What the Amish Ate During the Great Depression

by Tommy Grant

The Amish people, known for their resourcefulness and ability to make the most out of what they have, showed true resilience during the challenging times of the Great Depression.

When things were really tough for everyone, the Amish folks had their own way of dealing with the struggle to get enough food.

They didn’t just get by; they showed how clever they were in cooking and figuring out ways to make meals without electricity.

Here are 10 cheap, yet highly nutritious foods that sustained the Amish during this trying period.


What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionDerived from a thrifty use of pork scraps and cornmeal, scrapple was a mainstay for the Amish.

Boiling the leftover pork bits, they combined the cooked meat with cornmeal and spices. The mixture was then molded into a loaf, sliced, and fried. Served alongside eggs and toast, it provided a full breakfast.


What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionUtilizing less prime cuts of pork, souse featured pig’s feet or various pork parts. Boiling the meat in a vinegar-based broth seasoned with spices, the Amish then allowed it to cool and set.

Served cold with pickled vegetables, souse became a flavorful and preserved protein source.

Dandelion Greens

What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionHarvested from the wild, dandelion greens were a nutrient-rich addition to the Amish diet. They were either used in salads or sautéed with basic seasonings. The greens provided a cost-effective and healthful alternative during times of scarcity. Learn here about another wild edible, a ‘superweed’ that helped large communities survive the Great Depression.

Pickled Beets

What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionPreserving surplus beets involved boiling them and then immersing them in a sweet and tangy pickling mixture of vinegar, sugar, and spices.

The pickled beets could be stored for an extended period, offering a versatile side dish or flavor-enhancer for sandwiches and salads.

Head Cheese

What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionTo create head cheese, the Amish boiled the head of a pig until the meat was tender. The cooked meat was then mixed with broth, set to cool and solidify.

Served with crackers or bread, head cheese showcased the Amish’s aptitude for utilizing unconventional ingredients.

Scalloped Corn

What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionScalloped corn, a beloved Amish dish, involved combining sweet corn with eggs, milk, butter, and flour. The mixture was then baked in the oven until it formed a golden crust.

Many Amish families have passed down this recipe for generations and continue to enjoy it as a staple dish in their community.

Related: 7 Amish ‘Powers’ You Should Master Before The Next Crisis

Chipped Beef Gravy

What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionChipped beef gravy was prepared by rehydrating dried beef and incorporating it into a roux-based gravy.

The Amish often served this savory dish over toast or mashed potatoes, transforming an affordable cut of meat into a substantial and flavorful meal.

Molasses Pie

What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionMolasses pie, a simple dessert, was crafted by combining molasses, flour, sugar, and spices. The mixture was then poured into a pie crust and baked until set.

Served with a dollop of whipped cream, molasses pie offered a sweet indulgence with minimal ingredients.

Chow Chow

What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionChow chow was made by combining vegetables such as cabbage, onions, and peppers. The mixture was then pickled in a vinegar-based solution.

Versatile in its applications, chow chow served as a tangy side dish or a zesty addition to sandwiches.

Cornmeal Mush

What the Amish Ate During the Great DepressionCornmeal mush, a breakfast porridge, was prepared by boiling cornmeal and water until it thickened. The solidified mixture was sliced and fried, often served with syrup or gravy for breakfast.

This dish reflected the Amish commitment to sustaining themselves with basic ingredients.

The Amish people’s culinary journey during the Great Depression wasn’t just about the dishes they crafted but also the ingenious methods they employed to prepare meals without the luxury of electricity.

In a world where convenience was scarce, the Amish embraced time-honored techniques like haybox cooking, where insulation was used to keep food warm after an initial heating on a stove or fire. Mason jar cooking became another practical approach, involving the cooking of food in jars submerged in boiling water.

However, the most cost-effective and efficient method that aligned seamlessly with their frugal lifestyle was solar cooking. The Amish utilized this method to cook and preserve their foods.

These methods continue to be used in many Amish households today as a way to preserve their cultural heritage and maintain a connection to their past. They are a testament to the Amish way of life and their ability to thrive even in difficult times.

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