9 foods you must-try in Cornwall
In between coastal walks and strolls on the beach, you’re bound to become peckish during your stay at one of the caravan parks in Cornwall. Lucky for you, Cornwall has a plethora of restaurants, cafés and bakeries that serve up some delicious treats, including foods iconic to the county itself. From warming, hearty pasties to cooling ice creams, in this guide, we reveal the must-try foods during a visit to Cornwall.
You can’t visit Cornwall without trying their iconic pasties, which became popular in the mining era when housewives would make this portable lunch for their husbands or children that worked in the mines. The pastry, which would be stuffed with potato, swede, onion and cheap meat, would be made into a D-shape, so that that the miners could use the thick crust as a handle whilst they eat the pasty. They would then discard the crust as it would be contaminated with tin or copper dust from their fingers.
According to the Cornish Pasty Association, the recipes became cherished amongst families and were passed down through the generations. Even today, traditional pasties have become a protected food name product, meaning that no pasty across the globe can be titled ‘Cornish pasty’ unless they have been prepared in the county, guaranteeing authenticity.
Pasties have now developed to include all sorts of ingredients, including meat, vegetarian and vegan options. On your visit to Cornwall, make sure you stop by one of the local pasty shops to try one for yourself.
We asked Sam from Strawberry Squeeze, a lifestyle blog, for her recommendations for what foods people should try when visiting Cornwall: “You can’t visit Cornwall without eating a pasty! Be sure to pick up a traditional steak and see what all the fuss is about!”
Jane, food writer, photographer, real food recipe creator and founder of The Hedgecombers, an expert food blog based in Cornwall, tells us: “If someone is visiting Cornwall for the first time, they must try a proper Cornish pasty from one of our many local, independent bakeries. A proper Cornish pasty consists of a rich, buttery pastry containing beef skirt, potatoes, swede/turnip (yellow-fleshed variety) and lots of seasoning. One of my favourite local bakeries is Sarah’s Pasty Shop in Looe where they make pasties on the premises.”
Pasties are a popular recommendation, as Choclette from Tin and Thyme, a vegetarian food blog says: “You absolutely have to try a proper Cornish pasty. If you’re vegetarian, don’t worry, cheese and onion pasties are pretty good too and are widely available.”
With freshwater surrounding Cornwall, it’s no surprise that there is plenty of delicious seafood to be enjoyed. There are excellent seafood restaurants dotted across the county, so whether you’re looking for a traditional seaside fish and chips or something fancier such as mussels or scallops, you’ll be sure to find it close to where you’re staying in Cornwall.
Sam from Strawberry Squeeze adds: “There are countless places to eat in Cornwall, all a stones-throw from the sea, meaning you’re always getting fresh fish. This (along with our beautiful coastline) attracts some of the best chefs in the country. Coupled with Cornish traditions, it makes Cornwall the perfect place for foodies. Make sure you try a Newlyn Crab sandwich. It’s the best crab meat you’ll ever have.”
One place you’ll be certain to enjoy some of the best seafood in the county is The Sardine Factory, a restaurant in Looe which has recently been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand. We asked the owner and chef Ben Palmer to tell us more: “I think that Cornwall is a great destination for foodies because of all the fantastic produce it has to offer. We use the best and freshest of fish, which we receive daily and is literally landed opposite the restaurant, you can’t get any better than that. Make sure to try our Sardine Factory fish chowder, it’s jam-packed with all different types of fresh local sustainable fish and amazing Cornish crab.”
A full Cornish breakfast
Be sure to treat yourself to a hearty breakfast or brunch during your holiday. The full Cornish breakfast differs slightly from a traditional English fry-up, Jane from Hedgecombers explains: “A traditional hogs pudding replaces black pudding on the Cornish version of the fry-up. Hogs pudding is a white sausage made using pork, breadcrumbs and herbs and it is served sliced and fried.”
A pie that may not be to everyone’s taste is Cornwall’s Stargazy Pie, a buttery pastry filled with white sauce, eggs, potato and pilchards. However, you’ll notice something unusual about this pie, in that the heads of the pilchards are sticking out from beneath the pastry. The pie originates from the small fishing port village Mousehole, where it supposedly was created because of a winter storm hitting the village. The bad weather stopped food from arriving, causing famine, until a fisherman named Tom Bowcock braved the storm to go out to sea to collect fish, before making the famous Stargazy Pie. Locals of Mousehole still celebrate Tom Bowcock on Christmas Eve, and many tucks into the dish as a festive tradition.
Anyone who loves cheese will be in their element in Cornwall, as there are plenty of tasty local cheeses to try. One that has gained many awards, and you’re bound to spot on plenty of menus is Cornish Yarg.
The cheese is famous for being wrapped in nettles that have been handpicked from Cornish hedgerows, which are then brushed onto the cheese to remove the sting of the plant but leaves the flavour intact. The home of the Cornish Yarg is the Lynher Dairies, near Truro, who has been making the fresh and creamy cheese since the 1980s.
Choclette from Tin and Thyme adds: “Cornwall also has some excellent cheeses. Cornish Yarg, Cornish Gouda and Cornish Blue are all highly recommended cheeses from my area and have all won awards over the years. Although I don’t have a specific savoury dish from Cornwall to recommend, anything made with these cheeses is bound to be good”
A sweet food iconic to Cornwall is saffron buns, a rich bun in a bright yellow colour that comes from the saffron flavouring. You can tuck into them straight away or add some butter and jam to add even more flavour. If you’re ever hit with a spot of bad weather in Cornwall, head to one of the local bakeries or cafés, and you’ll likely find these tasty saffron buns, which you can enjoy with a warming drink. This is another recommendation from Sam, who adds: “Grab yourself some saffron buns, lightly toast and spread on some Cornish sea-salt butter. ‘Ansome!”
Cornish Cream tea
If you’re not quite feeling like a saffron bun, then a great sweet alternative is a Cornish cream tea. It’s disputed as to whether cream tea originates from Devon or Cornwall, however, they taste just as delicious in each county. The only difference is that the Cornish tend to spread the jam first, followed by the clotted cream whereas people from Devon go for the opposite.
A more unknown Cornish classic is the Hevva (Heavy) Cake, made using only five ingredients; self-raising flour, butter, mixed dried fruit, sugar and milk. This is recommended made by Jane from Hedgecombers, who says: “The Cornish cream tea is notorious, however, ‘Hevva cake’ – a Cornish fruit cake – less so. Finished on top with a criss-cross pattern that represents the fishing nets inspired by its origins, Hevva cake is made using currants and spices and is a delicious, must-try, tea-time treat!”
With many dairy farms located in the county, Cornwall is home to some of the best ice-cream makers in the UK. With a smooth, creamy texture thanks to using local clotted cream, you can’t go to Cornwall without enjoying a scoop or two. Choclette from Tin and Thyme explains: “Cornish dairy is an excellent product of our mild climate where the grass grows nearly all year round!”
Make sure to try the very best ice creams from Cornwall as well as visiting The Sardine Factory to try some of their sweet treats. Ben explains they are in the process of developing a dessert based on the iconic sweet food from Cornwall: “It’s a Cornish clotted cream parfait, our own spiced fruit Autumn jam, tea ice cream and scone crumble.”
Why is Cornwall the perfect destination for foodies?
As you now know, there are plenty of delicious foods to try during your Cornish holiday that are iconic to the county. Jane from Hedgecombers says: “Cornwall should be on every foodies’ bucket list and should be regularly revisited! We have a thriving market of local food producers, farm shops and food fairs. The county continues to attract top-name chefs and offers wonderful restaurants and bistros in almost every town and village showcasing local real-food growers. Plus, these eateries often boast unique views and stunning locations.
“I am so passionate about the Cornish food industry, that I’ve recently filmed a 6-part television series – Hedgecombers Kitchen (due out this Winter on Amazon Prime) – which is entirely based on foods in Cornwall!”
Here is your foodie checklist for when you go on a holiday to Cornwall:
- Cornish pasty
- Fresh seafood
- A full Cornish breakfast
- Stargazy Pie
- Cornish Yarg
- Saffron buns
- Cornish Cream tea
- Hevva cake
- Cornish ice-cream