What is Scotch Broth?

T. Briseno

A robust soup, Scotch broth does not include scotch liquor, nor is it typically a thin broth. Named for Scotland, the country where it was originally prepared and served, Scotch broth has become more widely available over the years. With its combination of rich lamb, root vegetables, and nutty barley flavors, it can be a generous appetizer or a meal in itself. Seasonable availability of ingredients and fullness of taste can make it particularly appealing in cold weather.

Barley is often included in Scotch broth.
Barley is often included in Scotch broth.

Recipes for Scotch broth vary in method and ingredients, but most versions include lamb, mutton meat or bones. Slow cooking the meat or preparing a stock from lamb bones flavors the base of the soup. Traditionally, the meat may have been cooked with all of the ingredients and then removed. Soup was served alongside the meat, which was salted and became the main course of the meal. Generally the lamb is chopped after cooking and then added back into the soup for further cooking and for serving.

Kale is sometimes added to Scotch broth.
Kale is sometimes added to Scotch broth.

Barley, a grain that cooks to a soft, chewy consistency, is also widely used in making Scotch broth. A small, round variety of this cereal grain called pearl barley is found in many recipes. In addition to adding flavor and texture, barley can soak up the flavors of the meat and other ingredients while making the soup heartier. Most barley is low in cost and often easily found, making it a healthy and filling soup staple.

Root vegetables, which are widely considered winter vegetables, are commonly used in Scotch broth. Carrots, leaks, and turnips are typically added, as are onion, garlic, cabbage, and kale. Some recipes include peas or potatoes, and others recommend substituting ingredients with whatever vegetables are at hand. Though vegetables may differ in quantity and type, typically, replacing the lamb with beef or another meat changes the final product to barley soup or stew rather than Scotch broth.

Herbs and spices such as parsley, rosemary, and thyme can enhance the flavors of the soup and provide a complement to the richness of the lamb meat. Salt and pepper can be added to taste as the vegetables and meat come together during cooking. Because of the thickness of the soup, water or other liquids such as vegetable stock may be added when reheating. Some recipes add butter and recommend side servings of bread. Leftover Scotch broth may be even more flavorful than the just cooked soup, as flavors meld together over time.

Parsley can be used to flavor scotch broth.
Parsley can be used to flavor scotch broth.

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Discussion Comments

Does anyone have a recipe for making scotch broth in a slow cooker? I have all the ingredients, and I want to use my slow cooker to make the broth, I just need a good recipe that can tell me about time, temperature and seasonings.
I lived in Scotland for a while ad I fell in love with Scotch broth while I was there. It is such a rich dynamic flavor -- you eat one spoonful and you just want 20 more.

There was this little pub close to where I lived that made the best version I tired. After a cold, rainy Scottish afternoon it was great to settle in to a booth with a nice pint and a big hot bowl of scotch broth.

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