What Is a Chip Butty and Why Do Brits Love It So Much?

Updated: Jul. 06, 2023

Yes, it's an abomination. Yes, I'm craving one right now.

This past St. Patrick’s Day, numerous Irish and British immigrants may have indulged in classic UK dishes. Soda bread, corned beef, Guinness chocolate cake and classic roasts are all popular choices.

But one humble, bizarre U.K. snack food often goes unnoticed in the United States: the chip butty. Salty, rich and endlessly customizable, this classic street food is a favorite indulgence for the initiated. And as the Trend team’s resident Brit, it’s my honor to bring you into this ridiculous club—here’s everything to know about the chip butty.

What Is a Chip Butty?

Chip Butty Sandwich with French Fries and Ketchup on bread slicesClarkandCompany/Getty Images

First thing first, a “butty” refers to a basic sandwich, made of bread and butter. The most popular version in England is the “bacon butty,” a simple pairing of English bacon (a thick-cut ham) and salty butter on white bread.

The chip butty is its eccentric cousin, composed of English chips (much like American steak-cut fries), a sinful amount of butter and white bread. In the U.K., they can be bought at your local “chippie” (a fish and chips food truck or restaurant) and everyone enjoys theirs a little bit differently.

According to Vice, the first chip butty emerged in Lancashire, England, at the country’s second-ever fish and chip shop. The shop opened as a simple stall in Oldham in 1863 and quickly became known for its large “chip barms.” (A “barm” is a sandwich made on a soft bread roll.) Soon, chip shops popped up all over Northern England, which had the best access to Ireland’s potato supply. Because of this proximity, operating a chip shop was financially feasible and the 19th century saw a boom in openings. Today, over 10,500 chip shops exist in England and Brits often describe a good deal as “cheap as chips.”

How to Make a Chip Butty

English Dish "Chip Butty" with french fries on buttered bread on a wooden countertopClarkandCompany/Getty Images

The most important part of making a chip butty is using the right chips. You want nice wedges with soft, fluffy potato and a slightly crisp exterior. Restaurant-bought chips are great, but if you’re feeling ambitious, try making your own steak fries.

Next, select your ideal bread. Maybe you want to kick it old school with a classic barm. Many chippies also use a nice sourdough or pillowy white bread. This isn’t the time for nutrition, so I encourage you to indulge.

To compose your chip butty, simply open up your roll and slather butter on both sides of the bread. The butter should be salted and used in absurd quantities. Next, pile on those chips. If the sandwich can barely fit in your mouth, you’re doing it right.

Customizing a Chip Butty

How you finish your chip butty is up to you. At the most basic, I recommend a lot of table salt and some generous dashes of malt vinegar. A hefty squirt of ketchup is also welcome. To elevate your chip butty further, try adding some parmesan or cheddar; you can even pan-fry it for a grilled cheese vibe.

And if you’re feeling especially adventurous, take a cue from TikTok user @caughtsnacking, and add a cheeky pour of gravy or curry sauce. Both are extremely popular choices in England and personally, I like my butties as saucy as possible.

@caughtsnackin 🥪 Which chip butty would you try?! 🍟 #boredvibes #cooking #yum #fyp #cupboardcooking #superiorsnack #levelup #recipe #snack #food #chips #ukfood ♬ Hungry Child (Edit) – Hot Chip

OK, But Why Is the Chip Butty So Popular?

Look, I know it’s objectively disgusting. You’ll get no argument from me. But it’s also the taste of childhood, and weekly walks to the town chippy, and late nights pub crawling with my best mates. In short, it’s a taste of my home. So please join me to scarf down these beloved carbs—we can split a salad tomorrow.

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