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6 Haggis Alternatives for a Traditional Scottish Burns Supper

Hailing from the UK, Gordon is an online writer who loves cooking and experimenting with food.

This black pudding-stuffed chicken breast on clapshot is an alternative to the classic Scottish dish, Balmoral chicken.

This black pudding-stuffed chicken breast on clapshot is an alternative to the classic Scottish dish, Balmoral chicken.

Traditional Scottish Menus (Beyond Haggis)

Haggis is the traditional culinary centrepiece of any Burns Supper. On January 25th each year—in Scotland and far beyond—haggis will be served with the customary tatties and neeps (potatoes and swede turnip/rutabaga) as part of a small or large gathering to commemorate the anniversary of the Scottish bard's birth.

What happens, however, if you don't have access to haggis, or if you simply don't like it? Does this mean you cannot participate in an authentic Scottish Burns Supper? While many purists would undoubtedly say yes, the majority will hopefully agree that this is absolutely not the case. A Burns Supper without haggis is indeed entirely possible.

The recipes on this page are all variations on genuinely Scottish dishes that can be served as an alternative to haggis at a Burns Supper. Rest assured that the evening can proceed in a traditional fashion without haggis on the table.

Recipes on This Page

  1. Traditional Scottish steak pie with chips and Brussels sprouts
  2. Hearty beef and root vegetable stew
  3. Venison stew with roasted potatoes, braised cabbage and onion
  4. Salmon poached in white wine with new potatoes and broccoli
  5. Chicken breast stuffed with black pudding on clapshot
  6. Chicken and clapshot broth

1. Traditional Scottish Steak Pie With Chips and Brussels Sprouts

Steak pie is hugely popular in Scotland. It is most often associated with New Year (Hogmanay) but is widely eaten at all times of the year, making it the perfect haggis substitute for a Burns Supper. It comprises stewing beef and link sausages, which are firstly cooked and cooled before being topped with puff pastry and baked in the oven.

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound stewing beef, diced
  • 4 beef link sausages
  • 2 pints boiling water
  • ½ pound puff pastry
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Brussels sprouts (quantity as required)
  • Beaten egg for glazing
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Put the vegetable oil into a large stew pot and gently heat. Add the stewing beef to the pot (but not the beef link sausages) and season with salt and pepper. Stir the beef around with a wooden spoon to brown and seal evenly. This will take a few minutes. After that, pour in the boiling water and bring to a gentle simmer. Beef stock or gravy may be the more common inclusion in pies of this type, but the water gives this pie an old-world simplicity and works very well. Maintain the simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Although pricking sausages with a fork prior to frying them is not advisable, it is essential to do so before adding them to the stew after the initial hour. Simmer for a further 15 minutes before turning off the heat, covering and leaving to cool completely. It is necessary to cool the meat before assembling the pie; otherwise, the steam will spoil the pastry. If time is short, try sitting the pan in a couple of inches of cold water in your sink to speed up the process.
  3. Start making your chips when the meat is set aside to cool. Peel and chop the potatoes and add them to a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain through a colander and allow the chips to cool before adding them to a plastic container with a lid and the fridge for 30 minutes. Pat them carefully dry in a clean tea towel and deep-fry for 5 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper, cool and return to the dried dish and the fridge.
  4. Add the steak and sausage to a 10" x 7" pie dish with enough stock to almost cover it. Roll out the puff pastry to approximately 11" x 8" on a floured surface and carefully lay it on top of the dish, crimping around the edges. Glaze with beaten egg, make a "+" in the centre as a steam vent and bake in a preheated oven at 400°F / 200°C for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove any dead leaves from the Brussels sprouts and add them to boiling, salted water for 10-12 minutes. Give the chips a second fry for 5-6 minutes until crisp and golden. Plate up your meal as shown and serve immediately to your hungry guests.

2. Hearty Beef and Root Vegetable Stew

If you want something authentically Scottish for a small, family Burns Supper but don't have the time or inclination to go to any great culinary lengths, this simple, one-pot stew may be just what you are looking for. The cooking time is moderately lengthy, but most of it is hands-off, allowing you to be attending to other things while your meal cooks.

The meat used is shin of beef, which does not know the greatest of reputation and is often considered to be tough. However, when the shin of beef is cooked long and slow, it is one of the tastiest cuts of all. The vegetables include potatoes and swede turnips, both intrinsically associated with Burns Suppers.

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound shin of beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ medium onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ swede turnip/rutabaga, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 pints fresh beef stock
  • 1 pint boiling water, or more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • HP Sauce for serving

Method

  1. Chop the shin of beef into bite-sized pieces. Add it to a dry, cold stew pot and gently heat. There should be enough fat on the beef to brown the meat in its own juices. Season with salt and pepper, and add the thinly sliced onion. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer for 2 hours.
  2. Peel and roughly chop the potato, turnip and carrot. Add to the stew with the boiling water. Simmer for 1 hour, adding more boiling water if required.
  3. Ladle into serving plates. The HP Sauce is not exactly traditional, but absolutely delicious...

3. Venison Stew With Roasted Potatoes, Braised Cabbage and Onion

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound loin of venison, diced
  • 2 tablespoons plain or all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pints of fresh beef stock
  • 1 large carrot, sliced into discs
  • 12 to 14 baby new potatoes
  • ½ small white cabbage, shredded
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. It is vital to cook the venison long and slow. Begin by spooning the flour into a large bowl and seasoning it well with salt and pepper. Add the diced venison and very carefully stir it around with a wooden spoon to ensure an even coating. Add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil only to a large stew pot and bring up to medium heat before adding the venison. Stir the venison around over medium heat to seal and brown. This will only take a few minutes.
  2. Pour the beef stock into the pot and turn up the heat until it only just begins to boil. Reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally and ensuring the liquid level remains high enough to cover the meat.
  3. When the venison is simmering, add the potatoes to a pot of cold, salted water and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes, return them to the empty pot, cover and leave to cool.
  4. When the venison has been simmering for 1½ hours, wash and slice the carrot into discs. Add it to the pot and simmer for a final 30 minutes.
  5. The cabbage should be shredded, and the onion peeled and finely sliced. Add with remaining vegetable oil to a large pot and season with the sage, salt and pepper. Sautee for 10-12 minutes until softened, frequently stirring with a wooden spoon.
  6. When the potatoes are cool, they should peel very easily by hand. Pat them dry with kitchen paper and deep-fry at fairly high heat for 5-6 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper before service.

4. Salmon Poached in White Wine With New Potatoes and Broccoli

Salmon is another foodstuff widely associated with Scotland. Although the white wine used in this preparation method may not be authentically Scottish, the cooking method most certainly is, dating back to when salmon fishermen would cook their catch in large fish kettles/poachers in this way in river water on the banks of rivers such as the Tay and Tweed.

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces skin-on salmon loin fillet
  • 1/2 bottle dry white wine
  • 1 pint cold water
  • 6 to 8 baby new potatoes, washed but not peeled
  • ½ small head of broccoli broken into florets
  • Dried dill to taste
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • Pat of butter

Method

  1. It is vitally important before you begin cooking your salmon to remove the pin bones. These bones can cause significant problems if they are eaten by a diner. Refer to the third image in the gallery above, showing the pin bones, to get some idea of the potential problem. Ideally, ask your fishmonger to undertake this task on your behalf, but it is still more than worth checking for any which remain when you get home and before you begin cooking. Simply lay the salmon fillet skin-side down and rub your fingers gently along the flesh against the grain. If you do feel any bones, carefully pull them out in the direction, they are running with a pair of tweezers.
  2. Lay the salmon skin-side down in a large pot. Season with salt and white pepper, as well as a generous pinch of dried dill. Pour in the white wine and water. Cook over high heat until the liquid only just begins to boil. Turn off the heat at this stage, cover the pot and leave the salmon to cook in the cooling liquid for about 2 hours.
  3. The potatoes should be washed but not peeled. Add them to a pot with some salt and plenty of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain and return to the empty pot with some butter and a pinch of dried dill. Gently swirl to coat evenly.
  4. The broccoli should be washed and carefully broken into florets. Add to a pot of simmering salted water and cook for 8-10 minutes before draining for service.

5. Chicken Breast Stuffed With Black Pudding on Clapshot

This recipe is an alternative to the classic Scottish dish, Balmoral chicken, which consists of a chicken breast fillet stuffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon. Balmoral chicken is usually served with a whisky cream sauce.

Chicken breast fillets in supermarkets are, unfortunately, often sold with the skin already removed. As crispy skin was desired as a part of this dish, a chicken breast quarter was purchased. The fillet was carefully sliced off the bone, skin intact. It was literally at the last minute that the decision was made to use the remainder of the chicken quarter in a bonus recipe, included on this page immediately after this idea.

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken breast fillet (skin on)
  • 2 ounces black pudding (approximately)
  • ½ small swede turnip or rutabaga, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped chives
  • Butter
  • Salt, black pepper and white pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Method

  1. Lay the chicken breast fillet on a chopping board, skin side uppermost. Hold it flat with the palm of your weaker hand and very carefully make a horizontal slit with a sharp knife to form a pocket for the black pudding stuffing. The black pudding should then be shaped in your hands to as close to the shape of the pocket as possible before being used to stuff the chicken and the flap folded over. It is important not to overstuff the chicken, or the black pudding will simply leak out during cooking.
  2. Put your oven on to preheat to 400°F / 200°C. In order to crisp up the skin of the chicken breast fillet, it is going to first be briefly fried. Pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a fairly high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and black pepper. Lay it skin side down in the frying pan and fry on high heat for 2-3 minutes until the skin is crisped and golden.
  3. Lay a sheet of foil in a roasting tray and put the chicken in the centre, skin side up. Carefully fold the foil over to form a sealed tent and cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
  4. Peel the potato and the swede turnip and dice to about one-inch pieces. Put them in a large pot, season with salt and add enough cold water to completely cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Season with white pepper, add a little butter and mash before stirring through the chopped chives. Spoon onto a serving plate as a bed for the chicken.
  5. Remove the chicken from the oven and unwrap the foil, being careful about escaping steam. Stick a skewer into the meat to ensure the juices run clear before lifting it to a chopping board with a spatula. Rest for a few minutes before slicing into three portions and laying it on the clapshot. Scatter more chopped chives over the top as a final garnish if desired.

6. Chicken and Clapshot Broth

A more appropriate soup for Burns Suppers may be cullen skink or Scotch broth, but this last-minute preparation, incorporating the ingredients of clapshot (swede turnip, potato and chives) as well as a couple of other available items, proved very tasty.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken carcass
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • ½ swede, peeled and chopped
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
  • Chopped chives to taste

Method

  1. Make the stock: Add the chicken carcass to a pot with the black peppercorns, sea salt and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes before removing the chicken to a plate. Allow to cool enough to handle and peel off the chicken flesh. Return the bones to the pot, top up with more boiling water and simmer for 1 more hour before turning off the heat and covering.
  2. Allow the stock to cool for about 1 hour. Discard the chicken bones and strain the stock through some kitchen paper in a sieve to remove the other impurities. Return the stock to the washed pot with half a peeled and chopped swede and a peeled and chopped potato. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken meat and some chopped chives and simmer for a further 10 minutes before serving with crusty bread.

Burns Night Without Haggis Is Possible

Thank you for visiting this page. If you were not entirely convinced before that a traditional Burns Supper without haggis was indeed possible, I hope my article has helped convince you otherwise. I hope you enjoy any Burns Supper you may attend this or any year—with or without haggis.

If you have any comments or feedback, please share them below.

Learn More About Burns Night

© 2012 Gordon Hamilton