12 Tasty Depression Era Recipes That Won’t Break The Bank

Yummy Depression Era Recipes 

Money is tight and food prices are rising. Tasty Depression Era recipes connect us with past generations and offer a great way to eat cleaner and cheaper!


If you’ve had the privilege of knowing someone who lived through the Great Depression, more than likely you heard about the food they ate or didn’t eat. Learning how to cook creatively with minimal ingredients became the challenge of the time period.

depression era recipes that won't break the bank _ family meal _ all created

credit: Pinterest

Today, more and more food is processed, full of preservatives and other ingredients that most of us cannot pronounce let alone understand why it is in the food. What if we started reconsidering our choices and making more meals at home? Taking a cue from our Depression era relatives and re-learning how to cook with what we have on hand might be a challenge at first. The bonus of saving money is great, but what if the true reward could be the change in perspective on what is needed vs what is desired?

Let’s take a look at some Depression Era Recipes that require less ingredients, most of which you might already have in your cupboards!

12. Sugar Cream Pie

  • 3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. flour

With a consistency similar to custard, this pie is superb chilled or warm.  Using minimal ingredients, you could adjust the amounts based on whether you prefer a wet or dry pie. Hop over to Cooks.com to learn more about this simple treat!

11. Prune Pudding

depression era recipes that won't break the bank _ prune pudding _ all created

credit: NYT Cooking

  • 1/2 lb of pitted prunes
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp of corn starch
  • 2 tbsp of cold water

Served at Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s White House, this dessert is not overly sweet.  Full of fiber, this dessert serves as a filling end to a meager meal.  Check out NYT Cooking for the full recipe.

10. Three Ingredient Depression Bread

  • 5 lb bag All- purpose flour
  • 5 TBS Yeast
  • 6 Tsp Salt (optional)
  • 6 cups warm water (more or less depending on your dough)

Head over to BusyMommyMedia for the full instructions on how to bake this inexpensive, filling bread!

9.  Corned Beef Fritters

  • 2 oz self raising flour or plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg (fresh or dried)
  • dash of milk
  • pinch of herbs (Thyme, Rosemary)
  • 2 teaspoons grated onion
  • 6 oz corned beef finely flaked

Due to already being cooked and it’s ability to be stored longer , corned beef was a useful meat option in the Depression. It’s usefulness continued into the later 1940s WW2 era as food rationing became a requirement.  Follow up with Carolyn at 1940s Experiment for the full instructions on prepping this meal!

8. Milk Free And Egg Free Wacky Cake

depression era recipes that won't break the bank _ wacky crazy cake _ all created

credit: Pat Henry

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

Visit Pat Henry for instructions on how to put together this unique delicious treat!

7. Savory Potato Soup

  • 15-20 cups of water
  • 8-12 medium sized chopped potatoes
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease (substitute butter if desired)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

This is as simple as peeling and dicing potatoes while your water comes to a boil. Marmee’s Pantry has a simple how-to on putting together this classic homemade meal.


6. Hot Water Cornbread

depression era recipes that won't break the bank _ hot water cornbread _ all created

credit: The Spruce

  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Shortening or oil for frying (use bacon drippings if you have them)

These cornbread cakes are a great item to pair with soups or snack as a breakfast filler.

5. Egg Soup Over Homemade Bread

  • 32oz. Chicken broth
  • 4-5 eggs
  • salt / pepper

A modern take-out classic, this recipe calls for simple ingredients and an ease of preparation. Eggs are a great inexpensive source of protein.

4. Depression Era Sponge Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/4 tsps. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten until thick and light
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 5 Tbsps. boiling water

This sponge cake requires a bit more ingredients than the other recipes, but still proves to be a simple to create treat that will be quickly enjoyed. Add jams, jellies, or fresh fruits between layers to spruce it up a bit. Often served as one layer with warm milk or cream poured over it.

3. Creamed Tuna On Toast

depression era recipes that won't break the bank _ sponge cake _ all created

credit: Prepper Dome

  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 can drained tuna fish
  • 1 cup peas (or to taste)
  • salt and pepper
  • bread

If you need a simple but filling meal, this is a great option from the Depression Era Recipes. Thankfully, canned tuna still remains an inexpensive protein choice. This recipe calls for peas, but it would easily work with tomatoes, carrots, or celery.

2.  Mashed Potato Cakes

depression era recipes that won't break the bank _ potato pancakes _ all created

credit: Google image

  • 2 to 3 med. potatoes or left over mashed potatoes!
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. flour
  • 1 egg

These potato cakes are a simple way to repurpose left overs for the next meal. Use them as a true pancake substitute and eat with syrup! If you have leftover peas, onions, or meats you can toss them in the recipe as well.

WATCH:  Clara’s Italian Ice – Depression Era Recipes

This recipe is a simple fix for a treat on a hot day. With such simple ingredients and endless flavor possibilities, this might be our favorite Depression Era recipe!

  • 2 cups Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • Lemon or Lime juice as desired

Clara’s Youtube channel, Great Depression Cooking, is a wonderful resource for those who want to try their hand at this simpler way of cooking. You can also purchase a cookbook with her Depression Era Recipes: Clara’s Kitchen.  Sadly, Clara passed away in 2013, but her family maintains her videos and website as an archive of a way of life that is slowly disappearing. Her recollections have become invaluable to preserving a way of life and food culture that holds great lessons for future generations!

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