When you think of reasons to visit Scotland you immediately think of sweeping highland vistas, bustling festivals, castles, lochs, and coos… and the list could go on!
Food may not be one of the things you think of at all. The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that all you’ll eat in Scotland is haggis and fried food. These are on offer, of course, and often they’re delicious, but Scotland has so much more to offer than these alone. We might even venture so far as to call Scotland an emerging “foodie” destination!
However, there are some Scottish classics that you should watch out for. Here’s our list of food and drink that you should look forward to when you visit Scotland, or everything you’re lucky enough to enjoy if you’re a local.
What would you try first?
Let’s start with the obvious and potentially most well-known but not necessarily well-liked Scottish dish. Haggis is an odd one to those not used to it. There’s no getting around the fact that traditionally haggis is made from the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep, minced and then mixed with suet and oatmeal and seasoned with a selection of spices. The mixture is packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled.
Sound tasty? Well actually, it is!
The ingredients alone put many people off from trying this famous dish, however, haggis is well worth sampling. It tastes peppery and wholesome, with an oaty texture.
Haggis is traditionally served with neeps (turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes) and with a drizzle of some sort of whisky sauce, meaning it’s very filling and warming. However, you can also try haggis bonbons (balls of haggis coated in breadcrumbs and fried) which are a great introduction to this Scottish classic.
If you really can’t stomach the idea, then there are vegetarian options that have a similar taste and texture. It’s the perfect way to try this traditional dish while avoiding some of the traditional ingredients!
For something a little (lot) sweeter, Tablet is the way forward!
Tablet is a wonderfully tasty, sugary, sweet with a mildly grainy texture. The closest thing to compare it to would be fudge and it has certainly been called Scottish fudge before. The difference is in the texture, as fudge is a lot softer compared to Tablet’s more solid crumbly consistency.
Tablet is delicious, it melts in your mouth, and goes wonderfully with coffee or tea as a little treat. Not so good for the waistline but definitely perfect when you want something sweet! It’s often served as an after-dinner treat at weddings and you’ll find many accommodation providers in Scotland leave it as a little gift for their guests too.
Some variations can be found outside of Scotland, but of course, we think the best is on offer right here.
Can’t wait to try it, why not make your own with our traditional recipe?
Lorne Sausage/Square Sausage
Lorne sausage is actually fairly easy to describe. It’s sausage meat that’s flattened into a square. Yep, you read that correctly, it’s a square sausage.
Why? We’re not sure but it does fit nicely into a roll with a little brown sauce and isn’t prone to rolling off your plate as part of your Scottish breakfast!
Many Scots simply refer to this as square sausage but you’ll find it called Lorne sausage in some places too. The origins of the name are a little uncertain, with some attributing it to a Glasgow comedian who used to regularly joke about the square sausage, or to the district of Lorne found in Argyll & Bute.
It should be no surprise that whisky is on the list of things you have to try in Scotland. It’s been one of Scotland’s key exports for many years now and Scotland distillers are arguably the best in the world.
Made in oak barrels using excellent local water sources and ingredients, Scottish whiskeys all taste very distinctive, with different areas producing different tastes.
If you’re paying Scotland a visit then it’s worth doing a tour or tasting at a distillery to learn what makes whiskies in Scotland so special from the experts. If you’re a local then you’ll know all of this already! 😉
Much the same as whisky, Salmon is a world-famous Scottish produce that lives up to its reputation and is actually Scotland’s biggest food export.
However, you choose to enjoy it Scottish salmon is not to be missed!
We prefer it smoked and try to look out for local smokeries when we travel around Scotland and have found some delicious salmon that just needs good bread to make a wonderful meal. If you’re in the Outer Hebrides for example, be sure to visit Uig Lodge on Lewis, or try the Smokehouse at Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond.
Cranachan was traditionally made to celebrate the raspberry harvest in June, and this simple yet delicious dessert is definitely a Scottish food you need to try! Combining sweet, fresh raspberries, thick cream, oats, whisky, and honey, it has been called the “King of Scottish desserts”.
You can pretty much use whatever measurements you like to make it, but here’s our recipe to get you started!
Scotland is very proud to be one of the few countries in the world where Coca-cola isn’t the leading soft drink for sale. Irn Bru continues to be the most popular in Scotland and is a great example of Scottish pride and loyalty as well as a great tasting drink (for some!).
As to what Irn Bru actually tastes like? That is a little tricky to explain! Some have described it as similar to cream soda, others say it’s like bubble gum, but neither of these seems to quite fit.
It has a unique taste, soft and sweet, bordering on sickly with hints of citrus. You’ll find it sold everywhere in Scotland, and you might even see Irn Bru ice-cream, cupcakes, or cake too. It’s also a well-known hangover cure!
Cullen what? Those new to Scottish foods may ask about the unusual name of this delicious dish. Cullen Skink is a rich and creamy smoked haddock soup made with milk, similar to a chowder. It’s a simple dish, but the secret to it is the smoky flavour the haddock brings.
You’ll find it on menus across Scotland, but we love it so much that we worked out how to make it at home! It’s easier than you’d think to make this packed-full-of-flavour soup.
Chicken Tikka Masala
This may stick out on this list a little and may surprise many readers that it’s here at all! The Tikka Masala doesn’t sound like it began its life in Scotland but Glasgow is very proud to be able to add the creation of the dish to its many claims to fame.
Though there are other claims to the origins of this curry, the Shish Mahal restaurant in the west end of Glasgow says it was invented there in 1971. Wherever this delicious dish came from it has gone on to be called the UK’s national dish!
Rich, creamy, and tomato-based, the Tikka Masala has a warmth to it but is not particularly spicy, which has helped it to become as popular as it is in a land where chilli doesn’t feature highly in many (if any!) other traditional foods.
Gin has exploded in a big way globally and this can clearly be seen in Scotland where over 70% of the UK’s gin is produced alone. Distillers have realised that gin can be made much quicker than whisky so a lot of very talented distillers have turned their hand to gin and gin liqueurs while they wait for their whisky to mature.
Like whisky, each area of Scotland seems to have its own gin range with more and more exciting flavour combinations being introduced each day.
It’s a very exciting time for gin!
Off the back of this, there are some excellent distillery tours and gin tastings available across Scotland that are a must-visit for any gin fan.
Possibly the oldest and most Scottish dish of all! Porridge can be traced back hundreds of years to roughly 600AD when oats were introduced to Scotland, the perfect place to grow them.
However barley oats can be traced back even further in the Outer Hebrides, so let’s just say that Scotland has been enjoying porridge for a VERY long time. There are even long-held superstitions about how to make your porridge, including that you should only stir it clockwise and with your right hand, or the devil will come and get you if you don’t!
Whether made with milk or water, with added salt or sugar, porridge is wholesome, filling and a fantastic breakfast. If you only remember it as a sticky, dry, gruel-like meal then you’ve been doing it wrong!
It’s good to see porridge making somewhat of a comeback too, since growing up it may have been seen as the breakfast of older people and a little bit twee. Now, however, you can find porridge with a wealth of different toppings in cafes across the country.
Healthy, historical, and hipster!
Oatcakes are just a big part of Scotland as porridge and have been part of the Scottish diet since Roman times.
Basically, they’re a cracker made of oats, with a salty, earthy flavour that perfectly suits cheeses and chutneys and you’ll see them in supermarkets and on cheese boards across the country.
The simple Scotch Pie is a gem of a snack. Hot water pastry supports a lamb based filling in such a way that there is still space on the top of the pie for any additional toppings or sauces you may fancy!
It’s generally accepted that the Scotch Pie has been made here in Scotland for at least the last four or five hundred years and has been traditionally filled with spiced mutton or minced lamb. While every recipe for the filling differs slightly there are some common spices used including mace and nutmeg.
They’re meaty and delicious and generally quite cost-effective. The crunch of the pastry and the spice of the meat all comes together beautifully.
We like them so much that we decided to make them at home! You can find out how we did it here.
“Heart-warming” is a good way to describe many traditional Scottish foods, and it’s no wonder thanks to the weather! Yes, the sun does exist in Scotland, but it doesn’t always like making an appearance.
So for those chillier days, Scotch Broth is the perfect Scottish food to try. It’s made with seasonal vegetables, barley, and braising beef or lamb cuts. Watch out for it as a starter in restaurants or on cafe menus for lunch.
Now everyone’s tried shortbread, right? Many of the items on this list of Scottish foods to try can be found across the world and shortbread is no different. Sweet, crumbly and deliciously buttery, shortbread is a fantastic biscuit that can be sadly overlooked in a selection box.
Scotland has been associated with shortbread for a long time. It was first made famous by Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th Century! In modern-day Scotland, you’ll find tartan boxes full of it are sold in every tourist shop across the country. It’s hard to get away from… but then you have to ask yourself, why would you want to!
Stovies is probably the food on this list that you’re least likely to come across if you’re visiting Scotland. It’s more of a home-cooked favourite than a cafe or restaurant staple, and each family (or even person!) has their own way of making it.
It’s usually made on the stove-top, hence the name, and consists of potatoes, onions and left-over meat. Although corned beef is sometimes an addition too! It all goes in a pan/pot with a bit of stock to boil it in, and then serve nice and hot! Talk about comfort food in Scotland, and this will be sure to come up!
The UK is famous for its cooked breakfasts and each of its four countries has their own take on it. To make a cooked breakfast of the Scottish variety you need to add haggis, square sausage and a tattie scone or two.
First things first, a tattie scone is a potato scone made from mashed potatoes and butter, that’s flattened out and cooked on a hot gridle or pan. They can then be refried in butter to add a little extra taste and a little extra crispiness.
The tattie scone is the perfect addition to a cooked breakfast in a similar way to toast. It just works well with every ingredient but also is fantastic to enjoy on its own with a little salt and pepper and brown sauce.
When we first talked about creating Scottish Scran the tattie scone was brought up time and time again. So, of course, we had to come up with a recipe of our own!
So there you have it, just the tip of the iceberg of wonderful Scottish produce and recipes that you need to look out for when you visit Scotland!
Have we missed anything? Have you tried any of the above? What’s your favourite? So many questions!
Do let us know, we love to hear about different Scottish dishes that we can recreate.
Phil & Sonja