Now we will be the first ones to admit that Scotland is not exactly known for its food. But it should be! We have an extensive natural larder that produces beautiful fresh seafood, fruit, vegetables, and game all year round. Scotland is also home to some remarkable chefs with notable names including Tom Kitchin and Nick Nairn.
Below we’ve got some of our favourite Scottish dishes and ingredients that we feel everyone should try. It does include the classics like haggis, but also some that may surprise you and change your mind about Scottish food…
Learn more about Skye’s foodie culture…
Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties by the Balmoral.
Haggis the most famed and most feared of Scottish food. Traditionally, Haggis comprises of offal, mixed with oats and spices, and cooked inside a sheep’s stomach. This is not unique to Scotland and Scottish culture. This has been done since ancient times. The most perishable meat was prepared and eaten immediately with the available dry stored ingredients in a convenient ready-made container, the stomach of the freshly killed animal.
In Scotland, haggis has survived as part of the national cuisine due to Robert Burns’ poem, ‘Address to a Haggis’, which popularised its consumption. In today’s supermarkets and restaurants, haggis more often than not gets cooked in an artificial casing and is created from a mix of pork and sheep. Vegetarian and vegan versions are also very common and generally more palatable to tourists. The meat-free versions still contain the oats and spicy seasoning and give a very similar taste experience.
Cullen Skink soup by the Torridon Hotel
Hailing originally from the northeast town of Cullen, Cullen Skink compromises of smoked fish, potato, onion, and often milk. This hearty soup is incredibly comforting and moreish, and one we thoroughly recommend any traveller. It’s similar to an American fish chowder as it shares many of the same ingredients, but Cullen Skink is said to be more characterful.
Cullen Skink is traditionally made with smoked haddock, but any smoked fish will do. However, if you’re travelling around Scotland you may experience many variations of the same concept. Like many national dishes, Cullen Skink was heavily influenced by what was available at the time and in the area. Cattle was expensive, so meat-based dishes were rare. Cullen sits on the Moray Firth, so seafood was accessible and affordable. As were potatoes, which form the base of the soup. Milk and cream are optional for a richer taste, although the soup is plenty creamy without due to the starch in potatoes.
A Full Scottish
A full Scottish breakfast.
You may have heard of a Full English breakfast. But do you know what a Full Scottish breakfast is? It may depend on who you ask and where you are in Scotland, but a Full Scottish comes with the traditional ingredients like eggs, buttered toast bacon, link sausage, and baked beans. Scottish elements include additional black pudding, square sausage and a tattie scone. Sometimes you can also get haggis on the plate, buttered mushrooms, grilled tomato, and fruit pudding.
Black pudding is a blood sausage made from pork blood, fat, and cereals. Fruit pudding shares similar ingredients but the blood is completely replaced with fat and suet and includes dried fruit. A tattie scone is a Scottish variation of a potato-based griddle scone. A square sausage (also known as Lorne) is a sausage slice made out of minced meat, rusk, and spices. We can’t responsibly recommend you eat this every day, but you should try it at least once on a trip to Scotland!
Steak at Kyloe restaurant, Photo Credit: VisitScotland
This one is not a dish, but an example of Scotland’s natural larder not to be missed! Most people will associate the name ‘Aberdeen Angus’ with high-quality beef. The hardiness of Angus cattle and the quality of the meat means that Angus beef gets bred all over the world and is widely recognised, but trust us, it tastes best right here in Scotland. Consumption of Highland cattle is also growing, due to the leanness of the meat. It is said that the quality of the grazing in Scotland and wet weather add to the flavour of Scottish beef, making it extra succulent. Be sure to try a highland steak and chips when you’re in Scotland, with whisky sauce for the ultimate taste experience!
Salmon Korma by Kinloch Lodge on Skye
In Scotland, we’re lucky to have an abundance of rivers filled with salmon and award-winning sustainable fish farms. The North Atlantic salmon that hails from Scotland is globally recognised as some of the best in the world. Try a signature Scottish salmon dish at breakfast and order a smoked salmon kedgeree, or have a salmon and cream cheese sandwich with afternoon tea! It’s not just salmon that we recommend, with over 10,000km of coastline, our entire seafood selection is pretty topnotch. Scottish scallops are delicious pan-fried with Stornoway black pudding and be sure to have some langoustine and lobster on your trip. There is also an abundance of shellfish like mussels, oysters, and razor clams available year-round in Scotland.
Venison by Monachyle Mhor
During the hunting seasons, it’s easy to get a hold of fresh and relatively inexpensive venison in the Highlands of Scotland. Lovers of red meat will be delighted to learn that venison is the healthier option too, being both low fat and high in protein. The meat has a unique gamey flavour that goes well with redcurrant, sloe, and cranberry. Venison gets prepared in multiple ways and don’t be surprised to encounter it in sausage form and as a cured meat in Scotland. It even gets sold as chorizo! Many Scottish restaurants will include venison on the menu at the right time of year so make sure to try it if you have the opportunity. Wild venison is best available between October and December.
If Scotland could be packaged up into a dessert – cranachan would be it. It captures many of Scotland’s best natural elements, and is tasty too! The quintessentially Scottish ingredients are whisky, oats, cream, and fresh raspberries. It is similar to an ‘Eton Mess’, although notably meringue is substituted for whisky and toasted oats. Traditionally, ‘crowdie’ cheese would be used instead of cream, but this is difficult to come by outside of Scotland and makes the dish a bit heavy. The whisky is usually added in with the cream, along with some honey. The oats are toasted with sugar to caramelise them. This is all piled together in alternating layers together with fresh fruit (most commonly raspberries). The result? Creamy heaven, although not for the faint-hearted!
Scottish Oats Porridge by Kinloch Lodge on Skye
You’d be hard-pressed to find an ingredient more Scottish than oats. For centuries oats have been Scotland’s main crop, meaning it’s been readily available and affordable for a long time. Countless recipes include oats, even ones that might surprise you like haggis and blood pudding. However, the most obvious Scottish dish containing oats is porridge. There are many ways to prepare Scottish porridge. Different people like to add flavour in different ways with the addition of honey, whisky, fresh fruit, and sugar. It’s not just the easy availability of oats which has made it popular in Scotland – it’s also a great breakfast food to set you up for the day! Oats release their energy slowly, meaning you feel fuller for longer and oat eaters also benefit from lower cholesterol.
Scottish Cheeseboard, Photo Credit: VisitScotland
This is not something you’d immediately associate with Scotland – but our climate and geography is well suited to cheese production. With over 24 cheesemakers across the country, there is plenty of local choices. Harder mature cheeses like Cheddar are prevalent, but there are some deliciously soft, creamy, and blue cheeses available too. Cheeses not to miss in Scotland? You should definitely try crowdie if you get the opportunity, this soft cheese is said to be a remnant from Viking days. It is usually rolled in oats and black pepper. Clava brie is a lovely pasteurised brie-style cheese made on the North-East coast of Scotland. If you like Cheddar, try Dunlop, it’s similar in taste but a bit softer. There are many variations available by different creameries!