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.

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Scotch eggs on a plate with watercress salad and mayonnaise dip

Scotch Egg

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.

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Yorkshire puddings in serving dish
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Yorkshire Pudding

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.

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British Traditional Fish and chips with mashed peas, tartar sauce on crumpled paper.

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.

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Eton Mess - Strawberries with whipped cream and meringue in a glass beaker.
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Eton Mess

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.

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Homemade Bangers and Mash with Herbs and Gravy
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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.

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Spotted dick is a British pudding, made with suet and dried fruit (usually currants and raisins) and often served with custard.

Spotted Dick

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.

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close up of rustic english pub grub toad in the hole

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.

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Battenberg Cake

Battenberg Cake

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.

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Welsh rarebit

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.

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Old English Trifle Exps Ft19 48552 F 0924 1 3


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
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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!

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Hot Home made toasted crumpets served with honey and jams.
Gaus Alex/Shutterstock


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.”

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Treacle Tart on a cooling rack

Treacle Tart

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.

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Madeira Cake Taste Of Home
Taste of Home

Madeira Cake

Madeira cake doesn’t actually incorporate the wine, but it is served with it, which is how it got its name. Usually flavored with lemon, this citrusy treat goes just as well with sweet liqueurs after dinner as it does with a cup of the Queen’s favorite tea.

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Bubble And Squeak Exps Ft21 66363 F 0623 1

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.

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Homemade Blackberry Fool Summer Dessert in Glass Jars
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Fruit Fool

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.

Emily Racette Parulski
Emily has spent the last decade writing and editing food and lifestyle content. As a senior editor at Taste of Home, she leads the newsletter team sharing delicious recipes and helpful cooking tips to more than 2 million loyal email subscribers. Since joining TMB seven years ago as an associate editor, she has worked on special interest publications, launched TMB’s first cross-branded newsletter, supported the launch of the brand's affiliate strategy, orchestrated holiday countdowns, participated in taste tests and was selected for a task force to enhance the Taste of Home community. Emily was first mentioned by name in Taste of Home magazine in 1994, when her mother won a contest. When she’s not editing, Emily can be found in her kitchen baking something sweet, taking a wine class with her husband, or making lasagnas for neighbors through Lasagna Love.