20 School Cafeteria Recipes That'll Spark Nostalgia

top-down view of a dozen golden brown rolls on a baking sheet
Photo: Cindy in Pensacola

Relive the good old days with some of our favorite school cafeteria recipes. We've got nostalgic ideas that will make you feel like you're sitting in your grade school lunchroom. Remember those buttered rolls that you paired with every entree? How about the square pizza slices that either made or ruined your entire day? Plus, we didn't forget about kid-friendly desserts (like peanut butter bars and chocolate chip cookies) to complete your meal. Take a trip down memory lane with these childhood favorites.

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Cafeteria Macaroni and Cheese

Cafeteria Macaroni and Cheese

A crispy breadcrumb topping is the perfect complement to classic, creamy macaroni and cheese. This old-fashioned recipe works well as an entrée or a side dish.

02 of 21

School Lunchroom Cafeteria Rolls

top-down view of a dozen golden brown rolls on a baking sheet
Cindy in Pensacola

The Allrecipes community can't get enough of this top-rated recipe. "My 8-year-old daughter loves the cafeteria rolls and said my recipe was even better," says recipe creator MOMMY2THREEANGELS. "You can't mess these up!"

03 of 21

Detroit-Style Pizza

Detroit-Style Pizza
Chef John

Few lunchroom foods are as divisive as the infamous rectangular pizza. Whether you loved it or hated it, Chef John's take on Detroit-style pizza will definitely win you over.

04 of 21

Retro School Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars

Retro School Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars
Rebekah Rose Hills

These chewy cookie bars are impossible to resist. "There are many versions of 'the peanut butter bar' but, I believe this recipe comes the closest to what I remember eating in the 1960s," says recipe creator Deborah Olson.

05 of 21

Easy Chicken Taquitos

Easy Chicken Taquitos

Remember how excited you were when you realized it was Crispito day in the cafeteria? Try these simple chicken taquitos for a dose of deliciousness and nostalgia.

06 of 21

Homemade Tater Tots

Homemade Tater Tots
Soup Loving Nicole

Skip the freezer aisle and serve this homemade version of the kid-friendly side dish. Serve with ketchup or, as recipe creator Shaysfoodjourney recommends, a remoulade sauce.

07 of 21

Real Nacho Cheese Sauce

plate of tortilla chips topped with homemade nacho cheese sauce and sliced jalapeno peppers

Make this Cheddar cheese sauce in just 15 minutes with kitchen staples like cream cheese, butter, and cornstarch. If you want to go the extra mile, make homemade tortilla chips.

08 of 21

Easy Air Fryer French Toast Sticks

Easy Air Fryer French Toast Sticks
Buckwheat Queen

When "breakfast for lunch" was on the menu, you knew it would be a good day at school. Recipe creator bd.weld suggests starting with dry bread so it doesn't fall apart during the soaking process.

09 of 21

Sloppy Joes

portrait shot sloppy joes
Allrecipes Magazine

More than 7,000 Allrecipes users have given this meaty comfort food recipe rave reviews. "This is the perfect basic sloppy joes recipe," says reviewer ARNOLDIRR. "I won't be buying the canned stuff anymore."

10 of 21

Easy Baked Chicken Tenders

Baked Chicken Tenders on white plate on tea towel

Try this healthier, lower-oil take on fried chicken tenders. If you don't have any Panko breadcrumbs in the pantry, reviewer Lynn suggests using crushed crackers or pretzels.

11 of 21

Pizza Rolls

Pizza rolls on a white plate

These tasty pizza rolls are deceptively easy to make, thanks to a convenient secret ingredient: egg roll wraps - which are used instead of dough!

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Air Fryer Fish Sticks

Air Fryer Fish Sticks
Soup Loving Nicole

Your air fryer is the key to these crowd-pleasing homemade fish sticks. Cod strips are dredged in a Panko-Parmesan mixture, then air-fried to crispy perfection.

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Basic Mashed Potatoes

fluffy-looking mashed potatoes in a turquoise bowl

It couldn't be easier to make these simply seasoned mashed potatoes with just milk and butter. Recipe creator Esmee Williams calls them "simple and delicious."

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Scrumptious Frosted Fudgy Brownies

Scrumptious Frosted Fudgy Brownies

These fudgy brownies are topped with a simple 5-ingredient frosting. This recipe calls for walnuts, but you can easily leave them out for an allergy-friendly dessert.

15 of 21

Best Hamburger Ever

A closeup of a burger patty on a bun with lettuce, tomato, melted Cheddar, and caramelized onions

These 30-minute burgers make an excellent addition to any kid-friendly menu. "The name is absolutely perfect," raves reviewer Cindy Rae. "This was the tastiest juiciest moist burger I've ever had!"

16 of 21

Grilled Hot Turkey Sandwiches

grilled turkey sandwich

Here's a basic lunch that everyone at your table will love. A seasoned mayonnaise-salsa mixture adds a flavorful, unexpected touch to these elevated grilled cheese sandwiches.

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Ignacio's Super Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Ignacio's Super Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Picky eaters will love this triple-layered take on the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A toasted slice of white bread in the middle adds wonderful texture.

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Ants on a Log

Ants on a Log
Melissa Goff

Kids will love this healthy snack made with celery, peanut butter, and raisins. "Wow does this ever bring back memories," says reviewer Jillian. "Sometimes the simplest things are the best."

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Perfect Summer Fruit Salad

Perfect Summer Fruit Salad

If you liked those packaged fruit cups during your school days, you'll love this colorful side dish topped with a vanilla-infused citrus sauce.

20 of 21

Award-Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
Photo by bd.weld.

With almost 10,000 glowing reviews, you know these soft chocolate chip cookies will become a staple in your recipe box. What's the secret ingredient? Instant vanilla pudding mix!

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