British food is often thought of as being bland and unappetizing, but there are a number of delicious and hearty dishes that can be found on the menus of British pubs and restaurants.
For us, there is nothing quite like tucking into traditional British food. Whether it’s a hearty Sunday roast with all the trimmings, a plate of fish and chips or a spot of afternoon tea, we promise you that we have some delicious traditional dishes that will tantalise your taste buds. So read on to find out more about some of our most popular traditional foods and where to find them when you visit.
Classic British foods and dishes to tempt your tastebuds
If there’s one dish that sums up British cuisine, it’s a roast Sunday lunch or dinner with all the trimmings.
Traditionally roast beef is served with mashed potatoes and roasted potatoes, roast vegetables, Yorkshire Pudding and lots of gravy.
Lamb and mint sauce or roast pork and apple sauce are other options for your Sunday roast.
At Christmas, roast turkey is served with stuffing, cranberry sauce, roast vegetables and gravy.
You will find many pub restaurants serving a traditional Sunday roast every week.
Fish and Chips
Fish and chips is another much-loved British dish. Cod or haddock are battered and deep-fried before being served with chunky chips, buttered bread, mushy peas and tartare sauce.
If you have the opportunity why not try your chips served with gravy or curry sauce? This is a fairly standard addition in the north where we traditionally like our sauces!
You can find fish and chip shops all over Britain but our favourites are along the coast particularly in Whitby which is home to the Magpie Cafe possibly the most famous fish and chip shop in Britain!
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken tikka masala is one of Britain’s most popular dishes. It is a creamy, spicy curry made with chicken tikka (pieces of marinated chicken) and served with naan bread, rice and raita.
The dish is thought to have been invented in Glasgow in the 1970s, but no one is sure exactly how it came about. It has since become popular all over the UK.
There are many Indian restaurants serving chicken tikka masala, so it’s easy to find if you’re looking for a taste of British-Indian cuisine
Steak and Kidney Pudding/ Steak and Kidney Pie
Steak and kidney pudding or pie is a traditional British dish made with beef steak, lamb kidney and onion, covered in a suet crust pastry. It is usually served with mashed potatoes, carrots and green beans.
This is not a dish that you will find on the menus of many restaurants nowadays, but it can still be found in many traditional British pubs.
Yorkshire pudding is a savoury dish made from batter and served as an accompaniment to roast meats. It is particularly popular in the north of England.
The batter is poured into a special Yorkshire pudding tin and cooked in the oven until it is puffed up and golden brown.
A recent invention has been the Yorkshire pudding wrap. This basically involves placing meat, potatoes and gravy into a large Yorkshire pudding and folding it over to make a ‘wrap.’ Look out for these in food markets as they are growing in popularity.
Insider tip – In York head to the York Roast Company for a Yorkshire Pudding wrap – they are delicious.
Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie
Shepherd’s pie or cottage pie is made with minced lamb or minced beef topped with mashed potato. It can also be made with vegetables such as carrots, peas and cabbage, but the traditional version always has meat.
Cottage pie is the name generally given to this dish if it is made with beef. Shepherd’s pie is made with lamb.
It can be found on pub menus across Britain.
Full English breakfast
A full English breakfast is a traditional British meal that consists of sausages, bacon, eggs, fried bread or toast with butter and baked beans or mushrooms. It may also include tomatoes and black pudding.
A cup of tea is the perfect accompaniment to a full English breakfast.
Many cafes serve a full English breakfast and if you choose to stay in B&B accommodation you will most certainly be served a full English (or Scottish) breakfast.
Full Scottish breakfast
The full Scottish breakfast is very similar to the full English breakfast, but it may include tattie scones, black pudding, oatcakes, haggis and square Lorne sausage.
Tattie scones are potato scones, black pudding is a type of blood sausage, oatcakes are made from oats and haggis is a traditional Scottish dish made with the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep, boiled in the animal’s stomach.
Many cafes in Scotland serve a full Scottish breakfast.
Haggis neeps and tatties
Scotland’s national dish, haggis, neeps and tatties are the perfect comfort foods.
Not sure about haggis? While it is made with minced sheep’s offal (heart, lungs and liver) mixed with onion, oats, spices and stock it is actually really tasty. It may also be flavoured with black pepper or even whisky!
It is then packed into a casing made from the animal’s stomach and boiled.
The dish is typically served with mashed neeps and tatties. (Neeps are turnips, and tatties are potatoes.)
Insider tip – Head to Makar’s Mash Bar just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh for a tasty dish of haggis, neeps and tatties. They even do a small portion so why not try it to see if you like it.
Toad in the hole
Toad in the hole is a classic British meal made with sausages and Yorkshire pudding.
The sausages are cooked in a roasting tin and then the Yorkshire pudding batter is poured over the top. The dish is then baked in the oven until the sausage is cooked through and the Yorkshire pudding is puffed up and golden brown.
Lancashire hotpot is a traditional British dish made from layers of lamb shoulder, onions and sliced potatoes topped with bay leaves and thyme sprigs. The whole thing is then cooked slowly in a pot on top of the stove until the meat is tender.
The dish can also be made with mutton or beef.
Lancashire hotpot is a popular dish in the north of England and can be found on the menus of many pubs and restaurants.
Cullen skink is a traditional Scottish soup made with smoked haddock, potatoes and onion. The soup is usually served with crusty bread or oatcakes.
It can be found on the menus of many Scottish pubs and restaurants.
Bangers and mash
Bangers and mash is a traditional British dish made with sausages, fried onions and mashed potatoes.
The sausages are usually served sliced on top of the mashed potato, which is then covered in onion gravy.
It can be found on the menus in many pubs in Britain.
Jellied eels is a traditional British dish made from cooked, mashed eels mixed with onion, salt and pepper. The mixture is then poured into a mould and allowed to cool.
The jellied eel can then be sliced and served as an appetizer or main course.
Jellied eels can be found on the menus of many pubs in London and the south east of England.
Welsh cawl is a traditional Welsh soup made with lamb or beef, leeks, potatoes and carrots. The soup can be served with crusty bread or oatcakes.
Welsh cawl is a popular dish in Wales and can be found on the menus of many Welsh pubs and restaurants.
Bubble and squeak
Bubble and squeak are traditionally made with vegetables that were left over from a roast dinner.
The various vegetables (e.g potato, cabbage) are fried until crisp, then mashed together and served as an accompaniment to meat or fish.
Scouse is a traditional British dish made with lamb or beef, potatoes, onions and carrots. The dish is named after the Scouse accent, which is spoken in Liverpool.
Scouse is a popular dish in Liverpool and can be found on the menus of many pubs and restaurants in the city.
Afternoon tea is a British tradition that involves drinking tea and eating small sandwiches and cakes.
The sandwich fillings used in sandwiches include cucumber, salmon, egg, ham and watercress.
Sandwiches can be made using white or brown bread. Afternoon tea is often served with the crusts trimmed off the bread.
There are many different types of cakes and pastries that can be served as part of afternoon tea, including scones, Victoria sponge cake, éclairs and tartlets.
Afternoon tea is a popular tradition in Britain and can be found on the menus of many tea rooms and hotels.
Kippers is a traditional British dish made from smoked herring. The fish is usually served with boiled eggs, potatoes and sometimes onions.
Kippers can be found on the breakfast menus in many cafes and B&Bs in Britain.
Insider tip -If you are travelling in Northumberland head to the village of Craster which is famous for its smoked kippers.
Traditional British desserts and cakes
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky toffee pudding is a popular British dessert made with dates, toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream. The pudding can be served either warm or cold.
Insider tip – Try L’Enclume in Cartmel in the Lake District (a 2 Michelin star restaurant) for the best sticky toffee pudding in Britain.
Bread and Butter Pudding
Bread and butter pudding is a popular British dessert made with slices of bread, butter, sugar, eggs and raisins.
The pudding is usually served with custard or cream.
Jam roly-poly is a popular British dessert made with pastry, jam and sugar. The pastry is rolled out, then filled with jam and sugar. The roly-poly is then baked in the oven until the pastry is cooked.
Jam roly-poly can be served either warm or cold.
Eton mess is a traditional British dessert made with strawberries, crushed meringue and cream. The dessert is believed to originate from Eton College an exclusive boarding school located in Windsor.
A Bakewell tart is an open pastry tart filled with jam, almond paste, egg and slivered almonds and originates from the Peak District market town of Bakewell.
The tart is usually served with cream or custard.
Christmas pudding is a traditional British dessert made with dried fruit, suet, breadcrumbs and spices. The pudding mixture is then boiled in a cloth or metal mould and is usually served with brandy butter.
If you are in Britain over the winter and festive period you will find Christmas pudding features on many pub and restaurant menus.
Trifle is a classic British dessert made with sponge fingers or sponge cake, custard, fresh fruit, whipped cream and sherry. The ingredients are layered in a dish to form the trifle.
This is a popular dish in summer in Britain.
Spotted dick is a traditional British pudding made with suet, flour, dried fruits and spices. The pudding mixture is boiled in a cloth or metal mould. Spotted Dick pudding is usually served with custard or cream.
Battenberg cake is a popular British cake made with two layers of sponge cake, which are each coloured a different shade of pink. The cake is then covered in marzipan and finished with an edible coating of apricot jam.
A Knickerbocker glory is a popular British dessert made with vanilla ice cream, jelly, fruit salad and whipped cream.
The ingredients are served in layers in a tall glass.
Scones are a popular British biscuit made from flour, butter, milk and sugar. They can be served with jam and clotted cream or just on their own.
These days, scones can be found in many tea rooms and coffee shops in Britain. Just remember to add the jam first then the cream if you are in Cornwall and the opposite way around when in Devon!
Traditional British snacks & sandwiches
Cornish Pasty (Cornish Pasties)
Cornish pasties are a traditional British snack originating from the county of Cornwall. They are made with shortcrust pastry, beef, sliced potatoes, swede and onions.
The mixture is then baked until the filling is cooked. A Cornish pasty can be served either warm or cold.
A scotch egg is a British snack made with sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. They can be served cold or hot and are a popular picnic food.
A pork pie is a British snack made with pork, beef and liver, which is then baked in an earthenware dish. Pork pies are usually served with pickled onions and chutney and may also be included in a Ploughman’s lunch.
Bacon Sandwich (Butty)
A bacon sandwich (or butty) is a traditional British snack made with bacon and bread spread with butter or margarine. Tomato ketchup or brown sauce can be added.
Welsh Rarebit (Cheese on toast)
Welsh rarebit is a traditional Welsh dish made with cheddar cheese, ale, mustard and dried bread. The ingredients are mixed together, spread on bread and toasted. Yum!
A chip butty is a British sandwich made with chunky chips and bread. It can be served with ketchup or brown sauce.
Traditional British condiments and sauces
Worcestershire sauce is a popular British condiment made with anchovies, vinegar, sugar, water and spices.
It is used as a seasoning in many dishes, such as beef stews and casseroles and is pretty much unpronounceable for most people outside of Wor..Worcest…mm
HP Sauce (Brown Sauce)
HP sauce is a popular British brown sauce made with malt vinegar, dates, apples, tamarind, spices and onions. It is a versatile sauce that can be used in many different dishes, such as burgers, sandwiches and scrambled eggs.
Marmite is made from yeast extract and is a popular British condiment that can be spread on toast or mixed into dishes like soups and stews. Originating from the East Midland town of Burton on Trent Marmite is a flavour you either love or hate.
Marmite flavour crisps, nuts and biscuits are also popular in Britain.
Vegemite is the Australian equivalent but is really nowhere near as tasty (in our opinion – controversial!)
Which British dishes are your favourites?
These are just a few of the many traditional British dishes and foods that can be found on the menus of pubs and restaurants throughout the country. If you’re visiting Britain, be sure to sample some of our delicious food!
- Scottish drinks – Discover 7 popular Scottish drinks to sample in Scotland
- English drinks – Our selection of 15 favourite English drinks