One of the best ways to ensure your restaurant’s success is by serving fantastic food that people enjoy. If you’re in the US, you should see what the most popular types of restaurants are in the US. But if you’re across the pond, you must be an expert on the most popular food in UK circles.
You could have the best marketing or customer service, but if people don’t like your dishes, it’s a non-starter. Of course, you don’t have to serve only what’s popular or familiar to people. Devoted foodies love to try new and exciting cuisine. But if you’re unsure where to start your restaurant journey or want to boost sales, look into what locals love.
That’s why we’ve compiled this handy guide on what UK residents like to chow. Keep reading for a walk through the most popular British foods, including traditional British food and more international takeout favorites.
Britain’s Most Popular Food for Dining Out
Let’s start with Britain’s most popular food for dining out. After all, if you’re opening a restaurant in the UK, you’ll want to know what foods people order the most. We gathered this information from a national JustEat survey polling food sentiment across the British Isles.
The study found that the five most popular British foods for dining out didn’t include classic British foods. Instead, international flavors dominated the takeaway category. The winners were (in order of popularity):
- Fast Food
Scroll on to learn more about these categories and why they’re the top go-to’s in the UK.
1. The Most Popular Food in UK for Takeaway: Italian
Taking the title of “Most popular food in the UK” is Italian food. Like Americans, British folks can’t resist the Mediterranean goodness of Italian food. Pasta is a staple of Italian cooking and a favorite of diners worldwide. Italian cuisine offers endless rich, savory, and fresh dishes to please any appetite.
In the UK, however, take-out orderers favored the comfort food options the most. The top Italian dishes were lasagna and macaroni and cheese.
Lasagna is a traditional Italian food served as layers of bolognese (tomato sauce with beef) and bechamel (a creamy butter-milk sauce). This is then sandwiched between broad “lasagna” noodles and topped with mozzarella shreds. It then cooks in an oven until it bubbles to perfection.
But what about macaroni and cheese? While many Americans think of mac and cheese as a classically American meal, it’s got Italian roots. The original macaroni cheese was closer to Lasagna. Except the noodle sheets were smaller, and you subbed out the bolognese for even more cheese. These days, most UK and US cooks use macaroni noodles instead and adjust the recipe in new and delectable ways.
2. England’s Most Popular Food for Dining Out: Indian
The second most popular British food should come as no surprise to English readers. England’s most popular food is Indian cuisine. The UK has a robust Indian population, with British Indians being the largest visible ethnic minority in the country. This comes from the long colonial history linking these two nations for centuries.
Thanks to the melding of these two cultures, Indian food has become a star of the UK food scene. Locals love the rich, complex, and well-spiced flavors of traditional curries above all other Indian meals. If you’ve never tried curry, picture meat or veggies stewed in a thick, warming sauce teaming with spices.
The favorite Indian dish of British people is the irresistible creamy and savory tikka masala. Also popular in America, there isn’t one standardized way to make this curry. However, it typically features tomato puree, coconut cream, yogurt, onion, peppers, and masala spice mixes.
Chicken tikka masala is one of the best-known versions. But you can also order a veggie or Paneer tikka if you prefer. Whichever you choose, tikka masala is vibrant orange and goes well with rice and naan bread. It’s no wonder it’s on the short list of the most popular food in the UK.
3. Fast Food: The Most Popular Food in the UK Doesn’t Have To Be Fancy
Who can resist comforting, fast food now and then? Not UK residence, that’s for sure. Modern-day Brits are all about the quick convenience of an on-the-go meal. Fast food ticks all the boxes. Many items fit under the fast food umbrella, but they’rei all pre-made and mass-produced.
However, the most well-known (and well-loved by British folks) fast food option is a hamburger. A beef patty with your choice of condiments and toppings nestled between bread buns—what’s not to love? Serve it with french fries and an icy drink, and you’ll send your customers to foodie heaven.
4. Japanese Cuisine is One of The Most Popular Foods in UK
Japanese cuisine is fourth on the list of most popular foods in the UK. Japan has an incredibly diverse and rich culinary culture just like the other countries on this list. No one dish encapsulates everything Japanese food is, but there are a few standouts for Brits.
The fan-favorite Japanese meal is sushi, and it’s safe to say this is also an American favorite. Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish featuring vinegared rice, seafood, and vegetables. The seafood is usually raw, but you can also find cooked sushi rolls.
Modern sushi is boundless, featuring infinite combinations and presentations from Westernized maki sushi to simple sashimi to heaping handrolls. There’s something for everyone.
Another Japanese favorite for UK residents is Udon, which makes sense considering their love of all things noodles. Udon refers to a type of thick, wheat flour-based noodle. Like sushi, there are hundreds of presentations of Udon. You can order it hot or cold, in a brothy soup or stir-fried. One thing is certain; it’ll fill you up to perfection.
5. Most Popular Food in the UK Runner-up: Mexican Takeout
The fifth most popular British food for takeout is Mexican food. This might come as a surprise to some readers, especially Americans
Mexican cuisine is massively popular in the States, which makes sense considering the two countries are neighbors. Mexico significantly influences Americans, especially in border states with large Mexican-American and immigrant populations, such as California and Texas
So how did it become the most popular food in UK restaurants? First, via fast food. The turning point for Mexican cuisine in the UK came in the 1980s. That’s when Taco Bell entered the British food market. In the 21st century, however, people are embracing traditional and authentic Mexican cuisine. The Mexican immigrant population is growing in the UK, and more diners are learning to venture into new-world cooking
That said, burritos remain the most popular type of Mexican takeout. Simple and customizable, a burrito can include rice, beans, meat, veggies, cheese, salsa, and guacamole as filling. It’s the perfect on-the-go hand food or family-friendly sit-down option.
We’ve traveled the globe for popular British food takeaway favorites. But what about home-grown, classically British foods? It’s time to return to the UK for a traditional British dish or two or twenty.
The Top 10 Most Popular Foods in the UK
As much as UK residents love to treat themselves to international treats, natively British food remains as popular as ever. If you’re opening a British restaurant, you can’t go wrong with serving classic dishes that customers grew up eating.
But as with the international options, so too with British food: there are countless dishes to choose from. While we couldn’t list them all, we did identify 10 popular British foods you shouldn’t pass up.
Grab your afternoon tea, clotted cream, strawberry jam, and a scone. We’re about to dive into a feast of traditional British food.
1. Most Popular Food in England: Yorkshire Pudding
There’s no denying that British folks love a good dessert pudding. Whether it’s butter pudding, sticky toffee pudding, or Yorkshire, they’re the national dish. However, one pudding takes the cake. Yorkshire puddings are the most popular food in England.
But before we get into the specifics of a Yorkshire pudding, let’s clarify what a pudding is for readers outside of the Commonwealth. British puddings (in their broadest definition) are savory or sweet dishes cooked via boiling, steaming, or baking. However, unless otherwise stated, pudding is usually a sweet, bread-like or cake-like dessert.
So how did Yorkshire pudding snag the number one spot as one of the favourite British foods? Likely because it’s simple and versatile. A Yorkshire pudding is a North English dish that can go with anything.
To make Yorkshire pudding batter, combine water or milk with flour and eggs. Then pour it into a pan and bake it until risen and golden brown. You can eat this most popular food in the UK on its own or with meat and gravy. You can even have it stuffed to make other traditional meals like toad in the hole. However, a classic way to eat it is as a side dish to a Sunday roast.
2. Sunday Roast Dinner
It’s only fitting to follow up Yorkshire puddings with the main meal they’re usually a part of: the traditional Sunday roast dinner. As you can guess from the name, this meal was and continues to be traditionally eaten on Sunday.
Historically, British Christians would fast before attending church on Sunday. After service, they would break their fast with a large, hearty meal at home.
A Sunday roast usually includes roasted meat, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and vegetables. Roast beef is the most common meat used, but roast pork or lamb are also popular. Typically vegetables to eat at a Sunday roast are Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, parsnips, carrots, peas, or cauliflower. Additionally, it’s traditionally served with no shortage of condiments like apple sauce, mint sauce, or onion gravy.
3. Most Popular Food in the UK: Cornish Pasty
Countless cultures across the globe have their version of a turnover. Whether it’s the empanadas of Latin America or the Calzones of Italy, these filled pastries delight taste buds worldwide. For the British, their version is the pasty. The most well-known one is the Cornish pasty. A cornish pasty is a meat or potato-filled pastry.
Pastries originated in Cornwall as an easy on-the-go meal for the large miner and working population. Miners could easily carry these pasties in their pockets while traveling to the mines or while there. Folks continue to regard cornish pasties as the national dish of Cornwall.
4. Fish and Chips
When you think of British cuisine, we’re confident that fish and chips are at the top of that list. You probably thought it would have the number one spot on our list of the most popular British food items. This simple street food is one of the most classic British dishes.
But did you know fish and chips weren’t originally for the UK? In fact, they came from Jewish immigrants from Spain and Portugal. They prepared fish in the Spanish “pescado frito” manner as a Shabbat (or Sabbath) meal. That’s right, the most popular food in the UK is another foreign dish.
However, by the mid-1800s, fish and chips became a national favorite enjoyed by working-class Brits. Today, one of Britain’s most common and adored restaurants is the fish and chips shop, also called a chippy.
At a chippy, you buy battered and fried fish and chips wrapped in grease-proof paper. They are typically served with salt and malt vinegar, but you can add a dollop of ketchup as well. (One clarification for Americans: the chips in fish and chips are not potato chips. They’re french fries.)
5. Most Popular Food in the UK: Full English Breakfast
What would be a weekend without a gloriously decadent English breakfast? Get ready for your mouth to water because this popular British food has it all. A full English breakfast includes grilled tomatoes, toast, English sausages, eggs, bacon, baked beans, and black pudding.
For the non-Brits, a black pudding is a type of blood sausage made from pork’s blood, fat, and grain. While it may not sound appetizing to non-UK natives, it’s considered a staple of British culture.
Naturally, every family has their variations on the English breakfast. For example, some sub-out buttered bread toast for a more decadent fried bread. One thing’s for sure; a full breakfast goes perfectly with a cup of tea.
6. Shepherd’s Pie
One of the most popular British food presentations out there is a pie. And we’re not talking about the sweet dessert pies. We’re talking about savory pies. It’s hard to pick just one to spotlight. So before we dive into the shepherd’s pie, let’s list some of the other great pie-type traditional British foods:
- Kidney pie
- Fish pie
- Irish stew pie
- Minced lamb pie
- Cheese and Onion pie
So why does Shepherd’s pie earn a distinction above the other traditional dishes and British foods? Because it’s slightly different from the others. A Shepherd’s pie (or cottage pie) consists of minced beef or lamb mixed with peas under mashed potatoes. That’s right. There’s no actual pastry or crust. A cottage pie is closer to what Americans think of as a casserole in this way.
Another fact that puts the cottage pie on the “most popular food in UK” list? Shepherd’s pie is one of the dishes that has crossed the pond. It’s commonly enjoyed in the States as a classic comfort food.
7. Most Popular Food in the UK: Christmas Pudding
Back to the most popular British food: the pudding. This time, we’re talking about the seasonal delight that is the Christmas pudding. As the name suggests, this is a Christmas specialty and a staple in British homes. Some say that the Christmas pudding goes back as far as medieval times. However, most recipes come from the 17th century.
Like some of the other beloved items on this list, recipes vary from family to family. However, all include spices, dark sugar, sometimes treacle, suet, alcohol, and dried fruits. The pudding is steamed and sometimes left in a cloth to bolden the flavors. It’s usually eaten after a glorious Christmas dinner.
8. Steak and Kidney Pudding and Pie
We know we said we couldn’t dedicate a section to each British pie, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t shout out steak and kidney pie (similar to the steak and kidney pudding.) One notable facet of British food is the focus on meat. Not only that, but it also uses lower-quality cuts or organs regularly. This is especially true in a Steak and Kidney pudding and pie where beef and cow kidneys come together.
Both the pie and pudding have similar ingredients. The only difference is the presentation. One is in a steamed pudding, and the other is in a traditional pie. You can cook the meat before it goes into the pie or cook it together raw. This meal is not strongly associated with any particular time of year. You can enjoy it at home or at a pub.
9. Most Popular Food in the UK: Scotch Egg
Another popular British food that deserves a shout-out is the scotch egg. This dish is a boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, breaded and then deep-fried or baked. You can eat it cold or hot at home or in a pub.
This is another “most popular food in the UK” entry that might sound strange to folks outside the UK. However, other cultures have similar dishes. For example, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures have a dish called Nargis Kofta, which also features breaded eggs. (To be fair, the latter certainly has more flavor and spice than the scotch egg.)
Enjoy this egg-cellent dish with pickled red cabbage or pickled onions.
10. Bangers and Mash
Last on the list of the most popular British food to add to your menu is bangers and mash. Bangers are sausage and mash and mashed potatoes. You’ll usually see bangers and mash doused in onion gravy and served with peas.
It’s a beloved comfort food for many Brits and a fixture on pub menus. Enjoy this with a pint with friends, and you’re as British as it gets.
Honorable Mention: Cream Tea
It’s hard to decide definitively what is the most popular British food. We’ve made this list of the most popular options, but we’re sure we missed a few of your favorites. But the cream tea was one dish we couldn’t leave off the list.
Why? Because a cream tea isn’t just a meal. It’s a ritual. Anyone familiar with English culture understands the importance of tea. There’s the formal afternoon tea at highbrow establishments and the quieter at-home teas after work and before dinner.
For those not in the know, cream tea is typically served with scones, clotted cream, jam, and butter. It’s a tea room staple across England and a family tradition to many.
If you’re looking to open a restaurant or cafe in the UK or want to bring a slice of Britain elsewhere, you want to capture the spirit of the Island. You should understand and know the most popular food in UK kitchens to do that.
You can serve those favorite takeout dishes and capitalize on the cravings of locals. Or, you can keep things authentic with traditional UK grub. You can even use this list to inspire you to try other English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish dishes. Like Vegetable stew, haggis, mushy peas, or sticky toffee pudding.
Pick a few that you or the chef that you hire can confidently and easily serve. Focus on making those dishes excellent and ensuring that you have impeccable service. Once you’re confident in your setup, look into different types of marketing campaigns to attract loyal customers.
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