Like any country, there are both good and bad foods. Nobody does baked goods quite like the Brits. And while most of the dishes are universally bland, you’ve got to appreciate the sheer inventiveness behind each one. Here’s a list of the most wonderfully strange foods you can find in Britain.
The Brits love their tea and biscuits. And if there’s one tea-time pairing they can’t get enough of, it’s tea with custard cream. Custard cream isn’t pudding. It’s two biscuits with a custard-flavored filling. Sounds a little vanilla? Don’t be too quick to judge. Custard cream happens to be the “deadliest snack” in Britain, and we don’t even mean it ironically.
Studies say that over 25 million people have sustained injuries simply trying to eat custard cream. Injuries include choking on crumbs, flying biscuit fragments, or getting splashed by hot tea after dunking the biscuits. It’s the most decidedly Brit thing we’ve heard yet!
Sure, Australia has its vegemite. But if you’re looking for another contender in the infamous “paste on toast” department, laverbread in Wales comes close. Laverbread is a thick umami-packed paste of laver seaweed. The best way to enjoy laverbread is on bread or toast. A paste made from edible seaweed. It sounds unappetizing to those unfamiliar, but laverbread goes back a long way.
Old recipes call for boiling seaweed for at least eight hours, but thankfully, there are simpler ways to make it today. During the war, laverbread was also one of the cheapest, most nutritious sources of iodine all over the UK. Plus, people who swear by it love the signature savory flavor. We’ll take their word for it.
Mushy foods are always controversial. We don’t see the point of food with zero texture unless you’re a baby under 6 or maybe 9 months. Mushy peas, in particular, seem wild, as if regular peas weren’t good enough for you. The dish is bright green, lumpy, and bland. Again, what is the appeal?
The Brits’ obsession with the dish is baffling to the outside world, but their love for mushy peas is steadfast. It’s nutritious and filling – the perfect comfort food during overcast days. There’s even an International Mushy Pea Day every November. Sorry, but the Brits might be using the term “international” a little too loosely.
Scotch Eggs. Delicious snack for some and such a confusing time for others! A little history might be in order. Scotch eggs originated in North Africa. So, the term "scotch" most likely originated from "scorch." It really has nothing to do with Scotland and refers only to the cooking technique. Even when it became popular in England, Wiltby in Yorkshire led the way.
Scotch eggs are boiled eggs wrapped in sausage meat and coated in breadcrumbs for baking or deep-frying. Doesn't sound so unappetizing now, does it? The poort Scotch Egg still doesn’t have many takers. May we remind people that the original recipe called for fish paste, not sausage meat?
Baked Beans on Toast
You can’t get any more British than baked beans on toast. A classic breakfast staple that invites more heated debate than most other topics. In Great Britain, baked beans typically come with sweet tomato sauce. Any grocery store worth its salt in the country will have a dizzying variety of baked beans.
Baked beans on toast is a simple, nutritious, and quick breakfast, and some people will even find ways to sneak in some beans for lunch or dinner. For the rest of us, it’s simple. You either love or loathe the dish. There’s no in-between. We recommend choosing sides, finding allies, and committing to the cause.
Yorkshire pudding is a reminder that words mean very different things in different places. Take “pudding,” for example. For most of us, it usually means a dessert. The best kind is chocolate or maybe fruit. Not in Britain. “Pudding” may have a dessert-like consistency but can be either sweet or savory. The Yorkshire pudding is a fine example.
The dish is a blend of flour, eggs, milk, and water. Initially, people served Yorkshire pudding with onion gravy as an appetizer, as the meat was expensive back in the day. Filling up on Yorkshire pudding meant people wouldn’t tuck into the main course as much.
Chips With Curry Sauce
“Chips” are to Britain what “French fries” are to the United States, and fries and ketchup might be a classic combination where we are. Not in other parts of the world. Most of us may already know that fish and chips are a staple in Britain. But some parts of the country are more experimental – from mayonnaise to (you guessed it) mushy peas.
Lately, there’s been a new kid on the block. Say hello to chips with curry sauce. Is it a vegetarian version of Germany’s Currywurst? We don’t know. What kind of curry sauce? Again, the details are hazy. All we know is that the popularity of chips dipped in curry sauce has skyrocketed over the years.
What would life be without soda? Probably better, longer, and healthier. But we’re only human. Carbonated drinks make many of us weak in the knees. And in Britain, that would be a can of Vimto. Vimto is the Brit version of grape soda, only excessively sweet. The drink is a concoction of grapes, raspberries, and blackcurrants.
Did we mention that soda is sweet? For diabetes patients, best to stay away. Don’t let kids near the thing under any circumstances. Vimto is a British product, but it’s one of those homegrown things you might feel sheepish to claim as your own. Regardless, every Brit has tried the drink at least once.
Cheese and Pickle Sandwiches
Pickles paired with cheese aren’t quintessentially British things, and who among us doesn’t love pickles in a cheesy burger or sandwich? The difference here lies in the choice of pickles. Everyone’s go-to brand in Britain is Branston Pickles. It’s sweet with a hint of spice, but only a hint.
We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves now, do we? What’s more, Branston isn’t your average pickle slice in a sandwich. Branston comes in a chutney-like consistency, and we know how much the Brits love their chutney. Put the spread on toast and crackers, and layer it in a burger or sandwich between the cheese. We hear the condiment is perfection.
In the world of unconventional sandwich fillings, few things have gone down in infamy, like the marmite sandwich. Marmite is an odd food spread that originated in Britain. Like vegemite and laverbread, it secures its place as one of the most polarizing sandwich ingredients in the world. The paste is a by-product of beer brewing, no less! But the Brits don’t care.
A marmite sandwich comes together in a jiffy, perfect for snacking on the move, and a little bit of marmite goes a long way. It’s not the kind of filling you want to use generously anyway. For anyone eager to try, take baby steps. The taste isn’t for everyone, especially the faint-hearted.
Colin the Caterpillar Cake
Whoever told you British food is boring never heard of Colin the Caterpillar cake. The cake is the brainchild of the supermarket chain Marks & Spencer, and whether you’re 14 or 40, the caterpillar-shaped cake is a staple at most birthday parties, and nobody bats an eyelid.
The cake is a cocoa overload and made from a chocolate sponge roll, chocolate shells, and chocolate buttercream that come perfectly together in the shape of a caterpillar. It’s decadent and unusual. It’s also whimsical. Birthday cakes are meant to bring joy; from experience, joy is whatever people make it to be. We can totally get on board with Colin the Caterpillar.
Red Leicester Cheese
Red Leicester cheese may look like regular cheddar but has a uniquely crumbly texture. The cheese gets its name from the distinctive red and orange hues. We can bet people elsewhere may not have heard of it, but if you’ve been to the country, chances are that you know about Red Leicester cheese.
Perhaps you’ve already tried it or want to. The Brits adore it on toast, sandwiches, pies – on most things, and pairing it with a baked potato is one of the most popular ways of eating this delight. Potatoes and cheese. Baked, not fried. Carbs and oozing cheese. What’s not to love?
Spaghetti on toast?
Right, so we see a pattern emerging, don’t you? First, the Brits love to toast an inordinate amount, and second, they’re down to put anything on toast - even spaghetti (yes, the thin pasta we know and love). Spaghetti on toast is popular in many parts of Britain. The dish is cheap and simple, and the kids allegedly love it.
The unusual toast is also a dorm-room staple for students at university. We’re all for being scrappy and creative when it comes to food. But we can’t help but wonder about the texture of this unusual toast. It sounds like this might be one of those things best left to the imagination.
Jelly With Ice Cream
Ask any Brit today about childhood birthday parties, and they will list fundamental markers for how epic one could be. How did one know? The best birthdays always featured a bag full of stickers and (wait for it) jelly and ice cream. Ice cream and jelly sound like a bizarre combo to most, and it’s not the most appetizing thought; however, the dish has always been a classic birthday party staple.
Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned birthday cakes, we’ll never know! Give this odd dessert a whirl if you ever find yourself at one of these parties. Wobbly jelly and ice cream together. By Jove, only in Britain!
Prawn Cocktail Chips
Some things are sacred to the Brits, such as griping about the weather, a good cup of tea, and apologizing profusely – most times, unnecessarily. These things are the heart of British life. As are crisps – or chips, for the rest of the world. People in Britain love their crisps, and they’ve come up with the most uniquely British flavors on the planet.
They see your Salt & Vinegar and raise you a Prawn Cocktail with a dash of paprika. Outsiders don’t care much for it, by all accounts. The Brits are mad about it. Prawn cocktail crisps became a phenomenon in the 1970s, and their popularity hasn’t waned since. The crisps are a veritable culinary institution.
Eggs and Soldiers
Disclaimer: no soldiers were harmed in the making of the dish. “Eggs and soldiers” or “dippy eggs” is a classic British children’s breakfast of soft-boiled eggs in an egg cup. “Dippy eggs,” because one dips sticks of buttered toast (soldiers) into runny eggs. Kids love it, and nostalgic adults, too!
But wait, uncooked eggs? Cue the trepidation from other parts of the world. What about salmonella? All valid concerns – but it’s been centuries, and the Brits seem to be doing alright, no? Like most things British, we’re sure a lot of thought went into dippy eggs before it became a thing.
Who comes up with these names? Sounds unappetizing, but it turns out chip butty is the quintessential comfort food we didn’t know we needed. Say it’s one of those days when you’re not up to an entire fish and chips meal. Don’t fret; there’s a lighter version of this traditional British staple.
Hot fries inside buttered white bread with a dash of essential toppings. That’s it. Carbs on beautiful carbs. Can you think of anything better to get through a dreary day? Some like their chip butties with vinegar or ketchup. You can even have a two-slice chip sandwich with chips overflowing.
Fish Finger Sandwich
When midnight hunger pangs strike next, or laziness takes hold, don’t order takeout. Whip up something similar at home instead. Say hello to the Bird’s Eye fish finger sandwich. What is it, exactly? Well, it’s a fish fingers sandwich. It’s not that deep. Fish fingers in between two slices of white bread. Easy-peasy, right?
Slather on some mayo, ketchup, or both (if you’re feeling a bit adventurous). The dish sounds a bit odd and bland. Sandwich enthusiasts are dying a slow death, but if it works for the Brits, we best leave them to it. We’ll keep our grilled cheeses, thank you very much!
Frozen food dinners are life savers, despite what they tell you. From busy parents to workaholics stumbling back home in the wee hours, culinary simplicity is key, alright? Not everyone has the will or necessary skills in the kitchen. And the Brits’ version of a quick dinner is Dino’s Dinner – potato smiley faces in dinosaur form.
Think of all the creative ways you can plate this. Dinosaurs in a forest of broccoli. Dinosaurs hanging out on a bed of grass (peas or spinach). Fun for kids and overgrown kids everywhere. It’s proof that frozen dinners don’t need to be dull and uninspired.
Scraps and Chips
Eating scraps is a thing here. Not scraps of inedible food but something beautiful. Scraps are tiny shards of batter left over after deep-frying food – fish, chips, meat, anything that can be fried. So, you scoop up the good (although unhealthy) stuff at the bottom of a frier and eat up! Chippies add scraps to food at no additional cost to customers.
Chips with gravy and scraps are one of our favorite combinations. They’re also called different things in different parts of Britain. Dubs. Bits. Gribbles. Batter. People in Yorkshire love scraps more than others, and the National Federation of Fish Friers (it’s a thing) says Yorkshire eats the most leftover scraps in the country!
Chips and Gravy
British food sounds quirky and, sometimes, downright strange. Those baffling dish names, the unusual, other-worldly flavor combinations. Is there anything on the menu that doesn’t sound odd? There is, actually. Foods like chips and gravy have a fan following outside Britain as well.
For once, the dish is exactly what it sounds like – chips (fries) and gravy. The gravy tends to be lighter and thinner here, not the thicker gravies in Chinese or American dishes. But chips and gravy have many takers, regardless. It’s comforting and hearty and you can customize it in all sorts of ways, from toppings to spice levels.
The word "iced" makes us think of something frosty straight out of the fridge. Not in the UK. An iced bun is a hot dog bun with sweet, sugary icing. Perfectly snackable. Indulgent yet light. An excellent sugary treat for kids (in moderation).
And as for the adults, iced buns are nostalgic in a dessert. Some folks even take it up a notch, slathering butter on their iced buns. You can make them at home or grab them in packets at the nearest grocery store. Iced buns and tea sound divine. Yes, we know scones are the more acceptable pairing.
Scotland's Haggis would proudly be it if Britain were entering a contest for the weirdest foods. Haggis dares to be different. It’s a savory pudding (yes, we said pudding) made with a mix of sheep liver, heart, and lungs. Add some onions and oatmeal, and you have yourself Scotland’s most beloved national dish.
Haggis is served with a side of potatoes and swedes (or neeps and tatties). People who swear by the dish say it tastes a bit like meatloaf. It’s that one dish travelers in the country ought to try for bragging rights. Gourmands, don’t think twice. Haggis is your ticket to the wildest British culinary adventure. You know how rare that can be.
The Brits have a knack for tossing animal organs into classic dishes. Take steak and kidney pudding, for instance. Beef chunks mixed with kidneys from lambs or pigs inside a pastry. Sounds icky, sure, however, it tastes excellent, by all accounts. Adding offal into food isn’t just a British thing, anyway.
Cuisines from around the globe have been in action for ages, and besides, organ meat is cheaper and packs a ton of nutrients. The amount of food wastage that gets reduced is beyond compare. So, it might be time to stop yucking this yum specifically. To each their own, especially when it comes to food choices.
Despite the utterly dreadful name, Spotted Dick remains a beloved Brit dessert, and we suppose the name is part of the fun, perhaps. What in the world is Spotted Dick, you ask? It’s a sponge pudding with generous helpings of suet. In case you can’t tell, the Brits love their suet, and the pudding also has custard and dried fruit.
Who was the delightful chap who came up with the name? Nobody knows. But history books say that Spotted Dick was once a fancy 19th-century term for a simple but satisfying pudding. Best to leave it there, we think. Let your imagination do the rest.
By now, you should know that British foods are never what they seem. And similarly, black pudding is not pudding. Not even close! Let’s get that out of the way first. It’s a sausage that is often featured on full breakfast menus in England and Ireland. The infamous sausage is made from offal and cow or pig’s blood mixed with spices and herbs and bound with barley or oatmeal.
Is the blood necessary? Absolutely. That’s precisely what gives black pudding its mild, slightly sweet flavor. Next time you want to spice things up at dinner, just serve some black pudding. Nothing divides or breaks up a dinner table faster!
Warning, not a pudding! White pudding is the less quirky cousin of black pudding. Also, an oatmeal-based sausage, except this one contains pork fat and not blood. Both white and black pudding was born when clever butchers sought ways to put animal offal to good use. White pudding differs slightly from black.
The sausage is a light brown or beige, resembling the oatmeal it contains. The flavor also tends to be milder, with a subtle hint of onions, spices, and sizzling pork fat. From chip shops to traditional Irish breakfasts, white pudding is quite the favorite in Britain. We wouldn’t mind trying this one when in the country.
Jellied Eels don’t quite have a fan following outside Britain. It’s simply baffling why. The dish, which many call a “delicacy,” has been around since the 18th century in London, however, its popularity has waned today due to limited eel migration and the proliferation of vegans. But there was once a time when jellied eels were popular among the city’s working class.
Chopped freshwater eels would be boiled and cooled until they took on a perfect jelly-like consistency. The liquid is so wobbly it could give Grandma’s Jam a run for its money! And the taste? Fresh and not at all fishy, they say. We’ll take their word for it and keep our distance.
Toad in the Hole
In the U.S., a toad in the hole usually involves cracking an egg into a hole cut out of a slice of bread. Things are done differently across the Atlantic, and it involves sausages! Toad in the Hole in Britain refers to sizzling sausages inside a Yorkshire pudding. We’ll say that again. Delicious sausages inside a crisp and buttery Yorkshire pudding.
Like its cheeky cousin, "Pigs in a Blanket," Toad in the Hole is a favorite with kids. Something about the whimsical name and tasty flavors that make it a hit with the little ones. We’re sure the adults love it just as much too.
Periwinkles are tiny sea snails that attach themselves to rocks in the ocean. Foragers usually fry them up with a bit of bread and butter. It’s supposed to be divine! You could say periwinkles are Britain’s answer to escargot, but there’s a twist in this tale. Periwinkles are a specific species of snails known as edible whelk or sea snails, depending on where you are.
Unlike traditional escargot, you’ll always find some juicy meat inside periwinkles. Periwinkles aren’t for the average palate. Eating snails is an iffy adventure for most, but if you’re one of the braver ones, go ahead and give periwinkles a try!
Sardines take center stage in this terrifying Cornish masterpiece as they boldly poke their heads through a crust of savory pie. We kid you not. Stargazy pie? More like Deathgazy pie, if you ask us. Keeping the fish heads company (albeit hidden) are bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and mustard.
This one’s a fishy feast that doubles as an interactive art installation. Stargazy Pie promises to be a wild ride. Remember to first pay your respects to those determined fish heads staring right back at you, and if or when the horror subsides, you can have a good laugh about it later.
The British have a knack for adopting dishes from their colonies (and their resources, too, if we're being honest). Kedgeree is one such dish. Now, the Brit version is a mix of salty fish, spiced rice, and hard-boiled eggs. The original version is an Indian dish called “Kichari” – a medley of rice, spiced lentils, fried onions, ginger, and veggies.
Kichari dates back to the 17th century but is still the comfort food of choice for many Indians. The early British colonists clearly felt the same way. They developed a fondness for the one-pot dish that reminded them of their childhood cozy foods.
Liquor sauce is to pie and mash what gravy is to a turkey dinner; however, there’s no alcohol involved, sadly enough. The sauce is a proud East London creation, going strong since the early 19th century. What goes into it? Bring together some parsley leaves, butter, chicken stock, garlic, and flour or cornflour.
Cook the sauce and reduce it until it becomes a thick and smooth concoction. Pure magic. Liquor sauce is best drizzled over mashed potatoes and beef pies. Fair warning: jellied eels on the side are also a thing – if only for the more adventurous among us and their stomachs of steel.
Can we interest you in a breakfast of smoky fish alongside brown bread slices and a tantalizing lemon wedge? What’s that? No, we’re not kidding. Kippers refer to plump herring caught in their prime season in Britain. The fish is flattened like a pancake, salted and brined, and cold smoked for extra flavor.
That there’s no heat involved in this curing process is quite amazing. The fish in itself sounds delicious, we admit. But the brown bread and a lemon pairing? Not so much. We’ll stick to waffles or a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast. Kippers and salad? Maybe. Just maybe.
Bread and Dripping
Dripping is quite literally the fat leftover from roasting beef or pork. You can use it as cooking oil or spread the good stuff on pretty much anything. Every cardiologist’s nightmare comes true. The most beloved pairing by far is dripping and (surprise, surprise) bread! Bread with dripping is as time-honored a British tradition as tea.
Local pubs once dished out “mucky sandwiches” by the platterful. It was also popular in homes everywhere, however, the sandwiches have lost their appeal with everyone growing more health-conscious over the years. But ever so often, people still make a beeline to pubs that serve plates of mucky sandwiches with ale.
Little ramekins filled with seasoned shrimp or mushrooms. That’s potted shrimp for you. You cook the shrimp in butter, spice it to perfection, and seal it with more butter (and a chef’s kiss). Sounds utterly lovely to us. Potted shrimp is versatile – fancy enough for fancy shindigs or dressed down for a dinner with friends at home.
Also, the butter not only adds incredible flavor but also functions as a preservative. Those shrimps last a whopping four weeks in the fridge, and while everyone seems to have gone global in their culinary preferences, there’s always potted shrimp for when you fancy a little tradition.
Mincemeat pies are amazing desserts made with "mincemeat” – a magical blend of dried fruit, peel, and suet. First things first. Let’s clear up common confusion. Mincemeat and minced meat are two different things. Mistaking one for the other is a typical, un-British thing.
Mincemeat is a finely chopped mixture of raisins, apples, spices, and sometimes meat, often used as pie filling. This one's a sweet treat! Minced meat is ground meat, the kind we add to savory dishes like spaghetti and meat sauce. You’re welcome! And don't let the name fool you. Mincemeat pies taste way better than they sound!
Ah, the Brits and their love affair with sauces and condiments. Each one is different and goes with a specific meal. Don't even think about suggesting otherwise because they won't have any of it! The classic brown sauce, for instance – is wildly popular in Britain. The ingredients can vary, but you'll typically find a combination of tomatoes, molasses, tamarind, spices, dates, apples, and vinegar.
Sometimes raisins or anchovies too. Brown sauce is on the sweeter side, with a peppery kick similar to Worcestershire sauce. This sauce pairs perfectly with sausage rolls, bacon sandwiches, full English breakfasts, and the beloved fish and chips.
Savory pies rank high in British food culture. And the plump pork pie is the most quintessentially English pie out there. Pork pies are made from chopped pork doused in pork jelly and then baked to perfection. Try to go beyond the jelly bit, we implore you. Remember, those pastry walls contain a world of goodness inside.
This traditional meat pie is delicious, best enjoyed either at room temperature or chilled (although some folks in Yorkshire prefer it served hot). The scrumptious filling has roughly chopped pork and pork fat encased in a hot water crust pastry. Give it a try!
What is a butter pie? People have probably asked this question more than once, especially if they don’t live in Lancashire. Also called the Friday Pie, butter pie is synonymous with Lancashire. Its history goes back to the Catholic community in Preston, which abstained from meat on Fridays, substituting beef with butter instead.
Add loads of onions and potatoes into the mix, and voila! These folks were on to something beautiful, as it turns out. Over time, the humble butter pie has transcended Lancashire’s borders and into many pubs, homes, chip shops, corner shops, and football grounds across the country.
Potatoes hold a special place in the hearts (and stomachs) of the people in the United Kingdom. Just as rice is an Asian staple, British cuisine uses potatoes in several inventive ways. Have you heard about potato bread, for instance? These are bread variations that include potato cakes, potato farls, tattie scones, and boxty.
Many folks outside the country might not be familiar with potato bread, but it is as British as you can get. Potato bread is “home” for most people. It’s comforting and nostalgic and can make all the pain go away on a particularly dreary day.
Crumpets With Butter
Crumpets with loads of butter, anyone? Who would say no to that? But here this delicious bread is, on a list of weird British foods. Go figure! The crumpet holds a special place as one of the most beloved bread types in the country. What makes them unique? Crumpets are made from batter rather than dough. Sinful, innit?
The English enjoy their crumpets toasted with a generous slathering of the finest butter. We don’t see any reason to complain. Sure, crumpets might be bad for your health in the long run but that’s when you know how good it is.
The Welsh version of cheese toast is an absolute champion in our books. Allow us to introduce you to the Welsh rarebit— an often-misread name that sounds like "rabbit" to most people. No rabbits died for this dish, thankfully. The Rarebit or Welsh Rabbit goes back to the 18th century.
It has a delectable hot sauce served over bread. The sauce is usually mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and either paprika or Cayenne pepper. How does one eat Welsh Rabbit? Pour the sauce generously over a slice of toast. Have some fried egg and bacon on the side. We could eat this all day, every day.
Sandwiches are timeless meals – delicious, simple, and affordable. Every country has its own versions and favorites, and the Brits have a special fondness for sealed cheese toasties. The name "toastie" comes from a toastie machine. It’s what the Brits use to make these sandwiches with sealed edges.
You have bread buttered on both sides and any filling of your choice. But be warned, sometimes the fillings stay piping hot and can burn your tongue if you're not careful. The best part of toasties? It’s got to be the scent of warm butter and the sound when it touches the hot surface of the toastie machine.
Most people love bacon and feel very strongly about it, the same way vegans and vegetarians advocate plant-based diets. But bacon is just one of those things you don’t trifle with. There's something satisfying about a thin, flavorful slice of pork.
A popular way to enjoy bacon in Britain is in a bacon butty, also known as a bacon sandwich. Like the best sandwiches, this one is simple. Just bacon and bread. Glorious. Usual pairings involve white bread or a white roll with bacon and ketchup and some people like their bacon butty with a generous splash of tangy brown sauce.
Batter on Everything
If you haven't already noticed, the Brits have a soft spot for the batter. They make everything with it. And we mean everything. Some of the batter-fried stuff you can find in the country is mindblowing. You have the usual suspects first.
From scraps to the ubiquitous fish and chips – fried in batter all the way through. Traditional batter typically consists of flour mixed with a small amount of vinegar and water, but why stop there? The Brits coat various food items in batter besides fish. These items can include battered Mars Bars (yes, the chocolate bar) and battered sausages.
Corned Beef on a Sandwich
Across the pond in Britain, "corned beef" takes on a different meaning. Nobody should be surprised about that by now! Corned beef refers to minced meat mingling with a hint of gelatin. Yup. Forget everything you know about corned beef, and toss it out the window. This is nothing like the slow-cooked beef brisket we know and love.
And how do our British friends prefer to eat their corned beef? Sandwiched between two slices of bread, of course! They even have a different moniker for it called "bully beef." Let’s not even try and unravel that one, lest we venture into a world even stranger than this.
Lea and Perrins on Toast
Any discussion about food in Britain is incomplete without Lea and Perrins, a sauce nobody outside Britain knows how to pronounce! Of course, we’re talking about Worcestershire sauce. In 1835, a pair of brilliant chemists from Worcester, Lea and Perrins, concocted this marvelous sauce.
Fast forward to today, and it has become a quintessential item in British kitchens – the unofficial national condiment or marinade. The Brits have taken their love for Lea and Perrins to new heights by slathering it on their toast. Think grilled British cheddar on a slice of toasted bread with a splash of Worcestershire sauce. We don’t know how to feel about this one.
Before this conversation gets hijacked by Potterheads, Rumbledethumps isn’t a character from the wizarding world. It’s a delightful casserole from Scotland, is what it is! The dish sounds like a mouthful but is quite delicious. It’s made from leftover cabbage generously coated in butter. You top it with a generous layer of cheese.
Consider this a Scottish twist on the beloved British classic, Bubble, and Squeak, made from fried leftover vegetables. Rumbledethumps might not possess magical powers, but it has the ability to make your sorrows go away. Good enough for us and for most other people, we reckon.
Pease pudding comes from northeast England; of course, it’s not pudding. It’s actually a savory dish that goes with cooked meats – most often, boiled ham or gammon (a cured hind leg of pork, for the uninitiated). To make pease pudding, yellow split peas are cooked until they transform into a delightful, soft, paste-like consistency.
If you happen to have some leftover pease pudding, don’t worry. You can give it new life by frying it. Pease pudding is somewhat similar to mushy peas, another favorite in Britain. But you can’t fry mushy peas. Pease pudding – 1, Mushy Peas – Never.
Sounds chaotic and appears untidy. But Eton Mess is far from a mess taste-wise. Bless this mess because stressed spelled backward is desserts, remember? Very few things scream summer in Britain like this delightful dessert. Eton Mess traditionally contains whipped cream, meringue, and strawberries – although you can experiment with other berries and currants.
The flavors of these ingredients on their own are excellent as is. Put them together, and you get the most sinful dessert there is. Think of it as the Brit version of a strawberry shortcake, only deconstructed. All the ingredients are tossed together, and meringue replaces the cake.
Trifle is that classic dessert that always makes an appearance at family gatherings, thanks to 400 years of tradition. Unless you’re feeling a bit bold, you just don’t trifle with a culinary history like that. Most people might remember the dessert as The One Where Rachel Makes a Traditional English Trifle on “F.R.I.E.N.D.S.” It’s a jelly, custard, cream, and sponge fingers medley.
After this point, it’s all about personal preferences. Rumor has it that the Brits prefer only a few layers in a trifle. Not everyone likes to eat the whole thing, and most trifles end up collapsing into themselves.
Christmas Pudding has a magical ring to it, doesn't it? The taste, sadly, doesn't quite live up to the hype. Regardless, Christmas dinner is incomplete without it in many British households. A traditional Christmas Pudding is best enjoyed with brandy sauce, brandy butter, or custard. And if you want to be proper, remember to add 13 ingredients to symbolize Jesus and his 12 disciples.
Then, you douse the pudding in brandy and set it ablaze. The flames are meant to symbolize the passion of Christ. While the theater is excellent, the taste is sub-par. At least the flames make good social media photos!
Bread and Butter Pudding
Only the Brits could take their love for bread to the next level by transforming it into dessert. Bread and butter pudding is a classic British dish that doesn't break the bank. It involves layering slices of stale bread generously buttered. Next in the mix are raisins, custard, and spices like vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
The concoction is baked in the oven until it develops crispy edges and a soft, creamy interior. Typically served with cream, this dish also has modern variations with jams or fruits. The dessert is yet another example of how the Brits find inventive uses for everyday things!
Sweet and delightful sponge cake rolled up with an abundance of jam. Jam roly-poly is delicious. It’s also practical and easy to carry, ideal for fishing out of a bag when you need its sugary comfort the most. Also known as shirt-sleeve pudding or dead man's arm, jam roly poly likely originated in the early 19th century.
It consists of a flat suet pudding spread with jam, rolled up like a Swiss roll, and then steamed or baked. Traditionally, it is served with custard. Non-Brits may not appreciate its dense texture and sugary taste. Jam roly poly is all sugar and carbohydrates (Californians, stay away). But that’s not stopping the Brits from enjoying this classic sweet treat.
Bangers and Mash
Although the name may sound peculiar to people overseas, 'bangers and mash' is one of the finest and most iconic British dishes. The term 'bangers' came about during the First World War when Britain had scarce meat supplies. Sausages were made with a variety of ingredients, causing them to burst or 'bang' while cooking.
“Mash” refers to the mashed potatoes that accompany the sausages. Paired together with flavorful onion gravy, the dish is as British as it gets. It’s one of the most popular pub foods. Most of all, bangers and mash are the ultimate comfort food. It holds a special place in British culinary heritage.
This Bedfordshire special goes back to the 19th century. And although “clanger” is slang for “blunder,” the pastry is anything but. Initially, the Bedfordshire Clanger was a boiled suet pudding with a savory meat filling on one end and a sweet fruit filling on the other end. It was the food of choice for farm workers.
Typically, the savory portion of the clanger features gammon and potatoes. The sweet portion is filled with fruit jam or stewed apples. This delectable pastry is traditionally split in the middle to separate the two fillings neatly. That’s twice the surprise and a double treat!
Bubble and Squeak
Bubble and Squeak is an undeniably delightful dish, but its name earns it a spot on the list of peculiar British food names. One expects unusual sounds while eating it, but the name only refers to the sounds produced during cooking. Bubble and Squeak is a mix of leftover mashed potatoes and vegetables fried to perfection.
It has become a staple of Boxing Day in Britain, although people also relish it any other time. Modern variations of bubble and squeak often leave out the meat. The meatless version is somewhat like Irish colcannon, typically consisting of potatoes, cabbage, and/or kale. It is commonly served as a side dish alongside other main courses.
In certain regions of Britain, fruit pastry slices with dried fruit inside have acquired a peculiar nickname "flies' cemetery" due to their appearance. To say it’s an odd name for a pastry is putting it mildly. Flies' Graveyard is a sweet pastry filled with currants or raisins, representing the "flies" in the "graveyard" or "cemetery" imagery.
These pastries are formally known as fruit slices or fruit squares in Scotland. The North East of England calls them fly cakes or fly pie. Even Northern Ireland has its own version called currant squares. Funny name aside, we hear they don’t taste too bad.
A 'fool' is a dessert made with pureed fruit and combined with whipped cream or custard. Don’t let the name fool you. The Fool is another classic British dessert – strange-sounding but delicious. A fruit fool traditionally involves folding stewed fruit, often gooseberries, into a creamy and sweet custard.
The fruit can be mixed thoroughly with the cream, creating a more uniform texture, or layered to create swirls of concentrated fruit compote. Modern interpretations of the fruit fool experiment with various fruits and often skip the traditional custard since it’s too heavy. Whipped cream is a lighter, more contemporary variation, perfect for summer!
You’re forgiven for assuming otherwise. This is yet another terrible-sounding name for a dish that does no justice to the food. Faggots are large meatballs made from offal, typically sourced from a pig. It may sound unappealing; unless you grew up with it, you may not appreciate the taste. These meatballs gained popularity during World War II when food rations were stringent.
Nowadays, with people no longer compelled to consume them, their popularity has waned. But chances are you can still come across them in small eateries, traditional butcher shops, open market stalls, and even select supermarkets. Too bad the name is so unfortunate!
Garibaldi biscuits resemble a flattened Eccles cake. They’re not funny, weird, gross, or remarkable. But these biscuits have remained a staple in British biscuit aisles for centuries. Most Brits don’t have too strong an opinion about them. You won’t find anyone who says Garibaldi biscuits are their favorite. They don’t hate it either.
This is probably why Garibaldi biscuits often feature in biscuit tins abundantly. Something about their neutral appeal makes them perfect for blending in. These biscuits consist of two layers of thin golden dough filled with currants and topped with a sweet sugary glaze.
The knickerbocker glory is yet another British dessert with a somewhat unusual name. Thankfully, it tastes better than it sounds. Knickerbocker Glory is an ice cream sundae with layers of fruit, chopped nuts, chocolate, and whipped cream. Nobody knows who coined the name and when. Besides, everything pales in significance once you taste this mother-of-an-ice cream sundae.
This extravagant sundae features fresh strawberries, marshmallows, scoops of vanilla ice cream, and any additional toppings served in a tall glass. The Brits adore this dessert. For many, it remains a favorite childhood ice cream treat and the best indulgence for the summer season.
Neeps and Tatties
Neeps and Tatties are a customary Scottish dish. It is commonly served alongside the legendary and slightly terrifying Haggis – Scotland’s national dish. But what exactly are Neeps and Tatties? Neeps refer to turnips, while Tatties are mashed potatoes. Whimsical names for fun foods! The ingredients for Neeps and Tatties are quite straightforward – just gather two root vegetables!
And if Haggis isn’t quite your thing, neeps and tatties pair perfectly well with beef roast or chicken too. So don’t fret about that. The dish is a great way to use an often maligned and overlooked vegetable: the swede (aka rutabaga or turnip).
Pigs in Blankets
Pigs in blankets are a delicious side dish of sausages wrapped in bacon. Sausages wrapped in bacon. Enough said, and pass us the plate, please! They’re a staple part of Christmas dinners or Sunday roast dinners in Britain. In the United States, “pigs in a blanket” refers to sausages of various sizes wrapped in dough and baked.
The dough can be made from pastry, sweet bread, or even biscuit dough. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, Pigs in blankets are typically small chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon. Some people also call them “kilted soldiers,” which is such a hoot!
Pork scratchings may sound like an unusual combination of bacon with a side of measles, but they’re actually a well-known and traditional pub food in Britain. These snacks are made by deep-frying pig skin to achieve a cold, firm, and crunchy texture, with a crispy layer of fat underneath. Pork scratchings have a long history deeply connected to the working-class culture of the 1800s.
They originated from the practice of families raising their own pigs at home and finding ways to utilize every part of the animal. These flavorful treats emerged as a clever solution to minimize waste. And while some may scoff, pork scratchings aren’t just ingenious but delicious too!
Another traditional dish with an unfortunate name, though not as questionable as Spotted Dick. Scotch Woodcock, despite its name, doesn't contain Scotch or woodcockbird. The name refers to a combination of creamed scrambled eggs on buttered toast with a thin layer of anchovy paste or gentlemen's relish (anchovy paste with spices). A pinch of cayenne pepper for flavor, and it's actually quite delicious.
The subtle saltiness from the anchovy paste isn’t overly fishy. Scotch Woodcock originated during the Victorian era when it was typically served at the end of a large meal. It is commonly enjoyed for breakfast, brunch, or as a light snack.
Cranachan might sound like another name for the Loch Ness Monster, but it’s actually a traditional Scottish dessert. Unlike its name, the dish is light and fresh – perfect for summer. What goes into it? Loads of whipped cream, whisky, honey, raspberries, and toasted oatmeal. Older versions of the recipe usually excluded alcohol and fruit.
A variation of the dish known as ale-crowdie is popular in the harvest season. In this version, you'll find ale, treacle, whisky, and oatmeal. When served at weddings, it’s not uncommon for a ring to be baked into the mixture. The person who finds the ring will be the next one to get married!
Is it a skunk? Is it a baffling Scottish word? No. Cullen Skink is a flavorful soup born in the town of Cullen. Not the most appetizing name for a soup, but this is Britain. Oddly enough, the name "Cullen Skink" possibly originated from the Gaelic word "Essence." The irony here is hilarious.
The original broth recipe used leftover beef scrapings from the front legs of cattle. When food and resources were scarce during the late 1800s, the scrappy fisherwives of Cullen substituted smoked haddock for shin of beef. Cullen Skink today is made with onions, potatoes, smoked haddock, and milk. It’s a delicacy you can find in most restaurants should you care to look.
Berwick Cockles are distinctive red and white striped candies, long associated with the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed in England. These minty treats have been around since the early 1800s and are named after their cockle-shaped appearance. The Cowe family once made and sold these sweets from their shop located on Bridge Street. But after 200 years of operation, the shop closed its doors in 2012.
But don’t worry. Fans of the sweet can still buy them online – which also means you don’t need to make a trip to England! Berwick Cockles are handmade, mint sweets that are wonderfully crumbly and melt in the mouth. Arguably among the most favorite traditional sweets in Britain.
Straight from the coastlines of Cornwall, presenting the Hevva Cake. A traditional cake that needs no eggs or leavening agents! Sounds like just the thing for us lazy cooks. The term "Hevva" is a Cornish term for a place where fish shoal together. On spotting a shoal of fish, resounding cries of "Hevva, Hevva" would ring out. This was a signal to the fisherman's wives to commence their evening baking.
What’s in a Hevva Cake? You have lard, butter, cinnamon powder, ginger powder, and currants. Bakers carefully score the dough diagonally to make the cake look like a fishing net. The currants represent the fish caught in the net. Food makes us happy. Food with storytelling is even better!
For the Brits, Lancashire Hotpot is the OG of all lamb stews. There’s nothing outrageous about the dish, it’s actually quite tasty. But the term “hotpot” sometimes tends to perplex people. It’s not that deep. The stew has lamb, carrots, and onions, topped with layers of sliced potatoes.
All of it comes together over a gentle stove. During the 19th century, Lancashire Hotpot became a more affordable option for savory pies. Today the stew is a beloved one-pot dish. The Brits (and frankly, us too) love the stew for its simplicity and heartiness. Those quick weekday dinners? Easy peasy, sorted!
Pie in a Tin
Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney pie, or "Pie in a tin," can be a bit deceiving. Once you remove the lid and bake it in the oven, the pastry crust puffs up and takes on a golden hue. Alright, looks promising! But when you try to serve it on a plate, all expectations are shattered.
Instead of steak and kidney filling, you get gloopy gravy and undercooked pastry. As for the meat? What meat? All you see are small fragments that look like meat or could be anything else. Despite these shortcomings, pie in a tin pulls off as being somewhat tasty.
Saveloy and Chips
This one is for those nights when you come home stumbling from the pub, and only greasy sustenance will do! The default choice is always Saveloy and chips. A generous portion of piping hot, freshly cooked chips. The chips are sprinkled with salt and doused in Sarsons Malt vinegar.
Accompanying this mountain of carbs is a substantial tube of meat in an orangey skin – the saveloy. The saveloy is a pork sausage that’s thicker and longer than your average hot dog. It tastes rather plain but does excellently to soak up the effects of alcohol. You slather all of it with ketchup for the best late-night snack after or on a tipsy journey home.
Pie, Mash, and Liquor
Pie, mash, and liquor is a classic London East End dish. It consists of a meat pie and mashed potatoes. Sounds yummy enough. But whoever concocted this ruined everything with the next ingredient – a strange green liquid known as "liquor." You wish it were alcohol! This one’s a thin green sauce from cooking jellied eels in water. A little parsley gives the sauce its distinctive green hues.
You pour the liquor over the mashed potatoes and pie and eat up! Most people find the combination quite enjoyable. But it’s got a distinct aroma and appearance, preventing many people from trying it. We’ll take their cue. The locals know best, after all.
Battered sausages are a quintessentially British food, although nowadays other items like saveloys or Mrs-Bars are also battered and fried. If you can’t stomach batter on everything, this one’s probably not for you. For the others – sure, give it a try! These are inexpensive sausages coated in batter (similar to the one used for fish) and then deep-fried. They’re not a fancy delicacy. What they are is iconic!
Battered sausages can be found in chip shops throughout the British Isles. The batter comprises flour, water (or sometimes beer), and salt. You will find them in fish and chip shops across the UK and also across the former empire in Australia and New Zealand.
Manchester’s variation of the Scotch Egg is a pickled egg wrapped in pork meat and black pudding (a local favorite, by the way). Dip the egg in breadcrumbs, fry, and enjoy! As with most iconic British foods, the Manchester egg’s origins can be traced to a pub. A man named Ben Holden and his mates were out having a few pints at a pub.
Holden called for a few snacks to go with his drink: a scotch egg, salt and vinegar crisps, and a pickled egg. And that’s when inspiration hit. What if he could create one snack from three of his favorite snacks? Was it the ale? Was there something in the air? We’ll never know. But before long, Holden had crafted the perfect recipe for “Manchester Eggs.”
Piccalilli is a traditional British mustard-based vegetable pickle considered authentic only if it includes cauliflower. Nothing, absolutely nothing else will do! Piccalilli has a distinctive sharp and mustardy flavor. Even though it’s a very obviously British creation, the relish's origins remain a mystery. Some say it's a British homage to pickles found in India. Believable. We wouldn't put that past the Brits! Piccalilli is sharp and mustardy.
The relish has turmeric, cauliflower, pearl onions, cucumbers, spices, and capers. It’s the perfect accompaniment at buffet lunches or dinners. Spread it on cold beef, cooked ham, or the traditional “Ploughman’s Lunch.” Piccalilli’s beauty lies in its simplicity and versatility. Oh, and it keeps for several months in sealed jars.
These humble griddle cakes originated in Northumberland, likely gaining popularity among working-class families during the 19th century. The ingredients were affordable and readily available. Griddle cakes are popular staples in cultures worldwide, but not all of them have such an endearing name – Singing Hinny. "Singing" refers to high-pitched sizzling sounds these cakes make as they cook on a hot pan greased with butter.
Remember that some cakes sing and others might not on an off day. The second part of the name comes from how "honey" is pronounced in Northumberland. What are the ingredients? You probably already have them in your pantry – flour, butter, lard, currants, salt, and milk.