What is an English Breakfast?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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An English breakfast is a cooked hot meal that, for many English speakers around the world, represents the quintessential breakfast. There are numerous variations on the breakfast, most of which are named for the regions they borrow from; a Scottish breakfast, for example, includes traditional Scottish foods in addition to the standard components. People may also hear this meal called a fry up, and fry ups tend to be especially popular during the weekends, when people enjoy taking time to eat comfort foods at leisure.

Two classic components of the English breakfast are bacon and eggs, but the food doesn't stop there. A fry up may also include hash browns, toast, sausage, black pudding, beans, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, porridge, and kippers. It is also common to see an assortment of condiments, including jams and ketchup, and in some regions, fresh fruit may be offered as well, for people who find the traditional components of the breakfast too heavy.

Classically, a fry up is accompanied with numerous cups of strong black tea or coffee, which may be mixed with sugar and cream or milk. Orange juice is also not uncommon, especially among more health-conscious consumers who may want to attempt to temper the artery-clogging impact of the traditional meal. Leftover mashed potatoes, vegetable hash, and a variety of vegetarian meat alternatives are also starting to gain ground on the breakfast plate.


The concept of the English breakfast appears to be relatively recent. It seems to have emerged in the mid-1800s, and it was especially popular among wealthy members of society, although farmers may have eaten similar meals before this point. In wealthy homes, the components of breakfast were often spread out on a buffet, with people serving themselves as desired, and the meal was a display of wealth as much as it was an array of food, given the expense of meat.

Many diners and greasy spoons in English speaking nations offer some version of the English breakfast, with a focus on regional specialties. You may also hear this meal called an “all day” breakfast, in a reference to the fact that it could potentially fuel someone for a day, and to the fact that many people like to eat it over a leisurely period of several hours, rather than trying to cram it all in at once. Inns may also offer some version of it to their guests, since people often enjoy indulging in favorite foods while on vacation.


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Post 11

It's Black pudding. It's not called blood sausage and it's an "all day breakfast" because it's available all day rather than just in the morning.

I never heard of anyone taking several hours over an all day breakfast.

Post 10

@LisaLou -- When I was in Europe I didn't try any of the black or blood pudding when I heard it really was made with blood. This made my stomach a little queasy just thinking about it. Apparently this is very common there and is often served with an English breakfast.

Some people also refer to this as blood sausage. I know there are different variations, but I was told it was a mixture of pork blood and oatmeal. I don't usually mind trying new foods, but that is definitely something I have no interest in.

Post 9

I am not too adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. Many times when I am at a restaurant and don't know for sure what I want to order I figure ordering breakfast is a pretty safe bet.

I am curious to know what black pudding is though. This doesn't sound very appealing to me and I have never heard of a restaurant serving pudding for breakfast.

Post 8

I love eating a big, hot breakfast to start my day and found this to be quite common in England. There is something nice about being on vacation and being able to enjoy a nice breakfast at your leisure.

I wasn't too keen on the meat that was served though. Both the sausage and bacon were different than what I was used to. The bacon seemed more like ham and I didn't like the blood sausage at all.

There didn't seem to be too much variation in the places where we ate an English breakfast. There was always plenty to eat without eating the meat, and I filled up on eggs, toast and delicious pastries.

Post 7

@anon177327 -- I have been to Ireland and every bread and breakfast inn we stayed at served an Irish breakfast, which I imagine is the same thing as an English breakfast. I think this is very common in Europe and found that if I ever went away hungry, it was my own fault.

Post 6

@truman12 - I totally agree, I love it too. I really wish that more diners and breakfast places in the states offered an English breakfast.

It makes sense doesn't it? It is not like it is so esoteric that Americans wouldn't like it. And all they would have to do is keep some beans around in addition to their normal breakfast stuff.

Post 5

I had never had a proper English breakfast until I stayed in Scotland for a few months. At first I was a little put off by it but over time I really grew to love it. I will even cook myself baked beans and tomatoes to eat along side my eggs some mornings.

Post 4

Where do you get some of this stuff from? Have any of you ever been to England?

An 'all-day breakfast' is simply one that is available throughout the day - i.e. not just at breakfast time.

Post 3

“@Anon15165” – You seem to know a lot of about the typical English breakfast. I noticed that many European countries offer very different breakfast options than they do in the United States.

For example, when I went to Italy I noticed that the Italian breakfast consisted of sliced ham, with various slice cheeses along with some fruit and either a cup of espresso or a cappuccino.

They also consume rolls with their breakfast with some butter or jelly. In France the breakfast is small and it consists of a baguette with some butter or jelly and a cup of coffee.

It is very different than the typical American breakfast which could offer pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon along with toast and hash browns. I think that the American breakfast seem closely aligned with the typical English breakfast. Both are very heavy and have a high fat content as well as a lot of calories.

Post 1

What on earth is "English" about hash browns?They are clearly of North American origin. Potatoes *will* often feature in an English breakfast but in the form of either sautéed potatoes or chips (thicker than the US french fries and thinner than game chips) or potato wedges. Rösti is looked askance upon as a Continental horror.

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