15 British foods you have to try

Hello lovely students! When it comes to food, we Brits unfortunately have a pretty bad reputation. However, this is not entirely fair. If you’re a lover of all things, fried, roasted, and full of dairy, then our list of 15 British foods might be just for you. Come and take a look at the best UK dishes!

British food
A traditional fish and chip shop

1) Fish and chips

This is, without a doubt, the staple of classic British food. It could even be argued it is our national dish. When you think of popular traditional British food, fish and chips may be the first thing that comes to mind and for good reason!

The first recorded place that sold fish and chips was allegedly opened in 1860 in Bow, London, by a Jewish man named Joseph Malin. Since then, fish and chips have well and truly taken off. There are around 10,500 fish and chips shops in the UK at present. We often call these places fish and chips shops, chip shops or chippys.

Various types of fish are usually on offer, but the most popular one is cod. It is battered and deep-fried until golden brown and crispy and it is usually served with deep-fried thick chips and mushy peas (which are peas that have been puréed).On the counter at the chip shop, you’ll usually find malt vinegar and salt. Be sure to put some on your fish and chips!

If fish and chips are not your thing, there are other alternatives such as sausages or something plant-based.We usually eat fish and chips on a Friday night after a long week at work or school.

Anywhere by the sea is a good place to eat this.

Fun fact: Fish and chips were traditionally served in newspapers until the 1980s. They are now served in containers.

British food
British Traditional Fish and chips with mashed peas, tartar sauce on crumpled paper with cold beer

2) Sunday roast

Ahh the roast. If a hug were a meal, it would be the Sunday roast. It is a hearty meal.

A piece of meat – usually beef, chicken, pork or lamb – is roasted in the oven alongside potatoes until cooked. Roast potatoes are extremely popular here. Some people prefer mashed potato instead, but this is rare.

With the potatoes and the meat, the Sunday roast dinner is served alongside vegetables such as carrots, parsnips or tenderstem broccoli, and a type of cooked batter called Yorkshire Pudding. As the name suggests, the Yorkshire pudding was invented in Yorkshire and it is another important element of the Sunday roast.

The Yorkshire pudding is not a type of dessert; instead, it is savoury and a circular shape with a hole in the middle. Some people make a huge, plate-sized Yorkshire pudding to put all the roast dinner into.Sounds delicious right?

No Sunday roast would be complete without gravy on the table. The gravy is made up of meat juices amongst other things. You have to pour the gravy onto the Sunday roast for it to have the perfect texture. You can also pour it into the middle of your Yorkshire pudding to create a pool of gravy.Also, if you are having roast lamb with your Sunday roast dinner, don’t forget to put mint sauce on it. It is a great combination.

This meal is a true, family affair where everyone is together. It is typically served on Sundays (hence the name Sunday roast). When in the UK, visit a traditional British pub to try one or if you have time, make it at home.

Fun fact: the British love for Sunday roast apparently started during the reign of Henry VII. According to legend, he ate roast beef every Sunday and fed his guards some too. This is where the term ‘beefeaters’ – who are the guards at the Tower of London – comes from.

British food
Gravy being poured onto a roast dinner

3) English breakfast

This is a breakfast that is such a filling meal you will want to skip lunch. Commonly known as the fry-up, the English breakfast is not healthy at all, but it is delicious.

Typical ingredients for the English breakfast include fried eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, fried tomatoes, and mushrooms. Buttered toast or deep-fried bread is usually on the menu too to soak up all the juices and the sauce from the beans.If you’re feeling daring, you can also eat English breakfast with black pudding – which is a pudding made of blood, fat and oatmeal.

The beverages of choice are usually orange juice and a cup of English breakfast tea. Tomato ketchup and brown sauce – a sauce that is tangy in flavour – are served with the meat. The English breakfast is easy to prepare and you can buy everything you need from the supermarket. Should you not have the time, going to a local eatery is a good option too.

We typically eat English breakfast during the weekend or on special occasions such as birthdays. Some people assume we eat English breakfast every morning, but this is not true; if we were to eat English breakfast every morning, it would be very dangerous!

Fun fact: the English breakfast was rarely eaten during World War II due to shortages and rations.

British food
Full English breakfast with bacon, sausage, fried egg, baked beans and orange juice

4) Shepherd’s pie

The shepherd’s pie, like most British food, is warm and comforting, and it is perfect to eat on a winter’s day. It is made of two layers. You may be relieved to know that shepherds are not in shepherd’s pie! Instead, it gets its name from the minced lamb used on the bottom layer, as Shepherds look after sheep.

The top layer is creamy mashed potatoes. The pie is baked in the oven until the mashed potato on top is golden and the minced lamb is bubbling. This is usually served with garden peas and is best home made or at a British pub.

Fun fact: vegetarians and vegans call the meat-free version of this pie ‘shepherdless’ pie.

British food
Vegan shepherd’s pie with lentils and mashed potatoes in black backing dish. Vegan food concept

5) Cottage pie

Much like shepherd’s pie, cottage pie is a blissful marriage between minced meat and potato. The key difference however is that the minced meat used in cottage pie is beef. The two pies are cooked and served in the exact same way, and both of them need to have a blanket of golden mashed potatoes on top.

Fun fact: the name cottage pie was first used at the end of the 18th century.

6) Toad in the hole

This traditional dish first appeared in print in the 17th century, yet food experts do not know when it was first made. The dish pairs Yorkshire pudding batter and sausages together and is usually served with gravy and vegetables such as peas or mashed potatoes.

The sausages are the star here and they have the Yorkshire pudding poured over them and then are baked in the oven to form a sort of pie. Like shepherd’s pie and cottage pie, toad in the hole is best on a cold winter’s day either in a British pub or at home.

Fun fact: historically steak, not sausages, was used in toad in the hole.

British food
close-up of a portion of Toad in the hole, sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter on a black plate served with green peas and onion gravy

7) Bangers and mash

If sausages and potatoes appear often in this list, it is because they are important to our cuisine. Where are sausages in this meal’s name you ask? Bangers is another name for sausages here in the UK. This meal, like many other UK meals, is served with gravy and peas and, you guessed it, best served at home or in a pub. 

In 2009, it was voted as the most comforting meal by TV channel Good Food and it is easy to see why, as melt-in-the-mouth mash and sizzling sausages are a great combo.

Fun fact: supposedly, the term bangers for sausages appeared during World War I when sausages were filled with water due to rations. This made them pop when being cooked, like bangers, which are a type of firework.

British food
Sausages and mashed potato and gravy

8) Pie, mash and liquor

This is a traditional working-class meal that originates from the docks in London. It is over 100 years old. The pie is made of shortcrust pastry and filled with minced beef, alongside mash. Instead of gravy, like in roast dinners, a sauce called liquor is poured onto the plate.

Liquor is a parsley-based sauce and is thin. To get the real experience, go to a pie and mash shop in the East End of London, where the classic British dish is typically served.

Fun fact: originally the pies were filled with eels, rather than minced beef, as there were a lot of eels in the River Thames.

British food
Pie, mash and liquor

9) Sandwiches

This might sound strange, as every country has their own form of putting something in bread, but it is next-level stuff here in the UK. Classic flavours include cheese and pickle, cheese and tomato, ham and pickle, ham and coleslaw, ham and cucumber, tuna mayonnaise, egg mayonnaise, and coronation chicken, which is chicken combined with sultanas, spices and mayonnaise or crème fraiche.

Everybody eats these, from school children to working adults, particularly at lunchtime. To add extra British points, try adding a few walkers’ original crisps to the sandwich for that extra crunch.

Fun fact: sometimes we use the name ‘butty’ instead of sandwich. It is the exact same thing, just a different name. A popular butty is a chip butty, which you can find in chip shops.

British food
All sorts of sandwiches

10) Beans on toast

This is by far the most versatile meal on our island. Beans on toast is, well, beans on toast. To get the best results, make sure your toast is buttered well before pouring on the hot baked beans. If you are feeling extra hungry, grate some cheddar cheese on top and watch it melt onto the hot baked beans.

This meal can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is often eaten by students and for dinner by people who are in a hurry.

Fun fact: Luxury UK store, Fortnum and Mason, became the first store in the UK to sell Heinz baked beans.

British food
Partially eaten meal of baked beans on toast topped with grated cheese

11) Crumpets

Speaking of the importance of butter, this breakfast food would be nothing without it. Crumpets are a small, circular shape and have a spongy texture. The best feature of a crumpet however is the holes that it has. You see, most crumpets are cooked for three minutes in a toaster.

When the crumpets are ready, apply a spread or two of butter onto them and watch the melted butter fill the holes. Every bite is buttery-filled goodness. Like the full English, this breakfast is best eaten at home on weekends with a cup of tea.

Fun fact: the earliest reference to crumpets dates back to 1365… that’s a long time ago.

British food
Hot, buttered crumpets

12) English afternoon tea

Just like in the old black and white films, we love English afternoon tea (or simply afternoon tea). We usually have this on special occasions and it is the perfect treat. A tiered platter comes out that is full of sandwiches cut into quarters, plenty of cakes and most importantly, authentic British scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam.

For those of you who don’t know, clotted cream is a thick, dense cream made by heating full-cream cow’s milk with steam. Clotted cream is popular in the South West of England. Like the English breakfast, clotted cream has a high-fat content, but it is very yummy.We often like to debate what goes first on the scone: the clotted cream or the strawberry jam.

A pot of tea is served alongside the platter and no, you do not have to stick out your little finger when drinking. It is traditionally served around 4pm. To experience afternoon tea, you can go to a café or, if you really want the high life, The Ritz.

Fun fact: afternoon tea was founded by Duchess Anna of Bedford in 1840.

British food
English afternoon tea with: scones with clotted cream and jam, strawberries, with various sandwiches in the background

13) Crumble

This classic British dessert is a firm favourite amongst us. It consists of fruit, such as apples, blackberries and rhubarb, tossed in cinnamon and sugar, put in a baking tray and topped with crumbly pastry (hence the name crumble) until baked to perfection.

The classic flavour is apple, but combinations such as apple and rhubarb and apple and blackberry are equally delicious. It is usually served with custard or cream, but sometimes people like to combine the two. It is best to eat this after a roast dinner.

Fun fact: crumbles became popular in World War II when alternatives to pie were popular due to rations.

British food
Mixed berry crumble

14) Trifle

Trifle is a complicated, classic English dessert that has a lot of ingredients which are layered. The first layer is usually sponge fingers soaked in sherry, then fruit jelly (usually strawberry), then custard, then whipped cream.

This is layered until it reaches the top of the serving bowl, but the whipped cream must always be at the top. There is no baking involved in this and it is a cold dessert. It is traditionally served during the summer season.

Fun fact: the name trifle comes from the old French word ‘trufe’, which means of little importance.

British food
Sweet Homemade Strawberry Trifle Dessert with Custard and Cake.

15) Scotch egg

This small snack is extremely popular in British cuisine. If you are an egg lover, you will love it. It is a boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat, breadcrumbed and then deep-fried. These are typically served in pubs. For the best scotch egg, make sure yours has a runny yolk (the yellow part of the egg).

Fun fact: no one really knows the origins of the scotch egg, but it is widely believed that they first appeared in Whitby, Yorkshire.

British food
Jammy scotch egg.

16) Other popular British foods

Of course there are more types of traditional British food that did not make it onto the best UK dishes list. Take the dessert, sticky toffee pudding for instance. This is a rich-tasting dessert and extremely sweet. You serve it hot with a side of ice cream if you like.

Another extremely popular traditional British food is pork pie. This pie is formed with hot water crust pastry and is filled with pork. As with scotch egg, pork pie is a perfect British snack and both of these types of traditional British food are important to British cuisine.

British food
Sticky toffee pudding topped with ice cream.

Which traditional British dish would you like to try and why?

Tell us what typical British foods were your favourite: was it Sunday roast dinner or was it fish and chips? Whatever it is, let us know what traditional dishes you think deserve the title of national dish in the comments below.

Is this everything?

Absolutely not! If you’re feeling hungry watch this video on the differences between British and American food on my YouTube channel, English with Lucy.