16 Traditional British Foods Explained to Americans
You've probably heard of all these traditional British foods, but now you can finally learn what they actually are.
Nope, it isn’t Scottish! This delish two-in-one dish was invented by William J. Scott and Sons, its namesake. Scotch eggs are hard-cooked eggs wrapped in sausage meat and covered in breadcrumbs or cornflakes, then deep-fried. You can eat them as a meal or a snack, depending on your appetite—we suggest pairing them with a nice pint of beer as you would in a pub.
It’s called pudding, but it isn’t dessert! It’s more like a savory souffle and is typically served with roast beef. In England, this is called a “batter pudding,” and the prefix Yorkshire was slapped on because batter puddings from that region are lighter and crispier than those from other parts of the country. Pair our Onion Yorkshire Puddings with roast beef and gravy for a hearty lunch or dinner.
Fish and Chips
If you thought British people ate potato chips with their deep-fried fish fillets—well, you’re not alone. In the U.K., “chips” are french fries, and this crispy pairing is a popular pub food and late-night snack in Britain. Make air-fryer fish and chips at home to bring the British pub to you…and wash it down with a beer for best results.
Named after Eton College (alma mater of princes William and Harry), Eton Mess is a dessert made with strawberries, meringue and whipped cream. It’s similar to a pavlova, but the name seems to almost nothing to do with the school itself. The first mention of it comes as “Eton Mess aux Fraises,” recorded by a historian at a garden party in 1893.
Bangers and Mash
Americans call this dish sausage and mashed potatoes—the Brits, it turns out, just have cooler slang. This one is another hit at the pubs, but it can also do for breakfast in a pinch. Make bangers and mash at home to experience the combination of peppery, herby sausage and creamy potatoes—you’ll never make another comfort food again.
The Brits sure have interesting names for pudding—and of course, this sweet entry doesn’t feature “pudding” in its name. Spotted dick is a steamed pudding “spotted” with raisins or currants. The name probably comes from a time when the British did indeed refer to sweet desserts as pudding, or more accurately, “puddick.” The name was eventually shortened to its current version.
Toad in the Hole
Nope, there aren’t any toads in this dish—just sausages. Originally called something along the lines of “meat boiled in a crust,” toad in the hole is simply meat cooked in a batter pudding and works great as a main. The name possibly refers to how toads wait in a hole for prey, with only their heads visible—just like the meat peeks above the batter! The American version is quite different.
NANCY MOCK FOR TASTE OF HOME
This sweet treat was created as the royal wedding cake for Princess Victoria and her husband, Prince Louis of the Battenberg family. Battenberg cake is made with almond marzipan, and while it’s a complicated recipe, the result is as visually stunning as it is delicious.
Welsh Rarebit (or Welsh Rabbit)
This sounds like a recipe you’d make after going hunting, but it’s meatless—basically cheese on toast. Why’d the name come about? It probably started out as a joke, but frankly, the meaning’s been lost over the centuries. Just in case you’re worried this would make a boring lunch, Welsh rarebit is flavored with Worchestire sauce, ground mustard and paprika. There’s nothing bland about it.
A “trifle” means something whimsical, and this staple British dessert isn’t quite that, but it’s delicious nonetheless. Traditionally, English trifle is made with sherry-soaked pound cake, jelly, whipped cream and strawberries—but you can use almost any combination of ingredients to create this layered treat. Start with these trifle recipes.
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Pie and Mash
This meal isn’t just delicious and filling—it’s also portable and quick to eat, which made it perfect for England’s working class. It usually consisted of a minced beef pie, mashed potatoes and a parsley sauce known as liquor—a hearty meal at any time of the day!
You probably know you’re supposed to serve crumpets with tea, but what exactly are they? Think of English muffins that aren’t split apart and you’ll get an idea. They’re crispy on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside, making them the perfect accompaniment with a drink. The name likely refers to it resembling a crumpled up cake, coming from the old English word for crumpled: “crompeht.”
Harry Potter fans have probably heard of this dessert (as well as these other magical treats). Treacle is a syrup similar to molasses and is used in the filling of a treacle tart. With a hint of lemon, this tart has a sweet, citrusy flavor that perfectly caps off a meal.
Bubble and Squeak
The British are certainly in the ranking for cutest food names. Bubble and squeak is named for the sound it makes when it cooks—and thankfully, not after the sound of any of its ingredients which are potatoes, cabbage and leftover veggies. It can be a great side, especially when served with sausages and/or a fried egg on top.
You’d have to be a fool to miss out on this delicious, creamy dessert—but that’s not where the name comes from. The origins are credited to the French word fouler, meaning to press or crush, referring to the crushed fruits (or compote) folded into the thick cream. Recipes like this rhubarb fool are a simple but delicious way to finish off your meal.