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Why is it called a Scotch egg?

A Scotch egg is a classic British snack that consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried or baked. But why is this delicious appetizer called a “Scotch” egg? The name is definitely curious, so let’s take a look at the history and origins of the Scotch egg.

What is a Scotch Egg?

First, let’s describe what exactly a Scotch egg is for those who may not be familiar. A Scotch egg begins with a hard-boiled egg, which is then wrapped in sausage meat. The sausage meat layer is seasoned, usually just with salt, pepper, and sometimes herbs. The sausage-wrapped egg is then dipped in beaten egg to help the next layer adhere before being coated in breadcrumbs. The Scotch egg is then fried or baked until the sausage meat layer is cooked through and the breadcrumbs are crispy and golden brown.

When you cut into a Scotch egg, you get the fun surprise of the still runny yolked egg in the center encased in the ground meat and crispy coating. The contrast of textures and flavors is delicious! The crispy exterior gives way to the soft boiled egg and savory sausage layer surrounding it.

Scotch eggs make an excellent snack, appetizer, or portable meal. They’re hearty enough to take on a picnic or eat as a light lunch. The variety of textures and flavors in each bite makes Scotch eggs a very satisfying snack.

The History and Origins of the Scotch Egg

So how exactly did this unique combination of sausage, egg, and breadcrumbs come about? To understand the name, we have to dive into the history of the Scotch egg and where it originated.

Most food historians agree that Scotch eggs were invented in the 1700s in England. But who exactly created the first prototype Scotch egg is debated. Two stories of the invention of Scotch eggs persist:

  1. Scotch eggs were developed by Scottish meat traders. The traders would fry eggs in sausage meat to eat as a snack for themselves while working.
  2. The Scots Guards regiment in England is credited with inventing Scotch eggs. They used the protein-rich snack as a quick meal they could eat while on the march.

Both of these origin stories highlight practicality and portability as the inspiration for inventing the Scotch egg. A boiled egg covered in sausage provides sustenance and is compact for eating on the go.

The Scottish Meat Traders Theory

According to the first account, Scotch eggs were created by Scottish meat traders and sausage makers. During the 1700s, many Scottish meat traders traveled to London to sell their products. As they traveled around from market to market, the traders needed protein-rich foods they could eat while working. Wrapping boiled eggs in fresh sausage meat made an ideal hand-held snack.

As this practice spread among the community of Scottish meat traders, the concept was picked up by English cooks and chefs. The portable sausage and egg snack became popularized in England under the descriptive name “Scotch eggs.” It referenced the dish’s origins with the Scottish meat traders.

The Scots Guards Theory

The other commonly told story credits the Scots Guards regiment of the British Army with the invention of Scotch eggs. In the early 1700s, the Scots Guards were known to wrap hard boiled eggs in sausage meat for sustenance when marching between battle camps.

Like the Scottish meat traders, the Scots Guards benefitted from the portability and nutrition in this protein-packed snack. The compact size and hardy ingredients meant the eggs could withstand being carried in satchels or saddlebags without breaking.

As the story goes, the Scots Guards shared their creation with the English soldiers. The English troops then brought the concept of this sausage-wrapped egg snack back home, where it gained popularity in pubs and was dubbed a “Scotch” egg due to its origins.

The Spread of Scotch Eggs in England

While the exact origin is unclear, both stories center around Scots creating the prototypical Scotch egg for sustenance while working. Scotch eggs then spread through England in the 1700s as their popularity grew.

English chefs put their own spin on the Scottish treat by adding the outer layer of breadcrumbs. Frying the eggs provided a crispy texture and additional flavor. Scotch eggs became a fixture on pub menus and then gained wider appeal as a snack for picnics and parties.

The name “Scotch egg” first appeared in writing in the early 1800s in England. An 1809 issue of the sportsmen’s magazine The Quarterly Review includes a reference to feasting on “a brace of cold roast partridges, collared beef, cold ham, potted charr, Scotch eggs.”

This early written description confirms Scotch eggs had already become an established part of England’s culinary repertoire by the early 19th century. But it took over a century for Scotch eggs to find popularity outside the British Isles.

The Global Spread of Scotch Eggs

While Scotch eggs originated in Britain in the 1700s, it was not until the 1960s that they began appearing in cookbooks and menus outside England and Scotland. Some key events in the global spread of the Scotch egg include:

  • 1967 – Scotch eggs are included in The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which introduced British cuisine to American readers.
  • 1970s – Scotch eggs gain traction in Australia and begin appearing in cookbooks down under.
  • 1980s – Scotch eggs rise in popularity in the United States as interest grows in British food. They become a common pub food across America.
  • 21st century – Modern twists on Scotch eggs are developed, featuring flavors like curry, chorizo, bacon, and cheese.

Today, Scotch eggs can be found at pubs and restaurants across the globe. Their origins may lie in Scotland and England, but over the past century Scotch eggs have become a quintessentially British food enjoyed worldwide.

Key Milestones in the History of Scotch Eggs

To summarize the history of how the Scotch egg became a global snack, here are some key milestone dates:

Year Scotch Egg Milestone
1700s Scotch eggs believed to be invented in Scotland or England
1809 Earliest known written reference to “Scotch eggs” appears in British magazine
1860s Scotch eggs referenced in early English cookbooks
1960s-70s Scotch eggs gain popularity in America, Australia, and beyond Britain
Today Enjoyed globally as a classic British pub snack and appetizer

The Reason for the Name

Now that we’ve traced the origins and chronology of the Scotch egg, we can address the question behind its name. Why do we call this dish a “Scotch” egg when the recipe has become so broadly used?

The name Scotch egg clearly stems from its likely invention by Scottish meat traders or the Scots Guards regiment. Calling it a “Scotch” egg was a logical choice to designate its origins. Similar to how Scotch whisky refers to whisky made in Scotland, Scotch eggs got their descriptor from their common origin story.

But some may wonder why the name stuck, even once the dish became popular throughout England and beyond. After all, eggs wrapped in sausage didn’t remain exclusively Scottish for very long.

Custom and Memory Link the Name

There are a few reasons why Scotch eggs continued to be known as such, even as their popularity spread:

  • The Scotch name was already widely used – By the mid-1800s, the term had already stuck and appeared regularly in cookbooks and menus.
  • It gave the dish added intrigue – The Scottish twist lent the eggs a more unique story that appealed to English and foreign palates.
  • It reflects culinary history – Food names often reflect their origin, even if no longer completely accurate.

In essence, “Scotch egg” became the customary name thanks to the early moniker. When a dish develops a well-known name, it frequently sticks even if the actual recipe changes or spreads over time. The name Scotch egg reflects the early history of the dish, even as it evolved across England and beyond.

Modern Twists Retain the Classic Name

Another reason the name remains consistent is that many variations on the classic recipe retain “Scotch egg” in their titles as well. For example, you can find:

  • Curry Scotch eggs
  • American Scotch eggs with beef sausage
  • Breaded Scotch eggs
  • Deep-fried Scotch eggs

No matter if the recipe is tweaked or perfected, Scotch egg continues to convey this classic sausage-wrapped snack. The name became synonymous not just with the original recipe, but with the concept of a breaded hard boiled egg encased in meat.


In summary, Scotch eggs earned their name based on their likely origin among Scottish groups in the 1700s. But the name stuck thanks to established familiarity and its usefulness in describing the dish. Even as recipes evolved, “Scotch egg” remained the shorthand for sausage-wrapped hard boiled eggs.

Next time you enjoy this classic British pub snack, you can share the fascinating history behind both the dish itself and its memorable name. So relish the contrast of crispy exterior giving way to soft boiled egg, all conveniently held in hand – a thoroughly “Scotch” experience through and through!