Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Scottish Foods



Milk, cream, and butter are widely and generously used. Cheeses in great variety are assuming increasing importance in the Scottish diet. Some types commonly used:

  • Caboc: a log-shaped, soft, buttery cheese rolled in fine oatmeal and traditionally served with Baps.
  • Caithness: a soft cheese aged sixty days.
  • Hattit Kit: the Scottish version of cream cheese, often molded and served with fresh fruits and cream (French-food bulls will note its similarity to Coeur a la
  • Creme, a classic French dessert prepared from a blend of cream cheese and cottage cheese pressed into a heart-shaped basket to drain off the whey. Un-molded, it is served with sugared fresh berries.)
  • Raasey Cheese: a thick, cooked mixture of milk, eggs, and cheese served on toast.
  • Rarebit: a thick sauce of melted cheese with beer or ale, seasoned with mustard and served on toast.


Fresh fruits and vegetables are usually served in season and are often prepared with milk, butter, or cream. Staples for winter use include kale, seaweed, cabbage, and potatoes. Canned peas are often used as a garnish. Fruits are consumed as preserves, sweetened desserts, or in baked goods. Scots by tradition are not large vegetable eaters nor do they usually consume any great quantity of fresh vegetables or green fresh salads. Typical fruits include apples, plums, and many types of berries. To the staple vegetables listed above may be added turnips (neeps), leeks, onions, tomatoes, and parsnips.


Fish and, more recently beef are the favored protein foods. Extended practical use of offal (heart, liver, kidneys, tripe, etc.) and economical cuts of meat are prepared simply. Usual methods of cooking include meaty soups, stews, or meat pies and broths. When the budget permits, beef, veal, and mutton are used most, with chicken and pork products less. The exception is bacon which is used often, and frequently lends its smoky taste to many economical dishes or light suppers. In some areas wild fowl and game are used. Fish is preferred over other seafood. Favored fish include salmon, trout, cod, haddock, kippers, and herring. There is some consumption of mussels, oysters, crab, winkles, and shrimp.

Eggs are mostly used as an ingredient in other dishes or prepared as a light supper. Legumes are used only occasionally in some soups.


Oatmeal is no longer the leading item in the Scottish diet. Nonetheless it is still the most important grain cereal used. Some of its ingenious variations include its use as a thickening and coating agent: as a breakfast cereal; toasted, baked, griddled, boiled or fried: as part of soups, beverages, desserts, dumplings, cookies, and meat mixtures. Scottish oatmeal is used in the fine ground form rather than as rolled flakes.

Each Scottish cook takes pride in the authenticity of traditional family recipes for breads, cakes, biscuits, and shortbreads. Most are made from wheat flour, very few use yeast as a leavening agent, and all are characterized by the delicate natural taste and aroma of fresh eggs and butter.


Butter, margarine, lard, and suet prevail as the favored fats in cooking and baking. Oil is seldom used. Fats are also consumed in the form of buttery cheese and cream.


Candies, especially butterscotch, taffy, and hard sugar candies are frequent treats, found in many pockets and often used to reward children. Jellies, jams, marmalades, and preserves such as fruit butters are on the table daily. Quick tea breads, plain un-iced cakes and crisp plain cookies (biscuits) are consumed in large enough quantities to form a significant part of the diet. Scottish shortbread is enjoyed in many countries and not only by Scots.


The Scottish spice shelf is one of the smallest in the world. Salt and pepper are used but seldom are other spices or any herbs called for. Onions add zest to many dishes, and butter and oats are used with such frequency that they could also be considered to be typical flavors. Ginger is the spice most used in baking, if at all. The pure natural taste of fresh ingredients is preferred to the addition of any spices or herbs or anything that may mask them.


It has been said that Scotch whiskey is the staple beverage of Scotland, and there’s scarcely an individual who won’t stoutly defend the attributes of a favorite brand. But a fair amount of beer and some imported wines are also consumed.

Tea is the beverage for breakfast and for a refreshing break. This is usually accompanied by at least a few of the famed tea breads and cakes for it wouldn’t do to have tea alone. At its simplest, tea will at least be accompanied by bread, butter, and preserves.

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