Traditional Scottish Food (part 2) – Scottish Ingredients

Here’s some of the most sought after Scottish Ingredients for you (continued from part 1):

  • Red Grouse - Scottish game bird - one of the most famous scottish ingredientsScottish Game includes: venison, wild pheasant, wild rabbit and hare.
  • Wild Scottish Grouse. The red grouse is sometimes called “moorbird” in Scotland, since it lives in the moors amidst the heather. Famed as ‘The Glorious Twelfth’ (of August), the start of the red grouse season is much anticipated in certain circles!  It’s a traditional competition among chefs to be the first to serve grouse. The season ends December 10. Grouse is much prized as a game bird for its meat, and for its feathers, used to decorate hats. Dining on pheasant, quail and grouse came to represent the country lifestyle of the British aristocracy.
Aberdeen Angus steak - another of the most iconic Scottish ingredients

Aberdeen Angus steak – Copyright © VisitScotland / Grant Paterson, all rights reserved.

  • Aberdeen Angus beef – claimed to be world’s finest beef from Angus cattle. These animals typically live outside all year, eat fresh green forage, free from pollution, 365 days of the year. Why is it so good? The Highland climate and soil type simply create the perfect conditions for beef cattle to thrive.
  • Kobe meat, from Wagyu cattle originates from Japan. Scottish farmers now produce Kobe- style meat from Wagyu cattle crossed with prized Aberdeen Angus.
  • Haggis –  one of the most famous Scottish ingredients and a mainstay of the traditional full Scottish breakfast. Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in boiled in either a sausage casing or a sheep’s stomach, but now often an artificial casing.
    • Haggis Dish

      Haggis Dish – Copyright © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam, all rights reserved.

      Often served together – Haggis, Neeps and Tatties (haggies, swede and potato), is a Scottish classic, traditionally eaten on Burns Night.

    • There is much confusion and furore over whether ‘neeps’ are turnips or swedes. The answer is yes! In most of the English-speaking world, a turnip is a small root vegetable with a white flesh. Whilst ‘neep’ is indeed short for turnip, in Scotland a turnip or neep is a somewhat different root vegetable – larger, purplish-green on the outside and pale yellow or orange on the inside – otherwise known as a ‘swede’ elsewhere in England, Wales, Australia and New Zealand.

Scallops on Black Pudding

Seared Skye hand dived Scallops on Stornoway Black Pudding – Copyright © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved

  • Black pudding – a type of blood sausage with similar ingredients to haggis – made from pork fat or beef suet, pork blood and a relatively high proportion of oatmeal, in some recipes mixed with oat groats and sometimes even barley groats.
    • Visit Scotland state “Joining the likes of blueberries, kale, sweet potato and avocado, good quality black pudding is believed to have great nutritional benefits when eaten as part of a balanced diet. It’s thought to be a good source of calcium, magnesium and potassium, as well as protein, and it contains particularly high levels of iron, an essential mineral required by every cell in the body.
    • Local (Forres) Butcher and Game Dealer, Macbeth’s Award Winning Black Pudding is used by Michelin Star restaurants up and down the country.
    • The Original Stornoway Black Pudding, known as “the best sausage made in the UK” is produced by MacLeod and MacLeod butchers in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. The Isle of Lewis crofters knew black pudding by its Scottish Gaelic name, “marag dubh”, with “dubh” meaning “black”.
    • White Pudding is a delicate lighter shade of pudding made with Scottish oatmeal.
  • Ayrshire is home to the original Scottish bacon and traditional producers, Ramsay of Carluke still cure bacon as their great-grandfather back in 1857.
  • Lorne sausage, sometimes referred to as square sausage or slice sausage, is a traditional Scottish food usually made from ground meat, rusk and spices.
  • Certified Scotch Lamb is a seasonal accreditation and at its best from July to September. Spring lamb, despite the name, is available through autumn and is extremely tender with rosy-pink flesh.
  • Powsowdie is a Scottish sheep’s head broth or soup. Like haggis and black pudding, it stems from the times when all parts of an animal were used in cooking and nothing was wasted.
  • Smokeries and Smoke Houses – for smoked and cured Scottish salmon, oysters, mussels and shellfish.
    • The Loch Fyne Restaurant & Oyster Bar, in the Southern Highlands, is described as one of Scotland’s genuine gastronomic icons. Loch Fyne Oysters Ltd’s award-winning seafood is supplied to Michelin starred restaurants, prestigious retailers such as Selfridges and Globus and served to corporate guests at Formula 1 and Championship League Finals.
    • Diver-caught/hand-dived Scottish scallops, in particular from the West Coast of Scotland, are said to be amongst the best in the world. Scallops are the second most valuable shellfish species in Scotland; most are exported to France and Italy.
Hebridean langoustine

Hebridean langoustine – Copyright © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved

  • Scottish seafood specialities include: Cod, Crab, Haddock, Herring, Langoustine, Lobster, Mackerel, Monkfish, Whiting, Scallops, Hake and Saithe.
    • Scotland is a major region in the UK fishing industry, accounting for 60% of all fish landed in the UK.
  • Along similar lines as Powsowdie, Crappit Heids (stuffed fish heads) can be traced back to 18th-Century coastal communities around Aberdeenshire, where poor fishermen’s families survived on this style of meal after being forced to sell the more expensive fillets of fish.
  • Again, along a similar vein (pardon the pun) Stovies is a traditional Scottish dish intended to use left-over food. Based on potatoes and meat with onion, recipes can include vegetables, sausages, roast beef, minced beef or other meat. “To stove” means “to stew” in Scots.
Cullen Skink

Cullen Skink – Copyright © VisitScotland / Grant Paterson, all rights reserved.

  • Cullen Skink is a thick soup made of smoked haddock, potato and onion. A ‘signature dish’ often served as a starter at formal Scottish dinners.
  • Scotch Broth is a filling soup usually made of barley, stewing or braising cuts of lamb, mutton or beef, root vegetables and dried pulses (split peas and red lentils). Cabbage and leeks may be added before serving to preserve their texture, colour and flavours.
  • Cock-a-leekie is a Scottish soup dish consisting of leeks and peppered chicken stock, often thickened with rice or barley. While known as “Scotland’s National Soup,” it probably originated in France.
Scotch Pies

Scotch Pies – Copyright © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved.

  • Scotch pie is a small, double-crust meat pie filled with minced mutton or other meat. Believed to originate in Scotland, but can be found in other parts of the UK, and is widely sold all over Canada. Tip: avoid the cheap Scotch pies sold in supermarkets and gas stations.
  • However, do indulge in pies from craft bakeries, such as the ones who enter The World Championship Scotch Pie Awards held in in Dunfermline. Pie categories include: Scotch Pie, Sausage Roll, Bridie, Macaroni, Apple Pie, handheld Steak Pie, Hot or Cold Savoury, Haggis Savoury and Vegetarian Savoury.
Scottish Dunlop Cheese

Scottish Dunlop Cheese – Copyright © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved.

  • Scottish Cheddar accounts for 70-80% of the total output of cheese. Other well known Scottish Cheeses include:
    • Dunlop and smoked Dunlop cheeses – similar to cheddar, but more moist.
    • Caboc, said to be Scotland’s oldest cheese, made in the Highlands since the 15th century. ‘Kebbuck’ is the traditional Scots Gaelic word for cheese.
    • Crowdie is a Scottish cream cheese. Often eaten with oatcakes, it is said to alleviate the effects of whisky-drinking!
    • Connage Clava Brie, locally made, award-winning and delicious!
    • Lanarkshire Blue – made from unpasteurised ewes milk.
Oaties/Oatcakes and cheese

Oaties/Oatcakes and cheese – Copyright © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved.

  • Described as the “mainstay of Scottish breads for centuries”, Oatcakes have been documented as existing in Scotland since at least the time of the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43. Technically a flat bread, but similar to a cracker or biscuit, oatcakes are cooked on a griddle or baked in an oven.
  • Queen Elizabeth II is said to typically enjoy Scottish oatcakes for breakfast. Walkers Oatcakes carry a Royal Warrant.
  • Shortbread is a biscuit traditionally made from one part white sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. Originating in Scotland during or before the 16th century, shortbread is widely associated with Christmas and Hogmanay festivities in Scotland.
    • Its refinement is credited to Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century.
    • A tradition in Shetland is to break a decorated shortbread cake over the head of a new bride on the entrance of her new house.
    • Dean’s of Huntly and Walkers are famous brands of Scottish shortbread.
  • Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert usually made from whipped cream, whisky, honey, fresh raspberries, with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in whisky. A Scottish equivalent to Eton Mess, traditionally it presented as the ingredients which you served yourself.
  • Tipsy Laird –  a trifle made with Scotch whisky (or Drambuie) and Scottish raspberries – similar to an English trifle with whisky replacing the usual sherry, plus sponge, custard, cream and flaked almonds.
    • Scottish raspberries are renowned worldwide for being the best.
  • Highland Scottish Fruit Cake – There are many local variants of these moist fruit loaves, which are packed full of fruit i.e. Dundee Cake, Aberdeenshire Rich Fruit Cake, Strathspey Rich Fruit Cake, Highland Whisky Cake is supplied by several distilleries including Glenfiddich.
Scotch Black Bun

Scotch Black Bun – Copyright © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam, all rights reserved.

  • There are many craft bakeries producing Scottish Cakes and Breads such as: Black Buns, Clootie Dumplings and Bannocks (flat round quick bread cooked from grain, often cut into wedges called scones) etc.
    • Black Bun is traditionally a celebration cake for Twelfth Night and now Hogmany, which is a fruitcake encased in pastry.
    • Clootie pudding/dumpling is made with flour, breadcrumbs, dried fruit (sultanas and currants), suet, sugar and spice with some milk to bind it, and sometimes golden syrup
    Scottish Bakery items

    Scottish Bakery items – Copyright © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved.

    • Bannocks are flat round quick bread cooked from grain, often cut into wedges called scones.
    • The Tattie Scone or potato scone. Made with boiled potatoes, butter and salt, they are traditionally served as part of the full Scottish breakfast. Alternatively, they can be eaten like a wheat scone with jam and a cup of tea, or as a sandwich roll/breakfast buttie – with either sliced sausage, bacon, and/or fried egg.
    • A Festy Cock is a Scottish pancake, fired in a kiln, traditionally to mark Shrove Tuesday. It is made from fine-ground oatmeal mixed with a small amount of water, rolled, flattened and baked.
    • Regional varieties include: Forfar Bridie, Aberdeen Butteries, Selkirk Bannocks.
  • Scottish wild mushrooms, with their distinctive flavour and texture, flourish in sheltered woodlands which provide perfect conditions for a variety of edible mushrooms including cep and chanterelle.
  • Dating back to the early 18th century, Tablet is a sweet confectionary typically made from sugar, condensed milk, and butter. Often flavoured with vanilla or whisky, and sometimes containing nut pieces, tablet is harder, brittle, grainy texture, when compared to fudge.
  • Highland Chocolate. The Highlands and greater Scotland are home to award-winning chocolate. From The Highland Chocolatier in Pitlochry, across to the Highland Chocolate Co. near Fort William and up to Cocoa Mountain and Caithness Chocolate in the North. There’s plenty more chocoholic opportunities in between.


  • Scottish Heather Honey is said to be the Champagne of Honeys, of superior quality and distinctive flavour, often gathered from hives in the most beautiful unpolluted parts of Scotland.
    • Research has indicated that Scottish heather honey is even more effective for treating infections than its New Zealand-based cousin, the well-known Manuka honey. It evens kills the strains of bacteria that cause MRSA!
  • Tayberries are a recent (1979) patented cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry, named after the river Tay in Scotland. The edible fruits can be eaten raw or cooked, but cannot be mechanically harvested as they are too soft. Hence, they are mainly grown by artisans and backyard growers, used for making jams, pies, or wine.

Which Scottish ingredients would you like to try on your tour?

A good source of traditional recipes using Scottish ingredients is ‘In The Scots Kitchen’ (1929) by F. Marian McNeill.  Four great ways to see and sample such traditional Scottish fayre are (i) food festivals, (ii) local delicatessens, (iii) smokehouses or smokeries, and (iv) local farmers’ markets – where products should have been grown, reared, and caught, brewed, pickled, baked, smoked, processed and/or packaged by the stallholder.

Four great ways to see and sample such traditional Scottish fayre are (i) food festivals, (ii) local delicatessens, (iii) smokehouses or smokeries, and (iv) local farmers’ markets – where products should have been grown, reared, and caught, brewed, pickled, baked, smoked, processed and/or packaged by the stallholder. These are explored in the third part of this article – on Scottish Food and Drink (part 3).

If you’d like to take a Highland Culinary Sightseeing Tour with us, then contact us now to get the ball rolling.