13 Old-Fashioned Ingredients That Remind Us of Our Moms and Grandmas

You'll want to add *at least* a few of these old favorites to your own repertoire.

Partial as we are to the meals that remind us of our moms and grandmothers, we have to admit that their recipes can read a little (dare we say it) dated. Whether it's because they counted on fewer shortcuts or reached for ingredients that modern cooks have phased out, retro recipes belong to another time.

And that's exactly what we love about them. Our editors and Allrecipes Allstars are looking back at the old-fashioned ingredients that their own moms and grandmothers turned to time and again. These 13 nostalgic ingredients deserve a nod, if not a full-on comeback.


"In the old days in Wisconsin, it was actually illegal to make and sell oleo, a.k.a. margarine. I grew up hearing stories about people crossing state lines to buy it! My grandma would sometimes call margarine 'oleo,' so I still associate the word with her. She would use oleo in baking, and one time when I told her I was making a pie crust entirely from real butter, she couldn't believe it. Considering she was born and bred in America's Dairyland, I found this pretty amusing!" — Diana Moutsopoulos, Senior Editor, SEO


"Self-rising flour and Crisco are pantry ingredients that remind me of Mom. When she planned to visit us, I always made sure I had these ingredients on hand so she could make us her incredibly light biscuits with a crispy crust. She was a fantastic 'scratch' cook, and she was my 4-H leader in elementary school. Thanks to Mom, I have great confidence in the kitchen, and I know I can do just about anything if I read the directions!" — Brenda Venable, Allrecipes Allstar

Bouillon Cubes

"My mom has never hesitated to drop a bouillon cube into the pot, just like her own mom. While hand-measuring seasonings has its merits, you really can't beat the convenience of a tiny cube, nor can you replicate its savory chicken flavor." — Mary Claire Lagroue, Assistant Editor

Cream of Tartar

"I never see cream of tartar in recipes nowadays, but my mom and grandmother never went without having it on hand. They swore by it for all their meringue pies: lemon, lime, coconut, etc." — Faith Beach Nettles, Allrecipes Allstar

"I never even knew what cream of tartar was until I found her Snickerdoodle recipe after she passed. The best tasting cookie ever!" — Jodi Thomas, Allrecipes Allstar

Condensed Soup

"Convenience food was a staple in my house, so we ate plenty of casseroles with a can or two of Campbell's condensed soups. My personal favorite was an extra comforting dish made by mixing macaroni and cheese with sautéed onions and ground beef, then smothering it in Campbell's Tomato Soup and a layer of Cheddar cheese before baking. You'd be surprised by how much a small can of soup can pep up a dish." — Hayley Sugg, Associate Editor

Wondra Flour

"My mother-in-law (I married at 21 and always called her Mom) taught so much about cooking. She taught me how to make Thanksgiving turkey gravy with the roasting pan drippings, milk, and Wondra flour. Wondra is the key to lump-free gravies. Its powdery consistency simply shakes out of the canister into the liquids. No measuring needed, as you know when it's perfect! Our turkey gravy proved to be the star of Thanksgiving dinner year after year. I still use Wondra flour for all gravies and to thicken soups and sauces. It's a staple in our panty." — Lisa Lynn Backus, Allrecipes Allstar


"Yeast isn't used as much nowadays as it used to be. My mom used to make bread every day, whether it was loaf bread or hot rolls or cinnamon rolls or what have you. This was an everyday thing. We always have yeast on hand, and that's what she used." — Peggi Weaver Tebben, Allrecipes Allstar


"My grandfather ate a ton of Spam while serving in the Navy during World War II, and he vowed he would never eat it again. Little did he know, my grandmother would sneak it into her eggplant casserole, a dish he really loved. He only found this out years and years later. Even as someone who has avoided Spam at all costs, too, I have to admit that I would probably like its salty-sweet, meaty flavor in a dish, but only if I don't know I'm eating it!" — Mary Claire Lagroue, Assistant Editor


"A few weeks ago, I told my colleague that cardamom (which may not seem old-fashioned, but it's been used for at least 4,000 years, so yeah, it's old to me) is 'my grandma spice.' But the truth is that cardamom doesn't just remind me of my grandmother. I have a huge extended family, so I have plenty of amehs and khalehs who have lovingly prepared sholeh zard, super soft yet sandy chickpea cookies, and baklava for visits and family parties. When I smell or eat cardamom, I'm immediately wrapped in hugs and cheek kisses from Iranian old ladies, and it's a sensation I never want to leave." — Sarra Sedghi, Associate Editor


"Our family is big into mincemeat. Not the canned stuff that has no meat in it, the good stuff full of beef and tallow. We have a tradition where family will take a whole day to prepare, cook, and can mincemeat. We had made a bunch with my grandma not too long before she passed away, and since we had made so much, it took us a long time to go through all the jars. I distinctly remember us eating as a family the mincemeat pie from the last jar she made, probably 10 years after she passed. Very emotional. My parents and brother's family made a big batch about two years ago, and we have a stash of that in our pantry. Every jar is special and brings up good memories." — Angie Fuller, Allrecipes Allstar


"Velveeta is my family's secret weapon for holiday meals. My grandmother used it in casseroles, and my mom and aunts still count on it to make our staple side dishes like Spinach Madeleine (a Louisiana favorite) and broccoli casserole. I may say I prefer 'real' cheese to the processed stuff, but our ultra creamy holiday sides convince me that there is absolutely something to Velveeta." — Mary Claire Lagroue, Assistant Editor


"Oatmeal makes me think of my mum. Years ago, when my parents were newlyweds, my father was in Vietnam and my mother moved to California and lived with her great aunt, Joy. Great Aunt Joy taught her how to make oatmeal cake. She took this cake to a church function and baked it on premises. The cake had a broiled topping, and another lady (trying to be helpful) proceeded to take this cake out of the oven and placed it with the main entrees, believing it to be meatloaf. Poor Mum rushed all over trying to find her dessert!" — Sarah Stone, Allrecipes Allstar

Pickle Juice

"She never tossed the pickle juice and would use it in place of vinegar in her sloppy joe recipe. I now keep it just because it reminds me of her." — Stacy Rennie, Allrecipes Allstar

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