Traditional Welsh Food: Classic Must-Try Dishes From Wales

Welsh Food

Welsh food. The cuisine of Wales. Grub from Cymru (that’s Welsh for ‘Wales’). However you want to say it, food from Wales is just incredible. Especially traditional Welsh food.

Wales might be the smallest country in the UK, but it’s food is just as special as any of the other UK nations’ when it comes to classic British cuisine.

If you’re visiting Wales, you’ll obviously want to try the best of traditional Welsh food.

As well as the national food of Wales, there’s also the Welsh national dish, plus a load of other great ingredients and meals that Wales is famous for (all coming up!)

The National Food of Wales 

So what is the Welsh national food?

Well, the national food of Wales is a leek. But that’s just a single ingredient. So now you see why we said there’s also a Welsh national dish.

But before we move onto that… 

Why is a leek the national food of Wales?

Welsh National Food - Leeks

The leek is the national food of Wales for several reasons.

The story goes, that back in the day, the Welsh wore leeks on their uniforms when they went into battle.

It’s understood that this was Welsh soldiers’ way of identifying themselves to each other from the enemy. Leeks are said to have been placed in the soldiers’ helmets.

We’ve heard stories that this was done on the instruction of King Cadwaladr of Gwyneddas, but others that say the tradition was started by Saint David, the patron of Wales.

A few more things that link the leek to Wales: 

  • There’s old stories of leeks being given to Welsh soldiers in their rations. 
  • It’s said that a battle against the Saxons occurred in a field full of leeks.
  • Saint David apparently only ate leeks during a period of fasting. 
  • Leeks are still worn today as emblems by members of Welsh regiments on Saint David’s Day (the celebration of Wales’ patron saint).
  • It’s also said that leeks were historically used for medicinal purposes by the Welsh.
  • The leek is stamped on the Welsh pound coin.
  • Naturally, leeks are used in the Welsh national dish.

So, while the leek is the national food of Wales, it’s actually more than just that. The leek is also a symbol of Wales itself. 

With leeks being the Welsh national food, dishes such as leek and potato soup or a leek and cheese tart will often be referred to as traditional Welsh dishes.

So that’s the national food. But what about the national dish? 

Wales’ National Dish

Even if no one else thinks so, it’s well known to us Brits that all our food is awesome, especially our national dishes!

If you’re a newbie to food from the UK, the chances are you haven’t heard about the British national dishes.

Least of all, you probably won’t know about the national dish of Wales (with it being the smallest of our four countries). 

What is the national dish of Wales?

Welsh Cawl

The national dish of Wales is Cawl (pronounced ‘cowl’).

“What’s Cawl when it’s at home?” we hear you say.

Cawl is a traditional Welsh stew (or thick soup), most commonly made with mutton, lamb, or beef. It also includes a selection of vegetables, normally including potatoes, carrots and swede (and of course, leek). It can also include bacon. 

The meat and veg are all cooked slowly in a broth, giving an incredibly flavoursome and comforting dish, which is most often eaten in winter. 

Cawl (named “Cawl Cymreig” in Welsh) has recipes going all the way back to the 14th century, when it would’ve been cooked over open fires in iron pots.

Recipes can vary depending on which region of Wales you’re in. In some places, Cawl would be served as a single dish, with the meat amongst the broth. In others, the broth may be served separately. 

Cawl is still enjoyed today across Wales, especially on Saint David’s Day.

Want to know how to make Welsh Cawl yourself? Check out this traditional Welsh Cawl recipe.

Must-Try Traditional Welsh Foods 

If you’re visiting Wales, as well as leeks and Cawl, here’s the must eat Welsh foods:

Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Rarebit

What is Welsh Rarebit? 

Welsh Rarebit is a essentially a fancy Welsh version of the British favourite that is Cheese on Toast.

You could say that’s underplaying it a tad, because Welsh Rarebit is just incredible. Then again, so is Cheese on Toast!

Welsh Rarebit was historically called ‘Welsh Rabbit,’ which explains why we often get asked the question “what is the Welsh food rabbit?”

So now you know, there is no Welsh food called ‘rabbit’ as such. Strangely, Welsh Rarebit has never even contained rabbit as an ingredient.

We can only apologise for our infuriatingly weird British food names!

Anyway, Welsh Rarebit is made by mixing cheese with a combination of these ingredients:

  • Ale
  • Mustard
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Beaten eggs
  • Milk
  • Salt and Pepper 

There’s some debate as to which of the above ingredients should go into a traditional Welsh Rarebit.

One thing’s for sure, the star of the show should definitely be a top quality traditional Welsh cheese, such as Caerphilly.

The cheese mixture is then poured onto toasted bread and baked / grilled until the topping is melted, oozing and golden. 

Welsh Rarebit topped with a fried egg is known as ‘Buck Rarebit’ and the addition of tomato gives you a dish called ‘Blushing Bunny.’

Want to know how to make Welsh Rarebit yourself? Check out this traditional Welsh Rarebit recipe.

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

What are Welsh Cakes? 

Welsh Cakes are, well, cakes from Wales. But they’re sooooo much more than that. They’re often likened to other British delicacies such as scones, crumpets and oatcakes, but they’re totally unique.

We’ve also heard them compared to pancakes, pikelets, biscuits, cookies, but the suggestion is just criminal!

They’re a delicate cake containing dried fruit and spices, which normally includes nutmeg and ginger.

The Welsh Cake dates back to the late 19th century, coincidentally, around the same time the great British food tradition Afternoon Tea was born. 

Rather than being cooked in the oven, a griddle should be used to cook Welsh Cakes, hence their alias name, Griddle Cakes.

Welsh Cakes can be served either cold or hot, and these days, they come in an array of different flavours, as well as the traditional version.

Want to know how to make Welsh Cakes yourself? Check out this traditional Welsh Cakes recipe.



What is Laverbread? 

Laverbread, or ‘Bara Lawr’ in Welsh, is a dish made from seaweed and somewhat mind-blowingly, no bread.

It’s one of the ultimate Welsh delicacies, with the seaweed being of a particular variety found off the Welsh coast. 

Laverbread might not be to everyone’s taste, but that’s the point of national delicacies, no?

As you might expect, Laverbread gives a strong sea taste and it’s packed full of nutrients and goodness.

Otherwise known as “the Welsh caviar,” Laverbread is traditionally mixed with oatmeal, fried and often served with toast, cockles and bacon. It’s a great addition to a Full Breakfast!

Want to know how to make a great Laverbread dish yourself? Check out this Laverbread recipe for breakfast!

Glamorgan Sausages

Glamorgan Sausages
Image courtesy of BBC Food

What are Glamorgan Sausages? 

Glamorgan Sausages are a traditional Welsh delicacy made with leeks, cheese and breadcrumbs. 

The original Glamorgan Sausage is understood to have contained meat (pork), but the modern day version is just as good without it. 

The type of cheese used in the traditional Glamorgan Sausage gave this delicacy it’s name, but due to the decline of the Glamorgan cattle, Caerphilly cheese is now most traditional in a Glamorgan Sausage. 

The more recent vegetarian sausage came onto the scene during the Second World War. 

Want to cook up some traditional Glamorgan sausages yourself? Check out this Glamorgan sausage recipe.

Caerphilly Cheese

Caerphilly Cheese

What is Caerphilly cheese?

Caerphilly cheese is a special Welsh cheese originating in the town of Caerphilly.

Caerphilly is a white cheese with a mild but slightly salty taste and a crumbly quality.

As we’ve already suggested, Caerphilly cheese is great when used in Welsh Rarebit and Glamorgan Sausage recipes.

If you’re in Wales at the right time, you might be lucky enough to catch the three-day festival held in Caerphilly every year (in July) to celebrate this great Welsh delicacy.

Bara Brith

Bara Brith

What is Bara Brith? 

Bara Brith translates to ‘speckled bread.’ It’s a tea loaf filled with dried fruit and spices, particularly tasty when spread with some top-quality Welsh butter.

Similarly to Welshcakes, Bara Brith can be a great addition to Afternoon Tea.

Bara Brith can be compared to a fruit cake, but with yeast in the traditional recipe, it’s really bread (sometimes referred to as Welsh Tea Bread). Not to mention, it’s got a completely unique flavour.

These days, Bara Brith is often made without yeast, creating a lighter, speckled cake as it were!

Want to know how to make Bara Brith yourself? Check out this traditional Bara Brith recipe.

Welsh Lamb

Welsh Lamb

What is Welsh lamb? 

We’re not sure we need to explain what Welsh lamb is per se, so let’s just say Welsh lamb is some of the best lamb in the world. 

Wales is really famous for its lamb, which is mostly because the sheep have immaculate green surroundings to live in, creating flavour and texture that’s second to none.

Particularly famous are Wales’ Salt Marsh Lamb, which benefit from munching on seaweed and samphire by the coast, as well as on grass. The benefit is then passed onto us, when we get to devour top-notch, luxurious meat!

British lamb recipes are usually improved with the addition of lamb from Wales, whether it’s a traditional Welsh Cawl, Roast Dinner or Shepherd’s Pie.

Want to cook up some Welsh lamb yourself? Then check out these incredible lamb recipes.

More Traditional Welsh Foods

Conwy Mussels

Here’s a few more classic Welsh dishes you might also want to explore…

Tatws Pum Munud – An alternative Welsh stew to Cawl.

Tatws Popty – A roasted dish otherwise known as ‘Oven Potatoes’ consisting of meat and potatoes. 

Conwy Mussels – A particularly special tasting variety of mussels from, yep, you guessed it, a place called Conwy.

Welsh Oggie – This is a pastry based delicacy with a lamb, mint and vegetable filling. Similar to the English Cornish Pasty.

Crempogs – A type of Welsh pancake made with buttermilk.

So there you have it…

The national food of Wales, followed by the national dish of Wales, and a load more epic traditional Welsh grub!

As you’d expect, all these classic Welsh dishes and delicacies are great options to eat on Saint David’s Day.

If you’re visiting Wales, it’s just a must that you try these famous Welsh foods.

What’s that you say? You’re looking to find some of the best places to eat in Wales and across the rest of the UK…

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