Talking about traditional Scottish Christmas food is a little misleading, as Christmas in Scotland wasn’t really a thing for about 400 years! It was banned in the Reformation in the 16th century and didn’t really make a big, official appearance again until it was finally declared a national holiday in 1958.
However, there are a few older Scottish Christmas traditions that have remained, or been moved to Hogmanay (Scottish New Year). Take the baking of Yule Bread, first footing or lighting a candle in the window, for example.
For the most part, however, Christmas celebrations and foods have fallen in line with the rest of the UK, where the celebrations returned much earlier.
So how can you give your Christmas menu a Scottish twist?
Most people in Scotland tend to stick to the usual turkey with all the trimmings, but there are definitely some Scottish quirks that can be added to your day.
Below are some ideas for recipes to try or dishes to create on the big day this year, to make it a little bit more of a Scottish Christmas!
Scottish Christmas Breakfast Ideas
When our family came to spend Christmas in Scotland with us for the first time we made Haggis for breakfast. Because why not?!
We had it with grilled tomatoes and toast, but with eggs and bacon works too. This may sound a little weird, but it was our Kiwi family and they loved it! We wanted their first taste of the day to be something distinctly Scottish! And the Scottish Christmas menu only continued from there…
The Full Scottish
The ‘Full Scottish’ breakfast inspired this haggis on toast option and, looking back, is probably what we could have made instead.
A Full Scottish is a plate full of fried or grilled bacon, sausage, eggs, buttered toast, baked beans, fried mushrooms, half a fried tomato, haggis, and in some cases, black pudding. All washed down with a good cup of tea!
This is how we would prepare it anyway. Every household has its own list of crucial ingredients for a full Scottish breakfast. Some might include hash browns, square or Lorne sausages, white pudding, fried bread the list goes on and that’s before you decided on which sauce to have with it!*
*The only answer to this is brown sauce.
The problem with a Full Scottish is it leaves you exactly that, full. If you’re like us and want to enjoy a wealth of different foods offered throughout Christmas day then filling up early on might be a mistake, so maybe opt for one of the lighter options below.
A compromise to the Full Scottish is the infamous Scottish morning roll filled with your choice of bacon, haggis, veggie haggis, or square sausage. The Morning Roll is a delicious start to the day that doesn’t require a nap after you’ve eaten it. They’re also much easier to prepare on a day when the kitchen is always very busy.
Scottish Smoked Salmon
If you’re looking for something a little less fried but still equally Scottish then look no further than Scottish Smoked Salmon. As Scottish salmon exports hit a high in 2019 this tasty fish is more popular than ever.
You can find amazing Salmon smokeries across Scotland and many deliver outside of the UK.
Smoked Salmon is light but very flavoursome and lends itself to numerous different breakfasts. Add it to scrambled eggs or turn your Eggs Benedict into an Eggs Royale by replacing the ham with smoked salmon. If you want to really go full ‘Scottish’ make your own oatcakes and enjoy your salmon with a good cream cheese. For us, this just might be the perfect Christmas breakfast. Easy to make and leaves room for lunch!
But for the ultimate Scottish breakfast, look no further than Porridge. Porridge has existed in Scotland forever, so you could have a lighter breakfast topped with some Christmassy toppings like cranberries, figs, dates, or walnuts and pecans.
Scottish Christmas Dinner – The Main Event
Everyone does Christmas dinner a little differently so we’ve laid out some ideas below on how you might make your festive menu a little more Scottish. We usually just have one big meal and have to have dessert for dinner because we’re so full, but we’ve split it into ideas for starters, the main, sides, and sauces.
If you want to have a soup starter then Cock-a-Leekie soup is traditionally Scottish and delicious. At a basic level, it’s a leek and chicken stock soup sometimes with added rice or barley which can be garnished with prunes.
You could just make a tasty Scotch Broth, a warming blend of barley, lamb and root vegetables. But personally, we prefer Cullen Skink as our soup of choice!
It’s less common to serve Cullen Skink at Christmas since this delicious creamy fish and potato soup could be the main meal on its own. But a small bowl of this with crusty bread would be the perfect Scottish starter to begin your Christmas dinner.
If soup isn’t for you and your family you could have some Scottish smoked salmon on blinis with a small leaf salad, or even a bit of roast salmon or salmon pie.
Haggis Bon Bons
Haggis Bon Bons with whisky dipping sauce make a change for a starter, but can be suitable for nibbles throughout the day too. These are breadcrumb covered haggis balls fried until crispy and golden brown, yum!
The Meat (or not)
Roast Turkey is still the favourite dish at Christmas in Scotland and the cooking of said bird can become the centre of the whole day!
So how do you add a little taste of Scotland to this classic Christmas dish? It all comes down to stuffing! Sausage-meat stuffing is the norm but replace the sausage with haggis and you have a tasty and Scottish-themed alternative.
If Turkey isn’t for you then other options like Scottish Lamb, Aberdeen Angus Beef Wellington, and Scottish Venison would be delicious too.
For vegetarians, people tend to produce a nut roast as the centrepiece of the Christmas meal. However, these can be a little hit and miss if you don’t have a decent recipe so we would suggest a veggie haggis is served, a delicious mix of oats, barley, mushroom and spices which help it remain moist and very easy to prepare. This can also be used as stuffing if normal haggis isn’t your thing.
For us, it’s the additions to the centrepiece that really make a Christmas dinner special! We’ve listed a few ideas, some with a little Scottish twist.
Roast potatoes are by far the most popular side for Christmas dinner, and like the turkey, everyone has their own way of making them crispy and fluffy all at the same time.
We parboil our tatties, leave them to steam and then give them a good shake and a covering of duck fat or olive oil. The trick is making sure you add the potatoes to a hot roasting tin with your fat of choice already really hot.
Once you’ve cracked the roast tattie, there is a range of other additions to consider too.
And would it be Christmas without Brussel sprouts? We like to fry ours in butter with smoked bacon pieces. Boil the trimmed sprouts for 5-10 mins or so and fry your bacon in butter. Once the sprouts are done drain and add them to your frying pan. Yum!
Make sure the sprouts are cooked properly to avoid having solid green pebbles on your plate. You can even add some roasted chestnuts into the mix to give a real depth of flavour.
Pigs in Blankets or Kilted Soldiers
Pigs in blankets are small sausages wrapped in bacon, but sometimes in Scotland, you’ll see them called Kilted Soldiers, and they’re wrapped in Ayrshire bacon. There’s not too much to say about these, they taste fantastic and are essential at Christmas time in our house!
Other Trimmings Ideas
Roasted parsnips and carrots, or even mashed carrots and swede are all fairly common and help add a little freshness to your plate. We like to honey roast ours because it is Christmas!
However, for a splash of Scottish tradition consider adding neeps, Clapshot (mashed swede and potato) or Rumbledethumps (potato, cabbage, and onion). These aren’t traditional Christmas dishes but would also make a nice Scottish-themed addition.
Once you have your meat, veg, and all the trimmings you need a good sauce to bring it all together.
We are big sauce fans and will often have more sauces on the table than there are dishes! We always start with plenty of good gravy, thick and rich, ideally made using the juices from the turkey but granules will do too.
On top of this, we would add cranberry sauce and bread sauce, which is a milky gravy thickened with bread. You could even consider a whisky sauce if you like too. It may sound a little much but dipping your crisp roast potatoes into a creamy whisky sauce is delicious!
Scottish Christmas Desserts
The pudding at Christmas in our house and across Scotland, is exactly that, Christmas pudding! And why not, it’s a classic pud that only really shines once a year.
But there are so many other options to add that taste of Scotland to the end of your Christmas meal.
For example, swap your Christmas pud for a delicious Clootie Dumpling. It’s made with some similar spices and boiled in a cloth, called a “clootie”. It’s bursting with flavour and will likely bring back childhood memories to anyone that grew up in Scotland.
Then there’s Cranachan of course, with delicious layers of berries and cream laced with honey, whisky, and oats. Another traditional dessert that perfectly ends a Christmas dinner.
We often make ours into a simple cheesecake to give it a bit of a twist and it can be made in advance to save time on the big day!
Sticky Toffee Pudding Trifle
For that first Christmas dinner with our Kiwi family, we also served a Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert! It’s a staple favourite and great at any time of year, but also a wonderful addition at Christmas.
You could make our Microwave Sticky Toffee Pudding in a Mug if you want a super quick and easy dessert, or try your hand at a Sticky Toffee Pudding Trifle for something a little bit different.
For a lighter dessert look no further than the Tipsy Laird, the Scottish version of a Trifle. And how does it differ? It has sponge layers that are soaked with Scottish whisky, giving it a beautiful warming flavour on top of fresh fruit (ideally raspberries) and custard!
You can make individual servings rather than one large dessert to add that personal touch.
If you’re thinking of making a Christmas Cake this year but you’ve left it late or just don’t want the faff, then why not make a traditional Dundee Cake instead, it’ll save on icing and marzipan and they still look fantastic!
No not ground mince, but mincemeat, which is a mixture of dried fruits, spices, and spirits. These small pies may have originated in England but they’re now a common staple on Scottish tables at Christmas too.
Although the size of mince pies is said to be because of the fact they were banned in the 16th century, so bakers had to make them smaller to conceal them! It’s a common belief that it’s still illegal to eat them on Christmas Day, although the laws were repealed back in the time of Charles II.
Shortbread and mince pies are found in every house at Christmas and eaten as sweet options as well, although maybe throughout the day rather than just for dessert! We’re big fans of shortbread and there are always some on the go throughout the festive period and beyond!
If you have any room at all (or maybe for dinner later on!) you can have a cheeseboard full of Scottish cheeses. There’s plenty to choose from, with all sorts of bries, blues, and cheedars available. All served with Scottish oatcakes and chutneys of course!
Scottish Christmas Drinks
Whisky is the most associated drink with Scotland, but 70% of the UK’s gins are also produced in Scotland as well as some excellent rums, sparkling wines and tasty beers.
It just goes to show there are plenty of excellent Scottish brands to choose from for your festive tipple of choice.
For the gin fan in the family try a festive flavoured gin liqueur from Pickerings or Edinburgh Gin. Eden Mill even do a candy cane flavoured gin!
A warming hot toddy is perfect for warming up after the obligatory Christmas Day walk too. It’s made with hot water, whisky, lemon juice and honey.
We know this is a long shot but if you have leftovers there are a wealth of good ways to make them stretch past the big day itself.
Making Stovies from what’s left of a roast has been commonplace in Scotland for years and a turkey roast works just as well. You basically fry onions in butter or fat leftover from the roast, add potatoes (leftovers or new if you have none leftover), pour over stock and allow the potatoes to fully break down in it, stir through the leftover meat and done! Add any stuffing, potatoes and kilted soldiers into the mix for really wholesome comfort food!
Turkey Tikka Masala
Did you know the famous tikka masala is said to have originated from Glasgow? Honestly, this spicy dish is as Scottish as haggis, we swear! And leftover turkey works well in this tasty curry made from yoghurt, cream, and spices.
And there you have it! Plenty of ideas to add a Scottish flavour to your day. If you try any of these Scottish Christmas food ideas then please do let us know!
Sonja and Phil x