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As the UK is a highly multicultural country, you’ll find all kinds of cuisines available throughout, ranging from Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Caribbean… you name it, we’ve got it.

But if it’s traditional British food that you’re after, then your best bet would be to find a cosy pub out in the countryside somewhere. That’s where you’re going to find some of our best (and most traditional) food, often referred to by locals as “pub grub”.

Sometimes our food is described as “tasteless”, “stodgy” or “unhealthy”, but this is simply a misunderstanding of what our food is all about. To us, food is about comfort. This is why you’ll find most Brits eating warm desserts and simple food covered in hot gravy.

So, without further adieu, here is all the traditional British food we recommend you try during your trip to the UK

Roast Dinner

Roast Dinner

Possibly one of the most traditionally British food items on this list is the humble roast dinner. It’s sometimes also called ‘Sunday Dinner’, owing to the fact that – in the past – this was when it was seen as most traditional to eat a roast each week.

What is it?

Roast chicken, lamb, beef or turkey served with roast potatoes, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, roasted vegetables (such as parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts and broccoli), gravy and occasionally something extra special for Christmas like pigs in blankets (i.e. sausages wrapped in bacon).

Fish ‘n’ Chips

Fish 'n' Chips

Fish ‘n’ Chips is traditionally eaten by the seaside and when visiting seaside towns, such as Brighton, Plymouth, Blackpool and almost anywhere in Cornwall. However, it’s also possible to get a takeaway or order fish and chips in a pub away from seaside towns; it’s just unlikely to be quite as fresh.

What is it?

Battered white fish such as cod, haddock or plaice, served with a side of chunky chips / fries.

Pie and Chips

Pie & Chips

As we’ve mentioned, British food typically has comfort and warmth at its heart. And it doesn’t get much more “comforting” than a hearty steaming pie served with chips (at least in a Brit’s eyes). Pies come in a variety of flavours in the UK, although steak and kidney is probably the most traditional kind.

What is it?

Meat, vegetables and gravy baked inside a pastry case (with a lid), usually made from shortcrust pastry, and served with chunky chips and peas.

Sausage and Mash

Sausage & Mash

Also known as ‘Bangers ‘n’ Mash’, this is often towards the top of most British people’s lists of favourite dinners. Typically, the sausages are thick cut and juicy, while the mashed potatoes are smooth and creamy.

What is it?

Thick cut sausages served with creamy mashed potatoes and onion gravy.

Apple Crumble

Apple Crumble

Many a favourite dessert, the apple crumble is about as British as it gets, although we Brits also love other flavours of crumble as well such as blackberry, winter berry, raspberry and pear. Once again, comfort and warmth rear their heads, as a crumble is usually served hot with warm custard on top.

What is it?

Apples (or other fruits) baked inside a dish with a crumble top, (which is usually made with butter, flour and sugar, but sometimes also made with oats), and served with warm custard, cream or ice cream. The fruits are often combined with a large helping of sugar before baking, so you should expect the crumble to be quite sweet.

Full English Breakfast

Full English Breakfast

For lazy weekend days, post-big night out mornings or during weekends staying at a hotel, a Full English is something a lot of Brits look forward to. Also known as a ‘fry-up’ or ‘cooked breakfast’, it may be super unhealthy, but will certainly keep you full-up until dinner.

What is it?

Fried eggs, sausages and bacon are served with tinned beans, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms and either toast, bread and butter or fried bread. The addition of beans, tomatoes and mushrooms is what makes this dish a ‘Full English’, rather than some other form of cooked or fried breakfast.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding (sometimes also known as Sticky Date Pudding overseas) has only been around since the 1970s when it first appeared in the restaurant attached to Sharrow Bay Country House in the Lake District. But since then, it has become a very well-known British dessert and is found on many pub menus (especially in the Northern parts of England).

What is it?

Moist sponge cake made with finely chopped dates and covered with a toffee sauce. Best served with custard, cream or ice cream.

Victoria Sponge

Victoria Sponge

Named after Queen Victoria herself, who was known to enjoy a slice with her afternoon tea, a Victoria Sponge is a classically British dessert and is best eaten during the summer months when strawberries are at their best.

What is it?

A light vanilla sponge with a strawberry jam and cream filling, sometimes served with a side of fresh strawberries or ice cream.

Afternoon Tea

First introduced to England in 1840 by the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna, afternoon tea is now firmly ingrained in the traditional English food culture. But it must not be confused with “high tea”. The latter was introduced during the industrialisation years of Great Britain for the working classes, who had to wait until late in the evening to eat a more hearty meal, involving more than just tea and cakes. You can also get a “cream tea” in the UK, which is just scones, jam and cream, served with a pot of tea.

What is it?

Finger sandwiches, cake slices and scones with jam and cream, served with a pot of tea. Afternoon tea is usually served on a tiered plate stand.

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole

No, this doesn’t actually contain a toad. This is the name we Brits give to sausages that have been baked inside a Yorkshire pudding mix. Once again, this is a major comfort food and is best for autumn or winter evenings.

What is it?

Thick cut sausages baked inside a Yorkshire pudding mix. Once baked, the Yorkshire pudding rises up around the sausages on all sides.

Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What once started out as a dish that was invented to use up leftover roasted meat, the humble Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie is now very distinctive within the UK. The difference in name refers to what meat is used inside – beef in Cottage Pie and lamb in Shepherd’s Pie.

What is it?

Minced red meat (usually beef or lamb), cooked in a gravy sauce with vegetables and topped with a layer of mashed potato before being baked in the oven. Some also choose to add cheese on top of the mashed potato layer.

Mince Pies

Mince Pies

Only to be eaten in the run up to and during the Christmas season, Mince Pies have been known to confuse many people. With a name like ‘Mince Pies’, many expect them to contain mince meat and thus, be a savoury dish. In actual fact, they are filled with fruit (and alcohol); no meat in sight. They also make a great souvenir at Christmas time.

What is it?

Raisins, currants and apricots are soaked in a liquor (e.g. Brandy, cognac or whisky) for a long time before being baked inside a pastry case, usually shortcrust pastry. Best served warm with cream or custard, although you can eat them cold without a sauce if preferred.


Traditional British Food: Regional Specials

Whereas all the foods listed above can be found pretty much all over the UK, there are also some dishes that are traditional to certain regions in the UK.

Eccles Cakes from Greater Manchester

Eccles Cake

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Eccles cakes are named after the English town of Eccles, which is part of the Greater Manchester region. Although you can buy them throughout the UK, they are very commonly found in bakeries and markets in and around Manchester itself. An Eccles cake is a small cake made from flaky pastry and filled with currants. 

Cornish Pasties from Cornwall

Cornish Pasties

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pasties can be found in most bakeries and supermarkets all over the UK, however, the traditional Cornish pasty actually has a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. This means you can only find the original Cornish pasty in Cornwall itself. Cornish pasties are made from shortcrust pastry and are filled with beef, potato, swede and onion; and are actually the National dish of Cornwall!

Cumberland Sausages from Cumbria

Cumberland Sausage

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Named after the ancient county of Cumberland in Northern England, which is now part of Cumbria, Cumberland Sausages are traditionally long sausages and are served as circular coils of meat. The traditional Cumberland Sausage has PGI status so can only be found in and around Cumbria itself.

Shortbread from Scotland

Scottish Shortbread

Shortbread first originated in Scotland when it appeared in 1736 in a recipe by a local Scotswoman. It’s a type of buttery biscuit and is usually lightly dusted with sugar. Although Shortbread can be bought throughout the UK (and the rest of the world), it’s most traditional to buy it in Scotland as a souvenir or gift, particularly when it’s housed inside packaging adorned with a traditional red tartan design.

Haggis from Scotland

Haggis

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Although Scotland is renowned for Haggis the world over, there’s actually no irrefutable historical evidence to suggest that Haggis did in fact originate in Scotland. Despite that, there’s no denying that – regardless of origin – Haggis is now a very traditional food item in Scotland. Made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, and minced with onion, suet, stock, seasoning and spices, Haggis was traditionally cooked while encased in the animal’s stomach. Thankfully today, the casing is synthetic.

Welsh Cakes from Wales

Popular since the late 19th Century, Welsh cakes are small cakes that have currants, cinnamon and nutmeg inside, and are dusted with sugar. As they’re fairly small in size, they’re usually sold in packets rather than individually. Welsh cakes can be bought in most supermarkets around the UK, but are most commonly sold in gift shops, markets and bakeries throughout Wales.


Should we have put a warning on this post not to read it if you’re hungry? Probably. Sorry about that.

Either way, we hope your taste buds are salivating just a little ahead of your trip to the UK for some of these traditional British food items! Which do you think you’ll want to try first?

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