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What Are Chitlins (and Where Can You Get Them)?

What Are Chitlins (and Where Can You Get Them)?

Chitlins is a popular cuisine in the southeastern region of the United States, and it has a rich history entwined with its cultural significance. 

Once they discover what chitlins are, some might think of them as gross. While others who’ve tasted them believe they taste amazing.

Dig into this delightful dissection of the “ins” and “outs” of chitlins, and go forth enlightened. 

Let’s go!

What Are Chitlins?

Chitlins, also known as chitterlings, are a holiday special for some folks. They’re typically the large intestines of a pig. However, chitlins may also be from calf or veal.

They’re typically slow-cooked or deep-fried and served with vinegar or hot sauce. 

What Do Chitlins Taste Like?

It’s hard to describe the flavor of chitlins to someone who’s never tasted them because they’re such a unique food. Their natural flavor is pretty mild, so it has much to do with how you season them. 

The texture of chitlins is probably the more challenging part for someone with a picky palette. The consistency is frequently compared to octopus or calamari (squid), thick and rubbery. 

Chef cooking chitlins
Chitlins are a food full of historical significance.

What Is The History Of Chitlins?

Chitlins are often referred to as “soul food” in the American South, and the history of the meal reinforces the label’s significance. In the pre-Civil War era, chitlins were often a meal of necessity when slave owners didn’t provide enough food to the enslaved people.

They would take the leftover scraps of the master’s hog. This is where chitlins, hog snout, and pig’s feet were all grafted into the culinary history of black people in America. 

Over time, chitlins became more than just a sustaining meal but a signal of safety. During the Jim Crow era, musicians had a hard time finding places that were safe for them to play their music.

If a restaurant served chitlins, it signaled that the establishment was a safe place for black performers to come and show off their skills. The collection of restaurants and venues became known as the “Chitlin Circuit.” 

How Are Chitlins Cooked?

Cooking chitlins comes with a lot of preparation. They’re intestines, after all, so it’s critical to prepare and cook them properly before consumption. Always thaw them from frozen in the fridge and not at room temperature. Rinse the chitlins thoroughly until the water you soak them in is clear. Only then is it safe to begin cooking them. 

Once you’ve done all of the proper preparation, boil the chitlins, allowing them to simmer for several hours until they’re tender. You can add onions, garlic, and other seasonings to the water as you boil the chitlins to add flavor. 

Once finished boiling, you can eat them like that or cut them up for frying. Cut the chitlins into small pieces, about one inch. Dip them in egg and add breadcrumbs. Then deep fry them for several minutes, and you’re done. 

Woman picking chitlins from meat counter
Chitlins are readily available in grocery stores and butcher shops.

Where Can You Get Chitlins in the United States?

Depending on where you live, chitlins could be hard to find. However, living in the southeastern region of the US makes it much easier. You can find them at Wal-Mart in the frozen section or in the many soul food restaurants in the South.

Ordering online is a great option if you don’t live in an area where they’re readily available. You may also be able to find a specialty butcher that would help you out too. 

Are Chitlins Served In Other Countries?

Chitlins aren’t just part of the United States food culture. Caribbean and Latin American peoples use them as the main ingredient in a traditional stew called mondongo. The French also enjoy chitlins, but they call them les tricandilles. French chitterlings are typically grilled to a crisp or used as the casing for a sausage blend. 

Pro Tip: Feeling hungry? Head to one of these Best Places to Get Chicken and Waffles in the USA.

Plate of southern food
Chitlins are one of many southern cuisine staples.

What Are Other Foods You Can Order In The South?

Southern soul food is all about comfort from the belly up. If you don’t find yourself interested in chewing on some pig intestines, here are a few other southern foods that might please your palette. 

Collard Greens

Collard greens are just cooked greens, but the spices added during the brewing process make all the difference. They’re also quite healthy, as they’re a rich source of calcium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. 

Grits

Grits are made from ground corn, and different regions of the US tend to prepare them in different ways. In the South, grits are served with lots of butter, and cheese is always an option. In the north, grits are served with butter and sugar. 

Fried Chicken

Unlike chitlins, almost everyone loves fried chicken. And there’s no chicken like southern fried chicken. The right batter can change the whole meal, and the South knows how to whip up a tasty fried chicken batter. 

Pit BBQ

Pit BBQ, whether it be pork, chicken, or beef, is certainly a southern specialty. If you’re a meat eater, the slow-cooked, smokey flavor of some good southern pit BBQ is the stuff that dreams are made of. 

Pro Tip: Love BBQ? We found The Best BBQ in Nashville for Your Next RV Road Trip.

Cornbread

Cornbread is a southern classic. If you grew up in the South, you remember your granny making cornbread for lunch after church on Sundays. 

Peach Cobbler

Fresh peaches poured into grandmama’s special peach cobbler recipe will send you into pure olfactory bliss. This southern specialty not only tastes divine, but its smell will fill your whole house with indulgence. 

Banana Pudding

Sweet, vanilla-flavored custard, soft wafer cookies, fresh banana slices, and some whipped cream on top make for the perfect banana pudding. The best treat of all is that it’s even better after it’s been in the fridge for a day or two. 

Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is an iconic staple of the southern United States. Many other places in the US require that you add your own sugar, should you want your tea to be a bit sweeter, but not the South. Here, all the tea is sweet! You have to specify if you want unsweetened tea. 

Next Time You Travel To The South, Try The Chitlins

Next time you have the opportunity to explore the South, don’t overlook the diverse cuisine options. Take the chance to be brave, and try something new. Chitlins may sound pretty odd, but they may also turn out to be one of your favorite dishes. You’ll never know if you don’t try! 

Have you eaten chitlins? Tell us how much you loved them in the comments!

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