There are a couple of special celebration nights in Scotland—Burns Night and Hogmanay—when the traditional dish of haggis, tatties, and neeps is served. Haggis is a famous Scottish preparation similar to black pudding in texture, made out of sheep's offal (lung, liver, heart), spices, onions, and suet, and cooked in the animal's stomach. Nowadays, it's normally cooked in casings rather than the stomach. It is always served with mashed potatoes (called "tatties") and mashed turnips (called "neeps").
Keep in mind that depending on where you are located, neeps may mean something different. In England, neeps are considered turnips. However, in Scotland, neeps are considered rutabaga. Swede (Swedish or white turnips) are also called neeps.
The haggis makes or breaks this recipe, so make sure you buy a good quality haggis, be it traditional meat or a vegetarian type. A wee dram of Scotch whisky would be traditional to accompany this truly Scottish meal.
- 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds haggis
- 1 1/4 pounds potatoes (peeled, roughly chopped)
- 2 pinches sea salt (divided)
- 4 tablespoons butter (divided)
- 4 tablespoons milk (divided)
- 1 pinch nutmeg (freshly grated)
- Black pepper (to taste)
- 1 1/4 pounds turnips (peeled, roughly chopped)
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, the dish is broken down into categories to help you with preparation and assembly.
Cook the Haggis
Gather the ingredients.
Cook the haggis first by placing it in a large pot and covering it with cold water. Cover the pan with a lid and bring to boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes per pound; for a 3 1/2-pound haggis, cook for 2 hours and 20 minutes. While the haggis cooks, prepare the potatoes and turnips.
Cook the Potatoes
In a large saucepan, place the potatoes and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt, and cover the pan with a lid.
Bring the potatoes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (about 20 minutes).
Drain the potatoes.
Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or ricer, and reserve.
In the pan in which the potatoes were cooked, add half of the butter and half the milk. Melt over medium heat.
Add the potatoes to the pan and mix well.
Add a pinch of nutmeg and pepper to taste and stir well to create a smooth, creamy mash.
Cook the Turnips
In a large saucepan, add the turnips. Cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, and cover the pan with a lid.
Bring the turnips to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender or approximately 20 minutes.
Drain the turnips
Mash the turnips with a ricer or potato masher. Reserve.
In the pan that you cooked the turnips, add the remaining butter and milk. Melt over medium heat.
Add the cooked turnips and stir until smooth and creamy.
Serve Haggis, Tatties, and Neeps
Once cooked, remove the haggis from the water, place on a serving dish and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting it open with scissors or a knife.
Slice the haggis and serve with tatties and neeps. Enjoy.
Traditional Haggis Dinner
Although a meal of haggis, potatoes, and turnips is hearty and filling enough, you can offer other dishes to make it a truly Scottish spread:
- Start your meal with a small bowl of cock-a-leekie soup, a traditional chicken and leek soup, thickened with rice and flavored with carrots and spices.
- Make the haggis your main dish, always making sure all guests have potatoes and turnips alongside their haggis.
- Finish your dinner with Scottish cranachan, a delicious dessert made out of toasted oatmeal, cream, whisky, and raspberries, layered in a beautiful presentation.
What Do Haggis Taste Like?
Haggis are a unique food with an interesting taste. Many people agree that haggis has an earthy, nutty, and peppery flavor with a rather pungent odor. The texture is crumbly and grainy. Well-made haggis is quite delicious—comparable to black pudding, pâté, and even meatloaf—though lower-quality haggis can be disappointing.
Are Haggis Illegal in the U.S.?
Authentic Scottish haggis has not been available in the United States since the country placed a ban on the use and import of livestock lungs in 1971. In 1998, the U.S. also banned beef, sheep, and goat imports from the European Union due to concerns of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease). However, American companies have been producing lung-free haggis for a number of years and you can get vegetarian haggis. In 2020, an inspection update found regions in the U.K. at a negligible or controlled risk for BSE. That may affect the import restrictions on animal product imports, though not for haggis that include lungs.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA APHIS | Animal Health Status of Regions. Aphis.usda.gov. 2020.