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The Definitive List of Traditional Scottish Foods and Desserts You Must Try

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3 weeks ago

Scottish cuisine is filled with wonderful (and sometimes weird) dishes that excite and confuse the tastebuds all at the same time. Either way, when you’re in Scotland, you have to make sure you try at least a few of these traditional Scottish foods. Food is always the best way to connect with local culture, and these foods will get you right into the core of Scottish hospitality.

Like Wales, Scotland is known for its incredibly fresh ingredients and amazing produce, and it’s for this reason that the best place to try traditional Scottish foods is in Scotland itself. These traditional Scottish savory dishes and desserts can be found all over the country, so once you’ve read through this list, you’ll keep an automatic mental note to give them a try during your time in Scotland.

Savory dishes

Haggis

There is no contest: whether the Scots like it or not, haggis is the national dish of Scotland. Haggis is often described as a savory pudding, but pudding (at least as the word ‘pudding’ is used in modern parlance) is, in our humble opinion, a misnomer. Haggis is somewhere between granular pieces of meat and a sausage that crumbles easily.

Given its singular importance as a Scottish national icon, haggis has been reimagined by innovative Scottish chefs. Nowadays, you can find dishes that purport to be haggis but are very far from its origins as a dish of sheep offal, onion, oatmeal, suet and spices in casing made out of animal stomach.

Haggis is traditionally served with “neeps and tatties“, neeps being a type of turnip or swedes (in the U.S., it’s called rutabaga) and tatties simply being potatoes that all know and love.

In fact, for such a meat-heavy dish, it is surprisingly easy to find vegan and vegetarian haggis in Scotland. Even some fish and chip shops (or chip shops, as the Scots call them) have vegetarian haggis. However it’s made, haggis has a cemented place as far as traditional Scottish foods are concerned.

Lorne sausage

The essential part of the traditional Scottish breakfast, Lorne sausage is a must-try traditional Scottish food made from minced meat and spices (and is almost unavoidable). Lorne sausage is similar to a traditional sausage in texture and content but doesn’t have casing.

Like a lot of Scottish food, there’s probably a more apt name or description than ‘sausage’. The mind hears ‘sausage’ and conjures an image of processed meat in tubular casing, but Lorne sausage is square and the meat is not encased. Lorne sausage feels closer to meatloaf than sausage in appearance.

Unlike haggis, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the preparation of Lorne sausage, so you’ll generally find the same thing around the country. What distinguishes good Lorne sausage from bad Lorne sausage is purely and simply the quality of the meat. But regardless of where you try it, make sure to get your Lorne sausage in a morning roll (leave the bacon for the U.S. and England).

Cock-a-leekie soup

A rice-thickened soup of leeks and peppered chicken stock, this is a simple dish that dates back to the 16th century which all Scots proudly know. I’ll admit, the flavor profile is quite simple, but this is very much one of the traditional Scottish foods that you should try in Scotland.

Traditional recipes will include shredded prunes which add a light sweetness to the soup and a dash of that hearty comfort that makes Scottish food so appealing for colder weather.

Tattie scones

You’ve probably worked out by now that ‘tattie’ is just the very endearing way that the Scots refer to potatoes. Tatties scones, therefore, are simply potato scones. But it’s yet another ding for a traditional Scottish food name that isn’t the same as what the mind conjures when the name is heard, because tattie scones are much thinner and resemble something closer to flatbread.

Scots will be abhorred if you attempt to lump tattie scones into the category of potato cakes. The truth is that potato cakes and tattie scones are more or less the same, but tattie scones are much thinner and usually eaten with breakfast.

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, though. Tattie scones are definitely eaten with savory foods as well, including for Scottish breakfast. No matter when you eat it, what we can confirm is that they are very tasty (though very heavy).

Mince & tatties

The Scots either choose a misleading name or an incredibly simple name, and in this case it’s blaringly simple: minced meat and potatoes. It’s traditionally quite creamy mashed potatoes, so expect to be rolling out of the restaurant if you have too much.

This is one of those traditional Scottish foods that is more often a homecooked meal than a restaurant meal, but you can still try it in great pubs around Scotland.

Stovies

There’s some conjecture as to whether “stovies” comes from a proto-French verb or whether it’s just shorthand for what was left on the stove from Sunday roast. Given the Scottish propensity for simple naming, we’re inclined to think it’s the latter. Regardless of its origin, this very basic dish of potatoes, onions, meat and lard (or butter) is the perfect winter warmer.

Scotch pie

Don’t write this one off as a run-of-the-mill pie. The Scotch pie is distinguished from the usual mince meat pie with its much thicker hot-water crust which is thicker than a normal pie pastry. This is the tried and tasted Scottish classic that you’ll find everywhere from gas stations to gourmet takeaways.

Pizza crunch

Found at all good (and not-so-good) chip shops, the pizza crunch is the modern Scottish food. You won’t find this on other lists of traditional food of Scotland, but I assure you that our local sources tell us that the pizza crunch has firmly entered the list of Scottish foods.

At its most basic level, the pizza crunch is pizza that’s been bathed in batter and then deep fried. This is not a light dish by any means. And just to make matters worse (or better, depending on your perspective), pizza crunch is typically topped with brown sauce.

Technically, you could get a supermarket pizza, batter it and deep fry it, but it won’t be as good as getting it from a chip shop, and it doubly won’t be as good as getting it from a chip shop in Scotland.

Balmoral chicken

The Scots have stuffed chicken breast with haggis, wrapped it in bacon and topped it with whisky sauce or peppercorn sauce, and it’s absolutely delicious. If you’re a little bit afraid of haggis, this might be the best way to try it. The sauce and chicken mute the otherwise very strong and distinct taste of haggis, but you still get the tasty elements to create a very unique flavor.

This is a dish that you will often see in corner pubs throughout Scotland, but a number of high-end restaurants have created elevated versions of Balmoral chicken. It’s a local favorite.

Kedgeree

It’s surprising that more Scottish foods don’t feature fish. I wish they did because the Scots really do know how to cook with fish, and they’ve really impressed with kedgeree. At its most basic, kedgeree consists of smoked haddock, curry-spiced rice, hard-boiled eggs, butter and sultanas.

If this sounds a bit like biryani to you, you’re not far off. Kedgeree is thought to originate in India and then reimagined by the British during colonial times. As for its Scottish connection, it appears to be the Scots that swapped lentils for smoked haddock. So yes: I’ll admit, kedgeree isn’t completely Scottish. At the very least it is British, but Scots claim the addition of smoked haddock to kedgeree and count it among their traditional foods.

Similar foods in very different places around the world tell the stories of history, a great example of which is the connection of koshary in Egypt and kedgeree in Scotland, both originating from the entanglement of Britain with its colonies. It might not be the most traditional of Scottish foods, but it’s definitely worth trying in Scotland.

Desserts

Clootie dumpling

The clootie dumpling is, in my humble opinion, the unsung hero of Scottish desserts. If you just looked at a photo or the ingredients list, you might be mistaken for confusing the clootie dumpling with Christmas pudding. But the clootie dumpling is so much more than that.

When all the ingredients are mixed, the mixture is then wrapped in a freshly boiled cloot (the Scots for cloth) sprinkled with flour. This very intriguing cooking method is responsible for creating the unique skin-like texture that makes the clootie dumpling so loved among Scots.

Like a lot of things in life, it’s best served with a generous helping of custard or ice cream, but no matter how you do it, you’ll get a very tasty pudding that is a firm favorite among locals and visitors alike as far as traditional Scottish foods is concerned.

Black bun (AKA Scotch bun)

It’s no surprise that the Scots love thick pastry, and they’ve given us a beautiful application of that love with the creation of the black bun. At its most simple, the black bun is a rich fruit cake that is entirely encased in crumbly pastry.

Despite it being one of the tastier Scottish desserts, it’s a little bit difficult to find in Scotland except during the right season. This is because black bun is often eaten at Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of the New Year. You won’t be disappointed when you get your hands on a slice of black bun.

Ecclefechan tart

The Scottish answer to the mince pie traditionally served at Christmas in England, the Ecclefechan tart is an all-butter shortcrust pastry filled with mixed dried fruits like sultanas and a nut (usually almond or walnut). The difference between the classic mince pie and the Ecclefechan tart is the lack of brandy in the Ecclefechan tart, and the Ecclefechan tart isn’t nearly as sickly sweet as the mine pie.

Cranachan

If you search for Scottish desserts, your search will no doubt yield cranachan. A number of websites claim that cranachan is a national dessert of Scotland, but the truth is that it’s not particularly common. A lot of Scots might not even know what it is. The other thing with cranachan is that there doesn’t seem to be a consensus as to a typical recipe, and this is because cranachan is very much a dessert you make at home.

One thing that Scots do seem to agree on as respects cranachan is that it should feature whisky somehow. Otherwise, aside from the whisky infusion in the cream, cranachan is usually a beautiful combination of raspberries, toasted oats and honey. If you’re having trouble finding it, Cranachan in Glasgow (yes, the restaurant is name after the dessert) serves an excellent cranachan with a scoop of ice cream.

Brandy snaps (with ice cream)

There isn’t anything authoritative to suggest that this simple, hard, tubular case made of mostly butter and golden syrup originates from Scotland, but Scots insist that brandy snaps with ice cream is a Scottish classic.

We’re not here to tell the Scots otherwise, but simply to spread the message that brandy snaps are close to the Scottish heart. So if you’re in Scotland and looking for an excuse to eat brandy snaps, treat yourself to a brandy snap with ice cream.


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