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What is a deep-fried cornmeal ball from the south?

A deep-fried cornmeal ball from the south is a delicious fried food that is a staple in Southern cuisine. It goes by many different names like hushpuppy, fried cornbread ball, corn dodger, and mealy ball. No matter what you call it, this savory snack has a crisp, golden exterior and a moist, fluffy interior. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly a deep-fried cornmeal ball is and its origins in Southern cooking.

What is Cornmeal?

Cornmeal is dried corn that has been ground into a flour. There are different grinds such as fine, medium, and coarse. Cornmeal can be yellow, white or blue depending on the variety of corn. Yellow cornmeal has a richer corn flavor while white cornmeal is more neutral. Blue cornmeal adds a pretty bluish-purple hue. Cornmeal is used commonly in Southern cooking to make fried foods like hushpuppies, cornbread, and cornbread muffins. It can also be used in other dishes like mush, polenta, and corn pones. When mixed with buttermilk and eggs then deep fried, cornmeal makes a flavorful fritter known as a hushpuppy.

Origin of the Name Hushpuppy

There are a few theories on the interesting name of these fried cornmeal balls. One claim is that Southern cooks would fry up little bits of leftover cornbread batter to appease whining dogs and keep them quiet, or “hush.” Another theory is that the balls of fried cornbread batter were tossed to dogs to “hush the puppies.” The name might also come from the deep fried food’s small, compact shape being similar to a fried puppy. While their exact naming origin is debatable, it’s clear these bite-size corn fritters have long been a part of Southern cooking.

History of Hushpuppies in the South

Hushpuppies have a long history in the American South. Cornmeal-based fried foods were likely brought over by Native American tribes in the region such as the Cherokee and Choctaw who grew corn. African slaves also incorporated their own cornmeal recipes into Southern cuisine. Hushpuppies were commonly served alongside fried fish and other seafood. They were easy to make from basic cornmeal and subtle enough to let the flavors of the fish shine.

What Goes Into Making Hushpuppies?

While recipes can vary slightly, the basic ingredients for hushpuppies are:


Usually yellow cornmeal, but white or blue can also be used. The grind can be fine, medium or coarse.


A small amount of flour helps bind the batter. All-purpose or self-rising flour are common options.

Eggs and Buttermilk

Eggs and buttermilk add moisture, richness, and leavening to help the fritters puff up when fried.


Minced onion adds a savory element and crunch. Some recipes also add garlic.

Baking Powder

For light and fluffy hushpuppies, baking powder helps them rise when fried.


Salt seasons the batter and enhances all the flavors.


Freshly ground black pepper brings another layer of seasoning.

Herbs and Spices

Parsley, chives, thyme, paprika and cayenne are examples of herbs that provide additional flavor.

How Are Hushpuppies Made?

Making hushpuppies involves just a few simple steps:

1. Mix together the dry ingredients – cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and any spices or herbs.

2. Whisk together the wet ingredients – eggs, buttermilk, onions, and salt & pepper.

3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients gently. Don’t overmix – lumps are okay!

4. Let the batter rest for 10-15 minutes. This allows the cornmeal to hydrate and the baking powder to react.

5. Scoop tablespoon-sized portions and drop into hot oil around 375°F.

6. Fry 3-5 minutes until golden brown, flipping once. Drain on paper towels.

7. Serve hot and enjoy! They are best fresh from the fryer.

What Do Hushpuppies Taste Like?

A properly made hushpuppy has a magical taste and texture. The exterior is crunchy and golden brown with a mostly smooth surface. Biting into a hushpuppy reveals a pillowy, almost cake-like interior. The cornmeal and onion provide a robust, earthy flavor. Notes of buttermilk and eggs give it richness. Overall, hushpuppies strike a satisfying balance of crispiness outside and fluffiness inside with a hearty, subtly sweet corn taste.

What are Some Popular Ways to Eat Hushpuppies?

There are many delicious ways to enjoy hushpuppies:

– As a side with fried fish – This classic Southern dinner pairing can’t be beat! The hushpuppies help soak up any extra juices or tartar sauce.

– Added to seafood stews or gumbos – Let the hushpuppies soak up the rich flavors of the stew.

– Served with BBQ like brisket or pulled pork – The sweet and tangy BBQ sauce complements the fried corn fritters perfectly.

– As an appetizer topped with softened butter, honey butter or pimento cheese – Fried hushpuppies really shine with a creamy, rich topping.

– In a breakfast sandwich with fried eggs and bacon or sausage

– Crumble into chili or vegetable soup for extra corn flavor and crunch

– With fried chicken to complete a Southern feast

Where to Find the Best Hushpuppies

Some top spots to find exemplary hushpuppies include:

Restaurant Location
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room Savannah, GA
Husk Charleston, SC
The Loveless Cafe Nashville, TN
Doe’s Eat Place Multiple Locations
Duke’s Seafood Restaurant Multiple Locations

Of course, the secret is often finding that hole-in-the-wall Southern seafood shack that perfects the hushpuppy. Home cooks can also whip up excellent hushpuppies by following traditional recipes and methods like frying in peanut oil.

Key Tips for Making the Best Hushpuppies

Here are some top tips for achieving hushpuppy perfection:

– Use stone ground cornmeal for the richest flavor

– Allow the batter to rest before frying so the baking powder reacts

– Fry at the right temperature, around 375°F, for maximum crispness

– Fry in small batches to maintain oil temperature

– Resist the urge to overmix the batter

– Flavor boosters like minced onion, garlic, herbs, or grated cheese make them even more savory

– The fresher they are from the oil, the better they taste. Eat immediately!

– Round ball shape helps achieve optimum crispy outside to fluffy interior balance

Can Hushpuppies Be Baked Instead of Fried?

Frying achieves the signature crispy exterior of a hushpuppy. However, a baked version can be healthier. To bake hushpuppies:

– Use baking powder and buttermilk for optimal rise

– Scoop batter into greased muffin tin wells

– Brush the tops with oil or melted butter

– Bake at 400°F for 18-22 minutes

Baked hushpuppies won’t have quite the same crunchy fried texture but can still be delicious. Letting them cool for 5 minutes helps firm them up before removing from the pan.

Storing and Reheating Leftover Hushpuppies

Like many fried foods, hushpuppies are best fresh and hot. However, properly stored leftovers can still have decent flavor and texture.

To store leftover hushpuppies:

– Allow to cool completely after frying

– Place in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag

– Refrigerate for 3-4 days maximum

To reheat:

– Preheat oven to 300°F

– Arrange hushpuppies in a single layer on a baking sheet

– Warm in the oven for 8-10 minutes until heated through and slightly crispy

Microwaving is not recommended, as it will lead to a soft, mushy texture. Oven reheating helps revive that satisfying crunch.

Fun Variations to Try

The basic hushpuppy is delicious, but some fun tweaks include:

– jalapenos and cheddar for spice and gooey cheese

– bacon and chives for a breakfast twist

– shrimp or crab meat for extra seafood flavor

– corn and green onion for fresh color and flavor

– pimiento cheese filling transformed into hushpuppy balls

– chopped serrano peppers and cilantro for a Southwest style

– swapping out white cornmeal for blue cornmeal for pretty purple hushpuppies

Let your imagination run wild when dreaming up new hushpuppy varieties! Just maintain the proper ratio of moist to dry ingredients.

Are Hushpuppies Healthy?

While hushpuppies are not the prototypical “health food,” they can be enjoyed sensibly as part of an overall balanced diet. Some ways to lighten them up:

– Use whole grain cornmeal instead of degerminated

– Substitute Greek yogurt or buttermilk for some of the eggs

– Mix in chopped vegetables like onions, peppers, zucchini

– Bake or air fry instead of deep frying

– Portion into tablespoon sized balls to control serving size

– Avoid adding sugar or topping with sugary sauces

Ultimately, hushpuppies are a high-fat, high-calorie indulgence. But consumed occasionally and in moderation, they can have a place in healthy eating patterns.

Cultural Significance of Hushpuppies in the South

Humble hushpuppies hold an important place in Southern history and tradition. Cornmeal-based recipes arrived with Native Americans and West Africans. Frying in pork fat made them economical for slaves and sharecroppers. Serving them with fried fish let Southern cooks stretch expensive seafood. They also store and travel well, making them a staple at church fish fries, family reunions, potlucks, and outdoor picnics. In many ways, the story of hushpuppies represents the story of the South itself.


A deep-fried cornmeal ball from the South, known lovingly as a hushpuppy, is quite simply a delicious bite of history. Crisp and golden brown on the outside and soft and fluffy within, this appetizing fritter boasts a signature corn flavor with a hint of buttermilk richness. Though they are a high-fat indulgence, they hold a special place in Southern cuisine and tradition. Hushpuppies are best served hot alongside fish, but they make a tasty accompaniment to all kinds of Southern comfort foods. With a basic recipe that’s endlessly adaptable, cooks can experiment with new hushpuppy varieties while always remaining anchored to their humble roots and origins. So next time you visit the South, be sure to get an authentic taste of this irresistible regional specialty.