Today I want to bring you A Lady in London’s top picks for classic English dishes. These culinary favorites range from traditional savory meals to beloved desserts and weird British food. Whether you want to cook one dish a la carte or make a whole meal, they’ll inspire your inner chef and fill every corner of your stomach.

Classic English Dishes

Classic English Dishes

These traditional English meals will let your taste buds travel through England without leaving home. They’ll give you a sampling of land and sea, savory and sweet. You can even eat them while watching TV shows set in London.

They’ll let your imagination lead you along country paths and coastal walks while you dine. Above all, they’ll taste good. They might even taste great.

English Cheese Plate

Cookbooks for Classic English Dishes

If you want a cookbook, I recommend The Cottage Kitchen. In addition to recipes, it has beautiful photography and stories. If you’re in the UK, you can get it here. If you’re in the US, you can get it here.

And for sweet things, The Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking is just the thing. If you’re in the UK, you can get it here. If you’re in the US, you can get it here.

Bread and Apples

1. Fish and Chips

I have to start my list of classic English dishes with my favorite. It’s hard to think of a more traditional meal than fish and chips. And given it makes great comfort food, it ticks a number of boxes at the same time.

While fish and chips is done all over the world, the English way is to serve the meal with mushy peas.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, they’re peas that are brought to a boil, then simmered until the peas are soft and mushy. There’s often mint involved.

It might sound crazy (it did to me when I first moved to London), but give it a try. You just might like mushy peas. I certainly do.

Classic English Fish and Chips

2. Bangers and Mash

While the name might throw you off the scent, bangers and mash is just an English way of saying sausages and mashed potatoes. You’re allowed to laugh.

This is another of the classic English dishes that falls into the category of comfort food. Piping hot sausages and fluffy mashed potatoes are hard to beat, especially when served with onion gravy.

Whether your sausages are pork, lamb, beef, veggie, or vegan is up to you. You can also add peas and other sides to the dish if you want to round it out with some colorful compliments.

3. Sunday Roast

Next on my list of classic English dishes is Sunday roast. This traditional weekend feast first caught my attention at my local pub in Hampstead when I moved to London, and I’ve been enamored ever since.

For an American like me, Sunday roast is essentially Thanksgiving dinner every weekend. It’s the full works.

Roasted meat (or a vegetarian or vegan alternative like nut roast), heaps of potatoes, and lots of cooked vegetables all go down a treat smothered in gravy. And don’t forget the Yorkshire pudding. It’s delicious.

Whether you cook roast beef, chicken, or mushroom Wellington is up to you. You can get as creative as you want to with how you do your Sunday roast, which is one of the fun things about it.

Many families cook this traditional English meal at home on Sundays, and most pubs serve it as well.

It’s a staple part of an English diet (or my English diet, anyway), and one that’s worth trying if you have some spare time on your hands.

Sunday Roast

4. Bubble and Squeak

Of all the classic English dishes, bubble and squeak has my favorite name. But when I first moved to the UK, I had no idea what it was. The name doesn’t really give a clue.

Then I learned that bubble and squeak is basically the kitchen sink of English breakfasts. It’s a big mix of potatoes and vegetables fried together as a thick round patty (or a series of smaller ones).

Bubble and squeak is usually made from the leftovers of Sunday roast or another big meal. That means it’s full of everything from cabbage to carrots, peas, Brussels sprouts, leeks, and other vegetables.

If you’ve been cooking a lot at home, this meal is a great way to use up all those leftovers. If you want to get creative, you can even add a poached or fried egg on top, or throw some haddock or grilled trout in.

5. Full English Breakfast

And speaking of English breakfasts, the full English breakfast is perhaps the most controversial of all classic English dishes.

Most Brits swear by it. Most foreigners find it overwhelming, confusing, or off-putting. But some love it. Like I said, it’s a tricky one.

The full English breakfast is a beast of a meal. It usually consists of English bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding, baked beans, cooked tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and toast, all washed down with tea or coffee.

There are vegetarian and vegan variations and other twists, too. Essentially it’s the British equivalent of the giant American portions I grew up with.

When I first moved to London, I really wanted to like the full English. But I couldn’t get my head around the idea of eating things like beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms for breakfast.

Over the years I’ve gotten on board with this staple of classic English dishes, though. And while I still find the idea of beans and tomatoes for breakfast a bit confusing, I’ve learned to love a full English breakfast.

If you’re on the fence, the secret is in the sauce. That is to say, don’t forget to douse your plate in a good helping of HP Sauce, ketchup, or whatever your sauce of choice is.

Full English Breakfast

6. Shepherd’s Pie

Going back to lunch and dinner, shepherd’s pie is another of the most classic English dishes. Pies in general are pretty traditional here. Whether it’s steak and ale or steak and kidney, you can find a pie for you.

But I’m choosing shepherd’s pie for my list. This (usually) lamb pie is done with a crust of mashed potatoes on top.

While there are a lot of variations of shepherd’s pie, they all include a ground red meat (or veggie or vegan alternative) cooked in an onion sauce or gravy and topped with mashed potatoes.

This is another great comfort food dish, as are most pies. It’s a good one to make with a side of roasted vegetables for a cozy dinner in.

7. Sticky Toffee Pudding

You didn’t think I’d write about classic English dishes without including desserts, did you? No, you know me too well for that.

And the first dessert I want to write about is sticky toffee pudding. Which isn’t what it might sound like.

When I moved to London, I learned that all desserts are called puddings here even if they’re not what the rest of the world would call a pudding. Once I got my head around that, sticky toffee pudding made more sense.

That’s because it’s a cake. Sticky toffee pudding is a warm, rich sponge cake smothered in toffee sauce. It’s served with custard, cream, or vanilla ice cream, and it’s absolutely divine.

I had my first sticky toffee pudding with my first Sunday roast, and the combination won me over to traditional English meals.

Sticky Toffee Pudding and Cake

8. Eton Mess

On the opposite end of the dessert spectrum, Eton Mess is another of my favorite classic English dishes. While sticky toffee pudding is rich and decadent, Eton Mess is light as air.

This English dessert is made by mixing fresh strawberries with crushed meringue and whipped cream. The result is a summer day in a glass. It’s the perfect warm-weather end to a meal.

This one has a legendary history, too. It’s thought to have been invented at the prestigious Eton College near Windsor Castle in the 19th century. To this day, it’s served at the annual cricket match between Eton and its rival, Harrow.

9. Afternoon Tea

The last of the classic English dishes I want to write about is an ambitious one. But if you have time on your hands, I thought some of you might be up for a challenge.

It’s my favorite British pastime, and it’s afternoon tea. Yum.

Consisting of finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries (oh, and tea), this decadent spread is a meal in itself. There’s lots of room for creativity and interpretation, so it’s a good one if you want to come up with a theme.

You can dig up a tiered tray (or just a series of plates), cut the crusts off the bread, and get to work on your pastry skills.

This one takes a lot of effort, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great way to pass the time and channel your inner Anglophile while you’re at it.

English Afternoon Tea

Best Classic English Dishes

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of classic English dishes and that making them brings you closer to England even if you can’t travel here.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the kitchen. Writing this post has made me so hungry I could eat a full English breakfast.

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Classic English Dishes

8 Comments on Lady’s 9 Classic English Dishes That Will Give You a Taste of Britain

  1. Thanks, now I’m hungry! But I have to put in a pitch for my fave treat in London: the simple cheese and (Branston) pickle sandwich. That’s what I need to get first stop after Heathrow whenever this is all over!

  2. Your list was perfect! All of the classic British recipes and all of my favorites…. except for a nice toasty pasty!

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