Full English Vs. Full Irish Breakfast: What's The Difference?

If you haven't eaten a full English or Irish breakfast, have you ever really, truly eaten breakfast? You may think the Denny's Grand Slam is the crown jewel of morning eating, it's got nothing on the traditional breakfasts devoured across the pond.

English breakfast is a fairly old tradition, dating back to the English gentry of the 14th and 15th centuries says the English Breakfast Society. Made up of nobility, landowners, and the "genteel," the gentry considered themselves keepers of British pastoral tradition and part of that tradition included breakfast feasts. Often served before a hunt, these early meat-heavy breakfasts included different types of fish and fowl as well as offal like tongue and kidney.

While the ruling class originated the morning feast in England, it was embraced by laborers during the Industrial Revolution. In Ireland, farmers ate a traditional breakfast to fortify them for a long day spent in the cold, rainy outdoors, explains Babylon Radio. It was termed a fry-up because all the traditional breakfast items would be cooked in a pan with a bit of high-fat content Irish butter.

What is a full Irish breakfast?

While a full Irish breakfast doesn't include a pint of Guinness, it does have all the savory staples that breakfast aficionados love, including eggs. Martha Stewart reports those are cooked sunny side up and served with a whopping four different types of breakfast meats. While bacon and sausage are two of the more familiar go-to's, the Irish fry-up also includes black and white puddings (via Discovering Ireland). Don't let the name full you; these aren't the same as American puddings.

White pudding mixes pork or beef suet with oatmeal or barley-based along with fragrant seasoning often in sausage making, like onions and coriander. Black pudding, however, is a blood sausage. It's made similar to white pudding but with the addition of pork or beef blood. BBC's Good Food explains blood was added to the pudding as a low-cost way to use a by-product of butchering. While black pudding is iron-rich and a protein sauce, dietitian Emer Delaney tells Good Food that it should be eaten in moderation due to its high-calorie count and excess sodium.

Button mushrooms cooked in butter, canned baked beans, and cooked tomato halves are included in the full Irish. Brown soda bread or toasted pan bread, which simply means bread made in a bread tin, rounds out the breakfast. 

What is a full English breakfast

Today's full English breakfast looks very little like the 14th-century original. The UK's contemporary fry-up is similar to the one eaten across the Irish Sea, and includes bacon, eggs, and sausage, plus baked beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms (via English Breakfast Society). But the website notes the Brits serve only black pudding with their breakfast while including two types of bread, one toasted and one fried. Fried bread is simply elevated breakfast bread. According to Epicurious, sliced bread is fried up in a pan with oil. While simple to cook, the flavor profiles can change depending on the oil used, making it versatile.

According to the English Breakfast Society, the full English breakfast also includes "bubble and squeak," a dish that typically combines potatoes and cabbage, although other vegetables can be used. Bon Appétit points out that if you're making an English breakfast at home, you're in control and can make those potatoes anyway that suits. Whether mixed with cabbage or on their own, spuds are missing from the Irish breakfast. The reason? Annette O'Mahoney, the proprietor of the Shores Country House in County Kerry explains to the Baltimore Sun, "The Irish never eat potatoes for breakfast."

While purists may argue the finer points (Eater, for example, claims both puddings are optional in the English breakfast and says boxty, a potato pancake, is sometimes included in Ireland), either full breakfast is sure to fortify you for the day ahead.