When I first visited Edinburgh, Scotland, I would have appreciated a culinary guide to tell me what was actually in haggis, or that Scottish shortbread is addictive, or to put a little salt in my Scottish porridge. So here’s some help with five Scottish foods to try in Edinburgh.



    It’s a running joke to tell tourists that haggis is a type of animal. You’d be forgiven for believing this story, so unusual-looking is this dish. There are numerous recipes, but the most traditional haggis is made from sheep’s ‘pluck’ (a less graphic way of saying heart, liver and lungs). The meat is minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt and boiled in the sheep’s stomach for around three hours.

    Unsurprisingly, haggis has always had trouble being accepted. Even in the 1700’s, Scotland’s famous poet, Robert Burns, had to defend the dish. In a poem, he playfully mocked the haggis-hater who ‘looks down with a sneering scornful opinion on such a dinner’. To honor the poet’s memory, Burns Suppers are held all over Scotland on Burns’ birthday, January 25th. The main dish is, of course, haggis.


    Scottish Shortbread

    Don’t run away yet! Here is a sweet Scottish specialty that is, ahem, a bit more ‘mainstream’. Scottish Shortbread evolved from a medieval recipe for drying out left-over bread dough in an oven to make ‘biscuit bread’. Eventually, the yeast in the biscuit bread was replaced with butter to make shortbread.

    Scottish Shortbread was once very expensive and served on special days like weddings, Christmas and New Year. Now, shops throughout Edinburgh sell it in various shapes, from ‘petticoat tails’ to ‘fingers’.

    photo by Dave souza (CC BY-SA 2.5) modified


    Scottish Porridge

    Porridge is another classic Scottish dish. While porridge is enjoyed in countries around the world, there is a Scottish way of eating it. Scots cook the porridge slowly and use a spurtle (a 12” wooden stick) to get rid of lumps. Scottish porridge is served with salt or even a little whiskey.

    photo by Ungry Young Man (CC BY 2.0) modified



    Which leads us to our next item. Scotch Whisky, or simply ‘Scotch’ is probably the most famous beverage to come from Scotland. It gets its distinct flavour from distilled barley liquor and peat-tainted water. If you want to find out more, there are several related tours in Edinburgh, such as The Scotch Whisky Experience, for which you'll have to stay near the Royal Mile.


    Scottish Bannock

    The Scottish Bannock is a type of bread about the same thickness as a scone, traditionally made from oatmeal (although sometimes plain flour is used) and cooked on griddle. These days, many people use an iron skillet instead. The bannock’s popularity has spread throughout the world thanks to Scottish settlers. Native Americans in the US and Canada adopted the food in the eighteenth century. One of the most famous Scottish versions is the Selkirk Bannock, which, ironically, is more of a fruitcake than an oatcake.

    It seems there are a thousand different recipes for each of these foods – there is even a vegetarian haggis! In all their variations, these foods give you an authentic taste of Scotland.

    photo by Ninian Reid (CC BY 2.0) modified

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