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Keeping Alive a Tradition #3: Welsh Rarebit

February 5, 2012

Welsh rarebit, or rabbit, is a traditional twist on the classic cheese on toast. In truth, I don’t suppose this is a dish confined to our small corner of the world, since English rarebit, Scotch rarebit and Irish rarebit also exist. However, I’m not certain if those rarebits made in the other corners of the British Isles bare the exact credentials of the well-known Welsh version. It is important to highlight that the original dish was called Welsh rabbit, rather than rarebit. It makes sense, perhaps, that the name was changed to distinguish it as a non-meat dish.

The reasons behind this post go beyond the fact that this is both delicious and traditionally Welsh: the recipe itself needs to be established. I’ve seen many a recipe for Welsh rarebit during my time on WordPress, but only a few have prepared it correctly. This fabulously delicious lunch-time meal should contain only mustard, cheddar cheese, brown ale and butter, nothing less, nothing more. Any recipe which makes use of paprika or cayenne pepper, is taking itself a little too seriously. Believe me, this is a good example of less-is-more. Both the yellow English mustard and the red Welsh mustard are acceptable in this recipe. Please don’t use the dreaded American mustard, which is a rather sorry excuse for the popular condiment. Once again, sorry America – you do take a beating here, don’t you?

Welsh Rarebit

Serves 2


• 100g mature cheddar cheese

• ½ tsp English or Welsh mustard

• 2-4 tbsp brown ale, depending on the desired consistency

• A small knob of butter

• Two slices of wholegrain bread


1. Melt a little butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the cheese, ale and mustard and cook over a low heat until the cheese has melted.

2. While the cheese is melting toast both sides of your bread, under a grill. Once the cheese has melted spoon the mixture over the toasted bread. Return to the grill and allow the rarebit to brown.

Cost: In Britain 100g of good, mature cheddar can be found for as little as 55p. If one is successful in this exploit this dish should set one back a mere 70p. Not bad considering it will provide a filling lunch for two.

87 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2012 8:10 am

    Nice Frugal. Even with the snide America comments. That’s okay. I like Welsh rarebit and even some Welsh people. I’m going to make this today using good old American yellow French’s mustard and any cheese that strikes my fancy 🙂 Love

    • February 5, 2012 4:31 pm

      Yes, sorry about those – I ought to control myself :D. Loved your version really 😀

  2. February 5, 2012 8:15 am

    There used to be a small tea room in a converted barn near where I am in Surrey that made proper Welsh Rarebit (and if so requested would give you a sausage or bacon or an egg with it) and it was fantastic, it was so good that after the tea room closed over a year ago I have been disheartened by the occasional rarebit I eat, knowing it just won’t be the same (there was some poncy place up near Covent Garden I remember charging nearly a tenner for the most ridiculous incarnation of rarebit I have yet seen – It had gruyere, hollandaise and white wine in it. It was horrible as well.) So for well over a year I have stared forlornly at menus that promise me rarebit knowing it isn’t going to be anything like that tea room’s and, here’s the sad bit, I’ve been scared to make it at home because I worry it’ll make me a traitor to the tea room’s memory!

    I might have to be a little bit treacherous soon.

    • February 5, 2012 4:30 pm

      Oh that’s really awesome!I’m sorry that it closed down! You ought to be treacherous, treachery is usually good.

  3. February 5, 2012 8:27 am

    The ultimate comfort food! This looks so delicious!!

  4. February 5, 2012 8:41 am

    Looks delicious and I like the lovely traditional recipe. Was talking Welsh Rarebit in my interview with Mark Mosimann on Tues about his favourite cookbooks … re Mrs Beeton and traditional recipes … but just looked at my own 1923 edition and – while much same ingredients as yours – she doesn’t brown it … mmm … strange … I’m definitely with you … nice browned topping is the best 🙂

    • February 5, 2012 4:26 pm

      Thanks! The browned topping is a much. rarebit seems to be the word on everyone’s lips!

  5. February 5, 2012 8:52 am

    To make it really Welsh, use caerphilly, a real welsh cheese :Caerphilly.

    • February 5, 2012 5:21 pm

      I know all about Caerphilly cheese and it doesn’t work. Cheddar may be named after a village in Somerset, but it is just as Welsh as it is English. In fact, I much prefer Welsh cheddar to any produced anywhere.

  6. February 5, 2012 9:32 am

    A classic Frugal. And thanks for the reminder of how to cook it properly, I’d forgotten about the brown ale. But what would the abstemious Chapel folk do? Skip it I guess, or rmaybe not fess up!

    • February 5, 2012 4:25 pm

      Thanks! It is so yum. abstemious chapel folk don’t exist in Wales… They merely pretend to be so.

  7. February 5, 2012 10:10 am

    My grandfather was from Mold and his auntie taught us all to make this properly. And it´s exactly like you make it….I love this and really fancy some now for breakfast!

  8. sophie king permalink
    February 5, 2012 10:13 am

    I haven’t had this in so long! Definately making myself some today… I have a craving for it now that I’ve seen the pictures

  9. February 5, 2012 10:47 am

    how does a welsh man eat his cheese? Caerphilly

    • February 5, 2012 5:20 pm

      Blimey, one needs to indulge in a rather blatant mispronunciation for that joke to even come close to working! 😀

  10. February 5, 2012 11:36 am

    Looks so good:) I love melted cheddar;) 🙂

  11. February 5, 2012 12:52 pm

    I love, love, love cheese and this looks delicious! Will make this very soon 😉

  12. February 5, 2012 2:23 pm

    Nice!! Welsh rabbit will make it to the Caribbean!!

  13. February 5, 2012 2:57 pm

    That looks fabulous!

  14. February 5, 2012 3:31 pm

    Oh gosh, this looks scrummy. The dribbling cheese mixture….mmmmmmm! I’ve never made welsh rarebit before, which is very surprising as i’m a cheese on toast obsessive. lovely :)x

    • February 5, 2012 5:17 pm

      Thanks! I love dribbling cheese :D. You should totally give it a go if you like cheese that much!

  15. February 5, 2012 4:10 pm

    What’s more comforting than warm cheesy beer! Love this!

  16. February 5, 2012 4:30 pm

    Looks wonderful! Sorry to disappoint (Not really, I’m just being polite :)) but when I make this I will be using my American style mustard (French’s) and a fabulous brown ale brewed right here in Oregon. I look forward to trying this. I’ve never had rarebit before. Thank you for sharing your authentic recipe.

    • February 5, 2012 5:14 pm

      Thanks! that’s quite all right. I’m sure I’ll live. At least you are making it :D. You won’t be disappointed!

  17. February 5, 2012 6:27 pm

    Yum! Cheese on toast taken to a whole new level…

  18. February 5, 2012 8:51 pm

    Sadly, I do have to agree with on the American mustard. It’s just too bright and tastes like sadness. When I can, I go Dijon or old-school whole grain. I’ll have to add this to my ever-growing pile of recipes to try out soon. Cheers!

    • February 12, 2012 2:05 pm

      Haha, yes it does, doesn’t it? Please do, it is yummy – especially for lunch.

  19. Trish permalink
    February 5, 2012 10:41 pm

    I’m curious as to how English mustard differs from american. And don’t apologize for knocking american food. I think we’ve taken over the ‘crappiest diet in the world’ status. How do you come up with just 2 to 4 tblsp of beer? I mean, you have to open a bottle, what do you do with the rest…? Just kidding, don’t answer that.

    • February 12, 2012 1:43 pm

      I think it’s just of much better quality – I don’t know the nuances of the difference. I think the answer is fairly obvious 😀

  20. February 5, 2012 11:04 pm

    I have to admit that looks good. I always thought it had rabbit in it for some reason. Hmph.

  21. cogidubnus permalink
    February 5, 2012 11:39 pm

    Ah but the real gem is Buck Rarebit…viz Welsh Rarebit just as you’ve so brilliantly described, but with a soft poached egg on top…on a scale of 1 to 10 this hits an eleven with me every time….(provided the poached egg IS soft of course)

  22. February 6, 2012 2:11 am

    Niiiice… You’re so right, sometimes the simplest things are grand (there’s a good English word), without the fussiness that we try to add to them…

    • February 12, 2012 1:41 pm

      I think the Irish say it more. I don’t think I’ve ever heard and Englishman say it! :D.

  23. February 6, 2012 1:49 pm

    Here is the Joy of Cooking recipe for Rarebit. Alas, it is an abomination and includes cayenne!
    Also, I tried your black bean burgers again and this time they were a smashing success. Cheers!

  24. February 6, 2012 6:06 pm

    This looks seriously superb! Nothing like gooey melty cheese sauce… and your photo captures that wonderfully.

  25. February 6, 2012 7:22 pm

    I’d been quietly observing your dishes but this made me kick my fingers into action! Cheese and toast – classic, but then making it a rarebit is like heaven on bread! Beautiful pictures too!

    • February 12, 2012 1:39 pm

      Oh, I am glad. I love getting comments :D. I’m glad you liked the post so much.

  26. February 6, 2012 7:37 pm

    This looks delicious. I confess I never knew what Welsh Rarebit was until today, and always thought it had something to do with rabbit!

  27. February 7, 2012 12:32 am

    Flail away. I’ll take a good brown mustard over the bright yellow version any day… Thanks for the history on this dish and also the proper way to make it!

    • February 12, 2012 1:34 pm

      Good! I really like to stick up for tradition :D. Perhaps it ha something to do with being an historian.

  28. February 7, 2012 4:53 am

    This looks delicious! I’ve never had a rarebit, but it seems I’ll be remedying that soon. All of my favorite ingredients together! Cheese, beer, mustard – oh my.

    I won’t even defend what you’re calling “American” mustard. It’s awful, and shouldn’t be consumed. I eat a lot of mustard, and none of it is the aforementioned yellow paste.

    Lovely post.

    • February 12, 2012 1:33 pm

      Thanks. You really should try it, it is yummy. I’m glad you avoid American mustard, it is crap…

  29. February 7, 2012 1:50 pm

    FF – I haven’t had Welsh Rarebit in forever. Ever Christmas someone sent us a big crock of cheese – after the holidays my mum turned whatever was left it into rarebit. Thank you – Susan

  30. February 7, 2012 2:43 pm

    Carbs and cheese are my kryptonite 😉

  31. mommywritervkent permalink
    February 7, 2012 8:09 pm

    Being an American I have to say, I dont like the mustard here either 😀 I love this recipe and would love to try it one day!

  32. mommywritervkent permalink
    February 7, 2012 8:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Unique and Unpredictable and commented:
    Sounds fantastic!

  33. February 7, 2012 9:33 pm

    While it looks pretty perfect, I can not bring myself to admire anything Welsh after their visit to Lansdowne Road last Sunday. Painful, very painful.

  34. February 11, 2012 7:52 pm

    One of my favourite lunch time meals.

    I make mine with whole grain mustard and instead of ale, Worcestershire sauce.

    Funny I was brought up thinking that was the “real” Welsh Rarebit, you live and learn!

    • February 12, 2012 1:11 pm

      Awesome. It is truly perfect for lunch. It isn’t but it is an acceptable variation 😀

  35. February 13, 2012 7:06 pm

    I love wwelsh rarebit – ironically we had a quiz the other day at School and nodoby knew what it was! Can you believe the youth of today!

  36. February 14, 2012 11:27 pm

    I laughed out loud at the mustard comment. Is English mustard anything like our brown/Dijon mustard we have? Because that’s my “dreaded” mustard of choice. 😉

    Curious what you think of ketchup?

    • February 14, 2012 11:30 pm

      Haha. No, that’s French mustard – it’s much stronger. Ketchup is fine, as long as it’s of a goof quality… I only have it with chips or the occasional bacon sandwich.

  37. February 17, 2012 3:56 pm

    Thanks for reminding me that it has been far too long since I made Welsh Rarebit. I agree with you-the original recipe can’t and shouldn’t be improved upon.

  38. February 17, 2012 5:37 pm

    i do agree that less is more, but…. have you ever tried it with a thin layer of gentleman’s relish on the toast? it’s damn good this is my staple sunday evening fodder. ooh, actually could eat some now…

    • February 19, 2012 4:03 pm

      Nope and I’m afraid I never will – I honestly don’t think it needs anything else :D. Plus I’m not such a big fan of gentleman’s relish.

  39. eatinggreener permalink
    February 19, 2012 6:15 pm

    Looks good… hope I can find Welsh/English mustard over here in Canada.

  40. February 20, 2012 4:16 am

    Simple is so often the best way to go. This looks great. Love the photos.

  41. February 26, 2012 2:16 am

    Absolutely loved this first time I tried it. Works really well with shredded leek or cabbage cooked into the cheese.

  42. April 2, 2012 4:42 pm

    Just got around to reading this one. I’m forwarding it to a friend of mine who has been trying to make Welsh Rarebit from a recipe in an American cookbook — not a good idea (the proportions are all wrong).

  43. January 10, 2013 8:15 pm

    I am pretty sure you have left out eggs, its not a welsh without egg’s in it. I love your recipes though


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