The Most Popular Food in Tennessee: Exploring Local Cuisine

Choose the food you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Jun 16, 2023 10:18 (Updated on Dec 2, 2023 20:32)
Welcome to StrawPoll, your ultimate destination for discovering the most popular food in Tennessee! Our platform is brimming with thousands of polls and rankings on a wide array of subjects, and we're excited to have you join the conversation. Today, we invite you to indulge in a mouth-watering quest to determine the ultimate Tennessee culinary delight. We've compiled a delectable list of scrumptious dishes that showcase the Volunteer State's rich culinary heritage, and now it's your turn to vote for your favorite or suggest a hidden gem we may have missed. So, loosen your belt and prepare your taste buds as we embark on a tantalizing journey through Tennessee's finest flavors. Let's dig in and savor the experience together!

What Is the Most Popular Food in Tennessee?

  1. 1
    Nashville hot chicken is a spicy fried chicken dish that originated in Nashville, Tennessee. It is now a staple food item in Tennessee and is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
    Hot chicken is a beloved dish in Tennessee known for its fiery and flavorful profile. It consists of fried chicken coated in a spicy paste or seasoning, resulting in a delicious blend of heat and crispy goodness. The chicken is typically served with pickles and white bread to balance out the spiciness and add a touch of tanginess.
    • Spice Level: Ranges from mild to extra hot
    • Preparation: Chicken is seasoned with a blend of spices, dipped in buttermilk, coated in seasoned flour, and then fried
    • Spice Paste Ingredients: Typically includes cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and other spices
    • Cooking Method: Traditionally deep-fried, but some variations also include grilling or baking
    • Texture: Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside
  2. 2


    Tennessee is known for its delicious BBQ, whether it is Memphis-style, Nashville-style, or East Tennessee-style. The state is home to many BBQ festivals and competitions.
    BBQ chicken wings are a popular flavor that combines the savoriness of grilled meat with a tangy and sweet barbecue sauce. It is a classic choice for wing enthusiasts.
    • Flavor: Savory, tangy, and sweet
    • Preparation Method: Grilled or baked
    • Sauce Type: Barbecue sauce (typically tomato-based)
    • Spiciness Level: Varies (can range from mild to spicy)
    • Texture: Crispy exterior and juicy interior
  3. 3
    Fried catfish is a popular southern dish, and Tennessee has its own take on this classic dish. It is often served with hushpuppies and coleslaw.
    Fried catfish is a popular Cajun dish known for its crispy breaded exterior and tender, flaky interior. It features catfish fillets that are coated in a seasoned cornmeal or flour mixture and then deep-fried to perfection.
    • Type of Fish: Catfish
    • Coating: Seasoned cornmeal or flour mixture
    • Cooking Method: Deep-fried
    • Texture: Crispy exterior, tender and flaky interior
    • Flavor: Savory with subtle Cajun spices
    Fried catfish in other rankings
  4. 4
    Goo Goo Clusters
    Evan-Amos · Public domain
    Goo Goo Clusters are a candy bar that was invented in Nashville, Tennessee in 1912. They are made with peanuts, caramel, and marshmallow nougat, and are a favorite local treat.
    Goo Goo Clusters are a beloved candy treat that originated in Nashville, Tennessee. They are a unique combination of caramel, marshmallow nougat, fresh roasted peanuts, and real milk chocolate. The result is a delicious, gooey, and indulgent candy bar.
    • Original creation date: 1912
    • Ingredients: Caramel, marshmallow nougat, roasted peanuts, milk chocolate
    • Texture: Gooey and chewy
    • Size: Approximately 1.75 oz (49g)
    • Calories per serving: 220
    Goo Goo Clusters in other rankings
  5. 5
    Sweet tea is a staple beverage in Tennessee, and is often served at restaurants and cafes throughout the state. It is a refreshing drink that is perfect for hot, humid summer days.
    Sweet tea is a traditional beverage commonly served in Oklahoma. It is a refreshing and sweetened iced tea drink that is popular amongst the locals and visitors alike. The tea leaves are brewed with hot water and then sweetened with sugar or simple syrup. It is typically served over ice and garnished with lemon slices or mint leaves. Sweet tea is known for its combination of intense sweetness and the bold flavors of the tea itself.
    • Tea type: Black tea
    • Sweetening agent: Sugar or simple syrup
    • Serving style: Iced
    • Temperature: Chilled
    • Garnish options: Lemon slices, mint leaves
    Sweet tea in other rankings
  6. 6
    Biscuits and gravy is a popular breakfast dish in Tennessee. The biscuits are homemade and served with a creamy, sausage gravy.
    Biscuits and gravy is a traditional dish popular in Oklahoma, consisting of warm, fluffy biscuits smothered in a rich and savory gravy. The dish is commonly enjoyed for breakfast or brunch and is known for its hearty and satisfying flavor.
    • Main Ingredients: Biscuits (made with flour, butter, baking powder, and milk) and gravy (typically made with breakfast sausage, flour, milk, salt, and pepper)
    • Texture: The biscuits are soft and flaky, while the gravy is thick and creamy.
    • Flavor: The dish has a savory and indulgent flavor, with hints of spices and herbs from the sausage used in the gravy.
    • Serving Temperature: Biscuits and gravy is served hot.
    • Common Variations: Variations may include adding additional ingredients like cheese, herbs, or spices to the gravy.
    Biscuits and gravy in other rankings
  7. 7
    Banana pudding is a dessert that is often served at potlucks and family gatherings in Tennessee. It is made with vanilla pudding, sliced bananas, vanilla wafers, and whipped cream.
    Banana pudding is a classic Southern dessert originating in Tennessee. It is a creamy, layered dessert made with vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and a rich custard or pudding. The dish is typically chilled and often topped with a layer of whipped cream or meringue.
    • Popular variations: Some variations include adding layers of caramel or chocolate sauce, using different types of cookies, or incorporating other fruits like strawberries.
    • Texture: The pudding should be smooth and creamy, while the bananas should be ripe and soft.
    • Taste: Banana pudding has a sweet and comforting flavor, with the combination of the creamy pudding, sweet bananas, and crunchy cookies.
    • Serving temperature: Banana pudding is usually served cold or chilled.
    • Serving size: It is typically served in individual portions, but can also be made in a larger dish for sharing.
    Banana pudding in other rankings
  8. 8
    Country ham is a salt-cured ham that is popular in Tennessee. It is often served at breakfast, and is a staple food item in many southern households.
    Country ham is a popular food in Kentucky that is known for its rich and salty flavor. It is a type of dry-cured ham that is typically made from the hind leg of a hog. Country ham is often served as a popular breakfast dish or as a main course for special occasions.
    • Flavor: Rich and salty
    • Curing method: Dry-cured
    • Meat source: Hind leg of a hog
    • Serving style: Breakfast dish or main course
    • Popular in: Kentucky
    Country ham in other rankings
  9. 9
    Meat and three
    Kenneth C. Zirkel · CC BY-SA 4.0
    Meat and three is a popular lunch or dinner option in Tennessee. It consists of a meat dish (usually fried chicken, pork chops, or meatloaf) and three sides (usually vegetables or mac and cheese).
    The 'Meat and three' is a traditional Southern meal consisting of one meat dish and three side dishes. It is a popular cuisine in Tennessee and other Southern states in the United States.
    • Main Dish: Consists of one meat dish, typically options like fried chicken, meatloaf, country fried steak, or BBQ ribs.
    • Side Dishes: Includes three side dishes that can vary but often feature southern classics like mashed potatoes, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, cornbread, fried green tomatoes, green beans, or coleslaw.
    • Traditional Cuisine: Originates from Southern cuisine and reflects the flavors and culinary traditions of the region.
    • Hearty and Filling: Known for its generous portions, the 'Meat and three' provides a satisfying and substantial meal.
    • Family Style: Often served family-style, allowing everyone to share and enjoy various meat and side dish combinations.
  10. 10
    Moon pies
    Evan-Amos · Public domain

    Moon pies

    The MoonPie company
    Moon pies are a sweet treat that is often associated with the south. They were invented in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1917, and are made with two graham cracker cookies filled with marshmallow and covered in chocolate.
    Moon pies are a popular Southern confectionery made of two round graham cracker cookies sandwiching a layer of marshmallow filling, all coated in chocolate. They have a soft, chewy texture with a sweet and slightly salty flavor. Moon pies are often enjoyed with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee. They have become a nostalgic treat and a beloved symbol of Tennessee's culinary heritage.
    • Origin: Chattanooga, Tennessee
    • Ingredients: Graham cookies, marshmallow, chocolate coating
    • Size: Typically around 4 inches in diameter
    • Flavors: Original (chocolate), vanilla, banana, salted caramel, strawberry
    • Packaging: Individually wrapped in wax paper or plastic

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Ranking factors for popular food

  1. Local ingredients and flavors
    Consider the use of locally-sourced ingredients and regional flavors that are distinctly Tennessee.
  2. Traditional and iconic dishes
    Look for dishes that are historically linked to Tennessee culture and have become popular and recognizable in the state.
  3. Regional variations
    Tennessee is a large state with various geographical regions, each with its own local food culture. Consider the popularity of dishes within different regions.
  4. Popularity and frequency of consumption
    Gauge how frequently a particular dish is eaten by locals and visitors alike, as well as how popular it is in restaurants, events, and homes.
  5. Cultural significance
    Assess how much a specific dish contributes to Tennessee's cultural identity and history, and if it’s unique or specific to the area.
  6. Influences from other cultures
    Many popular foods in Tennessee have been influenced by other culinary traditions, such as Southern, African American, and Native American cuisines. Consider how these influences play a role in the popularity of certain dishes.
  7. Media exposure
    Check food publications, blogs, and reviews, as well as appearances on food-related TV shows, to gauge the popularity and visibility of certain dishes.
  8. Availability
    Assess how widely available a specific food is across the state, including in restaurants, street food vendors, and grocery stores.
  9. Seasonality
    Consider if a particular dish is tied to a specific season or time of year, which may affect its popularity and importance in local food culture.
  10. Taste and appeal
    Ultimately, the taste and overall appeal of a dish play a significant role in its popularity.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular food in Tennessee. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or food is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 159 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each food once every 24 hours. The rank of each food is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most popular food in tennessee

When it comes to food, Tennessee is known for its Southern-style cuisine, which includes dishes like fried chicken, barbecue, and biscuits with gravy. However, the most popular food in Tennessee may surprise you. According to StrawPoll data, the most voted food in Tennessee is none other than the classic dish of macaroni and cheese. This comforting and delicious dish has won the hearts of Tennesseans, and it's not hard to see why. Whether it's made with a creamy cheese sauce or baked to crispy perfection, macaroni and cheese is a staple on tables across the state. So next time you're in Tennessee, be sure to try a heaping serving of their most beloved food.

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