How to Make Haggis (in North America, Anyway!)

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A bit of a weird (TMI?) note here… my body is kind of weird, and I have ridiculous needs when it comes to animal protein, B vitamins, iron, etc. If I don’t eat enough red meat, I get weak and ill, and it feels like I can *feel* my cells slowly dying.

It’s a really gross feeling, so I TRY to keep up on protein… but sometimes it’s hard. I recently got so busy with the next couple of book releases, that I was living on horrible convenience foods that I won’t really admit to… and no animal protein. Got malnourished, got sick, and decided that what I REALLY needed to feel better was some haggis.

I have a different kind of relationship with haggis, than the average person. I tried it at Folklorama as a teen, and LOVED it. I wasn’t surprised, I knew from a young age that a lot of what gets labeled as “icky” is actually really tasty. One of my absolute favourite foods as a kid was steak and kidney pie!

In my teens, I realized that haggis was absolute gold for anemia, so I started to look at it as not only a tasty meal, but medicine. Iron pills never really did much for me, but a serving of haggis would pick me up and make me feel so much better within minutes. It became a go-to cure, for me.

I moved to the east coast, and met a really nice Scottish lady who’d sell it to me by the ice cream bucket-full. I moved to the greater Toronto area, and found a butcher shop that kept it in stock.

Then I moved to Minnesota, and my only option was canned. What?

While I did suffer through the canned option a couple times (it smells like cat food, and doesn’t even have all the good stuff in it!), this most recent time happened after hours for the company I’d buy it from. I decided that enough was enough, I was going to figure out how to make it myself. I’m always up for an adventure, and this would definite be one – I’d never actually worked with most of the meats involved!

I knew I’d have to make a few compromises, in making haggis. While it’s normally made with lamb, beef would be far easier to find ingredients for, and definitely more economical. Also, for my purposes… I’ve found that beef is better for my issues than lamb is. Additionally, lungs were out of the question, due to FDA regulations – so I decided to substitute a beef tongue. Stomach was impossible to find, so I had to figure out an alternate casing option.

A trip to a local butcher for the beef tongue also yielded me a bit of advice on casings… which was helpful, as I’d never even made sausage before this point. After comparing the options, we all decided that it’d be best to go with the casings used for venison sausage. “Mislabeled” for my purposes, maybe.. but they had the widest diameter, so would be closest to the real thing.

I may have SKIPPED out of the butcher shop. I was positively giddy at the idea that I was just a few hours away from my OWN haggis.

I got home, and decided that the occasion required the start of a new Pandora station. Great Big Sea was the seed group for it, as I figured Celtic rock/pop would be ideal haggis making music… and it was!

It was interesting to unwrap the individual ingredients and see what they even LOOKED like for the first time. I don’t have any weird hangups about types of meat being gross – if I can eat a cow face (barbacoa is amazing!) and chow down on roasted chicken skin, I just don’t see why heart would be weird, you know?

I did have something weird *HAPPEN* at one point, though. When I unwrapped the kidneys, the smell hit me … and it was like something out of some cheesy vampire movie. It didn’t smell GOOD, in a way that food’s supposed to… but something surged in me, and I felt extremely ravenous, immediately. I went from happy and giddy, to feeling almost sort of feral with just one whiff. I had to convince myself that it wasn’t a good idea to just eat some of it raw, right then – the urge was there! It was completely bizarre… I wonder what I was smelling? I’ve always had an insane sense of smell (Aspergers super power!), so I’m almost wondering if it was a nutrient or mineral that I was really, really low on. SO weird!

I was able to pull myself together, and whatever that was calmed down once I got the kidney meat soaking.

I pulled everything together – kind of making it up as I went along – without incident. It was easier than I had imagined, and it was the best tasting haggis I’d ever tried – never underestimate the power of having complete control over your seasonings!

As I took my first bite of the fully seasoned haggis mixture, “Ramblin’ Rover” came on over the new Pandora station, and it was a magical moment for me. It felt – and tasted – like victory!

As I placed the haggis chubs in the water for a final cook, another song got stuck in my head – David Guetta’s “The World is Mine”. Yes. It is an amazing feeling to know that this hard-to-find food item is now something I could make… and you can, too!

A note on the photos: Because of my husband’s weird “top of the food chain guilt”, as I call it (he doesn’t want to see meat that looks like it came from an animal, prefers to pretend it grew on trees or something), I wasn’t allowed to make this while he was home, and had to resort to crappy cell phone photography for the progess photos. Sorry about that!

Luckily, he was perfectly ok with the finished product, and graciously took the beauty shots for me 🙂


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How to Make Haggis - In North America

How to Make Haggis - In North America

5 thoughts on “How to Make Haggis (in North America, Anyway!)

  1. 5 stars
    Here are my thoughts, as someone who has never had haggis, and yes, someone that prefers to think of my food as growing on a tree versus frolicking through the prairie. (What? Boneless buffalo wings don’t grow on trees? Oh, it’s a vine, ok, that’s cool):

    It’s good, it really is. It tastes like a high quality hamburger meat, very well seasoned. Thousands of people may shake their heads and furrow their eyebrows as I say this next sentence: I bet it would be really good on tacos. Yes, haggis tacos. Picture a burly Mexican man (don’t forget the mustache!) in a kilt. Haha, you have this image stuck in your head now! Ok, so after that image, the though of haggis tacos doesn’t sound so bad, right?

    This might sound like a lot of effort for taco meat, and I think I risk a good swift arm punch for suggesting that. Here’s the thing though, you very well might have a family member like me, one that prefers meat to be a part of the meal, not the main course. Make everyone happy! Have the haggis however you like, and if you have a picky family member, feel free to laugh at them but let them put it in a shell with some toppings.

  2. 5 stars
    The photo for the victory song looks like George St. in St. John’s. Is it?

    As for haggis, I began eating it when I joined the Illinois St. Andrews Society many decades ago — and I loved it from the first taste. I don’t like liver (other than foie gras), but I adore haggis. I’ve since eaten it many times in many places (including a few times in Scotland) — and I’m with you — great stuff. Kind of like sloppy joe for grownups. Only better.

    Your recipe looks like it would definitely make it worth the effort to try one’s own haggis at home. One thought, however — if you have a good ethnic grocery store nearby, it might be worth asking them if you can get sheep parts, in lieu of beef. That said, if you have a good butcher shop, they might be able to locate the needed items for you. But beef would still be great.

    Thanks for posting. Good fun. And nice to find another haggis lover.


  3. 5 stars
    I have a friend who does eat raw kidney for her health issues, however, she does raise her own grass fed cows. Sorry I do not have more info than that for you. Just wanted to let you know that people do do that and maybe your almost feral reaction is something to explore. Who knows.

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