Henry VIII and Family

Friday, July 23, 2010

Food in Tudor England

Dining Hall at Thornbury Castle
*Image is the Tudor Dining Hall at Thornbury Castle

Being the foodie that I am, I could not help but wonder what it must have actually been like to sit down for a meal in Tudor England. I decided to do a bit of research on it, and since I have promised ALL things Tudor on this blog, I thought I would share my findings.

As we know, there were many, many changes that came about during the reigns of the Tudors, and food was no exception. There were many new things being brought in from the "New World," and this helped to change the more medieval styles of eating and preparing food.

Tudor food

If you were a poor person during Tudor times, your standard fare would be a dark bread of rye, barley or maslin, a broth of some sort, maybe cheese or some curd. Not a very balanced meal, however, the poor people did eat more vegetables than the nobility and that probably helped make up for other things they lacked. It was not known back then the benefit of eating vegetables.

Servants ate better, having more meat in their diets such as salt herring, dried cod, beef or fowl in addition to cheese, better breads, ales, and puddings.

Food prep

The middle class and minor nobility would have a variety of courses. If you were fortunate enough to be wealthy during the Tudor era, you wouldn't necessarily eat differently from the middle class, however, there would be much more food and on a more grandiose scale. The rich aristocracy also enjoyed having unusual things on their tables, such as figures molded from jelly or pastries.

Here is an example of a late 14th century Parisian menu that I found on the site: http://www.tudorhistory.org/

Miniature pastries filled either with cod liver or beef marrow
A cameline meat "brewet" (pieces of meat in a thin cinnamon sauce)
Beef marrow fritters
Eels in a thick spicy puree
Loach in a cold green sauce flavored with spices and sage
Large cuts of roast or boiled meat
Saltwater fish

"The best roast that may be had"
Freshwater fish
Broth with bacon
A meat tile (pieces of chicken or veal, simmered, sautéed, served in a spiced sauce of pounded crayfish tails, almonds and toasted bread and garnished with whole crayfish tails)
Capon pasties and crisps
Bream and eel pasties
Blang Mang

Lampreys with hot sauce
Roast bream and darioles

Manor houses from the country usually added the local game birds to their menus as well.

Most people used spoons or knives to eat, but forks were almost nonexistent in Tudor times. A lot of people simply ate with their fingers.... they also used "trenchers," which sometimes were comprised of just a slab of bread, or a slab of wood that had a small depression in the middle.

There weren't a whole lot of "table manners" type of rules, even for the nobility, but they did observe some basic practices such as washing hands in front of the other diners to ensure clean hands. They did this because of the practice of eating with their hands. It was also asked that people did not touch their heads, blow their nose... the usual kinds of things you would really hope NOT to see at a dinner table, lol!

About beverages... EVERYONE avoided drinking the water, as it was polluted. People would drink milk, cider, mead, ale, wine or some variations thereof.

It was very common for the rich to overeat in Tudor times, which we have also seen practiced by the Ancient Romans. Ironically, this did a lot more harm than good, and directly contributed to the poor health of many of the nobility.

I found many different recipes and other little facts and tidbits in my research. The most helpful sites I found were:




Please check out these sites, as they have a lot more fun information and some really neat recipes. I might even try a couple of the recipes I found just to see how they turn out!

***Images found here:


and here:


Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. The documentary 'Inside the Body of Henry VIII' showed exactly how much food Henry VIII ate, roughly double the recommended intake of calories for a man today! Couple this with his inability to move in the later years of his reign and you get a very, very unhealthy man. I feel for the poor Groom of the Stool in those later years that had to help the King with various bouts of constipation and put up with a very cranky sovereign!
    Thanks for the article!

  2. great artical i wish you had written more about what foods the rich ate