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Welsh Rarebit

The Scots have their Haggis. The Irish have their stew. And the Welsh have… rarebit!

But what is this unique dish, how do you make it – and does it really contain rabbit?

What is Welsh rarebit?

Welsh rarebit is essentially toasted bread topped with a savory cheese sauce. Recipes vary widely and all sorts of other tasty ingredients may be added, including mustard, ale, spices and Worcestershire sauce. Occasionally the sauce is made by simply mixing a regular béchamel with cheese and mustard.

Welsh rarebit photo

Sometimes you’ll see rarebit served differently, with the toast separate to the sauce so that you can dip it in (similar to fondue).

No matter what the variation, though, NONE of them contain rabbit!

No one really knows quite how the dish got its name, which started out as ‘Welsh rabbit’ and changed over time to ‘rarebit’ (maybe so that people would know it didn’t actually contain any meat!).

Welsh rarebit image

Betty Crocker’s Cookbook claims that the name originated from the days when Welsh peasants were denied the rabbits caught on hunts on the estates of nobles, and would eat melted cheese instead.

If that’s true, then maybe those peasants didn’t fare too badly, as Welsh rarebit is a delicious dish that’s gone on to receive worldwide recognition.

How do you make Welsh rarebit?

First, you need to choose your cheese. Traditionally, hard English cheeses would have been used – either Cheddar, Double Gloucester, Cheshire or Lancashire. But you can use any cheese you enjoy – this is a very versatile dish!

Next, choose your bread. The thing to remember here is that the cheesy sauce is rich, thick and gooey. Thinly sliced white bread is just no match for it (and it doesn’t do the dish justice!). We recommend a thickly sliced, whole wheat, seeded bread, that will bring plenty of its own flavor and texture.

Crusty French Bread Picture

Then, pick a mustard. English mustard is traditional and adds quite a kick. Alternatively, you could try a good whole grain or Dijon mustard. 

Finally, you need a liquid to loosen the cheese sauce. Some recipes use milk or heavy cream, some even use English cider! But our favorite is ale, which gives the sauce a lovely, nutty flavor.

Beer and Cheese Bread

Welsh rarebit recipe

  1. Place around 3 cups of grated cheese in a small saucepan, with 2 beaten egg yolks, 1/4 cup ale, 1 teaspoon English mustard and 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. 
  2. Heat very gently and stir until melted. 
  3. In the meantime, toast your bread on both sides.
  4. Spread the cheese sauce on one side of the toast and top with a little extra grated cheese.
  5. Broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

You can experiment with different spices and liquids to find your favorite way to cook wonderful Welsh rarebit!

If you like the combination of ooey-gooey cheese and toast, you’ll love our toaster oven grilled cheese sandwich recipe!

Welsh rarebit photo

Welsh Rarebit

Christine Albury
What is Welsh rarebit and how do you make it? Find out more about this unique dish (and no, it doesn’t contain rabbit!).
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Keyword Cheese, Grilled Cheese, Toasted
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