The History of British Food

Written by jason tyson
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Pin
  • Email
The History of British Food

The identity of cuisine in Britain has undergone many different changes in the last few centuries. Many of the dishes served in the British Isles today have origins from as far back as the Middle Ages. After the Victorian era, which introduced common customs such as the three-course meal, British food experienced a period of poor reputation, but it has recently begun to recover. British cuisine is highly indicative of the temperate climate of the country, but has also been subject to outside influences.


The agriculture practices of the Roman and Norman periods of England greatly influenced the recipes and culinary atmosphere in early kitchens long after those eras were through. Stewing and stuffing various farm and game meats originated from those periods, as well as roasting and spicing. Wales was famous for raising sheep, so lamb with mint sauce was a staple Welsh dish. In England, dishes such as steak and kidney pie, bangers and mash and Yorkshire pudding have embedded themselves in the food history of the country. Some of these traditions carried over to continental Europe and beyond, especially during the height of trading and colonisation in the 17th and 18th centuries.


It is a recent but common myth among some people is that food in Great Britain is poor tasting and ill prepared. While there were many influences that contributed to the decline of food in the U.K. during the 20th century, there has since been a rebirth of English cuisine, due to the decrease of mass scale production of food that lead to an increase in quality, the rise of television cooking shows that led to a greater awareness of quality cooking among the working class, and the fusion of cuisine from continental Europe and beyond.

Anglo-Indian Cuisine

Perhaps the biggest influence on current English cuisine has come from the Indian subcontinent, due to the British occupation there that last from 1858 until 1947. Just as British cooks living in India had an effect on traditional Indian dishes, so did the reverse hold true, and even popular dishes considered Indian fare today were invented or adopted by British cooks. Some examples of this include mulligatawny soup, chicken tikka masala and kedgeree, the latter of which was taken to India by Scottish troops, where it was adopted into common fare for that country.

The History of British Food
Chicken tikka masala probably originated in the UK

Modern Fare

The most common dishes associated with British food include the Full English Breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, half a tomato, hash browns and either fried bread or toast, fish and chips, roast beef and potatoes, and a curry. But British citizens have become increasingly drawn to both vegetarianism and organic produce, and there has been a further effort to revamp the public houses and restaurants where food is served. The larger cities in the Isles, from London to Dublin and Edinburough, are starting to contain the best eateries in the world.

United States Effect

The fast food movement that began in the U.S. hit Great Britain soon thereafter, and now most major chains are located there, such as Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC, But this has also led to a series of British originated Fast Food chains, including Wimpy, Little Chef and Spudulike, a Scottish fast food company that specialises in filled baked potatoes.

The History of British Food
Baked potatoes can be purchased on the go through at least one British fast food chain

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.