Just what the hell is in haggis anyway? well...

The following is the recipe for haggis that won the first prize spot at the Great Competition of Haggises in Edinburgh at the beginning of the 19th century.

You need a sheep's pluck (this includes heart, lights, and liver) and paunch, onions,oatmeal,beef suet, pepper, salt, cayenne, vinegar or lemon

"Clean a sheep's pluck thoroughly, make incisions in the heart and liver to allow the blood to flow out and par-boil the whole , letting the windpipe lie over the side of the pot to permit the discharge of impurities; the water may be changed after a few minutes boiling. A half hours boiling will be sufficient; but throw back the half of the liver to boil till it will grate easily; take the heart, the half of the liver, and part of the lights trimming away all skins and black looking parts, and mince them together. Mince also a pound of good beef suet and four or more onions. Grate the other half of the liver. Have a dozen of small onions peeled and scalded in two waters to mix with this mince. Have ready some finely ground oatmeal, toasted slowly before the fire for hours till it is light brown colour and perfectly dry. Less than two teacupsful of meal will do for this quantity of meat. Spread the mince on a board a strew the meal lightly over it, with a high seasoning of pepper, salt, and a little cayenne, first mixed well. Have a haggis bag (ie: sheep's paunch) perfectly clean, and see that there be no thin part in it, else your whole labour will be lost by its bursting.

Some cooks use two bags, one as an outer case. Put in the meat with a half pint of good beef gravy or as much strong broth as will make it a very thick stew. Be careful not to fill the bag to full, but allow the meat room to swell; add the juice of a lemon or a little good vinegar; press out the air and sew up the bag, prick it with a large needle when it first swells in the pot to prevent bursting; let it boil slowly for three hours if large."

One might find the cayenne an odd addition. However when I was in Scotland about 5 years ago the haggis I had was surprisingly spicy, go figure. Also, if some of the ingredients don't sound like something your local grocer would have, i suggest trying a local meat store that specializes in meats of various animals and the various cuts thereof.

Haggis is also available in tinned form. Quoting the label from a tin of Grant's Haggis:

Grant's Haggis


Lamb, oatmeal, water, onion, spices.
Minimum 50% Meat
Does not contain genetically modified (G.M.) ingredients.


To retain full flavour pierce can, place in boiling water and boil for twenty minutes.


Empty contents into a saucepan and heat gently stirring occasionally until warmed through. For a real Scottish flavour add a "wee dram" of whisky before serving.

"Grant's Traditional Haggis is made in the time honoured way to an original Scottish recipe. Prime lamb and fresh oatmeal are gently cooked with spices to produce this famous dish which is rich in goodness."

The front of the can comes complete with obligatory tartan borders and the serving suggestion is indeed mashed tatties and neeps. Some further serving suggestions are:

The vegetarian in me shudders to think that I not only live with but also share a fridge with a man who will happily eat this. Scotland has a lot to answer for. For anyone wishing to try this particular canned product, contact me and I'll try and arrange delivery. Alternatively, you could try contacting Grant's at the following address:

Grant Bros. (Meat Canners) Ltd.,
Richhmond Bridge,
Galston KA4 8JU,

Good luck. You'll need it.

As these things go, I think haggis is quite tasty. It falls into a similar category as dirty rice in terms of its consistency and shockingly enough it also is made from grain, guts, and grease with some spices and some onions. I like it quite a bit actually.

I do however have a couple notes to add. Here they are:

  • For those who cannot obtain a sheep's pluck or an ox bung, one would do well to consider standard sausage casing (usually washed, sterilized, and salted pig intestines). Now you'll find that it's fairly small in diameter (about one or two inches depending), so you'll have to adjust cooking time down a little, but as a side benefit you do get several miniature haggises (yikes!), so you can freeze a couple, and bring some to microwave at work for lunch the next day.
  • I would highly suggest using lamb stock instead of beef stock. It may be hard to come by pre-made lamb stock, but it's not hard to make, and it's worth it for the extra flavor.
  • Although it's not traditional, I have found that adding a couple hot peppers never hurts anything. Just a suggestion for those who require a little bit more zing. One should be sure, however, not to add so much spice as to override the delicate flavor of the organ meat (espescially the liver).

Happy Haggis Eating =:-)

The question most people have after getting over their revulsion is, "What does it taste like?". It looks and tastes like very heavily seasoned ground beef or lamb. That is the best description for the haggis neophyte I can produce without getting death threats from angered Scots. The taste is very moreish but not overwhelming, although I suspect most people have the same attitude to it that they do sushi. (they hate it until they try it)

Haggis is available wrapped in a plastic membrane in addition to the traditional forms (and not so-traditional tinning). Although you can boil it, I prefer to slice open the plastic, dump the delicious contents into tin foil, wrap it up tight and place in the oven at about 200 degrees for 90 minutes. The result, when unwrapped, has a slightly crispier outer shell which makes the texture more interesting. Fluff it up with a fork, and serve. With bashed neeps and tatties.

Haggis, deep fried, is a fantastic Scottish delicacy to be consumed while severely under the influence. Resembling a huge battered sausage, you simply pick it up bare-handed from its chip-filled styrofoam bed and bite into the goodness. Now, stumble over to a freezing cold bench in St Enoch Square and eat. The alcohol in your body is soaked up by the minced animal parts, and you are quite content and stuffed after finishing.

I urge you to try haggis, with mashed potatoes and some nice whisky. If it's your first time, you are forgiven for the use of coke in the whisky, or ketchup in the haggis. Just don't let anyone see you.

Hag"gis (?), n. [Scot. hag to hack, chop, E. hack. Formed, perhaps, in imitation of the F. hachis (E. hash), fr. hacher.]

A Scotch pudding made of the heart, liver, lights, etc., of a sheep or lamb, minced with suet, onions, oatmeal, etc., highly seasoned, and boiled in the stomach of the same animal; minced head and pluck.

[Written also haggiss, haggess, and haggies.]


© Webster 1913.

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