You may tuck into good ol’ milk and cereal or pancakes in your part of the world, but that is not always the case across the pond. With an amazing array of cultures and people, it’s no surprise that breakfast in Europe is a smorgasbord of culinary deliciousness waiting to be discovered. Let’s dive in and get your mouthwatering, one country at a time!
In England, a “full breakfast” is tradition. A full breakfast is composed of a combination of many goodies, such as poached or scrambled eggs, black bacon (pork loin and belly in the same cut), baked beans, hash browns, oatcakes, or fried bread. Also common is black pudding, which isn’t a dark custardy dessert, but actually a blood sausage made from pork or beef. Hot tea or coffee is usually paired with this hearty meal that contrasts the typical continental breakfast (a light breakfast of pastries, bread, and juice or milk). It’s called continental because a smaller portioned breakfast as such is more popular in continental Europe, something you’ll see as you keep reading!
Being close to England and Scotland, Ireland has elements of a full breakfast, though with ingredients like bacon rashers (pork loin), pork sausages, fried eggs, toast, fried tomatoes, sauteed field mushrooms, liver, and white puddings (oatmeal meat dish), it’s not exactly the same. Also served is traditional brown soda bread. Something recently developed in Ireland is the concept of a “breakfast roll” which has the elements of a full breakfast, but put inside of a French roll for portability. This can be likened to the American breakfast burrito. Always interesting to see how the world connects in seemingly small ways!
Of course when one thinks of a French déjeuner, a croissant comes to mind. They’re served with coffee, hot chocolate, or tea and often cooked with butter. While croissants are a staple, also eaten are fresh baguettes with a jam and butter spread. In continental Europe, a sweeter breakfast is generally more preferred so pastries are very normal. Some distinct french pastries are the pain aux raisins (a large flat spiral pastry with cream and raisins) and the pain suisse (a similar pastry but with chocolate nuggets instead). Nowadays, breakfast cookies and granola cookies are popular for an on the go meal.
A typical Belgian breakfast consists of… Belgian Waffles! Just kidding! Belgian waffles actually are more common in the US than they are in Belgium. Some other things eaten in Belgium in the early morning are bread and gouda cheese, fruit, honey, and strong coffee. Children often eat their bread with Nutella or a cheese that is similar to the United States’ Laughing Cow brand cheese. A special Sunday treat is a bakery fresh croissant or crispy bread rolls.
Buongiorno! Ora di colazione! An Italian breakfast is not huge, usually just rolls with jam, fruit salads, yogurt, muesli (oat mixture similar to granola) or a biscotti. Back in the day, Italians would drink red wine in the mornings, and dip their biscuits into it. Today, they drink hot coffee with milk, cappuccinos, or cornettos.
The long held stereotype that Greeks smoke cigarettes and drink sweetened coffee is far from true. Breakfast in Greece varies by region and occupation (back in the day). It used to be that only farmers ate a huge meal to get energy for the day. So what can you expect for breakfast in Greece? It could be anything from pita to Greek yogurt, fruits, cheese and cured meats.
Like most of the other countries, bread is eaten in Turkey, along with butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam, honey, and kaymak (like clotted cream). Unfortunately turkey itself isn’t really eaten for breakfast, though Sucuk (a spicy sausage that can be eaten with eggs) and pastırma (air dried cured beef originating from Ottoman Empire times) sure are! Breakfast in Turkey is often served buffet style.
Завтрак! Russians love a home cooked meal, so breakfast is no different. It’s generally eaten around 7 or 8, and coffee or tea is essential. Bread with cheese and fried eggs are common, but some distinct breakfast foods are kasha (grain porridge), tvorog (resembles cottage cheese), and butterbrots (German open face sandwich with butter or jam). Pancakes or blinis as they’re known in Russia are usually reserved for weekends or special occasions.
9. Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, rohlík (yeast rolls) used to be a luxury, but is now a staple to a typical Czech breakfast. Rye bread is also not uncommon. With these breads, standard toppings like butter, jam and honey are used, but also unique spreads such as one of sardines, garlic, cottage cheese, chicken liver, or egg. Cold cuts like salami and ham are also eaten with the bread. Czech people usually eat 5 meals a day (the three standard, and two snacks) so breakfast can’t be too big or there won’t be room come time for the midmorning snack!
There really isn’t a “traditional” Portuguese breakfast meal because of globalization through time and the fact that it wasn’t ever much of a big deal anyways. Typically eaten are the breads with toppings like cheese, butter, and jam alongside a coffee or a tea. Some popular drinks are “galão” which is just espresso and foamed milk (but mostly milk) and meia de leite (half-and-half teacup of milk and coffee). Pastel de nata (an egg tart pastry) is common in Portugal and wherever else there is a significant immigrant population, like in Canada or Luxembourg.
El Desayuno in Spain is very commonly eaten out of the house (like at a café or a restaurant) or on the go. Magdalenas, which originate in Aragon, is a breakfast cake with sugar, cloves, and olive oil that can either be fluffy or dense like pound cake. It’s similar to Bica Gallega, which comes from Andalucia, made from rich sponge, butter, and a sugary crust. Churros (fried dough) and melted chocolate to dip, croissants (with york ham, nutella, or jam and butter), pincho de tortilla (a Spanish omelette), and tostadas con tomate y aceite (basically, tomatoes on toasted bread) are all common options. Naturally, orange juice and coffee with milk are staples. Breakfast isn’t a huge deal since merienda (snack time) is between breakfast and dinner.