Britain’s National Dishes: 4 Epic Meals Representing The UK

British National Dishes

Great Britain is well known for many things, including its ability to talk about the weather, red buses, black cabs, and not to mention, being the most superior nation in every possible way. Oh, and sarcasm.

The UK is also famous for its food, including loads of classic British dishes and traditions, like Fish & Chips, Pie & Mash and Afternoon Tea.

But you might’ve found yourself wondering, what’s Britain’s national dish?

Well, here’s the answer:

Britain has four national dishes: Chicken Tikka Masala in England; Haggis in Scotland; Welsh Cawl in Wales; and Irish Stew in Ireland. But there’s also many other traditional meals from the UK that get mentioned among the topic of Britain’s national dish, such as the Full Breakfast, Shepherd’s Pie and Sunday Roast. 

All will be explained.

But for starters, it’s important to note that there’s not one single national dish of Britain, mainly because the UK is made up of four separate countries, each of which have their own national dish(es).

Clearly, it’s also because there’s just so many great dishes to choose from across the UK (ok, we would say that, but we’re here to prove it to you). 

It’s for these reasons that there’s often debate about it, but there’s one thing that’s for sure: you’ll want to try our national dishes when you visit Blighty, whichever country you’re headed to.

For that very reason, we’ve covered the (somewhat official) national dishes of each UK country below, plus a list of those other meals that are often associated with the title of ‘Britain’s national dish’:

Britain’s National Dish(es)

Basically, while there’s some degree of certainty around the dishes that officially represent Scotland, Wales and Ireland, it’s not necessarily that straightforward in England. Hence the difficulty in naming the national dish of Britain.

“Each country clings fiercely to its dish, and some like England, even claim more than one because there are so many to choose from. The dishes are based on history, culinary heritage, native foods, and the landscape of each country.”

The Spruce Eats

Scotland’s National Dish: Haggis

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Unlike in England, there’s no dispute about the national dish when it comes to Scottish food. Haggis takes that crown and rightly so.

One of the most famous and traditional British delicacies, Haggis is a sheep’s stomach filled with a mixture of the sheep’s offal, onions, suet and oatmeal. You could say Haggis reflects Scotland perfectly; earthy and humble.

The origins of Haggis are said to be from around Medieval times, when hunters in Scotland needed to maximise and transport their food, so they made use of different animals’ offal and stomach linings. Sheep later became the main animal used to make Haggis.

A bit like another famous British food product (Marmite), Haggis is typically either loved or hated. In the case of Haggis, this is because its main ingredients are not exactly conventional, at least not in the modern day.

But you can take our word for it, Haggis is a taste sensation.

Haggis is famously eaten to celebrate Burns’ Night (25 January), which is a popular annual Scottish tradition held in tribute to the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns, who once wrote a poem called ‘Address to a Haggis.’

Ireland’s National Dish: Irish Stew

Irish stew - Ireland's national dish
Image courtesy of BBC Food

There’s little doubt that the national dish of Ireland is the Irish Stew.

As if the folks of Ireland weren’t charming enough already, they only went and brought the world this incredible meat and vegetable delight too.

The Irish Stew is understood to have originated around the turn of the 19th century. As with many classic British dishes and indeed the other national dishes, the Irish Stew is a warming, hearty dish, which came about through the need to economise.

The traditional dish is made with mutton, but lamb is more commonly used nowadays. Other vegetables are often added too, like carrots.

Modern recipes for Irish Stew vary, but traditionalists insist that only the use of classic ingredients allow a dish to be called a true Irish Stew, specifically mutton, potatoes, onions and water.

Traditionalists will also likely say that a proper Irish Stew should be cooked over an open fire, but this is obviously less common these days.

It could be said that the Ulster Fry is a close second in the national dish rankings in Ireland. This is an Irish version of the Full English Breakfast.

Wales’ National Dish: Welsh Cawl

Welsh Cawl

Like Ireland, Wales’ national dish is a stew, called Cawl (or ‘Welsh Cawl’), which is essentially a thick soup, or broth.

Cawl (pronounced ‘cowl’), is one of the many famous British dishes that’s particularly good in winter. It’s typically made from Welsh mutton or lamb, potatoes, cabbage and leeks, served with, or alongside, the meat broth.

Cawl is said to date as far back as the 1300s, although it was then without potatoes, which were only introduced to British cuisine in the 1500s.

While Cawl might be the national dish of Wales, it’s just one of many amazing traditional Welsh dishes, such as Welsh Rarebit, Laverbread and Welsh Cakes. There’s also the national food of Wales, the leek.

Craving to know more about traditional Welsh grub? Then get yourself over to our page about traditional Welsh food.

England’s National Dish: Chicken Tikka Masala

England's National Dish - Chicken Tikka Masala

Believe it or not, the national dish of England is widely considered to be Chicken Tikka Masala, which is a curry dish. This is because curry dishes are hugely popular in the UK, having been adopted from India many years ago.

It’s also thought to be because Chicken Tikka Masala was an early sign of a modernised Britain, in the sense that it represented diversity and a fusion of cultures.

While Chicken Tikka Masala is the worthy title holder, there’s certainly no shortage of contenders when it comes to England’s national dish:

Full English Breakfast

Full English Breakfast

Probably one of the first meals most people try when visiting England. So, the Full English Breakfast (or ‘Fry Up’ as we also refer to this classic morning meal), would also be entirely deserving of national dish status. 

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

Another must-eat dish when visiting England (especially if visiting the seaside), Fish and Chips could also easily pass as the English national dish. 

Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

Roast dinners in general are enjoyed weekly across Britain, it’s just that roast beef alongside Yorkshire Pudding is a particularly traditional pairing for a ‘Sunday Lunch,’ which originated in England.

Bangers and Mash

Bangers and Mash

Bangers (sausages) and Mash is one of the most comforting and enjoyable English meals. Served in homes, restaurants, pubs and cafes throughout the UK, it’s just got to be mentioned when talking about Britain’s national dish(es).

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie could almost be the national dish of Wales, seeing as Welsh lamb in particular is so good. But it’s actually yet another epic traditional dish originating in England.

Pie and Mash 

Pie and Mash

Pie and Mash is also enjoyed all over the UK. But being a humble dish born in the East End of London, if it were to hold national dish status anywhere, it’d definitely be England.

Toad in the hole

Toad in the hole

What do you get if you take one component of Bangers and Mash (the sausages), along with one of the best English delicacies in the Yorkshire Pudding? The answer is of course, yet another top-notch English national dish contender: toad in the hole. 

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

Ok, so Afternoon Tea isn’t a ‘dish’ exactly. It’s really more of a feast, or event. But it’s also one of England’s most popular, famous and enjoyable food traditions, so it deservedly takes its place on this not-so-short shortlist of dishes representing English and British cuisine.

We could go on, we really could. But that’s enough about the British national dishes. Just make sure you find a place to eat them if you happen to be in Blighty…

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