What Are Southern Biscuits? (Explained for Beginners)

The earliest form of biscuit known to man was eaten by the Romans. They created a “new’ bread that was baked twice to add extra crispiness to the outside. This allowed it to last for longer than the plain, old-fashioned bread they were used to which made it practical for soldiers’ rations and for travelers going on long journeys. 

However, the original Roman biscuit would be closer to a modern-day rusk which is extremely crunchy compared to what we know as biscuits.

The question is, what are southern biscuits? There are a wide variety of biscuits in the world. In fact, if you’re from the U.S. or Canada, biscuits are a soft, flaky baked good that can be served a million ways. But, if you’re from the U.K., a biscuit is a sweet treat (known as a cookie in America).

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what a southern biscuit is, what makes this type of biscuit different from the rest, and exactly what to eat with southern biscuits.

We even crafted our own Easy Vegan Biscuit Recipe (No Butter) if you’d like to make your own yummy (and heartwarming) homemade biscuits. These plant-based southern biscuits would certainly fool any non-vegan considering how flaky and buttery they taste!

Without further ado, let’s learn all about southern biscuits and what makes them so popular in America!

Here’s What Southern Biscuits Are:

Southern biscuits are a type of biscuit (American version of the U.K. scone) that’s made from flour, buttermilk, lard, and baking powder. Typically, southern biscuits use a special type of flour called soft wheat flour, and usually include lard or shortening over butter. Unlike British scones or northern biscuits—southern biscuits can be eaten either sweet with jam or savoury (like with fried chicken or gravy).

What Is the Difference Between Northern and Southern Biscuits?

Wondering what the difference is between Northern and Southern Biscuits?

Well, you’re not alone!

Biscuits are an American staple. It’s the type of food that can bring family and friends together… or tear them apart! You’d be amazed at how heated arguments about biscuit recipes can get in the U.S.

Biscuits are a surprisingly simple recipe… but they can come out a million different ways. The difference between northern and southern biscuits comes down to a few minor variations.

1. Southern biscuits typically rely upon soft wheat flour while northern biscuits commonly call for regular all-purpose flour.

2. Southern biscuits commonly use lard or shortening as the fat content, while northern biscuits often use butter.

Keep in mind, these are not hard and fast rules. In fact, if you ask 10 people who have their own “southern biscuit” recipe, you’ll find minuscule differences in almost every recipe.

What Are the 4 Types of Biscuits?

Biscuits come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. And… while they can be prepared in a variety of ways, there’s a few essential ingredients that will always be there: flour, liquid (water or milk), a leavening agent, and a type of fat.

But, the ingredients used aren’t the only reason we have different types of biscuits. There are also different ways to prepare the biscuits that give us a few different kinds. The dough can be placed on a baking sheet as is, or rolled out with a rolling pin to create a different shape and texture.

Here are 4 different types of biscuits:

1. Rolled Biscuits: They’re the most common general type of biscuit in the U.S. and Canada. They’re typically made with baking powder and when baking, they should rise to twice their original height. The outside should have a crisp, golden brown crust while the interior should be light and fluffy.

2. Southern Biscuits: These are very similar to rolled biscuits (and are, in fact, a sub-type of rolled biscuits that typically include soft wheat flour and a shortening or lard rather than butter).

3. Drop Biscuits: These typically use more milk or other liquids compared to rolled biscuits. The dough is quite moist and can’t be rolled or kneaded. They don’t rise quite as much as rolled biscuits.

4. Scones: This is the English version of the American biscuit. Similar in texture, scones are a sweet, wedge-shaped biscuit that’s typically made with cream and butter.

Are Southern Biscuits the Same as Scones?

So, are southern biscuits the same thing as British scones?

Well, at first sight, they look a bit similar. They’re tall, they’re golden brown, and they’re flaky. They’re both derived from a combination of fats, leavening agents, flour, and liquid. And tastewise, they’re also pretty similar. 

Both scones and southern biscuits are what’s known as “quick breads” since you don’t have to wait for them to rise before baking them. 

Even the way they’re served can be quite similar: typically at breakfast or brunch, served with some jam or butter.

However, they have a few main differences:

  • Southern Biscuits are shaped like a cylinder while scones are wedge-shaped
  • Scones are typically a sweet treat (more of a dessert)
  • Southern biscuits are often served as a savory dish with gravy (and sausage or fried chicken)
  • Scones are usually made with cream and butter while southern biscuits don’t typically use cream or butter (usually just lard or shortening)

What Makes Southern Biscuits Different?

In colonial America, British colonists brought over a delicious pastry to America known as scones. Fun fact… Did you know that 51% of British people pronounce “scones” as “skons”? 

Southern Biscuits and gravy.

Before long, the British scone took on a life of its own across America. In the south, a variation of soft wheat flour, butter, lard, and buttermilk was used to craft America’s scone, called the “biscuit”. The extra fattiness added a distinctive flavor and flakiness compared to the northern and overseas counterparts.

Why Are Southern Biscuits Called Biscuits?

In the southern United States, a biscuit is a type of baked bread that rises quickly. It has a crispy, dry, golden exterior and a soft, flaky interior. 

Rather than using a leavening agent like yeast, southern biscuits use baking powder which allows the biscuit to rise while baking.

The original term “biscuit” comes from the french word bis-qui. And, further back, the original name comes from the Latin word “panis biscotus” which simply means twice-cooked bread.

What Are Southern Biscuits Called in England?

In England, Southern biscuits and American biscuits are simply referred to as “scones”. This is because the food that Americans know as biscuits originated in England as scones. British colonials brought scone recipes to the U.S. in the 17th century and the recipe transformed over time.

England’s version of southern biscuits (scones) is typically eaten with butter, jam, and sometimes clotted cream. But… they’re always eaten alongside a cup of tea in the U.K. On the other hand, southern biscuits can be eaten as a sweet treat with jam, or as part of a savory meal like fried chicken and biscuits, biscuits and gravy, or even as the bread used for a breakfast sandwich.

What Goes With Southern Biscuits?

Southern biscuits are one of the most delicious “American” treats. In the U.S., they can be eaten as a sweet or savory dish, depending on how you want to eat them.

Here are some of the most popular ways to eat southern biscuits:

  • With jam
  • With butter
  • As a breakfast sandwich with bacon and eggs
  • With fried chicken and gravy
  • With sausage gravy
  • With cheese

What Flour Is Used in Southern Biscuits?

If you’re looking to make some southern biscuits, the main type of flour you want to use is what’s called soft wheat flour. This is one of the distinct ingredients within southern biscuits.

Soft wheat flour grows best in moist, temperate climates as seen along the mid-Atlantic, which is why it’s so commonly found in the south (and used within southern biscuits).

If you’re looking for a delicious southern biscuit recipe, remember to check out my Easy Vegan Biscuit Recipe. These plant-based biscuits are just as buttery, soft, and flaky as traditional southern biscuits (if not more).




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