Mary’s Best Homemade Buttermilk Hush Puppies
The first time I ever heard of a hush puppy was at Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips. Depending on when you were born, you might have heard of Arthur Treacher’s before—it used to be a big deal! There’s only one left now (in Ohio), but Arthur Treacher’s had over 800 locations in the United States at one point in the 1970s. It was a seafood-themed fast-food franchise—and my very first job. Eventually, I was promoted to assistant manager… maybe that’s where some of my entrepreneurial spirit comes from!
And no, I can’t give you Arthur Treacher’s Hush Puppy recipe but I DID come up with the best hush puppy recipe ever!
Despite being a manager, no one would give me the hush puppy recipe. Sigh. Of course, everyone likes to keep their trade secrets under lock and key… but not me—I absolutely LOVE sharing my recipes with all of you! When we started doing fish fries out at the farm, I started doing my hush puppy homework. If I couldn’t have Arthur’s recipe, I was gonna make something even better. The trick, I learned, is getting that perfect cornmeal to flour ratio. Too much flour and your hush puppies will come out way too dense. Lucky for us, after lots of experiments, I found the perfect cornmeal-to-flour ratio.
What are hush puppies, anyway?
Now, if you’re finding yourself wondering, “What the heck is a hush puppy anyway?” I’m gonna tell you all about it. A hush puppy is basically a cornmeal fritter. Imagine a tender, chewy, fluffy ball of savory goodness. There are lots of variations on the hush puppy—some recipes have a little kick (like mine), some include an array of fresh or dried herbs, and historically, they’ve even been made with fish… which brings us to the name. Hush puppy. It’s kind of weird, right?
Also, where do hush puppies come from?
Well, as with so many good foods, the origin of hush puppies (and their name) is shrouded in mystery—and controversy! Some say they got their name because people fed them to their dogs to keep them quiet. Some say they were meant to keep the “dogs” in our stomachs from growling. The truth is, “hush puppy” has been used to refer to several different foods (including pot liquor and ham gravy) over the last couple of centuries, and it was originally used to refer to hiding smugglers on British ships.
What we can say for sure is that these delicious little treats originated in the pre-Civil War south—and they’ve even gone by other names themselves, including “red horse bread” because of the type of fish included in the recipe. No matter who whipped up the first batch, it stuck. Recipes for hush puppies started moving across the country, toward barbeque joints in the Carolinas and fish fries at least as far west as Illinois.
How to Make the Perfect Hush Puppies
Tender, chewy inside. Crispy outside. Round, about the size of a golf ball. Savory batter with a tiny hint of corn sweetness to balance it out. That’s what makes a hush puppy a hush puppy. My hush puppy recipe gets its amazing flavor from a tablespoon of sugar and a dash of Slap Yo Mama cajun seasoning.
With a little bit of zing that makes the flavor pop and an absolutely perfect consistency—not too dense or heavy—my hush puppies will keep everyone quiet for a second… and then be the talk of the town! Do NOT use an air fryer for this recipe. You’ve gotta go old school on this one. You won’t get the same soft inside and crispy exterior in an air fryer. Trust me, I’ve tried. No disrespect to my air fryer!
Here are a few pro-tips to make the best homemade hush puppies you’ve ever had:
You can use fine or medium grind cornmeal but go for stone-ground if you can. You'll get a lot more crunch!
Use an ice cream scoop or a scoop with a trigger to make hush puppies that are generous and uniform in size.
Drain your hush puppies on a plate lined with paper towels immediately after frying to remove excess grease.
Serve your hush puppies piping hot—that’s when the delicious, golden exterior is freshest and crispiest! I recommend splitting a few open and dabbing with butter, honey, or both. Absolutely heavenly!
Here are some of my favorite meals to serve with hush puppies.
Hush puppies are VERY popular in my house. Soon they’ll be a hit in your kitchen, too. They’re one of those famous finger foods that you make for a crowd. Whether you want to serve them as an appetizer, a side, or a decadent little snack, your guests are going to be very happy. They go great with fish fry and barbeque, and they’re just an all-around great party food—especially when you’re cooking outside (like we love to do).
P.S. Hush puppies are just one of many in my list of the best fish fry recipes!
Want to know what else to serve at your fish fry? I compiled a giant list of my all-time favorite and best fish fry recipes including the perfect beer fish fry batter made with Modelo Negra, a refreshing no-mayo coleslaw salad, and so much more.