18 Old-School Dinners That We Want to Bring Back

Nothing brings back a wave of nostalgia like the aroma of a family meal cooking—especially if it’s one of the childhood classics we rarely get offered as adults. This article focuses on 18 old-school dinners that aren’t just about parental convenience and budgeting but are a reminder that some classic dinners from times past really deserve a comeback!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

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According to Taste, this creamy dish was a 1950s American classic that was quick and easy to serve, perfect for family meals. Egg noodles were tossed in a creamy sauce (often made from canned soup) with tuna flakes, sweetcorn/peas, and a crispy layer of breadcrumbs. Its blend of different textures and simple, pleasant flavors has a timeless quality that many of us miss.

Shepherd’s Pie

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This hearty dish gets its name from the minced lamb used to make it, which is simmered with vegetables and gravy, topped with mashed potatoes, and baked in the oven with a sprinkling of cheese. The combination of savory meat, tender vegetables, and creamy mashed potatoes makes for a deliciously flavorful, nutritious meal.

Mac and Cheese

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This ‘ultimate comfort food’ is simple yet beloved by people of all ages. The soft, tubular pasta perfectly accompanies a creamy, cheesy sauce that fills the tubes and coats the outside. Sometimes baked in the oven with a breadcrumb topping, mac ‘n’ cheese is versatile too—as a side dish or a main course served with salad, vegetables, or bread.


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This classic may have a reputation for being economical and old-fashioned, but it has a place in many Americans’ hearts. Bon Appétit reports it was typically baked in a designated ‘meatloaf pan’ that was filled with ground beef, breadcrumbs, vegetables, spices, and ketchup! The result was a hearty, satisfying meal, often served with potatoes, vegetables, and gravy.

Chicken Pot Pie

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The aroma of a meat pie cooking often brings back many happy childhood memories. This iconic dish combined chunks of chicken, peas, and carrots in a creamy white sauce that was then encased in a flaky, golden pastry crust.

Salisbury Steak

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This American invention features a savory ground beef patty smothered in a rich brown gravy, often served with mashed potatoes and green beans. Its origins are a source of hot debate, but its place in culinary history is sealed either way, and it often evokes fond memories of home-cooked meals from childhood.

Chicken and Dumplings

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A traditional Sunday meal in the American South, this classic dish was born out of economic necessity but soon became a beloved staple dish. Shredded chicken (both brown and white meat) was simmered in a flavorful broth alongside simple corn or wheat flour dumplings. It was a simple, comforting meal that deserves a modern comeback.

Sunday Roast

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Munchery asserts that this 15th-century British tradition crossed the Atlantic with the first European settlers to arrive in America. The ultimate ‘family get-together’ meal combines succulent roast chicken, crispy, fluffy roast potatoes, vibrant vegetables, and rich, flavorful gravy to tie it all together—it’s like a big family hug on a plate!

Baked Ham with Pineapple

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This retro flavor combination works on the same principle as ‘Hawaiian’ pizza—salty, savory pork matches well with the tangy, juicy sweetness of fresh or canned pineapple. The dish was typically served with traditional accompaniments, like potatoes and vegetables, and had a unique taste that still appeals to many of us today.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

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This Italian-American pasta classic is said to have been around for over a hundred years, and began in Little Italy when Italian immigrants combined meatballs with pasta and tomato sauce. Spaghetti and juicy balls of ground meat are tossed in a simple tomato-based sauce with herbs—delicious with parmesan cheese or extra garlic bread!

Pot Roast

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Even the toughest cut of beef can be tenderized and infused with flavor by cooking it slowly over a long period of time to create this hearty and traditional American family meal. The roast was cooked with herbs and vegetables in a flavorful broth and then served with mashed potatoes, extra vegetables, or even dumplings. Well worth the wait!

Beef Stroganoff

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Harking from Russia (hence the name), this creamy and comforting dish features strips of beef simmered in a savory mushroom, brandy, and cream sauce, often served over soft egg noodles. The combination of the robust and meaty beef alongside the subtle pasta and creamy, nutty mushrooms still tastes decadent and luxurious.

Chicken Fried Steak

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Want to make this traditional southern staple? Grab a chicken cube steak, dip it in seasoned batter, and then fry it in oil until it’s crispy and golden. You can serve it with creamy mashed potatoes, gravy, and vegetables to make a filling and comforting meal that’s sure to appeal to anyone with a healthy appetite.

Liver and Onions

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This divisive dish may not sound appealing, but for anyone who enjoys the intense, gamey softness of liver, it’s sure to be a winner. The sliced liver is paired with soft, sweet fried onions and sometimes bacon to make a meaty, flavorful dish that is rich and rewarding. If you can stomach offal, it’s well worth a try!

Chicken Divan

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Another creamy, oven-cooked dish, this retro casserole pairs chicken breast with broccoli florets in a creamy white sauce, often topped with crispy rice, potato chips, or even Ritz crackers! The combination of textures and flavors sounds strange, but it’s surprisingly delicious and wholesome.

Baked Cod with Lemon Butter Sauce

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This dish stands out as more elegant and less calorific than most of the dinners on this list. Fresh, flaky cod is baked to perfection before being coated with a lemon butter sauce that pairs well with the light, earthy fish. It’s a healthy meal that is simple to prepare and complete when served with salad or vegetables.

Creamed Corn

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While not a meal by itself, this simple side dish just doesn’t get the attention it deserves nowadays. Often enjoyed alongside fried or roasted chicken, the sweet corn kernels tasted delicious when simmered in a creamy, comforting sauce. It may be simple, but it still holds a place in our hearts (and stomachs!).

Chicken à la King

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This creamy and decadent dish of tender chicken pieces simmered in a rich mushroom sauce with peas, pimiento peppers, and other vegetables is typically served over rice or toasted bread. It is easy to adapt or embellish depending on what you have on hand and still evokes a sense of elegance despite being relatively simple to prepare.

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