What are some traditional British dishes? What snacks do people normally eat? And what are these strange things you can see on pub and cafe menus?
Here’s our guide to British food vocabulary so you can understand menus and talk about food in the UK.
Common British Food Expressions
We have lots of slang words and abbreviations (short forms) of food that you’ll see and hear. Some of the common ones are:
butty / butties (butty = singular, butties = plural)
This means any sandwich or bread roll with butter (butty) and a filling. For example: a bacon butty (bacon roll) or breakfast butty (roll with bacon, sausage and egg).
sarnie = an abbreviation of “sandwich”
“We’ve got some cheese sarnies for the picnic.”
toastie = an abbreviation of “toasted sandwich”
“I’m going to have a cheese and ham toastie. What about you?”
chippy = short for “chip shop” (where you can get fish and chips, or even just a bag of chips)
“There’s a chippy at the end of the road.”
lolly = short for “lollipop” (a sweet on a stick that you lick)
You can also get “ice lollies” which are frozen fruit ices on a stick.
banger = slang word for “sausage”
“We’ve got bangers for tea.” (Often accompanied by “mash” – see below.)
mash = short for “mashed potatoes”
“Do you like bangers and mash?”
(Mash is also served with pies or jellied eels – especially in London.)
a cuppa = a cup of tea
“Fancy a cuppa?”
grub = a slang word for food
“You get really good grub in that cafe.”
(Also “pub grub” = pub food)
Now listen to the audio.
What do people eat between meals when they’re “on the go” (busy or travelling from one place to another) or even to replace a meal? Here are some favourite British snacks:
This is cooked meat or vegetables in pastry. Traditional pasty fillings are “steak and vegetables”, or “chicken and leek” or plain vegetables. Pasties are traditionally made in Cornwall, but you find them everywhere.
This is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, then covered in breadcrumbs and fried.
You get chopped pork meat wrapped in pork jelly then in pastry. Pork pies are round, and the most famous pork pies come from a town called Melton Mowbray.
This is a length of sausage wrapped in puff pastry.
Chips are fried potato which you traditionally get with fish. But you can also eat them on their own with salt and vinegar, curry sauce, or gravy.
This is what you eat at eleven o’clock (or around then). This could be a cup of tea or coffee with a biscuit or sandwich.
It’s much more than a cup of tea! It’s almost a full meal with cake and biscuits, and / or sandwiches.
Now listen to the audio.
What Is The Most Popular Food?
Here are some popular British meals, starting with traditional dishes.
This is a complete English breakfast, including toast, bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans, mushrooms (sometimes also black pudding – a type of blood sausage) and tea or coffee.
The traditional Sunday lunch, with roast meat (often beef), roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy.
Toad in the hole
This is sausages baked in batter (a flour / milk sauce) in the oven.
Bangers and mash
Sausages and mashed potato. (Usually served with gravy, a sauce made from meat.)
Fish and chips
Fried fish and chips, often accompanied by mushy peas. (A type of pea cooked until it is almost a puree.) Traditionally, you buy your fish and chips from a “chippy” and you get them wrapped in paper to “take away”.
British people also eat a lot of food from other countries, including Italian food (pizza is a favourite), Indian food (especially “tikka masala” or “vindaloo”) and Chinese food (“sweet and sour” is a favourite).
Caribbean, Japanese, Turkish and vegan food are also becoming more popular in the UK.
Do you know how to order food in a restaurant or takeaway? Do you know the best places to find good food which isn’t too expensive?
My fluency program How To Speak Real English gives you essential phrases to order food, go shopping and socialise in English. If you’re beginner to pre-intermediate level, check it out here:
Are you at a higher level of English? My follow-on program Real English Conversations takes you from intermediate to advanced level in speaking!