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Traditional British Food That’ll Make You Drool!

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Scott and I have spent nearly our whole lives living in the UK, so you can be sure this list of traditional British foods includes all the tastiest dishes to make you drool!

Although you’ll find all kinds of food here – 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 is 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 British food is described as “tasteless”, “stodgy” or “unhealthy”, but this is a misunderstanding of what our food is all about. And it’s not the first time British people have been misunderstood!

To us, food is about comfort. This is why you’ll find most Brits eating warm desserts like apple crumble and simple food covered in hot gravy.

So, without further adieu, here are all the traditional British dishes we recommend you try when visiting the UK.

Traditional British Food That’ll Make You Drool!

Roast Dinner

Roast Dinner

Possibly one of the most traditional British dishes 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 dinner 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 & Chips

Fish 'n' Chips

You’ll typically find British people (and tourists!) eating fish and chips 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 or fries.

Pie and Chips

Mini Pies at The Three Cliffs Coffee Shop

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 ale 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 at Kings Head Inn on the Gower

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 British people’s favourite dessert, the apple crumble is about as British as it gets. We also love other flavours of crumble such as blackberry, winterberry, raspberry and pear.

Once again, comfort and warmth rear their heads, as you’ll usually see a crumble served hot with warm custard on top.

What is it?

Apples (or other fruits) are 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 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 well-known British dessert and you’ll find it 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

Lemon Drizzle Cake at The Jane Austen Centre

Named after Queen Victoria who enjoyed a slice of cake with her afternoon tea, a Victoria Sponge is a classically British dessert. You’ll most enjoy it during the summer months when British strawberries are at their best.

What is it?

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

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea

First introduced to England in 1840 by the 7th Duchess of Bedford, afternoon tea is now firmly ingrained in the traditional British food culture – and is just one of many things that make us truly British.

But you shouldn’t confuse it 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 hearty meal involving more than just tea and cakes.

You can also get 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.

READ NEXT: What is the Ultimate Afternoon Tea?

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole

No, this British dish doesn’t actually contain a toad.

This is the name we Brits give to sausages that are 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 Pie’, many expect them to contain mince meat, and thus, be a savoury dish.

In actual fact, they are filled with fruit (and alcohol); with no meat in sight.

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

While you’ll find many of the foods listed above all over the UK, there are also some dishes that are typical 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, you’ll often find them 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. They’re actually the National dish of Cornwall!

READ NEXT: Beautiful Places in Cornwall, England | Cornwall Beauty Spots

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 typically long sausages and are served as circular coils of meat.

The traditional Cumberland Sausage has PGI status, so you’ll only find the real deal 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 you can buy shortbread throughout the UK (and the rest of the world), it’s most common to buy it in Scotland as a souvenir or gift. Especially when you find it packaged with a traditional red tartan design.

READ NEXT: 4 Day Driving Itinerary For Scotland (+ Lake District Stopover)

Haggis from Scotland

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 common addition to menus in Scotland.

Made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs and minced with onion, suet, stock, seasoning and spices, Haggis is traditionally cooked while encased in the animal’s stomach.

Thankfully today, the casing is synthetic.

Welsh Cakes from Wales

Welsh Cakes from Verdi's Cafe in Mumbles

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 relatively thin and small in size, you’ll often find them sold in packets rather than individually.

You can buy Welsh cakes in most supermarkets around the UK, but you’ll also commonly find them sold in gift shops, markets and bakeries throughout Wales.

READ NEXT: South Wales Itinerary – How To Enjoy A Long Weekend In 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 typical British foods and dishes! Which do you think you’ll want to try first?

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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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