Scottish Foods to TryGuide to 30 Popular Scottish Food and Drinks you Have to Try
Scotland boasts some of the most visually stunning landscapes in the world. But, the unique geography offers much more than just beautiful photos and walks. With hundreds of miles of coastline and acres of prime farmland, the abundance of top quality Scottish foods on our doorstep is second to none.
Here in Scotland, we proudly produce some of the finest quality meats like beef, lamb and venison. Plus, with over 10,000 miles of coastline, there are also scallops, langoustines, salmon and plenty of other seafood to boot.
Read on as we take a deep dive into some of the most traditional foods of Scotland. We share what to eat in Scotland; where these top Scottish food and drinks came from; and what they really are.
Whether you’re going for a city-break in historic Edinburgh or camping in the beautiful Highlands, you’ll find an amazing array of Scottish foods to try. This is our complete list of Scottish foods, Scottish drinks and where to find them.
Once you’ve tried them, why not check out our list of the best Scottish cookbooks to bring these great ingredients to life at home?
Scottish Meat Dishes
“There is no more unfavorably reviled food on Earth than haggis. Its ingredients are in fact no more unusual, or bizarre, or unappetizing, than any hot dog you ever ate. How many anal glands are there in a chicken nugget?” – Anthony Bourdain
Haggis is comfortably the most famous and traditional Scottish food on Earth. It is so synonymous with Scotland, that it has earned its crown as our national dish.
But, what is it made from, I hear you ask? It’s chopped sheep’s pluck, heart, liver, kidney and lungs, mixed with oats and spices then baked in the sheep’s stomach. Nowadays it’s usually a synthetic case rather than sheep’s stomach but the rest remains the same. The ingredients put people off but if you can put that out of your mind, you’re in for a treat. What does haggis taste like? Well, it’s rich, spicy and delicious.
You can also eat it in so many ways! The classic is with mashed turnips and potatoes – known as neeps and tatties. But, we also get creative with some alternative ways. Us Scots love our fried food, so you can have it battered and deep-fried at the chippy (fish and chips takeaway). Other popular ways are: in little breaded bonbons; mixed through a sauce; stuffed into chicken breasts (chicken Balmoral); or in risotto.
To make the most of the food in Scotland, no trip would be complete if you didn’t try haggis, even if only a little bit. It’s bursting with flavour and you might surprise yourself and find out you enjoy it!
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You’ll notice as you start looking for the items on this list, that almost all of these Scottish foods can be found in pie form. We love a pie in Scotland. For the king of all the pies though, it has to be the steak pie.
Rich gravy, tender slow-cooked beef and pastry. It’s food perfection.
It’s also the standard New Year’s Day family lunch. Everyone is hungover so they need meat, gravy and pastry – and lots of it! If you go into a Scottish supermarket in between Christmas and New Year the shelves will be filled to the brim with steak pies.
The best pies will come from a butcher if you’re cooking one at home. Out and about you want a gastropub type environment to make sure you get the best experience possible.
Be careful though – a Scotch Pie is not the same as a Steak Pie. The former is made with double-crust pastry as opposed to puff pastry used in steak pie. Often a steak pie will only have pastry as a lid, rather than being fully encased.
Black Pudding is another example of the Scots loving their offal. It is also known as Blood Pudding in different parts of the world.
What is black pudding, I hear you cry. Well, it’s a deliciously seasoned combination of pork blood; pork fat or beef suet; onion; and either oatmeal or groats (oat or barley). Don’t let the blood put you off, good quality black pudding like Stornoway Black Pudding is not to be missed.
You will find it on most Traditional Scottish Breakfast plates. Alternatively, a classic pairing is with Scottish scallops, deep-fried at the chippy, or you may even find it in a salad because that’s we roll in Scotland.
Staying with the theme of game, we next have venison. Red Deer roam across the Highlands, these aren’t the piddly little Roe deer you see in England but the 200kg beasts you think of when you summon an image of deer.
You will see venison year-round on many menus, more prominently the further north you go. Some will be Roe Deer, these are lighter in colour and have a delicate flavour. By comparison, Red Deer is much darker and gamier in flavour.
Venison does not come cheap, again each is shot especially. But perfectly cooked venison loin is wonderous.
You can go deer stalking in Scotland which is considerably cheaper than grouse shooting, but still a very expensive experience. You can have a couple of days deer stalking for around £800 per person.
Scotland has a superb selection of meat and seafood. The lamb in Scotland is so good that the Michelin star restaurant I worked at in Cumbria used Scottish lamb on the menu as it was higher quality than the local offering. It was on the menu as “Cumbrian” but that’s a whole other thing.
The wide-open spaces of the Scottish Highlands are perfect terrain for sheep to run around happily until we decide to eat them. Slow roasted leg, stewed shoulder or beautifully pink racks of lamb grace many a restaurant menu and is something not to be missed!
Though not exclusive to Scotland, the Sunday Roast definitely deserves to be on the list of Scottish foods to try.
Roasted meat (chicken, lamb and beef are the most common) is served with crispy potatoes, root vegetables and lashings of gravy. Plus some Yorkshire puddings, if your Mum is from Yorkshire like Matt’s. What more could you ask for?
Traditionally it was a large family meal to be eaten after church on Sundays, now it can be found in many forms. From buffet-style carveries to pub lunches all the way to fine dining with tableside carving.
Too much whisky of a Saturday night? A roast will sort you out in no time.
Scotland may lag behind other countries in terms of size or quantity of beef, but the quality has always been the focus. With Aberdeen Angus, Galloway and Highland cows all top meat producing breeds, Scotland is a steak lover’s dream.
There is also the Highland Wagyu farm which produces Wagyu beef that has been compared to Kobe in quality, and sadly also in price.
There are less dry rubs and sauces used on steaks in Scotland compared to the US or Argentina. Instead, a more French style of cooking is used, allowing the beef to be the star of the show.
There are plenty of fantastic farm shops and local butchers where you can buy some phenomenal steaks. Perfect in the kitchen or for a barbecue if you’re camping too.
The most prized game bird in the UK is the grouse. It’s a small, quick bird most famous for being ‘the face’ of Famous Grouse whisky. They live amongst the heather in the Highlands and are hunted for sport.
The meat is served pink and has a light game flavour at the start of the season, the “glorious” 12th August. As the season progresses, so does the taste. It gets stronger until the season ends in early December. It’s only possible to get grouse during this period. As they are all shot, you also run the risk of an added ingredient – a piece of bullet – in your meal.
They are delicious just roasted with a bit of bacon, usually one bird per person. They are expensive so you’ll probably only see them in higher-end restaurants and speciality butchers.
It is possible to go grouse shooting but it is incredibly expensive, running into thousands of pounds per person or “gun”.
Attend a wedding in Scotland and, once everyone needs to rest their dancing feet, you will most likely be served up stovies. (Or rolls with tattie scones and lorne sausage).
Up and down the country recipes vary slightly – everyone has their own. It literally means “bits from the stove”. The leftovers from a Sunday Roast would be thrown together to make this traditional Scottish dish. So, elements would usually include meat, mashed potatoes and vegetables. Many will use corned beef as the meat element.
Outside of restaurants or cafes with very traditional menus, you won’t often see stovies. It is more of an at-home dish. It is also significantly more popular on the East Coast than on the West. As it was made from leftovers, it is often considered a meal for the poor. Even today, some will turn their noses up in misguidede snobbery at a bowl of stovies.
Britain as a whole has benefited hugely from immigration from the colonies. I am incredibly grateful to the Indian people who have come to the UK and improved our food scene endlessly, as well as doing lots of other equally wonderful things of course, by opening restaurants.
Tikka Masala has contested origins, as most things do. However, I choose to believe the lovely story that has it starting in Glasgow meaning it absolutely has to be one of the best Scottish foods to try.
The story starts in the 1970s in the Glasgow-based Scottish curry house, Shish Mahal, which boasted a cult following. It is said that a customer complained his chicken tikka was too dry and sent it back to the kitchen. As luck would have it, Mr Ali (the owner) was on a liquid-based diet at the time due to a stomach ulcer. On hearing this, he decided to add some of his spiced tomato soup to the dish.
With customers returning time and again to enjoy this creation, the Chicken Tikka Masala was born. Most of the Indian restaurants in Scotland are Northern Indian or Punjabi restaurants, and almost all feature this curry on their menu. A must-try if you’re visiting.
Top Traditional Scottish Breakfasts
Full Scottish Breakfast
The lynchpin of any healthy diet is a solid breakfast. The full Scottish breakfast differs slightly from the full English in a couple of ways.
There is the sausage, bacon, mushrooms, beans, egg and black pudding which normally appear on both sides of the border. Plus, a full Scottish breakfast will normally have “tattie scone” which is a flat triangle of potato with flour, butter and salt. It’s fried until crispy. And maybe there will be some haggis too (white pudding).
Something you will see in Scotland is lorne or “square” sausage. This is more of a trapezium shape, but no one is saying that in Scotland without taking a beating. Normally it’s an option on a breakfast roll. It tastes very different to pork link sausages so this isn’t purely a shape option.
With your breakfast, you may be asked if you want “brown” or “red” sauce. Brown is HP brown sauce and red is tomato ketchup.
Sometimes the best Scottish foods are the simplest.
It’s hard to describe a crumpet. It’s like bread but with holes in it and a uniquely springy texture. When making a crumpet, bubbles form in the batter when it is being proved. Then, when it is cooked, the bubbles expand which creates the identifying holes.
The best way to enjoy a crumpet has to be toasted with loads of salted butter on top.
Scottish Foods to Try from the Sea
Next is a slightly less famous Scottish delicacy. Although it’s one of the very few that has protected status under EU law (for now), it is the Arbroath Smokie.
Arbroath is a small fishing town on the North East Coast of Scotland, just to the north of Dundee. Although the Smokie itself originates in the village of Auchmithie (Ok-mith-ee), a few miles further north.
Arbroath Smokie’s are hot-smoked haddock. You can buy them on their own to cook at home or you might find them included in other Scottish dishes. When dining out, the menu will always mention when they use Arbroath Smokies, as they are considered the gold standard of smoked haddock in Scotland.
They salt the fish overnight and tie them in pairs. They are then smoked over hot oak fires to give the intense smokey flavour they are famous for.
The name may not be one that inspires images of delicious food, but Cullen Skink is one of the most ubiquitous Scottish foods you’ll find.
It is a soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. Traditionally, “Finnan Haddie” was the name given to the haddock used.
This soup originates from Cullen in Moray, in the North of Scotland. Hearty and bold, it is served with warm bread, as all good soups should be. On the rare occasion you find yourself caught in some suspect Scottish weather, a bowl of Cullen Skink will set you right in no time.
Finnan Haddie is similar to Arbroath Smokies in that they are both smoked haddock. However, Finnan Haddie is cold-smoked rather than hot-smoked.
Two villages, one in Aberdeenshire in the North East of Scotland and one in Moray in the North, claim to be the home for this process.
The town in Aberdeenshire is called Findon, known locally as Finnan – hence the claim on Finnan Haddie (haddie being the haddock). The Moray village makes a bit more sense as Finnan Haddie is a key ingredient of Cullen Skink, which comes from this area. But most likely, it has been made in both for hundreds of years.
You’ll see them in supermarkets as “undyed smoked haddock”. On breakfast menus in hotels it will usually be served with a poached egg and some foam of the milk they are poached in. It is also used to make Kedgeree, an Indian dish of rice, fish and eggs enjoyed for breakfast; and another common use is in a fish pie.
Kippers can be placed under the same “Smoked Fish” banner as a few of the other items of this list. It is also another of the Scottish foods that are enjoyed at breakfast.
Kippers are whole herrings that have been butterflied, then cold-smoked over woodchips.
These would normally be smothered in butter and grilled or fried for a delicious breakfast. They are best not eaten where you’re staying as the smell tends to linger.
Kippers are certainly not an expensive treat. If it sounds a bit much for first thing in the morning – that’s what lazy brunches were designed for! They are really delicious and well worth trying if you haven’t before. Also, you need to eat them for your Scottish smoked fish bingo!
The fish supper is a British institution, some may even say it is the national dish of Britain. The history of fish and chips runs deeply, with influences from refugees.
Fish and chips, known in Scotland as a fish supper, is a must-have for anyone visiting Scotland. Whilst quality varies wildly, when it’s done right it’s glorious.
In Scotland, the fish you’ll get is haddock. Whereas, in England, you’ll get cod.
So why a supper? It’s the chips part. Anything from the chippy (chipper, chip shop, takeaway – take your pick!) that you want with chips is a supper. If you want it without chips, it’s just a single.
If you’re at a chippy and fancy one of the many other delights I recommend a “pizza crunch”. This is battered deep-fried pizza. Although not available at all chippys, it’s a crunchy, chewy, cheesy texture sensation. Battered haggis is always a great shout too. For that truly authentic experience, you need to get some curry sauce. Warning! Chip shop curry sauce stains EVERYTHING it touches – I have lost many good tops to curry sauce.
Make sure and get salt and vinegar on your order. If you’re in Edinburgh, you will be offered salt and sauce instead. The “sauce” is brown sauce mixed with vinegar and it is an acquired taste, to say the least. If you’re sceptical, ask if you can get some in a tub rather than splashed all over your dinner.
Scallops are a favourite of high-end Chefs around the world. Declaring your scallops are from Scotland, adds a certain level of prestige to your menu.
Hand-dived scallops – and they need to be hand-dived as dredging does incredible damage to the seabed – used to be unsellable 40 years ago. Now, Scottish fisherman pre-sell their catch to the best restaurants around the world. You will see “Orkney”, “Oban” or just “Scottish” Scallops on menus in Michelin starred restaurants the world over.
You can certainly eat them in Scotland for cheaper than in these places, but they still aren’t cheap, sadly. Oban is probably the best place to get them. They come straight off the boats and you’ll find many bistro-style restaurants with them on the menu much cheaper than at fancier establishment.
If you’re planning to cook at home, you need a smoking hot pan. Flash for just 45 seconds per side and you should have them juicy and perfect. Serve with peas and Stornoway black pudding for a classic pairing.
Norwegian Lobster is another name that Langoustines go by. They are like little lobsters which can grow up to 25cm in length. These are landed in the North Atlantic and exported globally for huge money.
Langoustines aren’t as expensive as lobsters or scallops, so a great choice to get your shellfish fix. If you’re happy to cook and shell them for yourself, you can find them at quite reasonable prices.
In terms of restaurant menus, again these will be at the pricier end of the spectrum. Plenty of places to eat in Scotland offer huge seafood platters with all the amazing Scottish produce which could be worth splashing out on for a chance to try everything.
Scottish Salmon is something we just take for granted these days. With the farms off the West coast and wild salmon caught in the fresh rivers, it is one of the most common Scottish foods.
The superior quality, texture and taste of Scottish Salmon mean it is sought after and celebrated around the world.
Smoked Salmon is one of our favourite Scottish foods to try at breakfast time. Other popular ways to eat it are in sandwiches and as a starter. You can find it in hot and cold-smoked varieties, offering subtle differences in the flavour.
Personally, I’m a fan of cold-smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and a glass of champagne. It’s the ultimate breakfast when you want something a little special. Maybe not an everyday breakfast, but definitely a great treat.
If you want to know how to perfectly sear fish, including Scottish Salmon, click here.
Best Scottish Desserts
Deep-Fried Mars Bar
Something you will definitely hear about if you spend any length of time in Scotland is the deep-fried Mars Bar.
This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The chocolatey treat, Mars Bar, is first chilled -chilling is essential so it doesn’t melt instantly in the fryer. It is then dipped in batter and deep-fried until crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle.
This sweet and savoury, crispy and gooey snack is so much better than it sounds on the surface. Although not recommended for anyone who is following any kind of diet plan.
I am incredibly biased as the deep-fried Mars bar is believed to have originated in my hometown of Stonehaven, just to the South of Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland. It is credited to John Davie who worked at The Haven fish and chip shop (now The Carron). The first mention of it was in the Aberdeen Evening Express in 1992.
If you are looking to try this cultural icon for yourself just be aware that not all Fish and Chip shops (Chippy or Chipper, depending on where you are in Scotland) will do this for you. They need to have a separate fryer for it as it can taint the oil.
The best accompaniment to a cuppa has to be the simple but delicious buttery shortbread. The buttery deliciousness is almost too good to do justice to with words alone.
Shortbread first appeared in a Scottish cookbook dated 1736. The recipe was amended over time and by 1850, a ratio of just butter, flour and sugar was being used – and is still used to this day.
The unique flavour comes from the quantity of butter used. In 1921, the British government legislated that at least 51% of the fat in shortbread must come from butter. This requirement only exists in the UK – so make sure you are getting the real deal if you buy elsewhere.
This is now such a staple of the biscuit aisle, that in 1980 the EU threatened to classify it as a “common biscuit”. This resulted in a battle, with the Scottish Association of Master Bakers arguing that the biscuit’s ancestry as a “flour confectionery” gave it additional status. The bakers won.
Now, I’m a firm believer that cheese should be enjoyed at all times of the day and in all situations. However, I understand that not everyone is quite as obsessed, preferring their cheese as an after-dinner delight.
Scotland may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of cheese. But you would be mistaken for dismissing it offhand.
Having access to some of the greatest cattle and sheep means great milk and outstanding cheese. Plus, the Scottish cheese and dairy industry is constantly growing so are sure to find a new favourite.
The old saying goes that in Scotland only a millionaire can afford to have chocolate AND caramel on their shortbread. It is a mildly offensive joke about Scottish people, but then the Scottish are known for their tongue-in-cheek humour too.
Millionaire’s (or caramel) shortbread is made of 3 layers. Shortbread on the bottom, caramel in the middle and chocolate on the top. The thickness of each layer will vary from baker to baker.
Shortbread is great, caramel is great, chocolate is great. There’s no way this can’t be absolutely great! You’ll find cafes selling monstrous chunks of the stuff across Scotland and it is a delicious treat.
Tablet is just about as good for you as something your doctor might prescribe.
This Scottish treat is kind of like fudge but it has a crumbly texture, not a chewy one. It’s the perfect combination of butter, sugar and condensed milk. So eating tablet will keep your dentist happy too!
If you’re lucky you might find a little square on the edge of your coffee at the end of a meal or in a cafe. When hunting out the best Scottish tablet, your best bet is a church coffee morning.
Tablet was first mentioned in the early 18th century in Scotland. It can be flavoured with whisky or vanilla, but most varieties don’t include flavouring as it’s delicious enough on its own.
Pronounced cran-a-can, Cranachan is one of the lesser-known Scottish foods. It was first eaten to celebrate the harvest, made after the raspberry harvest in June. It’s made with raspberries, cream, oats and whisky – combining many of the finest Scottish ingredients into one delicious dessert.
It’s not the most common dessert on menus across the country but if you can find some we highly recommend tucking in.
Top Scottish Drinks
So we said “Scottish foods” and this is technically a drink but it’s one of the nation’s most important food and drink products – in fact, it’s one of the most important products at all. So it has to be included here and if we’re being really picky, let’s just call it a “liquid lunch”.
There are around 140 distilleries in Scotland. How whisky is made at each varies, producing many different ages, barrel finishes and special editions. The choice can be quite dizzying.
Even if you aren’t a fan of whisky you really should try a couple – a finish you haven’t experienced before might surprise you. Lots of places will have staff who are able to help you navigate the intricacies of the nations most famous beverage.
The iconic bright orange soft drink of Scotland. It is affectionately referred to as a ‘tin of ginger’ and hailed as the cure for all ails, including a hangover.
Scotland is, allegedly, the only country in the world where the top-selling soft drink isn’t made by Coca-Cola.
A.G. Barr’s Irn-Bru is a Scottish institution, though it was recently ruined by a government tax on sugary drinks. This forced most drinks to lower their sugar content, increasing the sweetener levels to compensate. This resulted in national outcry and mourning for the Irn Bru from ‘back in my day’. It is still, however, a must-try.
The rumour told to children is that it turns your insides orange as there is so much food colouring in it. As it’s hard to find evidence to back this up, it sounds more like parents trying to warn their children against the fizzy drink!
If you want to try it in it’s original and best form then grab an Irn-Bru energy or a bottle of Irn-Bru 1901. The energy drink is very close to the original flavour and the Irn-Bru 1901 was specifically brought out to have the original flavour of the drink.
Continuing on a theme of “Scottish foods” to try in liquid form, we have gin.
Gin has been a huge part of British culture since it was brought over from Holland in the 17th Century. The drink has never been more popular and there are gin distilleries scattered across the whole of Scotland with an incredible array of different botanicals and styles. To work out which is the best gin for you, we have put together a list of our top Scottish gins.
Checking out a local distillery is a great day out too, particularly if you’re unlucky enough to have some rain whilst you’re visiting. Ditch the car and get fully involved in the tasting!
Tea is a British institution; there is no situation too grave that it can’t be solved by a good cup of tea.
There’s nothing that will upset a Brit more than being given a poorly made cuppa.
For us, the best way to enjoy tea is in the form of Afternoon Tea. Serving sandwiches, scones and cakes with your tea is very civilised and an excellent way to squeeze an extra meal into the day.
Afternoon tea can be quite pricey but you usually get a hefty amount of food and endless tea. Plus, in the unlikely event you can’t finish everything, they will box it up and you can save it for later!
The tea selection will usually be fairly comprehensive. This gives you the chance to try a few different teas and to glug through huge quantities of your favourite.
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The Plate Unknown is an educational food blog. Here we share information about world food culture, the origin of dishes from around the world, and tips for taking a food-focused trip.