10 Easy and Delicious Recipes That Use Scotch Whisky

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There are more than 120 whisky distilleries in Scotland, each of which produces spirits in a range of subtle variations. Some, like the lighter blends that use Speyside whisky, are ideal for adding to a range of dishes, from sweet puddings to savoury main courses.

Discover a collection of timeless Scottish recipes in this guide and learn why Scotch whisky makes such a great cooking ingredient.

scotch whisky

Traditional Scottish food

What do you think of when someone mentions Scottish food? Cardiac-arresting mars bars dipped in batter? Diabetes-inducing squares of tablet fuelling hyperactive children? Or do you think of dollops of stovies splatted on a plate, steaming away and looking pretty much inedible?

Traditional Scottish food isn’t regarded as the height of culinary sophistication I’m afraid, but to be fair there’s a good reason for it.

This is a country where temperatures plummet in winter and barely rise above 20 °c in summer, leading to centuries of cooking involving simple meals designed to do nothing more than insulate bodies with a warm layer of human blubber.

But times are-a-changing, and restaurants up and down the land are successfully taking those old recipes and giving them a modern twist that rivals the cuisine of any other country. Well in my opinion they do. I’m not quite sure what Gordon Ramsay would have to say about it.

Traditional meals need traditional ingredients, and here in Scotland we’ve got them by the bucketload. Oats, barley, honey, cream, harvest fruits and Scottish beef and salmon. All world-class staples of the Scottish diet and all in plentiful supply.

But there’s one other ingredient that’s being added to Scotland’s dishes in new ways that are both surprising and creative, and it’s also one of the country’s biggest exports.

The ingredient is, of course, whisky.

There are an almost limitless number of dishes that you can add whisky to for a little extra flavour, but I’ve included a few below that I’ve either personally tried or have had recommended to me.

Each dish is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious and they all perfectly complement a drop or two of fine Scotch whisky.

Scotch whisky sauce

haggis

Let’s start this list of Scotch whisky recipes with the easiest one to make – whisky sauce.

Unlike the toffee/whisky sauce I’ll show you at the end, this variation only works with savoury meals and it’s especially good on haggis and good quality Scottish beef.

It’s quite a rich sauce thanks to the cream but it’s in no way sickly so you can use it at your leisure on anything from your Burns Night supper to your Sunday roast.

For extra flavour, swap out the ground pepper for peppercorns and add extra whisky for more of an alcohol kick. Either way, it’s absolutely delicious.

Ingredients

  • 125 millilitres beef stock
  • 100 millilitres double cream
  • 2 shallots
  • Knob of butter and 1 teaspoon cooking oil
  • Seasoning to taste – salt, pepper, chervil
  • 15 millilitres Scotch whisky

How to make it

  1. Finely dice the shallots and add to a pan over a low heat along with the oil and butter.
  2. Add the Scotch whisky to the pan and then add the beef stock. Note that adding the whisky will likely produce a flame.
  3. Stir the mixture slowly while heating and allow the liquid to reduce by a third.
  4. Add in the cream and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Finely chop the chervil and sprinkle over the top of the sauce.
  6. Serve warm and pour over your favourite dish – traditionally haggis, neeps and tatties.

Marmalade and Scotch whisky bread and butter pudding

bread and butter pudding

I cover marmalade (which I love) in the next recipe, but this one concentrates on my primary food source as a child. Bread and butter pudding.

Cheap and easy to make, this pudding is a variation that doesn’t use currants, preferring the rich taste of chunky marmalade instead for an adult version of the popular post-WWII dessert.

Scotch whisky works surprisingly well with the sweetness of the marmalade, but only if you use something like a fruity Speyside variation. The strong seaweed notes of Islay whiskies aren’t going to cut it in this dish I’m afraid.

Ingredients

  • 8 slices white bread with crusts removed
  • 50 grams of soft butter
  • 4 tablespoons of chunky orange marmalade
  • 300 millilitres full-fat milk
  • 250 millilitres double cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 4 tablespoons golden caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Scotch whisky

How to make it

  1. Butter the bread on both sides and spread marmalade on 4 of the slices.
  2. Place the other slices on top to make marmalade sandwiches.
  3. Put the sandwiches into a large baking dish in rows.
  4. Heat an oven to 160 °C.
  5. Beat the milk, eggs, vanilla, milk, sugar and whisky together till you get a smooth consistency, then pour into the dish over the sandwiches.
  6. Leave to soak for half an hour.
  7. Pop the dish into the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the bread starts to break through the custard top.
  8. Serve warm with double cream or vanilla ice cream.

Scotch whisky marmalade

A staple food source of bears from deepest, darkest Peru (Google it if you’re not from the UK), marmalade is one of Britain’s favourite breakfast condiments.

This version has a bit of a twist because it has a healthy dram of whisky thrown in so it’s probably not great to spread on your morning toast, especially if you’ve got a hangover.

Ingredients

  • 1.3 kilograms Seville oranges
  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  • 2.25 kilograms granulated sugar
  • 450 grams muscovado sugar
  • 150 millilitres Scotch whisky

How to make it

  1. Put the whole oranges and the lemon juice in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of water.
  2. Bring the water to boil and simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Warm the sugar (white and dark) in an oven.
  4. Put the oranges into a bowl and when cooled cut in half. Remove the orange pips and pith and add to the water used to cook the oranges. Put the peel to one side.
  5. Bring the water to boil for 6 minutes, strain through a sieve and push as much of the pulp through as possible.
  6. Pour half of the resulting liquid into a pan, cut the peel into chunks and add half of the peel chunks to the pan.
  7. Add the sugar to the pan mixture and stir over a low heat till the sugar has dissolved.
  8. Bring the pan mixture to boil and heat for 20 minutes till it starts to set.
  9. Stir in the Scotch whisky.
  10. Remove the heat from the pan and scoop up any excess scum.
  11. Once cooled, spoon the marmalade into jars.
  12. Serve on warm buttered toast.

Scotch whisky fruit cake

fruit cake

There’s a bit of a theme with Scottish food as it’s generally quite a stodgy – yet delicious – affair, and this traditional fruit cake is no exception.

Similar to a Christmas cake, Scottish fruit cake works nicely as a mid-afternoon snack with a cup of tea, and because it’s got a healthy dose of whisky inside it should last a reasonable amount of time without preservatives.

This is one of my favourite cakes and it beats a boring sponge cake hands down. Just try it and you’ll see why.

Ingredients

  • 1 kilogram dried fruit
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 150 millilitres Scotch whisky
  • 250 grams of soft butter
  • 200 grams of brown sugar
  • 175 grams plain flour
  • 100 grams ground almond
  • Half teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 100 grams flaked almond
  • 4 large eggs

How to make it

  1. Put the dried fruit, zest and juice of the orange and lemon, Scotch whisky, butter and brown sugar into a large pan and heat on a hob at a medium temperature.
  2. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Tip the fruit mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool.
  4. Heat oven to 150 °C.
  5. Place baking paper into a deep 20-centimetre tin.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir till there are no remaining pockets of flour.
  7. Spoon the fruit mixture into the tin and level the top of it.
  8. Bake in the oven for 2 hours.
  9. Allow to cool before removing the cake from the tin.
  10. Serve at room temperature – preferably with a cup of tea.

Cranachan

This is the most mouth-watering, deliciously tasty, belly-expanding dessert I’ve ever eaten, and it’s as Scottish as the roaming herds of wild haggis that are traditionally caught on Robert Burns birthday.

I might have made that last bit up.

Cranachan is frequently presented to the table as individual ingredients that are then spooned into bowls as each person sees fit, but to my mind that’s all a bit of a faff so you might prefer serving this ready-made recipe instead.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oatmeal
  • 300 grams raspberries
  • 350 millilitres double cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons Scotch whisky

How to make it

  1. Spread the oatmeal onto a baking sheet and grill till they produce a nutty smell, then allow to cool.
  2. Crush half of the raspberries and push through a sieve.
  3. Whisk the cream with the raspberries then stir in the honey and Scotch whisky.
  4. Stir in the oatmeal and lightly whisk the mixture.
  5. Place the remaining raspberries in serving dishes and pour the cream/fruit mixture over each one.
  6. Chill in the fridge before serving.

Chicken with apple and whisky sauce

chicken in sauce

I can already see your furrowed brow. Chicken. With apples. And whisky?

It’s a weird combo I know, but let me assure you it works incredibly well, like fish and chips, bangers and mash and, erm, bananas and… custard. Is that even a thing?

This is a very easy dish to make and it’s reasonably healthy too, especially if you serve it with a side of fresh veg.

Ingredients

  • 4 skinned chicken breasts
  • 15 grams of butter
  • 2 peeled and sliced apples
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 15 grams plain flour
  • 120 millilitres chicken stock
  • 180 millilitres milk
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 5 tablespoons of Scotch whisky

How to make it

  1. In a pan, saute the chicken in the butter for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tarragon, lemon and apples to the chicken then cook together for 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook for a further 1 minute.
  4. Add the chicken stock and the milk and continue stirring till the sauce thickens.
  5. Stir in the Scotch whisky and the cream.
  6. Serve warm with fresh vegetables or pasta.

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Beef with Scotch whisky sauce

Now I know you might be thinking I’ve already covered whisky sauce in the first recipe – and I have – but this one is less rich and works perfectly with beef as opposed to peppery haggis.

In fact, whisky works so well with beef I reckon you’ll start making it a necessary companion to your Sunday roast after trying this dish, and it sure beats that half-used jar of out of date mustard hiding in the back of the cupboard.

Ingredients

  • 700 grams sirloin steak
  • 30 grams of butter
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 60 millilitres double cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons Scotch whisky

How to make it

  1. Slice the beef into thin strips.
  2. Add the butter and onion to a pan over a medium heat and stir.
  3. Add the beef strips to the pan and cook for 10 minutes, or until the beef is brown.
  4. Add the cream and Scotch whisky to the pan and stir over the beef strips for 1 minute.
  5. Serve warm with baby potatoes and fresh vegetables.

Salmon in Scotch whisky

10 Easy and Delicious Recipes That Use Scotch Whisky 10

Some Scottish foods are horrendously fatty, which you kind of need in a country that has ferociously cold and miserable weather for most of the year. Those excess layers of fat provide welcome insulation…

That being said, we have got some meals that are very healthy – like this delicious salmon dish that has a mild whisky marinade. You can use any type of salmon you like, but I recommend getting good quality Scottish salmon for a really authentic taste.

Ingredients

  • 250 grams de-boned salmon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Half tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons Scotch whisky

How to make it

  1. Freeze the salmon for 1 hour.
  2. Slice the fish as finely as possible (use a very sharp knife for this), and place the fish slices into a shallow dish.
  3. Drizzle the lemon juice and Scotch whisky over the salmon then sprinkle the sugar, chives and dill on top.
  4. Leave the salmon to marinate overnight.
  5. Baste the salmon with the sauce until the majority is absorbed by the fish.
  6. Serve cold with fresh vegetables.

Chocolate, orange, and Scotch whisky mousse

This is a spectacularly tasty dessert that’s big on flavour, but it’s big on calories too so I recommend making the portions fairly small. It’s very rich but it still works with creamy toppings – like the toffee/whisky sauce recipe shown next.

For a top tip I suggest you serve it with a fresh pot of after-dinner coffee which will help bring out the flavours of the dark chocolate. It’s absolutely delicious.

Ingredients

  • 170 grams dark chocolate
  • 3 eggs
  • 60 grams caster sugar
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 300 millilitres double cream
  • 2 tablespoons Scotch whisky

How to make it

  1. Place the chocolate and water in a pan over a low heat and stir till the chocolate melts completely.
  2. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar.
  3. Add the gelatin to the orange juice and stir till dissolved, then add the Scotch whisky.
  4. Fold the chocolate and egg mixtures together, then stir in the orange gelatin mix.
  5. Whip the double cream till it’s firm and fold half of it into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture into individual bowls and decorate each with the remaining cream.
  7. Chill in a fridge and serve cool as a dessert.

Toffee and Scotch whisky sauce

chocolate mousse

This is by far the easiest thing to make in this list, but it’s no less tasty for it. It’s basically a toffee-flavour sauce with a bit of a whisky kick, and it’s perfect for adding to ice cream for an adults-only dessert.

I like to pour it over Christmas pudding instead of using cream on the 25th December but it also works well on clootie dumpling.

Ingredients

  • 200 grams of butter
  • 140 grams of brown sugar
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 can Carnation caramel
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 150 millilitres Scotch whisky

How to make it

  1. Add the condensed milk, sugar, butter and ginger to a pan.
  2. Heat on a hob till the butter melts, but make sure it doesn’t burn.
  3. Take the pan off the hob and stir in the Scotch whisky.
  4. Drain into a container with a pouring nozzle and keep in the fridge.
  5. Serve on your favourite dessert (it complements vanilla ice cream very well).

Why cook with Scotch whisky?

Scotch whisky is enjoyed across the globe and it has an association with Scotland unlike any other product anywhere else in the world.

Uisge Beatha (‘water of life’ in Gaelic) is a distilled spirit made from fermented barley and water and not much else, yet its variations in flavour across each of the 126 licenced distilleries (and counting) is nothing short of legendary.

Each whisky region – of which there are five in total – has its own unique characteristics, with some being light and sweet and others heavier and medicinal, and it’s this variation that makes whisky such a good ingredient to add to food.

Of course, you’re free to use whichever whisky you like in the above list of recipes but I personally think the lighter, sweeter flavours of Speyside work the best, especially if you’re pouring them into a dessert.

That being said, part of the excitement of cooking with whisky comes from fusing distinct tastes into something that’s better than their individual qualities would suggest.

I’ll list the regions of Scotch whisky and their traditional flavours below so go ahead and play around with the recipes as much as you like.

Oh, and if you want to learn all about Scotch whisky from it’s humble beginnings to how it’s made and where each style comes from, check out my Complete Guide to the Single Malt Whisky Regions of Scotland.

Speyside

  • Number of distilleries: Over 60.
  • Most famous Speyside whisky: Macallan, Dalwhinnie, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich.
  • Typical flavours: Apple, vanilla, oak, malt, dried fruit.

Highlands

  • Number of distilleries: Over 25.
  • Most famous Highlands whisky: Dalmore and Glenmorangie.
  • Typical flavours: Fruit cake, malt, oak, heather, dried fruit, smoke.

Lowlands

  • Number of distilleries: Under 5.
  • Most famous Lowlands whisky: Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie.
  • Typical flavours: Grass, honeysuckle, cream, toffee, cinnamon.

West coast islands and Islay

  • Number of distilleries: Islay – under 10, Islands – under 10.
  • Most famous Islands whisky: Highland Park, Talisker, Jura.
  • Most Famous Islay whisky: Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin.
  • Typical flavours: Seaweed, brine, carbolic soap, apple, smoke, peat.

Campbeltown

  • Number of distilleries: under 5.
  • Most famous Highlands whisky: Glengyle and Springbank.
  • Typical flavours: Brine, smoke, dried fruit, vanilla, toffee.

I hope these 10 easy and delicious recipes that use Scotch whisky have whetted your appetite and tickled your tastebuds, especially if you’ve already got a fondness for our greatest national export.

Whisky is an incredibly versatile spirit and it has a huge range of nuances and subtle flavours which make it a perfect ingredient for a wide range of dishes.

While there a mind-spinning number of places you can purchase quality Scotch whisky, I personally recommend heading to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society to find the very best examples. See the affiliate link below for details about becoming a member.

Become an SMWS member for exclusive access to the world’s biggest selection of single cask whisky

If you prefer Scottish cooking without alcohol you’ll find a selection of my favourite meals in my Complete Guide to Traditional Scottish Food, all of which have been sampled by myself and confirmed to be both easy to cook and very tasty.

Now that you know a wee bit more about Scottish whisky you might be interested to learn about Scottish beer. If you are, read my Guide to Scottish Beer and Beer Festivals.


Frequently asked questions

What Scottish foods are there?

Arbroath smokies (a type of smoked haddock), porridge, haggis, black pudding, oatcakes, scotch pie, Cullen skink, stovies, tablet, shortbread, cranachan.

What is haggis?

Haggis is traditional Scottish food that is a savoury pudding usually served with neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potato). Haggis consists of sheep offal (liver, heart and lungs) mixed with suet, oatmeal, onion, pepper and spices encased in a sheep’s stomach.

What is stovies?

Stovies is a popular dish served throughout Scotland. Recipes vary slightly across regions but the main ingredients are potatoes, fat, onions and meat. It is traditionally served with oatcakes.

What is tablet?

Tablet is a sugary confection that is similar to fudge but has a hard crumbly texture. It is usually made from sugar, condensed milk and butter with vanilla essence to taste. Some variations add Scotch whisky

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By Craig Neil

Scotland travel writer and specialist 360° photographer. Founder of the Out About Scotland travel website and Vartour virtual tours.