If you’ve ever indulged in this southern comfort food, you may have wondered a few things. First, how can hush puppies can be so scrumptious? And second, why is this crispy fritter called a “hush puppy”?

Following lunch at The Salty Dog Cafe in South Carolina, I took a deep dive into the history of the hush puppy. Behind this golden delicacy are centuries worth of legends and tales.

What Are Hush Puppies?

Hush puppies are sweet yet savory nuggets made from a combination of cornmeal, egg and water. Spoonfuls of the dough are dropped into hot oil and deep-fried to make this mouthwatering dish.

Typically, the delicacy acts as a side dish to Southern staples and seafood. It even made our list of delicious sides for fried fish.

Why Are Hush Puppies Called ‘Hush Puppies’?

There is no single answer to this question, according to Serious Eats. Rather, we have an extensive series of rumors and stories that go way back.

One of the most popular stories alludes to the name of the dish itself. The tale goes that dogs would bark wildly at people fishing. So, to quiet them down, the fishers would throw fried dough to them. To “hush puppies,” literally!

Another legend involves French nuns arriving in New Orleans in the 1720s. The nuns allegedly adopted cornmeal from local Native Americans and made patties that spread throughout the South.

And the rumors keep going. This next one involves… salamanders. The narrative is that salamanders were battered and deep-fried to enjoy. The name “hush puppy” reportedly came from the fact that eating these fried lizards would be kept secret or, more fittingly, hush-hush.

What Do Food Historians Say?

It’s difficult to determine the validity of these unlikely stories, but experts do have record of the name evolving from another dish. According to historians, hush puppies were originally called “red horse bread.” A newspaper described this bread as “simply mixing cornmeal with water, salt and egg, and dropped by spoonfuls in the hot lard in which fish have been fried.”

This was confirmed in the 1940s when a newspaper wrote that red horse bread was often interchanged with the term hush puppies. Still, the exact transition to this name has never been pinpointed.

No matter the origin, there’s one thing we know without question—hush puppies are undeniably tasty. For a foolproof side, follow our recipe for the best hush puppies. If you prefer them with a kick, these jalapeno hush puppies will do the trick!

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