One might be pardoned for assuming that Scottish cuisine is a mere extension of British or European cuisine because unlike other cuisines it has developed based on its food availability and history. The cuisine is marked by ingredients that are grown in the country like dairy, fish, root vegetables and is characterized by a lack of spices. It is because traditionally Scotland did not gain from foreign trade like Spain or England did, and hence spices were expensive and did not find their way into mainstream Scottish cuisine. A lot of Scottish foods have been a part of British cuisine, and many British foods have found their way on to Scottish tables. Here is a list of food to try in Scotland that will give you a sneak peek into the culture and heritage of Scotland.
1. A full Scottish breakfast
Breakfasts in Europe are a rich tradition, but it doesn’t get more wholesome than the full Scottish breakfast! A full Scottish breakfast is a mix of several elements that combine to form a sumptuous and energy-giving breakfast. The breakfast includes porridge, followed with toast and butter; there is a tea to accompany. It’s not entirely a cold breakfast; you will find an assortment of things on your hot plate like grilled tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, baked beans, link sausage, bacon rashers, eggs, and a typical black pudding. The Stornoway black pudding is a Scottish speciality and is made of pig’s blood, spices, oats, and barley. The full Scottish breakfast will keep you going for hours!
2. Sticky toffee pudding
A staple across all Scottish pubs and restaurants is the sticky toffee pudding which ranks amongst the most popular desserts in Scotland. The pudding is not so much steamed but a gently baked pudding that is often filled with dates. It is topped with a sticky toffee sauce that has a rich caramel taste and is accompanied by clotted cream, vanilla cream or vanilla ice cream. The combination will have you drooling within no time! It’s origins though are disputed, and the British claim its source, but the Scots claim that it was first made at the Udny Arms Hotel in Aberdeenshire in 1967. Don’t forget to sample it when you are in Scotland!
Mention Haggis to a Scot, and you will very likely watch their eyes light up! Haggis is a savoury pudding that is synonymous with Scottish cuisine and also known as its national dish. A meat lover’s delight, the pudding is made with sheep’s pluck including the heart, lungs, and liver, while mixed in with a variety of ingredients like oats, onions, spices, and cooked in stock. Haggis is usually eaten alongside potatoes and washed down with a traditional drink known as a dram. Haggis is likely made in homes on Burns Night, which falls on 25th January and celebrates the life of Robert Burns, a famous Scottish poet.
A typical snack found in bakeries across Scotland and even the UK is scones. They are rich buttery baked goods that are airy and have a crumbly texture. Often they are filled with jams, treacle, and sultanas, but the original rich taste of scones is unbeatable. A favourite accompaniment to tea, scones are eaten at tea time or even alongside breakfast. Traditionally the Scottish made a large cake called bannock and then cut it into triangles and called it scones. Today, scones are made in all shapes, round, triangle and squares, but the recipe always is simple. Eggs, wheat, butter, salt, sour cream, and magic happens!
Give it to the Queen Mary of Scots to elevate the shortbread to a luxurious baked good! The shortbread is a type of hard biscuit that is found in cafes and bakeries across Scotland. The biscuit is hard and made with simple ingredients like white sugar, butter, and oats flour. It is often changed with granulated sugar, cornflour or rice. The white or light brown biscuits are often had with tea and is a big hit with kids. The shortbread always makes an appearance on special occasions like Christmas, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve), and events like weddings and birthdays.
6. Scottish salmon
The bright orange textured Scottish salmon has found its way in restaurants across the globe. It was also the first non-French food to get the coveted Label Rouge which signifies its quality. You might be able to find Scottish salmon even in a Michelin star restaurant in China, but there is nothing better than to try a freshly caught salmon while in Scotland. The Scottish use salmon to create a variety of recipes where the fish is eaten grilled, cooked, or smoked. Some of the popular dishes are Baked Salmon with Tarragon, Pan-fried Salmon with Tarragon, Smoked Scottish Salmon Blinis, and Scottish Salmon Fingers with Honey Dill sauce.
7. Neeps and Tatties
Neeps and Tatties sound bizarre but are in fact nothing but root vegetables that accompany Haggis! Neeps are purple root vegetables which are closest to turnips, while Tatties are nothing but potatoes! Both these vegetables are mashed or known as ‘chappit’ in Scottish and served with the meaty Haggis. They can be roughly lumped or smoothly mashed, whichever way you prefer, and are a staple side dish on Burns Night suppers. The creamy texture and salty taste compliments the nutty flavor of Haggis. Neeps and Tatties are simple dishes, without extravagant spices and best overdone with butter!
8. Bangers and mash
The violent sounding Bangers and mash is actually one of the most delightful comfort foods you can find in Scotland. A traditional pub dish, it is best chugged down with a dram! Bangers are nothing but sausage that could be made with either lamb, beef or pork, and mash is just the delicious gooey mashed potatoes. This combination is served with onion gravy, fried onions and peas, sometimes spiced with fresh herbs. An easy to make and wholesome recipe, it is a favourite Scottish home food too. The word ‘Bangers’ finds its origins in World War II when the British soldiers were served sausages that burst at high temperatures due to excessive water content, going Bang Bang!
9. Fish supper
When you are done with gallivanting across Scotland’s tourist attractions, you might want to stop to get yourself a Fish Supper, which is the Scottish equivalent of Fish and Chips! The Fish Supper includes a deep-fried fish, usually a haddock in Scotland, that is served with potato chips. But depending on which part of Scotland you are in, your accompaniments for the dish change. In Edinburgh, Scots prefer to have their fish supper with sauce and salt, while those in Glasgow prefer to have their fish supper with salt and vinegar. The debate over which is better rages, but you certainly cannot go wrong with a pickled egg or onions on the side!
10. Scottish Tablet
This tablet is not an electronic device or a medicine carrier; the Scottish tablet is surprisingly a delicious candy! The tablet has just the right amount of hardness, not too hard like candy and not too soft like fudge. It is made from sugar, condensed milk, and butter, and often flavoured with vanilla or whisky, depending on whom it is made for! The mixture is boiled to a semi-liquid consistency and then laid down to cool in trays where it hardens into a tablet, which is then cut into smaller pieces. You can find these in any confectionary store, convenience store or bakery in Scotland.