British food is the cuisine that everyone seems to have an opinion on, whether they’ve had the ridiculously good fortune to try it or not.
Getting the elephant out the room early, British food used to be terrible. At least, that’s how most of the world saw it. These days, it’s actually considered to be one of the greatest cuisines in the world.
Ok, we would say that. But surely it just stands to reason that a place called British Grub Hub knows everything there is to know about food from the UK.
So, if you’re new to British food and simply can’t wait to find out more, you’ll first want the answer to this all-important question:
What Is British Food?
British food is the combination of cuisines from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (the United Kingdom). But it’s really much more than that. British cuisine is both an appreciation of classic UK dishes and food traditions, as well as the recognition of more contemporary food eaten in Britain, which is influenced by other parts of the world.
While that’s all true (and somewhat stating the obvious), this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what British food really is.
As with all of life’s great questions, there’s loads of ways to answer this one.
But not to fret (admit it, you were fretting), we’ll cover everything you need to know about great British cuisine below (see what we did there!!) 😆 🇬🇧
Hint: If you read for long enough, you might just stumble upon a way to find top-notch places to eat in Britain.
“British cuisine is the heritage of cooking traditions and practices associated with the United Kingdom. Although Britain has a rich indigenous culinary tradition, its colonial history has profoundly enriched its native cooking traditions.”The ever-trusty Wikipedia
Some people (without taste buds, presumably) say that British food is bland. But we just so happen to use the term ‘complex’ to describe our beloved British cuisine. If for no other reason, this is because the cuisine of Blighty can be defined or explained through loads of different ways, which we’ll cover below.
But before we cover the many different aspects of British food in a bit more depth, let’s answer some commonly asked questions that we get about our cuisine…
What Are Typical British Foods?
Some typical (or stereotypical) British foods include the most traditional UK dishes, such as: the Full English Breakfast, Fish & Chips, the Roast Dinner (and Yorkshire Pudding), Shepherd’s Pie; not to mention delicacies like the Pork Pie and Scotch Egg; plus famous desserts, including Apple Crumble, Eton Mess and Sticky Toffee Pudding.
What Do Brits Like Eating?
It’s no secret that many Brits like to eat the classic British dishes like Fish & Chips and Shepherd’s Pie, but food in Britain in the modern day is way more varied. As helpful as it is, it’s almost impossible to say what the average Brit likes to eat nowadays, except to say that it depends on personal background, culture, experience and preference.
Is British Food Terrible?
Nope, British food isn’t terrible. Once upon a time, British food was bad, or at least, it was perceived that way. But nowadays, it being terrible couldn’t be further from the truth*. And we won’t hear another word said on the matter.
*(Even if it’s thanks to influences from other cuisines around the world) 🤪
Is British Food The Worst In The World?
British food is the best in the world, not the worst. And that’s a fact*. The wurst is from Germany 😉
*(it’s our completely unbiased opinion) 😆
So, British food is just the best, but also, very complex. Here, we’ll prove it to you…
British Food: Your Ultimate Guide
British food is all of these things:
British Food History
Aside from the nasty rumour that it was historically terrible, British food actually has a long and interesting history, or at least, we Brits think so. While The Spruce Eats kindly refers to the history of Great British cuisine as a “gastronomic joke,” we like to conveniently emphasise that British food history simply refers to (by definition) various events where British cuisine has evolved over time.
A cop out, maybe. But it’s still just the truth that the subject of British food history involves a number of different happenings to do with the culinary past of Great Britain, which involves everything from what ancient Britons ate, through to the creation of the classic British dishes, how other cultures influenced this, which eventually leads to the subject of modern British cuisine.
Food From England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland (and Beyond)
The UK is made up of four great countries (England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland), all of which have unique cuisines of their own, which combine to form British food.
Each country has its own food traditions and famous dishes, as well as their own variations of classic British meals. Their food is also influenced by other cuisines from around the world.
(Stereo)typical British Meals
While it’s true that what Brits eat today is totally diverse and varied, there’s still what you might call typical (or stereotypical) British meals, like Fish & Chips and the Sunday Roast.
Then there’s things like cereal eaten as part of a typical British breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, or the ‘puddings’ that get eaten for dessert after dinner.
Britain’s National Dishes
British food is somewhat symbolised by four traditional dishes, one from each country:
- Chicken Tikka Masala (England)
- Haggis (Scotland)
- Cawl (Wales)
- Irish Stew (Ireland)
That said, England’s national dish in particular is often debated and it could be said that there’s loads more contenders for the ‘title.’ To find out what these are, there’s obviously no better way than to read our article on Britain’s national dishes.
Classic British Dishes
There’s no getting away from the fact that British food is (and probably always will be) largely defined by its most traditional dishes (which includes the UK’s national dishes and many more).
If you were to ask the question “what is British Food?” to anyone who’s ever tried it, they’d more than likely respond (while drooling, obviously) by naming at least one of these classic British dishes: Full English Breakfast; Fish and Chips; Pie and Mash; Roast Dinner; Shepherd’s Pie; Haggis; Welsh Cawl; Irish Stew; Bangers and mash; or Toad in the hole.
Enjoy salivating? Then what you need is this list of classic British dishes.
British Food Traditions
As well as having incredible traditional dishes, Britain is also home to some great food traditions and events, whether it’s Afternoon Tea, turkey at Christmas, or the Great British takeaway.
Other food traditions that have developed in Britain include the popularisation of street food events and food festivals, which join other traditions like Pancake Day and Yorkshire Pudding Day on the British food calendar.
Read more about British food traditions.
As if the classic dishes from Britain weren’t enough, there’s also what we call British delicacies too, including super scrummy treats like these:
- Scotch eggs
- Black pudding
- Cornish Pasty
- Sausage rolls
Regional British Food
As well as the individual cuisines from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the UK also benefits from unique regional dishes and delicacies that originate from specific towns, cities and counties.
Whether it’s ingredients like Cheddar cheese, delicacies such as Arbroath Smokies, or dishes like Lancashire Hotpot, regional food from across the UK is a large contributor to what makes British cuisine as a whole.
Famous British Food
British food is famous around the world for its traditional dishes, it’s weird names for food, as well as being infamous for its reputation of being terrible in the past. But it’s also made famous through celebrity chefs and cooks like Gordon Ramsay, Mary Berry, Jamie Oliver, Angela Hartnett and Tom Kerridge; and British TV food shows, like The Great British Bake Off, Masterchef and Great British Menu.
Modern British Food
‘Modern British food’ is often just spoken about in the same breath as Britain’s Michelin Star Restaurants, because innovation and reinterpreting British food from the past is a big part of the UK’s fine-dining scene.
While it’s true that the best restaurants in the UK partly shape contemporary British cuisine, the term ‘modern British food’ can also simply reflect the general eating habits and culinary activity in the UK today (whenever it might be that you’re reading this).
By focusing on the literal meaning of the phrase, this means we get to tell you* that other British food ‘topics’ also fall under the umbrella of ‘modern British food’, such as: the Great British BBQ, British food blogs, the start of Veganism in the UK, and anything else related to British food that’s happened since!
*while minimising the amount of subheadings we have to use, and the frequency we have to update this article 😉
British Food Shopping
Day to day food shopping in Britain is naturally a big part of what defines British cuisine and what’s typically eaten in Britain. This not only involves British supermarkets, online food shopping and all that malarkey, but also (hopefully) the local butchers, bakers, greengrocers and fishmongers used by the British home cook and hospitality industry.
British Food Brands
Love it or hate it (yep, you know what’s coming), British food is in many ways defined by its biggest food brands, like Marmite (if you didn’t know what was coming, Marmite is a yeast based spread that’s famous in Britain, which is typically either loved or loathed).
Without mentioning every modern day food business across the UK, other major British food brands that have also stood the test of time (at the time of writing) include Warburtons, Branston, Hovis and Weetabix.
British Junk Food
As much as the food snobs of Blighty and the British Nutrition Foundation might roll their eyes, commercially produced junk food and convenience food products in Britain are just as much a part of British cuisine as anything else (in moderation, obviously) 😇
While we at the British Grub Hub believe that a balanced diet is what it’s all about, it’s just a fact that products like Walkers Crisps, the Pot Noodle, the oh-so juicy Starburst, and even the infamous Bounty bar are what make British food so, erm, great (even we’re rolling our eyes now 🙄 ).
Feel free to check out our list of 100+ British snacks, sweets and chocolate.
Ok, so we’re called the British Grub Hub, but we need to wash our food down with something. British cuisine goes hand in hand with British drink, and the UK is famous for many great beverages, both traditional and modern. From Robinsons fruit squash, through to the famous cup of tea, Irn Bru and the UK’s breweries and distilleries, Britain’s drinks game is second to none.
Eating Out In Britain
The options are almost endless when it comes to eating out in Britain. Despite what you might’ve heard, there’s just loads of great places to eat across the UK. Whether it’s the small independent cafe, the everyday restaurant, the best gastropubs, or the many British food festivals, Great Britain is home to the ultimate dining experience (honest!)
Whether you prefer small family run restaurants, national chain restaurants or those somewhere in between, Britain has thousands of restaurants to choose from. If you’re looking for a dirty burger, clean green salad or something more gourmet for a special occasion, eating out in the pick of Britain’s restaurants is the answer 👍🏼
British Pub Food
British pubs are a well known source for a hangover, but tons of them serve great food as well as drink. While there’s even pubs in Blighty with Michelin stars that serve posh nosh, menus of the more traditional ‘boozer’ in the UK will typically include the classic British dishes like pie and mash, fish and chips, roast dinner, apple crumble and sticky toffee pudding.
Want to get sozzled but limit the headache? Then British pub food is the answer 🍻
A good old traditional cafe in Britain (also known as a ‘greasy spoon’) is especially the place to go for a proper traditional Full English Breakfast or Pie and Mash (also sometimes known as Pie and Mash Shops, particularly in East London, of England). Cafes in Britain will typically also serve a selection of other dishes too.
From the most classic Fish & Chips shop, British ‘curry house’, Chinese restaurant, Italian pizza ‘parlour’ and more modern options like Turkish and Thai, Britain loves takeaway food from all over the world.
Britain also enjoys convenience when it comes to its food. Whether it’s through sheer efficiency or laziness, the usual fast-food suspects like MacDonald’s, KFC and the rest also serve the British people it’s food.
Britain is also home to some great street food, including at one of the most iconic places to eat in London, Borough Market.
British Food Festivals
If you’re looking for a great day out with food to celebrate, then British food festivals are the place to go.
So, What Is British Food?
British food is downright awesome, that’s what it is. But aside from that, it’s the combination of cuisines from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus many other culinary factors in the UK, which, together, make the best cuisine in the world, some might say.
Whether you agree or not, hopefully this has gone some way towards answering that nagging question of “what is British food?”
If not (and in case our actual goal wasn’t already clear), just get yourself to Blighty and eat…
British Grub Hub
The home of great British food