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What did people eat during the Renaissance?

The kind of food that people ate during the Renaissance depended on where they lived and whether they were wealthy or a peasant.

Peasant Food

The average person during the Renaissance was a peasant. Peasants would eat soup or mush for food just about every meal. They would also generally have some black bread. The soup would be made of scraps of food, usually vegetables such as carrots or eggs. Mush was made from some kind of grain like oats or wheat and then cooked in water. Sort of like oatmeal today.

Baking bread during the Renaissance
Baking bread

Peasants didn't get a lot of meat to eat. Meat was expensive and rare. One reason meat was hard to get was that you needed salt to preserve the meat. Salt was very expensive during the times of the Renaissance. People that lived near the coast would get to eat more fish.

Foods of the Merchants and Nobles

The wealthy people during the Renaissance ate much better than the peasants. Like the Greeks and the Romans they studied, they enjoyed having huge feasts with lots of fancy dishes. Like the peasants, they ate soups and broths, but these soups were spiced with exotic spices and often sweetened with sugar. The rich also ate more meat. They would have large roasts of beef, stag, or pig. Roasts would be boiled in a large vat and then basted with juices and rose water to add flavor.


At weddings, festivals, and large feasts the food could get interesting. Often they would eat large game birds like swans, peacocks, or cranes. After cleaning and cooking the birds, they would often reattach the feathers for decoration. This was also a time for lots of meat to be eaten such as mutton, chicken, pheasant, venison, rabbit, turkey, and ham. For dessert, which was often called the "Fruit course", there would be fruit, jellies, nuts, and cheese.

What did they drink?

People didn't drink water with meals like we do today. The water during this time would have been dirty and not very good to drink, especially in larger towns. Mostly people drank wine or beer (also called ale). Wine was the most popular in Italy and France, while ale was big in the northern areas like Germany and England.

What did they eat with?

Most people ate with their hands and maybe a knife. Forks did start to become popular with the wealthy during this time. Usually a fork would just have two prongs and would be used for skewering pieces of meat.

Take a ten question quiz at the Renaissance Food questions page.

Learn more about the Renaissance:

How did the Renaissance start?
Medici Family
Italian City-states
Age of Exploration
Elizabethan Era
Ottoman Empire
Northern Renaissance
Daily Life
Renaissance Art
Clothing and Fashion
Music and Dance
Science and Inventions
Famous Renaissance People
Christopher Columbus
Johannes Gutenberg
Henry VIII
Queen Elizabeth I
William Shakespeare
Leonardo da Vinci

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