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Depression Era Survivalist Cooking

Best Depression Era Foods and Recipes From EAT THIS.COM

During any period of economic uncertainty, people return to inexpensive staple foods and recipes, many of which originated during American Slavery, World War I and the Great Depression. Whether it's to save money, or cook with limited ingredients, some foods are making a huge comeback in this era of climate change and pandemic shortages. Navy Bean Soup is the ultimate comfort food. Beans were used in many Depression-era recipes, and this one also includes ham, carrots, onion, and garlic so a family would get protein, fiber, and veggies from this meal. Fun fact: It's called "Navy Bean Soup" because it was considered a staple food of the United States Navy. The Dandelion salad recipe became popular during the Great Depression because one of the ingredients was "free" as long as you had dandelions in your yard. The traditional salad also contains onions, leeks, hard-boiled eggs, and your choice of grapefruit or tangerine sections.

Potato soup has never really gone out of style, but it's definitely been getting more social media love over the past few months. This soup was a Great Depression staple because it requires so few ingredients and is extremely economical. The classic version is delicious, but you can also experiment with the recipe by adding ingredients like your favorite vegetables or cheese. An easy and delicious creamy potato soup recipe that can be made in just one pot! Loaded with bacon and creamy potato goodness. Cut your potatoes into pieces no larger than ¾ and try to keep them around the same size so that they cook at the same time. To make this soup nice and creamy, puree’ about half of it by transferring a portion of the soup to a blender, pureeing, and then stirring the pureed soup back into the pot.

  1. 6 strips (uncooked) bacon cut into small pieces

  2. 3 Tablespoons butter unsalted or salted will work

  3. 1 medium yellow onion chopped (about 1.5 cup/200g)

  4. 3 large garlic cloves minced

  5. ⅓ cup all-purpose flour (42g)

  6. 2 ½ lbs gold potatoes peeled and diced into pieces no larger than 1” (this was about 6 Large potatoes for me/1.15kg)

  7. 4 cups chicken broth (945ml)

  8. 2 cups milk (475ml)

  9. ⅔ cup heavy cream (155ml)

  10. 1 ½ teaspoon* salt

  11. 1 teaspoon ground pepper

  12. ¼ - ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder**

  13. ⅔ cup sour cream (160g)

  14. Shredded cheddar cheese, chives, and additional sour cream and bacon for topping optional


  1. Place bacon pieces in a large Dutch Oven or soup pot over medium heat and cook until bacon is crisp and browned.

  2. Remove bacon pieces and set aside, leaving the fat in the pot.

  3. Add butter and chopped onion and cook over medium heat until onions are tender (3-5 minutes).

  4. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).

  5. Sprinkle the flour over the ingredients in the pot and stir until smooth (use whisk if needed).

  6. Add diced potatoes to the pot along with chicken broth, milk, heavy cream, salt, pepper, and ancho chili powder. Stir well.

  7. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork (about 10 minutes).

  8. Reduce heat to simmer and remove approximately half of the soup to a blender (be careful, it will be hot!) and puree until smooth (half is about 5 cups of soup, but just eyeballing the amount will be fine. Alternatively you can use an immersion blender.).

  9. Return the pureed soup to the pot and add sour cream and reserved bacon pieces, stir well.

  10. Allow soup to simmer for 15 minutes before serving.

  11. Top with additional sour cream, bacon, cheddar cheese, or chives. Enjoy!

There's no shortage of cornbread recipes out there, but the Depression-era version is making a comeback thanks to its short ingredient list. This cornbread features cornmeal, water, and salt—no flour, baking powder, or sugar required. Depending on the ingredients you have on hand, you can either make the basic version that was popular during The Great Depression or tweak the recipe based on what's in your cupboard. Cabbage was another staple during the Great Depression. For people who didn't love the taste, adding other vegetables (often from their very own Victory Gardens) to cabbage-based dishes made them more enjoyable. Today, it's one of the most adaptable soups out there. In keeping with the Great Depression cooking theme, beans are a popular addition, and you can also try cooking with ground beef, chicken, or pork if you're craving some more protein. Depression-era potato pancakes were made with baking powder, flour, and an egg. When fried to perfection, they could actually end up tasting pretty darn good. Hoover Stew is a low cost belly filler.

Hoover Stew and Mulligan Stew were a popular dishes served in soup kitchens across the country. The recipes varied slightly depending on which ingredients the soup kitchens had on hand, but Hoover Stew typically consisted of cooked macaroni, beef sausage or hot dogs, stewed tomatoes, and canned corn, which were put together in a pot and simmered before being served up in bowls. People predominantly cooked Mulligan stew in a spicy beef broth with tomatoes, red peppers, navy beans, onions, corn, potatoes, foraged greens like mustard, collard, turnip and dandelion, and varied cuts of beef meat bits or beef sausage.

Hoover and Mulligan stews also provided much-needed protein and carbohydrates and, today, many people are still cooking them up and adding their own twists to give it some more flavor. Add beans, onions, peppers, squash,

and tomatoes, and you'll have a healthy stew with low-cost ingredients. Rice pudding was considered a cheap but delicious luxury snack or dessert during the Depression. It was the "stick to your ribs" type of food that became popular out of necessity. Luckily, this is one dish that was tasty as well, and there have been many variations over the years. It's no surprise that comfort food is especially popular during our current era of fear and uncertainty. It takes a minimum of 50 minutes to get the thickness and texture right. You’ll know it’s done when it’s about the consistency of yogurt. It will thicken up more as it cools, but you stir in a little more milk just before serving to loosen it up some. Add golden raisins cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg and ½ a teaspoon of honey for an extra fancy dessert, but only 5 ingredients are needed to make this amazing dessert: milk, sugar, salt, long grain rice, and vanilla extract.

  • 1. In a large saucepan, combine 5 1/2 cups milk, ½ cup sugar, and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

  • 2. Stir in ½ cup rice and reduce heat to low. Be sure to adjust the heat so that it is at a gentle simmer.

  • 3. Stirring occasionally, cook for 50 to 60 minutes. Mixture should thicken up to the consistency of yogurt.

  • 4. Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in 2 tsp vanilla.

  • 5. Let cool and then refrigerate. The last 1/2 cup milk (with Honey) is stirred in just before serving. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.

Meat was in short supply during the Great Depression. Resourceful cooks came up with recipes like chipped beef on toast, which was made with small amounts of butter and milk and then put over toast. This recipe was also a staple in the diets of U.S. military members during World War I and World War II. Tasty Tip, If you can't find the jarred dried beef, substitute any sliced deli beef (roast or corned beef would be excellent), even using uncured meat, air dried turkey (brine for 24 hours then air dry in fridge for 12 hours) or beef jerky. Try the following recipe over biscuits, potato bread or sourdough toast with some eggs over easy!


  • 1(2 ounce) package dried beef

  • 1⁄4cup butter

  • 1⁄4cup flour

  • 2cups milk

  • 1⁄8 teaspoon ground pepper


  • Cut beef into ribbons or pieces.

  • Melt butter in pan on medium heat.

  • Mix in flour and pepper with a whisk or fork.

  • SLOWLY add milk, mixing constantly.

  • Bring to simmer and add beef.

  • Simmer for five minutes.

  • Serve over toast.

Here's a shopping list of healthy but relatively cheap foods that you may want to consider putting in your shopping cart.

  • Apples.

  • Bananas.

  • Bags of various Beans.(Navy,Pinto,Kidney,Black Eyed Peas,Chickpeas)

  • Brown rice.

  • Chicken.

  • Chuck roast.

  • Corn, Flour, or Coconut flour tortillas.

  • Eggs.

  • Flour.

  • Frozen blueberries.

  • Frozen vegetables.

  • Ground turkey or ground chuck.

  • lettuce.

  • Lentils.

  • Mushrooms.

  • Oats.

  • Peanut or sunflower butter.

  • Pasta.

  • Sweet and white Potatoes.

  • Spinach.

  • Tomatoes.

  • Grits

  • Breadfruit

  • Dandelion greens

  • Onions

The graham cracker pie crust is a delicious innovation from the Depression-era. The idea to use the crackers during the Great Depression resulted in part from disgruntled New England bakers and Nabisco's marketing efforts. WBUR reports Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham educated the public about the importance of fiber and unprocessed grains in the 19th century. The minister railed against the evils of bakers for using white sugar and whole wheat. Not only did nutritional deficits go against what Graham felt the Bible required, he felt food should be homemade, not mass-produced.

Perhaps as a snub, Boston bakers started making cracker-shaped cookies called graham crackers. Sold as a vague health food, the minister would have hated graham crackers for their processed ingredients and commercial producers. The same Boston bakers formed a coalition that would one day become the National Biscuit Company, known today as Nabisco. In order to avoid a drop in sales during the Great Depression, Nabisco created newspaper ads disguised as editorials claiming science proved the health of the crackers they called "Cracker Cookery."

WBUR reports the ads showed the crackers could be used as a cheap and simple pie crust made without flour, sugar, or a rolling pin. Depression-era bakers around the country made pies by filling crusts with pudding, sweet potato, navy bean, mince, or pumpkin puree or updated pie recipes like key lime pie and cheesecake to be made with graham cracker crusts. Regardless of the drama, today's bakers will appreciate the budget-friendly approach and the buttery, crispy results.

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