10 Oldest Recorded Recipes in History

10 Oldest Recorded Recipes in History

Cheapism; Via British Food History; Diy13/istockphoto; Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

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10 Oldest Recorded Recipes in History
Cheapism; Via British Food History; Diy13/istockphoto; Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

Timeless Gems

Believe it or not, many popular recipes that we still enjoy today have origins that stretch back thousands of years, passed down through countless generations and across civilizations. These ancient recipes not only provide insight into the diets of past cultures but also reflect the social and ceremonial aspects of food in human history.

Here are 10 foods and recipes, from stews and bread to noodles and chocolate, that trace all the way back to ancient civilizations. 

Related: 'Trash Browns' and 6 Other Delicious Peasant Food  

Nettle Pudding
Via British Food History

1. Nettle Pudding

Dates back to: 6000 B.C.
Where: Britain

Nettle or dock pudding is considered one of the earliest known recipes from ancient Britain. Made from stinging nettle leaves, which are plentiful in regions like Asia and Europe, the original recipe also included barley, water, and sometimes herbs. Nettles were prized for their nutritional value, particularly their high iron content. 

The dish was likely consumed for both sustenance and medicinal purposes, as nettles were known to have various health benefits. It was very popular in the Victorian era.

Recipe: Antiquity Now 

Related: 6 Traditional British Foods That Americans Are Missing Out On

khoresh gheimeh, persian lamb & yellow split pea stew

2. Mesopotamian Stew

Dates back to: 1750 B.C.

This stew recipe, discovered on ancient cuneiform tablets, reflects the culinary sophistication of the Mesopotamians. It typically included a protein like lamb or mutton, along with garlic, onions, leeks, and a variety of herbs and spices such as coriander and cumin. 

This hearty stew was considered a staple and highlighted the agricultural abundance of Mesopotamian society and its culinary achievements. 

Recipe: Washington Post

Bread station in breakfast buffet, restaurant in Egypt.
oratai jitsatsue/istockphoto

3. Egyptian Bread

Dates back to: 1500 B.C.

Bread was a cornerstone of the ancient Egyptian diet, with the colloquial term for "bread" in modern Egypt meaning "eish," or "life." Made primarily from emmer wheat or barley, it was often baked in communal ovens and served as a daily staple. Bread-making was also integral to Egyptian culture, with various shapes and flavors depending on the occasion. The bread was sometimes sweetened with honey or dates and was often paired with beer — another key component of the Egyptian diet. 

In fact, beer was considered so essential that it was "treated principally as a type of food," according to the British Museum. "It was consumed daily and in great quantities," the study adds. (Damn, was ancient Egypt lit? It sure sounds like it was). 

Recipe: My Cooking Journey

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Ancient wooden pint with beer on dark background.

4. Greek Kykeon

Dates back to: 800 B.C.

Kykeon played a crucial role in ancient Greek religious practices, especially during the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were secretive rites dedicated to the goddess Demeter. Though the drink itself was made from a simple blend of water, barley, and herbs, it was occasionally enhanced with wine or cheese. It was also believed that Kykeon contained a psychoactive ingredient that enabled participants to enter into an altered state of mind during the rituals. 

Kykeon symbolized the unity of death and rebirth and was consumed as a ritual drink during initiations and religious ceremonies. 

Recipe: Hellenic Museum

prepared by fermentaion of fish salty sauce garum in a bottle on grey background
Evgeniy Lee/istockphoto

5. Roman Garum

Dates back to: 4th century B.C.

Garum, a type of fermented fish sauce, was a staple in Roman cuisine. Dubbed the "ketchup of ancient Rome," by National Geographic, it was made by fermenting fish entrails with salt to impart a savory umami flavor to dishes and sides like bread and pickled vegetables. Garum was used extensively in cooking and was a significant product in the Roman economy, with production centers across the Mediterranean. 

Today, garum's influence can still be seen in various condiments and sauces, such as Southeast Asian fish sauce and Italian colatura di alici, an anchovy-based sauce. 

Recipe: Ferment Works

Udon stir-fry noodles with chicken meat and sesame in cardboard box on blue background close up. bright color.

6. Chinese Noodles

Dates back to: 2000 B.C.

Early noodles made from millet grain have been discovered in China, dating back 4,000 years. These ancient noodles were not only an essential part of the Chinese diet but are also a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness in food preservation and preservation techniques of early civilizations. The ability to produce and store noodles provided a reliable and portable food source. This innovation laid the groundwork for the many diverse noodle dishes commonly enjoyed in China today.

From stretchy hand-pulled noodles to delicate rice noodles, the variety and complexity of these noodle dishes have become popular all over the world. 

Recipe: The Woks of Life

Sambar- Traditional Southe Indian and Sri Lankan Stew with Lentils and Mixed Vegetables, Spices and Curry Leaves

7. Indian Sambar

Dates back to: 1st century

Sambar, a lentil-based stew with tamarind broth and various vegetables, originated in South India and has been a staple in Indian cuisine for centuries. This hearty and nutritious dish is typically made with toor dal (pigeon peas) and features an array of vegetables such as drumsticks, eggplant, pumpkin, and okra, which are cooked in a tangy tamarind broth. 

The use of tamarind adds a distinctive sourness that balances the earthy flavors of the lentils and the sweetness of the vegetables. Traditionally, sambar is served with rice or idli (steamed rice cakes). 

Recipe: Dassana's Veg Recipes

Flat lay composition with yummy hot chocolate on grey table. Space for text
Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

8. Xocolatl or Aztec Chocolate

Dates back to: 14th century 

During the Aztec empire in Mesoamerica, a drink made from ground cacao beans mixed with water, chili peppers, and spices like vanilla and annatto, became popular among its elite. This bitter beverage, known as "xocolatl" was commonly consumed by wealthy members of society and used in religious ceremonies to symbolize the divine connection between humans and gods.

The Aztecs believed that cacao was a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god, and that drinking xocolatl could give one strength and vitality. It was also considered a powerful aphrodisiac. 

Recipe: AllRecipes

Cossack Ukrainian rich soup kulish made of millet, potatoes, onions with bacon close-up in a plate. horizontal

9. Medieval Pottage

Dates back to: 9th century

Pottage, a thick soup made from vegetables, grains, and sometimes meat (which was considered a luxury ingredient at the time), was a common dish among medieval peasants in Europe during the Middle Ages. The hearty meal also provided a versatile and effective way to make use of available, seasonal ingredients. The base of pottage typically consisted of whatever grains were on hand, such as barley, oats, or rye.

The grains provided essential carbohydrates and were often supplemented with a variety of vegetables, including root vegetables like turnips, carrots, and parsnips. When available, small amounts of bacon, ham, or offal would also be added for flavor and additional protein.

Recipe: Brand New Vegan

POV, Miso Soup, Eating Japanese Food with Soup Spoon

10. Japanese Miso Soup

Dates back to: 7th century

Miso soup, made from fermented soybean paste (miso) and dashi broth, has been a part of Japanese cuisine since the 7th century. Often garnished with tofu, seaweed, and green onions, it is traditionally served as part of a Japanese breakfast. The base of miso soup is typically made from kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), to give it a subtle umami taste that complements the rich, salty-sweet flavor of miso.

Miso soup is valued for its rich flavor and numerous health benefits, contributing to the long-standing tradition of fermentation in Japanese cooking.