The Best Local Lowcountry Recipes to Try at Home
4 Traditional South Carolina Recipes Using Local Ingredients
Lowcountry cuisine is just as rich in history as it is in flavor. With influences from West African cultures and French immigrants who resided in the area, Lowcountry fare is a combination of local ingredients with a variety of international cooking styles.
From its start, Lowcountry cooking was heavily influenced by enslaved West Africans who farmed rice plantations in the 17th century. Throughout the centuries, their traditions and cuisine have been passed down to their ancestors, known as the Gullah Geechee people, and have continued to play a significant role in the area’s culture.
The geographic location of South Carolina also plays an important role in the ingredients used in its meals. The Lowcountry’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean provides an abundance of local seafood including fish, shrimp, and oysters. Lowcountry marshes are also ideal for growing rice, which has been called “Carolina Gold.” As a result, many Lowcountry recipes commonly include a combination of rice, fresh seafood, and local vegetables.
Continue reading to discover traditional South Carolina recipes to try at home to honor those who have contributed to the culture seen across the Lowcountry today.
1. Gullah Red Rice
The Gullah people are a tight-knit community who still reside in the Lowcountry today and have had an enduring influence on Lowcountry culture. Gullah Red Rice is one of the most delicious and well-known Gullah recipes, containing staple ingredients such as rice and sausage.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound sausage cut into bite sized pieces
2 onions, diced
6 tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup long grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the sausage and cook until browned, then remove from the pot and set aside.
- Add the onions and tomatoes to the pot and saute until the onions are translucent.
- Stir in the water, rice, salt and chili powder. Add the meat, stirring at medium high heat until mixture comes to a boil.
- Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
2. Charleston Shrimp and Grits
Charleston Shrimp and Grits is one of the most well-known traditional South Carolina recipes. You can find this beloved dish on the menu of most Lowcountry restaurants, including the Jasmine Porch on Kiawah Island, with each chef taking their own spin on the traditional meal.
Fishermen initially made the popular cuisine as a convenient meal every morning, calling it “breakfast grits.” These fishermen would boil grits in seawater with shrimp and eat this simple meal to begin their day. Over time, the meal has since evolved into more elaborate dishes, commonly featuring sausage, bacon, cheese, and peppers.
3 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup coarsely ground grits
2 cups half-and-half
2 pounds uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon oregano
1 lemon, juiced
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 slices bacon
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt to taste
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water with 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil. Whisk grits into the boiling water, and then whisk in half-and-half. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes, or until grits are thickened and tender. Set aside and keep warm.
- Season shrimp with salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, and oregano. Add lemon juice, toss to combine, and set aside to marinate.
- Place sausage slices in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Remove sausage from the skillet.
- Add bacon to the same skillet and increase heat to medium-high. Cook about 5 minutes per side, or until evenly browned. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, then chop or crumble once cooled. Leave bacon grease in the skillet.
- Add bell peppers, onion, and garlic to the bacon grease; saute for about 8 minutes.
- Add cooked sausage and marinated shrimp into the skillet with the cooked vegetables. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and stir. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until mixture is golden in color.
- Pour the mixture over the sausage, shrimp, and vegetables. Place the skillet over medium heat, add chicken broth, bacon, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir to combine. Cook until sauce thickens up and shrimp turn pink, about 8 minutes.
- Just before serving, mix sharp cheddar cheese into grits until melted and grits are creamy. Serve shrimp mixture over cheese grits.
3. Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese, also known as “Carolina caviar,” is a staple dip in the South that is commonly served as an appetizer with chips or as a topping to sandwiches. Plus, it’s very easy to make with minimal ingredients and just a few simple steps. Whip this up before your next dinner party to impress your guests.
16 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
A 4-ounce jar of diced pimentos drained (reserve 1 tablespoon of juice)
1 cup of Duke’s mayonnaise
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- In a medium sized bowl, mix all ingredients together.
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Serve as a dip with crackers, celery, and chips or as a topping to a burger or sandwich.
4. Frogmore Stew
Perfect for large gatherings, Frogmore Stew is a traditional Lowcountry meal originating just south of Kiawah in the coastal town of St. Helena Island. The dish, sometimes referred to as “Lowcountry Boil’ or “Tidewater Boil,” uses fresh seafood and local ingredients to create a shrimp boil. We recommend serving this meal over newspaper (with an ice cold beer on the side) for a casual cookout with friends and family.
15 petite Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled
4 ears of fresh corn, shucked, silk removed and broken into 2-inch pieces
1 (16-ounce) package smoked sausage, cut into one-inch pieces, browned and then drained
3 pounds of large fresh shrimp, in shells
3 cans of beer
5 quarts of water
1/2 cup of Old Bay seasoning
Tabasco sauce to taste
- In a large pot, mix beer and water and season with Old Bay seasoning and Tabasco.
- Bring to a boil and add the potatoes.
- Simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Add the corn and sausage and cook for about 5 more minutes.
- Add the shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes, or pink.
- Strain the liquid out.
- Serve with lemon slices and cocktail sauce.
Discover Traditional South Carolina Recipes on Kiawah Island
If you’re not in the mood to cook, Kiawah Island has a variety of dining options serving delicious dishes made with fresh Lowcountry ingredients. Additionally, Members of the Kiawah Island Club have exclusive access to restaurants led by award-winning chefs, each showcasing a unique take on traditional South Carolina recipes.
To learn more about Kiawah Island dining, as well the other state-of-the-art amenities offered here, we invite you to see the Island for yourself. Contact us via the button below to inquire about visiting.