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Good Eats

Cook Like A Scot: Traditional Dishes From Scotland

by
Mar 25th, 2022

Scotland is a nation molded by millennia of interaction and influence with its island neighbors and mainland acquaintances. Its culture is rich with ancient history and vibrant stories, and Scotland’s people today represent thousands of years’ worth of travel, religion and culture from all over the world who have since called Scotland home. 

And what better way to dip our toes into the deep, rich waters of Scottish culture than by taking a good long look at the food that has woven its way into the hearts (and stomachs) of the Scottish people?

Here are some of the more popular, authentic and traditional foods eaten in Scotland today!

Famous & authentic meals popular in Scotland

Arbroath smokie

This seafood specialty made from smoked salted haddock in a special barrel originates from the coastal town of Arbroath on Scotland’s east coast. Local legend says that one night a seafood store caught fire and burned all the wares inside, and when people sorted through the ashes they found that barrels of preserved haddock had been cooked by the heat and smoke inside. 

Thus, the dish was born! 

Bannock

Every culture and nation has its signature quick bread dish that goes with soup, stews, sandwiches and more. For Scotland, this signature dish is bannock, a flat quick bread an inch or so thick and round in shape, though there are many varieties, flavors and shapes that have emerged through the centuries of its popularity. 

Cullen skink

This thick, hearty soup is made using three of Scotland’s signature ingredients: haddock, potato and onion. Authentic recipes will use a type of smoked haddock called finnan haddie, although it can be made with any similar smoked haddock. 

Cranachan

If you’re looking for an authentic Scottish dessert, then look no further! 

Cranachan is a fruity dessert inspired by crowdie breakfasts that are made with crowdie cheese, toasted oats, cream and honey. The dessert, however, omits the cheese for cream and adds fresh raspberries when in season, creating a light, fresh, creamy dessert that was often made to celebrate the end of harvest back in the day. 

Cock-a-leekie soup 

Chicken and leeks are the names of the game here, creating a hearty and flavorful soup perfect for those winter nights. Many recipes add rice or barley to thicken the broth, and true culinary historians add prunes into the pot during cooking. 

Deep-fried Mars bars

Why a deep-fried Mars bar, you ask?

Though deep-fried everything is fairly common here at state fairs all across the United States, Scotland takes all the credit for creating the deep-fried Mars bar in the mid-1990s. 

The fried candy bar treat was created and served at a chip shop in Stonehaven on the east coast, just south of Aberdeen. To prevent the chocolate from melting in the hot oil, the Mars bar must first be frozen before coating it in batter and submerging it in hot oil. 

Fish & chips

A favorite dish in both fast food and restaurant circles, fish and chips is a go-to meal all over Scotland and its surrounding nations. Depending on where you go in Scotland , however, you might run into different local condiment favorites; in Edinburgh it’s common to have brown sauce and salt, though head over to Glasgow and locals will swear by the good ol’ salt and malt vinegar combo. 

Haggis

Haggis is a savory pudding that’s almost exclusive to Scotland and is, as of 1786, the country’s national dish. 

The dish is made by combining sheep’s heart, liver and lungs with minced onions, spices and suet in a ground, sausage-like substance encased in the sheep’s stomach casing. Though not terribly appealing in description, the dish is famous for its nutty and nutritious flavor.

Scotch broth

This simple, yet nutritious soup features mutton, beef or lamb stewed with carrots, turnips, onions, barley and, depending on the region, beans or cabbage. Great for a rainy day or a chilly night in! 

Scotch pies

Scotch pies are just called “pies” in Scotland, but the dish is famous around the world for its rich flavor and cultural significance in the United Kingdom. 

This double-crust, filled pie contains mostly meat like minced beef, mutton or haggis, as well as the occasional addition of beans, gravy or mashed potatoes. Scotch pies are popular stadium concessions at soccer games and, as a result, are often associated with the sport.

Tattie scone

The tattie scone is a type of savory griddle cake made using potato, butter and salt. The lack of leavening in the recipe makes for a hearty and flavorful scone that’s usually served alongside breakfasts, soups and snacks at any time of the day. 

Traditional Scottish tablet 

Scottish tablets are a distant relative of fudge made with condensed milk, sugar and butter and formed into small squares of sugary goodness. The sugary mixture is brought to a boil and allowed to crystallize before cooling, giving the final product a smooth texture that’s not quite as soft as fudge but not quite as hard as a hard candy. 

Whisky

Scotland has been making whisky since as early as 1494, a whole 280 years before the United States was ever a nation. With over half a millennia of practice and fine-tuning, it's no wonder that Scotland’s malt whisky is considered some of the best on the planet. 

In fact, the very word “whisky” comes from the Scottish Gaelic word “uisge beatha” meaning “water of life,” so you know the Scots mean business when it comes to distilling 

Fun fact: the United States is one of the only countries to spell whiskey with an “e”, while most other countries omit the “e” in their whiskies’ names. 

For a truly authentic Scottish whisky to accompany your Scottish meal, try either Glenturret, Bowmore or Strathisla — three whisky brands that are officially the oldest in the nation, dating back to at least 1786 and earlier!

While you’re here, by the way, check out our other articles on Turkish cuisine, Jamaican cuisine, Moroccan cuisine, South African cuisine, Belgian cuisine, Nepalese cuisine and Sicilian cuisine!

Ith gu leòir! (Eat plenty!)

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/sharonang

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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