Skip to main content

What Did People Eat in the 1920s?

Kitty is a self-proclaimed home and hearth goddess. One of her favorite things is creatively cooking and baking for her family.

One of the Many Food Ads Campaigned by Hoover

One of the Many Food Ads Campaigned by Hoover

The roaring twenties stand out as another revolution in certain ways, and in others...well, not so much. When I think of the 1920s, I always picture cute, short-haired flapper women adorning the arm of a much larger man in a zoot suit. They're probably sipping on some type of bath-tub gin in a speak-easy in the heart of New York City. But...what were they eating? What did people eat in the 1920s?

You might be asking these very questions if indeed you are planning to throw a roaring '20s party, or maybe you're so enchanted with the decade that you'd like to know what a menu from that era might look like. Well, you've come to the right place, daddy!

The United States went through some pretty well-known and noteworthy changes in the 1920s, including the Prohibition and Suffrage. And in the midst of all of this, you can bet that the way the people in the US ate changed, as well. In the late teens, folks were told to conserve food for the War. Many people actually called this the "hooverization" and not necessarily "food conservation." Food was asked to be kept and donated to the military, in order to feed our troops and our allies in World War I. Some key parts to this campaign to conserve food included "Meatless Mondays" and "Wheatless Wednesdays." I guess one could say that on Monday, the family would be eating vegetarian-style meals and on Wednesday breads and pastas were out of the picture. So when the 1920s came roaring in, food conservation was a little less of a concern and people began to indulge in the joys of life, including alcohol (illegally) and food!

Pulling the food in this article directly from an authentic source, you will find one menu below. And further down, you can find the recipes for all items in this menu. My source is actually an antique cookbook from the 1920s that was my great grandmother's (you can see a picture of it to the right and below). I've always loved thumbing through it and seeing what people ate, and now you can get a taste for the roaring '20s too!

Pulled directly from the 52 Sunday Dinners Cookbook from 1927 (originated and published by Woman's World Magazine Co. Inc: Chicago, USA), here is a genuine example of what a typical Sunday dinner in the 1920s looked like:

A Typical 1920s Menu

A January Meal:


  • Clam Broth

Main Dish:

  • Baked Ham (soaked overnight and then rolled in liquor and breadcrumbs, baked in the oven)


  • Stuffed Celery (celery stuffed with cream cheese and red pimentoes)
  • Carrots and Peas (boiled and served around the ham)
  • Fried Cauliflower
  • Potatoes with cheese
  • Walnut Bread


  • Caramel Custard
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

Appetizer: Clam Broth


  • 6 cups milk
  • 1 cup chopped fresh clams (or 1 can minced clams)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Crackers


  1. Heat in double boiler milk to boil.
  2. Add clams, butter, salt and pepper to milk.
  3. Simmer 5 minutes and then serve with crackers.
Clam broth can be served as an appetizer to nearly any 1920s themed meal.

Clam broth can be served as an appetizer to nearly any 1920s themed meal.

Sides: Carrots and Peas


  • Bag of carrots (scraped, cleaned, and cut into 1/2 pieces)
  • 1 can or 1 bag of small peas
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Butter


  1. Boil carrots until tender.
  2. Mix peas, butter, salt & pepper into carrots.
  3. Make a border around baked ham on a large platter.

Main Dish: Baked Ham


  • 1 ham (size of your choice)
  • 1 bottle rum or whiskey (again, your choice)
  • 1 small bottle of cloves
  • 3 cups breadcrumbs or crushed crackers


  1. Soak ham overnight in plenty of water after scrubbing well and rinsing (if already cleaned, skip the scrubbing part)
  2. In the morning, change the water and boil the ham for 25 minutes per pound, until ham is tender.
  3. Take off the stove and let stand in the liquor until cold. Then peel (if necessary), stick cloves all over it, and roll in crackers or breadcrumbs.
  4. Half an hour before serving, bake in hot oven.

Sides: Stuffed Celery


  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup red pimentoes
  • Bag of celery, cut into 6" pieces


  1. Mash cream cheese together with pimentoes.
  2. Use mixture to stuff pieces of celery and pile log cabin fashion on a small serving plate.

Sides: Potatoes with Cheese


  • Potatoes (3 to 4 baking size)
  • 2 Tbsp grated cheese (of your choice)
  • 2 tsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup milk
  • Flour (to thicken milk)


  1. Wash the potatoes, pare them, and then cut in either thin slices or cubes.
  2. If in cubes, cook for 5 minutes in salted water and drain.
  3. Put in layers in buttered baking dish with 2 tbsp cheese, salt and papper and a few dots of butter between each layer.
  4. Thicken a cup of milk with butter and flour as for Creamed Salsify and turn over potatoes. add more if needed to fill the dish.
  5. Sprinkle top with grated cheese, salt & pepper, and bake until brown and the potatoes are tender.
Potatoes and cheese in the above recipe is, in fact, potatoes au gratin. It is just as good today as in the 1920s!

Potatoes and cheese in the above recipe is, in fact, potatoes au gratin. It is just as good today as in the 1920s!

Sides: Fried Cauliflower


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Frying Oil of your Choice (we recommend vegetable oil)


  1. Boil well-washed cauliflower for 15 minutes, or until about half done, in slightly salted water.
  2. Drain, cool and break into small branches.
  3. Make batter of flour, beaten with egg yolks, and 1/4 tsp salt. Add water to make usual thickness of batter.
  4. Beat egg whites very stiff and add.
  5. Put cauliflower branches on skewer, dip in the batter, then fry light brown in oil.
  6. Lift from oil and put in colander to drain.
  7. Dust with salt and serve hot.

Dessert: Caramel Custard


  • 1 quart milk
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup sugar carmelized (instructions for carmelized sugar below this recipe)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Cook milk in double boiler with beaten eggs, carmelized sugar, and pinch of salt until thick.
  2. Add vanilla and chill. Serve Cold.

To Carmelize Sugar:

Stir in iron skillet over stove until sugar dissolves and becomes a syrup of rich caramel color, add 3 tbsp water and cook to a thick syrup.

You can see from the 1920s menus above and the ingredients in the recipes that people in that era cooked food similarly to what we make now. Shocking, isn't it? Of course some of the methods, ingredients, and appliances in order to cook the recipes have changed over time, but the concepts are quite similar today as they were in the roaring '20s.

People feasted together in the 1920s, same as they do in modern times!

People feasted together in the 1920s, same as they do in modern times!

© 2012 Kitty Fields


Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on August 05, 2015:

Thanks, Kristen.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 04, 2015:

Great hub Kitty! Voted up for interesting!

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on May 25, 2015:

GetitScene - thanks so much!

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on May 25, 2015:

I'd forgotten how good this hub was so I came back fro another look

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on May 23, 2015:

Thank you, vicki!

Vicki Holder from The beautiful Ouachita Mtns. in Arkansas on May 22, 2015:

I am new to HP and just came across this hub. I love vintage things so I found this fascinating.

Woody on May 21, 2014:

Thanks for this most interesting article. My dad was born in '20, so I'm sure some of these recipes may have found their way to his families table, they had 9. I'm not sure how often they had ham, especially during the depression, but they did grow, raise, and hunt their own food. He's still alive at 94!

So after soaking the ham in rum, I can imagine the rum being used afterward with a unique ham flavor! Very well written, thanks Kitty!


Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on November 05, 2012:

Thanks, eddy. You're always too kind. :)

Eiddwen from Wales on November 05, 2012:

I am saving this true gem. Thank you so very much for sharing this one. I loved it and share plus vote up..

Take care and enjoy your day.


Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on August 29, 2012:

I believe they did, mizjo! And yes, a lot of women were stay-at-home mothers/wives with a lot of time on their hands to make meals and clean house, etc. Thanks!

mizjo from New York City, NY on August 29, 2012:

Kitty, people must have eaten well before the Crash and before Prohibition (a full bottle of rum to soak the ham?). And the cooks must have been Stay-At-Home mothers, as there seems to be a lot of preparation in each item of the menu.

Interesting and absorbing hub, voted up.

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on June 11, 2012:


Akasha Arshad from Lahore on June 11, 2012:


nylarej from Ph on June 08, 2012:

I love this hub! Very interesting and can be a great educational source for people who have interest in history.

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on May 21, 2012:

Derdriu - Thanks so much! They do sound yummy, don't they? The 1940s food hub is coming soon...couple more days and it should be ready. :) Thanks again! Not sure but I think they removed the vote up/down buttons on the food hubs for some reason. :(

Derdriu on May 18, 2012:

KittyTheDreamer, What an enchanting, entertaining, and enthralling discussion of a typical 1920 menu! In particular, I appreciate how you give quick background information on the "Roaring Twenties" before providing a sample menu and then a sample recipe. It certainly is amazing how "nowadays" the recipe reads although it probably takes far less time to prepare and serve.

Baked ham, clam broth, fried cauliflower and stuffed celery: yummm!

Respectfully, and with many thanks for sharing and in anticipation of a similar hub regarding the 1940s, Derdriu

P.S. You have all the votes (UFABI), but where's the vote-up button?

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on May 17, 2012:

lucybell21 - Thanks, let me know how it turns out! :)

Bonny OBrien from Troy, N.Y. on May 17, 2012:

The fried cauliflower sounds really good. I will have to give it a try. Really enjoyed reading this hub.

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on May 17, 2012:

leroy64 - In my research, upscale restaurants in cities and some wealthier people could afford refrigeration, while most had iceboxes or none at all. So yes, I guess they were soaking the ham to draw out the salt, as you said.

Brian L. Powell from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff) on May 17, 2012:

Was the menus written before refrigeration became common? You soak a ham to draw out the salt. Salting and smoking meat was the most common way to preserve that food before refrigeration.

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on May 17, 2012:

Dolores - Yes, I sort of got inspired by your clothing hubs so thanks for the inspiration! I have a lot of cookbooks from the 40s and 50s and yes you're right in that the pictures of the food were extremely weird. One of the recipes is "barbecue jello"...yuck! LOL. Thanks for reading & commenting, as always.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 17, 2012:

Hi, kitty - I see that you will be writing hubs on food in other decades as well. What an excellent idea! One of my favorite things about older cookbooks, especially the ones from the 50's is the weird quality of color pages. The food all looks strange and many of the recipes seem downright peculiar.

One of the things about those past decades is that they were limited in the fresh food department and wound up eating a lot of canned foods. Voted up for highly original!

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on May 17, 2012:

sparrowlet - Thanks!

AP - I love picturing the people in the 1920s, not sure what draws me to the time period so much, as I'm not sure I lived in that time...but anything's possible I guess! One recipe actually had "fat" in it, but I replaced it with oil! LOL

daFuj - Thanks so much! Glad you liked it. :)

phoenix - You're too kind. So could I....they knew how to do it in the 20s.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on May 17, 2012:

Very nice. I could quite happily munch my way through this menu, especially the ham. Sounds wonderful. Am bookmarking this for future reference.

Voted useful and interesting.

daFuj from Colorado Springs on May 16, 2012:

What an interesting hub! This type of history is lost and you have found a way to recapture it! Nice going!

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on May 16, 2012:

Cool and unique Roaring Twenties hub Kitty! And what an idea with what they ate as they sipped their boot-leg booze and tripped the light fantastic dancing the Charleston. Those are some great looking ingredients and recipes, but wheres the Lard lol!!

Katharine L Sparrow from Massachusetts, USA on May 16, 2012:

Something I had never thought about before. Interesting hub!

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on May 16, 2012:

Joyce - I have to say that I agree with that! What a meal, huh? 1940s menu to come soon. :)

angellite - Thanks!

Angelllite from United States on May 16, 2012:


Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on May 16, 2012:

Very interesting. Boy! did they know how to eat.

Voted up useful and interesting.

Looking forward to the 1940s menu, Joyce.

Kitty Fields (author) from Summerland on May 16, 2012:

Thanks, Audrey! The idea just hit comes 1940s food! :)

Audrey Howitt from California on May 16, 2012:

What a great idea for a hub!

Related Articles