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24 Classic Great Depression Era Recipes

Try these delicious old fashioned meals from the 1930s.

By: Jamie Garcia, Editor, RecipeLion
Updated September 20, 2017
24 Classic Great Depression Era Recipes

The Great Depression caused many hardships, but the cuisine of the time certainly didn't suffer! These 24 Classic Great Depression Era Recipes are proof that food from the 1930s is worth bringing back again. People at the time were forced to discover creative ways to use food efficiently, resulting in some very delicious and cheap dishes. Rice, beans, and cheese were major sources of protein, instead of meat, which was much more expensive. Of course, people didn't go entirely without meat. Oftentimes substitutes for popular meats like spam or bologna were used instead. When families did get their hands on their favorite meats, it was a real treat, and they would prepare the meat extraordinarily well.

Check out the video below for a delicious applesauce cake dessert that would have been a true hit and classic great depression recipe! 

Side Dish Ideas

Grandma's Zucchini Squares

These side dishes are packed with protein and flavor, so your whole family will love eating them. You could even serve some of the recipes as a hearty lunch, like Amish Church Soup and Hungry Hobo Beans. Make sure to try Grandma's Zucchini Squares, too - they're a great way to use up your leftover zucchini, and they serve as both the vegetable and the bread components of your dinner.

Old-Fashioned Dinner Recipes

One Pot Chicken and Dumplings

These are some of the best frugal dinner recipes out there. All of the dishes are filling, easy to make, and delicious. Even if they use meat, it's in the most efficient way. You'll love eating these classic meals after a long day. Your family will ask for them again and again!

Traditional Dessert Recipes

1950s Hot Milk Sponge Cake

I have a well-kept secret for you: the best Depression-era recipes are actually the desserts. Egg-less cakes are the big draw of this era (don't worry - they taste fantastic without eggs!). But, the 1930s Banana Cake is definitely the best, with mashed bananas and buttermilk in the recipe to make the cake ultra moist. You'll soon be convinced that vintage recipes are among the very best recipes of all, especially when it comes to dessert.

Great Depression Era Food Facts

1. Milk was considered a highly nutrient-rich food source and was either incorporated into most dishes or served as a beverage.

2.  Italian immigrants were said to have eaten Dandelion greens, sauteing them with olive oil, during this time and were, in hindsight, one of the healthiest classes of people. They didn't eat much meat, because of how expensive it was at this time, and instead, filled up on delicious pasta dishes, which happened to be quite nutrient rich.

3. Relief meals were purposely made bland in an effort to force people to get jobs in order to become "excited about food" again. The thought was, if people were not excited about their meals, they would work harder in order to buy the spices and condiments that would make eating something to look forward to again.

4. Preparing one-dish suppers and attending potlucks were how people during the Great Depression were able to have fun and share food.

5.  Some women were known to use the wrappers on margarine to butter their baking pans. 

What are some of your favorite depression era recipes? Let us know in the comments below!

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I definitely wasn't around during this time period, but it's so interesting to learn how people got food on the table during those hard times. The recipes that interest me the most are the desserts, especially since some of them are missing the "traditional" ingredients, like eggs.

Yummo! I can't wait to try the recipe for One Pot Chicken and Dumplings. I love dumplings SO MUCH.

Thanks for the "Theme Recipes" not only are they interesting but they're good tasting and fun! How about a theme day for Victory (WWII) recipes. With rationing coupons, there were some VERY innovative recipes being made.

What a great idea! Keep an eye out for a page like this in the future :)

Trying these recipes would be a great way to keep my grocery budget down!

the food looks yummy and your website is very helpful



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