Meals in the Middle Colonies

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Bread was eaten every day and at every meal in colonial times.

The Middle Colonies of what later would become the United States included New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. With English, Dutch, Quaker, German, Irish and Scottish roots, the Middle Colonies were ethnically mixed and each cultural group brought its traditional culinary practices from home. However, in colonial times, meals had to be simple, as they were cooked in a big pot over open flame in a hearth, and hearty, as they had to feed hardworking people. Breakfast was generally bread or porridge, dinner was the big meal of the day and was served at midday, and supper was a light meal taken in the evening.



Cider was the most popular beverage in the Middle Colonies, especially in New Jersey, which was famous for its cider.

Breakfast in colonial times was generally porridge or bread or both. Middle Colony families enjoyed scrapple, a pudding made of cornmeal and pork. If people were poor, they ate corn mush with butter or molasses. Beverages consumed at breakfast and other meals included beer or cider. As people became wealthier, they drank coffee or tea and ate fruit and fried fruit pies for breakfast. Quakers in the Middle Colonies ate simply and generally boiled their food. People ate bread at all hours of the day, but especially at breakfast.


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In all of the colonies, dinner was the big meal and took place at about noon. Two or more courses might be served, including soup with a first course of various meats: mutton, pork, venison or beef, meat pies and puddings. A stew of fish or vegetables was common at dinner. Also served were vegetables in season and pancakes and fritters. Second course offerings included salads and fruits, puddings, custards, fruit tarts and cakes. Cider was the most popular beverage, with beer or ale a close second. Many colonial people were big drinkers, and wines, rums and alcoholic punches might have been served as well.



Supper was a light meal served anywhere from early evening to later at night in the Middle Colonies, depending on when the sun set and the colonists stopped working. Boiled porridge or gruel of oats might be served, or leftovers from the earlier dinner of meats or pies. Boiled or roasted potatoes with salt and butter were popular, as were noodles. Creamed dried beef over toast or some form of rarebit, or Welsh rabbit, might be eaten as well. Supper was enough to hold hungry workers over until the hearty morning breakfast, but seldom longer than that.


Snacks and Treats

Most early colonists were probably poor at first. There might be no snacks or only bread to stave off between-meal hunger. Colonial families ate popcorn, even for breakfast but also for snacks. Cookies, cakes and pies were as popular then as they are today, although snacking between meals was generally not encouraged. Everyone had to work hard, children included, each doing what he could. Hungry children might be given some dried apples or a biscuit after school, however, and hungry men out in the fields might have cold cider and buttered bread slices brought to them.


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