of those viral videos of turkey frying disasters!

Pecan Pie

This has long been a tradition in our family! This is one thing I can make! My dad used to work around pecan trees, and we’d always go get loads of pecans and deshell them for our holiday pecan pies (and sometimes for Christmas gifts, as pecans are good and can also be expensive!). There are a lot of pecans in Mississippi, so it makes sense to use them to make holiday pies (that is, if you like pecan pies). Pecan pies are a true Southern classic, and I highly recommend trying one if you haven’t before. I use the recipe off of the Karo syrup bottle, which you can find here.

Shrimp and Grits

You may also find  Mississippians making shrimp and grits on Christmas Eve. This dish first appeared in South Carolina. In addition, during the shrimp season, sailors would eat shrimp cooked in butter over smooth grits. In 1982, a chef, Bill Neal, helped launch this dish into national prominence when he created his own version by adding cheese and bacon! This dish has become well-loved by lots of people, and it may be something you decide to add to your traditional holiday feast!

Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese may be used as an appetizer by Mississippians during the holidays. It is made of grated cheddar cheese, mayo, and jarred pimentos, and it can be made into sandwiches or used as a dip for crackers. Other variations may involve using it for grilled cheese sandwiches or serving it with fried green tomatoes. Here’s a more unique recipe for pimento cheese with added seasonings: Southern Pimento Cheese.

Did I miss any traditional foods? What do you prefer for your holiday meal?


Written by Tamra Cater

I am married, and I also have a 4-year-old daughter. I earned my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi, and I have been teaching psychology classes over the past 10 years. As a professor and as a parent, I grew to love learning anything about child development. I recently turned that into a passion for helping other parents by starting my own blog at


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