Oatcakes are a traditional Scottish cracker made with oatmeal. They’re great with cheese, pate or on theirs own. Easy, tasty and healthy, too.
When I first made these, we had not long before been visiting the UK. It was a fairly whirlwind seeing friends and family, with food often as we met people and between travels, topped up with some favorites from the supermarket. During one meet up with a friend, my son got all excited about the oatcakes she had, which I have to admit surprised me.
Oatcakes were something I grew up having around but I didn’t get in to them until I was relatively old. Even then, not to the point that I would actively buy them.
Yet here was my two year old gobbling down a ‘circle cookie’ and asking for another.
I mentally took a note that I must try to make them soon. Something as relatively healthy as oatcakes being called a cookie was definitely worth repeating. It took me a little time to get round to it, but with Burns night a couple months later, it was an obvious prompt.
What are oatcakes?
For people not aware of oatcakes, the name may not help. Like so many British foods, the name doesn’t bear that much relation to what they are. Yes, you use oats to make them, but they are not a cake nor even sweet.
The best description is an oat-based cracker. They’re heavy on the oats, with just enough ‘glue’ in the form of butter and water to hold them together.
They are quite dry and can be a little crumbly, but they make a tasty and relatively healthy snack. They have a bit of butter and salt, but both I think need to be in the mix for flavor.
Oatcakes are great as part of a light lunch or for canapés. I’d recommend them topped with cheese or pate. My personal favorites include a sharp cheddar or a Scottish cheese called Caboc that is really buttery and coated in oatmeal. My mum now gets it especially when we visit as I can’t get it here.
How to make oatcakes
Oatcakes only have a few ingredients and don’t take long to make. The dough might seem a bit crumbly when you take it out of the bowl, but it actually rolls out very easily.
See how they come together in this short video:
What kind of oats do you use for oatcakes?
The only thing you particularly need to watch is that you use the right kind of oats. These are traditionally made with what’s called pinhead oatmeal. I managed to find some in my local supermarket in their British ethnic section (it initially felt a bit odd being considered an ethnic group!).
As I have done some digging since, it turns out pinhead oats is the same as steel cut oats. So you should find them easily, though I haven’t tried to see if any other brands work better or worse (I admit I stayed with what I know!).
The main thing is you want the chopped chunks of whole oats rather than rolled oats of any kind.
I am sure part of why my son gobbled them down the first time was that my friend’s son was having one, which always makes food more tempting in toddler eyes. For whatever reason, my eldest and his friends often seemed to find someone else’s food tasted better!
Yet when I made these at home he came back and asked for more so it obviously wasn’t a one time thing. Passing the toddler taste test is always a good thing. I’ve since made these for him and his younger brother and they are still popular all round.
Oatcakes are so quick and easy to make, and make a great addition to a cheese board or snack any time. Perfect for Burns night, when they’d be joined with haggis and cranachan, or any excuse you want. So have a try of these tasty oatcakes and enjoy a bit of my homeland.
Oatcakes (oat crackers)
- 4 oz pinhead oatmeal 115g Scottish pinhead oatmeal, similar to steel cut (approx 2/3 cup)
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour 35g (1 1/4oz) wholemeal flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda /bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter 15g
- 3 tbsp water
- Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
- In a bowl, mix together the oatmeal, flour, salt and baking soda.
- Cut up the butter and rub it in to the oatmeal-flour mixture so it is broken up and mixed through.
- Add the water and mix together and form into a ball.
- Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin and roll out the mixture to around 3-5mm/0.1 - 0.2in thick.
- Cut circles out of the dough and place on a baking sheet/tray and bake for approx 15-20mins until they are dry, slightly firm and lightly golden.
Try these other Scottish food ideas:
This post was originally published in Jan 2015 and has been updated, primarily to add new photos and a video – if you are looking for a picture you might recognize this was one of previous ones:
Remember to pin for later!