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Scottish cuisine is the specific set of cooking traditions and practices associated with Scotland. It shares much with wider British cuisine but has distinctive attributes and recipes of its own, as a result of foreign and local influences both ancient and modern. Traditional Scottish dishes exist alongside international foodstuffs brought about by migration.

Scotland's natural larder of game, dairy, fish, fruit, and vegetables is the integral factor in traditional Scots cooking, with a high reliance on simplicity and a lack of spices from abroad, which were often very expensive. While many inveterate dishes such as Scotch broth are considered healthy, many common dishes are rich in fat, and may contribute to the high rates of heart disease and obesity in the country.

In recent times greater importance has been placed on the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, but many Scots, particularly those of low incomes, continue to have extremely poor diets, which contributes to Scotland's relatively high mortality rate from coronary heart disease.[1]

Despite this, Scottish cuisine is enjoying a renaissance. As of 2009, fourteen restaurants with Michelin stars served traditional or fusion cuisine made with local ingredients (15 Michelin stars in total). In most towns, Chinese and Indian take-away restaurants exist along with traditional fish and chip shops. Larger towns and cities offer cuisine ranging from Thai and Japanese to Mexican, Polish or Turkish.



Scotland, with its temperate climate and abundance of indigenous game species, has provided a cornucopia of food for its inhabitants for millennia. The wealth of seafood available on and off the coasts provided the earliest settlers with their sustenance. Agriculture was introduced, with primitive oats quickly becoming the staple.

In common with many mediæval European neighbours, Scotland was a feudal state for a greater part of the second millennium. This put certain restrictions on what one was allowed to hunt, therefore to eat. In the halls of the great men of the realm, one could expect venison, boar, various fowl and songbirds, expensive spices (pepper, cloves, cinnamon, etc.), as well as the meats of domesticated species. From the journeyman down to the lowest cottar, meat was an expensive commodity, and would be consumed rarely. For the lower echelons of Mediæval Scots, it was the products of their animals rather than the beasts themselves which provided nourishment. This is evident today in traditional Scots fare, with its emphasis on dairy produce. It would appear that the average meal would consist of a pottage of herbs and roots, (and when available some meat or stock for flavouring) bread and cheese when possible.

Before Sir Walter Raleigh's introduction of the potato to the British Isles, the Scots' main sources of carbohydrate was gained from bread made from oats or barley. Wheat was generally difficult to grow because of the damp climate. Food thrift was evident from the earliest times, with excavated middens displaying little evidence of anything but the toughest bones. All parts of an animal were used.

The mobile nature of Scots society in the past required food that would not spoil quickly. It was common to carry a small bag of oatmeal that could be transformed into a basic porridge or oatcakes using a girdle (griddle). It is theorised that Scotland's national dish, haggis, originated in a similar way: A small amount of offal or low-quality meat, carried in the most inexpensive bag available, a sheep or pig's stomach. It has also been suggested that this dish was introduced by Norse invaders who were attempting to preserve their food during the long journey from Scandinavia.[2]


French Influence

During the Late Middle Ages and early modern era, the French cuisine started to play a role in Scottish cookery due to the cultural exchanges brought by the "Auld Alliance";[3] and especially during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary, on her return to Scotland, brought an entourage of French staff who are considered responsible for revolutionising Scots cooking and for some of Scotland's unique food terminology. .

French derived cooking terms

"Ashet", Assiette-a large platter.[4]
"Cannel", Cannelle-Cinnamon
"Collop", from Escalope
"Gigot" (pronounced /ˈdʒɪɡət/) Leg of Mutton - Gigot.[4]
"Howtowdie", Hétoudeau-a boiling fowl (Old French).[4]

With the advent of the sporting estate and enclosure in the 18th century, harvesting Scotland's larder became an industry. The railways further expanded the scope of the market, with Scots' Grouse at a premium (as today), on English Metropolitan menus shortly after the 12th of August.

20th and 21st centuries

Scotland, in common with the other parts of the United Kingdom, suffered during the 20th century. Rationing during the two World Wars, as well as large scale industrial agriculture, limited the diversity of food available to the public. Imports from the British Empire and beyond did, however, introduce new foods to the Scottish public. But processed foods have become more and more popular, particularly among the youth, e.g., the schoolchildren of Glasgow have been reported as eating a large amount of processed foods.[5]

Recently there seems to be a resurgence in traditional restaurants, gastro-pubs are abounding, and farmers' markets increasing their scope, not to mention the influence New Scots have had on the national palate.

During the 19th and 20th centuries there was large scale immigration to Scotland from Italy, and later from the Middle East, Pakistan and India. These cultures have influenced Scots cooking dramatically. The Italians reintroduced the standard of fresh produce, and the later comers introduced spice. With the enlargement of the European Union in the early years of the 21st century, there has been an increase in the population of Eastern European descent, from Poland in particular. It is too early to assess the impact that this will have on the future of Scots cookery, but a number of speciality restaurants and delicatessens catering for the various new immigrants have opened in the larger towns and cities.

Traditional Scottish foods


Cullen Skink
Baud bree
Cock-a-leekie soup
Game soup
Hairst Bree (or Hotch potch)
Partan bree
Scotch broth

Fish and Seafood

Arbroath smokies
Cabbie claw (Cabelew)
Ceann Cropaig
Crappit heid
Eyemouth pales
Finnan haddie
Smoked salmon
Tatties and Herring

Meat, Poultry and Game

Ayrshire bacon
Black pudding, Red pudding and White pudding
Boiled Gigot of Mutton or Lamb
Forfar Bridie
Howtowdie with Drappit eggs
Kilmeny Kail
Mince and tatties
Mutton ham
Pottit heid
Potted hough
Roast Aberdeen Angus beef
Roast Haunch of Venison
Roast Grouse
Roast Woodcock/Snipe
Solan goose
Scotch egg
Scotch pie
Square sausage


Curly Kail
Neeps and Tatties (Swede and Potato)
Tattie scones





Dairy and Cheese

Bishop Kennedy
Ayrshire Dunlop
Isle of Mull Cheddar
Lanark Blue
Loch Arthur
Strathdon Blue
Dunsyre Blue
Galloway Cheddar

Puddings and Desserts

Burnt Cream
Apple Frushie
Blaeberry pie
Carrageen Moss
Clootie Dumpling
Hatted Kit
Marmalade pudding
Tipsy Laird
lava eggs

Cakes, Breads and Confectioneries

Abernethy biscuits
Berwick cockles
Black bun
Caramel shortbread
Dundee cake
Edinburgh rock
Fatty Cutties
Festy cock
Hawick balls
Jethart Snails
Moffat toffee
Pan drops
Pan loaf
Petticoat tails
Plain loaf
Puff Candy
Scots Crumpets
Selkirk Bannock, variations include Yetholm Bannock
Soor plooms


Dundee Marmalade
Rowan jelly
Spiced plums

Scottish beverages


(see- Scottish beer)
90 shilling ale
80 shilling ale
70 shilling ale
India Pale ale
Atholl Brose
Ginger wine
Het pint
Heather ale
Scotch ale and beer
Scotch mist- a cocktail containing mainly whisky

Non Alcoholic

Irn Bru
Red Kola

Fast food

Scotland's reputation for coronary and related diet-based diseases is a product of the wide consumption of fast food since the latter part of the twentieth century. Fish and chip shops remain extremely popular, and indeed the battered and fried haggis supper remains a favourite; they have been joined in more recent years by outlets selling pizzas, Turkish-style kebabs (though generally with no resemblance to the original Anatolian dish), pakoras and other convenience foodstuffs. Scotland, and the west coast in particular, is notorious for the amount of deep-fried food consumed, and for being the home of such dishes as the deep-fried pizza and deep fried Mars bar. Deep fried döner kebab have also become notorious in Glasgow. An extreme example of this style of food is the Munchy Box[6]

In addition to independent fast-food outlets, in the sixties American-style burger bars and other restaurants such as Wimpy were introduced, and in the eighties, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken appeared in Scotland.

Notes and references

  1. ^ David Eyre. "Scotland: Heart of the matter", BBC News Online, 2004-04-30
  2. ^ MacSweens of Edinburgh-"Haggis History"., (accessed 23 October 2006)
  3. ^ Gail Kilgore - "The Auld Alliance and its Influence on Scottish Cuisine" (accessed 29 July 2006)
  4. ^ a b c Brown, Catherine (1989). Chapter 9: "Culinary Interchange". In: Scottish Cookery. Glasgow: Richard Drew Publishing. ISBN 0-86267-248-1.
  5. ^ Scottish executive publications-What Children eat.
  6. ^ - "What is a Munchy Box?"., (accessed 27 October 2009)

External links

  • Food Stories — Explore a century of revolutionary change in UK food culture on the British Library's Food Stories website


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