A Traditional Southern Thanksgiving

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A Traditional Southern Thanksgiving

By Paula Deen

I don’t mess around with Thanksgiving. It’s one of those holidays where a traditional meal really counts. Every year the family gathers in the kitchen and Jamie says grace, thankin’ the Lord for all of our many blessings. Then we pull up to a table overflowin’ with tried-and-true recipes like Aunt Peggy’s Sweet Potato Souffle, giblet gravy and my wonderful ambrosia cranberry sauce. And I don’t vary from that. I give everybody their favorites—the dishes that always deliver. In fact, I don’t recommend anybody using this holiday to pull out a brand new recipe. No surprises on Thanksgiving. Sometimes surprises work out all right, but real comfort food comes from doing what you’ve always done best.

It’s become a tradition for my friends and family to bring one special dish to our dinner table, letting them show off their cooking ability. My niece Corrie is famous for her fabulous broccoli casserole and my sister-in-law Jodi makes a delicious squash casserole. This makes my life a lot easier and I get to enjoy other people’s cooking as well. Now we sit down to a family meal that truly is a family affair.

Now, you may be thinking, “Oh, I’d never cook for you, Paula!” But people who know me best love to cook for me ‘cause they know how much I enjoy other people’s cooking. Especially homecookin’. I’m not blown away too much with hooty-tooty restaurant cooking. But I so enjoy homecookin’ because everybody has a different interpretation. You can give 10 people the same recipe for cornbread stuffing and chances are it’s gonna look different on every one of ‘em. I just love a dish made from the heart, especially when that person is so near and dear to my own.

Y’all, I believe in treating company like family and family like company—it’s a rule I live by. So I don’t expect anyone to lose sleep over bringing a dish to my Thanksgiving dinner. I’m no different than so many women out there across America. I’m not schooled; I learned from my grandmother. A lot of people come into my kitchen and they’re intimidated at first, but not once they get to know me. My favorite dishes are made by my favorite people. That’s why I think that sharing your best Thanksgiving recipe with your family is like giving them a little piece of yourself. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, there’s nothing to be more thankful for than that.

Paula’s Traditional Southern Thanksgiving:
Deep Fried Turkey
Fresh Ham
Easy Yeast Rolls
Compound Butter
Southern Cornbread Stuffing
Oyster Dressing (For Michael)
Green Beans and New Potatoes
Wayne’s Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Salad
Aunt Peggy’s Sweet Potato Souffle
Ol’ No. 7 Yams
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Giblet Gravy (A How-To article with recipe!)
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Pecan Pie

Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.

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Reader Comments:



By LaDonna Jackson on February 25, 2014


Hi Paula, I am a Big Fan of you and your son's.. I was checking out your Southern Thanksgiving Menu, and I was trying to see if there is a way to keep the meat Moist , after Carving ?

By Judy Holmes on November 05, 2012


I love all of your recipes so much! Your Southern cooking is the best smile<3 <3

By Jessica on August 31, 2012


I enjoy your cooking ideas....your "home style" "comfort food" as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving was a perfect family holiday...as young as 5 , I remember reaching onto my grandmothers dinning table to see huge bowls of corn on the cob....Mashed potatoes that reached the sky ! every color of the rainbow sat upon her table ! she cooked for about 30 people...cousins, uncles, aunts... and later in my own parents home...my mother..by herself ( never wanted us under foot LOL ) made a turkey, duck and all the trimmings....now as Mom & Dad are gone...and my daughter and I own a home with her 5 children(my grand babies ! ) and my youngest son , Michael....I do the cooking...and according to the children..we must have at least 6 of Grandmas chocolate creme cheese pies...as my oldest sons eat 1 each ! LOL it is just a joy to cook for them ! your recipes & hints help so much ! Happy Holidays Paula to you and your's..<3

By pamela on November 02, 2011



By MARYANN PATTON on October 26, 2011


Incredible. I love your comment about treating family like company and company like family. What a concept. Happy New Year Paula and family.

By ciaobello on January 03, 2011

paula i saw youll make the sweet tea pie can you post it for us thank you ann

By frances ann baker on November 27, 2010

We have no family here, so my husband and I went to Harrah’s Casino and ate at Paula Deen’s Buffet for Thanksgiving.  It was great, as usual.  I love the chargrilled oysters.  I hope you enjoyed your day with your family.  We will probably do the same for Christmas dinner.  Our family is scattered in Ga., Fla, N.C., Utah & Austrailia.  Happy belated Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!!
Love your show.

By Carole Finnell on November 26, 2010

I love all your recipes. I made a pumpkin gooey cake for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful. I have tried probably all the variations of gooey cake and each one is more delicious than the next. Last christmas we made 3 different ones in a week. Paula your the best cook on t.v. and I love your cookbooks.

By flossie skirvin on November 26, 2010

Dear Paula: I grew up with my mothers parents in house or as staying the week ends,And when we took them home to their apt a neighbor always made dinner for the whole family. She started baking on Sunday Morn,and would make 4 pies,and 4 Smotherd chickens,2 of the pies were called Chess Pies,and were so sweet.They had at least 1/2lb butter,and 13 eggs. She said this was her family favorite.And had some sugar in it,Do you have a receipe for this

By Donald L Stevenson on November 25, 2010

i wanted to send you this message ,to let you know that the pie crust recipe on the box of your baking flour is the” best”  I went exactly by the directions and it turned out to be the flak-iest homemade crust that I have ever made it was beautiful for my thanksgiving apple pie!!!! thank you so much!!!! i will always use this recipe!!!!

By susan k stewart on November 25, 2010

i have all your books and love them you are a great women for sharing your recipes with all of us. i am a pretty good cook but you give me many ideas. i must say everything i have every tried of your recipes have been great i wish you and your family a happy thanksgiving and a very merry christmas

By linda steele on November 25, 2010

Paula, I am 40 years old and have only made one Turkey in my life. Tha was because my Mom was in the hospital at the time.I was 19 or 20 then. I have never made a Thanksgiving Dinner of my own for my family!!! I just thought U might get a laugh out of that!

By Laura Harris on November 24, 2010

Hi Paula! My story is a little different. Growing up the only child of elderly parents, they were worn out by life and couldn’t care less about the holidays, although at Halloween we always had a pumpkin, and at Christmas we always had a tree. Thanksgiving wasn’t a big deal, with only 3 of us. We roasted a chicken.  Food wise, Dad was a huge fan of plain boiled beef. Take a perfectly good roast, and boil it to death - hmmm.
Anyway, I taught myself to cook, and have hosted family groups now for 35 years, and lately I have used several of your recipes. I’ve enjoyed your show, too and admire what you have done! Our group this year is down to 4, but that’s ok, I’m making my own traditional offerings for them and using my Mom’s antique dishes and my own antique pilgrims and pumpkins to decorate our table. It will start the memories, once again!
Wishing you and yours a Blessed, and Happy, Thanksgiving!

By Sharon Russell on November 24, 2010

Paula, I hope you and your Lovely Family Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

By annette kendall on November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Paula.  May you and your family have a blessed day.

By Evelyn Hurst on November 23, 2010

hiy paul I love watching your show Im; from in philippines but live in south carolina for 23 years. Ijust love watching you. you have a great family. you always have good recipes for everyone.and thank you for does recipes help me lot. for cooking I will keep watching your show and thank you againg.

By lisa taylor on November 23, 2010

hello paula i love all ur dishes for thanksgiving and my favorite is the stuffing i made it for the past three years and my oldet loves to help me make it he even tried it once. He said mom ur stuffing is really good were did u learn that and i had said that it was from paula deen. then he like whos that mom and i said she’s a great cook and shes on tv alot. she loves to cook to. i want u to know paula deen that i have been getting ur personalized items from walmart every yr for christmas. last yr i got ur 10 pieace pot n pan set and it works really great. i get ur magaizes too and keep all the recpies that are in it they are really good. well i want to let you, your staff and ur family know that i live by your great food and all ur great thoughts. i have learned alot from your tv shows and ur web site u have. have a wounderful thanksgiving paula deen and thank you again crystal

By crystal lingenfelter on November 21, 2010

i am 10 years old and my sister is 29 years old we love your show she cook what ever you cook we have all your magzines so ha i love your recipes

By jasmine on November 21, 2010


I started hosting Thanksgiving a few years ago, when my mother-in-law’s brother was very sick. I have been hosting it ever since and love it.  I love waching you cook in “your kitchen”. I cook a Ham, from your smithfield recipe with coke, pineapple, cherries, brown sugar and cloves.  The aromatics are sooo good. Everybody brings something.  Most bring several somethings.  I like traditional recipes such as my husband’s grandmother’s marinated carrots and fruit cocktail (we always had Thanksgiving at Roscoe and Lottie’s…miss that).  This year I am going to surprise my family with an Oyster stuffing, because it is what my Ma White made.  Thanksgiving to me is synonymous with tradition.

By Robbie Phillips on November 21, 2010

Somewhere, as I was “crusing” the site I read something about covering the turkey with bacon grease and just roasting it. Can I get more information on that? Salt and pepper? any other seasoning? Regular cooking time? Thanks so much. I am spending a VERY misplaced Thanksgiving in the Pacific Northwest when I am a Georgia girl and I want to share a REAL SOUTHERN Thanksgiving with our friends.

By Missy Keith on November 19, 2010

oh paula, i love your cookbooks, your food, and your show. it nice to see a piece of the south world wide. thank you for helping some of my friends. they won’t listen to me.  so thank you for helping them because they really don’t know how to cook. now can you help my mother. lol. happy holidays.

By stacy dea on November 19, 2010

Paula, my daughter and I just love you.I am originally from Augusta Ga and have been to Savannah many times. I love all the traditional food for Thanksgiving and having family.I always make my Mothers sweet potato suffle or her sweet potato pone recipe. I love all your recipes and have tried many. So Thankful for everything.

By Kay Rogers on November 18, 2010

Paula I agree with all you said about sticking to the what you know and cooking the same old favorites, I am a recipe addict. And have tried many times to change dishes from my norm. My daughter has a fit! She said no one can make dressing like my mom, well it is pretty much like yours except I take some extra turkey mean and boil it in my stock for the dressing and tear it up and put it in along with the giblets. She loves it that way, so I guess I will stick to the routine. I love the Thanksgiving holiday since it reminds me of all I have and all I have lost. And am thankful I still have plenty.

By Sheila on November 18, 2010

Tracey, try your pumpkin gooey butter cake using a spice cake mix instead of yellow.  It’s delicious!  I’ll be maing one too.

Judi H.  Alabaster, Al.

By judi947 on November 18, 2010

Ok, Mama’s Oyster Casserole was not dressing. It did not have to be anywhere near the bird.  It only had milk, crackers, oyster liquor and butter in it. And we would really scrap over it and fuss if someone took too much.  I have tried to make it but the trick I think is to get the right proportion of liquid to crackers. She only used a sleeve or so of saltines. Think she baked it at about 350 just until the oysters were bearly done and began to curl. She would serve it in a pyrex casserole. Think she just seasoned it with salt and white pepper.

By Kathy H. Webb McCrary on November 17, 2010

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