Most Popular Recipes in the Decade You Were Born

Check out our list of recipes that defined each of the last 12 decades
Most Popular Recipes in the Decade You Were Born

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Most Popular Recipes in the Decade You Were Born

Most Popular Recipes in the Decade You Were Born

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Some of the most popular foods we snack on today were first created at the turn of the twentieth century. The first reference of our favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich didn’t appear in print until 1901 and it would be about another 20 years before “sliced bread” would become available to consumers.

The invention of foods like Spam, Karo syrup, Crisco, Jell-O, and frozen food all played a major role in the development of food trends. World events that limited what was available like World War I and II, as well as the Great Depression, meant cheap food based off of shelf-stable canned foods rose in popularity.

Glimpse into food history from the last 12 decades with recipes and historical perspective that explain why these recipes were so popular in their time. 

1900: Perfection Salad

1900: Perfection Salad

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It’s not likely you’ve tried this popular recipe from the early twentieth century, but this recipe of gelatin, lemon juice, and cabbage tastes a whole lot like the Jell-O salad equivalent of coleslaw. Not particularly suited for modern tastes, this salad used the newly invented Jell-O as its base, and fit right in with the popular Domestic Scientist movement, which was led by women, like Fannie Farmer, who sought to modernize the American diet through science.

For the Perfection Salad recipe, click here.

1910: Chicken a la King

1910: Chicken a la King

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The origins of Chicken a la King are a bit murky, but everyone from New York’s famous Delmonico’s restaurant to a cook in the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia have claimed ownership of the original recipe. It took a little more than a decade from its first menu appearance to reach mass appeal. The dish itself is a simple recipe of diced chicken and vegetables served in a cream sauce with a side of pasta, bread, or rice.

For the Chicken a la King recipe, click here.

1920: S’mores

1920: S’mores

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S’mores haven’t waned in popularity since a recipe for “Some Mores” appeared in the 1927 edition of the Girl Scouts of America Cookbook. The original recipe said to cook the marshmallows over a fire, “to a crisp gooey state” — just the way we like them.

For the Back Deck S’mores recipe, click here.

1930: Sloppy Joes

1930: Sloppy Joes

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The 1930’s ushered in the height of the Great Depression. Food was scarce, so the most popular recipes stretched pricier foods, like meat. According to the The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, the first printed appearance of “sloppy joes” occurred in 1935; this dish was economical. As for the “Joe” in sloppy joe, it most likely refers to the “American proletarian character.”

For the Sloppy Joes recipe, click here.

1940: Chiffon Cake

1940: Chiffon Cake

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An insurance salesman named Harry Baker invented the chiffon cake, and by the late 1940s he had sold his recipe to General Mills. The cake was called the “first new cake in 100 years,” making it a popular recipe feature in magazines and newspapers. The cake, which uses oil rather than butter, was widely acclaimed when a recipe for Betty Crocker’s Orange Chiffon Cake appeared in a 1948 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

For the Lemon Chiffon Cake recipe, click here.

1950: Green Bean Casserole

1950: Green Bean Casserole

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Vegetables served in a cream sauce wasn’t new in the 1950s, but the iconic Green Bean Casserole with creamy mushroom soup topped with crispy onions was an invention of the Campbell’s Soup Company in 1955.

For the Green Bean Casserole recipe, click here.

1960: Fondue

1960: Fondue

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The Swiss favorite made a huge splash in the 1960s. In May of 1966, The New York Times published an ad for a fondue pot calling chocolate fondue the, “new 'hip' spear and dip dessert that makes a party frolic of the after dinner fruit.” From cheese to meat to dessert fondues, the trend has held on in subsequent generations.

For the Cheese Fondue recipe, click here.

1970: General Tso’s Chicken

1970: General Tso’s Chicken

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The recipe was created by chef Peng Chang-kuei who cooked for national banquets and eventually caught the eye of Chairman Mao Zedong himself. Chinese food’s popularity in the West exploded in the 1970s, with New York City as the capital of the western embrace of regional Chinese cooking (due to the influx of Chinese immigrants after a change in immigration policy in 1965). Two chefs, David Keh and T.T. Wang, traveled to Taiwan to learn from chef Peng in 1971, and promptly returned with a recipe for General Tso’s Chicken that they featured in their New York Times review of Hunan-style restaurants. 

For the General Tso’s chicken recipe, click here.

1980: Sushi

1980: Sushi

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When Molly Ringwald pulled out her sushi lunch in The Breakfast Club (1985), sushi was hitting its stride as a trendy food in the U.S. By the end of the 1980’s, the infatuation with California Rolls had spread across the U.S., from Los Angeles to New York City.

For the California Roll recipe, click here.

1990: Molten Chocolate Cake

1990: Molten Chocolate Cake

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This recipe, which has roots in decadent chocolate soufflé cakes popular through the 1980’s, was first mentioned by name in publications in the 1990s. While the origins of this particular dessert are fine dining, the simple ingredients made this recipe a popular staple and comfort food throughout the decade in homes, fine dining restaurants, and casual chain dining establishments.

For the Molten Chocolate Cake recipe, click here.

2000: Cupcakes

2000: Cupcakes

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By the mid-2000s, you couldn’t cross a city street without stumbling upon a new cupcakery. The childhood treat turned trendy with appearances in pop-culture (Think: Magnolia Bakery’s appearance in Sex in the City). Americans lined up to pay upwards of three dollars a cupcake at trendy boutique-style stores, like Sprinkles, Crumbs, and the aforementioned Magnolia Bakery. The rise was great, but so was the fall, with the shuttering of Crumbs’ empire in 2014. It seems the best days of the pricey cupcake are on a downward spiral.

For the Double Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes recipe, click here.

2010: Macaroni and Cheese

2010: Macaroni and Cheese

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The second decade in the twenty-first century has proven to be the decade of gourmet macaroni and cheese. Like the chocolate molten cake of the 1990s, this trend seems to traverse high- and low-end dinner menus. Macaroni and cheese consistently ranks among the most-searched and highest-rated recipes on recipe-based websites. So whether you prefer truffle oil or pimento cheese added to your upgraded Kraft dinner, there will be no shortage of cheese in your trend-driven diet.

For the Famous Macaroni and Cheese recipe, click here.