Scotch broth is a traditional Scottish soup made from lamb bones, and lots of vegetables, including leek and rutabaga (turnip/swede) and barley. It’s one of the most classic Scottish soup recipes you’ll find!
Originally published January 24th, 2012.
It’s raining here in Southern California, so it’s a great time to make a warm, hearty soup.
Where does it rain on a very regular basis? Scotland, of course! So it seems apropos to make Scotch broth for dinner! It’s made from a lamb bone stock, barley, dried peas and lots and lots of veggies! Printable recipe is at the bottom of the post. (This insulated lunch bag isn’t quite as cute as the one in my photos, but I bought mine in Scotland.)
More about Scotch Broth
The first sentence, and the paragraph that follows is all that I had written when I shared this recipe in 2012. I had only published a handful of recipes at that time, and had absolutely no clue what I was doing! So let me give you some more background on this soup.
Why is it Called a Broth?
I think in recent times, we’ve become accustomed to calling a clear soup a broth. However, by definition, broth is also “a soup consisting of meat or vegetable chunks, and often rice, cooked in stock” which describes Scotch broth quite well (except for the rice).
Cock-a-leekie soup is more of a traditional broth, often served for Burns Night.
How is Scotch Broth Served?
Scotch broth is a very filling soup, with or without lamb in it, however, in days past, “the lamb was removed and kept warm and served as the main course with caper or nasturtium seed sauce.” – Janet Warren, A Feast of Scotland.
Typsy Laird: another Feast of Scotland traditional Scottish recipe
It was also served as a main course if the lamb was removed from the bone and put back into the soup in small pieces (which is what we always do). The broth was often accompanied by potatoes or “hodgils” (oatmeal dumplings) which were cooked in the liquid. -Janet Warren, A Feast of Scotland.
Is Scotch Broth Healthy?
Scotch broth is like a “super-soup” it’s so healthy! There are so many nutrients in this soup, from root vegetables, pearl barley, protein from the lamb and the cabbage and rutabaga/turnip/swede are high in antioxidants. (Two people have already written to me about the naming of the root vegetable which varies around the world).
What Does a Rutabaga Look Like?
It looks like the root vegetable in the photo below, because this is a rutabaga in the US. It is not usually very large, creamy white on the outside, with a purple hue at the top, but a creamy yellow color on the inside.
It’s used in Scotland for haggis, neeps (turnips, which is rutabaga in the US) and tatties (potatoes).
Can I Freeze Scotch Broth?
Absolutely! Scotch broth freezes very well, which is a good thing because you will end up with a large pot of soup when you make this recipe.
This Scottish red lentil soup is quite a bit quicker to make, but also delicious!
Can I Make Scotch Broth Vegetarian/Vegan?
Yes, all you need to do is omit the lamb neck. I’d recommend using a vegetable stock instead of water, though.
Scotch Broth (Scotch Soup)
loosely adapted from two old cookbooks (one is Janet Warren’s A Feast of Scotland)
and my family’s version makes 8 hearty servings
FULL PRINTABLE RECIPE BELOW
Start the Scotch broth.
Put the lamb bones into a Dutch oven or soup pot and add 8 1/2 cups (2 liters) of water, pearl barley, split peas and 2 teaspoonfuls of salt.
Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for one hour, removing any scum which comes to the surface. Just in case you’re not familiar with scumming a soup, this is what you want to remove and throw away.
While the broth is simmering, you can prepare the vegetables.
After an hour, the broth, barley and peas will look like this.
Add the Vegetables.
Add the chopped carrot, onion, leek and rutabaga to the broth and stir. Add another teaspoonful of salt and bring to a boil. When the soup begins boiling, lower the heat and let the soup simmer for another half an hour, stirring occasionally.
Chop/shred the cabbage while the soup is simmering.
At this point, the broth looks like this.
After simmering for half an hour, remove the lamb and add the shredded cabbage and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the Meat, and Serve the Scotch Broth.
This is what a vegetarian/vegan Scotch broth will look like. However, if you’ve used lamb, remove the meat from the bones, shred into small pieces and add it back into the soup. Add the chopped parsley and remove from heat.
Stir well; taste and adjust the seasoning. Ground black pepper is optional.
Ladle into bowls while hot.
Sprinkle with more parsley if desired.
And enjoy–some crusty bread is nice with this soup.
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Scotch Broth (Scotch Soup)
A super hearty, traditional Scottish soup made with lamb, lots of vegetables and barley.
- one or two (85 g) lamb neck bones (use beef if you don't like lamb, but lamb is authentic)
- 1/2 cup (85 g) pearl barley (omit if making for a gluten free diet)
- 1/2 cup (85 g) dried split peas (soaked overnight, or boil for 5 minutes and let soak for 1 hour)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 1 small rutabaga, diced (in the US) turnip (if you're in the UK)
- 1 small leek, cleaned and sliced
- 2 cups of shredded cabbage, about half of a small head (I like Savoy. Use kale if you don't like cabbage)
- sea salt (or Diamond Crystal Kosher salt)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp chopped parsley, preferably fresh or frozen
Start the Scotch broth.
- Put the lamb bones into a Dutch oven or large soup pot and add 8 1/2 cups (2 liters) of water, barley, split peas and 2 teaspoonfuls of salt.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for one hour, removing any scum which comes to the surface. Just in case you're not familiar with scumming a soup, this is what you want to remove and throw away.
- While the broth is simmering, you can prepare the vegetables..
Add the Vegetables.
- Add the chopped carrot, onion, leek and rutabaga to the broth and stir. Add another teaspoonful of salt and bring to a boil. When the soup begins boiling, lower the heat and let the soup simmer for another half an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Chop/shred the cabbage while the soup is simmering.
- After simmering for half an hour, remove the lamb and add the shredded cabbage and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the Meat and Parsley and Serve the Scotch Broth.
- This is what a vegetarian/vegan Scotch broth will look like. However, if you've used lamb, remove the meat from the bones, shred into small pieces and add it back into the soup. Add the chopped parsley and remove from heat.
- Stir well; taste and adjust seasoning. Ground black pepper is optional. Ladle into bowls while hot and serve immediately.
Make vegan or vegetarian by omitting the lamb neck and using vegetable stock or cubes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 139Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 107mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 13g
Nutrition information is only an estimate.
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This recipe looks delicious! I can’t wait to impress my in-laws, who are originally from Dumbarton, with this lovely soup. What kind of “split peas” do you use that need soaking or parboiling?
Hi France, just normal split peas. You can skip the soaking if you want, but it’s just the original way it’s made in Scotland. I bet your in-laws will be delighted! I have lots of other Scottish recipes, if you really want to floor them-hahahaha!
Can this soup be frozen?
Hi Beth, I would suggest reading my post if you have a question, as 9 times out of 10 it has been answered there. When you use the “jump to recipe button”, you miss all the extra information and tips that I spent many hours writing, you skip all the ads which is how I earn anything from my site to pay for the high cost of having a blog (not to mention my time), and then I have to take more time to respond.
I absolutely do not mean for this to come across in a bad way (no attitude intended), but as you can imagine, it’s frustrating for me. :( Hopefully this will help in future, not just for you, but others who will read this. And yes, the soup freezes perfectly. I hope you give it a try as it’s delicious (and healthy)! :)
Can you use chicken in place of the lamb or beef?
You can Mary, but it won’t taste like authentic Scotch broth.
Growing up 1st generation American of Scottish descent this delicious soup was a staple. We always used Lamb flank then served the meat, a boiled potato and some more turnip and parsnips on the side of the soup for supper. My heart is all in with this soup, the taste, the memories. My Scottish ancestors all gone now but these memories are forever.