Home Recipe Roundup 10 Wartime Recipes From a Bygone Era

10 Wartime Recipes From a Bygone Era

No matter what country a person lived in or which war they lived through, wartime recipes were reasonably similar in many ways. 

During a war, people didn’t have as much as they did in more peaceful times, which often meant they had to cook with very few and basic ingredients.

Spiced Loaf Cake with Raisins
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Sometimes, they only had what rations or commodities the government gave them. 

Trying to come up with a complete, balanced, and healthy meal given those kinds of restrictions wasn’t easy, but creative people usually made do. 

Occasionally, they’d even cobble together enough to fix a dessert, which was definitely a rarity in such difficult times. 

Today, much of the world – including the U.S. – is fortunate to not be in the middle of a devastating war and to have plenty of ingredients with which to cook. 

However, whipping up some of these wartime recipes now and then helps remind us how blessed we truly are.

(Plus, surprisingly enough, some of them are pretty darned tasty.)

1. Victory Borscht

One ingredient that wasn’t always available during wartime was oil, which is why borscht became such a popular dinnertime option.

You’ll start with a beef or vegetable broth base and then add a ton of fresh veggies – onions, beets, celery, tomatoes, carrots, etc.

There’s also garlic, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice.

The result is a healthy, surprisingly filling soup that tastes even better with a dollop of sour cream on top. 

2. Woolton Pie

Woolton pie was popular in Britain in World War II.

It’s a bit like vegetable pot pie, only the crust is much different because you’ll make it from mashed potatoes, along with the flour and shortening.

The filling is just a bunch of veggies, with some oatmeal thrown in for extra fiber and other nutrients.

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Still, if you like mashed potatoes and veggies, you’ll probably enjoy this one. 

3. The National Wheatmeal Loaf

The wheatmeal loaf is another World War II recipe, and if you’re looking for a simple way to make bread, you’ll like it, as well.

All you’ll need is salt, yeast, honey (or treacle), water, and the main ingredient – wholemeal bread flour. Like most bread, it takes some time to rise. 

After that, though, it takes only 30 minutes to bake. It’s dense and filling but also soft, and it has a rich, slightly nutty flavor that’s not bad at all.

4. Spam Fritters

Spam fritters may seem like a super weird thing to make, but they were cheap and contained 15% of a person’s daily needed protein, so they were pretty popular. 

Believe it or not, they don’t taste bad either, especially if you use the additional optional ingredients (cheese and Dijon mustard). 

Each fritter has a meaty Spam center, surrounded by crunchy, flavorful, deep-fried batter made from flour, beer, baking powder, salt, and pepper. 

5. Homity Pie

Homity pie may not be familiar, but I’m here to tell you that it’s incredible.

And I mean that without any disclaimer. It’s incredible, not “incredible for a wartime recipe.”

The shortcrust pastry crust is simply phenomenal, and the filling contains butter, cream potatoes, onions, leeks, and thyme.

It’s herb-filled, garden fresh, and supremely creamy.

Once you top the whole thing with cheddar cheese, you’ll have a delicious savory pie that no one would turn down. 

6. Condensed Milk Cake

Remember when I said desserts were hard to come by in wartime?

Well, that was the truth, and when people did make them, they usually had to do so with the barest of bare ingredients. 

That’s when the condensed milk cake was born. 

With nothing more than butter, flour, raisins, marmalade, condensed milk, water, and eggs, savvy cooks whipped up a tender, crumbly, and unbelievably tasty cake. 

With this recipe, you can make one yourself. 

7. Chocolate Crispy Cakes

This recipe dates back to 1941, but these bite-sized cakes didn’t become hugely popular until V-E Day in 1945, when people made them to celebrate victory in Europe.

Everything you need to know about these delightful mouthfuls is right there in the name. They’re crispy and chocolatey. 

Like the condensed milk cake, they too are made with very few ingredients.

All you’ll need is butter, golden syrup, cocoa powder, and some type of rice cereal. (I use Rice Krispies.)

They take a whopping 10 minutes to prepare and cook, and everyone will love these crunchy chocolate treats. 

Depression Cake with Sprinkles

8. Wacky Cake

During the Great Depression, dairy wasn’t something that was easy to find.

However, people still had birthdays, weddings, and other (though few) reasons to celebrate. 

People wanted – maybe even needed – the occasional cake, so they found ways to make it without dairy. 

Whether you call it Depression cake or wacky cake, this dairy-free cake is remarkably good.

It’s soft, moist, and fluffy, and hey, chocolate is chocolate. It’s always yummy. 

9. War Cake

Also known as poor man’s cake, war cake relies on the power of spices to help ramp up its flavor. 

As with most wartime recipes, the ingredients for war cake are pantry staples – water, sugar, butter, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and raisins. 

If you think that none of that sounds particularly enjoyable or appetizing, I understand the sentiment.

However, war cake has a few “secret weapons” of its own.

Those secret weapons are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ground ginger.

All your favorite fall spices come out to play in this dense and hearty wartime cake. 

And if you were wondering, yes, it smells just as amazing as it tastes. 

10. Anzac Biscuits

If you’re looking for an unbelievably quick way to make sweet and flavorful cookies in 20 minutes or less, you’ll need to bookmark this recipe for Anzac biscuits. 

They originated in the Australia/New Zealand regions in World War I, and though they include several more ingredients than some of the options on this list, you can make them in no time.

The almonds, coconut, butter, and syrup give them a marvelous flavor, and the almond, coconut, and oats give them an equally fascinating texture. 

These cookies (biscuits) are gooey and chewy, and they taste just as good cold as they do fresh from the oven. 

10 Wartime Foods From a Bygone Era


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author avatar
NaTaya Hastings
NaTaya Hastings is a food and recipe writer for Insanely Good Recipes. She’s an educator, boy mom, dog mom, and whatever-stray-enters-the-yard mom. As a result, she's constantly cooking for both humans and animals.

Luckily, she enjoys it!

Though born, raised, and still living in Alabama, her specialty is NOT down-home Southern cooking. Instead, she loves to experiment with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and other ethnic cuisines. She has two mottos when it comes to cooking. “The more spice, the better!” and “There’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

She’s also pretty good with desserts. Especially the easy, no-bake ones.

Her favorite things are cuddling with her four giant dogs, traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out in nature. She’s also pretty excellent at Dominoes.

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