19 Pioneer Recipes That Survived The Oregon Trail (2024)

Have a taste of what it was like to live and eat in the 1800s with these delicious, sustainable, and easy pioneer recipes.

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Pioneer Recipes to Try In Your Homestead Today

Easy Pioneer Recipes

Easy pioneer food recipes kept the pioneer travelers along the Oregon Trail fed and filled.

Prepping food those days was nothing like how we do it today. Pioneer meals were always cooked from scratch with what they had or what they found along the way.

Even as the pioneer travelers trekked miles upon miles of trail for days and months on end, these pioneer recipes sustained. A pioneer woman cooks food to last for days and made without waste.

Eventually, they made it to their destination and the rest, as they say, is literally history. Honor our pioneers and have a taste of centuries-old American history with these pioneer recipes!

1. Potato Cakes


Potatoes were an important staple crop for the pioneers down the Oregon Trail. They store long, and with curing, even longer.

Traveling pioneers were never without potatoes and many delicious recipes were prepared with them. These potato cakes, which is a precursor to our pancakes today, was a trusty staple and our ancestors ate them on a regular basis.


  • 6 potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour

What to do:

  1. Wash and peel potatoes before grating them.
  2. Combine with salt, milk, eggs, and flour.
  3. Pour spoonfuls of the mixture into a hot pan with melted shortening.
  4. Cook the cakes until done and golden brown on both sides.

2. Johnnycake

Along with potatoes, corn was also an important crop the pioneers brought in their travels. Corn also stores long and it was an important crop when starting a settlement.

Many recipes were made with corn, like cornbread, tortillas, and chowder. Johnnycake came from “jonikin” which was a similar cake recipe made from oats.

It was called johnnycake when corn was used instead of oats since there was more corn to go around.


  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp. butter

What to do:

  1. Beat eggs, then add buttermilk and molasses.
  2. Mix the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.
  3. Add butter.
  4. Bake the cake mixture in a dutch oven until done.

3. Molasses Stack Cake


Molasses stack cake was actually a food for special occasions, especially for pioneer weddings. Baking the cake was a concerted effort by family and guests.

In the hard pioneer life, this would have been an expensive pioneer food item. So guests each bring a layer of cake and put them on top of the other with apple butter or slices in between.


  • 1/2 cup buttermilk and shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Cinnamon (for sprinkling)
  • Nutmeg (for sprinkling)

What to do:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix the buttermilk and shortening mixture, egg, molasses, and baking powder in a small bowl.
  3. Add a lavish sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Add flour to the mixture, mix well, and then roll the dough thin.
  5. Form into circles and place on greased cookie sheets or a baking dish.
  6. Bake until golden brown.

4. Cured Bacon


One of the essentials for the traveling pioneers was bacon. Around 400 pounds of bacon was needed for a family of four.

Molasses, brown sugar, and salt were added to cured pork meat to keep it longer. Bacon was packed in a barrel with bran so extreme heat won't melt the fats.

This recipe calls for a peck (8 quarts) of salt to 5 gallons water for the brine added to 5 pounds of meat. Here's how to cure bacon the pioneer's way.


  • Ham
  • 1 lb brown sugar
  • Salt
  • 1 pint molasses
  • 1 tsp saltpeter

What to do:

  1. Mix the brown sugar, molasses, and saltpeter in a small bowl to make the cure.
  2. Sprinkle salt over the meaty side of the pork meat and add the cure mix.
  3. Pack the pork meat in a tight barrel.
  4. Put hams first, the shoulders next, and the middlings last.
  5. Pour brine over the meat.
  6. Leave the meat for four to seven weeks in the brine.

5. Lacey-Edged Corn Pancakes


As you know, corn and corn products were an important pioneer staple. Lacy-edged corn pancakes were one of the pioneer recipes made from cornmeal.

Here's how you can make the perfect recipe, great with soup, greens, and beans.


  • 1 cup white cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp bacon fat or lard

What to do:

  1. Mix the white cornmeal, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Add an egg and the buttermilk to make the batter.
  3. Melt the lard or bacon fat in a hot cast-iron skillet then set aside.
  4. Wait for the shortening to smoke before pouring tablespoonfuls of batter.
  5. Give each batter a distance of 6 inches in the pan to cook evenly.

6. Buffalo Jerky


Cows were important livestock for pioneers.

They were a source of meat, hide, milk, and milk products. In later years, technology advanced and we now source ground beef, broth, cream cheese, and condensed milk from cows as well.

Pioneers also hunt along the way and buffalo was abundant back then. Buffalo, or beef jerky, was one of the recipes used for preserving both cow and buffalo meat.


  • Slabs of beef

What to do:

  1. Slice beef meat into very thin strips along the grain.
  2. Arrange them on a rack, put it in a pan, and bake until dry.
  3. For outdoor preparation, hang them over a fire to dry.

7. Side Pork And Mormon Gravy


Even recipes invented from necessity turn delicious and filling. Side pork and Mormon gravy are the best examples.

Instead of simply frying cured bacon, pioneers cooked them a little special. You can serve this tasty dish with potatoes and cornbread.

Follow how this delicious recipe is created.


  • 8 thick slices side pork or bacon
  • Fat drippings
  • Flour
  • Milk

What to do:

  1. Fry the thick slices of side pork or bacon in a pan until crisp.
  2. Set aside but keep it warm.
  3. Measure four tablespoons of the fat drippings and pour back into the pan.
  4. Add flour and let brown a bit.
  5. Take out from the heat and add milk.
  6. Stir well to blend and scrape the savory bits.
  7. Return to low heat and stir until the gravy is smooth and creamy.

8. Oregon Trail Breakfast Cornmeal Mush

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Even in the pioneer days, breakfast was the most important meal of the day. It should give them the nourishment to start the day's trek.

This is only one of the many recipes you can make with cornmeal.


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Dried currants
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp. lard
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • Molasses
  • Butter
  • Milk

What to do:

  1. Put dried currants in the boiling water.
  2. Sprinkle a cup of cornmeal in the boiling water.
  3. While stirring, add in the lard and salt.
  4. Cook for 3 minutes, then pour into bowls.
  5. Serve with molasses, butter, and milk.

9. Fart And Dart Beans


Now, this isn't technically from the 1800s when the pioneers were traveling the Oregon Trail. But it is inspired by the actual recipe and is considered to be very similar to what it would have been.

Beans were also an important food item for the pioneers. They were long storing and provided protein and nourishment, along with bouts of gas!


  • 1 large bowl of canned lima, red kidney, white northern, lima, and butter beans
  • Pork and beans
  • 1 lb bacon, chopped
  • large onions, chopped
  • Garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp mustard

What to do:

  1. Mix equal parts of canned lima, red kidney, white northern, lima, and butter beans.
  2. Add pork and beans to make 16 ounces of bean mixture.
  3. Fry the chopped bacon until cooked, but not crisp.
  4. Pour the bean mixture into a large pan with bacon and chopped onions and garlic.
  5. In another pan, mix the brown sugar, vinegar, and mustard.
  6. Cook the mixture for 15 minutes.
  7. Pour the prepared liquid into the bean mixture and bake for an hour.

10. Chocolate Caramels


Pioneers are not to be outdone, too. Apparently, they also have sweet tooths with this 1800 candy recipe. Even back then, sweets were a special treat.


  • 1 lb or 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 lb. chocolate
  • 4 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Vanilla

What to do:

  1. Boil sugar and chocolate together.
  2. Add in the molasses, sweet milk, and butter.
  3. Stir the mixture thoroughly and test for consistency.
  4. To test for hardness, use a spoon to add droplets of the mixture in cool water. If they harden, it's ready.
  5. Once hard, add vanilla and transfer to an oiled pan.
  6. Cut into desired shapes when they're almost cold.

RELATED:20 Easy Caramel Apple Recipes

11. Butterless, Eggless, Milkless Cake


Pioneers may have seldom baked this cake recipe since eggs were not easily available, but this recipe survived and is still enjoyed as a classic today.


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 25 ml hot or lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

What to do:

  1. Boil the brown sugar in a cup of cold water with all the prepared raisins.
  2. Add in the salt, cloves, and cinnamon.
  3. Then, also, stir in the nutmeg and shortening.
  4. Boil for 3 minutes and let it cool.
  5. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water you prepared then add flour and baking powder.
  6. Add the baking soda mix to the first mixture.
  7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350°F.

12. Swiss Apple Cherry Pie


Swiss were among the pioneers of the 1800s who went on the Oregon Trail. They brought with them pioneer dessert recipes, including this Swiss apple cherry pie.


  • 4 large apples
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Cherries
  • Butter, melted
  • Evaporated milk

What to do:

  1. Prepare the large cooking apples by slicing them thinly.
  2. Make double-crust pie pastry.
  3. Melt butter and brush the bottom of the pastry shell with it.
  4. Lay apple slices on the pastry shell.
  5. Mix sugar, flour, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  6. Sprinkle some of the dry ingredients over the first layer of apples.
  7. Take fresh or canned cherries and make another layer with them.
  8. Sprinkle with the dry ingredients.
  9. Continue layering and top with the melted butter.
  10. Add top crust and brush with evaporated milk.
  11. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 425°F.

13. 101-Year-Old Pastry


Pies were a favorite with the pioneers and made meals all the more exciting to look forward to. The first part of baking pies is making the pastry.

This 101-year-old pastry crust recipe has been passed from generation to generation.


  • 1 cup shortening or lard
  • Salt
  • 1 egg
  • Flour
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar

What to do:

  1. Cut a cup of shortening or lard into salt and flour.
  2. Beat egg in 1 1/2 measure cup.
  3. Add in the vinegar and then fill it with cold water.
  4. Slowly pour in enough liquid to fill half of the cup of sifted flour.
  5. Reserve the rest of the liquid for your next batch.
  6. Avoid kneading the dough too much.
  7. Roll the dough to make the pastry.

14. Brown Bread


Brown bread came from Irish New England settlers and brought it down the Oregon Trail. They are made from whole grain flour and get a brown color from molasses or coffee.

Brown bread was later found to be healthier than its counterparts. No wonder our ancestors made it through the tough early settler years with this recipe.

There are many versions of the brown bread and this one is found in old historical records.


  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • Graham flour

What to do:

  1. Boil water and add in the salt, molasses, and baking soda.
  2. Slowly mix graham flour until you make a stiff batter.
  3. Let the mixture cool down and add a pint of the light cake made from compressed yeast.
  4. Pour into pre-buttered bread tins and bake.

15. Hasty Pudding


This list of pioneer recipes isn't complete without the good old, centuries-old hasty pudding. It was brought by the first English settlers and because of the lack of wheat, cornmeal was used in its place.

Assuming a New World version, it was then called Indian pudding.


  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal

What to do:

  1. Boil the salt in 3 cups of water.
  2. Add in the cornmeal slowly and in a steady flow.
  3. Give it a steady stir so clumps will not form.
  4. Continue stirring for 20 minutes until cooked.

16. Spotted Pup


A good way to make use of your leftover rice is to turn them into spotted pups, a sweet, sticky dessert.

Pioneers used this recipe back then because they did everything they can to ensure they didn't waste anything. Rather than eating cold rice, they decided it'd be much better to turn it into an entirely different recipe instead.


  • Cooked rice
  • Milk
  • 1 egg
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Nutmeg
  • Raisins
  • Vanilla

What to do:

  1. Place the cooked rice in a Dutch oven.
  2. Then, pour in enough milk to submerge all rice grains.
  3. Crack in a beaten egg.
  4. Season with vanilla, nutmeg, salt, and sugar then top off with raisins.
  5. Close the lid and then let the mixture heat until the egg is fried.

17. Corn Dodgers


Corn dodgers were popular during pioneer life because they're very versatile and easy to carry around. You can eat them as a side to your meals or munch on them as a snack when you get hungry.

Also, they're relatively small so pioneers can literally keep these munchies in their pockets.


  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsps butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder

What to do:

  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the salt, butter, cornmeal, milk, and sugar in a saucepan.
  3. Set aside, let cool for five minutes, then pour in the baking powder.
  4. Scoop in tablespoon portions of the mixture into the oil for frying.
  5. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the dodgers turn golden brown.

18. Soda Biscuits


Baked biscuits are the perfect sides for any classic American breakfast. Just imagine how great they'll taste when paired with sausages, eggs, and gravy.

Plus, they're very easy to prepare. You can whip up an entire batch in less than half an hour.


  • 3 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Milk

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
  2. Take a large bowl and fill it with flour.
  3. Then, proceed to scoop in one tablespoon of milk at a time until the dough turns stiff. Set aside.
  4. Get a separate bowl where you can dissolve the baking soda in a tablespoon of milk. Afterward, pour it into the stiff dough mixture.
  5. Roll the dough out until it turns into a fine, thin layer.
  6. Cut circles using a cookie cutter and then bake them in an oven for 15 minutes until the edges turn brown.

19. Mud Apples

19 Pioneer Recipes That Survived The Oregon Trail (1)

This treat looks exactly what it sounds like, mud-covered apples. When the pioneers were covering the stretch of the Oregon trail, they had very limited resources, so they made the most of whatever they had, including dirt.

Of course, you don't have to use mud if you're not comfortable doing so. You can use substitutes such as cocoa mixed with cinnamon and vanilla.


  • Apples
  • Mud (or any substitute)

What to do:

  1. Cover the apples in mud.
  2. Cook over a bonfire for 45 minutes.
  3. Scrape away any coal, knock off the mud, and peel the skin off.
  4. If you're not using mud, you can eat the apples as they are without peeling the skin.

Make room for a hardtack or sea biscuits recipe in this video from Islander Hero:

Pioneer travelers survived the long and arduous journey into unknown territory partly due to these pioneer recipes. These pioneer recipes kept their bellies full and their spirits up.

It's always sort of nostalgic to come by these pioneer recipes which helped them survive. Try these pioneer recipes because you never know when they will come in handy in your homestead and for survival!

What are your thoughts about these pioneer recipes? Have one in mind to try? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!


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Editor's Note: This post was originally published on April 21, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

19 Pioneer Recipes That Survived The Oregon Trail (2024)


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