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A History Of Edinburgh, Explained In 10 Dishes


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Silvie Macias



Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is a destination that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and stunning landscapes. As you wander through the ancient cobblestone streets and admire the towering medieval architecture, you’ll quickly realize that this city has a story to tell. And what better way to explore the rich history of Edinburgh than through its delightful local cuisine?


In this article, we will take you on a culinary journey through the city, exploring ten iconic dishes that not only satisfy your taste buds but also reveal fascinating stories about the past. From traditional Scottish staples to modern twists on classic flavors, every plate in Edinburgh tells a tale.


As you venture into the world of Edinburgh’s food scene, you will discover the influence of Scottish traditions, local produce, and the ingenuity of its culinary experts. Get ready to dive into the flavors that have been perfected over centuries, passed down through generations, and become a part of the fabric of this remarkable city.


So, whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, or simply curious about the essence of Edinburgh, join us as we unravel the city’s captivating past through its most delectable dishes. Bon appétit!


Dish 1: Haggis

When it comes to Scottish cuisine, Haggis is undoubtedly the most iconic dish. This traditional Scottish delicacy is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before. Haggis is a savory pudding made from minced sheep’s offal, including heart, liver, and lungs, combined with onions, spices, oats, and suet, all encased in a sheep’s stomach. While the ingredients may sound unusual, the flavors and textures blend together harmoniously.


Legend has it that Haggis dates back to the days of ancient Scotland, where shepherds would make use of every part of the sheep to avoid waste. Over time, the dish evolved and became a symbol of Scottish pride and heritage. In fact, it is traditionally served on Burns Night, a celebration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.


To enjoy Haggis, it is typically served with “neeps and tatties” (mashed turnips and potatoes) and a generous drizzling of whisky sauce. The hearty and robust flavors of Haggis are a testament to Scotland’s rugged landscape and the resourcefulness of its people.


If you’re visiting Edinburgh, you’ll find Haggis on the menu of traditional Scottish restaurants, where chefs strive to honor the authenticity of this beloved dish. Don’t be hesitant to give it a try! Haggis offers a unique gastronomic experience that embodies the spirit of Scottish culture and history.


Dish 2: Scotch Pie

For a taste of Edinburgh’s culinary heritage, look no further than the delectable Scotch Pie. This handheld savory pastry has been a favorite among locals for generations. The pie consists of a flaky golden crust filled with a mixture of seasoned minced meat, usually beef or lamb, and spices that tantalize the taste buds.


Scotch Pie has its roots in the mining and working-class communities of Scotland in the 19th century. The convenient size and hearty filling made it a popular lunchtime snack for workers. Today, you can find Scotch Pies in bakeries, cafes, and even traditional football grounds. It has become a beloved symbol of Scottish comfort food.


The traditional way to enjoy a Scotch Pie is to eat it straight from the bag with your hands, allowing the rich flavors to mingle with each bite. It pairs perfectly with a dollop of brown sauce or a splash of tangy vinegar. The combination of the crispy pastry and savory meat filling is a winning combination.


During your visit to Edinburgh, make sure to stop by a local bakery or pie shop and savor the authentic taste of this beloved Scottish treat. The aroma of freshly baked pies wafting through the streets is enough to make your mouth water. Whether you enjoy it as a quick snack on the go or as part of a traditional Scottish meal, the Scotch Pie is a must-try dish that showcases the culinary heritage of Edinburgh.


Dish 3: Cullen Skink

Prepare your taste buds for a creamy and comforting soup that encapsulates the flavors of the Scottish coast. Cullen Skink is a traditional soup originating from the fishing village of Cullen in Moray, Scotland. This hearty dish is made with smoked haddock, potatoes, onions, and cream, creating a velvety texture and a rich, smoky flavor.


The history of Cullen Skink can be traced back to the 19th century when the fishing industry thrived in Scotland. Fishermen would often bring home their catch of haddock, and the leftovers, along with local ingredients, were used to create this delicious soup.


One of the key ingredients that differentiates Cullen Skink from other fish soups is the use of smoked haddock. This imparts a distinct smoky essence to the dish, elevating it to a whole new level of flavor. The soup is typically served with a warm crusty bread roll, making it a satisfying meal, especially during the chilly Scottish winters.


When exploring the food scene in Edinburgh, you’ll find Cullen Skink on the menus of traditional Scottish restaurants and seafood establishments. The combination of the locally sourced ingredients, the creamy texture, and the delightful smokiness make it a beloved dish among locals and visitors alike.


So, if you’re in search of a soul-warming and authentic Scottish dish, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in a steaming bowl of Cullen Skink. It’s a culinary journey that captures the essence of Edinburgh’s coastal heritage, delivering a taste that will linger in your memory long after you’ve left the city.


Dish 4: Cranachan

Sweet, tangy, and utterly indulgent, Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert that will satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth. This delightful concoction layers together fresh raspberries, whipped cream, toasted oats, and a drizzle of honey or a splash of whisky, creating a dessert that is both visually stunning and delicious.


Cranachan has its roots in the rural farming communities of Scotland, where it was traditionally enjoyed as a celebratory dessert during harvest festivals. The dessert was created to celebrate the abundance of summer berries and the rich dairy products of the region.


The star ingredient of Cranachan is undoubtedly the raspberries, which are renowned for their juicy sweetness. The layers of whipped cream add a luscious and creamy texture to the dessert, while the toasted oats provide a delightful crunch. The addition of honey or whisky adds a touch of sophistication and complements the other flavors beautifully.


Today, Cranachan is a popular dessert served in traditional Scottish restaurants and is a staple on the menus of many Edinburgh eateries. It showcases the best of Scottish produce and highlights the country’s love for incorporating local ingredients into their cuisine.


When visiting Edinburgh, be sure to treat yourself to a serving of Cranachan. Whether you enjoy it as a refreshing and indulgent dessert after a hearty meal or as a stand-alone treat, Cranachan offers a taste of Scottish summer in every bite.


Dish 5: Edinburgh Rock

As you stroll through the streets of Edinburgh, you may notice brightly colored sticks of candy catching your eye in the windows of various sweet shops. This is Edinburgh Rock, a beloved confectionary treat that has been enjoyed by locals and visitors alike for decades.


Edinburgh Rock is a type of traditional Scottish confectionery that is known for its vibrant colors, unique texture, and distinctive flavors. It is made by mixing sugar, flavorings, and colors, and then pulling and stretching the mixture to give it a rock-like appearance. The candy is often flavored with tastes such as vanilla, strawberry, or mint, creating a delightful burst of sweetness with every bite.


The origins of Edinburgh Rock can be traced back to the 19th century when it was first created by sweet makers in Edinburgh. It quickly gained popularity as a souvenir for tourists visiting the city, and its reputation spread throughout Scotland and beyond.


One of the unique aspects of Edinburgh Rock is the artistry involved in its creation. Skilled candy makers meticulously shape and mold the mixture, transforming it into a visually appealing sweet that is as much a work of art as it is a treat for the taste buds. The candy is often packaged in decorative boxes, making it a perfect gift or souvenir to bring back home.


When exploring Edinburgh, you will find Edinburgh Rock in various sweet shops and souvenir stores, particularly on the bustling Royal Mile. Don’t miss the opportunity to try this iconic candy and experience the sugary delight that has delighted generations of locals and tourists alike.


So, if you have a sweet tooth and a love for unique and colorful confections, be sure to give Edinburgh Rock a try. It’s a delightful taste of Edinburgh’s sweet heritage and a treat that will bring a smile to your face.


Dish 6: Square Sausage

When it comes to breakfast in Edinburgh, there’s one dish that stands out among the rest – Square Sausage. Also known as Lorne sausage or slice sausage, this uniquely-shaped Scottish delicacy is a breakfast staple that locals can’t get enough of.


Square Sausage is made by combining ground pork or beef with a blend of herbs and spices, such as sage, thyme, and black pepper. The mixture is then pressed into a rectangular shape, giving it the iconic square appearance. It is typically served as part of a traditional Scottish breakfast, alongside other favorites like eggs, bacon, and tattie scones.


The origins of Square Sausage can be traced back to Glasgow in the late 19th century. It quickly gained popularity throughout Scotland, including in Edinburgh, where it became an essential component of a full Scottish breakfast.


What sets Square Sausage apart is its texture and unique flavor. The combination of the carefully selected spices and the square shape allows for a deliciously juicy and tender sausage. It’s no wonder that locals and visitors alike can’t resist starting their day with this mouthwatering delight.


When visiting Edinburgh, you can find Square Sausage at local butcher shops, bakeries, and traditional Scottish breakfast spots. It’s often served in a breakfast roll, known as a “roll and square,” providing a portable and satisfying meal on the go.


So, if you’re in the mood for a hearty and flavorsome breakfast experience, be sure to indulge in a Square Sausage. It’s a signature dish that showcases the unique flavors of Edinburgh and the hearty fare that fuels locals for the day ahead.


Dish 7: Edinburgh Gin

When it comes to beverages that perfectly capture the essence of Edinburgh, look no further than Edinburgh Gin. This premium spirit has gained international recognition for its exceptional quality and unique flavors, making it a must-try for gin enthusiasts.


Edinburgh Gin is crafted using traditional distillation methods and a blend of carefully selected botanicals, including juniper, coriander seeds, angelica root, and citrus peel. What sets it apart is the addition of locally sourced Scottish botanicals, such as heather and milk thistle, which give the gin a distinctive character.


The history of gin-making in Edinburgh dates back centuries, with the city being a hotspot for trade and innovation. Over time, the craft of distilling gin has evolved, and today, Edinburgh Gin is known for its exceptional craftsmanship and dedication to quality.


One of the highlights of Edinburgh Gin is its versatility. It can be enjoyed on its own, over ice, or in a classic gin and tonic. But what makes it truly special is the wide array of flavored gins offered by the distillery. From Rhubarb and Ginger to Lemon and Jasmine, there’s a flavor to suit every palate.


When visiting Edinburgh, gin lovers can immerse themselves in the world of Edinburgh Gin by visiting the distillery itself. Located in the heart of the city, the distillery offers tours and tastings, allowing visitors to learn about the gin-making process and sample the range of exquisite gins on offer.


So, whether you’re a gin connoisseur or simply looking for a taste of Edinburgh’s craft spirits, be sure to indulge in a glass of Edinburgh Gin. It’s a drink that encapsulates the city’s rich history, craftsmanship, and dedication to producing exceptional spirits.


Dish 8: Whisky

No exploration of Edinburgh’s culinary scene would be complete without mentioning the iconic Scottish spirit – whisky. Renowned worldwide for its exceptional craftsmanship and distinctive flavors, whisky holds a special place in the heart of Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole.


Whisky production in Scotland dates back centuries, with Edinburgh playing a significant role in its history. Known as the “water of life,” whisky is made by distilling malted barley or grains and aging it in oak casks. The process and ingredients used contribute to the unique flavors and aromas that define each whisky variety.


Edinburgh is home to numerous distilleries that produce a wide range of whisky styles, from smoky and peaty to smooth and fruity. Each distillery has its own traditional methods and secret recipes, resulting in a diverse selection of whiskies to suit various preferences.


When it comes to experiencing whisky in Edinburgh, you have several options. You can visit one of the city’s whisky bars, where passionate bartenders can guide you through a curated selection of whiskies from different regions of Scotland. Alternatively, you can take a tour of a local distillery, such as the historic Scotch Whisky Experience, to learn about the whisky-making process and sample a range of whiskies.


As you sip on a glass of whisky, take note of the intricate flavors that unfold on your palate. From the smoky intensity of an Islay single malt to the smooth sweetness of a Highland blend, each drop of whisky tells a story of the region it hails from and the craftsmanship that goes into its production.


So, whether you’re a seasoned whisky enthusiast or a curious newcomer, Edinburgh provides a gateway to the world of Scotch whisky. Immerse yourself in its rich history, appreciate its complex flavors, and raise a glass to the spirit that has become synonymous with Scottish culture.


Dish 9: Deep-Fried Mars Bar

Prepare to indulge in a guilty pleasure that pushes the boundaries of creativity and taste – the Deep-Fried Mars Bar. Originating from Scotland, this unique and indulgent treat has gained both fame and notoriety around the world.


The concept of deep-frying a Mars Bar might sound unconventional, but the combination of a warm, gooey chocolate bar encased in a crispy batter has captured the hearts (and stomachs) of many. The dish typically involves dipping a Mars Bar into a thick batter, deep-frying it until golden and crisp, and serving it either on its own or with a scoop of ice cream.


While the exact origin of the Deep-Fried Mars Bar is debated, it is believed to have originated in a chip shop in Stonehaven, a town just outside of Aberdeen. From there, its popularity spread, and it quickly became a guilty pleasure enjoyed by locals and adventurous food enthusiasts alike.


The Deep-Fried Mars Bar has become a symbol of indulgence and culinary curiosity, representing the willingness to try something out of the ordinary. It has gained attention from the media and has even prompted debates about the state of junk food culture.


To fully experience the Deep-Fried Mars Bar, you can find it in various fish and chip shops, dessert parlors, and even some traditional Scottish restaurants in Edinburgh. Be prepared to have a truly indulgent and decadent experience as you bite into the crispy outer layer, giving way to the melted chocolate and caramel center.


However, it’s worth noting that the Deep-Fried Mars Bar should be enjoyed in moderation as a rare treat. Its popularity as a novelty dish has overshadowed the rich culinary heritage of Scotland, which includes a wide range of wholesome and delicious options.


So, if you’re feeling adventurous and craving a unique and indulgent treat, be sure to give the Deep-Fried Mars Bar a try. It’s a dessert that represents the daring spirit of culinary experimentation and adds a touch of quirkiness to the vibrant food scene of Edinburgh.


Dish 10: Scottish Shortbread

Last but certainly not least, we come to a classic Scottish treat that has stood the test of time – Scottish Shortbread. This buttery, crumbly, and melt-in-your-mouth delight has become a beloved symbol of Scottish baking.


Scottish Shortbread has a rich history dating back centuries, rooted in the medieval monastic traditions of Scotland. Originally known as “biscuit bread,” shortbread was considered a luxury item due to its use of expensive ingredients like butter and sugar.


The recipe for Scottish Shortbread is simple, yet the result is irresistibly delicious. Traditional shortbread is made from just three ingredients: butter, sugar, and flour. The high proportion of butter gives it its delicate texture, while the sugar adds a touch of sweetness. A perfect shortbread should crumble gently and leave a rich buttery sensation on your tongue.


Today, Scottish Shortbread is enjoyed on various occasions, from afternoon tea to holiday gatherings. It has become a staple in Scottish bakeries and is often packaged in distinctive tartan tins, making it a popular gift or souvenir for visitors to Edinburgh.


When you visit Edinburgh, you’ll find Scottish Shortbread in abundance. Whether you buy it from a local bakery, enjoy it in a tearoom, or even attempt to bake it yourself, this traditional treat will transport you to the heart of Scottish hospitality.


So take a bite of history and savor the simple yet luxurious flavors of Scottish Shortbread. Its buttery goodness and timeless appeal make it a delightful finale to any culinary exploration of Edinburgh’s food scene.



Embarking on a food journey through Edinburgh reveals more than just a variety of mouthwatering dishes. It unravels the captivating history and cultural tapestry of the city. From traditional Scottish delicacies like Haggis and Scotch Pie to indulgent treats like Deep-Fried Mars Bars and Scottish Shortbread, each dish tells a story, connecting us to the rich heritage of Edinburgh.


As you savor the flavors and explore the local food scene, you’ll discover the ingenuity, creativity, and passion of Edinburgh’s culinary experts. From the fisherman’s soup Cullen Skink to the unique confectionery Edinburgh Rock, every bite encapsulates the traditions and aspirations of the city’s people.


Moreover, a visit to Edinburgh wouldn’t be complete without experiencing its renowned spirits. Whether you prefer the botanical-infused Edinburgh Gin or the complex and refined whiskies, you’ll be immersing yourself in the craftsmanship and centuries-old traditions that make Scottish drinks so revered and loved worldwide.


As you explore the vibrant city of Edinburgh, keep an open mind and appetite for discovery. From the charming historic streets to the bustling food markets, there’s always something new to tantalize your taste buds and ignite your sense of curiosity.


So, whether you’re visiting Edinburgh for its rich history, breathtaking landscapes, or unique cultural experiences, take the time to immerse yourself in the city’s food scene. Indulge in the flavors, learn the stories, and savor every bite as you uncover the delectable secrets that make Edinburgh a true food lover’s paradise.