Top 10 Must-Try Traditional British Dishes

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Updated on February 25, 2024

Reviewed by Miral Nassar

In modern times, the UK, especially London, has become a melting pot of cultures. And that made British cuisine become very varied, tasteful, and full of flavours you would not expect. However, if you ask a true British person what their favourite traditional British dish is, they will most probably name something that has been cooked in the UK for generations.

Something they great grandmothers taught their grandmother, who taught their mother who taught them. Globalisation has its benefits, but sometimes we just need to go back to our roots and taste the food our people have had for generations.

So if you are visiting the UK or even if you are a local who just wants a taste of true British cuisine, check out these ten mouth-watering traditional British dishes that you must try.

Full Breakfast

Ingredients: Eggs, bacon, mushrooms, sausages, tomatoes, black pudding (pork/beef blood & oatmeal), baked beans and toast

It’s a new morning in the UK, and you feel like eating a hearty full meal that will keep you going most of the day. A Full breakfast it is, then! The Full English Breakfast, or as it is locally referred to as the “Fry up”, is a full platter that typically includes fried eggs, fried bacon, black pudding, sausages, mushrooms, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and toast.

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This breakfast platter is served in all areas across the UK, including England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Each area might sometimes add different ingredients, but they keep the breakfast as traditional as possible. Many pubs across the country would even serve the Full Breakfast all day for you to enjoy whenever you stop by.

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients: Potatoes, ground beef/lamb, vegetables (peas, carrots, corn & onion) and beef broth

Every country has this one dish that originated from people back in the day who did not have enough food, so they used what they had to make one dish that everyone could eat; for the British, that is Shepherd’s Pie. Shepherd’s Pie originated in Ireland in the 1700s and then made its way to become a staple dish all over the UK.

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It is made of mashed potatoes and cooked ground beef or lamb mixed with vegetables that are usually a mix of peas, carrots, corn and onions. The mashed potatoes are piled on top of the beef, and the vegetables are mixed and baked until a crust is formed on the top. Sometimes the Shepherd’s Pie is called a Cottage Pie, but whatever the name you prefer is, this dish is just absolutely delicious.

Beef Wellington

Ingredients: Beef tenderloin, aka fillet, mushrooms or duxelles and puff pastry

The word around the British street is that Beef Willington was named after the first Duke of Willington in celebration of his victory in the Battle of Waterloo. However, it is most likely that the French dish Filet de Boeuf en Croute, which was already very popular in the UK- was renamed Beef Wellington to celebrate the duke and annoy the French -win-win-.

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With such an interesting history, Beef Wellington is a pretty well-loved dish around the UK. It is made of a whole beef tenderloin that is well seasoned and covered in duxelles (a mix of mushrooms, onions, herbs and black pepper). The beef is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. The mix of tender meat and crusty puff pastry is simply to die for! 

Bangers and Mash

Ingredients: Sausages and mashed potatoes

Bangers and mash are the ultimate British comfort food. It’s believed that the name Bangers originated in World War I when there used to be a shortage of meat. Back then, people used to stuff the sausages with other components like water, which sometimes made them explode while being cooked.

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The dish consists of sausages that can be made out of pork, beef or lamb, whatever your preferences are, and mashed potatoes. Some people like to add onion gravy and peas to the dish to give it an extra kick, but even without them, Bangers and Mash are still delicious. You can find Bangers and Mash in almost every single Pub across the UK.

Fish and Chips

Ingredients: Fish, batter, potato chips

When you think of British food, you think of Fish and Chips! A very simple meal yet very tasty and never disappoints. It’s believed that Fish and Chips as a combined dish have been around since the 1860s. Separately, fish and chips definitely existed before, but during the 1860s, an Eastern European Jewish immigrant opened the first Fish and Chips shop in Lancashire.

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Shops use different kinds of fish for this dish, such as cod or haddock. However, some shops would even offer to fry your own fish that you can bring to the Chippy. There are around 10,000 Fish and Chips shops across the UK, so you must try at least one!

Sunday Roast

Ingredients: meat (beef, lamb, pork or chicken), potatoes, side vegetables, onion for the gravy and eggs, flour and milk for the Yorkshire Pudding

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Enough of Pub food, and let’s go back to traditional home-cooked British meals. The Sunday Roast originated as a dish that is served on Sunday after coming back from church. However, nowadays, you can find Sunday Roasts or just Roasts served any day of the week (lucky you!).

The dish consists of roasted meat that can be beef, lamb, pork or chicken, with a side of mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, roasted or steamed Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots or other vegetables, along with gravy and Yorkshire Pudding. It’s a less dazzling Christmas dinner but a full meal nonetheless that you can have all year long. The best place to have Sunday Roast is at home, where it is cooked with love, but you can still get it from many restaurants across the UK.

Steak and Kidney Pie

Ingredients: Diced beef, diced kidney, onions and batter

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British people sure love to mix meat and pastry! Steak and Kidney Pie is just as it sounds. You dice beef, kidney (beef, pork or lamb) and onions, put them in a pan, cover them with batter and into the oven they go. The result is a savoury pie that is juicy on the inside and crusty on the outside. Steak and Kidney Pie is a very popular British dish and can be found in most pubs. The national dish has been around since the 19th century and, to this day, is celebrated ad loved all around the United Kingdom and even in other commonwealth countries.

Cornish Pasty

Ingredients: beef, potato, swede, onions, salt and pepper

Another meat-filled pastry. We’re starting to see a pattern with British cuisine (A delicious pattern, though don’t misunderstand!). The Cornish Pasty originated in Cornwell. It was very popular among miners and workers because its unique shape made it possible for them to take it to work and still have a fulfilling meal.

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The Cornish Pasty is made of a short crust pastry that is filled with cubes of beef, potatoes, swede and onions. All the filling ingredients must be added on top of the raw pastry and then covered completely with the pastry. You pop that into the oven and let it cook slowly until everything inside is cooked and the pastry is golden. A Cornish Pasty is a great dish for lunch, or if you feel like it, you can do as miners did back in the day and keep it in your pocket to eat whenever! (we wouldn’t recommend that, but who are we to judge?)

Eton Mess

Ingredients: Whipped cream, meringue, mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)

Enough with meat and cooked pastry, and let’s take care of your sweet tooth. Our first dessert is the Eton Mess. Obvious of its name, the Eton Mess originated in Eton College. It was served to students during their annual cricket matches against Harrow School, then became stable at Eton, served in shops all over the facilities, and then a British staple at homes and pubs.

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The name comes from the fact that the dish looks like a mess. It is made of whipped cream and meringue topped with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. You don’t have to use all these berries in making an Eton Mess, but strawberries are a must. Some people would make the dish with any summer fruits available to them, especially bananas.

Victoria Sponge

Ingredients: eggs, flour, baking powder, sugar, milk, butter, strawberry jam, whipped cream

Named after the one and only Queen Victoria, the Victoria Sponge is probably the most popular dessert in the UK. A simple fluffy two tiers sponge cake with strawberry jam and whipped cream in the middle. A Victoria Sponge is the perfect companion to your afternoon English tea. Victoria Sponges are made in coffee shops all over the UK, and no proper British granny cannot make a killer sponge that will leave your mouth watering for more.

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Whoever accuses British cuisine of being bland and tasteless has just simply never tried it before. The British did learn a lot from their “trips” all over the world, and they did get a lot of their ingredients from other countries, but eventually, they developed a unique cuisine that is now loved worldwide. When in the UK, you can almost find any cuisine from around the world due to the influx of immigrants, especially in cities like London.

However, the further you move from the main cities, the more likely you are to find traditional dishes still being made and eaten on an everyday basis. It might not be the perfect cuisine for a vegetarian, but it sure makes the fancy of many people.

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