What do British People Eat for Dinner? (2023)

When considering the foods of Western Europe, it’s necessary to remember that the United Kingdom is divided into four parts: England, Ireland, Scotland and Whales.

While all four parts lie within close proximity to one another, their cuisines differ quite considerably. The British probably have the more diverse and flexible dinner customs out of the four regions.

Read on for more on what to expect when visiting London, or other parts of Great Britain.

What do British People Eat for Dinner? (1)

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Dinner in Britain

In Britain, dinner is the last meal of the day before bed. This seems futile to point out, but in truth there are parts of northern industrial England wherein dinner is actually considered the meal of midday.

Eating In

In British customs, families, lovers, friends or relatives usually come together sometime after sundown to share in a last meal.

In Britain, dinner is usually always a hot dish. This lends very much due to the fact that the country is almost always chilly when there is no sun around, so people crave warm foods above cold plates.

There is an unsung rule in Britain that a well balanced dinner plate would contain one form of meat and two different vegetable sides.

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Meats are usually stewed or roasted. At dinner time one can expect to eat roast beef, pork bangers, roast chicken, stewed lamb or other animal parts such as stomach or intestines.

To accompany the meats, most households will incorporate sides of mashed potatoes, peas, roasted potatoes, cauliflower and/or broccoli in cheese sauce, or baby carrots. Rice with gravy makes a common appearance but this very much depends on the household in question.

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British households who like a starter course at dinner time will probably serve a soup or small salad. Unlike the rest of Europe, bread isn’t often part of the British dinner experience.

If dessert is desired, British dinners tend to incorporate a fruit pie or crumble of sorts into the end of the meal. Most homemade dinner desserts are topped with piping hot custard, also homemade.

Eating Out

Opting to eat out for dinner in Britain rarely sees significant changes to the usual nightly menus. Most Brits flock to restaurants that offer their favorite homestyle dishes like Shepherd’s Pie or Toad in a Hole.

Again, dinner might include a starter and dessert but it very much depends on who is dining and/or what the occasion is.

What do British People Eat for Dinner? (4)

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A very popular dining out experience for working-class Brits come dinner time is to head to the nearest fish and chips shop & purchase some takeaways to bring home to the family.

At dinner time, fish and chips will be served with tartar sauce, coleslaw and some hot, mushy peas.

Do Brits Only Eat Local?

Absolutely not. While the British people love their traditional dinners, most households obtain a healthy mix between local dishes and global gastronomy.

It’s very common for British households to throw together stir-fries, pasta dishes and curries as alternative hot foods to eat on a nightly basis.

A lot of British households also love the local cuisines of neighboring European countries. German, Scottish and Portuguese cuisines are popular amongst the Brits.

Basically, being invited to a dinner party in Britain is always a bit of a cuisine lottery left to the discretion and taste of the host.

What do British People Eat for Dinner? (5)

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Some Typical British Dinner Dishes

Taking things back to the traditional customs, the following are some local dishes that you’re most likely to find in a a British household or restaurant come dinner time.

Toad in a Hole

I mentioned this dish earlier; this is a very common English dinner meal-option. It consists of pork sausages (the same ones you’d use for bangers and mash) baked in Yorkshire pudding batter and served with gravy & veggies.

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Toad in a Hole – by Robert Gibert – Wikimedia Commons

Cottage Pie

This is a favorite dinner dish in Britain. A cottage pie is made by layering minced meat and vegetables underneath a thick crust of mashed potatoes that is baked until golden and slightly crispy.

This age-old dish has seen many adaptions in recent years, including a vegan friendly rendition that makes use of lentils or split peas in place of the minced beef.

You’ll find the Brits love baked dishes come the end of the day.

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by Oxfordian Kissuth – Wikimedia Commons


Haggis is actually Scotland’s national dish, but it’s found often on dinner tables across Britain.

Haggis is made by mincing the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep and combining them with onion, oatmeal and spices. It forms a bit of a meatloaf-like dish and is commonly served alongside mashed potatoes.

Bubble and Squeak

This is one of few traditional British dishes that doesn’t actually contain any animal products. This is also one of few fried dishes in the cuisine.

One makes bubble and squeak by combining potatoes and cabbage with any leftover vegetables from dinner throughout the week. They are pressed into patties and fried until crispy and brown.

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Bubble and Squeak – by Kolforn – Wikimedia Commons

Do the Seasons Affect Dinner Time in Britain?

Because of the massive discrepancy between the seasons in England, dinner in winter can feel like an event that shall never arrive.

In Winter, the British sun sets around 4pm, making it feel like end of day when really lunch was just a few hours ago. In the summer, the sun can set as late as 9pm, so one usually starts craving dinner a lot later.

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Usually, dinner in Britain will take place anywhere between 6pm and 8:30pm, nightly. In winter it’s closer to the 6pm mark, and in the summer the 8:30pm mark. Households that make routine out of afternoon tea might push dinner later year round as the tea time gives them chance to snack away mid-afternoon.

Tea should never spoil dinner: the golden rule of being a Brit. So timing is essential so that both mealtimes are properly honored and enjoyed.

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