England is so diverse in its cuisine depending on where you are visiting in the country. From the pies of the Northeast to the pasties of the Southwest and a hundred others in between, you’ll never be short of tasty dishes to try.
There are scrumptious favorites that the locals come back to again and again, as well as rather random traditional foods that might have you scratching your head a little.
And of course, England loves to tuck into foods from all over the world too, so you’ll find restaurants and takeaways offering all the classics. Great food is available all over the country, from the restaurants in the New Forest, to the afternoon teas in London – there are plenty of great fares to experience.
From cheap and cheerful snacks to some odd British delicacies that you might pay a bit more for, here are 11 of the best foods in England to try on your trip.
What to Eat in England
In England, you can usually find a lot of the foods below in most cities if you’re staying in one place and want to tick a bunch off your food bucket list all at once. However, if you’re able to travel to the individual places these foods are from, you’re sure to get something really special.
Luckily in England, you’ll also have a wide range of dietary options too, such as vegetarian and vegan foods, gluten-free meals, and lots more.
In fact, many of the below meals can be offered with slight adjustments to make them fit many dietary requirements — you don’t have to miss out on the fun because of an allergy or intolerance!
Types of Foods to Have in England
As well as the English staples you have to try, each region also has its own traditional foods that often have some brilliant history behind them based on the ingredients available at the time they were created.
1. Bangers and Mash
Bangers and mash is pretty self-explanatory, as long as you understand the English slang for sausages.
Bangers (sausages) and mash (mashed potato) is a classic all over England, and you might have it with a different type of sausage depending on where you are in the country, such as Cumberland sausages or Lincolnshire sausages.
If you’re wondering where the name ‘bangers’ actually comes from, it is thought that during World War I when there were shortages of meat, they had to add a lot of extra ingredients to bulk out the sausages, which caused them to pop and burst when cooked in a frying pan.
Traditionally this meal is eaten with onion gravy, and it’s a favorite all over the country — it’s hard not to love it.
2. Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea in England is traditionally served as scones with jam and clotted cream, a small selection of cakes and pastries, and sandwiches cut up into small rectangles or triangles that usually have fillings like smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise and cress, cucumber and cream cheese, and ham and mustard.
Many places will make their afternoon tea an experience by getting creative with the food and entertainment too.
3. Yorkshire Pudding
Yorkshire puddings are of course from Yorkshire in the north, and despite the name, they are a savory food, not a sweet one.
They’re usually a side dish to accompany some other traditional English foods (which we’ll cover later) and served with gravy.
You could have an hour-long conversation with an English person about what constitutes a “good Yorkshire pud”, but most people would say the bigger the better, with a fluffy inside and a crispy outside. If you want a really good one, a trip to Yorkshire is in order.
4. Fish and Chips
Fish and chips is a popular takeaway option in England, and it’s basically a fillet of fish in batter, with chips, and occasionally mushy peas on the side.
Cod is the typical fish used, but you might also get haddock, skate, or pollock too, and this can either be in a light crispy batter or an orange, breaded batter. And your chips won’t be like skinny French fries; they are thick-cut, chunky chips.
Depending on where you are in the country, some call it a “fish supper”, and you’ll get the best ones by the coast. Whether you’re in Cornwall, Yorkshire, or London, all of the locals will promise you that fish and chips in their region of England are the best. They are a staple if you’re visiting the seaside, so don’t skip out on this classic English dish.
5. Full English Breakfast
If you want to really indulge, or you’re hungover, a fry up is the perfect breakfast option in England.
The selection on the plate will differ depending on which region you are in, but mostly you’ll end up with a combination of bacon, eggs, sausages, baked beans, a fried tomato, mushrooms, black pudding, maybe some bubble and squeak (made from potatoes and cabbage), and either toasted or fried bread on the side.
You’ll find these in lots of restaurants that offer breakfast, but if you want a really traditional one, head to the nearest ‘greasy spoon’, which is sort of like an English diner with very cheap, fried food.
6. Shephard’s Pie
Shepherd’s pie and cottage pie are often thought to be the same thing. They are very similar, but shepherd’s pie is typically made with ground lamb while cottage pie is made with ground beef.
Both versions consist of a layer of cooked minced meat, with a layer of mashed potato on top, baked in the oven and served with a side of peas.
There’s some speculation over whether this dish originates from Ireland or England, but either way it’s regularly eaten all over England so we think it’s a good traditional English meal you have to try while you’re here.
7. Cornish Pasty
Cornwall in the southwest is home to the famous Cornish pasty, which is a chunky bit of pastry with fillings inside.
The puckered outer edge of the pastry is traditionally very tough, but it was always designed that way; the wives of Cornish tin miners would make pasties with all the sustenance their husbands needed, all baked into one little parcel, ready for lunchtime, and the hard outer edge was used as a handle to make it easier to eat on the go.
Traditionally, a Cornish pasty is only a real one if it’s made in Cornwall, and although there are variations all over the country with different ingredients, the Cornish way is with beef, potato, swede, onion, salt, and pepper.
You’ll find these to be very filling, and great value – in fact a pasty for lunch makes for a great way to save money on days out in England when you’re on the coast. While the most traditional are available around towns in Cornwall, you will find them all over the UK.
8. Roast Dinner (A Sunday Roast)
A Sunday roast is a must in England, and it’s always worth looking up the best roasts in the area as people can be pretty particular about what makes a good roast.
Again, it differs depending on where you are in the country, but usually, your plate will have some sort of roasted meat (this could be chicken, pork, beef, or lamb), mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes (otherwise known as roasties) and accompaniments like a Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, gravy, and condiments like an apple or mint sauce.
As Roman Catholics and Anglicans traditionally didn’t eat meat on certain days of the week, the Sunday roast came about during the time of King Henry VII’s rule around 1485, as their way of celebrating on Sundays with a meaty meal.
All over England on a Sunday you’ll find pubs offering this classic meal, but be warned, wear your stretchy trousers that day.
9. Toad in the Hole
Toad in the hole consists of sausages baked into Yorkshire pudding batter and served with gravy and veggies. In the olden days, this was a way to make a bigger meal out of less meat as there wasn’t as much to go around, so toad in the hole is usually quite large.
There’s no big secret behind the name of this one; the sausages supposedly look like toads poking out of a hole!
10. Lancashire Hotpot
Lancashire hotpot is a type of stew that is traditionally eaten in the northwest, Lancashire specifically.
In the stew, you’ll usually find lamb or mutton mixed with onion, and topped with sliced potatoes that give it a nice look on the table.
It’s all slowly baked in a pot on low heat, which back in the day, was an advantage that allowed people to leave the hotpot cooking while they went to work.
The term hotpot refers to the dish it’s often cooked in, but some believe it also comes from the word ‘hodgepodge’ because of all the layers of ingredients.
Either way, this tasty dish isn’t quite as common as some of the rest on this list, but it’s well worth trying if you come across it.
11. Jellied Eel
Perhaps the most strange offering on the list, and maybe the most likely to put you off, is jellied eels. But if you’re in London, you have to taste these as they’re a city staple. You might have to look at quite a few menus before you find them though.
Back in the 1700s, Londoners would eat jellied eels because they were a cheap, nutritious meal always readily available from the River Thames.
Many traditional pie and mash shops also served eels. The dish itself is chopped eels boiled in spiced stock, that forms a jelly when cooled, and they are typically served cold.
Today you won’t find jellied eels often, but in London, many delis and shops will sell them for tourists to try, and occasionally you may find them in restaurants too.
12. Chicken Tikka Masala
Did you know that the national dish of the UK is actually a curry?
Chicken Tikka Masala is a curry dish that originated on the shores of Great Britain (it was actually created in Scotland, not England) and is a curry that you should absolutely try while you are visiting England. It is one of the best foods in England when it comes to flavor and spice.
You can find this on the menu at pretty much every curry restaurant in the entire country. Order it with naan bread and some rice so that you can mop up all the sauce.
The sauce is made with chilis, tomatoes, garlic, onions, garam masala, and plenty of other spices as well as cream to give it a luxurious texture.