The South Carolina Lowcountry is a coastal region well-loved for its lush landscapes, world-class golf courses, luxury beach communities, and the soulful flavors of classic Lowcountry cuisine.
Traditional Lowcountry cuisine is more than just a collection of colorful recipes – it is a rich and vibrant cultural tradition that reflects the history, experiences, and cooking traditions of the Gullah-Geechee people, the West African slaves working the coastal plantations on the South Carolina sea islands. Read on to learn more about this rich history that is unique to this region!
Carolina Rice Plantations
It all began with the cultivation of long-grain rice in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia. In the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, inland and tidal rice plantations covered thousands of acres of previous swamplands and the industry relied heavily on the expertise in rice cultivation and the slave labor of the West African Gullah-Geechee people.
The West Africans came to America as slaves, bringing okra, collard greens, yams, cornmeal, and traditional spices into the country. Rice was the primary export from South Carolina and as the masters grew rich, slaves were fed the damaged leftover grains and began creating new, flavorful dishes to maintain their native cooking traditions.
The warm coastal climate of the region allowed for a wide variety of vegetables to be grown and the massively stocked ocean and thriving estuary system provided an abundance of readily available fresh seafood including shrimp, fish, crabs, and wild oysters.
Hearty, One-Pot Stews
Simply, yet flavorful, rice-based one-pot stews were created, adding fresh vegetables, seafood, and traditional West African spices such as cumin, paprika, thyme, and Benne seeds which give the Lowcountry dishes their unique and distinctive flavor. Over the generations, Lowcountry cuisine has been heavily influenced by a diversity of cultures including Caribbean, Native American, English, French, and Spanish, making it a culinary melting pot of deep and diverse flavors.
Slow-Roasted Lowcountry Barbeque
Barbeque is the heart and soul of southern cuisine, and South Carolina claims to be the birthplace of this beloved tradition. One of the country’s oldest barbeque traditions, South Carolina’s style of slow-cooking whole hogs over wood dates back to the 1500s when the Spanish introduced the pig to the New World. The African-American slaves tended the pits for their masters adding their own signature barbeque flavors and the technique of adding sauce came later from the population of early German settlers in South Carolina.
Classic Lowcountry Dishes
These styles of cooking have been passed down through generations and, today, Lowcountry cooking is a beloved and integral part of South Carolina’s rich culinary traditions. Whether you’re enjoying a plate of slow-smoked ribs at a local BBQ joint or savoring a bowl of seafood gumbo at a waterfront restaurant, the rich and flavorful dishes of southern barbeque and Lowcountry cooking are sure to delight the senses.
Red Rice: South Carolina red rice is a classic southern staple made with long-grain rice, tomatoes, onions, and a variety of spices. It’s a delicious and hearty side that pairs well with a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables, making it a perfect addition to any meal.
Lowcountry Boil: Lowcountry Boil, also known as Frogmore or Beaufort Stew, is a delicious blend of fresh-from-the-water shrimp, sausage, fresh corn, potatoes, and onions boiled in water with tasty creole spices.
Shrimp & Grits: Shrimp and grits is a classic southern dish that combines creamy, buttery grits with plump, juicy shrimp and a variety of aromatic spices. This hearty meal is a staple of Lowcountry cuisine and is sure to satisfy your cravings for comfort food.
She-Crab Soup: She-Crab soup is a creamy, bisque-like seafood soup made with a base of rich, velvety roux and flavored with sherry, crab meat, crab roe, and a variety of spices. This indulgent soup is the perfect way to warm up on a cold day.
Hoppin’ John: Hoppin’ John is a staple on the southern table and is traditionally served on New Year’s Day as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the coming year. This flavorful dish is made with fluffy rice, black-eyed peas, collard greens, and tender, slow-cooked pork.
Gumbo: Lowcountry Gumbo is a thick hearty stew made from a variety of ingredients including stock, meat or seafood, celery, okra, bell peppers, onions, and added traditional spices. It’s the perfect blend of flavors and textures that is sure to satisfy your cravings for comfort food. The word “gumbo” is derived from the African word for okra.
Savor the Flavors on Hilton Head Island
Today, visitors to Hilton Head Island can experience the rich history and tradition of Lowcountry cuisine firsthand. With year-round Lowcountry farmers markets and over 250 restaurants on the island, Hilton Head is a top foodie destination brimming with the flavors of the Lowcountry.
From traditional southern BBQ and casual seafood boils to luxury fine dining with a modern twist, there’s no shortage of delicious options to choose from on Hilton Head Island. Begin your Lowcountry culinary experience with our guide to “The Best Restaurants on Hilton Head Island”.
So why wait? Mark your calendar and join us for a celebration of the rich and flavorful dishes of South Carolina’s Lowcountry cuisine on Hilton Head Island. Check out these 9 Food Festivals Not To Miss Near Hilton Head, SC
Experience Lowcountry Living!
Welcome to the ultimate Lowcountry culinary experience! On Hilton Head Island, you can indulge in the local flavors and traditions of the region while enjoying all the comforts of a luxurious vacation rental home. From gourmet kitchens stocked with top-of-the-line appliances to outdoor BBQs perfect for grilling up fresh seafood and Lowcountry veggies, you’ll have everything you need to cook like a true local in our selection of Hilton Head Island vacation homes.
Start planning your next Hilton Head Island beach vacation with Sunset Rentals today! Browse our collection of 1-7 bedroom vacation homes and villas, book with confidence and ease online, or give our team a call at (843) 785-6767.
We know the best places to stay, play, and feast on Hilton Head Island!