6 Civil War-era foods you can still make today (recipes included)
06/21/2024 // Olivia Cook // Views

During the Civil War, many items were scarce and ingredients like eggs, meat or yeast may have been challenging or expensive to purchase. In light of this, folks came up with creative recipes that work well without such ingredients.

The history of these foods is probably much richer than their flavors. They were developed using materials available at the time. (h/t to PreppersWill.com.)

Confederate shortbread

Wheat flour was quite scarce in the South during the Civil War, so soldiers baked bread from available ingredients, like white cornmeal. Some folks prefer to add baking powder, but you have to keep in mind that back then, soldiers did not have baking powder or butter. Sunflower seed oil was used to replace butter, according to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.


  • Two eggs
  • Two cups white cornmeal (not self-rising)
  • One tablespoon butter, melted
  • Three-fourth teaspoon of salt
  • One-fourth cup oil


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Grease a square baking pan with some of the butter.
  2. Combine the cornmeal and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whip the eggs with a fork and combine them with the milk and melted butter.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and then pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

Corn pone

Corn pones used to be baked on greased cleaned shovels over glowing coals.


  • Two cups cornmeal
  • Three-fourth teaspoon salt (or less)
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  • Two tablespoons butter or lard (melted)


  1. Combine all ingredients to make a semi-stiff mush.
  2. Spread inch thick in a well-greased heavy pan until one-fourth-inch thick.
  3. Bake at 375 F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Horehound candy

Another wildly popular Civil War-era food. This treat was made from horehound (Marrubium vulgare), which was brought to America by settlers. Horehound candy was also used as a remedy for stomach aches and sore throats.


  • Two and one-fourths cups organic cane sugar
  • One and one-fourths cups water
  • One cup dried horehound
  • One-fourths cup honey (or other preferred natural sweetener)


  1. Bring water to a boil and add dried horehound. Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes.
  2. Strain the horehound infusion through a fine mesh sieve into a medium saucepan. Discard or compost spent herbs.
  3. Add cane sugar and honey.
  4. Over medium-high heat and stirring constantly, boil the mixture until a hard crack stage is achieved or when a ribbon of ‘syrup’ immediately hardens in ice water and breaks with a snap.
  5. Note that the mixture will become very frothy at some point during boiling so keep stirring and be careful not to burn.
  6. Allow it to cool for a few hours before breaking it into small chunks of candy.

Hospital gingerbread

During the Civil War, gingerbread was described as a "comfort food." But it was also called "food for sick men" or "dying man's food" as it was offered to wounded soldiers in field hospitals. Gingerbread was often included in care packages sent to soldiers by their families, and was often the source of many food-related scuffles within the ranks of both the Union and the Confederacy. (Related: Survival superfoods you need to stock up on now.)


  • Two cups flour
  • Two eggs
  • One cup molasses
  • One tablespoon ground ginger
  • One teaspoon baking powder
  • Half-cup buttermilk
  • Quarter-pound softened butter


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Butter a nine-inch square pan and dust it lightly with flour.
  2. Beat the quarter pound of butter until it is smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the eggs and beat well.
  4. Add the buttermilk and molasses, then blend.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients – the flour, ginger and baking powder.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and blend well.
  7. Pour the batter into your pan and bake for 35 minutes.
  8. Stick a toothpick into the center of your gingerbread. If your toothpick comes out clean, your gingerbread is done.
  9. Cool in the pan and then cut into nine to 12 pieces.

Idiot's delight

Idiot's delight got its name from the fact that it was easy to prepare – it was said that even an idiot could make it.

This simple but tasty food was one of the Civil War-era foods that gained rapid popularity among soldiers. Although not as common as the other foods, this deep-dish dark brown float of biscuit-like objects in a thick cinnamon-raisin sauce was often found in packages soldiers received from home.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • Four cups water
  • One cup brown sugar
  • One cup raisins
  • One tablespoon butter
  • One teaspoon vanilla

Ingredients for the batter:

  • One cup flour
  • Half-cup milk
  • Half-cup white sugar
  • Seven tablespoons butter
  • Two teaspoons baking powder


  1. Make the filling by boiling all the ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. To make the batter, combine all batter ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Drop the batter into a greased pan with spoonfuls.
  4. Pour the filling over it and bake in a moderate oven until golden brown.

Swamp cabbage stew

Many recipes during the Civil War were lost to time. Others are hard to make since details about the quantities needed to prepare them are vague. Here's one recipe that survived – swamp cabbage stew, which makes use of swamp cabbage (Ipomoea aquatica) that grows in the swamps of the South.


  • Green cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Salted pork
  • Salt
  • Cajun seasoning or cayenne pepper (not both)


  1. Cut up salted pork into chunks and fry in a cast iron pot.
  2. Slice onion and cabbage, and fry these in the pot with salted pork.
  3. Add tomatoes and water (or broth) to make a stew. This will cook down so you will need to avoid burning the dish.
  4. Add the spices slowly and a little bit at a time to blend. Cook on very low heat for four to five hours.
  5. Taste at least every hour, so you can tell if you need more seasoning.

Visit Food.news for more stories like this.

Watch the following video to learn about pemmican, the ultimate survival food.

This video is from the Medical Breakthrough channel on Brighteon.com.

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