What is Haggis?

Mary McMahon

Haggis is a meat dish that is made by stuffing a sheep or cow stomach with offal, oatmeal, and an assortment of spices, and then boiling the dish until it is thoroughly cooked. Many people link it with Scottish culture, as the dish is often readily available in Scotland, although most cultures have their own version. Fans of the dish outside of Scotland can sometimes find it at Scottish importers, and they can also make their own.

Nutmeg is often used to season haggis.
Nutmeg is often used to season haggis.

Although people think of haggis as being a quintessentially Scottish dish, it is actually much older than the nation of Scotland. The Greeks and Romans both ate a version of haggis, and it is highly probable that the Romans brought the dish with them as they colonized Britain. Historically, many people have regarded it as a poor man's dish, since it uses the unwanted cuts of the animal, although modern haggis is considered more of a delicacy.

Haggis is often served with mild red wine.
Haggis is often served with mild red wine.

At a minimum, the offal used in haggis includes the heart, kidneys, and lungs, and the liver is often included as well. The offal is minced and mixed with suet, hard fat extracted from cows and sheep, with leaf fat from the kidneys being preferred. Minced onions are also added, along with seasonings of choice like nutmeg, cayenne, and pepper, and then the cook adds oatmeal, which acts as a filler to keep the dish from getting too heavy. Once the filling is mixed, it can be stuffed into a clean stomach, and then the stomach can be sewn shut.

When haggis is boiled, it is important to poke a few holes in the stomach to keep it from exploding. Cooks also would do well to remember than oatmeal expands as it cooks. Once the dish is cooked, it can be sliced and served with sauces of the chef's choice; many people like to eat it with a side of mashed potatoes, although it can be served with other things as well, and it pairs well with Belgian style beers and mild red wines.

Although traditional haggis is prepared in a stomach, it is also possible to find a version which is prepared in sausage casings. This type is much smaller and easier to handle, and it tends to be less expensive. It is most commonly included in a traditional Scottish breakfast, where it is often sliced into wedges and fried.

Many Americans might be a bit sheepish about trying Scottish food such as wild haggis.
Many Americans might be a bit sheepish about trying Scottish food such as wild haggis.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


I'm an American who tried Haggis while in Scotland. It basically just tastes like lamb flavored corned beef hash.


I am a vegetarian, so I cannot imagine eating haggis. I know it is traditional, but it probably also is not very good for you, considering that it is almost all organ meat, which is high in fat and cholesterol, even compared to other meats.


I know that many cultures just accept their national cuisines as normal as an ordinary fact, but I have to say I cannot imagine eating haggis or thinking it is a normal thing to eat. The idea of eating another creature's organs just makes me feel ill.

Post your comments
Forgot password?