The Most Popular Recipes of the 1960s
Travel through time with us as we explore the most popular recipes of the 1960s. The world's news was dominated by wars, protests, and marches. Fashion focused on ponchos, bell-bottomed jeans, and tie-dye, with the culminating fashion and music event Woodstock in 1969.
But at home, whether it was whipping up a quick weeknight meal or organizing a menu for a dinner party, food preparation in the 1960s was all about convenience. Finger foods were simple to eat and prepare, and many popular hors d'oeuvre, like French onion dip and cocktail meatballs, started with flavorful, shelf-stable ingredients. Take a look at the 1960s' top recipes, from easy weeknight fare to showstopping mains and desserts.
Tunnel of Fudge Cake II
The tunnel of fudge cake rapidly gained popularity in the mid-1960s, following Pillsbury's 17th annual bake-off, where Ella Rita Helfrich's recipe won second place. Despite not taking the top spot, the tunnel of fudge cake became the basis for one of Pillsbury's major ad campaigns. But this cake didn't just help Pillsbury. It also helped popularize another recent invention — the Bundt pan.
Swedish Meatballs I
Although the origin of Swedish meatballs likely isn't Sweden (the recipe probably came from Turkey), we do know that mid-century cooks had a love fair with all things Nordic — think of it as a precursor to the 2010s obsession with all things hygge. In the kitchen, that translated as Bundt pans, Dansk cookware, and Swedish meatballs. However, admiration wasn't the only reason this recipe became ubiquitous. The streamlined version of Swedish meatballs that swept American households was aided by a life-changing ingredient: cream of mushroom soup.
The Sidecar's origin is said to be based in London or Paris at the end of World War I, and the recipe was first printed in two mixology books in 1922. However, the cocktail is a variation of the Brandy Crusta, which emerged in New Orleans during the 19th century. Mad Men stereotypes aside, cocktail hours were plentiful this decade, both in and outside the workplace, and classic mixed drinks like the Sidecar rapidly gained popularity.
Wedge Salad with Elegant Blue Cheese Dressing
The concept of salad has existed for centuries, of course, but the name "salad" (which, as you can see in vintage recipes, was a loose term) didn't exist in American English until the 1960s. Iceberg lettuce, which was formerly known as crisphead lettuce, was developed in the 1940s, and became the most widely grown lettuce in the United States by the end of the decade. Combined with mass refrigeration, the wedge salad was a staple both at restaurants and in homes.
Beef Wellington may be named after the Duke of Wellington, but it owes its mid-century popularity to Julia Child, who prepared it on The French Chef in 1965. The dish also appears in Child's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. As a result, Beef Wellington became a huge trend and was even served in the Kennedy White House.
Although cheese straws are considered a classic recipe, they were likely inspired by British biscuits. These cheese straws only require five ingredients and come together in half an hour. For best results, use a cookie press, and let the butter and cheese reach room temperature before mixing.
Porcupine Meatballs II
Porcupine meatballs emerged during the Great Depression and quickly became a staple thanks to their budget-stretching abilities. The rice "spines" supplemented the meat, which was hard to come by at that time. They remained popular for several more decades, including the 1960s, which was marked by a bit of a meatball craze.
"There's a lot to love about this classic whiskey and bitters beverage," says creator Home Happy Hour. "The official drink of New Orleans, the Sazerac is every bit as aromatic and flavorful as most anything else from down on the bayou."
Easy Swedish Pancakes
Swedish pancakes have existed for centuries in Europe, but much of their popularity here during the 1960s is linked to the Stockholm Inn and its restaurant in Rockford, Illinois. Their popularity was also linked to mid-century America's obsession with Scandinavian culture.
Grandma's Stuffed Celery
In a decade that was all about appetizers, celery wasn't known as a healthy snack, but instead, a vessel for dips and spreadables. Make-ahead appetizers, including stuffed celery, became a dinner party staple, in part thanks to the advent of mass refrigeration.
Swedish Meatballs (From a Swede!)
"This is the real deal! This is the same recipe I have been cooking for years," says user ILUVMYVOLVO. "I found it in my grandmother's Swedish-English cookbook decades ago. I had sworn myself to secrecy about divluging it but it really is too good not to share!"
Chicken kiev recipes hit American cookbooks after World War II, but the dish most likely came here with Russian, Polish, and other East European immigrants.
Outrageously Good Holiday Salad
"Simple and exceptional! Took to a gathering of incredible cooks," says reviewer Marie L. "It wowed! I used butter lettuce and eliminated the onion since one person was allergic to it. I used a fine grater for the cheese which helped it float throughout the salad rather than sinking to the bottom. Used the recommended Marie s poppyseed dressing. It was the hit of the party."
Easy Skillet Chicken a la King
Chicken a la king, which translates as "king-style chicken," emerged at the end of the 19th century. Printed recipes hit mass media outlets such as the New York Times and the Fannie Farmer Cookbook around the same time. Thanks to the dish's simplicity, it remained popular until the late 20th century.
Steak Diane hit New York restaurants in the 1940s, and remained popular throughout the 1960s. Pounding or slicing the steak thin beforehand makes for a short cooking time.
Lemon Chiffon Cake
For a while, chiffon cake was one of the dessert world's best-kept secrets. Creator Harry Baker kept the recipe to himself for 20 years before selling it to General Mills, who gave the airy cake its name. We're thankful to Baker, as chiffon cake is still popular to this day.
Sarah's Ambrosia Fruit Salad
"This recipe has been in my family for years and years," says creator smviolante. "We make it at every holiday family get together and everyone loves it. It's a great refreshing fruit salad for every occasion, especially summer months and hot days."
Italian immigrants, specifically Neopolitans, brought lasagna to the states at the turn of the century. But lasagna didn't become a household dish until the 1950s. Some say this was influenced by soldiers who were stationed in Italy during WWII, but lasagna (or what has become of it) clearly hit mid-century American values. It comes together relatively easily and quickly, and it feeds a lot of people — sounds like comfort food to us.
Snakes in a Blanket
Snakes in a blanket are a variation of pigs in a blanket, which first appeared in Betty Crocker's Cooking for Kids in 1957. Like their porcine counterpart, snakes in a blanket were easy to consume, making them a popular hors d’oeuvre.
French Onion Dip
One of the biggest food fads at this time was inspired by a life-changing ingredient: Lipton Onion Soup Mix. Made with sour cream or cream cheese and the dehydrated soup mix, onion dip was the ultimate easy appetizer and a hit at cocktail parties.
Smoked Salmon Mousse
Like dips, spreadable appetizers were ubiquitous during the 1960s. Once again, mass refrigeration plays a role in the popularity of a key ingredient — cream cheese.
Cocktail Meatballs I
The idea of combining grape jelly and meatballs sounds unusual, but somehow, the combination works — and it worked very well in the late 1960s. "Brim your chafing dish high with these hearty hors d'ouevres," says a 1969 printing of Betty Crocker's Cookbook. "And ton't forget to supply picks — and plenty of them — for easy eating."
Baked Alaska was — and honestly still may be — the impressive dessert to make in the 1960s. Part of this stems from Alaska itself. The dessert was originally created in 1876, soon after the Alaska territory was acquired). In 1959, Alaska was granted statehood, and as a result, the homage dessert experienced a revival. "Be sure to try other cake and ice-cream combos," says Betty Crocker's Cookbook.