Last updated on October 4th, 2021
Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I made — and ate! — Welsh Rabbit. Are you familiar with this cheese-on-toast tavern fare from 18th-century England? Click the “play” arrow above to watch the dish come together in my kitchen. Then scroll down for some fascinating historical notes and a nifty printable recipe:
Welsh Rabbit: Historical Notes
In early 18th-century England, “Welsh Rabbit” was probably a jocular (read: patronizing) description for roasted cheese on toast. The term would be politically-incorrect by today’s standards, for it implied that people in Wales were so poor that they ate cheese and called it “rabbit.” A put-down for sure, but the name stuck.
Beginning in 1781, Welsh Rabbit was sometimes referred to as Welsh “Rarebit.” What’s a rarebit? Nobody knows!
From Wikipedia: Hannah Glasse, in her 1747 cookbook The Art of Cookery, provided recipes for “Scotch Rabbit,” “Welsh Rabbit,” and “English Rabbit.” Check out Hannah’s directions:
To make a Scotch Rabbit, roast a piece of bread very nicely on both sides, butter it, cut a slice of cheese about as big as the bread, toast it on both sides, and lay it on the bread.
To make a Welsh Rabbit, toast the bread on both sides, then toast the cheese on one side, lay it on the toast, and with a hot iron brown the other side. You may rub it over with mustard.
To make an English Rabbit, toast a slice of bread brown on both sides, lay it in a plate before the fire, pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up; then cut some cheese very thin and lay it very thick over the bread, and put it in a tin oven before the fire, and it will be toasted and browned presently. Serve it away hot.
Served with an egg on top, Welsh Rabbit becomes Buck Rabbit, or a Golden Buck.
Welsh Rabbit blended with tomato (or tomato soup) is a Blushing Bunny.
The Welsh Rabbit that I enjoyed yesterday (watch the video up top) was adapted, slightly, from a 1950 recipe in The Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. The cheese is melted in a bechamel sauce that’s enhanced with Worcestershire, ale, and mustard. It’s truly delicious. I poured the golden lava over thick, toasted slices from a crusty boule.
The crusty boule in question. Here’s the recipe.
Update: I made the same recipe this morning, only this time I took the advice of one of my YouTube subscribers, and placed the “rabbit” beneath the broiler for 30 seconds. The result? A Welsh Rabbit that was infinitely more picturesque! (And just as wonderful as its non-broiled kin.)
Have your own, heirloom version of Welsh Rabbit? Talk to me in the comments section below. xKevin
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Here’s the printable:
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Grinds of black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon (or more, to taste) dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon (or more, to taste) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup beer, ale (I used pale ale), or white wine
- 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 4 slices bread from a crusty boule, toasted on both sides
- If desired, garnish the cheese with a sprinkling of paprika and/or slices of fresh, in-season tomato
- Heat the butter in a sauce pan over low heat until melted. Blend in flour, salt, pepper, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and bubbly.
- Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Stir in the beer (or ale or wine).
- Stir in cheese. Stir over low heat until the cheese is melted.
- Promptly pour the sauce over the toasted slices of bread. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika, and, if available to you, slices of in-season tomato.
Jerry Miller says
This looks great. I’ll have to try it. I’ll make it the next time I have a nice, crusty bread.
I remember Stouffer’s used to sell a Welsh Rarebit; it was sold frozen in a small aluminum foil tray. That was way back in the 70’s. My mom would buy it occasionally and I enjoyed it.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Jerry – Hope you will give this recipe a try. Curious to know if you prefer it to Stouffer’s! (Hugs to you and your mom.)
Oh no! You’ve missed out on Irish Rarebit! Made with toasted soda bread and the topping made with stout, egg yolks and scallions! Sturdy fare.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Mary – Irish Rarebit sounds AWESOME. Thank you!
Judy R says
In the 60s and 70s, my mother would serve us her version, I’ll call it Olive Rabbit: slices of bread, topped with cheese, thinly sliced tomato and bacon, broiled until the bacon was cooked. We were a family of 7, bacon was inexpensive, the bread was sometimes homemade, and I’m sure my mother was grateful for something easy. It was so darned delicious!
Grammie 3 says
You crack me up when you reference the Bette Crocker cook book because that was the cook book we used in our cooking class in High school. To this day I still use mine and many pages are in plastic sleeves because they had been used so many times over the years. Try the Carmel recipe , my grand children always ask me to make a batch of those for their birthday as a gift from me.
The Welsch rabbit was one of the first things I learned to make as a young girl and would make this for Friday night supper. We would top some of ours with chopped chives or green onion tops before placing them back under the broiler. It was a great simply supper served with salad for a family of 9.
I will definitely add this recipe to my rotation. I am always on the lookout for great lunch ideas. Since retiring I try to put a great lunch on the table most days. My first introduction to Welch Rabbit was about 20+ years ago. I worked in an office building that was primarily the offices of lawyers, many of which had been in the building for 40 years!! I became friends with an older attorney. Our friendship developed during discussions about travels to Ireland. One day he asked me out to lunch at his private club. He ordered Welch Rabbit, and it looked incredible. It’s been about 13 years since I retired, and he is no longer with us, but I remember that lunch, our discussions, and that Welch Rabbit.
cleo jordan says
growing up in England Welsh Rarebit was a staple. Grate cheese add a large pinch of dry mustard and a couple of shakes of Worchester sauce and mix then spread it onto already toasted bread and place under broiler till bubbly and turning a little brown. Now I want some!!
Cabot’s Sharp White Cheddar grated
Couple of TBLS Mayo
Squirt of Mustard (I use Raye’s Maple Horseradish that I purchase by the gallon)
Couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
Publix Italian 5 grain bread toasted
I stopped measuring this years ago because whatever I did with these ingredients it never failed.
Mix all together, spread on toasted bread, toss in broiler until cheese melts and turns brown in spots.
Nancy P. Adams says
I loved reading all your information about the various kinds of ‘Rabbits’ on toast. I’ve made it mainly with beer, mustard and cheese melted in this ‘sauce’. You’re spot -on correct about the name – ‘rabbit’ is right and not ‘rarebit’ (that name is trying to sound sophisticated, I’d say). Back in the late 60’s to early 70’s I used to make ‘Blushing Bunny’ for our kids as they loved it: made it with a can of tomato soup, only slightly diluted with a bit of milk; then add handfuls of grated cheddar or other cheese to taste. Stir, heat through well, and serve on saltine crackers.
We learned to make Welsh Rabbit in public school (grade school) cooking class in NYC, but surely we did not use beer! 😉 It’s the only thing I recall from that class. I do occasionally make it, always remembering that pleasant teacher who also taught sewing. I can see her face, but her name is gone (maybe Miss Crabtree?) – this was, after all, more than 65 years ago!
Janice in Vermont says
I have made this for 35 years using cheddar and ale—ever since reading Mrs. Appleyard (Louise Andrew Kent) and her comical description of the ritual in her kitchen, as she made it with her husband. It was an old “Appleyard” family recipe in Kent Corners, VT where her husband insisted on taking charge with this dish, with her as sous-chef. Her column on cooking and small town life in the 30s-40s ran in the Boston Globe and were later published as books, mostly out of print now but worth tracking down. I think Mrs. Appleyard would approve of your recipe, Kevin, except instead of pouring the cheese over the toast, Mr. Appleyard dipped the toast in. A deft maneuver that requires sturdy bread or English muffins. Great with sliced tomatoes alongside.
Now I am hungry!
Susan Cusack says
I live in South East Wales
This is how I make my Welsh Rarebit
Grated Cheddar cheese and a little Parmacen
Couple of jigger of Worcester sauce
Couple of tablespoons of milk
Mix it all to together with a fork and mash it down, if too wet add more cheese
Toast both sides of bread
Spread the mixture over the toast
Pop under the grill or broiler
Then leave under the grill or boiler for few minutes
Take out, put it on a nice plate and enjoyed, making sure its cool enough to eat
Linda Williams Woodworth says
Our mom made it for us kids in the 60s when my dad wasn’t going to be home for supper (he expected real meat on the table).
Her version included a slice of one of those meats from a glass jar from the grocery store…. The kind that you can use for a juice glass later? Haven’t thought of it for years.
Thanks. I always enjoy your posts.
Tauni Graham says
The Stouffer’s version is still available. It is one of my go to comfort foods. I will have to try this homemade version.
There was a department store near here (Northeast Ohio) and their restaurant served Welsh rarebit. It was served on more of a melba toast, I think. The store closed many years ago. That was my standard lunch when we shopped there. I’ve never made it but, I am trying your recipe!
Raine D. says
I literally grew up on this stuff! In my part of Canada it’s called “rarebit”, never “rabbit”. My husband & I have it at least once a week — it’s the only way we eat bread anymore since having gone low carb. I usually make it the way my very English mother & g’mother did: grated old (sharp) Canadian, English or Irish cheddar, a good shake or two of Keen’s dry mustard, 3 or 4 generous jolts of Worchestershire, broil until gooey & blistered. Now & again I put in some extra effort & make it as you do, melting the cheese before adding the seasonings, plus a half cup of Guinness (this makes a great fondue too). And sometimes I’ll make what we call “American Rabbit”: grated cheddar, Worchestershire, dry mustard, a few shots of Tabasco, onion powder, garlic powder, diced red &/or green bell pepper, add a big blob of Miracle Whip (never mayo although I know people who do), pile it on toast, sprinkle with chopped green onions & broil the daylights out of it. Add a tin of white chunk tuna, pile it onto a toasted ciabatta bun & call it a Tuna Meltie & you’re good for the day 🙂 Love seeing everyone’s version of this — it appears to be popular everywhere!
Cynthia Hill says
Have eaten Welsh Rabbit for 60 + years…. easy to make, but you weren’t generous enough with the sauce! Goopy it all over the toast, any beer will do except an IPA, could cause a funky taste!
Totally yummy over steamed asparagus in lieu of toast, but I often use buttered toast, then asparagus, and plenty of yummy cheese sauce! A good dinner !
Stouffer’s still makes delish WR,
their chipped beef is so good.
Any older New Englanders out there surely remember both well!
Starved now, can taste the WR now….
I left a 5star not a two….
Sue hetherington says
Hi Kevin so glad you did a Welsh rarebit recipe too. I grew up with having it often, much like your recipe and mum would put a splash of beer in it if we had one around… my parents were from yorkshire and it was a staple… so much tastier than straight melted cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich. If no beer or wine then tge mustard and Worcester sauce works fir 90% of the taste and tge runny consistency.. but of milk.
Just love your posts and generosity.
Mom always served served it on toasted bread with a green veg. On the side. Never top broiled! Always delicious.We did call it Welsh Rarebit.
Very familiar. It’s one of my family’s comfort foods. We don’t use beer or Worcestershire. We use Kraft Deli Deluxe (not the fake cheese slices) as it melts better than cheddar. We also don’t broil it.
Some helpful hints. Use mustard powder and not actual mustard as mustard can turn it sour.
Don’t use pre-shredded cheese. It won’t melt smooth the same as if you shred your own. I think it has corn starch on it to keep it from clumping or something.
We’ll have it for dinner with a seasonal vegetable. Fresh sliced tomatoes or steamed broccoli or even spinach.
I don’t mind making a large batch as it keeps well in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave easily. One of the most convenient “leftover” recipes.
This is our family’s recipe:
6 TBSP melted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 beaten eggs
Cheese (I just use Kraft Deli Deluxe American cheese but NOT processed cheese “food”)
Salt (I often leave this out as cheese has enough salt)
White Pepper to taste
1 TBSP mustard (or more to taste)
In a saucepan, make a rue with the flour and butter. Take off stove and add all at once: 2 cups milk return to heat. Stir til thick and smooth, pour a little over 2 beaten eggs, add those and cheese and 1 tsp salt, pepper, 1 TBSP mustard to sauce and stir until all melted and smooth. Add more milk if necessary. Serve over toast.
Well, you certainly touched on a favorite memory and recipe from Ohio Clevelanders. Lunch at our famous “Silver Grille Restaurant” located in the upscale Higbee Department Store downtown at Public Square, was the place to go years ago. The excitement riding the elevators by uniformed operators announcing the contents on each floor was even more special when we reached the tenth floor to the elegant “Silver Grille Restaurant”. One of the three famous and popular items on the menu was “Welsh Rarebit”. Dry mustard, and beer or wine was not used. In the original 1933 version, beef fat was used. The Rarebit was served over triangles of thinly sliced, toasted white bread, and garnished with seven whole almonds. Thanks for bringing this recipe to our attention. Great memories, and a great recipe!
Gosh, this brings back memories, even though I have often made it myself. I’ve been eating this since the ’50s. It was a budget stretcher for our large family. Sometimes my mother would add canned kidney beans, sauteed chopped bell peppers, and onions. Often, on cold rainy days after walking home from school (she couldn’t drive), Mom would have Welsh Rarebit ready for us as an afternoon snack. Enjoyed the historical info. Thanks.
J Collins says
Kevin, for those of us who don’t want any alcohol in our house to tempt an addicted loved one, what would you recommend for a suitable beer or wine replacement???
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi J Collins – Alcohol question is addressed in the video: Add an additional 1/2 cup of milk. Enjoy!
Kevin Dear, your recipe sounds so delicious! I’m printing it right now. Since discovering you about 2 years ago, you have been consistently a bight spot in my days with your recipes, gardening ideas, lighted hearted fun humor, & quite simply – your kindness! .Thank you for your talents & gifts & helping me stay a little more “grounded” during challenging times. My sincere VERY BEST WISHES to you & yours.
Had forgotten all about this wonderful fare.
Mom severed it mostly during tomato season, topping each piece with several thin tomato slices from Dad’s garden before placing in the broiler…and no beer for her 1950’s family of ten.
I love this dish! My family is British and my mother made this for us for lunches or dinners when our dad was away on business trips. We always called it Welsh Rarebit, ♀️ and my mom’s version was a little different. She didn’t make the Béchamel, what we do is, grate a good cheddar cheese, then put in just enough milk to make it a thick concoction, add Worcestershire sauce and hot English mustard powder to taste. Let it sit until the cheese soaks up the milk (don’t use pre shredded cheese because the milk doesn’t soak in very easily). You don’t want it runny, nice and thick. Then toast the bread on one side under the broiler, turn toasted bread over and spoon the cheese onto the bread and put back under the toaster until it is nice and brown and crispy on top.
Yum! Comfort food from childhood in Northern, CA.
Here is my version.
Toasted good white or wheat bread, or a bagel..spread with generous blob of homemade pesto. Big, thick slice of ripe heirloom tomato warm from the garden, smear with real Mayo, salt and pepper, top with a slice of provolone cheese. Add a sprinkle of Parmesan if you want to be ‘fancy’. Broil until the cheese bubbles.
Gosh! It’s my favorite summer food. Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum……
My parents grew up during the depression and came from poor families with 8 or 9 siblings. I am pretty sure my maternal grandmother passed down this recipe as she was born in Wales. It was a very inexpensive recipe for a large family. We simply called it Cheese & Tomatoes. The recipe I learned was pretty simple. Make a white sauce and add cheese*, stir until cheese is melted.
Open a can of tomatoes (your choice as to whole (mashed, if desired) Or slightly chunky but NOT sauce or pureed). and cook until heated through.
Bread, either room temperature or lightly toasted.
Pour melted cheese sauce over bread.
Put heated tomatoes on top of cheese sauce and ENJOY!
*We used to use American cheese in the sauce, but now use cheddar.
I have been craving this for weeks now, so I was happy to see that you featured it. Hubby says he doesn’t think he would like it (yeah, he’s crazy!). That’s OK … all the more for ME.more for me!!!!!