Old School Ingredients That Are Making A Comeback

Just like in fashion, what goes around often comes back around in the culinary world. The shift toward cooking at home in recent years, coupled with the explosion of food-related content on social media, have had a huge impact on the food scene. Ingredients once left in the background have now been brought into sharp focus, and these trends are evident not only in recipes made at home. Restaurants are responding to hot-right-now ingredients, and with our exciting up-to-the-minute recipes, so are we here at Mashed. We love nothing better than a classic recipe with a twist as well as finding ways to use ingredients in new combinations.

Nostalgia is definitely on the ingredient shopping list, largely boosted via platforms such as TikTok. Communities thrive online sharing memories of foods. Mixed in, people are coming up with tasty upgrades, interesting new pairings, and reimagined recipes. This all helps to reintroduce foods that were once loved to a whole new fan club. Here are the top old-school ingredients that are making a comeback.


If there's one tinned food that's iconically vintage it's got to be Spam. It's reminiscent of times gone by and retro recipes. Except, rather than being relegated to the back of a dusty cupboard, Spam is making a spectacular comeback of late. And fans might argue that it never went away in the first place. What's clear is that this chopped meat in a can is having a resurgence. It's popping up in all types of culinary places it's never been to in the past. If your mind goes to thick slices sizzling away in a pan or cold slithers on a sandwich, then prepare to be surprised by its culinary glow-up. Since hitting the shelves in 1937, Spam is more popular than ever.

Chefs are creating new ways to use this luncheon meat such as by adding it to Asian dishes. The salty taste infuses an umami zing, making it perfect for rice dishes. Try kimchi fried rice with Spam for extra tang from the fermented cabbage. Spam is widely used in Korea, but what's new is that foodies in the U.S. are eagerly trying out these dishes. Our Hawaiian-style Spam musubi recipe combines the meat with white rice, a teriyaki glaze, and nori seaweed. Or, use it to make a one-of-a-kind poke bowl.


Sometimes you take an old-school ingredient for granted until it starts to disappear. During the pandemic when certain products were in short supply in stores, there seemed to be a shortage of saltines. And people took to Twitter in the hope they'd soon be back on the shelves. The light, crispy, dry cracker squares with a salty dusting aren't exactly flavorful but they're great with dips and soups.

Now, they're becoming popular as a crunchy topping crumbled over pasta and rice dishes. You've probably heard of panko, Japanese-style bread flakes for coating meat and fish. Saltines can also be used in recipes in place of breadcrumbs. If you have a sweet tooth, make our saltine cracker toffee for a salty-sweet chocolatey crunch. Meanwhile, saltines are crushed to make a pie crust for an Atlantic beach lemon pie. You'll love the contrasting saltiness and tangy citrus filling. 

How about spicing up the plain taste by turning saltines into Cajun firecracker crackers? To make this moreish snack, gently shake the crackers in a bag with avocado oil and a mix of dry ranch dressing, Old Bay, cayenne, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes.


It's the small things in life that make us feel connected. Scraping out a near-empty jar of Nutella and eating it straight from the spoon is a moment many can share. This brand is the ultimate chocolate and hazelnut spread and has been around for more than half a century. However, while it first appeared in stores in the U.S. in the '80s, it's really garnered an upsurge in fans in recent times. It's not so much a comeback as an old-school ingredient being re-embraced with gusto.

The reason for the recent passion for Nutella in the U.S. is in part thanks to TikTok food trends. In 2022, the popularity of butter boards — remember those? — extended to Nutella boards. Imagine a board spread thick with Nutella and topped with sliced fruit, pretzels, candy, and marshmallows. Wow. Instead of just being seen as a condiment to spread on bread and toast, Nutella has also become an ingredient to add to cakes and pastries. Try for yourself with our Nutella cupcakes and no-bake Nutella cookies recipe. From frosting to fillings there are so many ways you can create sweet somethings with this nutty, chocolatey spread.

Tinned fish

Reach into the back of your cupboard and grab the can of mackerel fillets that's been lurking there. Today, tinned fish is not only having a comeback but it's also become downright trendy. In the past, most of its fans seemed to be of a certain age and generation. Now, hip restaurants are featuring tinned fish sections on their menu and TikTok is awash with tinned fish hashtags. According to an analysis by Euromonitor International, canned fish sales in the U.S. went up by 9.7% in 2022, equating to $2.7 billion (via FoodNavigator-USA). That's a lot of tins.

If you're looking for a little inspiration, check out our tinned fish tips to create a range of new tasty dishes. Among the countless interesting ways you can serve it, you'll want to try making shared boards, or "seacuterie." Many tinned fish brands really stand out with their cool retro designs that are at home in a hipster bistro. Oily fish is also a great ingredient to add to pizzas and frittatas. Try our easy salmon patty recipe made with tinned salmon, mayonnaise, egg, and panko or pan-fried tuna patties for a delicious meal.

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese has long been labeled as an ingredient for dieters. With its distinct taste and texture, it has a love-it-or-hate-it quality. Some would say it's watery and tasteless whereas others find it light and creamy. It has been around for a while, but since starring in salads when flares were first in fashion, it seemed to lose favor. However, cottage cheese is now back. New brands have remarketed it to a modern demographic and more recipes are emerging using this versatile ingredient.

For example, use it to make a creamy dip, add it to smoothies, or combine it with mashed potato. You can also make a spread or pair it with fruit and honey on crackers. You could make our low-fat spinach and cottage cheese pie with a puff pastry bottom. Try a new salad dressing by blending cottage cheese with olive oil, garlic, fresh green herbs, and anchovy paste to serve over a green cucumber and apple salad. Add cottage cheese to scrambled eggs, or enjoy it simply on toast with chopped cucumbers and dill as garnish. You could even turn it into a cheesecake-style dessert, add it to pancake batter, or use it to make pasta sauce.


Over a century old, Velveeta seems like a positively ancient brand. This processed cheese has long been viewed as an old-fashioned ingredient — certainly not one that resonated with young foodies. When the pandemic began and lockdowns followed, Velveeta had its comeback in a big way, with sales increasing by a whopping 24% in 2020 (via CNN Business). Perhaps people needed it for all the comfort food they were cooking at home. Recognizing a new opportunity, the company cleverly marketed the cheese in fun ways, including an advert featuring a martini cocktail with a Velveeta rim and cheesy pasta shell garnish.

If that doesn't quite appeal then what about a meaty Rotel queso dip made with chorizo to serve with tortilla chips? The shelf-stable ingredient is even used in the filling for old-school apple pie recipes. If you're not too keen about including it in your desserts, try our copycat O'Charley's loaded potato soup made with bacon, broth, heavy cream, and cheddar cheese, along with potatoes and Velveeta of course. What's great about this cheesy revival is that when you make a dish for your next dinner party using this nostalgic ingredient, everyone will think you're on trend rather than still living in the past.


If you're Gen Z or spend inordinate amounts of time on TikTok, then you can't fail to notice that 2023 has become the year of the pickle. If you check out our pickle hacks, before you know it you'll be adding pickles to your pizza, making pickle slushies, or serving a pickleback shot in a pickle for the ultimate disposable beverage. Pickles with chamoy are popular, but you can also add slices to chocolate bites. 

Dill pickles are where it's at and the sour taste and crunchy texture add an umami boost to dishes that complements sweet and savory plates. The trend for interesting ingredient pairings is strong as chefs on social media play with recipe rulebooks, opening up a new-found interest in the vast ways to pair pickles.

From a time when a jar of pickles was only seen as a burger garnish that hardly took center stage in the lineup of star ingredients, now they're in demand and savored in countless ways. If you love a retro recipe with a modern cooking twist then try our air fryer fried pickles recipe with a cumin and smoked paprika panko coating. They are beyond delicious with a creamy ranch-style dip.


When was the last time you cooked anything with cornmeal? It's long been a kitchen staple, but it's also a classic ingredient that gets left in the pantry after being used for one specific recipe. Unless you've spent a lot of time making bowls of comfort-food polenta then you might not be using cornmeal all that much. Renowned as an ingredient associated with the Great Depression, the country's love of nostalgic foods is bringing it back front and center, often featured as cornbread. 

For a taste of the South, make some old-fashioned corn pones, which are small cornbread-style pancakes. As well as cornmeal, you'll need some fat such as bacon dripping or vegetable oil. These are so good with either syrup or a hearty stew as they pair well with both sweet and savory dishes. You can also make fluffy corn muffins with cornmeal. Not to mention, everyone should try Southern-style shrimp and grits. With parmesan mixed into the cornmeal and lemon and parsley used to season the seafood, it's a real treat.

Cornmeal is gluten-free which is great news for anyone with an intolerance or allergy. However, it's often used in cake recipes along with wheat flour, or else the result risks being too solid and dense. 


Jell-O and other gelatin brands haven't disappeared but they don't have quite the level of popularity they had back in the '70s and '80s. While some aspic and gelatin dishes of the past might look downright disgusting to modern tastes, there's undoubtedly been a recent revival. LA-based Nünchi is giving jellied desserts an uber-trendy, artistic makeover with its Asian-inspired creations. The link between social media trends, art, and food is perfectly expressed through the visual appeal of Jell-O. 

Be adventurous with our Jell-O hacks and create fun glitter shots with Champagne and deep-sea desserts with sour fish candies. Take a step back in time with a modern-day recipe and combine Jell-O with cake mix and Cool Whip for an old-fashioned Jell-O poke cake. Do you love the taste of jiggly Jello-O with cream? Try creamy orange Jell-O salad with cream cheese, whipping cream, and mini marshmallows, mixed with orange-flavored Jell-O and topped with mandarin slices.

Root beer

With a global market expected to be worth $1.09 billion by 2030 (per PR Newswire), it's clear that the popularity of root beer is overflowing. VinePair reports that popular producers such as Sprecher Brewing and Two Docs Brewing Co. are seeing a real interest in root beer that tops craft sodas and even alcoholic beers. With a general food and drinks trend for the taste of yesteryear, it's not surprising that this iconic drink reminiscent of diners and soda fountains has come back in vogue. 

If you haven't had this soda in a while then you might want to take a look at our list of popular root beer brands ranked worst to best. Embrace the 1950s with a root beer float or elevate it into a cocktail. Meanwhile, nowadays root beer is increasingly used in marinades to add a sweet tartness to meats. Additionally, its acidity helps tenderize meat you'll be cooking on the grill. You can use it to add flavor to pulled pork too, as the caramel notes complement smoky flavors. TV chef, Adam Richman revealed to TODAY Food that he adds root beer when cooking short ribs.

Sundried tomatoes

Sundried tomatoes were once an on-trend ingredient that everyone loved, starring in many a dinner-party dish. It's not that they disappeared, but they did fade away for some time. It was possibly a case of too much of a good thing, with sundried tomatoes being used in every other recipe to no end. They became less of a gastro ingredient and more mainstream until everyone got fed up. Well, guess what? They're making a comeback and foodies are remembering why they fell in love with these sweet moreish bursts of flavor in the first place.

Rich with umami taste, the key to using this old-school ingredient is to do so sparingly. That means not overloading dishes but adding a touch to elevate the taste. Italians have been drying tomatoes in the sun for centuries, so it's no surprise that the ingredient pairs perfectly with pasta dishes. They are also fantastic in salads and add a sweet tartness to a dish. Make our marry me chicken recipe and say "I do" to the taste of succulent meat in a creamy sauce enriched with tangy parmesan, a chili-flake kick, and the sweet splendor of sundried tomatoes.


There's no doubt about it, cabbage has hardly been cherished for being the nutritious vegetable that it is. However, back in the day, cabbage was everywhere, including diets dedicated to only consuming cabbage soup (it's probably best to leave that in the past). For some people, cabbage is relegated to school canteen memories of a pale, overcooked, and watery serving of vegetables. It's no surprise that in recent years it's fallen out of favor as the range of ingredients available and culinary creativity have expanded. However, you can't keep a good veggie down and cabbage is back and more popular than ever.

The lockdowns of 2020 pushed the affordability, nutritional benefits, and versatility of cabbage into the social media spotlight. While it has often been served as a side, it's also a fantastic ingredient that takes less of a leading role, adding fiber and texture to dishes. Or serve it as the star in a refreshing cabbage salad with napa and red cabbage varieties. Sesame oil, soy sauce, and peanut butter infuse it with an Asian flavor profile you'll love. Need inspiration? Browse through our selection with dozens of cabbage recipes to eat year-round.

Ramen noodles

You can probably thank TikTok's foodies for the recent rise in popularity of instant ramen noodles. There's been a real interest in garnishing them with assorted ingredients to upgrade the dish. Among the numerous ramen noodle hacks, the idea of adding an egg, grated garlic, and Kewpie mayo really caught on. For optimal results, you'll want to whisk up the extra ingredients in a separate bowl first. Then, add some of the noodle cooking water and the sachet of seasoning in too. The result is a creamy ramen sauce you'll want to make on a regular basis.

Though still super cheap, ramen noodles are no longer a basic meal but a comeback ingredient for a whole range of enhanced dishes. Add cooked meat and veggies and create your own bowl with your desired consistency by adding more or less liquid. Finish it off by customizing the dish with garnishes and other toppings. If you're low on ideas, make David Chang's Momofuku ramen with a twist by combining veggies, tofu, and bamboo shoots with the noodles and topping the bowl with green onions, nori seaweed, and a poached egg.


Back in the day, buttermilk was produced on farms across the U.S. that churned their own cream to make butter. The liquid that was left over was traditionally made into buttermilk. However, cultured buttermilk today often consists of milk with cultures added. While it was once an everyday dairy product, it became less common in modern times. However, the acidity of buttermilk makes it the perfect ingredient for reactions in baked good recipes, helping muffins rise for example. The versatility of this modern version of buttermilk as an ingredient has really brought it to the attention of the contemporary home chef. 

Buttermilk is also used to make a thick batter for crispy frying and even as a salad dressing ingredient. It has a sour, tangy taste and appeals to anyone who likes to keep their sugar intake down since it has less lactose than milk. Don't just associate this ingredient with pancakes and fried chicken as it's way more complex than that. If you have a sweet tooth, you won't want to miss our classic buttermilk pie recipe. Lemon, vanilla extract, and nutmeg give the buttermilk filling a zesty tang within a pastry case.