Sometimes we wish we could go back to simpler times, when it was socially acceptable—nay, preferred—to start any dessert with a packet of gelatin or can of condensed milk. Vintage recipes like the weirdly popular Circus Peanut Jello Salad and impossibly indulgent Hello Dolly Bars were as simple and crowd-pleasing as it gets, calling for just a handful of ingredients—funky and otherwise—and rarely an oven.
Another retro dessert that certainly fits the funky bill: Tang pie, a creamy orange treat with a not-so-secret ingredient. Made with familiar items like Cool Whip, cream cheese, and condensed milk, the recipe gets its flavor from one oddball addition: Tang drink mix. It basically tastes like a pie version of a frozen Creamsicle, and we’re here for every cool and fluffy slice.
Some might remember a popular drink mix called Tang, which was invented in the late 1950s by food scientist William A. Mitchell (who, coincidentally enough, also created Cool Whip). The artificially flavored orange drink powder could be considered part of the juice category that includes Kool-Aid and any other sugary fruit-flavored mixes, and it was originally marketed as a “healthy” start to the day due to the amount of vitamin C in the recipe—never mind the upwards of 25 grams of sugar. Tang gained most of its notoriety from being synonymous with space travel in the 1960s, after being sent up in numerous NASA space missions with astronauts to ensure they got the daily recommended amount of vitamin C.
The basic recipe for Tang pie has stayed alive through community cookbooks and heirloom recipe cards since the 1960s, and it keeps things just as we promised: simple. To make Tang Pie, you just need a container of Tang drink mix (which can be found on Amazon), a can of sweetened condensed milk, a tub of thawed frozen whipped topping (such as Cool Whip), a block of cream cheese, and a store-bought graham cracker pie crust. You use all of those ingredients in their entirety in that decade’s characteristic frugal fashion, except for the Tang drink mix, of which you’ll only use about half a cup.
Simply mix all the ingredients, folding in the whipped topping, pour into pie crust, chill until set, and garnish as desired. You can follow this popular rendition online for step-by-step directions.
Strawberry-Pretzel Icebox Pie
This creamy icebox pie has us daydreaming for summer evenings and lakeside cookouts with friends. Strawberry-Pretzel Icebox Pie is a refreshing combination of salty and sweet, and takes just 30 minutes of hands-on cooking time.
And just like that, you’ll be cutting into a super fluffy, Creamsicle-inspired pie by the afternoon, right when that sugar low hits. Luckily, Tang can help with that.