5 Super-Delicious Soul Food-Inspired Recipes from Rosie Mayes’ “Super Soul Food”

published Feb 16, 2023
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cover of cookbook Super Soul Food with Cousin Rosie
Credit: Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Rosie Mayes knows soul food like the back of her hand. After growing up in the kitchen learning all about the classic comfort foods from family members, Mayes started her uber-successful food blog, I Heart Recipes, in 2009. Today, Mayes has built a food empire that includes not just a website, but also multiple book titles, an insightful video series, and her own line of custom seasoning blends.

In addition to having a robust supply of soul food recipes on her site, Mayes developed an incredibly popular YouTube channel, where she gives fans hands-on tips and tutorials on how to make flavorful meals in their own homes. In fact, if you’ve ever searched for videos on soul food staples like baked mac and cheese, smothered pork chops, or sweet potato pie, then chances are you’ve already watched much of Mayes’ content. 

Mayes’ first cookbook, I Heart Soul Food was published in October 2020 and focused more on reminding fans of the more traditional fare associated with soul food (think: buttery mashed potatoes, stewed collard greens, and candied yams — the dishes that, in many ways, act as the building blocks of modern-day soul). 

Much of what Mayes knows today about all facets of soul food, including cooking and baking, comes from being in the kitchen watching her family members. In particular, though, Mayes credits her Aunt Ignatia, known as auntie Nish, as her main teacher. “Some of [my family members] could just cook, some could just bake. But my auntie was always the well-rounded one,” says Mayes. “So I would always watch everything that she did.”

Credit: Michael Kartes

In her newest cookbook, Super Soul Food, however, Mayes offers up even more delicious soul food classics and go-to comfort food meals, but with a little something special. “I wanted to come out with a book that was not just traditional soul food,” says Mayes. “But, soul food with a twist, brought up a couple of notches.”

Familiar flavors and dishes like red velvet biscuits, seafood boil with creamy garlic sauce, Southern baked mac and cheese, and more all make an appearance. The recipes below, however, are ones Rosie hand-selected as her favorite soul food–inspired recipes from her new cookbook.

Credit: Michael Kartes

Slow Cooker Smothered Turkey Wings

You’re probably used to seeing meats like thick-cut pork chops slowly cooked and smothered, and while they’re delicious, you can definitely use the same technique for poultry, too, as Mayes has done here. Instead of pork chops, Mayes opts for super-tender turkey wings, which get smothered in a flavorful gravy and placed on top a bed of fluffy rice. The best part is, though, the slow cooker does all of the hard work — in just a few short hours, the meat will be so tender you likely won’t need more than a fork to get the meat off the bone!

Credit: Michael Kartes

Waffle-Fried Chicken

These may look like your ordinary batch of breaded and deep-fried chicken wings, but they offer a little something extra. Instead of just using your more traditional dredging method consisting of seasoned flour, Mayes uses waffle batter to coat the chicken wings! This way, you get a hint of the sweet and fluffy waffle flavor you’re used to, but also get the crunch from the deep-frying. Plus, these wings get topped with a simple hot sauce, which is great with your favorite cool and creamy dipping sauce.

Credit: Michael Kartes

Creole Crab Cakes

It would be difficult to plan a special menu filled with soul food and not include at least a little seafood or shellfish. These flavorful, nicely spiced crab cakes from Mayes deliver the tender texture you love with traditional cakes, but the seasonings are what take it to the next level. Mayes combines Old Bay seasoning with traditional Creole seasoning (made up of black pepper, red pepper, chili powder, garlic, oregano, and white pepper). Mayes also serves the crispy crab cakes with a sweet and spicy chili dipping spice, which is sure to please all the heat-lovers out there.

Credit: Michael Kartes

Hot Water Cornbread

Hot water cornbread is an absolute staple of classic soul food. While most of us have an idea of what common cornbread looks like (usually made in a baking dish or muffin pan), hot water cornbread is something different. While the dish contains the usual cornmeal, flour, shortening (or butter), and sugar, it’s not prepared in a pan or baking dish. Instead, hot water cornbread is made by creating the batter with hot boiling water. The batter is then spooned into a hot skillet with oil and fried. This is a great way to get nicely portioned pieces of cornbread while also not having to turn on the oven on a super-hot day!

Credit: Rosie Mayes

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

If there’s one iconic dish emblematic not just of classic soul food, but also of true Southern cuisine, it’s without a doubt baked mac and cheese. There aren’t many menus in Southern restaurants that don’t include some form of baked mac and cheese, and for good reason. When baked mac and cheese is made with the perfect balance of cooked elbow macaroni and delicious cheese sauce, it’s completely irresistible. Mayes’ Southern baked mac and cheese is one of her most popular recipes — the video for it has over a million views on YouTube!