Fabulous 1950s foods we ALL used to love

The thrifty Fifties

<p>D and S Food Photography/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

D and S Food Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

An era of frozen dinners and tinned fruit, the 1950s was a decade filled with amazing post-war innovations. From Friday night fish suppers to the rise of flavoured crisps – and not forgetting the first US fast food chain to take the nation by storm – we take a look at the finest food fads 1950s Britain had to offer, as well as the forgotten dishes that defined a generation.

Read on to discover the foods we couldn’t live without in the 1950s, counting down to the most iconic of them all. 

We’ve based our ranking on the enduring popularity of each food item in its place of origin and beyond, and on the opinions of our well-travelled (and well-fed) team. This list is unavoidably subjective. 

28. Salmon sandwiches



Made with tinned fish and run-of-the-mill sliced bread, a salmon sandwich may not seem like the most exciting invention, but the simple sarnie's popularity soared in the post-war years. It was a regular midweek staple in many households throughout the 1950s – and John West tinned salmon, gracing supermarket shelves since 1857, was the brand of choice.

27. Blancmange

<p>Harmony Waldron/Shutterstock</p>

Harmony Waldron/Shutterstock

Traditionally made by pouring a mix of milk or cream, sugar, cornflour and gelatine into a mould, then leaving the whole lot to set, this classic dessert was big in the 1950s. It was (and still is) often flavoured too, with everything from almonds to fresh berries. While the dish is thought to date back centuries, blancmange’s popularity intensified during the mid-20th century thanks to the rise of the dinner party.

26. Frozen vegetables

<p>Ahanov Michael/Shutterstock</p>

Ahanov Michael/Shutterstock

As household freezers slowly began to become commonplace, a whole host of frozen foods began springing up in supermarkets – among them, frozen vegetables. With a range of products spanning everything from garden peas to asparagus, Smedley's was the first brand to launch in the UK, in 1937. By the 1950s, housewives were well-rehearsed in using Smedley's vegetables in their everyday cooking.

25. Milkshakes



The first American fast food chain to make a big impact in the UK was Wimpy, which opened its first location in London in 1954. The hamburger chain brought all of America's classic diner dishes across the pond, including super-thick milkshakes. Creamy and delicious, these slurpable creations instantly won over the nation. The number of British Wimpy restaurants may be dwindling these days, but the chain's milkshakes are still very much worth a try.

24. Polo Fruits

<p>razorpix/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

razorpix/Alamy Stock Photo

Following the successful launch of Polo mints, the brand went on to unveil a fruity alternative in 1954. A bit hit among lovers of hard-boiled sweets, each pack of the ring-shaped treats featured a mix of flavours, including strawberry, blackcurrant, orange, lemon and lime. Sadly, Polo Fruits were discontinued in 2023, but fans can still enjoy their minty counterparts.

23. Special K

<p>Don O’Brien/Flickr/CC BY 2.0</p>

Don O’Brien/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Marketed as a high-protein breakfast cereal and aimed towards men, Special K launched in the UK in 1956. Produced by Kellogg’s, it was the first cereal of its kind to contain seven vitamins and iron, and each box was filled with crispy flakes of rice, wheat and barley. As the years progressed, Special K became better known as a diet cereal, with several ad campaigns (including this one) directed at those wanting to lose weight.

22. Findus Crispy Pancakes

<p>Matthew Asmore/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Matthew Asmore/Alamy Stock Photo

Along with the rise of the household freezer came a huge increase in convenience-focused frozen foods. Swedish brand Findus was one of the first to capitalise on the market, launching its now-legendary Crispy Pancakes in 1958. Available in flavours such as Minced Beef and Chicken & Mushroom, these tongue-burning creations were a teatime favourite for many. They reached peak popularity in the 1980s and 1990s.

21. Steak Diane

<p>AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock</p>

AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

After over a decade of rationing, the return of items such as meat and dairy saw restaurants begin to experiment with luxury ingredients – and fancy dishes like steak Diane were born. Combining steak and butter, the dish was flambéed tableside and served with a sauce made with shallots, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, stock, Cognac and black pepper.

20. Tinned fruit

<p>Towfiqu ahamed barbhuiya/Shutterstock</p>

Towfiqu ahamed barbhuiya/Shutterstock

In the post-war years, canned goods continued to be a popular kitchen cupboard staple across the UK. From syrup-smothered fruit cocktail to canned peaches in juice, tinned fruit was one of the most common post-dinner desserts dished up in homes across the country – and it continues to be a nostalgic favourite for many. Paired alongside a scoop of ice cream or a drizzle of evaporated milk, it's hard to fault its sweet simplicity.



19. Margarine

<p>New Africa/Shutterstock</p>

New Africa/Shutterstock

As a result of wartime dairy rationing in the UK, oil-based margarine became a popular alternative to butter – and it was believed to be healthier, too. By 1957, margarine sales were reported to have exceeded butter sales. Margarine is still a popular choice today, used in many baking recipes and enjoyed melted on toast.

18. Love Hearts

<p>Jane Rix/Shutterstock</p>

Jane Rix/Shutterstock

Can you remember chomping through a packet of these as a kid? Renowned for sporting lovey-dovey messages, Love Hearts were launched in the mid-1950s by British confectionery brand Swizzels Matlow. You can still find the sweets, featuring short messages like ‘BE MINE’ and ‘LOVE YOU’, lining corner shop shelves today.

17. Bounty

<p>Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

It’s hard to imagine a time before this crowd-dividing chocolate bar, but the Bounty first landed on supermarket shelves in 1951. Produced by Mars, the tropical treat features a sweet coconut centre and silky milk chocolate coating. Famed for its holiday-inspired advertising campaigns, it still has legions of fans seven decades later.

16. Beef stroganoff



This cosy comfort food may date back as far as the 19th century, but its popularity began to soar in the 1950s. Creamy and rich, the dish sees sautéed beef cooked in a rich sauce made with mustard, onions and sour cream. During the 20th century, chefs added mushrooms to the mix – and some home cooks even went as far as replacing the sauce with condensed mushroom soup. However you like to make it, one forkful is guaranteed to bring memories from your childhood flooding back.

15. Spam

<p>Classic Film/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0</p>

Classic Film/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Spam proved vital in feeding military troops, becoming a regular rationing staple throughout the Second World War – and the tinned meat featured heavily in most 1950s diets, too. Spam was championed through magazine advertisements complete with recipes and, by 1959, a billion cans had been sold worldwide. While it may have fallen out of fashion in recent years, it’s still readily available in supermarkets across the globe.

14. Pineapple upside-down cake

<p>Lesya Dolyuk/Shutterstock</p>

Lesya Dolyuk/Shutterstock

This kitsch delicacy may have a long history, but the pineapple upside-down cake is undeniably associated with the 1950s. A real showstopper, it was the type of cake you'd bring out when you wanted to impress dinner party guests – and for good reason. Not only is this indulgent, sticky cake eye-catching, but it's also deliciously sweet.

13. Bar Six

<p>My Childhood Memories/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

My Childhood Memories/Alamy Stock Photo

This orange-wrapped Cadbury’s creation was first introduced in the 1950s. The bar featured a delicious hazelnut cream and wafer centre, finished with a smooth milk chocolate coating. From train station corners to shopping centres, you’d usually find Bar Six propped up in vending machines across the country. Sadly, it was discontinued in the 1980s and has yet to resurface.

12. Frosties

<p>blaze/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

blaze/Alamy Stock Photo

Already famous for its crunchy Corn Flakes, Kellogg’s introduced the cereal's sugary cousin, Frosties, in 1954. The frosted flakes were an instant hit, and they remain one of the brand’s bestselling cereals over seven decades later. Today, Frosties are still marketed by the same legendary mascot, Tony the Tiger, who is still known for the catchphrase, “They’re Gr-r-reat!”.

11. Drumstick

<p>Nigel Wiggins/Shutterstock</p>

Nigel Wiggins/Shutterstock

Another sweet produced by Swizzels Matlow, the Drumstick launched in 1957 – and it continues to be a nostalgic favourite to this day. A chewy rectangular treat on a white lolly stick, it came in a tasty raspberry and milk flavour. You can still find Drumsticks at your local newsagents, whether in individual portions or in share-sized bags of Swizzels sweets.

10. KP nuts

<p>Tim Ring/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Tim Ring/Alamy Stock Photo

KP Snacks unveiled its first salted peanuts in 1953 – and since then, it's gone on to become one of the UK’s top snack and nut brands. Protein-packed and moreish, KP Nuts are a popular pub snack. While KP initially rolled out simple salted peanuts, the brand has gone on to launch several super-savoury styles, including Salt & Vinegar, Spicy Chilli and Crunchy Coated Katsu Curry.

9. Caramac

<p>Lenscap Photography/Shutterstock</p>

Lenscap Photography/Shutterstock

Resplendent in its red-and-yellow wrapper, this golden bar has been a British favourite since its launch in 1959. The Caramac, famed for its rich caramel flavour, was first produced by confectionery brand Mackintosh before being sold off to Nestlé. Sadly, British Caramac fans can no longer enjoy a taste of the sweet creation; the bar was discontinued in the UK in 2023.

8. Wimpy hamburgers

<p>John Birdsall/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

John Birdsall/Alamy Stock Photo

Just like Wimpy’s thick shakes won over the nation, its hamburgers got people talking, too. Following its initial London launch, the brand soon expanded, offering burger-based meals across the country. While the chain may have fallen out of fashion, with many locations now closed, a classic Wimpy hamburger is hard to beat – featuring a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion and ketchup stacked inside a white bun.

7. Betty Crocker cake mix

<p>Jamie/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0</p>

Jamie/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Saving American home cooks from disaster since the 1920s, Betty Crocker finally landed in the UK in the mid-1950s – and along with it came a flurry of delicious, easy-to-make cake mixes. The boxes quickly became a staple in households across the country, with housewives knocking up everything from its giant ginger cakes to its petite cupcakes.

6. Chinese takeaway



While many Brits now can’t live without their regular order of egg fried rice and crispy chilli beef from their local Chinese takeaway, it wasn’t until the 1950s that this trend began picking up pace. Following the introduction of new post-war immigration laws, many Cantonese immigrants began settling in the UK, opening takeaway spots in old fish and chip shops. A few standout dishes still enjoyed today include chow mein, curry sauce and chop suey.

5. Flavoured crisps

<p>neil langan/Shutterstock</p>

neil langan/Shutterstock

Sure, crunchy crisps had been a popular snack since the turn of the 20th century – but Joe 'Spud' Murphy, owner of the Tayto snack company, is widely believed to have invented the first seasoned crisps, introducing them to the Irish public in the mid-1950s. The first flavour developed is said to have been cheese and onion. It wasn’t long before other brands began experimenting with flavours too, and these days there's an endless list of varieties across the world.

4. Tunnock’s Teacakes

<p>D and S Food Photography/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

D and S Food Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

Established in 1890, Scottish confectionery company Tunnock’s hit the big time when it launched its now-legendary Teacakes. Developed by Sir Boyd Tunnock, the product landed on supermarket shelves in 1956 and was an instant hit. Melty and delicious, each one consists of a circular shortbread biscuit base topped with a soft marshmallow and finished with a smooth coating of milk chocolate.

3. Fish and chips

<p>Anna Mente/Shutterstock</p>

Anna Mente/Shutterstock

While Britain’s love for fish and chips is thought to go back centuries, the classic comfort food's popularity soared after the Second World War – and by the 1950s, fish and chip Fridays were an institution enjoyed by many. From crunchy cod and battered sausages to soft-in-the-centre chips with mushy peas, it’s hard to beat this humble dish.

2. Birds Eye Fish Fingers

<p>Bradford Timeline/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0</p>

Bradford Timeline/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Beloved by adults and children alike, Birds Eye Fish Fingers make a mean midweek dinner. The now-iconic supermarket staple first landed in the freezer aisle in 1955 – and almost seven decades later, Fish Fingers continue to be one of the nation’s favourite frozen foods. Since launching, more than 15 billion breadcrumbed fish bites have been sold in the UK.

1. Coronation chicken



Poulet Reine Elizabeth – more widely known as coronation chicken – was created for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation banquet in 1953. The now-renowned sandwich filler and baked potato topper consisted of chicken and sultanas, smothered in a creamy curry-flavoured sauce. For those fond of the delicately spicy, herby taste, it’s comfortingly nostalgic.

Now discover the fabulous foods we loved in the 1970s