33 Recipes That Got Us Through the Great Depression

Updated: Jul. 12, 2024

Times were tough in the 1930s and people had to be creative with the few ingredients they could find and afford. These dishes show just how inventive our ancestors could be!

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Grandma Pruit’s Vinegar Pie

This historic pie has been in our family for many generations and is always at all of the family get-togethers.—Suzette Pruit, Houston, Texas

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Creamy Chipped Beef Fondue

My mother often served fondue on Christmas Eve and I've since followed in that tradition. It's nice to offer a hearty appetizer that requires very little work. —Beth Fox, Lawrence, Kansas
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Meat and Potato Patties

During World War II, when meat was rationed and had to be purchased with tokens, this recipe went a long way in feeding a family. To this day, I still reach for it whenever I want something different from regular hamburgers. By the way, children really like these (just as I did when I was a child!).— Gladys Klein, Burlington Wisconsin
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Hearty Navy Bean Soup

My family loves navy bean soup! Beans were a commodity you did not survive without in the '30s. This excellent navy beans and ham soup is a real family favorite of ours and I make it often. —Mildred Lewis, Temple, Texas
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Favorite Bread & Butter Pickles

I made these pickles while growing up and love them because you can eat them with just about anything. Now, both of my children love these pickles too. I think you'll enjoy them as much as we do! —Linda Weger, Robinson, Illinois
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Surprise Spice Cake

Canned tomato soup replaces some of the oil in this spice cake, decreasing the fat, boosting the color and (surprise!) enhancing the taste. —Hannah Thompson, Scotts Valley, California
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Bacon Pasta

As children, we always requested this dish for our birthday dinners. Our mother got the recipe from her grandmother. Now I pass on our tasty tradition. —Ruth Keogh, North St. Paul, Minnesota
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Country Fish Chowder

You'll think you're on Cape Cod when you taste this thick, wholesome chowder made from a recipe I've treasured for many years. It's one of my husband's favorites. He likes it more and more because over the years I've "customized" the basic recipe by including ingredients he enjoys. —Linda Lazaroff, Hebron, Connecticut
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Bacon Roll-Ups

This family recipe dates back to the 1930s, when my grandmother started making these hearty breakfast rolls. —Janet Abate, North Brunswick, New Jersey
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Grandma Davidson's Baked Apple Pudding

My savvy grandmother whipped up recipes like this homey cinnamon-scented apple pudding in the Depression years. Many of us still make them today. —Holly Sharp, Warren, Ontario
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Old-World Puff Pancake

My mom told me her mother-in-law showed her how to make this dish, which became popular during the Depression, on their "get acquainted" visit in 1927. At that time, cooks measured ingredients in pinches, dashes and dibs. But through the years, accurate amounts were noted. My wife and I continue to enjoy this dish today, particularly for brunch. —Auton Miller, Piney Flats, Tennessee
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Ruby Grape Pie

My wife, Paula, and I produce red and green seedless table grapes on our 75-acre vineyard. Our crop is wonderful eaten out-of-hand or in salads. Paula also uses them in this unusual and tasty pie.—Salvage Island Farm, Fred Smeds, Reedley, California
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Country Potato Pancakes

These potato pancakes are really versatile. They can be a side dish for just about any meal or the main course for a light meal. Potato pancakes go particularly well with pork. We have them often at our house. —Lydia Robotewskyj, Franklin, Wisconsin
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Chocolate Cream Pie

Our teenage son, John, has done lots of 4-H baking. This old-fashioned chocolate cream pie recipe with a flaky crust was his favorite thing to make. —Mary Anderson, De Valls Bluff, Arkansas
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Dandelion Salad

This is one my favorite salads and it is so healthy for you! Guests will be surprised at how wonderful it tastes. —Frances Sheridan Goulart, Weston, Connecticut
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Bread Pudding with Nutmeg

I always make this bread pudding recipe for my dad on his birthday and on holidays. He says it tastes exactly like the bread pudding with nutmeg he enjoyed as a child. —Donna Powell, Montgomery City, Missouri
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Potato Soup

You'll be surprised at the taste of this rich and cheesy easy potato soup. It really is the best potato soup recipe, ever. I came up with it after enjoying baked potato soup at one of our favorite restaurants. I added bacon, and we think that makes it even better. —Coleen Morrissey, Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania
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Oven-Fried Cornbread

Nothing says good southern cooking like a crisp cornbread baked in a cast-iron skillet. This old family recipe has been passed down to each generation. —Emory Doty, Jasper, Georgia
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Coconut Cookies

This simple yet satisfying coconut cookie recipe has been around for generations. Pressing a fork into the top gives the look of an old-fashioned washboard. —Tommie Sue Shaw, McAlester, Oklahoma
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Creamy Skillet Noodles with Peas

I’ve made this creamy noodle side for years. Since kids and adults go for it, I keep the ingredients on hand at all times. —Anita Groff, Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania
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Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes

These cheesy hash browns were so popular at the morning meetings of our Mothers of Preschoolers group that we published it in our newsletter. It's a great dish for busy moms because it can be prepared ahead of time. It's perfect for brunches or to serve on Christmas morning. It's creamy, comforting and tasty. —Karen Burns, Chandler, Texas
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Stovetop Goulash

I created this recipe after trying goulash at a local restaurant. The blend of spices gives it fabulous flavor, and it’s so easy to make on a weeknight! —Karen Schelert, Portland, Oregon
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Sugar Cream Pie

I absolutely love Indiana sugar cream pie; especially the one that my grandma made for me. Here, we serve it warm or chilled and call it “Hoosier” sugar cream pie. —Laura Kipper, Westfield, Indiana. Want to try out an unusual recipe? Check out this depression-era water pie that has gotten a lot of attention on social media recently.
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Sausage Johnnycake

Here’s a nice hearty breakfast with plenty of old-fashioned flavor. I serve it to my bed-and-breakfast guests. They love the cake’s savory middle and maple syrup topping. It’s a fine way to start the day! —Lorraine Guyn, Calgary, Alberta
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Green Tomato Pie

When frost nips our garden, I quickly gather all the green tomatoes still on the vine and make this old family favorite. It's been handed down from my grandmother, and now my granddaughters are asking for the recipe.—Violet Thompson, Port Ludlow, Washington
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Sausage Potato Supper

One Saturday night a few years ago, I came up with this dish on the spur of the moment. It was dinnertime, and I had to use what I had on hand. It's been a hit with my family ever since. —Nancy Russell, Englewood, Colorado
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Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding

This comforting dessert is a wonderful way to end any meal. As a girl, I always waited eagerly for the first heavenly bite. Today, my husband likes to top his with a scoop of ice cream. —Sandra Melnychenko, Grandview, Manitoba
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Cabbage Soup

My husband was never too fond of cabbage—until the first time he tried this cabbage soup recipe from my aunt. Now he even asks me to make this soup! —Nancy Stevens, Morrison, Illinois
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Shoofly Pie

My grandmother made the best shoofly pie in the tradition of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Shoofly pie is to the Pennsylvania Dutch as pecan pie is to a Southerner. —Mark Morgan, Waterford, Wisconsin
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Corn Dog Casserole

Reminiscent of traditional corn dogs, this fun main dish really hits the spot on fall days. It's perfect for the football parties my husband and I often host. It tastes especially good right from the oven. -Marcy Suzanne Olipane, Belleville, Illinois
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Ham and Beans

I had never made or eaten this dish before meeting my husband here in Kentucky. Now I make it at least once a week. I serve it with some homemade sweet cornbread. Delicious! —Christine Duffy, Sturgis, Kentucky
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Slow-Cooker Baked Apples

Coming home to this irresistible dessert on a dreary day is just wonderful; it’s slow-cooker easy. — Evangeline Bradford, Erlanger, Kentucky
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Egg Drop Soup

We often start our stir-fry meals with this fast egg drop soup recipe— it cooks in just minutes flat. There are many versions of the recipe, but we like the easy addition of cornstarch to thicken the soup and give it a rich, golden color. I got the recipe from my grandma’s old cookbook. —Amy Beth Corlew-Sherlock, Lapeer, Michigan