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Why the Hell are they Called Hushpuppies?

If you were creating a list of odd food names, hushpuppies would be probably at the top. Contrary to their name, you don’t have to be quiet when you eat them, and no puppies get harmed in making them. 

You’ve likely grown accustomed to their name and may not even think twice about it when ordering them. However, many inquisitive minds wonder how they came to get such a funny name. 

Join us as we learn all about these popular treats, including some unique variations that surprised us.

Let’s dig in!

What Are Hushpuppies?

Hushpuppies are a delicious treat made from a mixture of yellow cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, buttermilk, and eggs. You can commonly find them at fish fries and seafood establishments. They’re popular in the southern region of the United States. However, you’re missing out if you’ve never tasted their deliciousness.

Cooked in a pan with oil, hushpuppies are quick to make on your own. Let the cornmeal batter fry until the outside is golden brown and crisp, but the inside remains chewy and tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan and place them on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil. Once cool enough, pop them in your mouth and enjoy.

Why Are They Called Hushpuppies?

Like so many food items, there are many explanations for why they’re called hushpuppies. There’s no shortage of stories about how they got the name. However, as you can imagine, many involve people telling dogs to be quiet.

One of the most common explanations involves a group of fishermen wanting to keep their dogs quiet while they fished. As the story goes, they cooked up some dough and fed it to the dogs to stop them from barking. Over time, many variations of this story lead to naming these treats as we know them today.

Some of the variations even date back to the Civil War. The legend states that Confederate soldiers gave their yapping dogs fried cornmeal to keep them quiet to avoid detection by the Union troops. The dogs chowed down on the fried dough, and the Confederate soldiers lived to fight another day.

A few stories of how hushpuppies got their name even include nuns and lizards. We’ll save those for another day! However, the bread was held in such high esteem and considered a luxury for so long that it likely wasn’t used to silence whining dogs. It’s more likely that the term reflected the food’s ability to silence the growls in a hungry person’s stomach.

Hushpuppies on a tray
Fried cornmeal balls make for the perfect snack.

What Do You Eat Hushpuppies With?

It’s best to eat hushpuppies when they’re warm. This provides an incredibly savory and sweet taste with the slightest hint of spice. The crisp golden brown exterior offers a bit of crunch on the outside, while the warm, flaky interior is soft and delicious. 

It’s common to see hushpuppies served as a side at barbecue and seafood restaurants. They often accompany pinto beans, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and collard greens. However, one of the most popular combinations is to eat hushpuppies with coleslaw. 

Some Southern fast-food restaurants will serve them alongside burgers and hot dogs. Wash it down with a glass of sweet tea, and you’ve got a real Southern dining experience.

Are There Many Varieties of Hushpuppies?

As hushpuppies have become wildly popular, especially throughout the South, chefs have put unique spins on them. In addition to the traditional hushpuppy, you can find variations, including shrimp and okra, crab cake, and even hushpuppy muffins. Since the muffins are baked instead of fried, it delivers a similar experience but is probably much healthier!

Some regions of the South put their twist on this bread. For example, in Mississippi, they often substitute the milk in the recipe with beer. Many find this creates a unique flavor in hushpuppies that’s a bit lighter and slightly tangier than the standard recipe.

However, one unique recipe calls for using apple cider vinegar. It’s the perfect hushpuppy for the fall season and is more of a dessert treat than a side dish. They’re very similar to the taste and texture of apple fritter but with the ball shape of a hushpuppy.

Pro Tip: We found The Best BBQ in Texas to fill you up for your Texas adventures.

Hush puppies
Hushpuppies are a southern food staple.

What Is the Hushpuppy Championship?

Some people take their hushpuppies very seriously. In fact, the Southern Hushpuppy Championship has been taking place for more than 50 years. Not only does the winner of the best hushpuppy win a trophy, but the first-place team walks away with $1,000. In addition, second place wins $500, and third place gets $250. 

The championship occurs every September at the Texas State Forest Festival in Lufkin, Texas. Teams of four enter to compete against each other and show off their hushpuppy cooking skills. However, judges pick a winner based on more than just taste. They use a detailed point system to rate the uniqueness and appearance, and overall flavor.

Contestants must prepare their hushpuppies according to a theme. The theme must be consistent in the presentation of the hushpuppies and costumes worn by the participants. It’s a fun and exciting event you should experience if you’re in the area.

What Are Caribbean Hushpuppies?

While many think of hushpuppies as a food popular in the southern part of the United States, it’s also an international food. You can find Jamaican and Puerto Rican recipes for hushpuppies. The Jamaican version is a festival bread in the shape of a hotdog and deep-fried. These unique-shaped hushpuppies often come as a side for jerk pork or chicken.

The Puerto Rican variety is similar to the Jamaican style but is shorter and thicker. However, this version takes a slightly different twist and includes sugar and parmesan cheese in the cornmeal mixture. Jamaicans often stuff their hushpuppies with melted cheese or guava-based cream cheese. Then, they finish them with powdered sugar and serve them with hot coffee.

Pro Tip: Gran a hushpuppy alongside these other 10 Texas Food Staples.

A Tasty Treat

Hopefully, you can see that hushpuppies are much more versatile than many people give them credit for. However, hushpuppies are one food your tastebuds will surely appreciate, whether at a contest or a fish fry. But, be careful; you’ll likely have trouble stopping at just one.

Have you tried any of the hushpuppy variations we mentioned? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

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