The first thing you might be asking here is, “what is in haggis”? Well, we are going to answer that question and also tell you what it tastes like. Haggis has a bit of myth and folklore attached to it, conjuring up images of an odd looking plate or mystery meat.
The truth is much simpler and more traditional to Scotland, where it is the national dish.
Most haggis eaters would tell you that the dish tastes gamey, spiced, and nutty. The combination of flavors are in part from the kinds of meat themselves, and the spices used to make haggis a favorite dish.
What’s in haggis and where does the taste come from?
Here’s part of the answer to the mystery of haggis contents: Heart, lungs, liver, and stomach. The idea of eating more parts of the animal than the thighs, breasts, and other parts comes in part from a place of need.
Looking to keep up their energy, Scottish hunters would kill an animal, then chop off various parts and cook them in the stomach itself as a liner and holder.
So that’s the first part of the meat within haggis. Scottish haggis rounds out the diet of protein meat with oatmeal, onions, spices and the hard, white fat called suet.
The meat itself will taste a bit gamey, which stems from the animal eating natural ground foods like grass, acorns, and nuts.
To add some complexity to the flavor (and centuries ago, to help meat that just didn’t taste like much), spices like allspice, pepper, and nutmeg are added. Coriander seeds and sea salt are common too. While the answer to the spice test truly depends on which spices are used, they tend to add a deeper flavor to the meat, while nutmeg can add a little sweetness.
Given the combination of meat, stomach, and spices, haggis eaters also note that haggis tastes like oatmeal, in part because oatmeal has been used as a mix with the spices. Others suggest it tastes a bit like sausage in it’s use of a variety of meats and fillers.
We have to note one thing for your perception of haggis. Most people who eat it doesn’t say it tastes like animal organs. Consider this an achievement for spices!
What is the texture of haggis like?
The texture of haggis can be best described as crumbly and oaty. Since the dish tends to contain oatmeal as a filler, the slightly lumpy texture makes sense.
Haggis also takes on a sausage like texture because the contents are similar to sausage, so it’s entirely possible for haggis to taste a bit grainy because of the large number of small pieces blended together.
Most would also describe haggis as soft and similar in appearance and smell to stuffing.
How is haggis served?
Haggis is considered a main dish since the meal has a balance of meat and vegetables. In many settings, haggis is also served with a couple of other dishes, including:
- Mashed potatoes, often with butter and seasoning like chives or garlic
- Neeps: You’ve probably never heard turnips called neeps before, but the Scottish make them good. Neeps are often accompanied by mashed potatoes. Neeps are simply salted and often served with butter.
What does haggis look like?
To best compare it to another food, haggis itself looks a bit like a pile of oatmeal, corn, and spices. It’s kind of an odd look, but it’s the result of several kinds of cut up and diced meat.
Haggis can be served with the mashed potatoes, neeps, and meats blended together. Otherwise you’ll see them in their own portions on the plate. Just drag on to the other to combine flavors.
What does haggis smell like?
Haggis will smell strong and earthy before cooking. The scents die down a bit as cooking goes on. The end product of haggis will smell gamey, and of meat, nuts, and spices.
Is Haggis healthy?
Surprisingly, haggis is probably healthier than you think. The lesser eaten parts of the animal like liver and heart contain plenty of iron, potassium, and magnesium – all of which are needed in your blood and muscles too.
Haggis does tend to have some fat and salt, given it’s use of spices for flavoring. The thought here is that while some parts of haggis are good for you, don’t eat it every day. We can say that about many foods.
You’ll also want to note that the importation of haggis was banned from 1971 to 2017 as the lungs had a chance to be carriers of tuberculosis. Canada now allows haggis. The FDA is less specific in their ban, stating that animal lungs are not human food.
Why are people afraid of haggis?
Between an importation ban and most Americans opting not to eat unusual parts of the animal, haggis isn’t especially popular in the United States.
Scotland focuses on haggis primarily during Burns night. Occurring on January 25th, Burns Night celebrates the Scottish poet Robert Burns.
A little under half of Scots think that haggis is gross, too. Part of the reason for it’s level of popularity is because haggis is basically a collection of cheap, spiced meat cooked into a pile. We are more used to eating the meatier parts of the animal.
As the national dish of Scotland, haggis has as unique a flavor as the grassy green country. Haggis blends liver, lung, heart, and others into a meal worthy of an celebration. Add some spices, neets, and mashed potatoes and you’ve got a food fit for a poet.
You might be able to find haggis served at Irish or Scottish restaurants – spot by one and try it.