Looking for a simple but brilliant way to entertain? Try making a ploughman's lunch. It's a perfect appetizer, as it's quick to prepare and easy to share. Its robust flavors and satisfying textures make it great for a crowd.
Round out your ploughman's with thick slices of Lincolnshire plum bread and homemade sausage rolls.
This type of lunch was originally packed for ploughmen to take out in the fields in the English countryside. All the ingredients can be served cold and is meant to be hearty enough to satisfy their large appetites.
The beautiful English countryside where farmers or ploughmen would work out in their fields. Each man needed to pack a lunch for the day, so bread, cheese and pickles were commonly used. A book entitled Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott dated 1837 had mentioned this type of lunch.
After the rations from World War Two had lifted in England, the Cheese Bureau made this more popular in the 1960's in order to increase cheese sales. Local pubs would put their own spin on it for local patrons and tourists to enjoy.
Most of the ingredients for a ploughman's lunch can be purchased at your local grocery store, while some of the canned goods will be found in the international section or online. A good English cheese might be the hardest thing to find locally, but you can substitute with Irish or Welsh cheddar if needed.
- Bread: crusty white bread (like cob loaf or a bloomer), artisan, baguette or nutty multigrain
- Cheese: hard or semi hard English cheeses: Cheddar, Lancashire, blue cheese (Stilton)
- Basic Meat: baked ham cut into thick slices
- Additional Meat: British sausage roll, Scotch egg, hand raised pork pie, pâté
- Chutney: Branston pickle, ploughman's pickle, tomato chutney, or piccalilli (pungent, vinegary, earthy)
- Pickled Vegetables: onions, gherkins
- Additional Protein: boiled eggs
- Salad: watercress or arugula, radishes, celery, tomatoes
- Fruit: a thick slice of Lincolnshire plum bread and a sweet, crisp apple
- Condiments: English mustard, softened salted butter
How should the ingredients be presented?
- The best way is on a large wooden platter or cutting board.
- Slice the bread and boiled eggs.
- Have the pickled ingredients, chutney, onions, gherkins, and English mustard in serving bowls.
- Make sure the salted butter is spreadable.
- Cut the cheese in wedges or slices.
Is a ploughman's lunch healthy?
If you limit your portions of bread, butter and cheese, it can healthy. The traditional menu is full of muscle building protein from the ham, heart healthy fats from the cheese, and fiber from the fresh fruit and vegetables.
What are the calories for one serving?
To calculate the nutritional facts for this recipe, one serving size has one large piece of crusty white bread spread with ½ tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of mustard, and 2 tablespoons of Branston pickle. Layer ⅓ cup of watercress with 50g of ham and 50g of Stilton to finish the sandwich.
On the plate, there is also half of a hard boiled egg, 2 gherkins, 2 pickled onions, 1 radish, 1 stalk of celery, and ¼ of an apple. The dessert, which is one thick slice of Lincolnshire plum bread, is not included in the nutrition facts.
One serving calculated according to the specifications above contains 388 calories, 17g fat, 41g carbs, 15g sugars, and 13g protein. (For more nutritional information, please scroll to the end of the recipe card.) Remember, this lunch is meant to be filling, as it was designed for a hungry man working in the fields.
How long will this keep?
Since this recipe has meat, eggs and cheese, it's best not to let those ingredients sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If there are any leftovers, wrap them up separately and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Any leftover bread can be placed in a zip top bag and placed on the counter or in the freezer.
How to Make
Start by selecting the cheeses you would like to serve. A hard or semi hard British cheese would be perfect, if you can find one at your local grocery store.
In this photo shoot, we used a strong Stilton and an extra sharp Welsh cheddar. Let the cheese warm up to room temperature by taking it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
Next, grab some crunchy vegetables to munch on, add to your sandwich, or make into a salad. Radishes, celery, tomatoes, and watercress provide lots of color and flavor.
Thick slices of ham provide protein along with some hard boiled eggs. If more protein choices are desired, sausage rolls, Scotch eggs, or a hand raised meat pies would perfect additions.
It wouldn't be a ploughman's lunch without with something pickled: gherkins, pickled onions, and a strong chutney, like Branston pickle or ploughman's pickle are must-haves.
Round off your meal with a nice crusty white or whole grain bread to build your sandwich, and slather on soft butter and Coleman's mustard. Don't forget your fruit; a sweet apple cut into wedges is light and crunchy.
For dessert, include a couple thick slices of homemade Lincolnshire plum bread spread with salted butter and, if desired, honey.
- Need this gluten free? Use gluten free bread and Heinz ploughman's pickle.
- Don't have Colman's mustard? Use regular yellow mustard mixed with horseradish.
- Don't have time to make Lincolnshire plum bread? Use raisin bread instead.
- Pick something sweet (apple), sour (chutney and pickles), and salty (cheese and meat).
- Have enough choices so every guest can graze happily.
- Include all seven ingredient categories: bread, cheese, meat, pickled veggies, additional protein, salad, fruit, and condiments.
- Artfully arrange it on a large wooden platter.
- Serve all the ingredients cold or at room temperature.
British Breads to Include in Your Ploughman's Lunch
Other British Recipes You'll Love
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How to Make a Ploughman's Lunch
- 4 thick slices of white crusty bread
- 2 wedges aged English cheddar
- 1 wedge Stilton cheese
- 2 thick slices ham
- ½ cup strong chutney, like Branston pickle
- 6 gherkins
- 10 silverskin onions or cocktail onions
- 2 boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 1 sweet apple, sliced and brushed with lemon juice
- 2 thick slices of Lincolnshire plum bread
- 1 ¼ cup watercress
- 2 large radishes, thickly sliced
- 2 celery stalks with leaves, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 teaspoons Colman's mustard
- 1 tablespoon salted butter, at room temperature
- Put the butter, mustard, chutney, onions, gherkins, and watercress in separate bowls.
- Boil the two eggs by placing them in a saucepan full of cold water. Bring to a boil, then cook for 6 minutes. Immediately plunge the eggs in a ice water bath for 10 minutes. Crack the shells all around, then gently peel them and rinse off any tiny shells. Blot them dry with paper towel and cut in half lengthwise. If desired, sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper.
- Rinse and dry the radishes and celery, then cut the radishes into thick slices. Cut the celery into 2-inch pieces.
- Slice the apple, then brush each slice with lemon juice to prevent browning.
- Cut the ham into slices that are 1 ½ inches in length.
- Keep all the ingredients, except the butter and the bread, in the fridge until needed.
- Half hour before serving, take it out of the fridge so it can warm up to room temperature.
- Arrange all the ingredients on a large wooden cutting board or charcuterie board and serve immediately.
- Make sure there are sweet, sour, and salty items set out.
- Want happy guests? Serve a variety of food items for grazing.
- Hit all the main categories: bread, cheese, meat, pickled veggies, additional protein, salad, fruit, and condiments for a successful lunch.
- Use a large wooden platter to artfully arrange the food.
- This tastes best when served at cold or room temperature.
- Need this gluten free? Ploughman's pickle is a tasty GF option.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.
My husband and I ate a Ploughman's lunch at a pub tucked away in a North Devon village, England.
We were handed a wicker basket lined with a red gingham cloth which had its corners folded inward. It was like opening a present and I loved the fact that amongst it was a whole apple. It was such a delicious experience.
Thanks for sharing this sweet memory, Mo! I hope our recipe can help you recreate this special lunch at home.
Elizabeth D Minor
This looks wonderful. I'm going to make it for my family on Easter here in New Mexico. What kind of drink would you recommend to go with this (we are not alcohol drinkers). Also, would it be too much to have scones and for desert after this? Thank you for teaching us Americans your British ways!
Since you are serving this for Easter and you and your family don't drink, I would recommend serving Martinelli's Sparkling cider. Scones sound lovely for dessert.
Made this for my husband & he absolutely loved it. 👍👌
That's wonderful to hear, Maria! We're so glad that your husband enjoyed it so much!
I don't think this is a recipe so much as a list of traditional ingredients, but none the worse for that. I think that you would have to make sure your guests had had a hard day ploughing to eat that much! (4 slices of bread? 2 eggs as well as the ham?)
Since you stress that it's an English meal, strange that your literary reference is to a Scotsman...
This meal is designed to share among three to four people, not for one--as it says in the recipe card. Sir Walter Scott may well have travelled to England and tried the ploughman's lunch there.
Sorry, I just saw the X1 and not the stuff above. If designed for four, then 1 apple is not enough, I'd have thought but as I said, it's more a list of possibilities rather than a recipe.
I think it unlikely that Sir Walter went to England and had a ploughman's lunch which was labourer's food ("a hungry man working in the fields" it says above) and he was a posh gentleman.
Incidentally, the term "Scottish egg" is wrong - it is a scotch egg, properly a scotched egg though no one calls it that. It is not Scottish, it was invented in England and the word "scotch" means chopped - a scotched egg is one encased in scotched, or chopped, meat.
This is a traditional lunch and amazing. You would share the apple because its just supposed to be something sweet to go with the different flavours as a full apple would be too much. It is an explosion of flavours that tickles one's palette. Absolutely lovely.
The bread in this ploughman's lunch is chewy, and the watercress is lovely with the cheese. I really creamy, soft cheeses with the ham. There are lovely contrasts of flavor and textures!
Glad you enjoyed this, Alex! Thanks for your review.
I served this at my Xmas party because 1) it was simple to prepare because of your 7 ingredient list and why each item was present and 2) I didn’t have to read a three page blog post to find the recipe. THANK YOU!
It was the perfect, pretty appetizer and so delicious
We're tickled pink that you liked our ploughman's lunch recipe so much, Shannon! Thanks for your kind words. ❤
The pictures are great. I think that it is neat how you can customize the lunch. You can take what you want and arrange it how you like it. My favorite parts are the mustard, cheese, ham, and pickles. It is such a special British meal!
Thanks, Beth! Ploughman's lunch is such a tasty meal.