Childhood was the golden age for all kinds of dinner, lunch and snack recipes, often made with love by parents. Who can forget a comforting mac and cheese after a midweek soccer practice or the paper bag school lunch that almost always featured a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
If those taste bud memories haven’t stirred up your nostalgia just yet, check out this curated list of classic childhood recipes. While some of these are best left as their original recipes, others have been updated to match your now-mature palate. Put on a favorite childhood movie, and transport yourself back to more youthful days as you start cooking your way through this list of mostly forgotten recipes.
This classic used to be widely available as a canned mix, starting in the 1960s, making it the ultimate convenient dinner for parents to heat up and serve. It’s believed that the dish’s origins are in the “loose meat sandwiches” invented by a man named Joe in Iowa in the 1930s.
Sloppy Joes shine best when they’re unpretentious, so stick to a classic version, like this one from Allrecipes. This recipe makes a ton of servings, so invite your friends over, and relive your youth together.
Grilled cheese is a childhood staple that’s surprisingly versatile. The most basic grilled cheese involves spreading butter and mayonnaise on bread slices and sandwiching cheese between them, then grilling them to gooey perfection.
While this classic version from Bon Appétit is a delight on its own, grilled cheese is easy to elevate to create an adult version. With only a few more ingredients than the classic, this grilled cheese recipe uses gruyere cheese and apples for a balanced and savory taste.
Not quite fries and yet not quite hashbrowns, tater tots are the beautiful in-between of fried and crispy potato. Using only potatoes, various spices and a few other common ingredients, these tater tots from The Food Network are cost-effective and surprisingly easy to make. Dress them up by shredding parmesan on top or using them as a starchy vessel for vegetables, sauces and meats.
Often during late-night festivities, people get an occasional hankering for chicken nuggets. As such, it’s maybe not a forgotten childhood recipe but definitely underrated as a more frequent meal option. This chicken nuggets recipe from Serious Eats recreates your favorite fast food but with a crispier coating and more tender chicken. It even comes with an optional recipe for sweet and sour sauce, but you can serve it with whatever sauce – homemade or not – you want.
You might remember watching your parents or even helping out yourself as they stirred a boxed pudding mix into a pot. The result was a smooth and creamy dessert – often in vanilla, chocolate or butterscotch flavors – used to incentivize you to finish the sad frozen vegetables on your dinner plate.
This pudding recipe from Food52 teaches you the basic science of pudding and offers flavor experimentation tips so you can try recreating the timeless pudding flavors that you love.
Crunchy and creamy at the same time, egg salad is a retro classic for lunches, family gatherings, picnics and casual parties. Since the ingredients are common and cheap but the result is both large and satisfying, this dish is great for budget meal planning or serving a crowd.
Serve up the egg salad on two slices of bread with a fresh leaf of crunchy lettuce, alongside a handful of potato chips. If you’re making it for the first time, try this recipe from Jessica Gavin!
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or just pb&j , might just be childhood epitomized. The typical school lunch usually contained this sandwich: two plain white bread slices, sugary peanut butter and overly sweet jam.
But in this version by Joshua Weissman, you make everything from scratch, including the bread, jam and peanut butter. Before you get overwhelmed, this recipe is deceptively simple and teaches you some basic bread-making skills to boot. Make one for your mom to show your appreciation for the years of brown-bagged pb&j!
Pink lemonade gets its rosy tint from the addition of other juices, such as cranberry or strawberry. Categorized with the other popular grocery convenience items of its time, pink lemonade usually involved dumping a frozen concentrate into a pitcher with a satisfying splat, then just adding water.
Serving pink lemonade instead of the basic version was a truly groundbreaking way to distinguish your neighborhood lemonade stand from others. Although you’re likely not making your income from lemonade stands these days, this version from Allrecipes makes pink lemonade from scratch a worthy refreshing patio treat.
S’mores are a campfire treat of childhood camping trips and backyard sleepovers. Most often, you’d accidentally light your marshmallow on fire and awkwardly assemble its over-toasted goo and unmelted chocolate on a stale graham cracker. While that had its own charm, this updated s’mores recipe by Epicurious has you make your own cookies for a gooey, melty and indulgent dessert.
A meat and potatoes favorite, shepherd’s pie is essentially a British casserole with layers of ground beef or lamb, gravy, and golden-crusted mashed potatoes. You’d likely be served this mouth-burning casserole on a Monday and only be finishing the leftovers off on the following Friday.
This shepherd’s pie recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen has aged well, however, and its cost-effective ingredients and comforting savory flavors make it a timeless dinner staple.
Few things say childhood like an economical mix of ground meat, breadcrumbs and ketchup packed into a single loaf pan. This meatloaf recipe by Vice is a nostalgic dinner, although many people might respond to its suggestion with skepticism. When made correctly, seasoned well and not overcooked, meatloaf is a savory dinner option that’s worth more than just its nostalgia value.
Serve it up alongside mashed or roasted potatoes and a vegetable or salad of your choice for a well balanced, filling meal.
This simple and classic rice cereal treat recipe by Kellogg’s, the makers of Rice Krispies, can be whipped up with just three ingredients, including the crispy rice cereal that you likely know and love. Marshmallows make their way into this recipe to create a sticky sweet treat. It’s no bake and very fast to make. Simply melt, mix, press, and (Snap! Crackle!) pop it into the fridge to chill.
You can also dress it up by adding nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips, or even drizzle melted chocolate or peanut butter on top.
Monkey Bread is an American classic dessert often served at brunch or coffee break. Usually cooked in a bundt pan, the sweet and sticky dough is the perfect side to a warm beverage. This monkey bread recipe on the BBC’s Good Food blog is full of crunchy pecans and topped with a sweet glaze, with warm flavors from spices like cinnamon and ginger.
A familiar and comforting dinner staple, chicken pot pie is full of juicy chicken, savory vegetables and bubbling gravy. If you love buttery and flaky pie crust and that post-pie food coma feeling, it’s worth taking the time to assemble this chicken pot pie recipe by Basics with Babish. This recipe comes with alternative methods for either fresh or frozen chicken to best suit your chef skills and curren refrigerator contents.