These Are Cracker Barrel's Most Iconic Southern Dishes

country fried steak and chicken n' dumplin dinners
country fried steak and chicken n' dumplin dinners - Static Media/Getty

Not every dish at Cracker Barrel is Southern, but it's a good place to get iconic Southern food. Since the first Cracker Barrel was located in Lebanon, Tennessee, it's not surprising that there are several dishes on the menu showcasing Southern cuisine. These selections are not always fancy, but most are pretty good or at least exactly what you're expecting. However, a couple may not be worth getting if something else on the menu looks more appealing.

It won't take you long while browsing through our list of Southern menu items at Cracker Barrel to realize that most come breaded and fried. Such is the nature of a lot of Southern food, whether it's meat or veggies. However, there are some non-fried Southern menu items as well. Next time you're looking for a Southern food fix, you don't have to be in the South to satisfy the craving since Cracker Barrel has a lot of options and you can find locations in all but five states.

Read more: The Best All-You-Can-Eat Buffets In Every State

Southern Fried Chicken

fried chicken, honey, green beans
fried chicken, honey, green beans - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Facebook

A Southern menu wouldn't be complete without fried chicken. Plenty of places around the country sell chicken strips, but finding good Southern bone-in chicken can be more of a challenge. So, Cracker Barrel is an acceptable option, especially if you want it with two Southern sides and biscuits or corn muffins. It also comes with honey, which makes it different.

While it's the dish most people connect with Southern food, fried chicken didn't originate in the South. Instead, it came to the South through Scottish immigrants. Mary Randolph was the first to publish a fried chicken recipe in the U.S. in 1824 in "The Virginia House-Wife." While hers was simple and only contained salt for seasoning, an earlier English recipe from 1747 used a spicy vinegar marinade. It's a dish that's so well-loved that it once was mainly for special occasions like the 4th of July or to feed the preacher when he visited.

While Cracker Barrel's Southern Fried Chicken scratches the itch for this crispy and juicy fried Southern dish, we've found it to be less seasoned than we like. There are many other chain restaurants with better fried chicken. However, it still comes in at number eight on Cracker Barrel's list of most popular menu items.

Chicken N' Dumplins

chicken n' dumplins, okra, green beans, carrots
chicken n' dumplins, okra, green beans, carrots - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Facebook

There aren't many places you can go for homemade chicken and dumplings unless you have a Southern grandma, which is probably why they're so popular at Cracker Barrel. The chain lists its Chicken N' Dumplins as its number two most popular meal order. Dumplins (without the chicken) are the number six most popular side. This Southern comfort food dish gets ordered over 11 million times yearly, making us wonder why so few other restaurants sell them. This slow-simmered dish comes with two to three sides and a biscuit or corn muffin.

A version of chicken and dumplings, knoedel, arrived in the New World with German immigrants. "The Virginia Housewife" (which popularized fried chicken in the South) became the first cookbook to feature suet dumplings. A later 1879 cookbook, "Housekeeping in Old Virginia," added them to stewed chicken and made them with rolled biscuit dough, which is how Cracker Barrel makes them daily.

Customers like Reddit's u/CoconutxKitten say, "Cracker Barrel chicken and dumplings taste like nostalgia and comfort for me." ANd you can create that same level of comfort and nostalgia at home with boxed Homemade Biscuit + Dumpling Mix from the restaurant's store.

Country Ham

country ham, turnip greens, corn
country ham, turnip greens, corn - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Facebook

If you're looking for a salty and smokey Southern dish at Cracker Barrel, your best bet is hickory-smoked Country Ham. While Sugar-Cured Ham is also available, it doesn't have the same Southern history as the country version. You can get it by the slice, as meat in some breakfasts, or as a meal with two to three sides and biscuits or corn muffins.

Cured ham has a long history in the U.S. since it was a historically known way to keep pork edible longer without refrigeration. Hams first entered the U.S. when Hernando de Soto brought pigs to Florida and herded them up to Georgia in 1539. Native Americans taught the early settlers how to use smoke and salt to cure meat in a way particular to country hams. Country ham has continued to be popular in the South, especially as a breakfast meat with red-eye gravy (which Cracker Barrel doesn't serve).

You can sometimes find a Whole Country Ham in the restaurant's store for about $100 around the holidays. Yes, they're fairly salty because they're salt-cured. However, they're nearly always a great hit.

Country Fried Steak

country fried steak and gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, con, green beans
country fried steak and gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, con, green beans - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Facebook

If your idea of Southern food includes something deep-fried and covered in gravy, Country Fried Steak might be what you want. While Cracker Barrel's version can be hit or miss, it's definitely iconic. The dish is made with USDA Choice steak and comes topped with the chain's Sawmill Gravy. You can choose two to three sides and between biscuits and corn muffins.

Lamesa, Texas, claims to have created the first breaded and fried steak in the 1800s to cook tougher beef. If you're in Texas, Oklahoma, or Arkansas, you'll likely hear it called chicken fried steak. Some people make country-fried steaks and chicken-fried steaks differently, with country-fried steak having only a dusting of flour and using brown gravy, while chicken-fried steak comes battered and covered in peppered white gravy. The fact that Cracker Barrel's Country Fried Steak is battered and covered in peppered white gravy demonstrates the interchangeability of the two names.

Unfortunately, Cracker Barrel doesn't make customers consistently happy with its version. After someone complained on Reddit about subpar steak, an employee said, "Yeah, as a CB worker Country Fried steak is one of the last things I'd suggest to anyone." Customers have also spoken poorly about the gravy or it being overcooked. Still, enough people like it (or are optimistic about it) that it's the number five most-ordered dish.

Chicken Fried Chicken

chicken fried chicken and gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn
chicken fried chicken and gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn - Cracker Barrel

If your perfect vision of chicken includes fried boneless chicken topped with white gravy like a chicken fried steak, Chicken Fried Chicken is for you. It's a good alternative to fried chicken for white gravy lovers and those who don't like to eat around the bones of traditional fried chicken. It's available with biscuits and corn muffins and two to three sides.

We're not sure where chicken fried chicken originated, but it's not a far stretch to guess it came from a restaurant where chicken fried steak was popular. It goes back at least as far as the 1970s in the Abilene, Texas, area. However, nobody seems to be claiming it as their invention. We've most often seen it in Southern and home-cooking restaurants that don't have bone-in chicken on the menu.

With all that comforting gravy, Chicken Fried Chicken is just ahead of Southern Fried Chicken in popularity at Cracker Barrel. It comes in as the seventh most-ordered dish. Not a lot of customers talk about it, but the ones that do say that it's tender and tasty, with some ordering it every time they visit.

Country Fried Pork Chops

fried pork chops and gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, biscuits, and iced tea
fried pork chops and gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, biscuits, and iced tea - Cracker Barrel

Another iconic Southern dish at Cracker Barrel is Country Fried Pork Chops. If it's on the menu and it's fried, you can guess it probably has Southern roots. Like Country Fried Steak and Chicken Fried Chicken, Country Fried Pork Chops comes topped with pan gravy. You get two pork chops, a choice of corn muffins or biscuits, and two sides.

Since nearly every type of meat in the South has a fried version, it's no wonder there's a fried and battered version of pork. It's reminiscent of German pork Schnitzel, except that it often comes bone-in in the South. We confirmed with an employee by phone that the Cracker Barrel version is boneless, just like the Country Fried Steak and Chicken Fried Chicken.

The reviews are mixed for the Country Fried Pork Chops, but most are complaints about them being dry. So, the best time to order them is probably on Saturday, when they're the daily special and your local restaurant is hopefully making them fresher and better.

U.S. Farm-Raised Fried Catfish

fried catfish, hush puppies, potato wedges, corn, tartar sauce, slaw, biscuits
fried catfish, hush puppies, potato wedges, corn, tartar sauce, slaw, biscuits - Cracker Barrel

If you eat fish anywhere in the South (especially in the non-coastal South), catfish is most likely on the menu. Cracker Barrel has two types of catfish: grilled and cornmeal-fried. Of course, the most authentically Southern one is fried. The two-piece version of U.S. Farm-Raised Fried Catfish comes with tartar sauce for dipping and deep-fried hush puppies. Plus, you get two or three sides and your choice of corn muffins or biscuits.

According to food historian Jessica B. Harris, the story of fried catfish began with enslaved people in the South. They ate catfish "because the gentry won't eat them. They were considered trash fish as they ... had a muddy taste," which came from them being bottom feeders in local rivers and lakes (via York Dispatch). Catfish became the main fish enslaved people cooked at fish fries on riverbanks, leading to the popularity of fried catfish. Luckily, modern farmed catfish don't have the same muddy flavor and are famous for being mild and delicious.

Cracker Barrel does a good job with its fried catfish. Thus, it's a standby dish for many customers. So, if you're in a city where catfish isn't normally easy to find, you can satisfy your craving at Cracker Barrel.

Country Fried Shrimp

fried shrimp, hush puppies, cocktail sauce, slaw, potato wedges, cornbread muffin, turnip greens
fried shrimp, hush puppies, cocktail sauce, slaw, potato wedges, cornbread muffin, turnip greens - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Facebook

If you're looking for shrimp at Cracker Barrel, the only type you will find is fried. The Country Fried Shrimp is actually buttermilk breaded (like fried chicken) and comes with bonus hush puppies.

While there are shrimp in different parts of the U.S., they became more popular to eat when fishermen started using French beach seins (nets) in the bayous of Louisiana in 1735. Fried shrimp likely originated in Portugal in the 1500s, so the idea of fried shrimp wasn't born in the South. However, it certainly thrived there. By the 1900s, the place most famous for fried shrimp (and other fried seafood) was Calabash, North Carolina. Cracker Barrel's shrimp aren't lightly breaded Calabash-style, but they are breaded and fried just the same.

Fried shrimp is often a safe bet if you're looking for a fried Southern dish at Cracker Barrel. However, there have been some complaints about them being overcooked, especially if they're on the smaller side. So, it's a hit-or-miss dish.

Hashbrown Casserole

hashbrown casserole
hashbrown casserole - Cracker Barrel

We don't know about you, but when we think about Cracker Barrel's sides, the first thing that comes to mind is its delicious and creamy Hashbrown Casserole. It's also the chain's most popular side dish. The hashbrowns are baked into a Colby-cheese-infused casserole seasoned with salt, pepper, and onions.

While there are a variety of potato casseroles around the country (like funeral potatoes), hashbrown casseroles are one of the most popular Southern casseroles. No get-together is complete without them.

While lots of people have a family recipe for hashbrown casserole in the South, there's something about the one at Cracker Barrel that's different. One customer on Tripadvisor said, "The hashbrown casserole is better than I can make homemade." Unfortunately, there have been changes from frozen to mealy rehydrated hashbrowns. Some locations switched between the two for a while, but the cheaper rehydrated version seems to have won out. So, they may not be exactly as good as you remember.

Beans N' Greens

turnip greens, pinto beans, corn muffins, onion slices
turnip greens, pinto beans, corn muffins, onion slices - Cracker Barrel

Beans N' Greens is a dish you can order together or separately as a Bowl of Pinto Beans or a Bowl of Turnip Greens. The duo comes with a slice of onion, vinegar for cutting any bitterness, and chow chow relish. Plus, you can choose from a biscuit or cornbread muffin to go with it.

For many in the South, pinto beans were a nourishing subsistence type of food available for the poor. In places like Appalachia, it was often cheaper to buy dried beans than to try to get beans to grow in unforgiving rocky soil. Turnip greens entered into Southern cuisine as unwanted food scraps that enslaved people were allowed to use for their meals. While their enslavers were accustomed to eating turnip roots (brought over from Europe), the enslaved were only allowed the green part. They cooked them similar to the greens they knew from Africa to evolve the Southern soul food dish famous in the South today.

We've known of Southerners who go to Cracker Barrel just for the Beans N' Greens, especially in locations where turnip greens aren't as easy to find in the grocery store. It's not a vegetarian option since both the turnips and beans contain ham. However, it is an excellent low-meat choice. Plus, we ranked pinto beans as the chain's number one side dish when we sampled and compared them all.

Fried Okra

fried okra
fried okra - Cracker Barrel

Fried okra is one of the pleasures of summer in the South. While some Southern cooks make an ultra-crisp version that's barely coated with cornmeal, the breading on Cracker Barrel's version of Fried Okra is a little thicker.

Okra first became prevalent in the U.S. South between the 1500s and 1800s. While it was difficult for enslaved individuals from Africa to bring belongings with them, some women craftily smuggled okra seeds in their hair braids. This vegetable from their African homeland was well-suited to the warmer growing climates of many Southern states. So, it eventually made its way into a variety of Southern dishes including simple fried okra.

If you're looking for fried okra and you're not in the South, Cracker Barrel is a good place to find it. It comes in as the 15th most popular side (out of 20). One reviewer for this side says it's well-seasoned with both a soft interior and exterior.

Country Vegetable Plate

macaroni and cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits
macaroni and cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits - Cracker Barrel

The side dishes at Cracker Barrel are good enough that many people just order a Country Vegetable Plate. And they're not just for vegetarians either. You can choose any four side dishes. Plus, the plate comes with your choice of buttermilk biscuit or cornbread muffin.

Southerners who have access fresh garden produce often have meals (especially weekend lunches) consisting entirely of a plate of vegetables. The veggie plates at Southern restaurants are delicious and quite filling on their own. Cracker Barrel may be missing fresh tomato slices, field peas, cabbage, butterbeans, and stewed squash. However, it has enough Southern sides to hold its own.

While not all of the chain's side dishes can be claimed as originating in the South, most -- like mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and whole-kernel corn -- certainly show up on Southern plates. With so many great side item choices, it comes in as an honorable mention order among the most popular menu items at Cracker Barrel.

Buttermilk Biscuits

plate of buttermilk biscuits
plate of buttermilk biscuits - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Facebook

Meals at Cracker Barrel tend to come with your choice of Buttermilk Biscuits or Corn Muffins. While Southerners certainly eat corn muffins and cornbread, you can find them more widespread throughout the U.S. than buttermilk biscuits.

Learning to make buttermilk biscuits is a rite of passage for Southern cooks because it shows up for nearly every meal in many households. It eventually became more popular for meals in the South because the South had softer wheat that was easier to use for biscuits, while the harder wheat in the North was more ideal for bread. Plus, Southerners liked their bread in hot individual portions rather than cold slices.

Cracker Barrel's biscuits are both good and popular. According to Today, the chain's made-from-scratch biscuits are so popular that the restaurant makes over 200 million of them for its customers every year. However, customers have noticed them shrinking in recent years. However, you can make larger ones at home if you buy the boxed mix in the restaurant's store.

Course Ground Grits

bowl of plain grits
bowl of plain grits - Cracker Barrel

Course Ground Grits come as a breakfast side and as a standard part of some breakfast meals at Cracker Barrel. This menu item is not surprising since it's a big part of Southern breakfast culture.

Southerners in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida first learned of grits through cultural exchanges with the Muskogee Native American tribe. While white-corn-based hominy grits are fairly plain, there are lots of ways Southerners infuse them with flavor, including adding eggs; shrimp, cheese, and Cajun seasonings; or a mixture of garlic and cheese.

If it's your first time trying grits, Cracker Barrel's may not be the best specimen to form your overall opinion because they come seasoned with nothing more than some margarine and salt. Nearly 33% of customers we surveyed called them Cracker Barrel's worst breakfast side item. Since they're so lackluster, even grits lovers may be disappointed to learn they can't substitute grits for something else in some breakfast combos.

Peach Cobbler

peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream
peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store/Facebook

While Peach Cobbler comes and goes from the Cracker Barrel dessert menu (it disappeared locally before we could publish this article), you'll want to give it a try if you're looking for Southern desserts. If it's not available, you can always look for Peach Cobbler Filling in the restaurant's store. The cobbler recipe is on the back of the can. Just be sure to buy a box of Biscuit + Dumpling Mix for the crust.

Peach cobbler's claim to Southern fame is two-fold. European settlers brought over Asian peaches in the 1600s and the first cobbler appeared in a Kentucky cookbook in 1839. Peaches had been around in the South for a while, but it wasn't until after the Civil War that they started being grown on a larger scale in groves in Georgia. A peach cobbler recipe appeared in a cookbook in San Francisco in 1881 called "What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking." It was written by Abby Fisher, who had escaped slavery in the South. Her version had dough both above and below the peaches instead of just on top like at Cracker Barrel.

One TikTokker ranked the chain's Peach Cobbler as its number three best dessert. While most customers have only good things to say about this delicious dessert, getting some without any crust hiding beneath the ice cream can be a little disappointing.

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