What Food Is South Carolina Known For: 20 Must-Have Foods And Where To Eat It

This article has links to products and services we recommend, which we may make a commission from.

On a road trip to explore South Carolina food, we hit the historic cities of Columbia, Florence, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston. 

Eager to discover South Carolina’s culinary culture, we couldn’t wait to savor traditional dishes such as BBQ, collard greens, she-crab soup, peach cobbler, and more.

With anticipation, we journeyed South in search of the food that defines the region.

If your travels take you to the Palmetto State, use this guide to help you find the best food in South Carolina.

Authentic Food Quest Page_Break

What is South Carolina Food?

Shrimps and Grits Hominy Grill Best Restaurant in Florence South Carolina Soul Food Myrtle Beach South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Shrimp & Grits, a local’s favorite

South Carolina food is heavily influenced by its rich history and geography. There are three main kinds of cuisine that South Carolina is known for. They are Lowcountry cooking, soul food, and country cooking.

South Carolina cuisine, often referred to as Lowcountry cuisine, incorporates fresh seafood, rice, and various spices from the coastal region. Some of the most well-known dishes are fresh shrimp and grits, hoppin’ john, and she-crab soup. 

South Carolina’s soul food has strong roots in African American culture with recipes dating back to the state’s history of slave trade and segregation. 

Soul food is characterized by hearty and flavorful ingredients. Southern dishes like collard greens, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese are today considered staples of Southern cuisine. 

Country cooking is defined by comforting dishes that are typically made with simple, fresh ingredients. Examples include fried chicken, fried okra, and cornbread. 

When visiting South Carolina, some additional must-try famous foods include boiled peanuts, okra soup, and sweet tea, the state’s official beverage.

Where to Eat South Carolina Food?

Columbia State House Best Food in South Carolina Authentic Food Quest
Columbia’s impressive Statehouse – photo credit: Discover South Carolina

To taste it all, consider one of the several South Carolina food and wine festivals that take place throughout the year. 

One of the most popular events is the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, which celebrates the Lowcountry’s unique culinary traditions.

Other popular food and wine festivals include the Euphoria Food, Wine, and Music Festival in Greenville, the Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival, and the Myrtle Beach Food Truck Festival.

If you’re wondering what to eat in South Carolina, these events provide an excellent opportunity to sample the state’s diverse food and wine offerings. 

Top 20 South Carolina Foods and Where To Eat Them

1. Lowcountry Pirlou / Pirloo

Pirlou at Revival for Best Restaurant in Charleston South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Lowcountry Pirlou featuring Carolina Gold Rice with lobster, shrimp, crab & sweet peas

This classic South Carolina dish, also known as “perloo” or “purloo,” is a flavorful mix of rice, meat, and vegetables cooked with a variety of herbs and spices.

The dish is often prepared with Carolina Gold rice, a type of rice that is indigenous to the Lowcountry region of South Carolina. 

This long-grain rice has a distinctive golden color and a rich, nutty flavor that sets it apart from other varieties of rice.

Lowcountry Pirlou is a delicious dish that is steeped in tradition and history. It has its roots in West African cooking traditions that were brought to South Carolina by slaves, and it has been a staple of Southern cuisine for generations.

Today, Lowcountry Pirlou continues to be a beloved dish in South Carolina, and it is often served at family gatherings and local restaurants throughout the state. 

When visiting the Palmetto State, savoring Lowcountry Pirlou is a must-do culinary experience.

Where To Eat It: Revival in Charleston SC

Revival Restaurant South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Warm and cozy atmosphere at Revival Restaurant

The concept of Revival Restaurant is based on working with local farmers to “revive” certain ingredients and utilize them in dishes. 

Chef Forrest Parker focuses on recipes and ingredients from South Carolina’s past. 

This dish, Chef Parker told us, “is a nod to the Spanish influence, as the first Europeans who settled about 100 years before Charleston was settled in 1670. That’s frequently forgotten, so we wanted to shed light on that.”

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Committed to South Carolina’s culinary culture and traditional recipes, Chef Parker offers a Lowcountry food tour and a cooking demonstration. Explore South Carolina foods on a historic walking tour and then enjoy a chef-prepared lunch with wine pairing.  See more delicious Charleston food tours to take.

2. Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Crispy and tender, South Carolina fried chicken is a must try

Fried chicken is part of the culinary fabric of America, especially the Southern United States. 

According to Adrian Miller, award-winning author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, “fried chicken is comfort food.” And in the United States, “it is bone-in chicken parts, battered and fried once in oil.” 

This classic comfort food is a staple of Southern cuisine, and it has a long and storied history in the state.

The origins of fried chicken in South Carolina can be traced back to the state’s agricultural history. 

Chickens were a common source of food for farmers, and frying them was a popular method of cooking due to the abundance of oil and fat that was produced on farms.

As the dish became more popular, Southern cooks began to experiment with different batters and seasonings to create the perfect combination of crispy skin and juicy meat. 

In South Carolina, fried chicken is often seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices, including salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

Many South Carolinians believe that their state has the best fried chicken in the world.

And fried chicken is considered a point of pride and a symbol of Southern hospitality.

Where To Eat It: Big Mike Soul Food in Myrtle Beach

Big Mikes Soul Food Restaurants In Myrtle Beach by Authentic Food Quest
You can’t go wrong with tasty fried chicken at Big Mikes

Big Mike’s in Myrtle Beach has been named one of the top soul food eateries in the country.  

This family-owned local eatery is a favorite stop for locals and visitors, and their fried chicken is among the best in South Carolina. 

Get Big Mike’s fried chicken as part of the “Meat N’ Three” special. And, when paired with traditional soul food sides relish the flavors of one of the state’s most famous foods.

RELATED: Soul Food in Myrtle Beach: 3 Best Restaurants for Fried Chicken and More

3. Fried Okra  – Southern Immaculate Bites

Fried Okra South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Fried Okra is one of the most popular South Carolina food

Fried okra is a beloved staple in South Carolina. This Southern specialty dish is made by dredging fresh okra in seasoned cornmeal and frying it until crispy and golden brown. 

This classic state food is often served alongside other Southern favorites like fried chicken and collard greens. 

Fried okra has a crispy exterior with a tender and flavorful interior. It’s a perfect way to enjoy the unique taste and texture of the okra vegetable, a common ingredient in Southern cooking.

Where to Eat It: Big Mike’s Soul Food in Myrtle Beach 

Big Mike’s Soul Food is committed to using fresh, high-quality ingredients and preparing all of its dishes from scratch.

One of the most popular dishes at Big Mike’s is the fried okra. Savor it alongside a variety of other classics like fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, and sweet potato pie. 

4. Cornbread

Corn Bread South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Corn bread makes a perfect side dish

Cornbread is a staple of Southern cuisine, with a history that can be traced back to native Americans. 

This classic bread is made from cornmeal, flour, and other ingredients, and often served as a side dish to many Southern dishes.

The origins of cornbread in South Carolina can be traced back to the state’s agricultural history, as corn was a common crop. 

Native Americans made corn bread from a simple mixture of water, salt and cornmeal. The recipe graduated to using flours and a variety of sweetener products like sugar, honey or molasses. 

Over time, Southern cooks developed different variations of cornbread, each with their own unique flavor and texture.

Across the United States, the preparation of cornbread differs. It can be made with a variety of ingredients, including buttermilk, honey, and jalapenos. It can also be baked in a skillet or in a traditional baking dish.

No matter how you like your cornbread, it is considered a “cornerstone” of Southern U.S. cuisine. 

Where to Eat It: Virginia’s on King in Charleston SC 

Virginias on king South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Taste traditional dishes with a modern twist – Photo credit: Virginia’s on King on Facebook

Virginia’s on King is a renowned restaurant located in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina

The eatery offers a unique dining experience that combines classic Southern cuisine with modern flavors and techniques. 

One of the standout dishes at Virginia’s on King is the cast-iron skillet cornbread, which is made with stone-ground cornmeal and served hot and fresh from the oven.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: A great place to stay in Charleston is the Hyatt Place a modern hotel in the historic district. We stayed here while in Charleston and loved the service and convenient location to explore the area.  The Vendue, Charleston’s Art Hotel, a boutique hotel in the French Quarter, is another great option. 

5. Chicken Bog – A South Carolina Tradition

Chicken Bog South Carolina Dishes by Authentic Food Quest
This beloved dish even has a festival dedicated to it

Chicken bog has been a part of South Carolina cuisine for generations. This one-pot meal is made with rice, chicken, sausage, and a variety of seasonings.

It is typically cooked slowly over low heat until the rice is tender and the flavors have melded together.

The name “chicken bog” has many stories. Some believe that the name is related to the rice, linking the soggy nature of the dish to the wet rice fields. 

Others speculate the name comes from the swampy, bog-like Lowcountry area in South Carolina where the dish originated.

Regardless of the name’s origin, chicken bog has a huge following in South Carolina. There is even an annual Loris Bog-off festival dedicated to it.

I loved this dish and it quickly became my favorite. The uncomplicated preparation and big flavors makes it worth seeking out.

Where to Eat It: Back Home BBQ in Murrells Inlet 

Back Home BBQ South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Variety of fresh tasty meals at the buffet – Photo credit: Back Home BBQ on Facebook

Back Home BBQ is one of the best places in Myrtle Beach to enjoy Southern cooking. 

Although you can order off a menu, the main attraction is their large country buffet filled with Southern comfort foods, including chicken bog.

The chicken bog at Back Home BBQ is made with long-grain rice, smoked chicken, sausage, and a variety of seasonings. This flavorful and comforting one-pot meal that is sure to satisfy your hunger.

6. Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Tender and flavorful slow-cooked pork

Pulled pork is a favorite in South Carolina BBQ. 

Pulled pork starts with tender, juicy meat that has been slow-cooked for hours on a smoker with a blend of spices and wood, such as hickory, oak or applewood. 

The meat is then carefully pulled apart by hand or with forks to create the desired texture, before being served with a side of tangy and slightly sweet BBQ sauce. 

The pork may be served on its own as a main dish, or in a sandwich with a variety of toppings such as coleslaw, pickles, or onions. 

Where to Eat It: Back Home BBQ in Murrells Inlet 

Back Home BBQ is known for its mouth-watering South Carolina barbecue dishes and traditional Southern sides.

Slow cooked and smoked over the flavorful hickory coals, the pulled pork is served with a traditional vinegar-based sauce.

7. Collard Greens 

Collard Greens Best 
Food In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
A nutritious dish of African origin

When enslaved Africans were brought to the United States, they brought with them their traditional recipes and cooking methods.

Collard greens in South Carolina were typically grown on plantations as a cheap and nutritious food source.

Among the African American communities, the method of cooking the greens down to a low gravy became popular. Ham hocks or bacon were added to provide more depth and flavor.

Over time, collard greens became a symbol of Southern hospitality. These leafy greens are also the South Carolina official state vegetable.

Collard greens are used in many cuisines around the world. A relative of the cabbage and kale, we enjoyed its rich flavors in Caldo Verde, Portugal’s national soup.

Where to Eat It: Motor Supply in Columbia SC 

Motor Supply Columbia Best Restaurant in Coulmbia South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Motor Supply, a renovated engine warehouse, is one of the best restaurants in Columbia

Chef Wes at Motor Supply Company Bistro told us he aims to provide “what people can eat at their grandmothers, in a refined way.”

The farm-to-table restaurant cooks with locally sourced ingredients from nearby organic farms. 

The bone-in-pork chop, a local favorite on the menu, is served with turnip puree, cider-braised collard greens and a side of preserved watermelon. Don’t miss it! 

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: In Columbia, we enjoyed staying at the Hyatt Place. This modern hotel is located in the foodie neighborhood of Columbia, walking distance from many attractions.

8. Shrimp & Grits

Shrimps and Grits at Tubb's Best Restaurant in Florence South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Our first shrimp & grits at Tubbs – filling and delightful!

Shrimp and grits is an iconic dish that is deeply ingrained in South Carolina’s culinary culture. 

This delicious dish is believed to have originated in the Lowcountry, where fresh seafood was plentiful and grits were a staple of the Southern diet.

The dish typically consists of plump, succulent shrimp that are sautéed with onions, garlic, and bacon, and then served on top of a bed of creamy grits. 

The grits are often cooked with butter and cheese, adding richness and depth of flavor.

We quickly learned that there are as many iterations of shrimp and grits as there are chefs and home cooks. Some versions are mild, while others raise the heat with peppers and hot sauce.

Shrimp and grits has become a testament to the state’s rich culinary heritage, and it is a celebrated Southern comfort food. 

According to author, chef, and cooking show host Nathalie Dupree, shrimp and grits is one of the classic dishes that best defines the South.

Where to Eat It: Tubb’s Shrimp & Fish in Florence 

Rosemary Claire Best Food In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Get comfort Southern food at Tubb’s

One of the most popular lunch spots in Florence is Tubb’s Shrimp & Fish. The restaurant is known for fish and seafood, prepared in a Southern and Lowcountry style. 

Housed in a refurbished gas station, the cozy, casual restaurant serves up shrimp and grits that have been called “as good as it gets” by patrons.

Be sure to leave room for dessert, too. Tubb’s sweet potato cheesecake topped with pecans is to die for. 

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: While in Florence, we stayed at Hotel Florence, a boutique hotel downtown the city. Located in a historical building, the hotel is filled with character and offers modern furnishing and sophisticated amenities. 

9. She Crab Soup

Soup Best Food In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Creamy she crab soup

She crab soup is a savory seafood soup that is a cross between a chowder and a bisque

This creamy soup is made with the meat of blue crabs, crab roe, heavy cream, butter, and a variety of seasonings, including celery, onions, and Old Bay seasoning. 

The soup is typically garnished with a drizzle of sherry and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

The history of she crab soup is rooted in the coastal cuisine of Charleston, South Carolina. 

The soup is said to have been created in the early 20th century by the wives of wealthy Charlestonians who would host dinner parties. The soup was made with the delicate meat of female crabs, which was considered a delicacy, and the roe of the crab, which was used to give the soup a distinctive, rich flavor.

Today, she crab soup is a popular dish in many South Carolina restaurants, particularly those in the Lowcountry. 

Where to Eat It: Sea Captain’s House in Myrtle Beach 

Sea Captain's House Best Food In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Charming restaurant with plenty of seafood options – Photo credit: Sea Captain’s House on Facebook

Sea Captain’s House is an historic oceanfront restaurant in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, known for its stunning views and exceptional seafood dishes. 

Their signature she crab soup is made with fresh blue crab meat, heavy cream, sherry, and a blend of spices. It’s a must-try if you are on the South Carolina coast. 

Aside from the she crab soup, Sea Captain’s House also offers a wide range of seafood options, from fried shrimp and scallops to grilled salmon and mahi-mahi. 

10. Southern Biscuits

Southern Biscuits Best Food In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Southern biscuits are simple but versatile

Authentic Southern biscuits are served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the South. 

These flaky, buttery biscuits are made with just a few simple ingredients, including flour, butter, buttermilk, and baking powder.

What sets Southern biscuits apart from other biscuits is their texture and flavor. They are made with a “soft” flour that contains less gluten and that makes them light and fluffy on the inside, with a crispy, golden-brown exterior that is slightly crunchy. 

The biscuits are often slathered with gravy, butter or jam.

In the South, biscuits are more than just a bread roll. They are a cultural icon that represents the region’s history and traditions. 

Many families have their own unique recipe for making biscuits, passed down from generation to generation.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you want to enjoy Southern treats at home, consider Seven Sisters scones from Johns Creek, Georgia. The scones, both sweet and savory are all handmade with the highest quality ingredients. Available in different sizes, including vegan and gluten-free, these scones are sure to delight.

Where to Eat It: Compton’s Kitchen in Columbia 

Comptons Kitchen Best Food In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Enjoy South Carolina comfort food at this family-owned restaurant – Photo credit: Compton’s Kitchen on Facebook

Compton’s Kitchen is a family-owned restaurant known for serving up classic Southern dishes with a modern twist. 

One of the standout dishes at Compton’s Kitchen is the biscuits and gravy. 

Made with the restaurant’s signature biscuits and a savory gravy made from scratch, this is the ultimate comfort food and a must-try for anyone visiting the restaurant.

11. Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler Best Food South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Southern sweetness in every bite

The peach is the official State Fruit of South Carolina. This Southern state grows over thirty varieties of peaches and ranks second behind California in fresh peach production.

Peach cobbler is an American classic that is loved for its sweet and tangy flavors. It’s made with a buttery, biscuit-like topping that is baked over a bed of sliced, juicy peaches that have been tossed with sugar and spices. 

The peaches cook down into a thick and sweet syrup, while the topping becomes golden brown and crispy.

The warm, comforting dessert is best served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. The contrast between the hot, bubbly peach filling and the cool, creamy ice cream will make your taste buds dance.

Where to Eat It: Peach N Such in Monetta SC

Peaches N Such Best Food South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Delicious homemade treats – Photo credit: Peach N Such on Facebook

Peach N Such is a family-owned, organic peach farm and market that has been providing visitors with fresh, juicy peaches for over 30 years. 

The market offers a wide variety of peach-related products, including jams, jellies, pickles, peach cider and peach ice cream.

One of the standout offerings at Peach N Such is their famous homemade peach cobbler. It’s the perfect way to cap off a visit to this charming farm.

12. Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie Best Food South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
South Carolina’s irresistible pecan pie

Classic Southern pecan pie has a rich history in South Carolina. The sweet, buttery pie is made with a filling of pecans, corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar, and eggs. Everything is baked until it becomes deliciously caramelized and gooey.

The origins of pecan pie can be traced back to the early 19th century, when French immigrants settled in New Orleans and brought with them the recipe for a similar dessert called “tarte aux noix”. 

Over time, the recipe evolved and was adapted to include pecans, which were a native crop in the Southern United States.

Pecan pie quickly became a popular dessert for holidays and special occasions. In South Carolina, where pecan trees are abundant, the pie became a beloved part of the state’s culinary culture.

Today, Southern pecan pie is an American classic enjoyed throughout the country. However, it remains a quintessential part of Southern cuisine. 

Whether enjoyed on its own or topped with a dollop of whipped cream, pecan pie is a delicious and comforting dessert that will always hold a special place in the hearts of Southerners.

Where to Eat it: Young’s Premium Foods in Florence

Young's Premium Foods South Carolina Foods by Authentic Food Quest
A large selection of different pecan products – Photo credit: Young’s Premium Foods on Facebook

Founded in the 1920s, this family-owned business operates as a retail space selling all-things pecan. 

You’ll find baked goods like pecan pie, as well as a wide variety of pecan-related products.

The friendly staff is available to offer advice and, more importantly, can ship your gifts or pecan pies back home for you. Plan on spending at least an hour browsing, tasting and shopping. 

READ MORE: Pecan Trail Florence SC: How To Make The Most Of Your Visit

13. Deviled Eggs

You can find few variations of deviled eggs across the state

Deviled eggs are made by hard-boiling eggs, then cutting them in half and removing the yolks. 

The yolks are then mixed with mayonnaise, mustard, and other seasonings before being spooned back into the egg whites.

South Carolinians often prepare deviled eggs with unique twists and variations that honor the state’s culture.

Some variations include Shrimp and Grits Deviled Eggs where deviled eggs are filled with a mixture of shrimp, grits, and spices for a delicious Lowcountry twist.

Crab Cake Deviled Eggs with a mixture of crab meat, Old Bay seasoning, and other spices for an extra kick.

Pickled Deviled Eggs with vinegar and spices add a tangy and flavorful twist on this classic dish.

There are many more creative versions found across the Palmetto state. 

However, one thing is certain, in South Carolina, deviled eggs are sure to be found at casual gatherings like picnics and barbecues. 

Where to Eat it: Town Hall Restaurant in Florence SC

Town Hall Best Restaurants In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Town Hall restaurant dishes come with inventive twists

Modern and airy in design, Town Hall restaurant is welcoming, with a friendly and professional staff. 

Using locally and responsibly raised meat, pork and seafood, the menu features an amazing selection of starters and entrees with familiar and unexpected ingredients.

They offer deviled eggs with a twist. In a creative manner, the chef during our visit topped traditionally cooked deviled eggs with gulf oysters

This unusual combination was a wonderful explosion of fresh flavors and textures.

14. Mac And Cheese

Mac And Cheese South Carolina Foods by Authentic Food Quest
South Carolina mac and cheese has an addition of a crispy topping

When looking for the best food in South Carolina, don’t miss the macaroni and cheese. Often served as a side dish, you’ll find it elevated and customized in South Carolina. 

This favorite state food might feature a crispy breadcrumb or cracker topping, adding texture and flavor to the creamy, cheesy pasta. 

Or it might be served in casserole form like lasagna, with layers of pasta, cheese, and other ingredients baked together until bubbly and golden brown. 

Another unique twist on macaroni and cheese in South Carolina is the addition of pimento cheese. 

This classic Southern spread made with cheese, mayonnaise, and pimento peppers gives the dish a tangy, slightly spicy flavor and a creamy texture.

The immigration of the macaroni and cheese recipe to the American South has been credited to American President, Thomas Jefferson.

He is said to have eaten macaroni and cheese during a diplomatic stint in France in the late 1780s and later served it at an 1802 state dinner as president. 

Macaroni and cheese holds a sacred space in America’s culinary history and it continues to take on new life with inventive twists by chefs and home cooks.

Where to Eat it: Town Hall Restaurant in Florence SC

The mac & cheese at Town Hall is a true showstopper. It’s the perfect example of the restaurant’s commitment to fresh, high-quality ingredients and innovative techniques to create dishes that are both comforting and exciting.

Their macaroni and cheese is made with a creamy blend of gouda and ricotta cheeses, giving it a rich, indulgent flavor. 

But what really takes this dish to the next level are the bites of crispy pork belly scattered throughout, adding a savory, smoky dimension to the already delicious pasta.

15. Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese South Carolina Foods by Authentic Food Quest
Pimento cheese served with crispy crackers

Pimento cheese is a spread made from shredded cheddar cheese mixed with pimentos, mayonnaise, and seasonings.

It is served as a dip, a sandwich filling, a topping for burgers, and many other ways.

The history of pimento cheese in South Carolina can be traced back to the early 1900s, when the combination of cheese and pimentos first appeared in cookbooks and kitchens of Southern households. 

The dish quickly became popular and by the mid-20th century, it was a staple in many Southern homes and diners.

Today, pimento cheese can be found on menus across the state. Some chefs have even put their own spin on the classic recipe, adding ingredients like bacon, jalapeños, and smoked paprika to create new flavor profiles.

Where to Eat it: Town Hall Restaurant in Florence SC

Town Hall Best Restaurants In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Yummy charcuterie board

The elegant charcuterie board at Town Hall restaurant features pimento cheese and Clemson bleu, two Southern delicacies. 

We enjoyed the cheeses along with the array of artisanal meats, olives, pickles, nuts, and fruits, all carefully selected and expertly arranged by the restaurant’s talented chefs.

16. Oysters

Oysters What Food Is South Carolina Known For by Authentic Food Quest
Roasted, stewed, or fresh, don’t miss out delicious oysters

Fresh oysters are a favorite in South Carolina, particularly in the Lowcountry region, where they are enjoyed in many different ways. 

One of the most popular ways is at an oyster roast. Oyster roasts are traditional Lowcountry gatherings that often take place in the fall and winter months. 

Fresh oysters are gathered from local waters and are roasted over an open flame until they pop open and are ready to be eaten.

Roasted oysters are typically served on a large table covered with burlap or newspaper. Guests use an oyster knife to shuck the oysters and enjoy them raw or with a squeeze of lemon juice, cocktail sauce, or hot sauce. 

In addition to roasted oysters, oyster stews are also popular. Oyster stews are typically made with fresh shucked oysters, milk or cream, butter, onions, and seasonings. 

The ingredients are slowly simmered until the flavors meld together, and the oysters become plump and tender.

Roasted, stewed, or fresh, South Carolina’s oysters are a must-try for seafood lovers.

Where to Eat it: Hook & Barrel in Myrtle Beach SC

Hook & Barrel Soul Food Myrtle Beach by Authentic Food Quest
Enjoy Myrtle Beach Soul food on this restaurant’s charming patio Photo credit: Hook & Barrel on Facebook

The Oysters Ala Heidi at Hook & Barrel were a highlight in our exploration of South Carolina foods. 

Stuffed with bacon, spinach, onions, mascarpone, sambuca, and a tarragon hollandaise, these are not your ordinary oysters. 

From the restaurant’s open “Steam Gallery” where we sat, you can watch the chefs prepare seafood dishes such as oyster stew and she crab soup.

17. Boiled Peanuts

Boiled Peanuts What Food Is South Carolina Known For by Authentic Food Quest
Have you ever tried boiled peanuts?

Boiled peanuts are a popular snack in the southern United States, and they have a special place in South Carolina’s culinary history. 

The tradition of boiling peanuts in salty water can be traced back to the Civil War era, when Confederate soldiers would eat them as a cheap and easy source of protein.

Boiled peanuts are made by boiling raw peanuts in salted water for several hours until they become soft and tender. 

They have a unique texture that is similar to a cooked bean, with a salty, earthy flavor that is distinctively southern.

In South Carolina, boiled peanuts are a common sight at roadside stands and farmer’s markets. 

They are often served in brown paper bags or plastic cups, and can be enjoyed as a snack on their own or added to other dishes like salads and stews.

Where to Eat it: Roadside Stands or Gas Stations

Hot Boiled Peanuts South Carolina Foods by Authentic Food Quest
Hot boiled peanuts sold at the gas station

While gas stations are a common place to find boiled peanuts, they are often sitting in their juices for hours, resulting in a less-than-fresh taste. 

For the best boiled peanuts, it’s recommended to visit a pop-up road stand or a farmer’s market where they are likely to be fresher.

One such place to find fresh boiled peanuts is at The Peanut Man in Florence, South Carolina. They offer both regular and spicy boiled peanuts, as well as green peanuts for those who prefer to boil their own.

Watch Our Video Tasting Boiled Peanuts For The First Time

Make sure to subscribe on Youtube for our latest videos

18. Hoppin John

Hoppin John South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest
Flavorful combination of black-eyed peas, rice, and pork with spices

Hoppin’ John is a classic Southern dish that originated in South Carolina. 

It’s a flavorful dish made from a combination of black-eyed peas, rice, and pork, seasoned with onion, peppers, and other spices. While you’ll find it year-round, it is commonly served on New Year’s Day. 

The exact origins of Hoppin’ John are unclear, but it is believed to have originated in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 19th century. 

The dish was originally made with Carolina Gold rice, a variety that grows in the low country of South Carolina and Georgia.

Hoppin’ John is thought to bring good luck when eaten on New Year’s Day, with the peas representing coins and the rice symbolizing wealth and prosperity. 

It is often served with collard greens, which represent money, and cornbread, which symbolizes gold.

Throughout South Carolina, variations of Hoppin’ John can be found. Some people add bacon or ham to the dish for extra flavor, while others spice it up with hot sauce or Cajun seasoning.

Where to Eat it: Dave’s Carry Out in Charleston SC

Dave’s Carry Out Best Restaurants In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Serving Southern classics for 30 years and counting – Photo credit: Dave’s Carry-Out on Facebook

At Dave’s Carry Out in Charleston, South Carolina, the Hoppin’ John is made with perfectly seasoned black-eyed peas and smokey, flavorful bacon or ham hocks, all served over a bed of fluffy white rice.

The small, unassuming restaurant has been serving up classic Southern soul food for over 30 years.

19. Frogmore Stew

Frogmore Stew What Food Is South Carolina Known For by Authentic Food Quest
Frogmore Stew is one of the most popular South Carolina foods

Frogmore Stew, also known as Lowcountry Boil or Beaufort Boil, is a seafood dish that originated in the coastal region of South Carolina. 

Despite its name, it is not actually a stew. It’s a one-pot meal that typically includes shrimp, corn on the cob, sausage, and potatoes, all boiled together with Old Bay seasoning and other spices.

The dish is said to have been created by a National Guardsman stationed in Frogmore, a small community on St. Helena Island, during a training exercise in the 1960s. 

It quickly became popular in the region and has since spread throughout the Southeast, particularly during summer months and outdoor gatherings.

Frogmore Stew is often associated with the Gullah/Geechee culture, a distinct African-American community in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia known for their unique traditions and cuisine. 

The dish is also a popular option at seafood restaurants and outdoor events throughout the state.

Some variations of the dish may include additional seafood, such as crab legs or clams, and different seasonings. 

However, the basic ingredients of shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes remain a staple in Frogmore Stew and continue to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Enjoy humanely raised and sustainable fresh meat and seafood with Snake River Farms, the pioneers of American wagyu beef. They offer a variety of Surf & Turf boxes that you can use to make delicious South Carolina food at home. Click to find out more.

Where to Eat it:  Bowen’s Island in Charleston SC

Bowen’s Island Best Restaurants In South Carolina by Authentic Food Quest
Beautiful view from Bowen’s Island – Photo credit: Bowens Island on Facebook

Bowen’s Island is a seafood restaurant located on a picturesque marsh island in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The restaurant has been serving up fresh seafood to locals and tourists for over 70 years. 

Bowen’s Island is famous for its Frogmore Stew, and it’s a must-try for any seafood lover.

20. Southern Sweet Tea

Southern Sweet Tea Best Southern Comfort Foods by Authentic Food Quest
Refreshing Sweet Tea – Photo credit: RecoilRick on Flickr cc by 2.0

Sweet tea is the official beverage of the state of South Carolina, considered by many as the “nectar of the South.” 

It is a simple yet delicious combination of black tea, sugar, and water, though preparation and brewing methods can vary. 

Served ice-cold, the specificity of Southern Sweet tea is that sugar or syrup is added while the tea is still hot or brewing. 

And sweet tea in the South is really sweet. We quickly learned to order it “half & half” – half sweetened and half non-sweetened, making it more enjoyable to drink. 

In South Carolina, sweet tea is more than just a drink; it is a way of life. It’s perfect for sipping on a front porch, or as the ideal, fresh, light drink to go with hearty Lowcountry dishes. 

Where to Have it: Lowcountry Fresh Cafe Bluffton, SC

Lowcountry Fresh Cafe is a popular dining spot offering a variety of fresh and healthy options made from locally-sourced ingredients. The menu features a mix of classic Southern dishes and modern twists on traditional favorites. 

The cafe serves up a refreshing glass of sweet tea made with their own special blend of loose leaf tea. 

It’s steeped to perfection and mixed with just the right amount of sugar to create a sweet, smooth flavor that is sure to please any tea lover.

Authentic Food Quest Page_Break

In Summary

South Carolina’s culinary scene is a melting pot of flavors influenced by African, European, and Native American traditions. 

A trip through South Carolina is more than a culinary experience, it is a journey through time.

As with all cultures, the food in South Carolina is a reflection of its history. We learned that South Carolina’s past, underpinned by enslavement, gives its food that much more depth.

With famous dishes such as shrimp and grits, fried chicken, barbecue, oyster roast, mac and cheese, and frogmore stew, as well as divine desserts and sweet tea, there is something for everyone in South Carolina’s unique food scene.

From this list, do you have a favorite South Carolina food? Please let us know in the comments below.

Savor the Adventure!

Love South Carolina Food? Pin It!

South Carolina Food by Authentic Food Quest

Disclosure: Our time in South Carolina was in partnership with Discover South Carolina Tourism All views and opinions expressed are our own. Full bellies and happy taste buds too!

44 Comments on “What Food Is South Carolina Known For: 20 Must-Have Foods And Where To Eat It”

  1. The Capital of columbia sounds like a big city foodies dream. Interesting that it is a popular place of millennials.

    You really did a complete foodie tour of South Carolina, all the major bases were tasted.

    Hook and Barrel in Myrtle Beach sounds like my kind of restaurant. I love sustainable fare, and love that they can boast the first sustainable kitchen in South Carolina, that is awesome.

    • Thanks Sara, the trip to South Carolina was really a foodie’s dream. Columbia was quite delicious, our only regret was not having enough time to explore more. Hook & Barrel was a lot of fun, and the fresh and sustainable seafood elevated the experience. Hope you get a chance to visit South Carolina for yourself one day soon. You’d love it!

  2. I’m just curious if you liked the grits…? My grandmother was born and raised in the south and when we went to visit her she’d often ask if we wanted grits. I knew it was a traditional dish, but I never grew to like it. In your photo, the shrimp and sausage look amazing, but still, there’s those grits!!

    • For a first time eating grits, I was quite impressed. I loved the shrimp, sausages and all the wonderful toppings. Didn’t get a chance to try them plain, so I can’t really speak to plain grits. Did grits grow on you over the years? Thanks, Tami

  3. Travel and food are so inseparable. I see this being accentuated in your article on SC. The spread from Hook and Barrel looks completely delicious. I am drooling.

  4. You just introduced me to an area of the US that I knew very little about. Columbia looks like a beautiful city and I would love to walk the streets of Myrtle Beach and Charleston and sample some of the delicious dishes. The seafood from Myrtle Beach, like the she crab soup, looks especially appetizing.

    • That’s wonderful that you got introduced to a new area in the U.S. It was also new for us and we loved the culturally rich Southern cuisine. The food is amazing in any of the cities and you’d have a great time. Hoping your travels take you to the Palmetto State soon. Cheers, Linda

  5. I just love chef Wesley Fulmer’s cooking philosophy! It’s rare to come by 🙂 And the Myrtle Beach boardwalk sounds like so much fun! I loved reading about South Carolina’s past and how their cuisine is a reflection of it!

    • Thanks Lisa, we were quite fascinated by the food history in South Carolina and the impact on the food. So glad you enjoyed that aspect of the article. Chef Fulmer was great to chat with and the food delivered in terms of tastes and flavors. Myrtle Beach is a lot of fun and a great place to explore the local seafood. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Wow, you made me hungry! I would like to go there right away! 🙂 And try some of these specialities! And visit some of the typical US restaurants that I saw in the movies 🙂

    • Mission accomplished…glad we made hungry 🙂 If you haven’t been to the U.S., a trip to South Carolina is a wonderful stop to learn more about the culturally rich food. The food is divine and worth the experience. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. It has been ages since I have been in South Carolina. It is great to find restaurants who practice farm-to-table. Always great to eat foods that are fresh and in season. In all my time in the south, I never did get a taste for grits. But I would love the buttered shrimp. It was great that you visited Myrtle Beach when it was not swamped with tourists. We would love the seafood there. She Crab Soup sounded interesting.

    • If it’s been a while since you were in SC, a trip back is highly recommended. The fresh quality and farm to table practices are incredibly delicious. Myrtle Beach was a treat and the seafood was amazing. Grits grew on us and we loved the She Crab soup. Appreciate your feedback, Linda.

  8. Wow! You went all in on this one, I was not expecting such a large article about the food culture of South Carolina. Having been there many times and worked there for quite a period of time, I got to explore and eat almost every type of food offered. Miss it quite much! Loved this, thank you

    • You are most welcome, Jim. So glad you enjoyed the article. It was our first time in the state and we enjoyed learning about the food culture. There is so much history and richness to the cuisine. What dishes do you miss from South Carolina? Cheers.

    • Wow, that’s interesting to hear grits is now one of your regular breakfast dishes. How do you make it? It was our first time having grits and we were quite delighted. Indeed, the shrimp and crabs are a must in the Palmetto State. Thanks, Carol.

  9. What a sumptuous article. I have visited SC once, and am going back next Spring. Hominy Grill is definitely on my list – I love how Natalie describes the food. The heritage and the mix of cultures and histories that make up the food in the States is such a pull for me. The diversity of it is what makes it fantastic. Can’t wait to get back to SC now!

    • That’s awesome to hear Hannah. I’m guessing you are going to Charleston? If you get a chance to visit other cities, you’ll be in for a treat. Natalie was such a delight and extremely knowledgeable about Southern food. You’ll have a blast at Hominy Grill, so many delicious options to choose from. Get the shrimp and grits, one of our favorites 🙂 Cheers.

  10. I love how you talk about the connection between people and food! I’ve never even thought of it that way. Everything here is so interesting – I never really think about the history and where my food comes from….I just eat haha. But perhaps I should pay more attention in the future 🙂

    • Appreciate your feedback, Hayley. For us, going beyond simply “eating” and understanding the people and the food makes for a richer travel experience. It was a fascinating discovery on multiple levels in South Carolina, with the food being the best part about the experience. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  11. Those foods look incredible! I always love trying the local produce as well, in my experience it’s the best when you try it at the source 🙂 Thank you for sharing, I’m hungry now!

  12. I have traveled quite a bit in the US but also haven’t been to SC. I hear Stephen Colbert talk about it frequently as it is his home state and often about the BBQ but there definitely seems to be so much more to the food scene there. Later in the season also looks like a great time to visit Myrtle Beach and avoid the crowds! The seafood looks delicious and I love me a good farmers market! I also love how in each place you talked to locals and got some insight -a good highlight of your post!!

    • Thanks so much, Meggan. So glad you enjoyed the article. Like you, we had never visited South Carolina before and we were delighted to discover the food. The food scene is quite diverse and we’ll be writing more about the dishes in upcoming articles. Meeting locals at every stop made the culinary journey much richer. Hoping you get to visit SC soon. You’ll love the food. Cheers.

  13. Ummm YUM! Love eating my way through EVERY city I visit, so thanks for sharing this! I’m not a huge fan of meat myself (though I’m no vegetarian either) and I never caught onto the whole shrimp and grits thing, but that seafood in Myrtle Beach – I could go for that any way [heart eyes]!

    • That’s the beauty of the food in South Carolina. There are so many flavors and cooking styles. The seafood in Myrtle Beach and across the state is incredibly fresh. You would certainly find seafood dishes all over. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    • It was our first time having Southern food as well and it is more than dairy and fried foods. There is so much more variety and richness in the dishes and flavors. You’ll be surprised by the high-quality ingredients and farm to table movement. Really encourage you to try Southern food, again. You’ll be delighted. Thanks, Catherine.

  14. I live in Atlanta, Georgia so I’ve been to SC many times. You’re right, the food is incredible! Shrimp and grits is my favorite southern dish by far and the best shrimp and grits I ever had was in Charleston at High Cotton. But I think I might need to take a little trip to Florence to try the dish at Tubb’s! Looks amazing!

    I absolutely love this list and I’m bookmarking it for future trips!

    • That’s awesome to hear Lauryn that you get to SC often. Tubb’s was such a delight. Everything we had was so full of flavor and fresh. It is a local’s favorite and absolutely worth visiting. Do let us know when you end up going. Thanks for the tip to check out the shrimp and grits at High Cotton. Noting that for our next trip back to Charleston. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Oooh I always love seeing your posts! You travel with the most important thing in mind – food! 😀

    Everything you have posted looks fantastic, but I am really drawn to those shrimp and grits dishes. I have never tried anything like that, but it looks so, soooo good!

    After all that, do you have a favourite dish in South Carolina?

    • Thanks Josy, and truly food is the best reason to travel 🙂 It is a tough choice to have to pick just “one” favorite South Carolina dish. Everything we had was amazing and culturally rich. It’s all good. If you haven’t been to South Carolina for the food, we highly recommend going. Cheers.

  16. I am SUPER digging how Farm-to-Table and sustainability are becoming more and more the norm in the U.S! I’ve never been to South Carolina, but every single one of these restaurants seemed to make my mouth water. Even for a non-seafood-eater like myself the shrimp and grits looked delicious! Your pictures of everything are lovely and I really hope to get the chance to eat at some of these places soon!

    • Thank you so much Amanda. So glad you enjoyed the article. We were just as surprised (pleasantly) to find a huge farm-to-table movement. You truly can’t go wrong at any of the restaurants mentioned. Look out for more articles soon to guide your food travels to South Carolina. Glad you like the pictures. Cheers.


Leave a Comment

Post a Comment

We love to hear from you, so tell us what you think.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.