Traditional Scottish Skirlie Recipe

Skirlie is a traditional oatmeal side dish, also sometimes known as “Scottish stuffing”. It’s also often mixed in with mashed potato to give it a little crunch.

It’s generally made with pinhead or steel-cut oats, onion, seasonings, and some kind of fat like beef or vegetable shortening.

Scottish Skirlie Recipe - Skirlie in a large bowl for serving

Every family has their own way of making it, and it’s the kind of recipe that you can experiment with to make it your own too.

Skirlie is so versatile, so it’s a great Scottish recipe to master!

You can serve it alongside Mince and Tatties, Haggis Neeps and Tatties, inside Beef Olives, or mixed in with mashed potato alongside Chicken Balmoral. You can also make it to use as a stuffing for chicken or turkey, which makes it extra delicious as it soaks up the juices during cooking.

You’ll often find it packaged alongside kilted soldiers/pigs in blankets (little sausages wrapped in bacon) around Christmas and Hogmanay time.

And of course, it’s the perfect addition to a Burns Supper!

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Why is it called Skirlie?

The name “Skirlie” comes from the sound of the oats and onions “dancing” in the pan, in a “skirl”.

It seems like many Scottish side dishes get their names from the sounds made when cooking them, like Rumbledethumps and Clapshot too.

Sometimes you might find it referred to as “mealie pudding without skin”, and while it’s very similar, it’s not exactly the same measurements.

Scottish Skirlie Recipe - skirlie alongside mashed potato

Things you’ll need to make Skirlie

  • Large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon

Ingredients for Skirlie

  • 4oz/115g beef suet
  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 12oz/340g pinhead oats
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Scottish Skirlie Recipe - Ingredients in separate bowls

What oats should be used?

Skirlie calls for pinhead or steel-cut oats. Using porridge oats or oatmeal will give it a completely different texture as they break down much faster and generally make a creamier, soft mixture.

Pinhead oats is the name in the UK, or sometimes coarse oats, and steel-cut oats is the name in the USA.

Can you use a substitute for Beef Suet?

The best substitute for beef suet would be vegetable shortening, or you could use butter. All will give you slightly different flavours, so give them a try and see which you like best.

If you’re using butter, we would suggest mixing with some vegetable shortening as well for flavour.

How to make Skirlie – Step-by-step method

Melt the beef suet in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and fry until softened and translucent – about 6-8 minutes.

Scottish Skirlie Recipe Method - Cooking onion in a pan

Add the pinhead oats along with some salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine, then reduce the heat to low.

Cook for 15-20 minutes on the low heat, stirring frequently, until the oats have softened and slightly deepened in colour. They should still retain a slight bite and have a subtle toasted flavour.

Scottish Skirlie Recipe  Method - Cooking Skirlie in the pan

Serve with mashed potatoes if desired.

Frequent Questions

How do you store Skirlie?

Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Reheat to piping hot to serve.

Can you freeze Skirlie?

It is possible to freeze Skirlie in an airtight container or bag for up to 6 months. Allow it to cool completely first.

To defrost, place it in the fridge the night before you want to use it. Freeze into portions that you will want to use as it can’t be refrozen once defrosted.

What is the difference between Skirlie and White Pudding?

White Pudding, or Mealie Pudding in Scotland, is generally made from a mixture of oatmeal, onions, and beef suet. It’s basically Skirlie but not in the sausage skin!

Can you add other spices and herbs?

Some Skirlie recipes call for adding additional herbs and spices, and it’s entirely up to you if you’d like to experiment with different flavours.

We have seen thyme added to Skirlie for a more herby taste and to make it a bit more like stuffing. Feel free to experiment with other aromatic herbs, too, like rosemary or sage.

What if the oats are still too hard after cooking?

You need to turn the pan down to a very low heat to allow the oats to cook without burning.

If they’re still not cooked, you could add a tablespoon or two of hot water to the pan on low heat and continue stirring to allow them to cook more. This will slightly change the texture, however.

Scottish Skirlie Recipe - Skirlie in a large serving bowl

How do you make vegetarian or vegan Skirlie?

If you want to make vegan or vegetarian Skirlie, you’ll need to substitute the usual beef suet.

Vegetarians could try dairy butter, or vegans could try another butter or look for a vegan vegetable shortening.

In the UK, there are brands of vegetable shortening like Trex, Flora White or Cookeen, and in the US, Crisco is the most popular.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Traditional Scottish Skirlie Recipe

Scottish Skirlie Recipe

Skirlie is a traditional oatmeal side dish, also sometimes known as “Scottish stuffing”. It’s also often mixed in with mashed potato to give it a little crunch.

It’s generally made with pinhead or steel cut oats, onion, seasonings, and some kind of fat like beef or vegetable shortening.

Every family has their own way to make it, and it’s the kind of recipe that you can experiment with to make it your own too.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 28 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4oz/115g beef suet
  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 12oz/340g pinhead oats
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Melt the beef suet in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and fry until softened and translucent – about 6-8 minutes.
  2. Add the pinhead oats along with some salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine, then reduce the heat to low.
  3. Cook for 15-20 minutes on the low heat, stirring frequently, until the oats have softened and slightly deepened in colour. They should still retain a slight bite and have a subtle toasted flavour. 
  4. Serve with mashed potatoes if desired.

Notes

What oats should be used?

Skirlie calls for pinhead, or steel-cut oats. Using porridge oats or oatmeal will give it a completely different texture as they break down much faster and generally make a creamier, soft mixture.

Pinhead oats is the name in the UK, or sometimes coarse oats, and steel-cut oats is the name in the USA.

Can you use a substitute for Beef Suet?

The best substitute for beef suet would be vegetable shortening, or you could use butter. All will give you slightly different flavours, so give them a try and see which you like best.

If you’re using butter we would suggest mixing with some vegetable shortening as well.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 239Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 48mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 5gSugar: 2gProtein: 10g

The above values are an indication only.

Other Scottish Side Dishes to Try:

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Scottish Skirlie Recipe

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