Food in South Carolina is a big deal. Whether you live here, want to visit, or are thinking about moving here, we’d like to introduce you to some of the amazing food cultures in our state. Let’s answer the burning question, “What food is SC known for?”
From official South Carolina state food to iconic culinary symbols of our various regions, let’s take a tour of the foods you’ll want to eat while you’re here. We’ll also give you the lowdown on festivals related to these famous foods of South Carolina.
A heavenly pot of SC boiled peanuts almost ready to eat.
One of the most popular South Carolina food items is boiled peanuts, also called, “the caviar of the South.” Yes, boiled peanuts are eaten wet, and if you are used to roasted peanuts, this concept may seem bizarre. But trust us, before you reject this idea out of hand, give us a moment to explain.
Peanuts are legumes, like other beans. They are not tree nuts. So you are not eating “soggy nuts.” Boiled peanuts are boiled in a brine solution (while in their shells) and have the consistency of other boiled beans. But the saltiness and flavor make them truly addictive.
Boiled peanuts are the official South Carolina state food snack. So if you come, you’ll definitely want to give them a try. Want to try out making your own? Here is a boiled peanut recipe to check out. Or, visit the Boiled Peanut festival in Bluffton, SC toward the end of September to get a true taste of one of our favorite South Carolina foods.
Carolina Reaper peppers are some of the hottest peppers in the world.
Now we have to admit, this pepper is not for everyone. But a list of South Carolina famous food isn’t complete without it. South Carolina is the place to introduce you to our well-known Carolina Reaper pepper. It is an experience you are sure never to forget.
The Carolina Reaper was on the throne as the hottest pepper in the world with a typical heat level of 1.8 million Scoville Heat Units until the Komodo Dragon Pepper hit the scene in 2015.
A tasty pot of South Carolina chicken bog.
For something a whole lot saner in the South Carolina famous food list, we opt for Lowcountry chicken bog.
What is chicken bog, you may ask? It’s a delicious one-pot dish made with rice, whole chicken, and smoked sausage with plenty of salt and pepper that is slow-cooked for hours. (The bones are removed after cooking.) In some places, it’s rather fluffy, but in others, it’s a lot more "bog-like" and liquidy. Hence the name: bog.
Locals in different regions of South Carolina all have their favorite chicken bog recipe. Towards Charleston, it is spicier and soupier. Toward the Dillon area, it’s not as watery and doesn’t have quite as much black pepper.
For the most authentic chicken bog imaginable, visit the Loris Bog-Off in October annually — the Lowcountry. Taste for yourself and see which ones are your favorites. The festival has entertainment, plenty of food, and fun for everyone.
Lowcountry boil ready for serving on the table.
Frogmore Stew/Lowcountry Boil
Another tasty dish to try is Frogmore stew in South Carolina. What is Frogmore stew? It’s a number of meats and veggies boiled together with Old Bay seasoning like shrimp, crab, sausage, corn, and new potatoes. Often, a huge pot of it is strained and then all the food is dumped out on a tablecloth and everyone just digs in.
Why is it called Frogmore stew? Well, this dish originated in an area of St Helena Island called, Frogmore. Not too far from Hilton Head Island and Charleston. What’s the difference between Frogmore stew and Lowcountry boil? Nothing. It’s the same thing. This savory masterpiece can also be called Beaufort boil, tidewater boil, or even Carolina One-Pot, for obvious reasons.
Of course, you can find a different Frogmore stew recipe in various places in the Lowcountry. Some people like it with some cocktail sauce mixed in. And for a great addition, be sure to have some hushpuppies or macaroni salad along with it.
We’ve got even more Lowcountry food festivals in SC: BBQ, soft shell crab, oysters, Beaufort shrimp, rice, and more — check them out here.
A bowl of raw South Carolina okra in all its fuzzy glory.
Okra is a big crop here in South Carolina. You’ll find stewed okra and tomatoes at a lot of local restaurants in the area. As well as delicious fried okra.
One of the best festivals in the Columbia area each year is the Irmo Okra Strut in Irmo, SC. You can find okra made in every possible way.
But you don’t have to be a fan of eating okra to enjoy this event. There’s also plenty of other food, a big street dance Friday night, a parade Saturday morning, entertainment, and all kinds of fun things to do.
A word of warning, if you opt for boiled okra, it is a bit slimy and stringy. If you don’t like that, try fried okra. It’s amazing and always a big favorite, even for people who don’t like veggies.
This festival is usually held the last weekend of September and is a fantastic way to celebrate the end of summer.
Sweet South Carolina peaches on a tree almost ripe for picking.
Another state food of South Carolina you’ve got to try is the peach. Peach season in SC is in the summer (from May to August) when the fruit is ripe and ready for harvest. You can find fresh peaches on roadside stands and in our farmers' markets around the state all summer.
Because the peach is the state fruit of SC, we have two peach festivals here.
There is the Lexington Peach Festival in Gilbert, SC here in the Midlands, just a stone’s throw from Columbia, SC. This one is usually on the 4th of July. It’s a large event with live music and entertainment, arts and crafts, a parade, great food, and more.
And there is the South Carolina Peach Festival in Gaffney, SC, as well, in the upstate toward the last half of July. Enjoy running in a race, a peach dessert contest, a parade and entertainment for the whole family. You can find it by turning near the giant Peach water tower in SC, called “the Peachoid” by locals.
Our SC peaches are the sweetest in the south. At our festivals, you can try all types of yummy peach fare including, and we quote, “fresh peaches, peach ice cream, peach slush, peach tea, peach parfaits, peach cobbler, peach sundaes, peach almond delights, peach ice cream bar, soft drinks, bottled water, sweet tea, and peach berry split.” Doesn't get much better than that.
Shrimp and Grits
When we talk about the best food in South Carolina, we’ve got to include shrimp and grits. Shrimp and grits is a Charleston, SC specialty that draws many-a-visitor to our coastal areas.
What are grits?
Grits are primarily a breakfast food around here — except for when they are paired with shrimp. It’s essentially a cornmeal porridge with a mild flavor. This dish is made from a type of ground corn, called dent corn, that’s not as sweet as most types of corn. After it’s ground, the grits are boiled until they become a delightful, creamy, yet slightly gritty, paste.
For “real” grits, a lot of South Carolinians believe you should be able to turn your plate upside down and they shouldn’t fall off. They should be thick. The soupy grits may be for some areas, but that is not our thing.
Shrimp and grits are the most well-known grits dish in our state. But you can also eat grits plain with butter, salt and pepper. Or with a runny egg. A lot of people enjoy eating Southern grits with pancakes and bacon for breakfast or brunch.
For the best shrimp and grits in Charleston, SC, Trip Advisor has some great suggestions.
And we have a shrimp and grits festival in Columbia, SC. It’s called Shrimp and Grits Fest in June where restaurants compete and people get to decide on the winner of the coveted best shrimp and grits in Columbia, SC award. There are door prizes, unlimited shrimp and grits to eat, and live music.
South Carolina Barbeque
Barbeque is a passion here and people have very strong feelings about which style of BBQ is king. When it comes to finding the best bbq in South Carolina, it depends on who you ask. And sometimes, it depends on which area you are in.
There are three primary styles of South Carolina BBQ: vinegar-based, tomato/ketchup-based, and mustard-based.
The Upstate tends to be more in the tomato/ketchup-based South Carolina BBQ sauce camp. The Lowcountry tends to go for vinegar-based BBQ. But if you’re looking for the best barbeque in Columbia, SC, you’ll find primarily mustard-based BBQ.
If you have only seen tomato or ketchup-based BBQ before, you may be used to barbeque looking red. The mustard-based BBQ we love in central SC has a yellow-tinge to it because of the mustard. But don't let the different color give you cold feet. It is golden, tangy, sweet, and delicious! Definitely worth a taste.
The SC Barbeque Association may be able to help you sort out what exactly you would define as the best BBQ South Carolina has to offer. Or check out the South Carolina BBQ Trail Map to find great BBQ hot spots around the state.
Summerville, SC is widely known as being the birthplace of sweet tea as we know it today. It makes sense because Summerville is the place where tea plants were first grown in America. Then those tea plants were moved to Wadmalaw Island to the Charleston Tea Garden.
Take a tour there of historic tea plants that are still growing and being harvested today and visit the factory where tea is made. Then enjoy tasting samples of all the fresh tea produced at the Charleston Tea Garden. You may even want to take some boxes and souvenirs home.
You can drink your tea unsweet here. Many people do. But many of us love our tea the way we love life — sweet.
Another great way to savor South Carolina sweet tea is to go to the Sweet Tea Festival in Summerville, SC. The downtown area is transformed into a street festival with lots of types of tea to taste, food vendors, and lots of fun for all ages.
A drone view of one of our luxury custom homes on Lake Murray in South Carolina.
Do you have questions about moving to South Carolina? Check out our FAQs
South Carolina is one of the top states where people are moving to in America recently. Why do so many people want to move to South Carolina?
There are a lot of advantages to living in South Carolina.
We love living here for so many reasons. The food is a big one! Some other great reasons to live here are...
Lower cost of living in SC and economic opportunities
SC has a lower cost of living than many areas, great career opportunities, friendly people, and lots of fun things to do. We have some amazing school districts and private schools throughout our state, particularly near the larger cities.
In the center of South Carolina, you get the best cost-of-living for a larger city in SC and lots of job opportunities, plus the mountains and beach are an easy day trip away.
A more affordable luxury housing market
Here in the Midlands of South Carolina, we have a lower-priced luxury housing market than many places do in the country. So luxury here is more affordable.
The scenic beauty of lakes, mountains, and beaches
We have a huge manmade lake, Lake Murray, where many people love to build their luxury homes near Columbia in central SC.
We also have plenty of natural beauty with the Great Smoky mountains on the west side and the coast on the east, including Myrtle Beach and Charleston.
Nature-lovers can easily find hiking, state and national parks, lakes, creeks, waterfalls, wetlands, swamps, fishing, water sports, and all kinds of excitement here.
Mild winters and good weather
We have mild winters here but you still get all four seasons, which is lovely. In the Midlands and the Lowcountry, you won't generally see much snow at all, except for occasionally. The Upstate gets a bit more snow.
Some people like to live here because we don't tend to have the intense wildfire issues that other states do. And because we tend to be a pretty sunny location which is good for the soul. In the Midlands and Upstate, we also tend to be far enough inland that hurricanes aren't too big of a concern.
A slower pace
Here in South Carolina, we tend to take things a bit slower than they do in some areas of the country. If you're looking for a bit more peace and rest, this may be just the place to call home.
A friendly place
Like our SC motto says, "Smiling faces. Beautiful places." Here, people tend to still smile at each other a lot and show that sweet Southern hospitality. South Carolina tends to be voted one of the friendliest states in the country.
FAQs about Moving to SC
Information about Lexington, SC
Some favorite neighborhoods in Lexington, SC
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If you’re ready to talk about your dream home in SC, please contact us today.
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