Traditional British food is just a must-try, especially if you’re lucky enough to be in the UK. There’s no two ways about it, you’d be practically committing a crime to visit Britain and not eat some.
But if you’ve never experienced the best cuisine in the world, you might’ve found yourself asking: “what is traditional British food?”
Here’s your answer:
Traditional British food is a combination of classic dishes and delicacies from the UK, including the Full Breakfast, Pie and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, Roast Dinner, Haggis, Welsh Cawl, Irish Stew and believe it or not, Chicken Tikka Masala. Classic British cuisine also includes treats such as Cornish Pasties and Pork Pies, plus desserts like Apple Crumble and Eton Mess.
The truth is, there’s just loads of traditional British food to rave about (which we do, incessantly).
There’s actually so much awesome traditional grub from the UK, that we found ourselves needing to write another article on what we call British delicacies.
For now though, here’s an unashamedly long list of scrumptious traditional British meals…
The Most Traditional British Food
We feel it’s important to point out (to keep the British modernists happy), that while these traditional British dishes are still enjoyed right across the UK, they don’t necessarily reflect what every Brit eats on a daily basis.
You could say that traditional British food is nowadays largely about nostalgia and appreciating the UK’s culinary history, making the classic dishes even more enjoyable when they’re eaten.
But if you’re new to British cuisine and you’re desperate for your very first taste of the stuff, it’s widely accepted that the best British dishes to try are the most traditional ones.
So, here’s a list of the most traditional British dishes for you to enjoy:
The Full Breakfast
There’s no place better to start than the most important meal of the day. The Full Breakfast is one of the most famous British dishes and is more commonly known as the Full English Breakfast (or Full Scottish / Full Welsh / Full Irish).
Also known as the ‘Fry Up’ or ‘Full Monty,’ this beauty is actually available throughout the day in many UK eateries. Hence why it can also be referred to as an ‘All Day Breakfast’.
Let us guess, you’re now wondering what’s in this classic breakfast dish and where to eat yours…
Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips is one of the most popular traditional British food dishes and it’s really not difficult to understand why (in our humble opinion). This dish consists of battered and deep fried fish (usually cod or haddock), served with chips (a.k.a chunky French fries).
There’s little doubt as to how fish and chips is best eaten with a wedge of lemon and ketchup or tartare sauce, plus plenty of salt and malt vinegar. Other optional additions include mushy peas, pickled gherkins, pickled onions and curry sauce.
Most UK restaurants and traditional British pub menus have Fish and Chips available daily (or get yourself to a Fish and Chip ‘shop’ in a seaside town for the best Fish and Chips experience).
Roast Dinner (with Yorkshire Pudding)
A Roast Dinner is of course another classic dish from Blighty and if you’re visiting the UK, we’d suggest you don’t return home until you’ve demolished one. A traditional ‘Roast’ generally comes with (roasted, naturally) meat (or non-meat alternative), plus roasted potatoes, stuffing, a selection of vegetables and gravy. And obviously, Yorkshire pudding.
The famous Yorkshire Pudding is the traditional pairing for roast beef specifically, although they’re so good, most Brits will add them to their Roast regardless of meat choice.
Whether you choose beef, chicken, pork, lamb or any other meat (or non-meat) option, you’ll be sure to enjoy a Roast. A turkey Roast is traditionally eaten at Christmas in Britain.
This classic meal from the UK is also known as a ‘Sunday Roast,’ or ‘Sunday Lunch,’ but no need to fret if you’re not in the UK on a Sunday: we Brits love a Roast Dinner any day of the week (we know, you were fretting). That said, Sunday is the most traditional and common day to eat a Roast.
Whilst the term ‘Roast Dinner’ is probably used most often, it’s totally not an issue if you have a Roast for lunch rather than dinner in Britain (in fact, it’s an early afternoon Roast that’s most common).
Pie and Mash
Pie and Mash is another one of the true British classics, this being a pastry encased meat / vegetable and gravy filling, ideally served with creamy mashed potatoes (and more gravy, obviously).
Steak and kidney is perhaps the most traditional pie filling in Britain, but other variations are steak and ale, steak and mushroom, or minced beef and onion. Chicken and mushroom or chicken and ham are also among the UK’s faves.
Pie and Mash is a dish that’ll be found in most UK ‘gastropubs’, not to mention pie and mash shops, which serve this epic meal with ‘liquor’ (a parsley sauce) and jellied eels.
For the best pie and mash (or at least, the most traditional), the East End of London is the place to go.
Sausages (‘Bangers’) and Mash
Sausage and mash (also known as ‘bangers and mash’) will surely always be one of the most popular dinners in the UK, purely because it’s the perfect comfort food.
Creamy mashed potatoes topped with thick pork ‘bangers’ and gravy really is one of the most epic British food traditions.
Bangers and mash is usually best served with vegetables such as peas, carrots or cabbage, plus fried onions.
Toad In The Hole
Toad in the hole is yet another comforting British dish made with sausages (which were bangers two seconds ago, but here they’re ‘toads’).
Putting weird British food names aside, toad in the hole is perhaps one of the most underrated traditional dishes from the UK.
Toad in the hole is just top-notch. It’s sausages that are cooked amongst Yorkshire pudding batter. Enough said. Except to say that it’s usually also served with vegetables and gravy.
Another of the most traditional British food dishes is Shepherd’s Pie. You might‘ve guessed from the name, but if not, this is a lamb based dish. Minced lamb is cooked in gravy along with onions, celery, carrots and peas to make this rascal of a meal.
Mashed potatoes are added to the meat base as a topping (plus grated cheddar cheese if you’re living life right on the edge), before being flashed under a grill to give a golden and crisp finish.
Similar to Shepherd’s Pie is Cottage Pie, another classic British meal, but made with beef.
The Ploughman’s Lunch (or more simply a “Ploughman’s“) was created by British farmers back in the day. It’s a cold lunch that’s very traditional, initially only made from bread, cooked meats, cheese and an apple. Over the years, more items have been added to the very basic dish that was the original Ploughman’s, and so it’s just one of the best, albeit perhaps most stereotypical British lunches to be had.
A plateful of thick cut honey roasted ham, a good hunk of cheddar cheese, crusty bloomer bread, along with pork pies, scotch eggs, pickles and a wedge of juicy apple, is just insanely good. Widely accepted to be best eaten alongside a nice cold ale or beer.
Welsh Cawl is essentially a soup, or broth, from Wales. Except, it’s so much more than just a soup or broth from Wales (despite just being a soup or broth from Wales).
To make Welsh Cawl, chunks of lamb or beef are cooked in a broth along with vegetables such as leek, potato, swede and carrot.
A Welsh Cawl is widely considered to be the national dish of Wales and hence, one of Britain’s national dishes. So, if you’re visiting Wales in particular, it’s time to get excited by soup!
Haggis is another of the UK’s national dishes and it’s just incredible (trust us, we’re British). Haggis is a savoury dish made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs. If the sound of that puts you off, then chances are, you don’t know what Haggis tastes like.
The heart, liver and lungs of the sheep (and historically pigs) are minced and mixed with stock, onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, then traditionally cooked within the sheep’s stomach lining.
Haggis is generally considered to be one of the must-eat British delicacies. If you’re coming to see us over here in Blighty, particularly Scotland, you’re probably going to want to try Haggis.
Yet another national dish of the UK, the Irish Stew, is, guess what, yep, another must-try! Whether you’re visiting Ireland or not, an Irish Stew is one of the most comforting traditional British dinners around.
Traditionally Irish Stew is made with mutton, but lamb is more popular these days, in the era of modern British cuisine. Either way, it’s scrum diddly.
If you’ve never heard of Afternoon Tea, then clearly, you don’t know what you’re missing. Afternoon Tea is more of a feast than a single dish, and maybe the most popular British food tradition that there is.
Afternoon Tea starts with a selection of dainty, sophisticated sandwiches (yep, we’re super sophisticated, us Brits). Followed by the epic British delicacy that is the great British scone, with clotted cream and jam.
But that’s not all. Afternoon Tea is then finished off with even more sweet treats, through an array of pastries and cakes. All washed down with unlimited cups of tea, naturally.
One of many awesome traditional British desserts, Apple Crumble is made from stewed apples with a crisp, crumbly topping made from butter, flour and sugar (often flavoured with cinnamon). A good British crumble is well known to be best served with custard, but cream or ice cream are also good choices.
There’s several varieties of crumble desserts enjoyed in Britain, apple just being the most traditional and common. You could swap out the apples for peaches, rhubarb or plums for example, or go with a combination of fruits. Apple and Blackberry Crumble is ridiculously good.
A mixture of strawberries, broken meringue, and whipped double cream gives you the classic British dessert that is Eton Mess. Despite the name, this is a British dessert that’ll have you salivating; there’s definitely nothing messy about the taste.
Eton is the area of England from where this pudding originates. The ‘mess’ refers to the dish traditionally being put together without any real structure, other than simply mixing the various ingredients together.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky Toffee Pudding is another insanely good British dessert. It’s a sponge cake, but that’s really not doing it justice. It’s moist and oozing with toffee sauce, which is, erm, sticky, in consistency.
Beyond that, Sticky Toffee Pudding is one of those things that doesn’t need much further explanation, it just deserves to be tried.
Trifle is a layered dessert, a dish that’s particularly popular at Christmas in the UK.
A classic Trifle has lower layers of fruit and sponge fingers set in a fruit jelly (the most traditional fruit being strawberries). Above all of that sits layers of custard and whipped cream (plus more layers of fruit and sponge fingers). Chocolate shavings and more fruit are usually used to decorate the top cream layer. A thing of sheer beauty.
So there you have it, a list of traditional British dishes.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting the UK, be sure to find some great places to eat yours…
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