Southern Hush Puppies are deceptively delicious bites of slightly sweetened cornmeal batter flavored with a little onion and fried until golden and crisp on the outside and fluffy and light on the inside. They are a must for your fish fry and make a fantastic appetizer or side dish for almost any meal!

If you love Southern food, be sure to try our Collard Greens, Biscuits and Gravy, Southern Fried Chicken, and Southern Tomato Pie!

An image of deep fried balls of cornmeal dough known as hush puppies in the South.

These tasty little morsels are popular throughout the South so I'm including them here as part of my American Eats series for both Arkansas and Mississippi because they are definitely an iconic food enjoyed in both states as well as others. You'll find them at BBQ joints and fish fries listed along with coleslaw, baked beans, mac & cheese, and all the other delicious sides!

What are hush puppies?

Hush puppy recipes vary from place to place, but all use the same basic cornmeal batter with a few tweaks here and there like the addition of sugar for a slight sweetness (definitely my favorite approach) and a little cayenne pepper for flavor, but not really heat. Some even add cheese or finely diced jalapeno pepper to the batter, which is another fun variation.

You'll often see them at restaurants served as an appetizer or side dish, and hush puppies and fried catfish or shrimp are so iconic that they are like meat & potatoes or PB&J. Their association with fish fries happened naturally since it made sense to use cornmeal already being used to dust the fish and make it into a batter to fry in the same oil as the fish.

The inside of fried southern hush puppies.

Hush Puppies History

I love the lore surrounding hush puppies. Southerners are known for being storytellers and for such a whimsically named food, it's fun to know the creative legends behind it, even if they might be total fiction! Almost all of the stories have the same theme though: fried balls of thick cornmeal dough were used to quiet barking dogs.

The most colorful story dates back to the Civil War, where it is said that Confederate soldiers would toss fried cornmeal cakes to yapping dogs to keep them quiet if Yankee soldiers were approaching.

Another explanation is that a cook was frying up a batch of catfish and croquettes while being pestered by some kids and dogs who were in the kitchen. So to keep them quiet, she gave them the croquettes and told them to "hush, puppies!" and the name stuck.

An even older version is that hush puppies were invented in the early 1700's by nuns from France who came to Louisiana and started making French croquettes with cornmeal, which they called "croquettes de maise". This origin story doesn't account for the fanciful name, but it seems like a likely beginning to the food itself.

Regardless of the genesis of hush puppies, they are part of a long legacy of Southern corn dishes like cornbread, corn pone, griddle cakes, and corn dodgers. If you are interested in a more scholarly approach to the history of the hush puppies, check out this post by Serious Eats, which mentions a couple other stories.

Ingredient Notes

This is a quick overview of some of the important ingredients you'll need for this hush puppy recipe. Specific measurements and full recipe instructions are in the printable recipe card below.

  • Cornmeal: We like to use yellow cornmeal, but white cornmeal can also be used.
  • Buttermilk: The rich tang of buttermilk lends flavor and moisture to the batter but if you don't have any on hand you can get away with regular milk. Or make your own buttermilk by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar to your measuring cup and fill it the rest of the way with milk. Wait five minutes, then use this as an excellent buttermilk substitute.
  • Grated onion: You could leave this ingredient out without affecting the batter at all, but I love the unique savory element it adds to what would otherwise be pretty standard cornmeal dough. Grating the onion actually releases onion juices that help flavor the batter more than just chopping or mincing does. It's what really makes these the best hush puppies out of any I have tried.
  • Spice: I love the addition of a little cayenne pepper for dimension without heat, but paprika or Cajun or Creole seasoning could also be used instead.
Hush Puppies ingredients on a white surface.

How to Make Hush Puppies

The batter for this Southern hush puppies recipe is simple to throw together. But frying can be intimidating for many, so I'm sharing my best tips for getting delicious hush puppies your very first time.

To start, combine all of the dry ingredients - cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cayenne pepper - in a large bowl. Whisk or stir well to evenly disperse everything so you don't end up with lumps of baking powder or pockets of cayenne pepper in your hush puppies.

In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg, then add that along with the grated onion and its juices to the dry ingredients and stir just until everything is evenly combined.

Heat enough oil to fill a large cast iron skillet or Dutch by about 2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 365°F on a digital thermometer.

Drop 1-2 tablespoonfuls of batter into the hot oil, being careful to avoid splatter. I find that it works best to use two spoons for this. Use the first spoon to scoop and the second spoon to scrape the batter off rather than just plopping the batter into the oil. They tend to break apart less and have a better shape this way.

Fry for 2-3 minutes total, turning the hush puppies partway through with a slotted metal spatula so they brown evenly on both sides. When they are done, transfer to a wire rack set over paper towels to drain. This helps them stay more crisp on the outside rather than steaming on the pan.

Repeat with the remaining batter until it has all been used and you have roughly 18-22 hush puppies.

Recipe FAQ's

What do you eat hush puppies with?

Besides fried catfish, shrimp, chicken, crab cakes, or bbq, you might want to serve a dipping sauce for you hush puppies. We like honey or ranch, but ketchup, tartar sauce, remoulade sauce, or Outback sauce are all great options that go well with the savory-sweet fried cornmeal dough.

What is the difference between a fritter and a hush puppy?

In my experience, a fritter is any kind of fried dough and is typically is made with a white flour batter, often with things like corn kernels, zucchini, or other ingredients mixed in. Hush puppy batter, on the other hand, is made with cornmeal, which gives it an extra textural and flavor element that sets it apart.

What is the best oil for frying hush puppies?

When it comes to frying, peanut oil is my favorite choice. It has a high smoke point and good flavor. But vegetable oil is another good option that is typically less expensive.

Storage Instructions & Reheating

Hush puppies are best eaten warm soon after they are made, but you can keep cooked hush puppies warm in a 200°F oven on a wire rack set over a baking sheet for 30 minutes or so if you make them before dinner is quite ready.

  • How to store: Leftover hush puppies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days or in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  • How to freeze: Arrange cooked hush puppies in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 1-2 hours, then transfer to a resealable airtight container for longer term storage up to 3 months.
  • Reheating: First, thaw if frozen. Then reheat in the air fryer or oven for best results. You can also use the microwave to reheat a few at a time. If you have an air fryer, hush puppies reheat really well by popping them in for 3-4 minutes to crisp up the outsides and taste almost as good as when they are fresh.

Recipe Tips

  • Don't overmix the batter. The process of making hush puppy batter is the same as pancakes or cornbread. You whisk together dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then stir the wet into the dry by hand just until combined. Overmixing can lead to tough, dense results, instead of the tender-chewy light balls that we are aiming for.
  • Work in batches so you don't crowd the pan. Use a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to easily fry your hush puppies in batches rather than cooking them all at once.
  • Use two spoons to push the batter into the hot oil to cook. Just dropping the batter in with one spoon tends to make the batter to break up when it hits the oil. Using one spoon to scrape the batter off in one ball works better.
  • Control the oil temperature. Use a good digital thermometer to maintain the oil temp right around 365 degrees F, although anywhere between 350°F and 375°F will work. At lower temperatures, fried food absorbs more oil and takes longer to cook, while higher temperatures result in the outside burning before the inside is done.
A plate of golden brown hush puppies with ranch dipping sauce.

More Great Breads To Serve With Dinner

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Southern Hush Puppies

4.82 from 11 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 6 mins
Total Time 16 mins
Course Uncategorized
Cuisine American
Servings 6 -8 servings
Southern Hush Puppies are deceptively delicious bites of slightly sweetened cornmeal batter flavored with a little onion and fried until crisp on the outside and fluffy and light on the inside. They make a fantastic appetizer or side dish for almost any meal!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup cornmeal (138g)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour, scooped & leveled (71g)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (25g)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup buttermilk (169g)
  • ½ small onion, grated (about ¼ to ⅓ cup)
  • Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions
 

  • Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large mixing bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, and buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients along with the grated onion and its juices, stirring until combined.
  • Heat 2 inches of oil over medium-high heat in a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven until it reaches 375°F on a digital thermometer. When hot, carefully use two spoons to drop tablespoonfuls of batter into the hot oil, using the back of one spoon to push the batter in one at a time. Work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Fry for 2-3 minutes, turning partway through with a wire spatula, until the hush puppies are golden brown.
  • Remove the hush puppies from the oil and transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Keep an eye on the oil temperature while frying so that it stays consistent, adjusting the heat up or down as necessary.

Notes

  • How to store: Leftover hush puppies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days or in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  • How to freeze: Arrange cooked hush puppies in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 1-2 hours, then transfer to a resealable airtight container for longer term storage up to 3 months.
  • Reheating: First, thaw if frozen. Then reheat in the air fryer or oven for best results. You can also use the microwave to reheat a few at a time. If you have an air fryer, hush puppies reheat really well by popping them in for 3-4 minutes to crisp up the outsides and taste almost as good as when they are fresh.
  • Control the oil temperature. Use a good digital thermometer to maintain the oil temp right around 365 degrees F, although anywhere between 350°F and 375°F will work.  At lower temperatures, fried food absorbs more oil and takes longer to cook, while higher temperatures result in the outside burning before the inside is done.

Nutrition

Calories: 189kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 343mg | Potassium: 162mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 124IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 103mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

This post was originally published in September, 2018. The photos and content were updated in March, 2022.

More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series

Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa • KansasKentuckyLouisiana • MaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMontanaNew YorkOregonPuerto RicoSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTexasUtahWisconsin

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. Just made these with pickled jalapenos instead of onions. These were the best ever.

  2. Quick question from Australia - when using 'corn meal', ought I substitute corn flour or polenta? Thinking to chucking together a Southern feast for my kids Godmother who grew up southern belle. 😊

    1. My understanding is that what we call cornmeal in the states is referred to commonly as polenta in Australia. 🙂

    2. Polenta is definitely not the same as corn meal. Polenta is ground much finer, similar to the masa harina we make tortillas with. Corn meal is coarser, and what we use for corn bread. Not sure if you can get it Down Under. Good luck!

  3. Most compliments I’ve ever had from our homemade hush puppies! Took them to an oyster roast recently. I added some of Trader Joe’s frozen roasted corn. Thanks for the recipe! 

  4. Great recipe used a buttermilk substitute ( teaspoon of white vinegar mixed with reg milk) all 12 were gone in a flash

  5. Geeat recipe (used a milk mixed with 1 tsp of vinegar as buttermilk substitute) These didn't last long .request was made to make more than 12 next time.Oh instead of grated onion put mine through food processor

  6. Dip your hush puppies in cheese dip like at Leon’s Catfish & Sheimp in Pine Bluff Arkansas!!  It will change your world!!