English Food

English Food

English food is probably the most difficult of the UK cuisines to separate from “British food.” With England being the largest and most prominent UK country, “British food” and “English food” are often used interchangeably.

Whereas, food that is specifically from Ireland, Scotland or Wales are probably seen as more unique to those countries, albeit they’re still very much a big part of British cuisine.

As there’s just so much great food in the UK, we like to refer to all of these great cuisines as ‘British food.’

But it’s still important to recognise the history and traditions of each nation individually. So, let’s cover English food…

What is English Food?

Full English Breakfast

English food involves the typical and traditional cooking habits and dishes originating in England. This includes classic techniques and dishes such as baked pies, through to the famous tradition that is Afternoon Tea, and modern fine-dining as typically found in the UK’s Michelin star restaurants.

More on all of that to come. 

But first, when it comes to quoting the best food in the world, English cuisine is often overlooked. Whilst we’re not bitter about it or anything (honest), we just don’t know why.

Ok we do know why. But we thought we’d do something about it anyway (hence the creation of this website and article!)

Traditionally, food from England (and Britain generally) was considered to be terrible, although these days it seems to get a bit more of the credit that it deserves.

While English cuisine has traditionally been seen by those from overseas as quite basic, the people of England know that this is misunderstood and they themselves generally love English food.

English food has naturally developed over time, so it’s not so straightforward to answer the question “what is English food?”

Today, there’s both the traditional and modern versions of English food to enjoy. Both of which we’ll cover below.

Before talking about specific dishes, it’s probably best that we take a quick trip back in time…

English Food History

Thankfully, we weren’t around when English food was at its most basic. Although, that does mean we can’t tell you about the history first-hand.

But, rumour has it (or Wikipedia has it), that English cuisine can be traced back to at least the Middle Ages, when you’d probably imagine the grub to have been truly shocking.

But actually, there’s evidence of dishes that don’t sound a million miles away from what we Brits love today, including sweet and sour sauces and pastry. 

It’s understood that English meals during medieval times were usually of a puréed or stewed nature.

Medieval English cuisine was also full of exotic spices it seems, including flavours like pepper, ginger, nutmeg and saffron, which are considered pretty standard today. 

Dishes are said to have been mainly acidic, sweet and sour, or sweet.

In the sixteenth century, English cookery saw the arrival of its first cook book, called ‘Boke of Cokery’, with several more following before 1600. 

Butter and herbs are understood to have been introduced to English food during the sixteenth century, which have both been popular since. Then came citrus fruits and more adventurous ingredients, like sweet potato. 

The incredible English Pie that we love so much today, has been around since the Tudor times. 

We might love a steak and kidney pie today, or a chicken and ham pie (amongst loads of others), but back in the day, live blackbirds were placed inside the pastry before they were served at a banquet (hence the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence”).

During the eighteenth century, records show that all sorts of quality dishes and produce were being eaten by the English, including soups, salads, fruit, veg, meat, fish… you name it!

English cookbooks in the nineteenth century became even more popular than before, making cooking more accessible to the masses.

But then the reputation of food in England, along with the rest of Britain’s grub, suffered pretty badly following the two world wars in the early-mid  20th century.

As you can imagine, it was necessary to ration many of the basic ingredients during the wars, such as meat, eggs, butter etc. This was all overseen by the Government’s Ministry of Food.

This contributed to the idea that British food was terrible, which hung around for decades after.

The quality of England’s food did start to recover following the war when more ingredients became available, but the country’s reputation globally probably didn’t really pick up until around the new millennium in 2000. 

Since then, English and British cuisine has gone from strength to strength, with the rest of the world now able to appreciate the food of England for what it really is.

Foreign influences on English Food

Chicken Tikka Masala

English food has been shaped by all sorts of foreign influences ever since the Middle Ages. 

It’s even been suggested that the English’s beloved Fish and Chips is actually a dish with foreign origins (we live in denial on this one!)

Most notable today is probably how much the English still love an Indian curry. Curry was created by the arrival of the British in India in the seventeenth century. 

So popular did curry become in England, Chicken Tikka Masala is still widely considered to be one of Britain’s National dishes.

Today England actually enjoys dishes and delicacies from Asia in general, as well as the rest of the world.

Chinese food in particular became a mainstay in England by the 1970s, with a Chinatown district first becoming popular in Soho, West London, before other English cities followed suit.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the French have also influenced English food massively over the years, with fancy sauces and, well, fancy everything really. The sophisticated so and so’s!

Also, it’s no secret that the English just love Italian food and it seems that’s been the case since around 1950.

Other mediterranean cuisines hugely enjoyed in England include those from Greece and Turkey. 

Honestly, we could go on all day about the foreign foods loved in England. Mexican food is another one. American food. Caribbean food. African food…

So is English food really that bad?

No, English food is not bad. Ok, we’re bound to say that, but it’s still true. Folk in England just love loads of other cuisines too. 

So why is English food so bland?

English food isn’t bland, you silly sausage. You’ve probably been reading too many old cookbooks, eaten at the wrong places, or you’ve been listening to the French.

Only kidding. Like we said, we actually have the French to thank for their part in improving the food standards in England.

Their classic cooking techniques seemed to inspire a generation of British chefs and home cooks to make much better food, which we can all now enjoy. 

Is English food good then?

English food is great. Despite the reputation of British cuisine, these days it’s a different story.

England and more widely, Britain, have these days developed its food game to a much higher level than it was historically perceived to have had.

It still involves the traditional dishes, but the UK today is a place of epic diversity and so English food and British food now reflects that too.

So it’s not all about Fish & Chips and the Full English Breakfast, although we do still love them.

English Produce

Before we go into some of the epic traditional English dishes and delicacies on offer, let’s have a chin-wag about some of the great ingredients found in England…

Meat & Poultry 

Whether it’s a nice bit of prime English beef for your Sunday Roast, a free-range farm chicken, or some beautiful cured pork, England is home to some top-notch quality meat and poultry. 

Traditionally England also loves cheaper cuts of meat and offal such as liver and kidneys, which are the staples for some of the most famous English dishes. 


There’s great fish to be found in both freshwater and saltwater in England, including rainbow trout and salmon in the former and fish such as cod, haddock and monkfish in saltwater. 


Probably most associated with England in terms of vegetables are Winter root vegetables, especially potatoes, but also carrots, swedes and parsnips. 

If it weren’t for these, England would be without a lot of its best dishes, like Pie and Mash and Shepherd’s Pie.

Also traditionally popular are greens such as cabbage, peas and Brussels sprouts.


Summer berries and apples are probably what the English are most proud of when it comes to fruit. To be fair, where would the world be without strawberries and cream at Wimbledon each year and the apple crumble!? 


Most notable with dairy in England is definitely the cheeses. It doesn’t get much better than some proper, farmhouse-made English cheese. 

Most popular is without doubt the classic Cheddar, with Cheshire cheese also being great and not forgetting Stilton. All top choices for a perfect Ploughman’s lunch. 

Traditional English Food

Roast Dinner

As we’ve said, traditional food in England is still hugely popular today and reflects a big part of the country’s cuisine.

But what are traditional English foods?

Well, there’s just loads of traditional English foods, which include dishes such as Shepherd’s Pie, Bangers and Mash and the classic Sunday Roast Dinner.

You’ve probably heard about some of these traditional English dishes, even if you haven’t had the joy of tasting them.

Then there’s all the famous English delicacies such as scones, scotch eggs, Yorkshire Pudding and the Cornish Pasty. 

In fact, there’s so many that we think it justifies an entire list of classic English foods: 

  • Fish and chips 
  • Pie and Mash
  • Full English Breakfast
  • Roast Dinner 
  • Afternoon Tea
  • Shepherds Pie
  • Cottage Pie
  • Bangers and Mash 
  • Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Lancashire hotpot
  • Scones
  • Crumpets
  • Beans on toast
  • Yorkshire Pudding
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Pork pies
  • Toad in the hole
  • Beef Wellington
  • Bubble and squeak
  • Apple Crumble
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding
  • Eton Mess
  • Christmas Pudding
  • Battenberg cake
  • Jam Roly-Poly
  • Bread and Butter Pudding
  • Victoria Sponge

What is the most traditional English food? 

It’s difficult to say what the most traditional English food is, but you could probably say it’s got to be one of these…

What is the most popular food in England?

Yorkshire puddings

The most popular food in England and in fact Great Britain, is said to be the Yorkshire Pudding.

But when it comes to full-on English meals, the most popular dishes tend to include the Full English Breakfast, Fish and chips and the Roast Dinner.

What is England’s national dish?

It’s been said for decades that the English national dish is Chicken Tikka Masala, which was adopted from India and the British people just love. 

Although, there’s so many great traditional dishes from England, that you could say it’s got several contenders for national dish status.

Some people consider it to be Fish & Chips, but others say Chicken Tikka Masala or the Roast Dinner. 

Naturally, this begs the question of “what is Britain’s national dish?”

Famous English Desserts

Traditional British Desserts - Eton Mess

Wait. We almost forgot dessert!

There’s just loads of great British desserts, many of which originate from England specifically…

  • Apple Crumble
  • Trifle
  • Bread and Butter Pudding
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding
  • Maids of Honour Tarts
  • Banoffee Pie
  • Eton Mess

Regional English Delicacies

Cornish Pasty

There’s just tons of British delicacies, many of which have regional origins in England… 

Cornish pasty

Cornish pasties (from Cornwall) are understood to have first been eaten by miners as it was a quick, transportable lunch. They’re still enjoyed just as much today.

Yorkshire pudding

The most popular food in Britain it’s said, the Yorkshire pudding (from Yorkshire) is a crucial part of a traditional Roast and Christmas Dinner.

Lancashire hotpot

A classic dish from ‘up north.’

Jellied eels

Jellied eels are a delicacy originating in the East End of London, often enjoyed alongside a traditional Pie and Mash. 

Clotted cream

Enjoyed across the UK is the cream tea or Afternoon Tea, of which clotted cream from Cornwall and Devon is a vital part.

Pork pie

The pork pie from the town of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire is a classic English picnic treat.

Bakewell tart

Bakewell tart is a tasty combination of shortcrust pastry filled with jam and frangipane and flaked almonds, from a place called Bakewell would you believe, in Derbyshire.

Bedfordshire clanger

From the county of Bedfordshire, a clanger is another type of pastry item filled with part savoury, part sweet goodness.

Cheddar cheese 

Cheddar cheese, from a village named Cheddar in Somerset, is without doubt the English people’s’ favourite cheese.

Stilton cheese

From a village in Cambridgeshire of the same name as the cheese itself, Stilton is England’s most loved blue cheese.

Cumberland sausages

Originating in Cumberland, this peppery sausage is one of England’s best, most famous for being rolled up into a spiral shape.

English Food Traditions

Afternoon Tea

When talking about traditional English food, you can’t ignore the fact that pub food in England is just as popular as restaurant dining, which brings us onto English food traditions.

As well as pub dining in Britain, you can’t forget to mention the incredible English cafe when it comes to the most popular traditions, where you can grab a top notch breakfast or pie & mash for an absolute bargain.

Not to mention the good old English takeaway, including the traditional ‘Chippie’ (Fish and Chip shop). These are the places to go if you want a real authentic, no-nonsense English food experience.

Then there’s the quintessentially English Afternoon Tea, which you could say is the ultimate British food tradition.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Eating beans on toast
  • Eating jelly and ice cream at kids’ birthday parties
  • The English school dinner or packed lunch
  • Easter eggs
  • Christmas pudding

… and dare we say it, a cheeky Nando’s. That reminds us…

Modern English Food 

There’s no doubt that the perception of English food today has been (and will probably continue to be) shaped by famous chefs. 

Just to name a few that have contributed over the years… Fanny Cradock, Keith Floyd, Gary Rhodes, Delia Smith, Ainsley Harriott, Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver. 

As with modern British food generally, English food is definitely seen in a better light than it used to be, and rightly so!

There became a time where ‘modern food’ in Britain was only spoken about in terms of the UK’s Michelin starred restaurants.

We find that a tad pretentious. Modern food in England, to us, is a combination of the food reality faced by all English people, which involves a combination of traditional dishes, diversity created by worldwide influences, as well as fine-dining and everything else in between. 

These days of course, English and British food generally also consists of vegetarianism and veganism in particular, along with various other food lifestyle and diet choices. 

English Drinks

What is Afternoon Tea?

We know, we know. We’re not called the British Drinks Hub. But we’ve got to wash our grub down with something!

When you think about English drinks, you’ll probably go straight to the cup of tea and that should never change. 

But the English do also drink other hot drinks, mainly including coffee, herbal teas and hot chocolate (plus more tea!)

Cold drinks enjoyed in England are typically fruit juices and squashes and in reality, ‘fizzy-pop.’

Alcoholic drinks that the English most commonly drink include wine, ale, beer and cider, but also spirits like gin and vodka in the modern day.

Eating out in England

If you’re eating out in England, you’ll typically be going to one of these:


The traditional English cafe (or “caff” as we say it), is especially good for a Full English Breakfast or Pie and Mash).


There’s a huge array of great restaurants in England, involving a variety of cuisines and food styles, from casual through to fine-dining.

Takeaway shop 

Whether it’s for a classic Fish and Chips, a British-Indian curry, Chinese or pizza, these are the most traditional and popular takeaway foods in England.


Our pubs in England often serve food that’s just as good as (and sometimes better than) our restaurants. We also refer to pubs serving food as ‘gastropubs.’

What is traditional English pub food?

Traditional English pub food involves loads of the classic English dishes, such as pie & mash, fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, the roast dinner and loads more. It’s difficult to beat the best pub food in Britain!

Where to eat English Food 

If you’re looking for some awesome places to eat English food, then there’s only one thing for it…

…check out our where to eat in Britain page.

English Food Recipes

Admit it, you want to cook yourself up some English grub!

If so, here’s a couple of links to some of our favourite recipes…

Classic British recipes
Jamie Oliver British recipes

We think that just about covers English food!

British Grub Hub 
The home of great British food