10 of the Best Traditional Scottish Foods

The third part of our series on traditional British food takes a look at some of the best traditional food from Scotland.

Two glasses of cranachan - raspberries layered with cream and oats, on a tray lined with a pale blue cloth

Although I didn’t visit Scotland until I was in my 40s, I’ve visited several times since that first trip around Scotland by train. The friendly people, exciting cities and stunning countryside make me want to keep going back. And of course, so does the wonderful food and drink. 

The four countries of the United Kingdom have very distinct food traditions, so as you travel around the UK, there’s a wide variety of food and drink to try. This post will share just a sample of the delicious foods that await you on your visit to Scotland.

This is the third in a series of four posts about the traditional food of the United Kingdom. Once you’ve finished reading this post, why not discover some traditional British foods and traditional foods from Wales?

A delicious roast beef Sunday lunch served at the Kirkstyle Inn in Dunning, Scotland

Scottish Beef

The quality of Scottish beef is famous all around the world. So this is definitely something that you should try during your visit to Scotland.

A roast beef Sunday Lunch served with roast potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and rich gravy is a delicious way to showcase roast beef. The one pictured above was served at the Kirkstyle Inn in Dunning, and the beef absolutely melted in my mouth . If that’s not to your taste, why not go for a rich, warming casserole full of chunky pieces of beef or a prime steak cooked to perfection over charcoal. Whichever option you go for, the Scottish beef is sure to be excellent. 

A plate of venison with barley risotto, vegetables and a rich jus served at Portavadie, Scotland, UK

Scottish Venison

But if you fancy a change from beef, then you should definitely try the Scottish venison. The meat from the red deer that roam over the Highlands is low fat, incredibly tender and full of flavour. 

Much like Scottish beef, it can either be roasted, grilled or cooked low and slow for a delicious casserole. I enjoyed a fantastic piece of venison when I stayed at Portavadie on the Argyle coast. It was served perfectly rare on a bed of wilted spinach with barley risotto and a rich, meaty jus.

Locally caught scallops cooked in garlic butter and served with a crusty roll in Tarbert, Argyle (Scotland)

Scottish Seafood

Scotland’s coastline stretches over 6000 miles so it’s no surprise that Scottish people are also proud of their fishing industry. The waters of Scotland’s lochs and around the coastline contain over 65 species of seafood, both wild and farmed, making Scotland one of Europe’s biggest fishing countries.

Scotland is well known for its salmon and sea fish, but it’s also famous for its delicious seafood. The scallops above were pan fried in butter and garlic, a delicious treat that I enjoyed in the village of Tarbert.

So when you visit Scotland, be sure to sample some poached or smoked salmon, a delicious fish supper (that’s the name for fish and chips in Scotland) or the mussels and scallops that are reared on the West Coast. 

An Arbroath Smokie served with creamy scrambled eggs for breakfast at the Old Brewhouse, Arbroath (Scotland)

Arbroath Smokie

Another seafood delicacy that you must try when you visit Scotland is the Arbroath Smokie. This is a type of smoked haddock that is produced in the town of Arbroath. They still use the same methods to smoke the haddock that they’ve used since the 1800s! 

Only fish smoked in Arbroath can call itself an Arbroath Smokie, and it’s delicious served with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Cullen Skink

Scotland has fantastic regional cuisine and Cullen Skink is an excellent example of this. This is a thick, creamy soup that originates from the town of Cullen in the North of Scotland. It’s made with potatoes, onions and smoked haddock, and eating a bowl of this feels like a warm, comforting hug. 

Traditionally, Cullen Skink should be made with the traditionally cold-smoked haddock known as a finnan haddie. But nowadays you’re likely to see this soup made with any undyed smoked haddock.

A traditional cooked Full Scottish Breakfast, including bacon, egg, tomato, haggis, link sausage, square sausage and a tattie scone

Haggis

There can’t be many Scottish foods more famous than haggis. After all, how many foods have a poem written about them?

Haggis is a mix of sheep’s offal, spices, suet, oatmeal and stock which is traditionally cooked and served in a sheep’s stomach. If that doesn’t sound appealing, you may be relieved to hear that artificial casings are more generally used these days. 

It’s traditional to serve haggis at Burns Night dinners. These are celebrations for the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns, who was born on 25th January. The haggis is ceremonially led into the room by bagpipes and toasted with whisky while Burns’ famous poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ is recited. The haggis is then cut open and served to the guests, accompanied by neeps (mashed turnips/swede) and tatties (potatoes).

But if you’re not attending a Burns night dinner, you don’t need to miss out on haggis. It’s also a delicious addition to a full Scottish breakfast.

Square Sausage 

When you tuck into your full Scottish breakfast, you’ll probably notice some things that aren’t on the standard Full English. Haggis could well be there, but you may also find that square sausage is on your plate.

Square sausage is also known as slice or Lorne Sausage. It is thought to be named after the region of Lorne in Argyll, but the exact origins of the name are unknown. It’s made from similar ingredients as regular sausages but has no casing so it’s served in square slices. Hence the name!

Square sausage is a traditional part of a Scottish fried breakfast and the slices are also just right for a tasty sausage sandwich.

Shortbread

Scottish cuisine also has some delicious sweet treats on offer, and shortbread is probably one of the best known. Many people will come back from their Scottish holiday with a tin of shortbread stuffed into their suitcase. It’s a very moreish treat to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.

The basic recipe simply calls for butter, flour and sugar which are combined to form a crumbly (or short) dough. This is baked in an oblong tray and cut into fingers or baked in a circle that is cut into triangular wedges known as petticoat tails.

Because shortbread has such a simple recipe, the quality of the butter really stands out. If you decide to bake your own shortbread, be sure to use good quality butter. That’s the best way to make sure that it will taste absolutely delicious.

Two glasses of cranachan - raspberries layered with cream and oats, on a tray lined with a pale blue cloth

Cranachan

Scottish raspberries are famous for their delicious sweet flavour, and the traditional Scottish dessert Cranachan was originally served to celebrate the raspberry harvest. 

The raspberries are mixed with toasted oatmeal, whipped cream and Scottish heather honey. A generous splash of Scotch whisky is added as well.

You’ll often see Cranachan on the menu at traditional celebrations such as St Andrew’s Day or Hogmanay. It’s a great way to sample some of the best of Scottish food. 

Tablet

And my final addition to this list of the best traditional Scottish foods is a sweet treat that’s rarely seen outside Scotland.

Tablet is made by combining sugar with butter and condensed milk, boiling the mixture so that it crystallises and then beating it hard so that it cools and thickens. It’s a bit like fudge but harder and with a grainier texture. 

Making tablet yourself can take a great deal of trial and error. But luckily you’ll be able to find plenty of places to buy it on your travels around Scotland. 

Have you tried any of these traditional Scottish foods? Which one would you like to try next?

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