Our Guide to Iconic American Foods in the 1950s

Updated: Feb. 14, 2024

Go put on an Elvis record and your poodle skirt—we're taking a trip back in time to enjoy 1950s food.

1960s FAMILY OF FOUR EATING DINNER TOGETHER (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Few decades pique American interest as much as the 1950s. From sock hops to drive-ins, poodle skirts to rock n’ roll, there’s a lot to remember. And here at Taste of Home, we relish the iconic food from the 1950s.

I mean, who can forget the towering Jell-O molds grandma used to serve or the tuna casserole that made an appearance at every church potluck. There was SPAM and Chex-Mix and pineapple, too. Today, we’re going to answer the question, what food was popular in the 1950s? Join us as we take a look back in time and enjoy some good ol’ fashioned nostalgia.

Psst! Check out these vintage cookbook for more old-school recipes.

1950s Breakfasts


In today’s day and age, many of us are used to grabbing a granola bar or smoothie for breakfast—if we even eat at all. But what did people eat for breakfast in the ’50s? A full-fledged meal with bacon, eggs and toast was a common occurrence, even on weekdays. Mornings included grabbing a cup of coffee and perusing the paper before rushing out the door for school or work. Life was a little simpler, that’s for sure.

More 1950s-Inspired Breakfasts

1950s Lunches

Portrait Of Man Eating Bread Slice. (Photo by Lambert/Getty Images)Lambert/Getty Images

The 1950s was an era of invention, and many homemakers were inundated with new appliances, products and electronics. (Looking at you, television!) This innovation made its way to the grocery store, too, as new convenience products hit the market. So, what did people eat for lunch in the 1950s? In many cases, it was a pared-down version of dinner, consisting of meat, sides and veggies. Sandwiches were also popular, particularly bologna, as were soups packed in a thermos. And on a special day, you might have dined at a Department Store restaurant.

More 1950s-Inspired Lunches

1950s Appetizers

Society women enjoy a luncheon in Calfornia Kirn Vintage Stock/Getty Images

There was a lot to celebrate in the 1950s—particularly the end of World War II just a few years prior. Theme dinners—think Hawaiian luau—and outdoor barbecues were popular, as were traditional cocktail parties. Before dinner, all sorts of finger foods, snacks and apps were served, oftentimes dictated by the occasion. Stuffed celery was always a popular choice, as were pinwheels, shrimp cocktail and canapés.

More 1950s-Inspired Appetizers

1950s Dinners

1950s SMILING MAN IN SUIT AND TIE SITTING AT TABLE HOLDING KNIFE AND FORK EATING DINNER (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

There was no such thing as the keto diet in the 1950s—meat and potatoes reigned supreme. You’d find hearty main dishes like Salisbury steak, beef stroganoff and meat loaf on a ‘50s dinner menu, plus scrumptious sides. Casseroles were also popular, particularly those featuring seafood or ham.

More 1950s-Inspired Dinners

1950s Desserts

1950s PECAN SANDIES COOKIES AROUND JELLO MOLD WITH STRAWBERRIES DESSERT AND CUPS OF COFFEE (Photo by L. Fritz/ClassicStock/Getty Images)L. Fritz/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Finally—our favorite course! 1950s desserts were downright iconic. You have Jell-O mold recipes, of course. (Here’s how to make one!) Plus show-stoppers like baked Alaska. Other popular recipes featured new-to-the-U.S. ingredients like pineapple and coconut, reflecting the era’s new obsession with global cuisine.

More 1950s-Inspired Desserts

1950s Cocktails

Models Jean Evans and Lynne Kennedy demostrating the push button cocktail cabinet at the British Furniture Exhibition at Earl's Court, London, 15th February 1954. The table has a concealed central section to store bottles and glasses which are revealed at the touch of a button. (Photo by Monty Fresco/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)Monty Fresco/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Pre-dinner drinks were pretty common in the 1950s. I mean, there’s a reason most homes had a bar cart front and center! Classic drinks—like Manhattans, martinis and old-fashioneds—were always on the menu. As were some new drinks, like the Pink Squirrel—a tantalizing combo of crème de Noyaux, crème de cacao and cream.

More 1950s-Inspired Drinks

1950s-Style Kitchen Decor

November 1956: General Electric's modern kitchen 'Gourmet's Delight'; all the appliances are grouped together for convenience and the position of the work surfaces has been carefully considered. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)Keystone Features/Getty Images

Between the bold Pyrex patterns and unique kitchen tools, there’s a lot to love about 1950s decor. Bright colors were all the rage, especially on appliances. You’d also find plenty of Jadeite, a beautiful jade-hued glassware. Other common items include a percolator (here’s how to use one!), a bread box and a cake stand.

Accessories for Your Vintage ’50s Kitchen
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