Natural Ancient Roman
Dessert Recipes

What were ancient Roman dessert recipes like? I'd say, very natural and pure but sometimes boring. That's not necessarily a problem because they were healthy. Romans were known to have a lot of fruit, dried or fresh. 

Crystalized sugar did not exist and honey was not always available. Two key ingredients of today's dessert classics, supported by a long tradition of dessert making.

It was not so much a dessert since the concept of an after-meal was only known during the end of the Republic. During the expansion, simplicity made place for variety.

Ancient Roman kitchen

During the kingdom, fruits were eaten at any point in the day and were sometimes part of a meal, including honey.

Their favorite was of course grapes, as food, juice and as wine.

Others were figs, dates as second favorites. Further: melons, berries, pomegranates, apples, peaches, cherries, apricots, pears, currants and many other fruits.

There were also honey buns, fruit tarts, dough rolls and a few honey cakes. Mostly made by local bakers.

Early Roman foods was close to that of ancient Greece.

The Republic and Empire

It was during the Republic that the concept of desserts took shape. Usually they were fruit and seafood and was called "mensae secundae". Also, by the end of that era, the appetizer was introduced.

The above variety of sweet foods were often combined with nuts.

These ancient roman dessert recipes may sound boring but in those times certain ingredients were hard to come by for the average civilian. Or even non-existing such as granular sugar and butter.

Changes came when Roman culture expanded across its borders. Even though granular sugar still wasn't developed

They knew how to make puddings, mousse-like custards, sweet cheeses and fruit- or cheese cakes with honey.

It was pretty close to some of the desserts we have today.

As the expansion went on, different types of dishes were introduced and created as a result of foreign influences.  

Some of the ancient Roman dessert recipes were:

  • Savillum
  • Nutcake
  • Patina de piris
  • Libum
  • Gustum de praecoquis
  • Pepones et melones
  • Dulcia domestica
  • Aliter domestica

Lemons, cherries and apricots weren't cultivated until around the 1st century AD, during the empire. Later came apples. 

Just like some fruits were a late introduction, cookies were made only during the empire as well. In the 3rd century BC.

Roman Dessert Recipes
From the Empire

Even though the Romans didn't know the freezer they would still manage to make what eventually became ice-cream. We're talking many ages before the freezer invention.

They already knew "slush" and sorbets. Crushed ice or mountain snow mixed with berries and chopped fruits. They made purees, had it as is but on a warm day they'd prefer it with crushed ice.

Fruit was favored over any other type of dessert. It required minimal preparation and was a good source of energy

In that sense, the honey covered savillum - a cheese cake from the republic era - would keep any centurion up for hours. 

Ancient Roman dessert recipes may not be the most exciting - partly due to a lack of technology and ingredients. But their banquets could last up to 10 hours.

...and there was wine, lots of it!