Cranachan recipe

By BBC Maestro

If you’re looking for a quick and easy dessert recipe for Burns Night, a dinner party, or simply want to whip up something tasty after work, cranachan is the answer. 

Move aside haggis – to celebrate Burns Night, we’re sharing this delicious cranachan recipe.

What is cranachan?

Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert that – while being extremely simple to make – is so tasty that it’s sometimes called the king of Scottish desserts. Although some variations may differ, the traditional cranachan ingredients are:

  • Fresh raspberries
  • Porridge oats
  • Cream or crowdie cheese
  • Whisky
  • Honey

So, all you need is a few easy-to-obtain ingredients to make one delicious Scottish dessert!

This combination of ingredients and the simplicity of the dish means that some people call it Scotland’s answer to Eton Mess – but many would argue that the depth of the whisky, sweetness of Scottish raspberries and heartiness of the oats gives cranachan the edge. You’ll just have to try both to find out which one you prefer!

History of cranachan

Cranachan was originally created as a celebration of harvest in Scotland and was made using the fresh crop of raspberries following the harvest in June. 

Today, cranachan is a dessert, but it wasn’t always that way. It was originally served as a breakfast dish – perhaps unsurprising given the inclusion of oats, a traditional breakfast food. It’s also now served all year round rather than only during harvest time, but you’re most likely to come across it on menus as part of a Burns supper. This is a traditional feast of haggis, neeps and tatties (swede or turnips and potatoes) that’s often followed by cranachan, and served on Burns Night (January 25th), an annual celebration of Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s most famous poets.

Cranachan’s name comes from the Gaelic word for ‘churn’, referring to the way the dessert is made. Traditionally, cranachan was made with crowdie, a soft, fresh cheese made from cow’s milk. In fact, some people still refer to cranachan as ‘cream crowdie’.

This type of cheese can be difficult to find in some parts of the UK, so it’s now more commonly made with double cream. The crowdie or cream is whipped with whisky and mixed with lightly toasted oatmeal and honey (heather honey is best if you can get hold of it) and topped with raspberries. It’s usually served in a glass although sometimes all the component parts of the dessert are brought to the table individually so that diners can assemble their own cranachan to their tastes, adding more or less oats, for example, or adding an extra glug of honey.

oats for cranachan

Cranachan variations

There are lots of different ways you can combine the ingredients to create your own version of cranachan.

Vegans don’t need to miss out on this traditional Scottish dessert. There are vegan substitutes for cream these days, and the honey could be replaced with either agave syrup or maple syrup to give the dessert its sweetness.

Oats are naturally gluten free but are sometimes produced alongside gluten-containing ingredients, so if you avoid gluten or are coeliac, you may want to opt for gluten-free oats.

If you don’t want to add whisky to your cranachan, you can make it alcohol-free by opting for a splash of orange juice or vanilla essence instead of whisky. Or, if you simply don’t like whisky, you can replace the whisky with rum.

There are also plenty of ways to elevate your cranachan. Some people like to add ginger to the traditional recipe, creating a warming dessert that’s perfect for colder days. Or why not try orange or chocolate cranachan, using toasted hazelnuts in place of raspberries along with light muscovado sugar instead of honey, and chocolate?

You could also make a cranachan trifle or enjoy the dessert on the go with cranachan-inspired flapjacks that omit the cream and use oats, raspberries, and honey as the main ingredients. It’s your choice whether to add a splash of whisky to the mixture or not!

Cranachan recipe 

Serves 4 
300g raspberries 
2 tbsp steel-cut oats 
350ml double cream 
2 tbsp honey 
2 tbsp malt whisky

1. Toast the oats in a frying pan for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.

2. Whip the double cream until thick, then mix in the honey and whisky little by little until you achieve the flavour you want.

3. Crush half of the raspberries with a fork and add them to the whisky cream mixture, stirring together to create a ripple effect.

4. Divide the mixture between 4 bowls or glasses and use the remaining raspberries to garnish. Add a drizzle of honey to finish. 

Are you planning on making this cranachan recipe for Burns Night? We’d love to see pics of your delicious creations! Hop on over to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or Twitter and use the hashtag #BBCMaestro to show off what you’ve made.

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