22 Pioneer Foods and Recipes From the 1800’s

I find all aspects of pioneer life fascinating: how they organized labor, handled medicine, built their homes…

But how the pioneers ate is one of the most interesting aspects of their life. It gives you insight into how creative and hard-working they were in their endeavors to sustain their families in challenging situations.

Here are some authentic pioneer recipes. Not all of them are bad, so give ’em a try!


Also called “sea biscuit,” hardtack was eaten by pioneers, sailors, and soldiers during war. It is made of flour and water, mixed and baked for a long time in an oven. During bad times, the pioneers often had nothing to eat, but hardtack dipped into coffee.


Pioneers brought along dried corn because it didn’t spoil. They could grind it into meal to make biscuits or “cakes.”

Pocket Yams

These yams are meant to go into your pocket to warm up your hands! This is another cool way pioneer mothers kept their families warm during the cold months.

Cooked Cabbage Salad

This recipe probably comes from German pioneers who particularly loved cabbage dishes.

Mormon Gravy

Gravy was slathered on top of vegetable pies, bread, or potatoes. It added much-needed flavor and moisture to the bland, dry food.

Corn Soup

Dried corn was a staple of the pioneers. They made all sorts of things out of it, including soup. The pioneer women would add whatever they had to the soup. For example, they might boil together the dried corn with wild greens, potatoes, parsley, peppers, beans, eggs, and rice to make a hearty soup.