7 vintage Thanksgiving dishes no one makes anymore

Turkey aspic
Turkey aspic. Ann_Zhuravleva/Shutterstock
  • Today, Thanksgiving tables typically feature side dishes like mashed potatoes and mac and cheese.
  • Once-popular options like Jell-O salads and hot Dr. Pepper are no longer part of the celebrations.
  • However, some people still like to make dishes like ambrosia salad for nostalgia’s sake.

Thanksgiving celebrations revolve around food, but the recipes people follow have changed over the years.
Friends raise their glasses around a Thanksgiving table.
Thanksgiving celebrations. Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock
No festive Thanksgiving gathering would be complete without a table heaped with steaming dishes. These days, the most popular side dishes include mashed potatoes, rolls, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

But Thanksgiving spreads haven’t always looked like they do today — there was a time when Jell-O creations and canned products reigned supreme.

Here are unusual Thanksgiving side dishes that people don’t usually make anymore, unless it’s for nostalgia’s sake.

Turkey leftovers were turned into aspic.
Turkey aspic
Turkey Jell-O. Ann_Zhuravleva/Shutterstock
Gelatin became a popular foundation for many meals during the ’30s, after the Great Depression, thanks to the fact that it was a good, but inexpensive, source of protein. According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, close to one third of all cookbook recipes from this time period were gelatin based.

YouTuber and vintage recipe enthusiast MissSemiSweet tried a vintage Thanksgiving leftover Jell-O recipe from a 1975 cookbook called “Carefree Cooking with Aluminum Foil.” The recipe called for turkey, frozen vegetables, cream of celery soup, and ranch dressing mixed with gelatin.

“I’m not going to say that it’s horrible … I probably would not eat this again, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever had,” she said.

Savory Jell-O salads made for festive centerpieces.
Jello salad
A ‘Sunset Salad’ made of Jell-O. Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Jell-O salads were popular in the 1950s and ’60s. A Jell-O dish with radishes, scallions, and a few tablespoons of vinegar wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary at a festive meal. Some people continue to serve them up on Thanksgiving just because.

“Modern American palates have changed to dislike savory gelatin, but that was not always the case,” food historian Sarah Wassberg Johnson previously told Insider. “Probably until the 1960s, savory gelatinous dishes were a thing.”

A “spring basket dessert” consisted of fruity Jell-O with chunks of fruit inside.
Jello loaf
A fruity Jell-O loaf. alisafarov/Shutterstock
Advertised in The Ladies Home Journal in 1948 as a “spring basket dessert,” the gelatinous dish is no longer the dessert of choice at holiday gatherings.
Ambrosia salad is still popular in the South, but most have left it behind.
Ambrosia salad
Ambrosia salad. Bart Ah You/Modesto Bee/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Ambrosia recipes began appearing in publications towards the end of the 19th century. It remains a Southern holiday classic, but is rarely seen elsewhere.

It’s usually some kind of canned fruit with mini marshmallows, with variations that include Cool Whip, cottage cheese, and Jell-O.

Canned foods were all the rage, like creamed corn.
A bowl of creamed corn.
Creamed corn. freeskyline/Getty Images
A 1948 ad in the Ladies Home Journal advertised creamed corn in a can as “something to try — smooth, creamy, with plenty of tender-skinned kernels to round out the good eating.” But as canned products went out of style in favor of fresh food, cream corn from a can went out of style, too.
Served on special occasions, Hot Dr Pepper consisted of warm soda over lemon slices.
A crate of Dr Pepper bottles with a vintage logo.
Dr Pepper. AP
In a 1968 advertisement, Dr Pepper recommended serving “steaming hot” soda over lemon slices. It definitely is “something different” to offer Thanksgiving guests.

Per Serious Eats, the drink was concocted by Dr Pepper in the ’60s “to keep profits strong during the holiday season, when sales of cold pop plummet.” Apparently, it caught on in the South where it is occasionally still drunk.

Hellmann’s mayonnaise shared a recipe for a Thanksgiving-themed “Cranberry Surprise.”
Hellman's cranberry surprise
Cranberry Surprise. Hellmann’s
Hellmann’s mayonnaise released a compilation of vintage advertisements and recipes to celebrate its 100th year in 2013. One of these delicacies was the “Cranberry Surprise,” a holiday side dish that “blends the tartness of cranberries with the delicate creaminess of Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise” with an extra dollop of mayonnaise on top to provide “the final distinctive flavor garnish.”