If you’re heading to the UK, you may be wondering what foodie treats are in store.  Wonder no more.  We’re about to take you on a gastronomic journey through traditional British food.  From breakfasts to lunches and snacks to suppers, we’re guiding you through the best of British.  Here you’ll find a reassuring mix of the familiar and things you’ve not yet encountered.   Part of any trip is that foodie journey that runs alongside your new discoveries.  So be prepared to be gastronomically delighted and inspired.

British food has taken a lot of abuse over the years.  Even the inoffensive English muffin was criticised in What Katy Did, being described as eating rounds cut from an ironing blanket.   Other verdicts were equally challenging.  But you can eat stunningly well across the United Kingdom, with a rich range of traditional dishes awaiting discovery.  From breakfasts designed to fill you for a working day, to the favourite food of miners and some fabulous oddly-named delicacies, you’ll find much to tempt you here.  So tuck in your napkin, discover your best appetite and get ready to understand us Brits through our favourite foods.

Warning: reading this may cause hunger.  Have supplies to hand.  And maybe pin this for when you get the munchies?

Great Eats of Britain_ 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels

The Best British Breakfasts

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Full English Breakfast

The Full English Breakfast

Nothing starts the day off better than a hearty breakfast, ready to fuel the body for adventures or a hard day’s work.  You will probably have heard of the traditional British breakfast.  This consists of a mix of cooked foods: sausages, bacon, some form of potatoes or even hash browns, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, probably baked beans and toast.  You’ll find cooked breakfasts at all price brackets, whether it’s an all day breakfast offering at a cafe, or an elegant option at a rather fine hotel, where the sausages will come from rare breed pigs and your marmalade for the toast will be full of bitter peel.

If you see black or white pudding mentioned on the menu, this is a sausage made from pig’s blood, lard and oatmeal.  Traditionally made in Bury, Lancashire, this is another filling option in a cooked breakfast.

If you’re heading across the Irish Sea during your travels, don’t forget the traditional Irish breakfast too.  You can read about its delicious components and much more in this brilliant guide to traditional Irish food.


Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Porridge With Apple And Cinnamon

The world has cottoned on to something the Scottish have known for centuries: porridge is a winner.  Traditionally made with water and a pinch of salt, porridge can also come sweetened with honey, or in its equally familiar form: overnight oats, soaked with milk or yoghurt and fruits.  Top tip: if you’re staying in accommodation without breakfast, most supermarkets offer a version in a pot that just needs the addition of boiling water.  So you can get your oats at a bargain price.

Fishy Treats: Kippers and Kedgeree

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Arbroath Smokies

Don’t forget the pleasures of less common breakfast options if you are offered them.  Kippers or other fish such as Arbroath Smokies if you are in Scotland, are a delight.  Just don’t be like a former colleague who once confessed to cooking his boil in the bag kippers in a hotel kettle.  And also snaffle up kedgeree if it’s on offer.  This dish of fish, rice, egg and spice is tasty and traditional and a great start to the day.

Elevenses: English Snacks

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Sausage Rolls

Elevenses, if the name has escaped you before now, is something to fill in the gap between breakfast and lunch.  Eleven o’clock is the traditional time to consider a little something.  If you’re seeking traditional English snacks, you might be interested in the wide choice of sweet and savoury items out there.

On the savoury front, you could choose a sausage roll, an easy to find item of traditional British food.  Made from a sausagemeat filling baked into a crisp pastry crust, you can trap this flaky confection in most bakeries.  It’s an easy snack to handle while wandering around. You’ll also find sausagemeat in a Scotch egg.  This golden beauty is made with a hard boiled egg at its centre, sausagemeat around it and then breadcrumbs.  You’ll find miniature versions available for picnics too.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Pork Pie, Scotch Egg and Stilton

Pork pie to the left, Scotch Egg to the middle, Gala pie at the front right and don’t forget the pickled onions (front) and chutney

There’s a more substantial option known as a pork pie.  Originating in the town of Melton Mowbray, this pie is filled with pork and spices, and encased within a hot water pastry crust, baked golden brown.  Pork pies are often served with a bright yellow pickle known as piccalilli, which is based on mustard.

If you’re searching for a sweet treat, bakeries will offer you all kinds of traditional English cakes and biscuits.  The golden biscuit with dried fruit and a sugary topping is a Shrewsbury or Easter biscuit, with a delicate aroma of mixed spice and a crisp crunch.  Or choose buttery Scottish shortbread: crumbly and delectable.  You might also find small apple pies, sweet mince pies in the period leading up to Christmas, or Viennese whirls, spirals of a light shortcake-like mixture sandwiched together with a swirl of something sweet plus strawberry jam.  Then there’s the stuff of English nursery rhymes, the jam tart: pastry filled with strawberry preserves.  Are you hungry yet?

“The Queen of Hearts she made some tarts all on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts he stole the tarts and took them clean away.”

Traditional rhyme.

British Lunchtime Treats

The Earl of Sandwich

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Smoked Salmon Sandwich

There’s little better example of traditional British food than the sandwich.  Named after the Earl of Sandwich, who asked for his lunch to be placed between two pieces of bread so he could carry on playing cards, the sandwich can be anywhere between humble and extravagantly beautiful.  Some of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten have been the simplest: really fresh salad with an edge of red onion between perfect crusty bread, smoked salmon with lemon on thinly sliced brown bread or home cured ham and coleslaw in a doughy roll.  But the sandwich is limited only by your imagination, so don’t be fobbed off by something dull and uninspiring when you try this traditional British food.

Welsh Rarebit

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Welsh Rarebit

If you want something hot, then I’d highly recommend a Welsh Rarebit.  This is cheese on toast, but not as you know it.  The cheese is grated and mixed with milk, mustard and (traditionally) Worcestershire Sauce before being browned under the griddle atop toasted bread.  Served with a crunchy salad and a little chutney on the side, this is truly a lunch fit for royalty.  Don’t pass it by if you find it on offer.

Fish and Chips

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Fish and Chips

Also on the lunchtime radar is British fish and chips.  You get a crispy battered piece of fish with chips so hot they seem to shimmer.  My favourite place to eat this would definitely be at the coast.  There’s nothing better than picking up a warm parcel direct from the shop, and taking it down to the sands to enjoy.  You’ll have salt on your lips from the fish and the sea spray, and a great appetite to enjoy it.  If you’re feeling indulgent, don’t forget to ask for the extra crunchy bits of batter that come off in the fryer. They’ll be called by different names, depending where you are in Britain.  I (from Devon) call them scribblings; my husband (from the Black Country) maintains they are batters.  Whatever you call them, they may not be healthy, but they are certainly a fine treat.

Ploughman’s Lunch

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Ploughman's Lunch

Your average ploughman was a very lucky person, as the Ploughman’s lunch would definitely be my summer food of choice.  At its simplest, the Ploughman’s lunch is what would have been tucked away in a cloth by the person running the plough.  There would be some crusty bread, cheese and an apple.  Now it’s a slightly more complicated affair, also with salad: crisp lettuce, the crunch of radishes, tomatoes with the sweet scent of the vine.  There will be pickles on the side: maybe pickled onions or the aptly named Ploughman’s pickle – dark and succulent.  Give me the last hazy days of summer, the fields laden with bales of the harvest, birds in the hedgerow and a Ploughman’s picnic on a country walk and I’ll be completely happy.

Cornish Pasty

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Cornish Pasty

When your life is spent deep in the tin mines of Cornwall, you need something to help with all that hard labour.  Take a pastry case, and add a mixture of steak, swede and onion at one end. Build a little pastry blockade in the middle and add jam to the far end.  Then roll up into a neat triangle, pinch and crimp the top, bake and you have a gorgeously golden Cornish pasty.  Somewhere along the line, the jam end disappeared.  Possibly because a mouthful of the two parts eaten together by mistake might have been a taste fusion too far.

You’ll find Cornish pasties all over the UK, whether from bakers or in the supermarkets.  A good Cornish pasty is a thing of joy, so don’t be fooled by a flat and flaccid piece of pastry with little evidence of content.  You need a tall triangle, with a crisp crust, all golden and ready to waft savoury scents when you break the shell.

And you should note that the pasty now comes with all kinds of fillings.  From curry to Stilton cheese and broccoli, there are plenty of choices.  And if, like me, you have food allergies, I should let you know that the West Cornwall Pasty Company (a chain of shops, including branches at stations) produces gluten and dairy free versions, although you will need to wait for them to bake you one from frozen.  It’s worth the wait.

Sunday Lunch: The British Roast Dinner

No tour of traditional British food would be complete without reference to the roast dinner.  Roast beef in England is a dish that is well known and dates back many centuries.  Although Sunday was the day for a roast, with the remainder of the roasted meat being used to feed the family over the course of the week, it’s now available everyday.  In a roast dinner you’ll find a joint of meat: beef, lamb, pork, turkey or chicken, carved for you.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Yorkshire Puddings

There will likely be stuffing on the side: a savoury mix of breadcrumbs, herbs and sometimes minced meat.  Then there are the Yorkshire puddings: big clouds of loveliness made of a light batter that creates a puffy mound perfect for soaking up gravy or sauces. Your best Yorkshire pud will have a crispy top, and a soggy bottom all bathed in the juices from the plate.  There are traditional accompaniments such as mustard for beef, apple sauce for pork and mint sauce for lamb.  There will definitely be gravy on offer – or possibly a wine jus in some fine dining establishments.

Then there are the vegetables.  To my mind, a lot of different veggies is all part of the charm of the roast.  It’s an opportunity to load up on peas, carrots, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower cheese, roast onions, sweetcorn, spring greens and in fact anything that might be in season.  Rainbow food indeed.  And don’t forget crisp and crunchy roast potatoes.  I’m loving the current trend of offering different varieties, including vegan versions as well as potatoes traditionally cooked in dripping.

Don’t write off the idea of a roast if you are veggie or vegan.  There is often an alternative, whether it’s roasted butternut squash, a nut loaf or a mushroom and leek bake to which you can add all those lovely veggies.

If you spot a sign saying carvery, you’re likely to find a traditional roast there.  Your choice of meat will be carved for you, and then the veggies await your selection.  There will be a separate space with all the sauces and gravies.  Gastropubs are also brilliant for enjoying a roast dinner.

Making the Sunday Roast Go Further: Luscious Leftovers

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Cottage Pie

Warming, comforting, Cottage Pie

There was a familiar sound in the kitchen on Monday mornings when I was a child.  First there would be a popping noise of the mincer attaching to the counter by suction, then the sound of my grandma gently murmuring to herself as she turned the handle, making Sunday’s roast meat into Monday’s dinner.  There were two obvious choices for beef or lamb.  Lamb made a Shepherd’s Pie, with a rich savoury gravy below, topped with mashed potato allowed to go golden in the oven.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Shepherd's Pie

Beef lent itself to a Cottage Pie, a very similar dish through its use of a mashed potato topping but tasting distinctly different through the herbs and spices involved.  You’ll still find both available on menus across the UK.

Everything Stops For Afternoon Tea

The Best Afternoon Tea Experiences Around The World - Harvey Nichols, Birmingham - A Packed Life

In 1840, the Duchess of Bedford had an inspired idea.  Wanting a little something to fill the gap between lunch and dinner, she asked for a tray of tea, bread, butter and a cake.  Thus afternoon tea was born.

Today afternoon tea is available in many places, whether tearooms dedicated to this treat, hotels or even department stores.  Afternoon tea normally comprises sandwiches, scones, cakes and a pot of tea.  Sometimes there will be delicate savouries as well.  Add hot treats – maybe toast with anchovy relish or fingers of Welsh rarebit –  and you’ve moved to high tea.

Your sandwiches should be delicate, crusts removed and with carefully chosen fillings from smoked salmon to egg and cress or ham with chutney.

“Afternoon tea should be provided, fresh supplies, with thin bread-and-butter, fancy pastries, cakes, etc., being brought in as other guests arrive.”
― Isabella Beeton, Mrs Beeton’s Book Of Household Management

The art of the scone

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Scones With Jam And Cream

Scones should always be served warm.  They should be tall, light and fluffy.  If you spot a short dumpy scone being served, walk on past to take your afternoon tea elsewhere.  Your scone can be served with butter, but the more normal additions are jam or preserves and clotted cream.

Much has been written about what goes on your scone first.  The answer is that a Cornish cream tea has jam first, then cream, and the Devon cream tea is the other way round.  I clearly never got the memo, as this Devon girl always puts her jam on first.  In Cornwall, you might also get the beautifully named thunder and lightening: cream and treacle.

Read more: Best afternoon teas around the world

Traditional British Cakes

My grandma was a professional cook, so British cakes and puddings were often available in our house  They fueled a lot of police foot patrols in the 1940s when she cooked for the police canteen.  Her fruit cake was a thing of joy, almost sandy with flour and spices, and served up with a piece of crumbly cheese: Wensleydale, Caerphilly or Cheshire.  Moist fruit cakes are more to today’s tastes, and well worth sampling if you get a chance.

Time for a Slice?

There are many variations on cakes in traditional British food, and I’ve suggested some for your elevenses.  At afternoon tea, you might find a sliver of fruit cake.  There’s also the potential for a Battenburg: a checkerboard of sponge cake encased in a wrap of marzipan.  At Easter, a Simnel cake bridges the two options; it’s a fruit cake with a marzipan topping.  Don’t forget the Victoria Sandwich.  Named after Queen Victoria, it’s a tall, light sponge cake, sandwiched with buttercream and jam.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Bakewell Tarts, Bakewell, Peak District, UK

Move over to the Peak District, and you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Bakewell.  This is home to the Bakewell Tart, an almond frangipane in a pastry crust, with raspberry jam below and a sprinkling of almonds on top.  You’ll also find the Bakewell Pudding, (with a base rather like a popover for our American readers).

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Eccles Cakes, Lancashire, UK

Flaky fruity Eccles cakes from Lancashire

Head up to the North West for the Eccles cake.  This is a dream of flaky pastry wafting around a gooey filling of currants and spice.  In Yorkshire you’ll find the Parkin, a gingery dark slab of gorgeousness.  Head west to Wales for Welsh cakes, like a flatter scone, and full of dried fruit.  Scotland has Black Bun, a deep, dark mass of fruit with a pastry shell.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Dundee Cake, Scotland

And, of course, the Dundee Cake, a fruit cake topped with rows of almonds.  You’ll also find fruit loaves aplenty including Barm Brack from Northern Ireland and Bara Brith, the tea loaf from Wales.

Ringing The Dinner Bell

You’ve already enjoyed some of our favourite traditional British food, but I’ve still got more to tempt you with at dinner.

Stews And Soups

Great Eats Of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Beef And Ale Stew

The UK has a long tradition of stews and soups designed to make the most of readily available supplies.  You might find a tasty beef stew, served in a rich gravy with a cluster of root vegetables.  A fluffy flour dumpling adds a filling complement to this one pot dish.  There are also main course soups, such as Scotland’s Cullen Skink.  This is made with smoked haddock, potatoes, onions and milk, and you’ll find it on a lot of menus in Edinburgh and beyond.

Haggis, Neeps And Tatties

Great Eats Of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

This traditional Scottish dish is the stuff of legends and poetry.  The haggis itself, a plump parcel of crumbly sheep’s offal mixed with oatmeal and spices, is often served at Burns Night celebrations.  Add neeps (swede), tatties (potatoes) and often a whisky sauce to complete your dish.  And if you are attending a Burns Night dinner, the haggis will be piped to your table by a bagpipe player.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!

Address to a Haggis, Robert Burns

Bangers and Mash

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Sausages ready to become bangers and mash

This is another dish that has seen a revival.  Your bangers, or sausages, need to be perfectly browned and beautifully flavoured.  Try traditional Cumberland sausages, pork and leek or a vegan butternut and red pepper.  Beneath there needs to be a steaming mound of perfect mashed potatoes, beautifully smooth and fluffy.  Add a scoop of soft buttery onions and some mustard on the side, and you’ll be glad you made the acquaintance of one of Britain’s inexpensive but delicious answers to a cold winter’s day.

New Traditions: Chicken Parmo

Not all traditional British food has been here for centuries. Newer traditions have emerged, some of which are very regionally based.  Head to the North East, in the area around Teeside, and you’ll find the chicken parmo.  A piece of chicken is flattened, breaded, and fried, then topped with bechamel sauce and cheese.  A chicken parmo is normally enormous and can probably feed you for a week.  Don’t hesitate to share this robust and filling dish.

Time for A Pie

Game was traditionally peasant food, brought back home to gamekeepers’ families.  With pastry-making also being a popular for centuries, it’s not surprising that game pies became part of traditional British food.  You may find game pies in areas such as the Welsh borders, including around Ludlow and other parts of Shropshire.

Steak is also a traditional pie filling with shortcrust or puff pastry on top.  Less common now is a steak (or even a steak and kidney) pudding.  This is made with a suet pastry, creating a succulent crust that is traditionally cooked by steaming in a china bowl.

Oddly Named British Foods

Great Eats of Britain_ 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels

Now we’ve introduced the concept of bangers and mash, I need to run you through other traditional British food that can be lost in translation.  First up, there’s bubble and squeak.  Named after the noise it makes cooking in the pan, bubble and squeak is another triumph of leftovers: potatoes and any green vegetables you like to add – brassicas are traditional, but any will do.  Fry in little crusty cakes until golden and gorgeous, and you can eat them alone or with meat or even cheese.  Scotland’s clapshot is a very similar dish.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Toad In The Hole

Succulent Toad In The Hole

Let me introduce one of my favourites: toad in the hole.  It involves those bangers again, this time cooked in the oven in a batter that is made like a Yorkshire pudding.  So you get sausages hiding in a puffy batter and served with a lot of green veggies.  Gravy’s traditional too.

Christmas time sees the arrival of pigs in blankets – sausages wrapped in bacon. As a starter, you might also find angels on horseback – oysters once again wrapped in bacon.  Travel north to Scotland for Cock-A-Leekie, a substantial soup with chicken, leeks and prunes in broth.

Traditional British meatballs made from offal are known as faggots.  You’ll find them in some cafes, served with gravy and mushy peas.  Then there’s pie and mash, a staple of London cuisine for many decades.  It includes a pastry pie, mashed potato and a parsley sauce known as liquor. Jellied eels can be served alongside

If you’re offered jam roly-poly, you’ll be tasting a suet pudding with a jam filling, all rolled up, steamed and served with custard.  It’s what we would call rib-sticking, and best encountered on a cold wet day when you have a lot of walking to do.  Scotland’s equivalent is the clootie dumpling, a spiced pudding with fruit, cooked by boiling the pudding all wrapped up in a cloth.  Experiencing a hot British summer?  Congratulate yourself at the seaside with a knickerbocker glory, a tower of ice cream, jelly, fruit, cream and wafers.

Tastes of the Sea

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Crab boat, Overstrand, Norfolk, UK.

You’re never too far from the coast in Britain, and you’ll therefore find plenty of seafood beyond fish and chips on the traditional British food menu.  If you should find yourself in Norfolk, surely Britain’s answer to Maine, then you’ll spot a proliferation of crab shacks from which to try the legendary Cromer Crab.  Norfolk is full of seafood to enjoy and explore.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Potted Shrimps

Potted shrimps on toast

The Lancashire coast is also a great place to check out the bounty of the sea.  Head to the port of Glasson Dock, and you’ll find a smokehouse so full of supplies, you’ll be feasting for a week on its treasures.  Potted shrimps are typical fare from Morecambe Bay and the area surrounding it.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Sheringham Crab Boat

Another fine place for the seafood lover is the North Devon coast.  The catch is landed daily along the coast, including in Appledore.  You’ll find plenty of produce on offer for a lunchtime feast at John’s Deli in Appledore itself as well as Instow across the estuary.  It’s also well worth stopping at the beautiful Fremington Quay Cafe for plenty of locally produced choices.  Don’t forget to call in at Bensons in Braunton for dinner.  The queue at this renowned fish and chip restaurant may be lengthy, but it’s well worth the wait.

We Need To Talk About Cheese

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Stilton, Pear and Walnuts

Although Britain may not be famed for cheese as much as countries like France, I would be doing you a serious disservice if I didn’t tell you quite how spectacular English cheese can be.

Many parts of Britain have their own speciality cheese.  Take one of the best known, for example, Stilton.  This is a tangy blue cheese with a crusty rind, and absolutely gorgeous with pears, chutney, walnuts and crackers.  Then there’s Shropshire Blue, with an orange tone and a taste that’s both gentle and powerful.  Try Hereford Hop, Cheshire, Lancashire (Mrs Kirkham’s for preference), Wensleydale from the lovely town of Hawes and the crumbly salty Caerphilly.  Find a nutty Cheddar – a very distant relative of many of the supermarket varieties.   And if you like your cheese assertive, try Gloucestershire’s Stinking Bishop.  It’s named after the brandy that washes the cheese rind, and has been described as smelling like a rugby club changing room.  Not that I have been able to verify this, of course.

Never be afraid to try out the cheese course when you’re in Britain;  there are some truly fantastic cheese producers.  I have great memories of eating myself into a cheese coma at a small cafe in Edinburgh, the name of which was lost to me, as my cheese coma was that good. If you’re in Herefordshire or Shropshire, you’ll find a cheese banquet at a small chain of specialist shops known as The Mousetrap.  Plus plenty of crackers and chutneys to make your own cheeseboard a thing of beauty.

The English Pudding and the Pudding Club

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Sticky Toffee Pudding

On the edge of the Cotswolds lies an establishment that truly reflects a bygone era of cuisine focused on traditional English desserts.  The wonderfully named Pudding Club at the Three Ways House Hotel holds regular meetings where you get to try out a whole selection of traditional puddings.  

The Pudding Master – surely one of the most wonderful job titles to exist anywhere in the world – announces the Parade of Seven Puddings.  The list varies, and you get to vote for your favourite.  You might get to taste Lord Randall’s pudding, the Queen of Puddings or even the legendary Spotted Dick – a sponge pudding filled with – yes – currants.  My grandma used to serve slices of this fried with bacon as a breakfast treat.

You could even find a Sussex Pond Pudding.  This is another steamed suet pudding.  But don’t be fooled by its deceptively bland exterior.  Inside you’ll find a whole lemon, steamed until it has collapsed to create the pond which is released when you cut the pudding to serve.  Another great favourite, and one that’s a great deal easier to find, is the sticky toffee pudding.  You’ll spot that on a lot of pub, restaurant and cafe menus, often served with ice cream.

My favourite quote from the Pudding Club website describes the experience as being “like a Medieval banquet – with custard”.

Great Eats of Britain

Great British Desserts

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Lemon Posset

It has to be said that we’ve never been short of a sweet tooth when it comes to traditional British food.  And there are so many desserts to explore here.  We’ve taken on the mighty puddings of The Pudding Club, and now it’s time to explore some of the lighter options.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Lemon Meringue Pies

Individual Lemon Meringue Pies

You’ll often spot a lemon meringue pie.  It comes with a pastry base, a sweet and sharp almost liquid lemon layer and a billowy toasted cloud of meringue on top.  Then there’s the lemon posset, more set cream laced with sharp lemon, sugar and tiny shards of peel for more tang.  It’s definitely a relative of the pannacotta.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Eton Mess

Eton Mess is a combination of raspberries, cream and meringue, like summer on a spoon.  I read an entertaining story that explained it was created when a Labrador dog sat on a picnic basket, ruining a raspberry meringue.  It’s a charming tale, but as a former Labrador owner, I can’t imagine a Labrador sitting on a picnic hamper instead of trying to eat its contents.    And don’t forget syllabub – whipped cream, sugar lemon juice and zest plus wine.  You may gather that we like raspberries and lemon in Britain.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Trifle

English Trifle, full of berries, sponge, custard and cream

We can’t talk about desserts without mentioning trifle.  Less easy to find now than it once was, a properly made trifle is a tasty and interesting treat.  When you have a crowd to feed, it’s worth assembling your own trifle.  You’ll need a base of biscuits or sponge, which you soak with sherry or juice in a large glass bowl with tall sides.  Add your fruits – strawberries, raspberries – then a proper custard made with eggs which you have cooked and cooled beforehand.  Then it’s time to decorate with cream and more fruit.  Each spoonful’s a taste of England.  You’ll find trifles in some supermarkets, but for the full traditional British food experience, you need a tearoom where they make it themselves.

In Scotland, there’s beautiful cranachan.  Made with toasted oats, honey, cream, raspberries and whisky, it packs a powerful punch.  We enjoyed this on a floating restaurant in Inverness, and it was superbly sharp.

Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels - Traditional British apple crumble

If you’re here in autumn, don’t forget to try a fruit crumble.  Traditionally made with apple, blackberries or other seasonal fruits, a crumble has a fruity bottom topped with a crust made of flour, butter and sugar.  It’s a breath of hedgerow goodness, topped with custard or cream.  Come blackberrying season, you’ll find us heading out on walks with a bag tucked into a pocket or two, ready for a little foraging for crumble ingredients.

Eat, Drink And Be Merry

We’ve written more about British beer elsewhere, so here I’m focused on other traditional choices.  Above you can see the taste of the English summer.  Traditionally served at Wimbledon, Pimms is complemented by lemonade, cucumber, strawberries and borage.  Sip it on summer lawns, sitting in a deckchair.  Gin is still undergoing a big revival, and you’ll find plenty of choices available,  If you don’t drink alcohol, soft drink production has expanded dramatically with plenty of interesting flavours.  I recommend Bottlegreen and Luscombe for some great choices.

Read More: Traditional London Pubs Off The Tourist Trail

Supper: A Bite Before Bed

If you have not already exploded from your feast of traditional British food, there’s still time for a little bite for supper.  My husband is partial to Gentleman’s Relish, a spread made with anchovies and butter to be served on toast.  The container itself is a spectacularly historic British design.  Or this is another opportunity for something like Welsh Rarebit.  You could also try a few Devils on Horseback – prunes wrapped in bacon and roasted.  You’re more likely to be offered them around Christmas, but they make a great snack at other times.

Traditional British Food: Second Helpings

I hope you’ve enjoyed this rampage through traditional British food.  I’m imagining you replete at the table, your napkin crumpled and well used.  Perhaps you are ready for a brisk constitutional to walk off some of those treats.  I’d be delighted if you’ve enjoyed some new tastes.

If you’re hungry to enjoy more of what Britain has to offer, then come and try out our 10 day itineraries for the UK.  You can explore so many of these British traditional food offerings on our selection of routes to take you across the UK.

If you enjoyed this, we’d love you to share it! 

Great Eats of Britain_ 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels

Great Eats of Britain_ 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels



Author: Bernie

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18 thoughts on “Great Eats of Britain: 61 Traditional British Foods To Try On Your Travels

  1. Great list! This makes me miss home! Our northern chippys are a bit different though, you need mushy peas and gravy on there or even better from a Chinese chippy with salt and pepper chips, half fried rice and curry sauce!! I think the curry itself needs a mention too, the national dish of the UK is after all infact the Chicken Tikka Masala rather than fish and chips!! We love a good curry!

    Posted on April 22, 2019 at 6:16 am
    1. My partner’s the chippy expert of our household, right down to the mushy peas. 🙂 Great call on the curry, Nic. In fact I spent many years living at the edge of the Balti Triangle, so how could I have missed that one! Mine’ll be a rogan josh.

      Posted on April 23, 2019 at 10:15 am
  2. Wow, that is quite the overview of the traditional food. I think what I would love to try the most is the scones with the cream and jam. I do enjoy high tea with the assortment of small bite sized sweet and savoury treats.

    Posted on April 22, 2019 at 11:37 pm
    1. I’m with you on high tea and afternoon tea. There’s always something different and rather indulgent about all those fab treats.

      Posted on April 23, 2019 at 10:12 am
  3. British food sounds very filling! I love the breakfast options and the elevenses too (would be a great excuse to grab some traditional English snacks! 😀 ). Love the variety of options you have here! Would love to try them all!

    Posted on April 23, 2019 at 10:36 am
  4. Well I love a good food recommendation, and this one is exceptional! I think food is one of the greatest ways to explore a destination, and the food here is definitely full of heart (and calories). I would have to start with authentic fish and chips and then work my way through!

    Posted on April 24, 2019 at 8:35 pm
    1. I get what you mean about this mostly being pretty hearty stuff. 🙂 It needs a mighty good walk to make room for the calories, but it’s so worth it!

      Posted on April 25, 2019 at 9:53 am
  5. Reading this made me crave the foods I tried on my trip as I just got home yesterday and already wish I had access to fish and chips (I just might have eaten my weight in this), afternoon tea (finally real scones that were fluffy and not hard as a rock), Haggis (first time-yum), cornish pies. But I would have loved to have had those little individual lemon meringue pies. I never saw those or trifles anywhere!

    Posted on April 24, 2019 at 10:28 pm
    1. Fish and chips can be addictive. 😉 I’m glad you got to try so many lovely things – including adventurous stuff like haggis. As for the lemon meringue pies, they’re more often served as slices from a big pie. If you want to try one next time, you might even find one in a supermarket, but be sure to eat it with a spoon and with wipes to hand – that lemon layer is mighty sticky!

      Posted on April 25, 2019 at 9:52 am
  6. Wow! I wish I had seen this earlier, I just came back from London and whenever we asked for traditional foods or restaurants we were met with stares. It seemed like the only thing that was known was Fish & Chips. Great list, will make sure to use this as a guide in future travels.

    Posted on April 24, 2019 at 11:01 pm
    1. It can be a bit challenging to find traditional food here. Normally it tends to be smaller independent restaurants where you’ll find dishes like cottage pie on a menu, or else gastropubs offering pies or toad in the hole. I hope you get to try more choices next time, and I’m so sad you got blank looks this trip when asking.

      Posted on April 25, 2019 at 9:49 am
  7. Love to see so many delicious British foods. I am vegetarian so would opt for Porridge and Cottage pie. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted on April 25, 2019 at 4:02 pm
    1. Porridge is always good. As is cauliflower cheese, often served on the side, but definitely worth full meal status with some crusty bread on the side.

      Posted on April 25, 2019 at 4:24 pm
  8. This is such a great list of British food! We visited a few years ago but didn’t try most of these. I do have to say though, I’m a huge fan of scones and Stilton cheese! We also enjoyed a very nice Sunday roast. We’ll have to return to try the others!

    Posted on April 25, 2019 at 8:50 pm
  9. What an extensive list that left me feeling quite peckish! I am mostly a vegetarian but the classic roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner got me! Plus my mum always ground up the leftovers for shepherd’s pie! A time gone by! I am a sucker for scones but will need to track down a good spot with gluten-free scones on my next visit!

    Posted on April 25, 2019 at 10:44 pm
    1. I can certainly recommend Harvey Nichols for those gluten-free scones (coeliac here). In fact their gluten free afternoon tea is absolutely delicious!

      Posted on April 26, 2019 at 7:02 am
  10. UGH, I went to the UK last August and I miss that trip EVERY day, but this post gives me serious nostalgia. You’ve nailed it! I love scones and thankfully I found a supermarket near me which serves clotted cream! Cornish pastry was one of my favorite foods that I had in Bath, and Fish and Chips did not disappoint either. I’m seriously disappointed in myself that I did not get around to Welsh rarebit, considering I was in Wales too! Pimms Cup became my new favorite drink, and I’ll never forget strolling along the water and sipping one. Great post!

    Posted on April 26, 2019 at 6:25 pm
    1. I love that you found the clotted cream. Afternoon tea at yours then! Welsh Rarebit is one of my favourite things to make at home; it may be more trouble than cheese on toast, but it’s so very worth it. And Pimms does taste of summer.

      Posted on April 27, 2019 at 11:12 am