Main plate of a typical full English breakfast, consisting of bacon, fried egg, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, hash brown and grilled tomatoes.

A full breakfast is a substantial cooked breakfast meal, often served in Great Britain and Ireland. The typical ingredients are bacon, sausages, eggs, black pudding, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and fried bread with toast and a beverage such as coffee or tea served on the side. Hash browns are a common contemporary but non-traditional inclusion. Ingredients may extend beyond these or include regional variants, which may often be referred to by different names depending on the area. While it is colloquially known as a "fry-up" in most areas of the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is usually referred to as a "full English" (often "full English breakfast"),[1] a "full Irish", "full Scottish",[2] "full Welsh",[3] and "Ulster fry",[4] in England, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, respectively.

History and popularity

Many of the ingredients of a full breakfast have long histories, but "large cooked breakfasts do not figure in English life and letters until the 19th century, when they appeared with dramatic suddenness".[5] Across the British Isles and Ireland, early modern breakfasts were often breads served with jams or marmalades, or else forms of oatmeal, porridge or pottage.[6] Eggs and bacon started to appear in breakfasts in the seventeenth century,[6] but they were not the only meats consumed in breakfasts at that time.[6] The rising popularity of breakfast was closely tied to the rise of tea as a popular morning drink.[5] Of note were the lavish breakfasts of the aristocracy, which would centre on local meats and fish from their country estates.[5][7]

The fried breakfast became popular in Great Britain and Ireland during the Victorian era. Cookbooks were important in the fixing of the ingredients of a full breakfast during this time,[5] and the full breakfast appeared in the best-selling Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861). This new full breakfast was a pared-down version of the country breakfasts of the upper-class, affordable to the emergent middle classes and able to be prepared and consumed in a shorter time before a day's work.[5][6][8] The full breakfast reached its peak of popularity in Edwardian Britain,[8] and despite a decline following the food shortages of World War II,[5] new technologies of food storage and preparation allowed it to become a staple of the working class in the 1950s.[8] Since then the full breakfast has reduced in popularity as a daily meal, due to perceived concerns about health and its lengthy preparation compared to convenience-food breakfasts.[5] However the meal remains popular as an occasional, celebratory or traditional breakfast.[5][8]

It is so popular in Great Britain and Ireland that many cafés and pubs offer the meal at any time of day as an "all-day breakfast". It is also popular in many Commonwealth nations. The full breakfast is among the most internationally recognised British dishes along with bangers and mash, shepherd's pie, fish and chips, roast beef, Sunday roast, cream tea and the Christmas dinner.[9]

United Kingdom and Ireland

"Full English breakfast" redirects here. For the tea, see English breakfast tea.

"Irish breakfast" redirects here. For the tea, see Irish breakfast tea.

The British cafe (such as this one in Islington, London, with a "breakfast served all day" sign) typically serves the full breakfast throughout the day.
Full English breakfast with fried bread served at a cafe in Brighton

Variants by country and region


"English breakfast" redirects here. For the type of tea, see English breakfast tea.

There is no fixed menu or set of ingredients for a full breakfast.[5][8] A common traditional English breakfast typically includes back bacon[8][10][11] or sausages (usually pork),[8][10] eggs (fried, poached or scrambled),[8][10][11] fried or grilled tomatoes,[8][10][11] fried mushrooms,[8][10][11] black pudding,[8][10][11] baked beans[8][11] and bread, either, or both, toast and fried bread.[12] Bubble and squeak is a traditional accompaniment but is now more commonly replaced by hash browns.[13]

A poll by YouGov in 2017 found the following to be on more than 50% of 'ideal' Full English breakfasts: bacon; sausage; beans; bread (either toast or fried); eggs (fried, scrambled or poached); hash browns; mushrooms (fried or grilled); and tomatoes (fried, grilled or tinned).[14] Black pudding was the least popular of the traditional ingredients, chosen 35% of the time,[14] and 26% of people included either chips or sautéed potatoes.[14]

Buttered toast, and jam or marmalade, are often served at the end of the meal, although toast is generally available throughout the meal.[15]

As nearly everything is fried in this meal, it is commonly known as a "fry-up". In the UK it is sometimes referred to as a "Full Monty". One theory for the origin of this term is that British Army general Bernard Montgomery, nicknamed 'Monty', was said to have started every day with a "Full English" breakfast while on campaign in North Africa during the Second World War.[16][17]

Vegetarian or vegan alternatives can be made or are available in cafes and restaurants.[18] Meat alternative sausages and bacon may often be used,[18][19][20] with either scrambled tofu[19][20] or egg substitutes.[20] The role of the mushroom and tomatoes is generally larger in these versions.[19][20]


A full Irish breakfast

In Ireland, brown soda bread, fried potato farls, white pudding and boxty are often included.[21]

The "breakfast roll",[22] consisting of elements of the full breakfast served in a French roll, has become popular in Ireland due to the fact it can be easily eaten on the way to school or work.[22] The breakfast roll is available from many petrol stations and corner shops throughout Ireland.[22]


An Ulster fry served in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The potato bread is under the eggs, with the soda bread (soda farl) at the bottom.

In Ulster, the northern province of Ireland, the "Ulster fry" variant is popular throughout the province chiefly in Northern Ireland, parts of County Donegal, northern County Monaghan and some parts of northern County Cavan where it is eaten not only at breakfast time but throughout the day. Typically it will include soda bread farls and potato bread.[23]


A similar Scottish alternative

In Scotland there are some distinctively Scottish elements of the full breakfast which include Scottish style or Stornoway black pudding, Lorne sausage (sometimes called "square sausage" for its traditional shape), Ayrshire middle bacon and tattie scones. Occasionally haggis, white pudding, fruit pudding[24] or oatcakes are included.[25][26][27]

Early editions of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable referred to a Scotch breakfast as "a substantial breakfast of sundry sorts of good things to eat and drink".[28]


Two key ingredients that distinguish the Welsh breakfast from the other "full" variations are cockles (Welsh: cocs) and laverbread (Welsh: bara lafwr or bara lawr) (an edible seaweed purée often mixed with oatmeal and fried).[29] Fried laver with cockles and bacon was the traditional breakfast for mine workers in the South Wales Coalfield, but a breakfast may have also included Welsh sausages, mushrooms and eggs.[3][30][31]

North America

See also: List of American breakfast foods

This style of breakfast was brought over by Irish and British immigrants to the United States and Canada, where it has endured.[32]

Hong Kong

A few establishments in Hong Kong offer all-day breakfast or brunch options (hybrid of English and North American items) from formal restaurants to low-frills establishments.[33][34]

See also


  1. ^ "The full English". Archived from the original on 28 July 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  2. ^ "Traditional Scottish Food". Visit Scotland. Archived from the original on 13 February 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  3. ^ a b "So what is a 'full Welsh breakfast'?". Wales Online. 25 October 2005. Archived from the original on 2 May 2014.
  4. ^ Bell, James (29 January 2014). "How to... Cook the perfect Ulster Fry". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i O’Connor, K. (2009). Cuisine, nationality and the making of a national meal: The English breakfast. In Nations and their histories: Constructions and representations (pp. 157-171). London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  6. ^ a b c d Anderson, H. A. (2013). Breakfast: a history. AltaMira Press.
  7. ^ Shaw Nelson, Kay. "The Gastronomic World of Sir Walter Scott". Electric Scotland. Retrieved 3 August 2023.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "History Of The Traditional English Breakfast". English breakfast society. Retrieved 21 October 2021.
  9. ^ Spencer, Colin (2003). British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13110-0.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Full English Breakfast Recipe". BBC. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "The Full English". Jamie 29 March 2018.
  12. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Expert declares key ingredient doesn't belong in Full English for savage reason". Daily Mirror. 12 April 2024. Retrieved 10 June 2024.
  13. ^ "Bubble and shriek! Why war has been declared on the humble hash brown". The Guardian. 3 April 2023. Retrieved 3 August 2023.
  14. ^ a b c "Breakfast" (PDF). YouGov. Retrieved 3 August 2023.
  15. ^ "How to make the perfect full English breakfast". 25 June 2015.
  16. ^ Parkinson, Judy (2011). Spilling the Beans on the Cats Pyjamas: Popular Expressions – What They Mean and Where We Got Them. Michael O'Mara Books
  17. ^ Dent, Susie (2009). What Made The Crocodile Cry?: 101 questions about the English language. Oxford University Press. pp. 151–152. ISBN 9780191650604.
  18. ^ a b "Wetherspoons launches full English breakfast for vegans". Vegan Food and Living. 5 October 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  19. ^ a b c Nice, Miriam. "Vegan fry-up". BBC Good Food. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  20. ^ a b c d "Vegan Traditional Full English Breakfast". The Edgy Veg. 15 October 2019. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  21. ^ Gerald, Paul (12 July 2012). "The Full English". Memphis Flyer. Contemporary Media, Inc. Retrieved 30 July 2012. The Irish might have soda bread, a potato pancake called boxty, white pudding (what you're used to, but with oatmeal in it) or black pudding (the same, but with blood cooked in).
  22. ^ a b c McDonald, Brian (12 May 2008). "Top breakfast baguette rolls into Irish history". Irish Independent. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  23. ^ "Is the Ulster fry the best cooked breakfast in the UK?". BBC. Retrieved 29 October 2018 Archived 24 June 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Gerald, Paul (12 July 2012). "The Full English". Memphis Flyer. Contemporary Media, Inc. Retrieved 30 July 2012. The Scots like to have tattie (potato) scones, fruit pudding (actually a sausage made with very little fruit), and, of course, their curse on the earth, haggis.
  25. ^ Foyster, Elizabeth and Whatley, Christopher A. (2009). A History of Everyday Life in Scotland, 1600 to 1800. Edinburgh University Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0748621576.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ Davidson, Alan and Jaine, Tom (2006). The Oxford companion to food. Oxford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 0192806815.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ Maw Broon's Cookbook. Waverley Books. 18 October 2007. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-902407-45-6.
  28. ^ Brewer, E. Cobham. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 812.
  29. ^ "This is how to cook the perfect full Welsh breakfast". Wales Online. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  30. ^ Welsh Government. " – Food". Government of Wales. Archived from the original on 1 June 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012. Laverbread, not actually bread at all but seaweed, is rolled in oatmeal, fried into crisp patties and served with eggs, bacon and fresh cockles for a traditional Welsh breakfast.
  31. ^ Rodenas, Angeles (13 July 2021). "Welsh caviar: should we all start eating laver?". Retrieved 13 July 2021.
  32. ^ "The Full English Breakfast Hops the Pond". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 21 February 2018
  33. ^ "Hong Kong brunch: 10 best bargain all-day breakfasts". Archived from the original on 21 June 2017. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  34. ^ "Hong Kong's best-kept secrets: all-day breakfasts for HK$48 in a sleepy border village". 6 April 2016.

Reference bibliography

  • O'Connor, Kaori (2013). The English Breakfast: The Biography of a National Meal, with Recipes. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0857854919.
  • Scotney, John (1 November 2009). Scotland - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture. Kuperard. ISBN 9781857336214.