20 Completely Disgusting Recipes from Vintage Cookbooks

Vintage mid-century¬†cookbooks aren’t just full of comfort food classics like Grandma’s Apple Pie and Auntie Nora’s Beef Stew. They’re also full of¬†disgusting¬†dishes made with gelatin and mayonnaise. Seriously: find any American cookbook from 1940 to 1985. Check the index for “aspic,” “Jell-O,” “gelatin,” or “mayonnaise.” Things were out of control!

Vintage cookbooks and retro¬†recipe cards¬†are full of this objectively unappetizing stuff. Why?¬†One explanation¬†is that since gelatin required refrigeration, creating these dishes was a show of status:¬†We have a refrigerator and you don’t.¬†It’s an interesting theory, but it doesn’t change the fact that these flavor combinations are just plain gross: vanilla and salmon, mayonnaise and bananas, carrots and liver…¬†and that’s before you add the Jell-O! Grab a barf bucket and read on to learn about some of the grossest from vintage cookbooks.


Liver Sausage Pineapple

From 1953’s¬†Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, this is liver sausage¬†covered in Jell-O and mayo,¬†molded into a pineapple shape¬†and “studded” with olives.

As Craig Payst¬†notes over at¬†Owls On the Table,¬†if you want to complete the look and dress up your new BFF with a little pineapple wig, you have to buy an¬†entire pineapple¬†and chop that part off. That’s ridiculous and wasteful. You should obviously make a fake pineapple top out of modeling clay so you always have have one on hand. After all, you’re going to be serving this a lot.¬†That’s the responsible thing to do.

(Recipe here.)

Tuna and Pear Pizza

Wow. The black globs on this so-called “pizza” are¬†pickled walnuts.The spokes on the little wagon wheel design are anchovies, which, okay, sure,¬†anchovies are a legit pizza topping. But the insanity continues with¬†the sauce, which has¬†pears and tuna¬†mixed into it. The recipe card (from¬†Marguerite Patten’s Recipe Cards¬†of 1972) credits the “Fruit Producers Council” for the photograph, which is baffling. This didn’t help sell any pears, guys.¬†Also: how do you slice this thing? Do you cut the anchovies in half?¬†There’s no other way to do it fairly.

(Recipe here.)

Glace Fish Mold

From 1943’s¬†300 Timely Fish Recipes, this abomination is somehow even grosser than it looks. Yes, it’s flaked fish served inside of plain Jell-O, molded into the shape of a fish. That’s¬†pretty nasty.¬†But it’s¬†the veggies that really send this one over the edge. There are raw cucumbers, green peppers, and¬†onionsinside this thing. Raw onions and Jell-O! So it’s really like the saddest, weirdest tuna salad you’ve ever had.

(Recipe here.)

Cranberry “Candle” Salad

Let’s not mince words: this is a mold of cranberry sauce, mayonnaise, and Jell-O with a¬†birthday candlesticking out of it. It also looks¬†disturbingly¬†like roasted flesh, considering the ingredients. Just when you think things can’t get any grosser, the recipe recommends garnishing it with even¬†more¬†mayo, which makes sense, because this is from a 1960 Hellmann’s advertisement (this also explains the “family style”¬†bowl¬†of mayonnaise on the table!).

Californian Jello Ring

Seriously? This nightmare from¬†Marguerite Patten’s Recipe Cards¬†(1967)¬†requires some explanation: the white blob is vanilla ice cream. So far, so good.¬†On top of the white blob are¬†boiled prunes¬†“for decoration.”¬†Ugh.¬†Could it get worse? Yep: the bottom is prune-filled Jell-O surrounded by orange slices.¬†Good God.

Believe it or not, Patten included an alternate recipe that is actually worse: she suggests using tea instead of water when you make the Jell-O. Seriously.

(Recipe here.)

Molded Beef Ring

From¬†Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook¬†(1959), this eldritch¬†horror is beef set in gelatin¬†with fun ketchup stripes and a crown of pimento olives. The cookbook says it will bring “peace of mind when company’s coming,” but don’t listen to that nonsense.¬†This thing is a culinary hellmouth.

(No recipe available. Wing it!)

Shrimp-Salmon Mold

So many questions about this¬†recipe. This is from the¬†Weight Watchers International Recipe Cards¬†series from 1974. So why is it asking you to use¬†buttermilk? If you’re using real buttermilk, why bother with “imitation butter flavoring”? Why do you need 3 drops of¬†yellow¬†food coloring? Why would you add¬†vanilla extract¬†to shrimp and/or salmon? Is¬†the phrase “unmold on a bed of salad greens” the¬†least sexything you could ever say?

Cottage Cheese Ring

So, this looks like a bowl of dog food, right? Dog food in a bowl¬†made of cottage cheese. But instead of kibble, your guests get “Vegetable Salad Medley” and “Marinated Mushrooms,” all on a bed of lettuce that¬†no one is eating. It probably wasn’t even washed. For the brave, the 1958 recipe from the “Tested Recipe Institute” (what a relief!)¬†can be found¬†here.

Christmas Candle Salad

Let’s get it out of the way: yep, these things looks like little penises. The “wicks” are almonds, too,¬†so guys in 1958 got to imagine what¬†that¬†feels like. Plus, there’s¬†mayonnaise¬†on the tip¬†“to look like melted wax”!¬†Beyond their obviously phallic nature, you¬†know¬†they¬†turned mushy and brown about halfway through¬†the¬†Christmas party.

(Recipe here.)

Ham Loaf Superb

This meat-packed monstrosity is from the¬†Betty Crocker Holiday Cookbook¬†(1983).¬†It’s ground ham, beef, and lean pork baked into a¬†superb¬†loaf using tomato juice (!), eggs (okay), and quick-cooking oats (sure!). The white stuff on top is sliced cheese, like normal people would put on a sandwich. It’s served on a bed of a¬†million¬†peas.

(Recipe here.)

Barbecue Salad

Billed, revoltingly, as “tomato aspic with personality,”¬†this spicy-yet-cold Jell-O blob pairs nicely, apparently, with wilted lettuce and hard-boiled eggs. The¬†recipe –¬†found in a 1953 copy of¬†Life –¬†suggests spicing it up even more with Worcestershire or onion juice (barf),¬†so it’s basically an alcohol-free Jell-O Bloody Mary?

(Recipe here.)

Ham and Bananas Hollandaise

No list of disgusting vintage food is complete without “Ham and Bananas Hollandaise” from¬†McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection¬†of 1973. It’s like the¬†Citizen Kane¬†of gross vintage recipes. The only thing that would make this worse would be covering it in Jell-O. Just look at it. Why on earth would anyone substitute bananas for eggs? Apparently it pairs nicely¬†with grapes and a tossed salad, if the picture is to be believed. Yum!

(Recipe here.)

Chopped Chicken Liver Paté

This looks like a sad birthday cake made out of cat food, but it’s actually just a weirdly tarted-up¬†pat√© recipe from¬†The Complete Family Recipe Card Library¬†of 1973.¬†Just in case you’re not 100% revolted, know this: the flowers are made out of raw carrots, green onion slices, and celery leaves…¬†suspended in gelatin. What goes well with cat food¬†birthday cake? Checking the card, it looks like raw cauliflower covered in …¬†oh my God is that shrimp?

(Recipe here.)

Cottage Cheese and Salmon Mold

There’s something particularly nasty about savory dishes that look like desserts. Take this deceptive dish from¬†Marguerite Patten’s Recipe Cards¬†of 1967, for example: at a glance –¬†especially from the side –¬†it¬†just looks like a cake. Nope! Those are hard-boiled eggs and raw cucumbers suspended in¬†cottage cheese, mayo, and salmon-filled Jell-O.

(Recipe here.)

Liver P√Ęt√© En Masque

This has to be the least appetizing color and texture a foodstuff could possibly be, right? It’s like a semen volcano made out of liver and¬†stuffed with raw radishes and chicory. Chicory! Chicory is¬†bitter. Couldn’t you at least use some peppery arugula or something? The semen, by the way, is a¬†mustard-flavored¬†gelatin glaze. What a nightmare.

(Recipe from 1974 Weight Watchers International Recipe Cards here.)

Creamed Eggs in Corned Beef Crust

This is from 1965’s¬†Happy Living! A Guidebook for Brides.¬†If this recipe is any indication, the book is a work of satire. Gaze upon its murky beauty: you’re looking at a pie crust made with white bread and flaked corned beef filled with mushroom soup, cream, and hard-boiled eggs. As Micki Myers from¬†Yuckylicious¬†observes, not a¬†single vegetable¬†was harmed in the making of this monstrosity.

(Recipe here.)

Cup Steak Puddings

Of all the wretched recipes on this list, these¬†little charmers look the most like something out of science fiction. The food “styling” is almost entirely to blame:¬†steak pudding is commonly served in the UK, but it doesn’t usually look this, um, ghoulish.

(Recipe here.)

Perfection Salad

What does “perfection” look like? Cole slaw trapped inside a choad made of Jell-O, if¬†McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection¬†of 1973 is to be believed.

(Recipe here.)

Milk Chicken

Two great tastes that taste great together: milk and chicken!¬†(That’s where the phrase “As American as milk and chicken” comes from.) Seriously, though: take away the bananas and the milk “glaze” and you have a perfectly normal meal here. Side note: the little zen garden of mashed potatoes in the background is¬†adorable. Maybe the assistant food stylist was embarrassed¬†about the work his or¬†her boss did on the milk chicken? Let’s go with that.

(Recipe from¬†Marguerite Patten’s Recipe Cards¬†of 1967¬†here.)


Two things about this 1972 marvel:

That’s a¬†lot¬†of hyphens.¬†Macaroni and Cheese + Tuna = Yum!, but not if you add celery and¬†olives and make it into¬†a¬†loaf. And who are we kidding with those sliced tomatoes?(Recipe¬†here.)