British food sometimes has a bad reputation, and let’s face it, it’s no Italy or Japan as a foodie destination.
But when it comes to British cuisine, you might be surprised at some of the incredibly tasty and warming traditional dishes from throughout the UK.
And there are some traditional dishes that you might not have expected to be associated with Britain!
Now it’s first important to distinguish the difference between ‘English food’ and ‘British food’. England is one of the 4 countries that makes up Great Britain along with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
So in fact English food and British food are usually synonymous but the term ‘British’ is more applicable.
Each country within Great Britain does have its own unique dishes, check out the traditional foods of Scotland for example, but broadly speaking the cuisine of each British country is very similar.
Most Popular British Dishes
Meat, potatoes and vegetables are some of the main ingredients you will find in typical British dishes. And many classic dishes do revolve around these 3 main elements, similar to Irish cuisine.
However, there is so much more to classic British cuisine and once you try all the dishes cooked with traditional ingredients, you’ll find yourself craving more and more!
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of the UK along with recipes for you to try yourself at home.
Sunday Roast Dinner
The Great British roast dinner, eaten every Sunday almost without fail, is an absolute mainstay of UK culture. Adored by young and old, it is very much a family meal due to the sheer amount of food being cooked!
There are so many different elements you can have in a Sunday roast dinner. First choose the meat, the main ones being chicken, beef, lamb or pork, and slow roast it for hours to make it juicy and tender.
Then roast, boil or steam vegetables to suit your taste (seasoned, of course). The most common are the famous roast potato, carrots, parsnips, peas, sprouts, leeks, cauliflower cheese, broccoli, swede and white onions.
Then add the pivotal Yorkshire pudding. If you don’t know what a Yorkshire pudding is, it’s a simple but highly effective savoury bowl made of batter (see the picture). It’s crispy, light and unequivocally adored by the British.
Finally, and most importantly for any roast dinner, the gravy. Gravy is made with the juices of the meat, stock, seasoning and water. It’s also quite common to use gravy granules added to boiling water. Either way, the gravy is the icing on the cake, so to say. Bringing all of the deliciously roasted ingredients together in a warm, comforting, hearty meal that perfectly optimises the image of British family dining.
Scotch eggs might look a little bit odd, but they’re a delicious little snack commonly enjoyed by the Brits!
Scotch eggs are quite simply an egg (soft boiled for hand-made scotch eggs or hard boiled for shop-bought), wrapped in sausage meat and then coated in bread crumbs. It is then baked or deep fried.
People usually eat scotch eggs as part of a picnic or buffet, but they are also often brought in supermarkets for a quick snack.
Surprised? Don’t be! The British and India have had a long and… complicated… history which resulted in the wonderful immigration of the curry to the UK shores.
Once in the UK curry took on a life of its own and the British are credited with creating some of the most well-known curries in the world. The famous chicken tikka masala was first invented in Scotland, whereas Birmingham is famous for creating the balti.
So integrated is the curry into British culture, that chicken tikka masala was voted the UK’s most popular dish.
In fact, it is quite common for people to come to the UK from Europe simply looking for good curry, which is less available on the continent.
Scones With Clotted Cream And Jam
Scones with clotted cream are a bit of a British food cliché but scones served with a lovely cup of tea are a delicious match made in heaven.
Best enjoyed in an an English tea house or cafe, scones are a type of baked cake served as the base for the cream and jam.
Enjoying scones with tea is also known as ‘having cream tea’. You can ask for this in a teahouse (particularly common in Devon and Cornwall) and you will be served a teapot with scones, jam and cream to gorge yourself.
Fish and Chips
The number one dish that comes to mind when you mention British food? Fish and chips!
There is no other dish quite as synonymous with Britain as fish and chips. Traditionally consisting of battered fish (cod or haddock) and deep fried chips (thick fries to those from North America), covered in salt and vinegar.
Additions or variants to fish and chips entirely depend on the household. Most agree on the “chip butty” which is putting the chips in bread to make a sandwich on the side. But other variants include ketchup, curry sauce, gravy, tartare sauce and, of course, mushy peas!
Other popular (unhealthy) alternatives to eat at the “chippy” include a battered sausage, a saveloy, a pie or more recent additions such as kebabs and fried chicken.
Shepherd’s Pie/Cottage Pie
The Great British Shepherd’s Pie – just another way of eating meat, potatoes and vegetables. Made by using minced meat, Shepherd’s Pie is usually made with lamb whereas Cottage Pie uses beef. A hearty, warming winter dish eaten by families throughout the UK, it’s both filling and incredibly flavorsome.
Consisting of browned minced meat, carrots, peas, gravy, stock, mashed potatoes on top and grated cheese on top. It is then placed under the grill (broiler) to brown the top nice and crispy and then served with a big chunk of white bread.
Full English Breakfast
An absolute masterpiece of a breakfast, the Full English is a national favourite, enjoyed in greasy cafes throughout the world.
There’s no real secret to the Full English Breakfast (or Fry Up as it’s also known in Britain), no herbs, spices or seasoning are used, the flavors take care of themselves.
Typically a Full English Breakfast consists of fried eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns, mushrooms, tomato, black pudding, fried bread (or toast), beans and a side of buttered white bread to clear up all the juices. Serve with a cup of tea and your day is off to a perfect start (albeit, an unhealthy one!).
Spotted Dick with Custard
Ok very funny. Yes it has a naughty word in the name!
Spotted dick is a deliciously rich, sweet dessert made from suet and dried fruit, served with custard. It is still a very popular household favourite and common feature in restaurants in the UK. For many, the pudding evokes memories of British school dinners, giving it a somewhat nostalgic feeling.
There are hundreds of amazing British puddings to sample, but spotted dick is particularly popular with tourists due to the funny name.
Most people know about haggis because, well, it sounds a little bit gross. Haggis is more of a Scottish dish than one eaten throughout all of Britain, but you couldn’t say you had fully visited the UK unless you took a trip up to the Highlands and tried some haggis.
Haggis consists of a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs (all minced), mixed with suet, oatmeal, onions and spices, packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. It is then served with vegetables and mashed tatties (potatoes).
You might possibly think haggis looks and sounds a little gross but the flavours from the spices and texture actually make it quite enjoyable!
Toad In The Hole
A giant Yorkshire pudding with sausages in the middle, covered in onion gravy. What’s not to like?
Don’t ask me why British dishes always appear to have funny names, maybe it makes it more interesting? Either way, toad in the hole is another hearty, warming, traditional, family favourite dinner in the UK.
Served with onion gravy, vegetables and potatoes – it is once again, another vessel for delivering meat, potatoes and vegetables!
The sausages are slightly browned before placing in the batter to cook, meaning that the Yorkshire pudding rises around it. It is then cut up and everybody receives a nice big chunk each.
Stargazey pie is a dish originating in Cornwall that is prepared using baked pilchards (sardines) that poke their heads out of the top of the pie.
There are other variations of this dish that use many different kinds of fish, but what differentiates stargazey pie from others is the use of fish heads (and occasionally tails) that tend to stick out through the crust. They give the impression of gazing at the stars, hence the name.