What Is Haggis?

The national dish of Scotland is so revered that there’s a whole holiday dedicated to it (complete with bagpipes).

September 13, 2021

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Scottish meal of Haggis, neeps and tatties - and of course a wee dram. Narrow depth of field on haggis. Traditional meal for Rabbie Burns night.

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Scottish meal of Haggis, neeps and tatties - and of course a wee dram. Narrow depth of field on haggis. Traditional meal for Rabbie Burns night.

Photo by: blackjake/Getty Images

blackjake/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

In Scotland, haggis is so revered it’s the national dish. The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a poem for it in 1786 called "To a Haggis," and cemented its place in history. His birthday is celebrated every January 25th with parties featuring haggis and bagpipes and maybe a wee dram of Scottish whisky. But what, precisely is this dish? Read on for the answers.

What Is Haggis?

Haggis is a meat pudding made from sheep parts that are leftover after a sheep has been slaughtered and butchered - the heart, liver and lungs. Ground beef or mutton fat is mixed in along oatmeal and spices like onion powder and cayenne. The meat is then boiled in a sheep's stomach and traditionally served with mashed potatoes and turnips.

The dish dates back to ancient times, and although it is now a distinctly Scottish dish, there are records of it in English writings in the 1500s. Traditionally, Scottish butchers kept the leftover sheep parts (called offal) for themselves and made haggis; eventually, others realized it could be quite tasty, and the dish became popular. Today, in Scotland, you'll see all sorts of snacks flavored like haggis including potato chips.

What Does Haggis Taste Like?

Haggis has an earthy, gamey flavor due to the offal; the oats give it nutty flavor as well. The liver in the mix also lends of bit of a classic paté flavor. Haggis is scooped out of the casing when served and has a crumbly texture. Even in Scotland, haggis is an acquired taste.

close up of vegetarian haggis

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close up of vegetarian haggis

Photo by: Maisna/Getty Images

Maisna/Getty Images

What Is In Haggis?

The ingredients in a traditional haggis are the finely chopped offal (sheep's heart, liver and lungs) along with diced onion, steel cut oats, suet (a solid fat from sheep), broth and a variety of spices similar to pumpkin pie spice with the addition of black pepper. The mixture is packed into a casing much the same way sausage is. For haggis, the casing is a sheep stomach which has been thoroughly washed, cleaned and turned inside out before it is filled. The entire haggis in its casing is simmered to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 175 degrees F, about an hour. In Scotland you can buy haggis at a butcher shop, and you may be able to order one from a restaurant that serves it. It’s also available canned, making it easy to serve for the Burns celebration. Curious about how to make haggis? Head over to Alton Brown's Haggis recipe.

Is There Vegetarian Haggis?

You can buy or make vegetarian haggis in Scotland and here in the U.S. The filling is often a mixture of the onions, oats and spices from traditional haggis, with lentils, white beans and chopped mushrooms standing in for the meat. Instead of a natural casing, some cooks bake it in a loaf pan, while others fill blanched savoy cabbage leaves and make individual portions of haggis.

Fried egg, Ayrshire bacon, sausage link, sausage meat, haggis, mushrooms, tattie (potato) scone, mushrooms and tomatoes make up a typical traditional Scottish cooked breakfast.

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Fried egg, Ayrshire bacon, sausage link, sausage meat, haggis, mushrooms, tattie (potato) scone, mushrooms and tomatoes make up a typical traditional Scottish cooked breakfast.

Photo by: Diane Macdonald/Getty Images

Diane Macdonald/Getty Images

What Do People Traditionally Eat with Haggis?

Haggis is served with tatties and neeps. Not familiar with tatties and neeps? Tatties are mashed potatoes, and neeps are mashed turnips. In Great Britain, the root vegetables we call rutabaga is called either a turnip or a swede. It is the yellow-orange, large root veggie typically covered in wax to keep it fresh at grocery stores here in the U.S. Haggis can also be served as one of the components of a traditional Scottish breakfast, along with eggs, bacon, sausage links, roasted mushrooms, tomatoes and a wedge of bannock (bread similar to a scone but with oatmeal in the mix). At fine-dining restaurants, you can find haggis as an appetizer, beautifully plated with a creamy sauce.

Is Haggis Illegal?

Haggis from Scotland is illegal in the U.S. The importation of all beef and mutton from Great Britain was banned in the U.S. in 1989 after the outbreaks there of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. There are many specialty shops in the U.S. that make haggis and it’s perfectly legal. The recipes may contain heart and liver, but never lung: lung is banned from human consumption in the U.S.

Recipes To Serve With Haggis

Diced roasted Rutabaga in a white bowl

Roasted_Rutabaga_008.tif

Diced roasted Rutabaga in a white bowl

©prop stylist: Marina Malchin Food stylist: Jamie Kimm

prop stylist: Marina Malchin Food stylist: Jamie Kimm

Not sure if roasted rutabaga can be called neeps, but they can certainly be called delicious. Roasting brings out all of their sweetness.

Photo by: Armando Rafael

Armando Rafael

Yukon gold potatoes make the creamiest mashed potatoes. It stands to reason they make the best tatties, too.

This rutabaga mash is upgraded with garlic-rosemary oil. Pretty natty for neeps.

Classic Shortbread cookie shaped like a pizza slice

FNM-Walnut_Lavender_Short

Classic Shortbread cookie shaped like a pizza slice

©Hearst Communications Inc., 2009 Karl Juengel/Studio D Food Styling: Stephana

Hearst Communications Inc., 2009 Karl Juengel/Studio D Food Styling: Stephana

In Scotland, wedges of shortbread are called petticoat tails.

A Scotch cocktail seems like the best way to toast the national dish of Scotland.

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