An oatcake is a type of cracker or pancake, made from oatmeal, and sometimes flour as well. Oatcakes are cooked on a griddle.

Oatcakes may be more familiar to Americans in the form of their cousin, the Johnnycake, made of cornmeal, often cooked on a board, shovel, or even stones, just as the Scottish did in the past.

Scottish oatcakes

Oatcakes are widely considered to be the national bread of Scotland, and have held that position for many centuries. They were even baked by the Romans in Scotland. They are made almost entirely of oats, the only cereal to flourish in northern Scotland. Traditionally, each community had its own mill to grind oats from local crofts and supply oatmeal for every household. These oats formed the Highlanders' staple diet of porridge and oatcakes.

Scottish soldiers in the 14th Century carried a metal plate and a sack of oatmeal. According to contemporary accounts, one would heat the plate over fire, moisten a bit of oatmeal and make a cake to "comfort his stomach. Hence it is no marvel that the Scots should be able to make longer marches than other men."

Samuel Johnson referred, disparagingly, to this staple diet in his dictionary definition for oats:

A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.

Lord Elibank was said by Sir Walter Scott to have retorted

Yes, and where else will you see such horses and such men?.

Nowadays, many brands of oatcakes are commercially available, such as Nairns, Paterson's, and Walkers.

Similar oatcakes are produced in Ireland, in a shared tradition with the Scottish. Ditty's is a brand of Irish oatcake.

North Staffordshire and Derbyshire oatcakes

A North Staffordshire oatcake is a type of pancake made from oatmeal, flour and yeast, and cooked on a griddle or 'baxton'. It is a local speciality in the North Staffordshire area of England, and so may be known to non-locals as a Staffordshire oatcake or Potteries oatcake. In and around the Potteries and south Cheshire, they are simply known as oatcakes.

Derbyshire Oatcakes are similar to Staffordshire Oatcakes, but generally smaller in diameter, and thicker.

It was once common throughout the Potteries for oatcakes to be sold through the window directly to the street. Only one of these remains and most oatcakes are now produced by one local commercial concern. There are however a few dozen small businesses still thriving in North Staffordshire selling Oatcakes in the original manner.

When pre-cooked, it is a form of fast food, and catering outlets in the area usually offer oatcakes with fillings such as cheese, tomato, onion, bacon, sausage and egg. They are also eaten with sweet fillings such as jam or banana. They are traditionally re-heated by steaming between two plates over a saucepan of water or nowadays by microwave, though some may prefer frying in butter or grilling.


  • Sinclair, Molly. Scottish Heritage Cookbook. Heritage Cookbooks. Mission San Jose, California: 1990.

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