15 Recipes from the Great Depression

Let’s take a trip through the Great Depression with these old-school recipes

My great-grandmother Grammy Fields grew up during the Great Depression, and she was an amazing cook. She was from a rural town in Mississippi, and she made most of her meals from scratch with simple ingredients. I still remember how Grammy Fields used to bake her yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, and everyone loved her coconut cake during the holidays. I also enjoyed her homemade lemonade, vegetable soup, and just about everything else she cooked. She inspired my mom’s cooking and it shows in how she prepares her meals. These memories are the inspiration behind this listicle. I’m going to list 30 recipes that people made during the Great Depression.

1. Shoo-Fly Pie

The origins of shoofly pie go back to the 18th century with the Pennsylvania Dutch, and this recipe is made with molasses, brown sugar, and flour. The name shoofly pie probably originated from the fact that because this pie was really sweet and sticky, it was likely to attract many flies. And when flies try to invade someone’s food, he might say “Shoo, fly.” Here is a simple shoofly pie recipe.

2. Rice Pudding

This is another Depression-era recipe my great-grandmother used to make. It is made with rice and other simple ingredients such as vanilla, sugar, and milk. Here is a rice pudding recipe that will take you back to a different era.

3. Potato Soup

During the Great Depression, potatoes were plentiful when meat wasn’t in high abundance. The good thing about potatoes is that you can prepare many delicious meals with them, and potato soup is one of them. Here is an old-school potato soup recipe for you to try.

4. Cabbage and Noodles

There are variations of this Depression-era recipe, but generally you would cook it with cabbage, egg noodles, and some type of meat. This is a meal that you can make a large batch of, and it can last at least a week or two. Here is a simple cabbage and noodle recipe.

5. Chipped Beef

To make creamed chipped beef, melt three teaspoons of butter and then add four teaspoons of flour. Add one and a half cups of milk to the butter and flour mixture and let it cook until it thickens. Finally, stir in a can of Hormel drief beef and serve over toast.

6. Buttermilk Pie

This is a simple pie made with buttermilk, sugar, and eggs. Here is a recipe for it here.

7. Poorman’s Meal

This recipe has potatoes, onions, and hot dogs as the main ingredients. The meal is also quite filling and can last a few days if you make a lot of it. Here is a video from Clara, a home cook in her 90s who lived through the Great Depression. She shows you how to make Poorman’s Meal

8. Ham Hocks and Beans

I live in New Orleans, and I grew up on red beans and rice with ham hocks. It’s an affordable and tasty meal and you can batch cook it since beans freeze well. You can also add green onions, chopped garlic, celery, and your favorite spices. Here is a neat recipe for ham hocks with pinto beans.

9. Hot Water Cornbread

Hot water cornbread is a great accessory to beans and ham hocks. Check out the recipe here.

10. Hoover Stew

This is another simple yet filling and delicious recipe from the Depression era. To make this recipe, you need elbow macaroni, canned tomatoes, hot dog slices, and corn. After you cook the macaroni, add in the hot dog slices, corn, tomatoes, a cup of chopped onions, and your favorite spices. You’ll have dinner on the table in a matter of minutes.

11. Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine meatballs are prepared with rice, ground beef, chopped veggies, and spices. During the Great Depression, it wasn’t easy to get meat all of the time so many home cooks stretched their meat dishes by adding starches to them. You can serve them in tomato sauce, cheese sauce, or even brown gravy. Some good side dishes for Porcupine meatballs include green beans, creamed corn, a tomato salad, or mashed potatoes. Here is the recipe here.

12. Chocolate Gravy

This simple sauce was also popular during the Depression era. You can pour it over biscuits, chocolate cake, or even your pancakes! Check out this amazing chocolate gravy recipe.

13. Oatmeal Cakes

If you have plenty of oatmeal in your pantry, oatmeal cakes are an affordable substitute for pancake mix and packaged waffles when money is tight. In a bowl, combine three cups of oatmeal, a cup of milk, a few teaspoons of salt, a third cup of sugar, a teaspoon of melted butter, and one egg. Drop spoonfuls of the batter in a nonstick skillet and cook for five minutes on both sides. Serve with honey.

14. Tomato Soup Cake

Here is a neat way to use up your extra cans of tomato soup that you bought on sale. According to Campbell’s, the recipe first appeared in the 1940s around World War II. Here is the recipe from Campbell’s website.

15. Corned Beef Fritters

Corned beef was a popular and available staple during the Great Depression, so it isn’t surprising that corned beef fritters were consumed by many families at the time. Here is a recipe from the website The 1940s Experiment.

In conclusion, these Depression-era recipes can help you stretch your budget while filling your tummies at the same time.

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