Rumbledethumps: Scotland's Whimsical Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

Leftovers happen. Even with the most unlikely of things, like bacon, wine, chocolate, and the most satisfying of all side dishes, mashed potatoes. In fact, leftover mashed potatoes are often intentional in many people's homes, especially around the holidays because they can easily be reheated or transformed into many new things like potato cakes, shepherd's pies, and pierogies. Around the world, even more delicious creations are made with potatoes: the Danes enjoy brændende kærlighed (mashed potatoes with bacon, onions, and pickled beets), the French go fancy with Duchess potatoes, in Italy mashed potato takes the form of gnocchi, and in Puerto Rico people love rellenos de papas, or mashed potato dumplings stuffed with meat and fried, per Insider.

Of course, no one can forget the hundreds of ways the United Kingdom prepares and serves up potatoes. Surprising, really, considering that the root veggie is not at all native to Britain, but actually came to the island from the New World in 1586, according to Money Week. Perhaps the most recognized mashed potato creations from the United Kingdom come in the form of Bubble and Squeak from England and Colcannon from Ireland. A lesser-known dish that was likely influenced by both dishes is the tongue-twisting Rumbledethumps from Scotland.


According to The Spruce Eats, rumbledethumps (it's pronounced how it's spelled, just read slowly) comes from the Scottish regions near the English border and is made from leftover mashed potato combined with cabbage or kale. The mixture is spread in a baking dish, covered in cheese, and baked in the oven until hot and bubbly. It is often eaten at breakfast but can be enjoyed at any time of the day, per Epicurious. Although it certainly is hearty enough to eat by itself, it can be served as a side dish as well. Although the name is reminiscent of a happy carnival ride, Epicurious explains it comes from the "rumble" of the potatoes as they are mashed and the "thump" sound that is made when slapping scoops of the mixture into a baking dish. Of course, it could certainly mimic the noise your stomach makes when watching this cheese-laden dish come hot out of the oven.

Rumbledethumps is similar to other leftover potato dishes from the United Kingdom, but there are some distinct differences. Rumbledethumps' cousins colcannon and Bubble and squeak are similar mixtures of mashed potato; veggies like brussels sprouts, kale, or cabbage; and onions but colcannon is served without being baked (per Simply Recipes) and bubble and squeak fried in a pan until crispy (via BBC). All three are delicious and filling ways to enjoy those pounds of mashed potato that everyone was too full to finish at the holiday feast.

What are the ingredients?

Like so many recipes that have stood the test of time, rumbledethumps was likely created to enhance the flavor of two plentiful but plain Scottish ingredients: potatoes and cabbage, per blog 12 Tomatoes. And the commoners who used such ingredients often certainly weren't about to waste anything, so they got creative. Mashed potato and cooked cabbage are essential to the dish and many recipes also call for swede or turnips which are all combined together, per The Spruce Eats. Butter, salt, and pepper are also used as extra flavoring agents. Onions can also be added to add an extra layer of flavor. It could be sauteed and added directly to the mixture of other ingredients. Finally, it isn't rumbledethumps without a melty layer of cheddar cheese on top.

The result is a flavor explosion of fluffy, buttery mashed potato, soft cabbage and onion, and sharp, nutty cheese, served up warm. Still very popular in its native Scottish border towns but not commonly found anywhere else, rumbledethumps is easy to create at home. 12 Tomatoes suggests getting creative and using different kinds of cheese, adding bacon or ham, and adding your favorite spices.

How can you make it?

If you've got leftover mashed potatoes on hand, you're already on your way to enjoying this wonderful dish. Epicurious instructs to boil a sliced small head of cabbage for about 10 minutes. Once it's boiled and drained, add some butter and combine. If you don't have prepared potatoes, you can quickly make them using whatever kitchen equipment you have on hand, from a fork or potato ricer to a stand mixer or an instant pot. Finally, spread the mixture in a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, and bake until golden brown.

It couldn't be an easier recipe and it's not one you're likely to forget. You certainly don't have to wait until you have leftover mashed potato to make rumbledethumps. If so inclined, intentionally make it the potato side dish in lieu of potatoes au gratin, baked potatoes, or smashed potatoes. If it doesn't get eaten up, well, at least you'll have leftover potatoes.