A Traditional English Breakfast
A First-Rate Start to the Day

Do you eat breakfast? Or are you so busy in the morning that you run out straight from your shower and just grab a coffee on the way to work? In our parents' time, breakfast was a seriously important meal. It woke you up and set you up for the day. Breakfast was hearty, and filling and sometimes quite prolonged.

The English breakfast, even when taken at an early hour, is usually a fairly substantial one, and rightly so, for a good meal, if enjoyed and digested gives the support necessary for the morning's work, wrote Mrs Beeton in her famous cookery book.

She goes on to list the components of such a meal as porridge, eggs - either fried, scrambled, boiled or poached - bacon, sausages, cold meat, potted meats, bread, butter, jam, tea and coffee. For larger parties you can also serve kippers, kedgeree, devilled kidneys and lamb cutlets or fresh or stewed fruit!

Fortunately, the good lady then proceeds to sing the praises of variety in all things breakfast, so I'm happy to assume that all the above do not have to be eaten at the same breakfast!

Traditional English Breakfast © Lisovskaya | Getty Images canva.comTraditional English Breakfast © Lisovskaya | Getty Images canva.com

Oh, how things have changed! Today's hectic lifestyle often relegates breakfast to a bowl of cereal, shovelled down while dressing, or a piece of toast and jam eaten on the run. That is, if breakfast is not skipped altogether.

But on weekends and holidays, or when staying away from home, the English breakfast re-appears in all its glory.

As with many traditional meals, there is no 'definitive version'. Mrs Beeton's 'substantial' breakfast can most likely be found in a country house hotel, or one of London's eateries priding themselves on traditional fare. In family homes, the cooked breakfast or Full English, followed by toast and jam and accompanied by a large pot of tea, is the more likely option.

So what makes a Full English Breakfast?

A straw poll amongst friends and acquaintances suggests the following:

  • grilled rashers of bacon
  • fried eggs
  • grilled tomatoes
  • fried or grilled pork sausages
  • baked beans

Optional items include grilled mushrooms, black pudding, white pudding and fried bread. Tomato ketchup is very optional!


If you cannot face a plate of bacon and eggs for breakfast, porridge is always popular, either plain or with toasted nuts and dried fruit sprinkled over the top. Honey adds a lovely touch to a bowl of porridge and fresh strawberries don't go amiss either.

For a special treat, try toasted bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, or - for a real traditional touch - sit down to devilled kidneys or kedgeree, as Mrs Beeton did.

Want to serve your own traditional breakfast?
Find ideas for tasty treats in the Recipe section.