Vintage Foods From the ’70s Worth Trying Now

Peanut Butter Sheet Cake topped with super creamy and sweet peanut butter icing in a baking dish, horizontal view from above, american dessert, flat lay

Vintage Foods From the ’70s Worth Trying Now

If I think about the vintage foods from the ‘70s people should still try today, so many recipes and food items come to mind. We ate meals around the table that our mom spent time planning and preparing. Neighborhood families gathered every Saturday for potluck meals where kids played games and parents played poker.

Kids spent countless hours outside in one of two neighborhood pools, one of which was at my house and the other was my next-door neighbor’s pool. If we weren’t in the pool, we were looking for turtles, crayfish, frogs, etc. in the stream that ran behind our homes. We were hiking in the woods on old logging trails to the abandoned sugar shack.

In the winter, we competed to see who could make it the farthest down the sledding hill while standing up in their sled before falling into the powdery snow. We’d ice skate on the patch of field a neighbor flooded to create a skating rink. We burned off every food we ate, so hearty took precedence over healthy.

I’m about to share the foods from the ‘70s that are worth trying now. Most of these recipes came from my mom’s old metal Land O’Lakes recipe container that moms of the 1970s received as a gift for purchasing Land O’Lakes butter. Others are simply recipes I remember by heart having cooked them with my mom. They’re in alphabetical order. (Also check out “20 Foods That Will Take You Back to the ‘60s” for additional favorites.)

Apple Brownies

Homemade blondie (blonde) brownies apple cake, square slices on plate, horizontal
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Utilize seasonal and local produce to make apple brownies.

For my favorite 1970s recipes, this one is still at the top of my list. Our neighborhood Avon lady always brought a plate of cookies or brownies with her to the homes on her route. As we’re in Vermont where apples are plentiful, she frequently made these. Every kid in the neighborhood looked forward to them.

  • Sift 1 cup of flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp baking soda and set aside.
  • Beat 1 egg, ½ cup softened butter and 1 cup of sugar and slowly add the flour mixture.
  • When combined, stir in 1 cup of chopped apples and 1 cup of chopped walnuts.
  • Spread in a greased 8’ x 9’ pan.
  • Bake at 350ºF for 35 minutes.

Easy No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream

Top view Close up Stainless steel ice cream scoop is scooping chocolate flavor ice cream meat.
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No-churn ice cream can be made by using a hand mixer.

Quick and easy was an important part of foods from the ‘70s. One very popular recipe was for a no-churn ice cream. Using a hand mixer, beat:

  • 14-ounce can of condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • Once mixed, fold in 2 cups of heavy cream that has been whipped separately.

Transfer the mixture to a loaf pan that’s lined with non-stick foil and freeze overnight. Cut into slices to serve.


The leaven for bread is active. Starter sourdough. The concept of a healthy diet
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Herman was a must-have starter for anyone baking in the 70s.

This starter had a life of its own, and neighborhood moms ran out of people to give it to. Yet, I cannot imagine not having Herman as part of our Sunday morning breakfasts. It was a starter made from:

  • 1 package active dry yeast dissolved in ¼ cup warm water for 10 minutes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk

Place in a Ziploc and mash the bag to mix it, and don’t touch the bag for two days. After that, mash the bag to mix it once a day for five days. On the sixth day, add a cup of sugar, a cup of flour, and a cup of milk. Mash the bag to mix it each day for three days. On the 10th day, add 1 ½ cups each of flour, sugar and milk and mix well. Divide into four bags and give away three. The remaining is the starter to use to make pancakes, sweet rolls, breads, etc.

Impossible Pie

Lemon, lime, coconut impossible pie with white chocolate shavings slice with baking dish in the background
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Impossible pie could be made with a variety of flavors such as coconut, custard, or pumpkin.

By the time the ‘70s came to an end, many neighborhood moms started working. That means dinners had to be quick and easy. The same was true of desserts around holidays and special occasions. The “Impossible Pie” became popular and my family had two that were served at family gatherings. One was a custard pie and the other that I’ll share was a pumpkin pie. 

  • Place the following in a blender:
  • ½ cup of baking mix
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of melted butter
  • 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 15-ounce can of pure pumpkin
  • 2 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Blend everything on high for a minute. Pour the mixture into a greased and floured pie pan and bake at 350ºF for an hour. The crust separates as it bakes.

JELL-O 1-2-3

Eating red jelly or jello, spoonful of jelly on the side (Selective Focus, Focus in the middle of the image)
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Although JELL-O 1-2-3 was discontinued, you can make your own at home.

While JELL-O was a staple, the company came out with JELL-O 1-2-3 in the late 1960s and it was a popular dessert in the ‘70s. It was JELL-O, but it separated into three layers with a foamy top layer, a denser foam center layer, and the normal JELL-O layer on the bottom.

The product has been discontinued for more than a decade, but you can make it yourself. Make JELL-O as the package directs but put it in a blender for a minute before pouring it into single-serving jars. I use half-pint jars. As it chills, the layers separate.

JELL-O Salads

Raspberry Jell-O Salad with fork
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While there were some cringe-worthy JELL-O salads in the 70s, others could be quite tasty.

JELL-O salads were still immensely popular in the 1970s. I shudder as I remember horrible concoctions where tuna, sour cream, chopped celery, and pimentos were mixed into lemon JELL-O. Thankfully, my mom realized it wasn’t good and never did that again.

One that did appeal to me was a Thanksgiving staple in many homes.

  • Toast 1 cup of chopped walnuts in a skillet for just a few minutes.
  • Dissolve the powder from 2 small boxes of raspberry JELL-O in 1 cup of boiling water.
  • Once the powder is fully dissolved, add ¾ cup of ice water and ¼ cup of orange juice.
  • Mix in a 14-ounce can of whole-berry cranberry sauce and a 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple.
  • Pour that mixture into a JELL-O mold or bowl of your choosing.
  • Sprinkle on the chopped walnut and chill overnight.

Homemade Fudgsicles

Homemade Cold Chocolate Fudge Popsicles on a Stick
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Make your own fudgsicles for a classic 70s treat.

JELL-O also made Pudding Pops that kids loved, but the cost made them less appealing to parents. Instead, we’d often get this homemade take on them.

  • Make a large box of JELL-O Cook & Serve chocolate pudding using 3 ½ cups water and adding an extra ¾ cup sugar.
  • Once it reaches a boil, remove it from heat and cool, but stir it regularly to prevent skin from forming.
  • Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap or lid and place in the freezer.
  • Once the outer edge has formed ice crystals, use a hand mixer to beat in 1 cup of heavy cream until smooth and light.
  • Spoon into popsicle molds and freeze completely.

Magic Buttercream Frosting

Red Velvet Cake is traditionally a red, crimson, or scarlet-colored layer cake, layered with ermine icing.
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Today magic buttercream is known as ermine frosting.

Every birthday cake I ate as a kid used this frosting. It’s still my favorite. Today, it’s referred to as Ermine frosting, but back then, neighborhood moms called it “Magic Buttercream.”

  • Bring 1 cup of milk, ¼ cup of flour and ½ cup of sugar to a boil until it forms a thick paste.
  • Cool that overnight.
  • Beat that cooled flour mixture with 1 stick of room temperature butter, ½ cup of Crisco and ½ tsp vanilla until smooth and creamy.

Peanut Butter Sheet Pan Cake

Peanut Butter Sheet Cake topped with super creamy and sweet peanut butter icing in a baking dish, horizontal view from above, american dessert, flat lay
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Peanut butter sheet pan cake was a staple in ’70s school lunches.

Anyone who attended public school in the 1970s will fondly remember peanut butter sheet pan cake. We often got hot dogs and hamburgers that had an opalescent greenish sheen to them and wouldn’t touch them, but the peanut butter sheet pan cake was usually the first item eaten when it was served. The cake itself wasn’t anything fancy. It was a moist yellow cake. Our local Avon lady happened to also be the school lunch lady, and she told me they’d make a boxed cake mix with buttermilk replacing half of the water. That added to the flavor. The frosting was:

  • 4 cups of powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Potato Deluxe

Homemade Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole with Potatoes and Cream
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The potato deluxe could be found at many PTA potluck dinners in the 70s.

My mom was a leader of the PTA, and potluck dinners were one way they raised funds. Community members donated a dish and bought tickets for a sit-down dinner in the school cafeteria. This 1970s recipe always made it into the potluck.

  • Mix a can of cream of chicken soup with 16 ounces of sour cream, 1 stick of melted butter and 1 tsp of ground black pepper.
  • Stir in 2 pounds of frozen shredded hash browns, an 8-ounce bag of grated cheddar and 1 cup of chopped onions.
  • Spread in an ungreased 13-inch baking pan.
  • Cover with an 8-ounce bag of crushed plain potato chips.
  • Bake at 350ºF for an hour.

Tamale Pie

Perfect Tamale Pie Recipe - Rich zesty beef filling topped with fluffy corn bread closeup on the pot. horizontal top view from above
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Tamale pie is a 70s dish work bringing back.

Another staple in my list of foods from the ‘70s is a tamale pie that limits the number of dishes you use. In an oven-proof skillet or pan, brown a pound of ground beef. Stir in:

  • 1 can of low-sodium tomato soup
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • 1 diced medium onion
  • 1 diced green pepper
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 1 16-ounce bag of frozen corn

Top that mixture with a box of cornbread mix that you’ve prepared following package directions. Bake at 400º F for 30 minutes. 

(Are you looking for more inspirational foods from the ‘70s? Try these Foods That Will Take You Back to the ‘70s.) 

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