Scotland Food Guide – What To Eat In Scotland
Scotland Food Guide
When we first started traveling to Scotland, I admit, I wasn’t all that gung-ho about figuring out what to eat in Scotland. I kind of figured that all we would eat would be fish and chips and haggis. We’ve eaten both. But, there is a lot more to try when it comes to putting together a traditional Scottish food list. In this Scotland food guide, we share our tips on what and where to eat in Scotland, with a focus on traditional dishes.
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What To Eat In Scotland
When it comes to the food to eat in Scotland, meat, potatoes, and seafood rule. Think about hearty dishes made to get you through a cold Scottish winter. They tend to focus on what’s local, and in some cases, uber-local. Although in larger cities and towns there is more of an international influence, in the countryside traditional dishes still reign. The Scottish diet is a hearty one and you certainly will not go hungry on a trip to Scotland.Traveling to Scotland? Check out our Scotland Packing Guide
What Will You Find On A Scottish Food Menu
When looking for Scotland’s traditional foods, it’s important to look at traditional pub grub. Many of the pubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the small towns and villages will offer a menu that includes some of these most traditional dishes.
In Glasgow, though, I found it a little harder to track down traditional Scottish food menus. When I researched traditional Scottish restaurants before visiting, a lot of the same restaurants were on everybody’s list. This included Ox And Finch, The Finnieston, and Ubiquitous Chip. When reviewing their menus, though, the dishes were a lot more contemporary and often even international. There is certainly nothing wrong with this type of dining, but if looking for more traditional versions of these recommended dishes, look at pubs.
It’s also important to note that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and is heavily influenced by the British. Some of these dishes are traditional and 100% Scottish. Other popular Scottish dishes are more British. I don’t mean any disrespect to my Scottish friends when I include a “British” dish on this list. It’s a fact that many of these “British” dishes find themselves on menus and travelers should know what to expect.Traveling to Scotland For Whisky? Check out our Guide To The Malt Whisky Trail
Haggis – The National Dish Of Scotland
When it comes to Scottish food, one dish is at the forefront of everyone’s mind – haggis. Many travelers to Scotland are a little hesitant to try it. But, we really enjoy haggis. And, today, haggis prepared in a variety of different ways of making it a lot more palatable for food travelers than it once was.
When I first learned about haggis, I was intimidated. It’s essentially a sausage stuffed inside a large sheep’s stomach. The sausage filling is normally made with a variety of animal parts in order to help make the most of the animal. This includes finely chopped organs like liver, heart, and lungs as well as suet, which is the animal fat. The offal is then mixed with oatmeal and seasonings and stuffed inside the sheep’s stomach or intestines, which is either baked or boiled. In its most basic form, it’s big and ugly too.
Traditionally, haggis is served with neeps and tatties, which are turnips and potatoes. Many restaurants will serve haggis in a stack now, with the haggis on the bottom topped with a layer of neeps and tatties, which is quite good. We also enjoyed haggis as part of a Scottish breakfast. My favorite were Haggis bon bons, which were like soft haggis meatballs, deep-fried and topped with a whisky-based gravy. Eric also enjoyed haggis wrapped in pancetta, which was lovely and in a toasted sandwich.
Where To Eat Haggis In Scotland
It’s not hard to find versions of haggis on pub and restaurant menus. In Edinburgh, try it at the World’s End on The Royal Mile. Our favorite versions were at the Copper Dog in Craigellachie and The Station Hotel in Rothes, both in Moray Speyside. We ate so many great traditional Scottish meals in Moray Speyside.
Moray Speyside is in Northeast Scotland, north of both Glasgow and Edinburgh. There is a real focus on using local ingredients in both traditional dishes and contemporary versions of typical Scottish dishes. The haggis we ate is the perfect example! Definitely don’t shy away from haggis! When well-prepared it doesn’t taste at all like the organ meat that forms its base. There’s a reason why it’s been a popular Scottish food since the 16th Century! Some restaurants are even starting to serve vegetarian versions.Check out our guide on What To Drink in Scotland
Scottish Snacks And Starters
After covering the national dish of Scotland, let’s start with snacks and starters. These are the Scottish dishes found as appetizers on restaurant or pub menus, including traditional Scottish soups.
Oatcakes are simple crackers made with a base of oats. They are not all that crunchy. They are softer, almost crumbly, with a little bit of sweetness to them. We ate oatcakes with cheese platters and as snacks on their own. Look for a creamy caboc cheese to top the oatcakes for a savory treat.
In Moray Speyside, we visited Maclean’s Highland Bakery, which produces oatcakes for sale in Scotland, the US, and even Asia. We walked the bakery floor to see how they make these tasty treats. Oatcakes are a classic Scottish food and are worth tracking down. They also make a great food souvenir.
This is a Scottish delicacy I can get behind. A Scotch egg is a hard boiled egg, wrapped inside seasoned sausage, and then deep fried. The egg yolk can either be hard or a little runny in the middle.
We’ve tried Scotch eggs both in Edinburgh and in Moray Speyside. Both were very good. To be honest, they are not easy to find on menus. When you see a Scotch egg on a Scottish menu, order it. One of the reasons for this is because Scotch eggs were not actually invented in Scotland, but in Yorkshire in England in the 19th Century. Regardless, go ahead and order it if you see it! Try it at the World’s End on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
Bacon Butty or Bacon Roll
Take bacon, add bread, enjoy. Bacon in the UK and Ireland is a little different than in the US or in Canada. In Scotland, bacon is back bacon and is sometimes referred to as a rasher. It’s a little thicker, with a ribbon of fat around the edge. The bacon is placed on a fresh roll and served with either ketchup or brown sauce. It can be served as a simple breakfast, but are often served as snacks at cafes. This is no nonsense Scottish cuisine.
I always associated toasted sandwiches with our trips to Ireland. It’s a classic lunch always on offer at Eric’s aunt’s house. It’s common to find toasted sandwiches on cafe menus in Scotland too.
Toasted sandwiches are like a hyped-up grilled cheese, usually made with cheese and some sort of meat. We stopped at Square Roots Cafe in Keith just before our Chivas whisky blending experience at Strathisla Distillery. I tried a cured ham hock and locally produced cheddar cheese toasted sandwich. Eric went for the haggis and cheese! It was creamy and delicious. This is just another way of me telling folks to eat haggis while in Scotland!
This may not be a famous Scottish food, but perhaps it should be! Cullen Skink is a creamy Scottish soup made with smoked haddock (white fish), potatoes, and leeks. I was hesitant to try Cullen Skink the first time when we visited Edinburgh because neither of us enjoy smoked foods. But, generally, the smokiness is fairly mild. In the end, this is a Scottish version of clam chowder and is lovely.
Cullen Skin originated in Cullen, Scotland, along the Moray coastline in Northeastern Scotland. We actually visited Cullen while in Moray Speyside. It’s a petite coastal town with a view over the sea. This is definitely a must eat food to try in Scotland and Cullen is the place to eat it.
Where To Eat Cullen Skink In Scotland
It’s not hard to find Cullen Skink on pub menus in Glasgow or Edinburgh. It’s even better to eat at its home in Cullen. Visit Lily’s Kitchen Cafe or the Cullen Bay Hotel for award-winning Cullen Skink. They’ve each been voted best Cullen Skink in the past. Our favorite, though, was the Bothy Bistro in Burghead. Burghead is a little farther west than Cullen along the Moray Coast. It’s a lovely little cafe with some darn flavorful Cullen Skink.
Leek And Tattie Soup
It’s no surprise that soup is a common thing to eat in Scotland considering the weather. Another popular soup is leek and tattie soup. Tattie is almost a slang version of the word potato, so this is a potato and leek soup. It’s not a cream based soup like Cullen Skink, but is hearty and flavorful.
Traditional Scottish Meals And Main Dishes
Even though many of these starters are pretty hefty, and soups like Cullen Skink can be hearty enough for a meal, there are other dishes to eat in Scotland. Here, we share our list of Scottish foods to eat as main courses as well as specific types of meat and seafood to look for on Scottish restaurant menus.
Scotch Pie Or Meat Pies
I have a soft spot for meat pies. There’s something about tasty tender meat and gravy all cooked in a warm pastry crust. Some of the most popular varieties include minced meat or steak and Scotch ale. They can be served on their own as a snack or with mashed potatoes or chips (fries).
Where To Eat Meat Pies In Scotland
The best one we ate was at a butcher in Aberlour in Moray Speyside called SA Mackie Butcher. It was the perfect light lunch between whisky distillery visits along the River Spey. This is the perfect example of trying to eat local and cheap. Every village has a butcher, so pop your head in and see if they have warmed meat pies. This is one of the easiest things to eat in Scotland. It’s also one of the best pub foods in Scotland. Find them at even simple pubs for a quick and easy lunch. In Edinburgh, try the steak and ale pie at The Royal McGregor on The Royal Mile.
Bangers And Mash
As much as I generally associate this dish with England or Ireland, we did see this on a few Scottish menus. Bangers are sausages and mash is mashed potatoes. This has always been a comfort food for me when it comes to Irish pub food.
I ate a tasty version of this at the Copper Dog in Craigellachie in Moray Speyside. Their house “Copper Dog” sausage was mixed with a local black pudding. So tasty. Some restaurants will offer different types of sausages including ones made from local venison, or deer meat.
This is the Scottish version of colcannon in Ireland, a version of potatoes mixed with cabbage and onions. Sometimes they will add a little bacon in there too. Rumbledethumps are normally served alongside traditional Scottish main dishes. I was thrilled to try this in Scotland, in part just because I wanted to say the word Rumbledethumps. Imagine my surprise when it was on the menu our first night in Moray, served alongside some tasty pork sausages. It’s a hefty side dish, but very good.
For salmon-lovers, there is no better place to eat than Scotland. At one point Scottish salmon was the UK’s number one export. Normally it is served smoked, sliced, and served with capers. Again, we are not big smoked food fans, but the salmon we ate during our trip to Moray Speyside was not heavily smoked, so it was nice and refreshing. In Edinburgh or Glasgow, try salmon sushi at a Japanese restaurant for a unique way to try local, fresh salmon.
Lamb Or Gigot Of Lamb
When driving around Scotland, it’s impossible to miss all the sheep grazing on the farms and hillsides. Anytime you see sheep like this, order the lamb! You know it’s local. Surprisingly, it’s not very common to see lamb on a Scottish restaurant menu. Most of the lamb is actually exported. Instead, the locals tend to eat more venison. Look for lamb chops or a leg of mutton called gigot. They are normally served with seasonal vegetables or as a Sunday roast.
Lamb Or Beef Stew
Another way to eat lamb is in a traditional lamb stew. Or, you might see beef stew on a menu. It doesn’t get more traditional than this. Chunks of lamb or beef in a thick sauce, often with onions or carrots. Eric enjoyed a stew topped with mashed potatoes. In Moray Speyside I had a beef stew topped with barley, which is also common because of the barley produced in Scotland. Barley is one of the three ingredients used to make whisky.
In addition to seeing loads of sheep while driving through the Scotland countryside, you also might see deer as well. We visited the Glenrinnes Estate to visit the Eight Lands Distillery where they produce artisan and organic gin and vodka. Before our gin tasting we took a little tour of their land in a 4×4. We found a large herd of red deer, including a couple of beautiful stags. It was great to see the deer up close.
The large deer population in Scotland is why venison is so popular, even more so than lamb. It’s a lean meat and can be prepared in many ways. Eric enjoyed a venison “meatloaf” wrapped in pancetta at Knockomie Hotel just outside of Forres in Moray Speyside.
Aberdeen Angus Beef
Aberdeen Angus is a breed of black cow that produces some of the best beef in the world. They are bred mostly in Aberdeenshire and the surrounding area in eastern Scotland. It’s not terribly common to find Aberdeen Angus on Scottish restaurant menus. The cows are actually relatively small and production is somewhat limited. If you see it, order it. It’s a real treat.
Fish And Chips – A Fish Supper
One of the most popular foods in Scotland and throughout the UK and Ireland has to be fish and chips. The main difference is that in Scotland the dish is usually known as a fish supper or a fish dinner.
Almost every village has a chipper or a takeaway. This makes fish and chips one of the easiest things to eat while road tripping around Scotland. Almost every pub or restaurant serving traditional Scottish food will also offer a full platter of fish and chips, normally with peas or mushy peas. We visited Fochabers Fish Bar in Fochabers Scotland, which was awarded the number one fish and chip takeaway in 2017. It’s a takeaway worth driving to. This is also one of the most common dishes to see on Scotland restaurant and pub menus. We ate a nice version at the Knockomie Hotel in Forres.
Langoustine And Lobster
I love traveling and enjoying super local seafood and fish. At many places to eat in Scotland you will not only see local seafood, but they will inform guests where in Scotland the seafood came from. Much of the coastline of Moray, in the Northeast of Scotland, is home to lobster and langoustine fishermen. We enjoyed a little of both. At the Dowans Hotel in Aberlour I enjoyed a half lobster as well as a starter of langoustine topped with red peppercorns. We also tried an interesting langoustine and crab cooked in white wine, garlic, and chili served over linguine at the Bothy Bistro in Burghead. It was the perfect example of using fresh, local ingredients in more international and contemporary preparations.
Mussels And Scallops
Both mussels and scallops come from the Shetland Islands, just north of mainland Scotland. It is known for its cold-water seafood. Try looking for scallops served with black pudding. Or, mussels are popular as well, often served in their juices or with garlic and white wine.
As much as black pudding is part of a full Scottish breakfast, it’s great to eat at other times of day. We’ve been eating black pudding in Ireland for years. That said, the black pudding we ate in Scotland was some of the best we’ve ever eaten. Part of this is because, particularly in Moray Speyside, most restaurants and cafes will get their black pudding from a local butcher. Black pudding is a blood-based sausage, but it is mixed with grains and such to make it taste more like sausage than blood. Trust me on this!
Where To Eat Black Pudding In Scotland
In Moray Speyside, black pudding is often served with grilled scallops. I had no idea how well black pudding paired with scallops. There’s something about the creaminess of the pudding and the texture of the scallops that goes so perfect together. The best we ate was at the Dory, a new double-decker bus takeaway on the Moray Coastline in Hopeman. It’s part of the West Beach Caravan Park. I couldn’t believe the quality of the food they were putting out at this beach-front, double-decker bus. Certainly not your typical takeaway.
You can also find black pudding breaded and deep-fried at the chipper. If you are nervous about trying it, eating it deep-fried might help. At the Dowans Hotel we enjoyed a fairly sophisticated version of black pudding at breakfast. They served their Dowan Stack, which is sort of like a suped-up Eggs Benedict, with a slice of black pudding in the middle.
The Cumbraes are a pair of islands located in Western Scotland. The waters that surround the islands are known for their oysters. If you see Cumbrae oysters on a menu, you know that they are local!
There is something a little romantic about the tradition of the Sunday Roast. In Ireland, Eric’s aunt often makes up a Sunday roast of pork or beef, along with potatoes and vegetables, all topped with a heavy dose of gravy. We sit around the table, with the cousins and their kids, and catch up on the week.
In the UK, though, the Sunday Roast is even more of a tradition, now one that means friends or family heading out for lunch at a pub or restaurant. Although the meat will vary between various versions of beef or pork, they are normally served with roasted vegetables and potatoes and the famous Yorkshire pudding.
Where To Eat Sunday Roast In Scotland
Look for a Sunday Roast at pubs or restaurants. Normally they will have a sign outside. Or ask at your hotel for a recommendation. I do recommend making a reservation ahead of time and going early. Some pubs only serve Sunday Roasts until they run out.
Traditional Scottish Breakfast Items And Pastries
There are a handful of breads, pastries, and breakfast items that should also be tried in Scotland. Most hotels and B&Bs will offer a pretty extensive breakfast included in the rate. If you are staying in a tourist apartment or Airbnb, then look for these dishes at bakeries, cafes, or hotel pubs.
I simply love scones. I am unconcerned that they are more British than Scottish. We eat scones as much as possible when in the UK or Ireland. They are best served warm with clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream is a thick, sweetened cream that could be considered similar to a whipped cream in the US. Or, they can be sliced in half and topped with raspberries and strawberries to make a berry shortcake. They are more often served with tea but can also be served for breakfast.
Scottish Bannock Quick Bread
Bannock is a traditional Scottish bread, considered a quick bread because it doesn’t require yeast to be leavened. It’s made in a skillet and served on the side of many main courses or during breakfast. It’s made with grains or oats. Although it can be found at grocery stores and bakeries, it’s best served warm with melted butter or honey.
Full Scottish Breakfast
A hearty breakfast whether it is called an Irish fry, a full English, or a full Scottish. This traditional Scottish breakfast is a perfect way to start the day, even if it might not be a good idea to do it every day.
It’s a mix of a fried egg, black pudding, sausage, rashers, and tattie scones (potato scones). Often times it also might include a bit of haggis along with a grilled tomato and grilled mushrooms. I assume most Scottish doctors wouldn’t recommend this traditional Scottish speciality for an every day routine, but it’s okay to knock one back once or twice during a visit to Scotland. Most Scottish hotels and B&Bs will offer a full Scottish each morning, included with your room price.
Scotland Food And Drink Pro Tip
I love a full Scottish once in a while, but it is generally way too much food for me. Most hotels and B&Bs will allow you to pick and choose what you want from a full Scottish. Some mornings I ordered a fried egg, a sausage, and a tattie scone. That was more than enough for me.
Ordering porridge at breakfast made me feel at least a little more healthy than ordering a full Scottish. It’s the perfect way to start the day in a cold and wet environment. Most hotels and B&Bs will offer porridge, perhaps served with bananas, honey, or forrest berries. The portions can be pretty large, so by the end I was ordering a half portion.
Scottish Treats and Desserts
As much as we generally are not big dessert people, there are several Scottish desserts and treats that we tried. Some of these are desserts served after meals. Others are just little snacks that can be eaten all day or along with Scottish tea or Scottish drinks.
When it comes to asking what is Scotland famous for, there is one thing that many people might associate with England that is quintessentially Scottish. Shortbread is a super-buttery cookie that has been around since the 1700s. Shortbread is sold in all sorts of flavors including chocolate chip, butterscotch, salted caramel, and more. It’s best enjoyed dunked in a little tea with milk.
I’ve been eating Walkers Shortbread for years and had no idea that it was Scottish. Walkers shortbread is headquartered in Moray Speyside, in the village of Aberlour. We also met Mr. Walker at a gin festival nearby. When we visited the Walker company store we could smell all the sweets as soon as we opened the door to the car. Even more special, we visited Maclean’s Highland Bakery, a family owned bakery specializing in shortbread and oatcakes as well as other Scottish pastries for the local market. We walked the bakery floor and that smelled even better! You can buy Maclean’s Shortbread on Amazon too.
Tunnock’s Tea Cakes
I have to admit that before our latest trip to Scotland I had never heard of these traditional Scottish sweets. Tunnock’s is a brand of Scottish cakes and sweets that’s been sold in supermarkets for generations. The original Tunnock’s Tea cake is a round biscuit, topped with soft marshmallow fluff, and covered in chocolate. It tastes like an American mallomar. They also produce a wide range of traditional Scottish cakes including coconut covered sugar wafers and snow-balls, which are also covered in coconut.
Scottish Food And Drink Pro Tip
When we first started traveling for food, we often focused only on finding dishes to eat at restaurants. Then we learned that a lot of the best dishes were things we could buy at a supermarket. This gives us a real insight into what the locals eat. This was the same with some of the Scottish specialities. Stop at a supermarket and check out the range of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes on offer.
This has to be one of the most authentic Scottish foods. Scottish tablet can most simply be compared to fudge, but it has differences. Tablet are traditional Scottish desserts made with sugar, milk, butter, and condensed milk. They are more crumbly than fudge but just as sweet. Some places make flavored tablet. This includes tablet flavored with whisky, Scottish gin, or other Scottish drinks. It’s popular around the country. Look for it at little sweet shops and bakeries.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
This is another dish that is probably more British than Scottish, but it is so good that I don’t care. Even if not a Scottish pudding, if you like warm and sweet cake topped with cream or ice cream, then sticky toffee pudding is for you. It’s a dark, dense, cake, served warm and topped with a toffee sauce. I rarely leave room for dessert when dining out, but I always save room for sticky toffee pudding. In Edinburgh, try it at The Last Drop on Grassmarket.
Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert sort of like a trifle. It’s made by layering fresh raspberries and cream along with Scottish oats and whisky. We enjoyed a slightly elevated version at the Dowans Hotel , where they layered raspberry cream between light and crispy wafers. This is one of my favorite types of dessert, made with fruits and cream.
Other Traditional Scottish Foods And Dishes
There are a handful of other dishes that I wanted to eat in Scotland but we didn’t have the time to track them down. Some of these are very typical Scottish foods but are often found cooked at home rather than at restaurants or pubs. One of these is the dish known as stovies. Stovies are traditional working-man’s meals made with minced meat and seasonal vegetables. Or they can be served as a side dish.
Howtowdie (that is not a typo) is a fowl or chicken made with spinach and runny poached eggs. Or try Scottish Kedgeree, which is a fish and rice dish normally served for breakfast. It’s made with smoked fish, similar to the Cullen Skink, along with rice, eggs, and parsley. In the fall, look for grouse or other game birds. On the dessert side, I’ve been hearing about battered and deep-fried Mars bars for years. We only saw them in Glasgow at a fish and chip shop and I was so full I couldn’t even think about eating one. If you see it, and have the same, go ahead and try it!
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Scotland Food Blog – What To Eat In Scotland
Scotland is known for its nature and stunning scenery, but it should also be a destination for food and drink travelers. We’ve eaten very well in Scotland over the years and look forward to learning more about the food in this corner of the world.