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I’m going back to basics with a recipe for traditional Welsh rarebit, also known as Welsh rabbit. Perhaps one of the most popular of all traditional Welsh dishes, Welsh rarebit is often likened to cheese on toast, but it’s much more than that! In this blog post, I’ll be answering some of the most commonly asked questions about Welsh rarebit, as well as offering you some tasty alternative recipes, along with my personal favourite Welsh rarebit recipe.

Welsh rarebit made from the Lavender and Lovage cookbook by Karen Burns-Booth
Welsh rarebit made using a recipe from the Lavender and Lovage cookbook

As you might’ve guessed, Welsh rarebit is actually what gave me the inspiration for the title of my blog. When I began blogging about Welsh food back in 2010, there were nowhere near as many blogs around as there are today – let alone Welsh food blogs – so I decided to play on words and came up with the title of The Rare Welsh Bit! So, after over eight years of blogging, I figured it’s probably about time I got round to publishing my tried-and-tested Welsh rarebit recipe.

What is Welsh rarebit made of?

A traditional Welsh rarebit consists of a savoury melted cheese sauce of grated sharp cheddar cheese; stout, beer or ale; butter; Worcestershire sauce and English mustard spread onto toast and grilled.

Some people like to use English or Dijon mustard, while others prefer to use dry mustard powder. Meanwhile, some believe wholegrain mustard adds an interesting taste and texture to this classic Welsh dish.

Welsh rarebit on a square plate

You can find my Welsh rarebit recipe at the end of this blog post.

FAQ: Welsh rarebit facts

1.Why is Welsh rarebit also referred to as Welsh rabbit?

Welsh rarebit is also known as Welsh rabbit because it originated in the 1500s as a popular dish among Welsh working class families, many of whom couldn’t afford to eat meat like rabbit. Instead, they’d cook Welsh rarebit – it was a Welsh man’s version of ‘rabbit’.

The first ever recorded mention of the dish was in 1725, in John Byron’s Literary Remains: ‘I did not eat of cold beef, but of Welsh rabbit and stewed cheese.’ Many people believe Welsh rarebit should still be referred to as Welsh rabbit to this day.

Over time, however, Welsh rabbit gradually became known as Welsh rarebit. It’s not clear exactly why this was, but it’s thought the change came about at the end of the 18th century, when the dish had become more mainstream. Some believe the name was changed in an attempt to move away from patronising connotations associated with the nature of the dish as a poor man’s supper.

2. Where does Welsh rarebit originate from?

Although it can’t be officially proven, it’s widely accepted that Welsh rarebit originated in Wales.

According to a 14th Century religious text, the Welsh were behaving in an unruly manner in heaven, so in order to make them go away, St. Peter stood outside the gates to heaven and yelled, “Caws pobi!” This translates literally to ‘toasted cheese’ in Welsh. Upon hearing this, the Welsh dashed out of heaven and the Pearly Gates were closed behind them.

3. Should I add eggs to my Welsh rarebit?

Fat is an essential component of any Welsh rarebit; without it, the cheese has a tendency to become slightly rubbery. My recipe uses melted butter, but you can also use margarine or double cream and some people prefer to use eggs for a creamier texture. Experiment to discover what works best for you.

3. I don’t drink alcohol. Can I substitute the ale or beer with another liquid?

A typical Welsh rarebit recipe will use stout, beer or ale, although I’ve also come across some new versions that use white wine, Port or cider.

If you don’t tend to drink alcohol, however, you could try substituting it with milk or pressed apple juice.

3.What are the best varieties of cheese to use in Welsh rarebit?

A traditional Welsh rarebit is made using a sharp cheddar cheese, but Lancashire, Cheshire and Double Gloucester also work very well.

Personally, however, I tend to opt for a mild, creamy Caerphilly or Hafod cheese to give a nod to the Welsh roots of the dish.

4.Is it possible to make a vegan Welsh rarebit?

Yes, definitely! Just find a good vegan cheese, vegan margarine or spread and vegan Worcestershire sauce.

5.When is Welsh rarebit traditionally eaten in Wales?

The Welsh love to eat Welsh rarebit at any time of the year, but it’s particularly popular as a light meal or snack on St. David’s Day. Welsh rarebit even has its very own national day – Welsh Rarebit Day – which falls on 3rd September each year.

Welsh rarebit variations

You can’t beat an authentic Welsh rarebit, although there are some delicious variations on the dish that you might wish to experiment with. Here are a few of my favourites

1.Welsh rarebit with nduja

Toast your bread, spread a generous layer of rarebit mixture on top and add a few morsels of nduja. This spicy Italian pork sausage originates in Calabria, but it’s also sold by several artisanal charcuterie producers in the UK and beyond.

My favourite brand of nduja is made by Ruth and Andrew Davies of Cwm Farm Charcuterie in Pontardawe, near Swansea. I’ve previously used this nduja in my recipe for nduja sausage hash with chorizo crackling.

Cwm Farm Charcuterie Nduja
Cwm Farm Charcuterie Nduja

2.Welsh rarebit with laverbread

Commonly known as ‘Welshman’s caviar’, laverbread is another popular traditional Welsh food. Welsh laverbread is edible seaweed, usually sourced from the South Wales coastline (in particular, Swansea) and sold by fishmongers. After boiling, it’s either minced or puree and sold in a tub as a dark, murky substance with a green tinge. Believe me, it tastes much better than it sounds!

Spread some laverbread onto your toast before adding the cheesy mixture for a Welsh rarebit with a subtle salty twist.

3.Welsh rarebit with bacon

One of the simplest ways to jazz up your Welsh rarebit is to add a couple of rashers of crispy bacon before placing it under the grill. In fact, Welsh rarebit with bacon is so popular, many Welsh cafes and restaurants offer it as an extra on their menus.

Choose a quality smoked bacon for a moreish flavour – but make sure it’s not too thick, as it won’t cook properly throughout in the time it takes you to grill your Welsh rarebit.

Welsh rarebit with bacon
Welsh rarebit with bacon at Madame Fromage in Cardiff

4.Welsh rarebit with leeks

What better way to reinvent Welsh rarebit than by adding some sliced leeks? The national emblem of Wales, leeks are in abundance during the spring, so St. David’s Day is the ideal time of year at which to enjoy them.

5.Welsh rarebit with ham hock

Ham hock isn’t an obvious topping for Welsh rarebit, but I tried it at Broken Dock in Harbourside, Bristol (sadly now closed) and the mere appearance of the dish was enough to make me drool. The turmeric toasted bread really helped to set off the appearance and flavour.

Pair it with a tangy caramelised onion chutney to really set the flavours off.

Welsh rarebit with ham hock on turmeric toasted bread at Broken Dock, Bristol
Welsh rarebit on a square plate
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4.74 from 23 votes

Welsh rarebit

This traditional Welsh rarebit recipe uses grated strong cheddar cheese, beer or ale, butter, Worcestershire sauce and English mustard. Quick and easy to make, it will be on your table in no more than 15 minutes! Blasus (that’s Welsh for delicious!)
Course Brunch, Dinner, Lunch, Snack
Cuisine Welsh
Keyword Welsh rarebit
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 600kcal
Author Kacie Morgan

Ingredients

  • 250 g cheddar cheese Welsh Caerphilly or Hafod cheese work well
  • 70 ml ale or beer
  • 1.5 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 20 g unsalted Welsh butter melted
  • 1 tbsp English mustard or 1 tsp English mustard powder
  • 4 thick slices good quality bread

Instructions

  • Lightly toast the bread under a preheated grill or in a toaster.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the grated cheese, beer or ale, butter, Worcestershire sauce and English mustard. Stir until thoroughly combined. 
  • Spread a generous layer of the mixture over each slice of toast, ensuring it covers the crusts too.
  • Transfer each slice onto a baking tray and place directly underneath the grill for five minutes or so, until golden brown and bubbling. 
  • Carefully remove from the oven, cut each slice in half and serve hot, either alone or teamed with a crisp green salad and rich, fruity chutney. 

Notes

1. Some people like to use English mustard, while others use Dijon mustard, wholegrain mustard or dry mustard powder. Experiment to find what works for you. 
2. Similarly, while all Welsh rarebit recipes contain fat as an essential component, some use melted butter, while other versions use double cream or eggs for a creamier texture. 

Nutrition

Calories: 600kcal

If you like my Welsh rarebit recipe, check out my other Welsh recipes:

What ingredients do you use in your Welsh rarebit? Be sure to pin this post so you’ll be able to try out my quick and easy Welsh rarebit recipe yourself at home.

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124 Comments on Best Ever Welsh Rarebit Recipe

  1. This is was an interesting read. So now I know more what your blog name came from. I always thought the Welsh rarebit actually was some sort of rabbit dish, so this was highly interesting. And let me just say I think the recipes sound absolutely divine too!

    • Thank you Stine Mari! I’m glad to have shared more of an insight into the background of my blog, and great to hear you like the look of Welsh rarebit too πŸ™‚

  2. I don’t know what I thought Welsh Rarebit was, but it is nothing like I imagined! Thanks for the education – I’m adding this to my foodie bucket list.

    • hehe – I am genuinely surprised at how many people have commented this upon reading my post. I thought rarebit was a well-known dish all over the world.

  3. I have never tried this. After looking at this recipe, I really need to give this a try. I love trying foods of the world. My husbands family is from England, so I assume they would have enjoyed this for sure.

  4. My goodness! How many Welsh Rarebits can there be!!! I like the rarebit mixture served over smoked haddock or on a jacket potato too. And, I do make mine with milk and eggs…my brothers call it ‘posh cheese on toast!’

    • I’ll have to have a go at making it with milk and eggs; I bet it tastes creamier and I can imagine that the surface would be a lovely golden brown.

  5. I’ve never tried Welsh Rarebit but those cheese combination with stout sound so good. Definitely going to give this a try…with bacon!

  6. I always enjoy reading the history behind traditional recipes. I’ve never had welsh rarebit but its sounds like cheesy goodness.

  7. i’ll be honest, i never actually knew what welsh rarebit was. it’s def a dish i think i need to have in my life – it sounds delicious!

    • Let me know how you get on πŸ™‚ I’m sure you’ll enjoy experimenting with different toppings and additions too. Nduja is my personal fave.

  8. I have never had one of these before. I have heard of them, but never tried it and they look so good. I love the suggestions for different toppings like bacon, ham, or leeks- can’t wait to make one!

    • You’d love it. It’s so quick and easy, and utterly delicious – you simply have to try it out πŸ™‚

  9. Whenever I look at your blog name of course it always makes me think of Welsh rabbit (rarebit!) Love the idea of making it with Nduja! That I have to try!

    • Hehe. You’d love it. Actually I was thinking about you today, because I have got some nduja sourced all the way from Calabria via my local Marks and Spencer store!

  10. I think this has to be my favourite version ever of what we called grilled cheese here in Canada. I was introduced to rarebit a few years back by another food blogger and have never made grilled cheese since! I’m going to try your mustard suggestions, because I think I’m leaning toward the Dijon – yum!

  11. Welsh Rarebit is my comfort food. Caerphilly is the BEST. I also, and don’t hate me, use Wensleydale with cranberries for a bit more of a ‘dessert style’ Welsh Rarebit. SO DELISH!

  12. Fabulous to be featured and I like the idea of substituting the ale for pressed apple juice. Mich x

    • Thanks Michelle πŸ™‚ I thought it was important to cater for those who don’t drink; I’ve given up alcohol myself for a little while as I’m giving up smoking and it tends to make me want to smoke.

  13. Any recipe that uses cheese and beer is my kind of food! This sounds tasty. Definitely making this one soon!

  14. One thing I am absolutely sure about is that I’ve never tried Welsh Rarebit before! And because I love to try everything new, I will definitely give this recipe a try. The result looks really delicious!

    • It seems you’re not alone; I am genuinely shocked at how many people haven’t tried this wonderful Welsh dish! You are really missing out!

  15. So that is where your blog name comes from! Wow, thanks for sharing the story. Definitely excited to learn more about welshbit – I never thought there is so much to it to be honest. Fantastic introduction that got me incredibly excited about trying it myself πŸ™‚

    • Thanks April. Glad you found the post insightful! Rarebit is delicious – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

  16. I feel like a rarebit expert after reading this! I had never even heard of it before, but it sounds delicious! Thanks for the great recipe!

  17. Thanks for sharing the whole theme behind your blog and this scrumptious recipe to go along with it! Congrats on being published!

  18. I never actually knew what Welsh Rarebit was until I read this post! But now I really want to try it. Yum!

    Louise x

  19. This sounds delicious! Will definitely have to try and make this one the next time I have friends over. Thanks for all the helpful tips!

    • No problem. It’s really quick, easy and cheap – I bet your friends will love you for it πŸ™‚

  20. Thank you for sharing some insight – and as many other commenters have said.. the recipes do really sound amazingly delicious.

  21. As a beer AND a cheese lover, I am so excited to try this recipe! Very exciting blog post, photos are spot on and leave me really wanting to try this recipe! Cant wait to read more like it.

    • Aww thank you, I’m flatted you like my pics as I’ve worked so hard to improve them lately.

  22. Ohh I have to say I do love a good welsh rarebit and with a dash of leeks under the cheese πŸ™‚ also well done on your feature in the Co Op magazine

    Laura x

  23. I didn’t realise you could make so many different variations of Welsh Rarebit! I’ve never actually had it but it looks delicious.

  24. 5 stars
    Wow! The base of this recipe with cheese and thick bread looks so good but then you add all the other ways to serve it, these all look amazing!

    • Hehe, it sure is a tasty dish. The simple traditional recipe is delicious but the variations can certainly add flavour.

  25. 5 stars
    I would love to try this!! Looks amazing and I’m always curious about food from other countries. And it’s pretty cool to know how your blog’s name came about.

  26. 5 stars
    I would love to have more Welsh rarebit in my life! It’s been a while since I had it last so I can definitely use this recipe to enjoy this Welsh rarebit at home – it looks delicious!

    • I love Welsh rarebit. I ate a lot of it while planning and writing this post – it was tasty work! πŸ™‚

  27. 5 stars
    I had never heard of Welsh rarebit before but I have to try it now – it sounds delicious! Thank you for such a well documented recipe πŸ™‚

  28. I am eighty years old and for the last three years I do all the cooking since my wife had a severe stroke. I was running out of ideas and I remembered my mother serving something she called “welsh rarebit”.She made hers making a cheese sauce (don’t know how) and served on toast. However, before putting the sauce on the toast, she sliced hard boiled eggs and poured the sauce on them and then added crumbled up bacon and sprinkled with paprika!. It was good and I am going to try and duplicate it using some of the ideas I just read concerning the sauce.

    • Hi Donald,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, it’s really lovely to hear from you. Comments like this are what makes blogging so worthwhile and enjoyable for me πŸ™‚

      That sounds like a delicious take on Welsh Rarebit – I’m tempted to try it out myself! Do let me know how you get on if you decide to give my recipe a try.

      Best wishes,
      Kacie

  29. Oh my! Look at all those Welsh rarebit ideas! I’ve never had what you would call a traditional Welsh rarebit, just boring cheese on toast and I would like to try a proper one. The rarebit with the hamhock looks and sounds divine!

    • Thanks Lyndsey, glad you like these variations! πŸ™‚ I love rarebit and it’s so easy to make; you should definitely give it a go!

  30. 5 stars
    Just a happy 81 year old man here that loved our weekly supper of Welsh Rarebit. My now deceased wife who passed in 2004 used to fix it for our little family and I forgot it existed but my mouth is watering as I fix it for a new wife who is not excited by the ingredients. And by the way, you are as cute as a bug but don’t tell anyone. Jim

  31. Hi, and thanks very much for your WR recipe. Delightful. Just had it for lunch on this beautiful summers day. This message comes from the sountern tip of Africa where Welsh Rarebit thrives. Like many others our parents were part of the WW II effort. Allied forces. Hence a lot of us descendants were born in Africa – and have delicious creations such as WR and Yorkshire hardwired in our DNA – and it’s being passed down the generations. Thank you once again. ” God save the Queen”.

    • Hello Gerardus,

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment, it was a real delight to wake up to today! I love getting comments like this.

      I really had no idea that Welsh rarebit is so popular in southern Africa, but it makes sense now that you’ve explained it! How lovely. Glad you enjoyed the recipe. πŸ™‚

  32. 4 stars
    Being Welsh I know a thing or two about Welsh Rarebit so was delighted to try your lovely recipe. It was a resounding success!

    • Awww thank you Priscilla, I’m so glad you tried my Welsh rarebit recipe and enjoyed it πŸ™‚

  33. 5 stars
    Oh my gosh, this looks FANTASTIC and I speak from a long line of welsh relatives that all make welsh rarebit…..

    • That’s so good to hear – thank you Carolyn! I love Welsh rarebit and I’ve been craving it lately too.

  34. 5 stars
    Your recipe and post took me down memory lane as I haven’t had a decent Welsh Rarebit for years and I always wondered why some people call it Welsh Rabbit. Thank you!

  35. 5 stars
    Each time I browse the variations I get another favourite, I will be trying a few, especially the bacon Welsh rarebit

  36. 5 stars
    That’s similar to how I make it, English mustard is a must for me! I’ve been known to add a tiny bit of Marmite to mix it up, controversial! πŸ˜‰

  37. 5 stars
    I came across this blog and recipe by accident but found it very interesting. It’s basically how I was taught to make Welsh Rarebit as a child (by my dad), and it was a Sunday night staple. Only he used milk not beer … maybe because he was making it for kids or it might have been by choice, I don’t know. Fast forward years and it seemed like everyone I knew or any recipe I found made a rarebit with a roux as the base for a cheese sauce … which I’ve tried and really didn’t like. So I assumed my dad’s recipe was a “cheat” because there was no cooking needed for a sauce and he wasn’t much of a cook πŸ˜‰ But now this gives me the confidence to carry on with my recipe … which I was doing anyway πŸ™‚ I’m keen to try it with beer now, but when I told my daughters they didn’t seem convinced, so I’ll see. But just wanted to say thanks for getting a great recipe out there!

    • Thanks Lee. It’s always lovely to receive comments like yours! πŸ™‚

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my recipe for Welsh rarebit. I haven’t heard of milk being used in place of beer before. That’s great to hear. You can also use an egg in place of the butter and that works really well! πŸ˜€

  38. My Dad spent several years in the military in UK during WWII. He requested my Mom to make the Welsh Rabbit he d been served during those years. It contained canned tuna mixed right into the cheesy sauce. As children, we had Welsh Rabbit as a regular supper time meal. We LOVED IT! Have you ever heard of fish blended into Welsh Rabbit? PS Another favorite at breakfast was steamed KIPPERS.

    • Oh wow, that’s an interesting story Patricia – thanks for sharing it!

      Traditionally, I don’t believe Welsh rabbit or rarebit is made using canned tuna, but I have tasted this variation once and I did enjoy it!

      My dad loves steamed kippers too, with butter on them – I can still smell the fishy aroma that used to fill our kitchen every time he cooked them.

  39. 5 stars
    Mmmm, love Welsh rarebit but haven’t made it in far too long. Will have to give your recipe a try very shortly.

  40. 5 stars
    This is a recipe from my childhood! But what an amazingly informative job you’ve done! Everything I could possibly want to know!

  41. 5 stars
    wow this Welsh rarebit is amazing! thanks for sharing the amazing fun facts! It’s so wonderful to learn about the background for the food you are making! I absolutely loved the cheesy goodness!

    • Isn’t it just?! It’s still one of my all-time favourite dishes when I’m fancying something light, tasty and quick!

  42. 5 stars
    This is my husband’s absolute favorite thing to eat so will be giving your recipe a try!! Thanks for posting.

  43. 5 stars
    A lovely recipe for Welsh Rarebit. My gran used to make it without beer/ale just using milk to moisten the mixture and it was delicious.

    • Thank you! πŸ˜€ I love the stuff. Ooh interesting, I can see how it’d work but I do think the beer or ale can add a lovely flavour.

  44. 5 stars
    I haven’t had Welsh Rarebit in years. You have me drooling… I must make it again soon. Thanks for lots of helpful information xx

  45. 5 stars
    You know, despite being a serious foodie for all of my 36 years, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually had or made a proper rarebit. Going to have to sort that out asap aren’t I – no excuse now!

    • Oh wow! I love Welsh rarebit. It’s such a quick, easy and affordable dish. Do let me know your thoughts if you decide to give it a go πŸ™‚

  46. 5 stars
    I’m very late to the party but wanted to say my father loved Welsh rarebit (he preferred the alternate name of Welsh rabbit!). Not sure how he came to like it unless his mother prepared it. As far as I know my father’s side of the family came from England, not Wales but we only traced back to Jacob who came to the Virginia colony as a Royal Army officer in 1671. We know he grew up in a town south of London but outside of that nothing else. Of course, with my father living in the Deep South he consumed a very adulterated version! It’s basically toast with cheese sauce. I much prefer the original, and am grateful to you for posting the recipe. I’m curious about the ale or beer ingredient. Do you feel it makes any difference as to what’s used? I often have Guinness Stout on hand as I love to drink it. At any rate, many thanks! Great blog!

    • Hello Kerry! Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment; these are the kinds of comments I really love to receive from my readers πŸ™‚

      I’m glad you liked my Welsh rarebit recipe. I have seen others that involve making a roux or a cheese sauce and to me, that isn’t traditional rarebit. I bet it is tasty though, for different reasons. I do think it makes a big difference whether you use beer, ale or stout. It can affect the taste of the dish and the colour of it too, once cooked; you get a darker coating on the rarebit with stout, in my experience. I once used a Marmite-infused beer to make it, and that was delicious!

  47. I lived in England 30+ years ago and was vegetarian. I was horrified when people kept suggesting I try Welsh Rabbit until someone finally explained! Then I pretty much lived on it for a year. I was back in England 2 years ago and was so excited to have it again but no one seems to make it anymore. So sad! But today I was trying to think of what to make for first day of World Cup for my vegetarian family and this will be PERFECT!! I’m so excited to have it again after so very long. Thank you!

    • Hello Juliet! Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment πŸ™‚ That’s a lovely story, and I’m so glad to hear that my Welsh rarebit recipe has come in useful for you – hope you love it as much as I do!

  48. I’m going to try and make the Vegan version as soon as I can locate some vegan cheese, vegan butter, and vegan Worcestershire Sauce. LoL. Love your article. Thank you.

  49. 1 star
    Left the toast completely soggy, my client couldn’t even eat it! Flavour nice but needs a roux

    • That’s strange – did you measure all the ingredients out? I haven’t had any one mention this before. Traditional Welsh rarebit doesn’t actually use a roux, although you may find inauthentic variations online. You can try replacing the butter with a beaten egg.

  50. My Mom used to make Welsh rarebit and I’ve made it several times but we always make a sauce out of a traditional roux, cheese and beer. This is intriguing.

    I like to slice apples and put them on the bread before the cheese sauce.

    • I know a few people prefer to use a roux recipe, but I like this method. Sometimes, I use an egg in place of the butter and that makes for a more bronzed, oozy finish. I like the idea of adding apples – haven’t tried that before!

  51. 4 stars
    Loved this recipe and it brought back many childhood memories. my mom did not use beer or ale, probably used milk. She put Paprika on top and put the sauce over Saltines. it was delicious!

    • Glad you enjoyed it, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Sounds delicious! It’s definitely possible to make it using milk in place of beer or ale. I do like the sound of adding paprika on top – YUM!

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