Tang! The space-age drink that's still a worldwide staple

From the Space Needle to the famous "moon girl look," space exploration has influenced decades of architecture, culture and trends.

Posted: May 1, 2021 9:13 AM


When you think of Tang -- if you think of Tang at all -- you probably think of its association with the United States space program in the 1960s.

After all, "Tang was chosen for the Gemini astronauts," as a 1966 advertisement for the classic orange drink stated. Gemini was NASA's second human spaceflight mission in the lead-up to the moon landing.

The beverage always will be connected to the golden era of midcentury space exploration, but NASA actually did not invent Tang.

Tang debuted in 1957 as a vitamin C-packed breakfast drink. Its selling point was that the powdered mix was shelf-stable, and it was promoted as a healthier and more convenient alternative to fresh orange juice. (And while it certainly may be more convenient than juicing oranges to order every morning, the first two items on Tang's ingredient list are sugar and fructose.)

But General Foods, Tang's original parent company, had contracts with the military for producing rations and other food items, such as instant coffee. ("Mad Men" fans will be pleased to know that General Foods, later incorporated into Kraft Foods, also owned the Burger Chef brand from 1968 to 1982.)

Thanks to these connections and the aforementioned shelf-stable, "just add water" capability of Tang, NASA sent the drink mix into space with John Glenn on his famous orbit of Earth in 1962.

General Foods' advertising strategy shifted to capitalize on the popularity of all things outer space, and Tang henceforth became marketed as the astronaut's drink of choice, as seen in this collection of Tang advertisements through the decades.

But Tang isn't just a space age relic. It's still popular across the globe, from South America to Asia, and produced in a number of flavors -- including pineapple, mango, lemon, calamansi and its newest Filipino flavor, Coco Plus Buko Pandan. Tang is also one of the most popular drinks during Ramadan in the Middle East, according to Mondelez International, the food corporation that now owns the brand.

Not only that, but home cooks around the world have been showing their ingenuity by using Tang in dishes that go far beyond a simple stir-it-up breakfast drink.

Whether you're jonesing for a blast from the past or looking for something new to experiment with, grab a canister of Tang and make these fun and slightly retro recipes.

Tang Creamsicle pie

This nostalgic dessert has graced the tables of many a church potluck and community picnic since the 1960s, and its retro charm endures. The sweet throwback is one of those no-bake recipes familiar to anyone who grew up reading recipes off the back of a box.

The formula here is simple: Beat together Tang mix, cream cheese, condensed milk and whipped topping until fluffy, then chill in a graham cracker crust. Spoon on even more whipped topping to take it over the top.

Make a semi-homemade Creamsicle pie this summer for a refreshing treat — vintage apron optional.

Frothy Tang orange drink

For an Orange Julius-style drink that will take you back to the '80s, trust the guys from Big Gay Ice Cream to come through with a cool and frothy Tang-infused milkshake that hits the spot. You'll be transported to your favorite mall food court with just a sip; better grab a hot pretzel for the full effect.

Want to make this drink into a cocktail? Just blend in 2 tablespoons white rum or orange-flavored vodka per serving.

Takeout-style orange chicken

Believe it or not, a Tang-boosted version of chicken in orange sauce is one of the official recipes promoted by Tang Pakistan. The addition of the fruity drink actually makes sense for this sauce, enhancing the sweet and sticky aspects that make the dish a Chinese American classic.

When you're craving those crunchy coated bites, you can make the Tang-approved recipe or simply replace the orange juice in your favorite copycat takeout orange chicken recipe with Tang.

Tang ice pops

If there is one technological innovation that makes families' lives better every summer, it's the humble yet life-changing ice pop mold, which lets us create any flavor of fruity treats imaginable.

Stir up a pitcher of Tang and pour into any style of mold that fits your fancy. Traditional bomb pop or double stick-style molds, silicone squeeze molds, or push-up pop molds will all do the trick.

If you'd like to add fresh fruit like chopped peaches, sliced strawberries or whole blueberries to your pops, fill the molds with fruit and then pour the liquid in. For a creamier treat, blend Tang with vanilla or coconut Greek yogurt before pouring.

Tang and lemon ice cream

No ice cream maker? No problem! This recipe for lemon and orange Tang ice cream uses a simplified method called semifreddo, Italian for "half-cold." By making an easy egg-free custard, then partially freezing, blending, then freezing again, the ice cream results in a soft and mousselike texture.

If you love the flavor of orange sherbet but the consistency of soft-serve custard, this might be your ideal dessert.

Friendship tea

Probably the most well-known Tang recipe, this hot beverage is another one of those community cookbook staples. It's also frequently referred to as Russian tea, but it bears little resemblance to the strong tea served with lemon and sugar that was the drink's original inspiration.

Instead, this citrusy sweet tea mix has become an American standard. The proportions change from recipe to recipe, but standard ingredients include instant tea powder, lemonade powder, Tang, and frequently cinnamon, cloves and/or nutmeg for extra spice.

Make a jar of homemade tea blend to keep in your pantry for chilly days.

There's even Tang beer

Magnify Brewing in Fairfield, New Jersey, created a beer brewed with Tang as one of its limited-edition releases in April. Big Pulp, a smoothie sour-style beer, also features real mango, pineapple and peach in its ingredient lineup. The vibrant color and juicy flavor are deceptively reminiscent of the tropical orange drinks of the 1980s and '90s, making this a grown-up version of an after-school treat.

As these recipes prove, Tang is an enduringly popular ingredient in kitchens around the world. Even after all these years, Tang remains, to quote another vintage ad, "for spacemen and earth families."

Terre Haute
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 63°
Robinson
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 62°
Indianapolis
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 62°
Rockville
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Casey
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 62°
Brazil
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 63°
Marshall
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 63°
Scattered Showers and Thundershowers
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1366179

Reported Deaths: 24795
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook54690810144
DuPage907991285
Will75762993
Lake67398990
Kane58533778
Winnebago33359477
Madison30572520
McHenry28675288
St. Clair27899514
Peoria23185317
Champaign20699145
Sangamon18823234
McLean18225181
Tazewell16983291
Rock Island15029318
Kankakee14223210
Kendall1309294
LaSalle12585244
Macon10778200
DeKalb9901119
Vermilion9686132
Adams8474123
Williamson7442130
Whiteside7165172
Boone671774
Ogle612081
Grundy589976
Clinton576390
Coles568996
Knox5569150
Jackson503164
Henry500767
Livingston483185
Stephenson476983
Woodford476177
Effingham472972
Macoupin471583
Marion4471115
Franklin445975
Monroe435793
Jefferson4300120
Lee417453
Randolph413384
Fulton395357
Morgan390282
Logan388959
Montgomery372974
Bureau372782
Christian367973
Fayette317855
Perry317760
Iroquois302766
McDonough286447
Jersey269350
Douglas259035
Saline256454
Lawrence240625
Shelby229937
Union226140
Crawford212126
Bond205524
Cass199525
Jo Daviess181924
Clark180433
Warren180146
Pike179352
Ford179047
Wayne178053
Hancock176131
Carroll175636
Richland175240
Edgar170640
White169826
Washington164425
Moultrie161128
De Witt151725
Mason151645
Piatt150014
Clay148143
Mercer147533
Johnson144515
Greene143933
Massac134640
Wabash134612
Cumberland129019
Menard123712
Jasper115118
Marshall107418
Hamilton83515
Schuyler7607
Brown7106
Pulaski6867
Stark63824
Edwards56912
Henderson52414
Calhoun5182
Putnam4833
Scott4791
Alexander46811
Gallatin4604
Hardin38612
Pope3224
Out of IL111
Unassigned02356

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 735462

Reported Deaths: 13480
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1006161752
Lake54169976
Allen40913680
St. Joseph36301553
Hamilton35807408
Elkhart28815442
Tippecanoe22464219
Vanderburgh22367397
Porter18921310
Johnson18063381
Hendricks17310315
Clark13032192
Madison12754339
Vigo12497249
LaPorte12073215
Monroe11945170
Delaware10750187
Howard9985218
Kosciusko9463117
Hancock8367142
Bartholomew8096156
Warrick7797155
Floyd7686178
Grant7094174
Wayne7069199
Boone6740101
Morgan6606139
Dubois6165117
Marshall6108112
Cass5886105
Dearborn583178
Henry5779105
Noble565084
Jackson503473
Shelby494196
Lawrence4591120
Gibson436892
Harrison436472
DeKalb430485
Clinton428453
Montgomery425789
Whitley397939
Huntington394280
Steuben391057
Miami383768
Knox372890
Jasper372049
Putnam363360
Wabash355280
Adams342655
Ripley340870
Jefferson331881
White316854
Daviess298399
Wells292081
Decatur285992
Fayette281962
Greene280485
Posey272034
LaGrange268870
Scott267454
Clay261147
Washington242132
Randolph242081
Spencer232731
Jennings230949
Starke218954
Fountain213746
Sullivan212242
Owen203056
Jay197630
Fulton196140
Carroll190220
Orange184454
Perry184437
Rush174025
Vermillion170044
Franklin168435
Tipton163345
Parke146716
Pike135334
Blackford135132
Pulaski117345
Newton108834
Brown102641
Crawford101415
Benton99014
Martin89515
Warren82615
Switzerland7948
Union71410
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417