9 Throwback Recipes from the ’90s

For some of us, the 90s was a decade of food at its best. The arrival of the internet in homes meant that we were discovering gastro delights like never before and our tastebuds were thrilled. Read on to see modern versions of some of our favorite throwbacks.

Different shapes of homemade animal crackers lying on a chalkboard background.
Homemade animal crackers kick store-bought animal crackers to the curb. Made from scratch, these frosted cookies are relatively healthy and remarkably easy to make. Here’s how to make your own.
Recipe
Two ricotta calzones with sausage and broccoli rabe, one cut in half, the other whole, on a wire rack
Calzones are traditional Italian stuffed breads. This calzone with sausage and broccoli rabe happens to be bursting with mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic, and red pepper flakes. It's sort of like a folded-over pizza slice.
Recipe

If you came of age in the 90s, you’ll no doubt remember the incredible boom of ready-made school lunches and snacks. Dunkaroos and Pizza Pockets rescued many of us from the afterschool hangries, whether serving or eating. Our adorable (and delicious) animal crackers get a little zing from lemon, making them more sophisticated than the old standby. And the calzones have sausage and loads of veg in them, giving you a perfect excuse to eat them in front of the TV without guilt.

A tapenade trio, black olive, sun-dried tomato, and green olive, in a triple white serving dish.
The tapenades are so flavorful that it's good to balance them with crostini spread with goat cheese or ricotta. Just serve the cheese with the crostini alongside the tapenades.
Recipe
A Cosmopolitan cocktail in a martini glass with a twist of orange peel floating in it.
The iconic Cosmopolitan, a cocktail made with simple ingredients such as vodka, Cointreau, lime juice, and cranberry, has a vibrant color and a taste that’s dangerously easy to sip.
Recipe

If you had any self-respect in the 90s, you knew how trendy Mediterranean food was. Sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, focaccia, olives, and everything drizzled in olive oil. Tapenade hit the big time during this decade, combining so many in-vogue ingredients all in one place. Served with the hyper-fashionable Cosmopolitan cocktail, you’d be as chic as any of the Sex in the City glamazons.

A bowl filled with Chinese chicken salad--greens, chicken, cilantro, and mandarin orange segments with chopsticks on the side
Chinese chicken salad is just like those salads you get at the restaurants with the oranges and cashews and the lovely balance of crunchy and tender and sweet and savory.
Recipe
8 multicoloured stuffed peppers with turkey and quinoa in a metal dish, on a table with blue and white napkins.
Peppers aren't native to Greece; they arrived from the New World in the late fifteenth century, and now they are ubiquitous in Mediterranean cuisine. Our gemista (Greek rice-stuffed peppers) nods to the pepper’s origin by substituting quinoa for rice and using turkey instead of beef, giving a uniquely American twist to the traditional stuffed pepper.
Recipe

The very first text message was sent in 1992 and we’re pretty sure it was either about the Spice Girls or Chinese Chicken Salad. Or both, if the sender knew what was what. (Actually, it just said Merry Christmas, if you’re interested.)This ubiquitous “Asian Fusion” dish had so many variations but always relied on a few ingredients–bok choy, mandarin oranges, and that delish sweet and sour dressing. And what about stuffed peppers? The epitome of healthy eating was also so very stylish. With our updated versions, you can still satisfy those cravings without busting out of your Baby Phat jeans.

An open bag of ruffle chips next to a bowl of classic onion dip with two chips stuck in the dip.
Classic onion dip reworked into a healthier, vegan version that will please even the pickiest snackers.
Recipe

What to do when you’re all that and a bag of chips? Add a big ole bowl of the best dip ever invented and get your snack on. But honestly, dip everything you can into this stuff…like puffed cheese balls. Or maybe step it up with something classier like our crispy Parmigiano flatbread.

A molten chocolate cake on a plate with the filling oozing out and a few pieces of dark chocolate on the side.
These molten chocolate cakes (also called chocolate lava cakes) from Jean-Georges Vongerichten are made with flour, sugar, chocolate, egg, and butter. When baked, the cake doesn't cook through, creating a lava flow of chocolate when cut into. If that weren't enough, the batter can be made ahead of time.
Recipe
Eight homemade Milano cookies in a metal loaf tin.
Milano cookies. You know what we’re talking about, yes? The buttery cookies made by Pepperidge Farm that are darn near impossible to not inhale by the fistful? This is the homemade version. And they’re better than you can even imagine.
Recipe

Finally–what you’ve all been waiting for. If anything screams the 90s, it’s gotta be lava cakes. We can all remember that very first bite we ever had of these melty, chocolate-filled, single-serve cakes. Say what you want but there’s a reason these are still around. Another hit in that decade, our crisp, buttery, fudgey homemade Milano cookies will make you close your eyes and hum a little bit of Oasis (or Wu-Tang Clan or Elastica. We don’t know what you’re into.)

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Comments

  1. These come to mind as a kid in the 90s (born 1989, almost perfect for getting the decade’s essence). Keep in mind I was an autistic, fussy eater. Chocolate milk might peeve so many parents off, but it was one of the few things that kept me alive; now it’s more about what won’t I eat.

    Cheesy Pleasey: Maybe it has a more proper name, but this is what I knew it as when I was a kid – can’t really remove it. Get a couple of vita wheet crackers, slice off some cheddar cheese (specifically the brand name Coon – relax, that name comes from the founder’s surname), and microwave it for a minute. I had so many of these for after school snack.

    Bacon Butty: Being the UK’s biggest offset country (India is too independent, and Canada is America junior – you know it’s true), it only makes sense for several of Brittain’s top meals to make their way into Australia’s tapestry. Cook some bacon, get some white bread (or a bread roll), and spread a little bit of mustard on, and that is it.

    Jaffles: These are something unto themselves, essentially only known in Australia. Think of them as a toasted sandwich that also has a steaming process. If you were (or are, I don’t judge) one who likes to cut their sandwich into diagonal triangels, the machine does it automatically for you. I particularly liked baked beans in them, or this cheesy corn that used to exist. Plus, put salami

    If you had any childhood in Australia at this moment, or were parents of small children, then either Pizza Hut or Sizzlers was a go to. Back when it did not cost an arm and leg for dining out, either one could set up a family to eat as much as they could. Both have their advantages, but the reason you would want to go to Sizzlers was the complimentary cheese toast.

    The family restaurant that Australia had was Hog’s Breath. I loved their Hog’s Tail fries, which are essentially curly fries. If you were to trade me it for the Olive Garden, Applebees, and Red Lobster, I would kindly decline. That is how much I cherished it as a lad. And Wendy’s might mean a Frosty to most countries, but here it may be a milkshake, or a hot dog, but the Agro cone is the keen winner. Look that one up.

    Plus every Aussie kid who was in junior school any time in the 90s knows this.

    Another memory that came flooding back was when I constantly went to get blood tests (oh the problems I’ve had in my life, that is a whole different story) was getting breakfasts at the food court carvery. That would usually be some sort of roast meat, maybe served on a roll, could be a burger or meat pie, fries, gravy, there might have been some vegetables, and a drink on the side. It was a big meal for a growing boy.

    Also, someone had the wise idea to put the favourite cereals into bar form for the lunchbox. If it has not happened over in America, I would be surprised. All the possibilities with your massive selection there (I’m now thinking of Lucky Charms bars, those would go all too well) – either side of the Pacific it would not fly well with the health police. They were called LCMs for research interest.

    I could be here all day and next listing the unique and idiosyncratic snacks – the chips, the chocolates, the cookies, the other types of confectionary, all those children’s party snacks, the dubious hotbox at the takeaway – which Australia has, you name it. We’re an odd bunch, and we needed the world to point it out. Only here will you see a chocolate dusting finishing off a cappuccino, or have noisy pedestrian crossings (Billie Eilish sampled the sound in one of her songs). Choose your shortlist, but I will say Jaffas are the must include item.

    I might have gone off topic somewhat. Cooking and recipes came much later for me.

    1. I was born in 1973, in Northern Ontario, so I definitely had a different experience of the 90s than you did…that’s when I was really learning to feed myself at university and I remember ALL of these things. I love your recollection of all the foods that made your childhood; there’s nothing quite like nostalgia to make everything that much tastier. As a matter of fact, right after writing this, we made onion dip and Cosmopolitans for happy hour. Just like old times!

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