Haggis: Ultimate No.1 Cooking Guide

Published: 19th January 2015, last updated: 14th September 2023

In anticipation of the fantastic Scottish tradition of Burns Night on the 25th January, we are hoping some of our Lords, Lairds and Ladies out there in the wider world will join us to celebrate. To help you prepare, we are featuring some Burns Night recipes this week.

Haggis” by Bernt Rostad is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is haggis?

Haggis is a savoury pudding which is made up of sheep’s pluck (otherwise known as heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt. It is mixed with stock, and cooked while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach, although now it is often in an artificial casing instead.

It is believed that haggis was created, “born of necessity, as a way to utilise the least expensive cuts of meat and the innards as well”.

Despite the slightly unappetising description, haggis is a delicious traditional Scottish dish, particularly popular on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve and Robert Burns Night. It is renown for it’s excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour.

Haggis is traditionally served with neeps and tatties, boiled and mashed separately, and a wee dram of Scotch whisky, especially as the main course of a Burns Supper.

Interesting fact for you: According to one poll, 33 percent of American visitors to Scotland believed haggis to be an animal.

Where can I get haggis?

Throughout Scotland you can buy haggis from the majority of local butchers and also from many of the larger supermarkets. For a reliable haggis, we recommend MacSweens.

Macsween is a third generation family company which was initially established as a butchers shop in Edinburgh back in the 1950’s. They are passionate about making the best quality and best tasting food as well as promoting sustainability.

As well as their delicious everyday haggis, they now also make both vegetarian and gluten free versions, so there really is a haggis for everyone.

Vegetarian haggis was first available commercially in 1984, and now can account for between 25% and 40% of sales. It substitutes various pulses, nuts and vegetables for the meat.

One place that you definitely won’t be able to get traditional haggis is the United States. Since 1971 it has been illegal to import sheep’s lung. Meaning that if you see it on the shelves across the pond, you know it is definitely an imitation and not the real deal!

How to cook haggis:

For a 1 lb (500g) haggis either:

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 180C/conventional 200C/gas 6. Remove the outer packaging from it, then prick all over with a fork, wrap in foil like a baked potato and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
  2. Alternatively, you can simmer (but don’t boil) it in a pan of water for about 1 hour per 500g.

To serve, split open the haggis with a sharp knife and spoon the contents over neeps and tatties or serve separately.

The accompaniments: clapshot & whisky sauce

These can be made while the haggis is cooking.

Clapshot

How to make clapshot

Clapshot originated in Orkney, and is a neat way to serve ‘bashed neeps’ and ‘clampit tatties’ (that’s mashed swede and creamed potatoes). It’s very easy to make and takes about 25 minutes. Here’s how to make it.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 500g/1lb floury potatoes for mashing (Maris Piper or King Edward both mash well)
  • 500g/1lb Swede
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 75ml/2.5fl oz double cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives.
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

Method

  1.  First, peel and chop your potatoes and swede. Place in a pan of boiling salted water and boil separately for about 18 minutes or until soft. Depending on the potatoes, these can sometimes be ready before the swede which is why it’s best to boil separately.
  2.  When both are cooked drain them and mash together. Add butter and cream and mash some more, then stir in the chopped chives and add salt and pepper to taste.
  3.  Serve immediately or keep warm.

How to make whisky sauce

Whisky sauce

That’s whisky without an ‘e’ please, we’re in Scotland now!  This is a very easy sauce to make and takes about 5 minutes.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • Half a pint (300ml) Double (heavy) cream
  • 2 tablespoons Scottish heather honey
  • 2 tablespoons Wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Whisky (Blended. Don’t waste a good malt on cooking, drink it!)

Method

  1. Pour the cream into a small heavy-based saucepan, stir in mustard and honey and bring to just below boiling point stirring continuously. Do not let it boil. Just before serving stir in the whisky and heat for one more minute. Taste the sauce. If you think it needs more whisky then add another spoonful. These things are a matter of personal taste.
  2. If you like your sauces less sweet, then you can leave out the honey and add chives instead.
  3. Now all that’s left to do is serve and enjoy! Mmm.