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Traditional Full English Breakfast

The traditional Full English Breakfast is an institution in its own right. Served everywhere in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland it should really be called the full British or full UK breakfast, but each country has its own twist on what should be served on the plate. From small “greasy spoon” cafés to London’s top name hotels, the sort I work in, this breakfast dish is enjoyed by people from all walks of life. This full breakfast is not restricted to the British Isles, it’s also served in the US, Australia, Canada, NZ and more. I’ve cooked, eaten and served a few full Aussie breakfasts in my time. People in England may also call it a “fry up” or a “cooked breakfast” to distinguish it from a very ordinary breakfast of cereal or toast.

Traditional Full Englaish Breakfast. Food in the UK
The Traditional full English breakfast. A great way to start the day! This was a very simple version in a British Bed and Breakfast hotel.

Traditional Full English Breakfast

The dish has many different names. Fry up is by far the most common alternative, although the Welsh, Scots and Irish would name it after them with Northern Island calling it an Ulster breakfast or fry up. Sunday or country breakfast is another name it goes by in the US.

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What’s in the Traditional Full English Breakfast?

What do British people eat for Breakfast

Regional differences abound but there are core ingredients that go into making this the traditional full English breakfast. As the nick-name suggests everything, where possible, is fried.

Starting with fried eggs it also includes bacon, sausage, tomato, mushroom, baked beans, black pudding and fried bread. Certainly enough to fill any hungry traveler

Full Scottish Breakfast

The Scottish version will often include haggis, sheep’s heart, lungs and liver, minced then encased in the stomach and simmered. An acquired taste outside of Scotland.

Full Welsh Breakfast

The Welsh include Laverbread which is made from a type of seaweed gathered from Welsh beaches. Again this is rarely seen outside Wales.

If you order a full English breakfast in a cafe, don’t be surprised if it comes with a few chips ( French fries) on the side, although these days hash browns are becoming common in the UK. Years ago they were unheard of.

Laver Wales. Welsh food
Laver, or laver bread is a seaweed dish from Wales, you’ll often find it in a full Welsh breakfast, just a slight variation on the full English fry up.

The US has added grits, a ground corn meal, to their version.


Is the Traditional Full English Breakfast Healthy?

No, let’s face it, with so many fried things on one plate it isn’t going to win the heart foundation tick of approval anytime soon.

That said, it is just so delicious that really you need to throw caution to the wind and tuck in every once in a while.

Currently staying on the southern English coast our accommodation is B&B. Yes you guessed it, we have the traditional full English breakfast each and every morning. Now on our 5th day, I’m still not bored with it.

Best of all it keeps me going past lunch and almost into dinner.

A  traditional Full English Breakfast can save you money on lunch!

traditional full english breakfast
This looks good! An excellent full English breakfast, with a nice pot of tea.

What Makes a Good Full English Breakfast?

The biggest factor for me in making a good full English, is the quality of the ingredients.

What can be a great dish can fail badly if cheap products are used. Sausages make or break the meal, they can go either way, great, full-flavoured, plump, well-cooked delights or overcooked dry, processed, guts. Bacon is another component that needs to be right, regardless of who is cooking. British bacon is quite different from American or Australian featuring more meat, less fat.

The remaining ingredients need to be fresh and, of course, cooked correctly to really make this dish the great dish it can be. Go for the best quality eggs you can find and make sure your tomatoes or mushrooms are fresh not tinned. ( although tinned tomatoes may be served instead of fresh if you prefer, tinned mushrooms just don’t work).

I must confess to being a huge fan of the traditional Full English Breakfast, in fact, it was a major highlight of our 5 weeks in the UK  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Sri Lankan string hopper breakfasts but nothing beats a Full English for me. Read more about Sri Lankan breakfast food here.

A sri lanka breakfast, substantial, but nothing like the traditional full English breakfast
Sri Lankan Breakfast. Delicious, but not my favourite!

What Can be Served in a Traditional Full English Breakfast?

Pick from any of the following ingredients, fry, or grill if you prefer. Frying the bacon along with the eggs, mushrooms, fried bread etc, gives everything a nice bacon flavour. Purists would fry in lard, but any oil or mixed oil/butter will do. Don’t just use butter to fry, it will burn.

  • eggs, fried, but scrambled is acceptable
  • sausages, pork is usual in the UK, but feel free to use another variety
  • bacon, fried, but you can grill. Back bacon is preferred in the UK.
  • black pudding (optional – but traditional)
  • fried bread
  • tomatoes, tinned or halved then grilled or fried
  • fried potatoes, sauteed, chipped, or hash browns (not very traditional – a new addition)
  • mushrooms, fried or grilled
  • toast, butter, and jam
  • a nice pot of tea

What to Serve With a Great British Breakfast?

Serve with tomato ketchup or Original HP sauce ( click through to order for an authentic touch) and a hot mug of tea.

Do British People Eat a Full English Every Day?

No, absolutely not. A few do, for sure, but the average person doesn’t have the time to cook like this every day and is too weight and health-conscious to eat this much fat and cholesterol every day. You’ll find a typical British breakfast more likely to be toast, cereal, eggs or yoghurt with a fry up saved for an occasional treat.

Vegan or Vegetarian Full English Breakfast

With veganism and vegetarianism rising in popularity at breakneck speed, of course, healthier and more environmentally friendly versions of the Full English are growing in popularity. To please a British plant based eater, include the following ideas.

  • eggs any way ( omit if vegan)
  • fried tofu or tempeh.
  • tofu scramble
  • vegan or vegetarian bacon or sausages
  • mushrooms
  • spinach
  • laver ( for the Welsh)
  • vegan or vegetarian haggis ( for the Scots)
  • tomatoes any way
  • just about any vegetable
  • potatoes – fried or hash brown.
  • toast and jam with non dairy spread
  • pot of tea with plant-based milk

Cooking a Full English and Recipe

Cooking the dish is a real pleasure for me as a Chef on my days off. I like nothing more than getting all those ingredients together and turning them into something the whole family can enjoy. Other than my semi-vegetarian wife of course, she’s happy with a plate of spinach and mushrooms.

British Breakfast
You can save this to Pinterest!

Do you need a recipe for a full English fry up? Of course not, just cook, fry, grill and assemble your cooked ingredients on a plate. If you need any advice on cooking any of these items let me know in the comments and I’ll help you as best I can.

What is your favourite breakfast dish?

Photo credit, the second full English breakfast photo isn’t mine, the owner is Sarah Ross, on Flickr through Creative Commons. Thanks Sarah!

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