5 British Food Items You Won’t Find in Major U.S. Grocery Stores

You can make them yourself, but you most likely won't find prepared sausage rolls in your local American grocery store. (Photo via JamieOliver.com)

You can make them yourself, but you most likely won’t find prepared sausage rolls in your local American grocery store. (Photo via JamieOliver.com)

If you ask any British expat what he or she misses most about their homeland, the majority will eventually—after perhaps citing their friends and family—list that very important element of day-to-day living: food.

Though most British food items can be found in specialized stores such as Ohio’s Wise Choice British Foods—which also boasts a comprehensive online food order catalog—the vast majority of products are not likely to adorn the aisles of Wal-Mart or even Meijer. Though the latter is indeed known among expatriates for its British aisle (haha, get it?), said aisle is usually restricted to a mere 25 or so items, mostly of the non-perishable variety.

And so, here is a list of those wonderful British food items that cannot be found in major American grocery stores.

1. Chocolate Bars
While it is true that certain incarnations of the flagship Cadbury bar can be found fairly easily stateside, popular Cadbury chocolate bars such as Crunchie, Twirl and Flake are not so easy to come by. Nor, for that matter, are products by the likes of Thorntons, Rowntree’s (formerly) and Divine Chocolate Limited. It is a good idea to stock up on these items before leaving the United Kingdom ahead of your new life across the Pond.

2. Sausage Rolls
Given America’s love affair with hot dogs and corn dogs, it is surprising that sausage rolls have yet to catch on this side of the Pond. Indeed, it can be an odd feeling pushing your trolley (or cart, as it is known in the U.S.) through the baked goods section and not see signs for sausage rolls. Thankfully, for those who like to bake, the United States is by no means absent the ingredients. Click here for baking directions provided by Britain’s own Jamie Oliver.

3. Pies and pasties
It’s only when you move away that you start to realize just how many wonderful types of pie and/or pasties the British Isles has to offer. Whether you’re a fan of steak and kidney pie, shepherd’s (or cottage) pie, or just a good old pork pie, you’re likely to be left disappointed once more in the bakery section. And if that were not a hard enough pill to swallow, the word “pasty” is barely even known in the United States.

4. Pop drinks
Okay, so these aren’t technically food items, but given the caloric intake of most fizzy drinks (or soda, pop, or coke in the U.S., depending on where you are), it is perhaps just as well to bracket said drinks together with food. Among those that you won’t find in major American grocery stores are Irn-Bru, Lilt and Lucozade, while the likes of Vimto may well have simply fallen victim to the United States’ ban on black currant production. Indeed, as America’s so-called “forbidden fruit,” black currant is actually an alien term to the majority of Americans.

5. Crisps and finger food
It is one of the more well-known word differences; Americans refer to crisps as chips (or potato chips). But a more tangible difference in this particular subcategory is the type of crisp products each country has to offer. While Walkers crisps (branded as Lay’s in the United States) are widely produced across America, popular flavors like roast chicken and prawn cocktail are virtually impossible to find, while products such as Hula Hoops, Wotsits and Monster Munch are also noticeably absent. Meanwhile, whether you love them or hate them, Twiglets are also missing, perhaps for the very reason that Americans don’t typically understand marmite—another item that, along with several other spreads and dips, is not exactly lighting up shelves across the 50 states.

What other British foods do you have trouble finding in U.S. supermarkets? Tell us below:

See more:
Why the U.S. Should Adopt British-Style Supermarkets
We’re Not in Tesco Anymore: Six Ways U.S. Supermarkets Differ From British Ones
A British Expat’s Guide to Living in Indiana

  • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

    I’m not surprised merchants don’t even bother to sell Twiglets. I love ‘em but they are rather “polarizing”.

  • Lesley

    easy sausage rolls – take a pack of frozen puff pastry and let it defrost. cut the 2 sheets in half so you end up with 4 long, thin rectangles. Take a pound or so of whatever sausage you like, I just use jimmy dean regular or the sage version and make a long line of the sausage down each rectangle. Brush one end of the pastry with milk and fold it over the sausage meat. Cut into portions of about an inch to an inch and a half (approximately). Bake in a hot oven, 425F for 10-15 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden. Serve with lashings of brown sauce and enjoy!

    • CO2VA

      That’s a nice easy option for sausage rolls. Can you confirm that 15 minutes is enough to cook the sausage meat thoroughly? I get real squidgy about undercooked meat!

      • Lesley

        Once the pastry is cooked then yes the sausage is cooked. the sausage rolls are cut up quite small, although it has been a while since I made them (they are a seasonal food item in my house) so it might be 20 mins, but I remember them being faster than that

        • CO2VA

          Thanks!

          • Simon J. Wells

            I like to use an egg wash on the top of the pastry… Also my Mum says 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes works better.

    • Jwb52z

      I am wondering if this is how America developed what are called “pigs in blankets”.

    • EmmaK

      Thanks so much! I will get onto this. I’ve been missing sausage rolls so much

    • Pickwick2

      And in the spirit of the season, here’s my favorite version of pigs in a blanket:

      http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e6/af/36/e6af365c085338c4e69e4a134d44bb68.jpg

  • pmpknkt

    The word pasty is known in the United States, just not for food.

    • Jwb52z

      It’s also pronounced differently. The food type is something you’d most likely only know if you’re either a nutritional anthropologist, a food historian, or you watch a huge amount of programming on the Food Network.

      • Terri Croft

        Or read Harry Potter…

    • Baggins

      Tell that to a Michigander, pasties are very big in Michigan. Especially the Upper Peninsula

      • http://marthafaye.blogspot.com/ Marti Abernathey

        People that live in the UP, aren’t Americans. Not really. ;)

        • Sabrina Monson

          Ummm…. actually I am from the U.P. and I was going to comment on the pasties in Michigan before Baggins did. I don’t know of a place that would ship them anywhere though I am sure there is one or two. I have never liked pasties so never needed the info.

    • diggrrl

      There is a difference between “pasty” with a long A, and “pasty” with a short A.

  • papacciola

    I guess I got lucky. Fairway actually has a “British Aisle” I easily spend over $50 a week in that aisle alone. You ask and they will get it, I had 5 bags of pickled onion Monster Munch last week but, had no clue there was a ban on Blackcurrant. Pasties and pies unfortunately have to be home made regularly. What I wouldn’t do for a Greggs cheese and onion pasty right now!!!!

  • Hiddy

    Squash, the drink. Clotted Cream. Custard

    • maggie

      The English Tea Store sells jars of clotted cream, and custard powder

      • Jwb52z

        Someone should write an article on the differences between foods. I wonder what the actual difference is between clotted cream and cottage cheese because as far as I can tell is that clotted cream looks like it is just whipped up to pulverize the curds.

        • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

          They’re actually nothing alike. Cottage cheese is a pretty smooth (milder) taste compared to clotted cream. Clotted cream’s lumps aren’t as solid as cottage cheese.

    • Melissa Hill

      publix sells Byrds custard in the sachets and tins, world market sells clotted cream :-)

      • dw

        That ain’t custard!

  • CO2VA

    A couple of other things that you can usually only find in ‘specialty’ stores:
    Salad Cream
    Sandwich Spread
    Marmite

    I know marmite is one of those things you either love or hate, but by gum, I love the stuff!

    • maggie

      me too. When our daughter came for a visit last Christmas she brought me the largest jar of Marmite she could find. I can get it here but it is pretty expensive for a small jar.

    • Simon J. Wells

      Most of the Meijer stores around here (and Marsh) carry Salad Cream

    • Liza

      Educate this non-Brit: what the devil are salad cream and sandwich spread?

      • maggie

        Salad cream is similar to Miracle whip, it has a tangier taste than mayonnaise.

      • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

        And sandwich spread is thicker with “bits” in it. Very tangy. (The “bits” are things like cucumber, gherkin etc.) A bit like a relish consistency.

      • CO2VA

        I once heard Salad Cream described as ‘Ketchup for Salads’. :-) it has the same consistency as ketchup, but is a creamy salad dressing that is a taste all of its own. Delicious!

      • dw

        in a word, disgusting :)

      • Pickwick2

        Sandwich spread is akin to Thousand Island Dressing. Salad cream is like Thousand Island Dressing, but missing the bits. Both are thicker than Thousand Island.

    • Wendy

      Kroger stores in Virginia carry salad cream.

  • maggie

    I can get Ribena here and Marmite, aero bars and McVites. I would love do get decent sausage meat to make sausage rolls, don’t like Jimmy Dean. I make my own steak and kidney pies when I’m lucky enough to find kidneys in the store, which is not very often. Even tour stand alone butcher’s shop doesn’t have them . In fact I made two pies last week :) I’m planning on ordering from the English Pork Pie

    Company for my sausages and pork pies. I would also love to be able to get packages of mixed fruit to make a fruit cake. I did send a request to the English Tea Store if they could get some. They also have Bisto and Oxos and custard powder as well as various chocolates and biscuits etc from back home

    • PC

      You could always pop in to British Delights on Powers Road in Westford MA. They carry all that stuff including meat producrs

      • maggie

        thank you.

  • Kerowin

    The Harris teeter store where I work has a small British section. Irn Bru, Vimto, Penguins,Flakes, Aeros , Salad Cream to name a few. Unfortunately, no meat products or crisps. :(

  • Brianna

    Certain states have pasties – pretty popular in Michigan. Can’t speak to the quality, though.

    • Guy Montag

      Bessie’s in St Ignace, MI makes excellent reproductions of the Cornish original, as does the Cornish Pasty Co in Mesa/Tempe , AZ

      • CO2VA

        If you’re in the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland area, check out the Pure Pasty Co. (http://www.purepasty.com/) They have the best selection of home baked pasties, pies and more.

    • James Barnwell

      Depends on who makes them.Our local coffee shop makes pasties which i like better than a commercial made pastie from northern michigan.

  • Jwb52z

    The closest thing America has to marmite is a waste product that is created in the beer brewing process that no one eats.

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

      That would make sense since Marmite is Yeast. Yum.

    • dw

      You could probably get pretty close by grinding up beef jerky and adding it to butter.

      (as you may be able to tell, I’m a fan of neither marmite nor beef jerky).

  • Melissa Hill

    Fox’s classics

  • Macushla

    For you expat northerners – World Market / Cost Plus carries Dandelion and Burdock!

  • frogman

    Baked beans…without some form of meat in them. Decent tea – Assam or Darjeeling loose leaf.
    Cheese – that actually tastes of something.

    • Simon J. Wells

      Bushs vegetarian baked beans are almost perfect

    • K Dychton

      I had to laugh, I recently asked my supermarket cheese department why they didnt carry English cheeses. She said “of course they did” and pointed to the cheddar!!

      • frogman

        Well, at least she knew that Cheddar originally came from England! I must admit I did come across a decent cheese shop in SF and was really disappointed that the Mexican cheeses were so bland.

      • K Dychton

        I’m from the north of England originally so Lancashire and Cheshire are among my favorites. I’ve wondered if they just don’t travel well.

  • Julia

    If you go to NY, Myers of Keswick not only have pantry stuff but is also a butcher – making their own sausages (including cumberland), pies, sausage rolls, scotch eggs etc. A bit expensive and I prefer my own sausage rolls but definitely worth a visit for a fix!

  • Sandra Mettler

    Nothing at all resembling clotted cream in America. And Americans absolutely cannot make scones! Those dried up triangular things at Starbucks and Corner Bakery are not scones!

    • James Barnwell

      As for clotted cream, have you tried British Food Depot,(New York) or British Food Shop in California?

      • James Barnwell

        These companies import food items from the U.K.. They are on the internet as is the English tea store.

    • Sandra Mohabir-McKinley

      Whole Foods sells Devonshire clotted cream though it’s not cheap.

  • Simon J. Wells

    Funny… I recently made my own Sausage rolls for the first time since moving here back in 1997… Came out pretty good… I also have the habit of always trying the scotch eggs at any restaurant that has them (Broadripple brewpub are my favorites, sadly Red Lion’s are not so good)

  • maggie

    The English Tea store is offering free shipping which ends Nov 1.

  • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

    We have a great shop in Chicago called Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods (Irving Park and Southport). Every time I go there I spend more and more money, but I’ve found some items make great small gifts for teachers, hosts etc.

  • Sharon Stroud Broussard

    Mind the “Cadbury” chocolate that you find in Wal-Mart, Target, et. al., as it’s produced in Pennsylvania. And tastes like rubbish.

    • dw

      It’s still better than Hershey’s brand stuff.

      • Sharon Stroud Broussard

        Quite true! :)

        • robin

          WOW…I must be missing some good chocolate if you think Cadbury is better than Hershey’s here in the US! Remind me to take an extra suitcase for English chocolates when I finally get the chance (i.e. money) to go across the pond! LOL

          • Sarcastic Misanthrope

            British Chocolates are far superior to anything in the U.S. Even Godiva’s.

          • Juli Agat

            Hogwash!!! Horse Crap!! Whatever you want to call it !! That’s not true!!!

          • Sharon

            Hershey’s was always the best to me… Lol.. But I’m a native Texan!!! Lol

      • Nancy

        Actually…it IS Hershey’s, which is why it’s so bad. Hershey has the license to make Cadbury chocolate in the US, which is why it’s made in Pennsylvania and isn’t anything like the genuine article. Hershey doesn’t make good chocolate, but has managed to brainwash my countryfolk into thinking that they do. Stick to importers for the real thing.

        • dw

          Right. There’s a hierarchy:

          1. Chocolate manufactured by Cadbury’s
          2. Chocolate branded as Cadbury’s, manufactured by Hershey’s
          3. Chocolate branded as Hershey’s

    • lucascott

      Imagine my delight in finding a giant candy shop in LA that carries real Cadbury.

      Plus a more general food shop in Santa Monica

  • K Dychton

    There is a terrific store in Buffalo, NY called the Engish Pork Pie Company. Its only about 60 miles from me and well worth the drive but they do online too. UK sausage has different seasonings that the US even when they try to call it “english” sausage. BPPC sells pies, sausage (rolls), bacon, pasties all really good!! http://www.englishporkpiecompany.com/

  • Lyn – VA

    Hey I make sausage rolls like Lesley but I still miss the British sausage. In VA try Harris Teeters, Wegmans and World Market – all have a limited range of UK items. Been away from UK for a 11 years and still miss so much of the food – you have all made me homesick

  • Robjinusa

    Actually we do have a version of the great old sausage roll over here in the USA called pigs in a blanket :)

  • jenisedai

    If you are lucky enough to live near a Publix you can often find some hard to find products there (I’ve even seen Irn Bru) and if they don’t have it they’re usually happy to special order it for you. And if they get enough requests they’ll start stocking it.

  • colinmeister

    Kidneys seem to be near impossible to find in America, and even a staple like suet is not everywhere. I have to make my own sage and onion and thyme and parsley stuffings, since there is some arcane restriction preventing the import of Paxo and similar stuffing mixtures.
    I have lived in USA for 25 years now, and am liking it less each day!

    • Bob G.

      Me too, and I’m a native!

  • disqus_BCa0FyIebd

    Unless you live in the sticks most of the major grocery stores now have expanding British sections, I have seen them at some Stater Bros and Albertsons in CA. If you want a bigger selection just go to the local Indian Store. If you can’t locate one you may want to ask the staff at a local Indian/Pakistan restaurant they may know. Most things frozen come from Canada, however if you live in a major metro area e.g. LA then there are actual business that make British pies etc. Also helps to be in a big ex -pat area e.g. Cardiff-on-Sea, Santa Monica, Ft. Lauderdale etc.

  • Pickwick2

    I’d kill for easily available bangers. I can get them, but it’s a pilgrimage and I have to plan.

    Did not know that Lays was the US version of Walkers (Lays is my preferred brand). Must write them a letter asking for prawn cocktail flavor. I’m intrigued!

    P.S. Pies and pasties aren’t readily available in stores, but many restaurants offer them.

  • stan

    i believe they list frozen shepards pie in the schawns catalog,also if you don’t think pork is done you can finish by microwaving since a microwave cooks from the inside out if it didn’t get hot enough inside

  • stan

    there are some bugs in all pork that if it is undercooked they take up residence in every cell in a persons body i think they are called cycloplasts i love sausage but i really am animate about it being well done.

  • Michelle Pell

    I live just outside of Chicago and our grocer sells two different brands of pasties.

  • myra463

    Pasties mean something entirely different in the US, and not related to food. Also, in the southern states we refer to pop as “soft drinks.”

    • Bob G.

      “Pasties mean something entirely different in the US” The pronunciation is quite different and the two meanings.would be easy to discern.

  • JDM

    Mushy peas, salad cream and cockles!

  • Lisa Duskis

    I usually go to Cost Plus World Market for my chocolate, they have a somewhat decent British food section.

    But, I’m an expat Aussie, so I make do with British foods, but at least I can get my Tim Tams and vegemite from there. Now, if they’d start selling the Aussie Milo I’d be happy. Yeah, I know there are some major US retailers that sell Milo – but each has a different flavour depending on where it is made!

    I’ve got about four different “varieties” all made in different parts of the world, and each has a distinct taste and texture.

  • JPBauer

    Love jelly babies but jammy dodgers are absolutely tasteless (like sawdust)

  • dp

    It’s also extremely difficult to find Bitter Lemon over here. Some states have un-banned currants, so they’re starting to make a comeback, but they still have a long way to go. I was so unfamiliar with them that for years I thought they were some sort of pastry. As for the sausage rolls, try kolaches and kobalinskys, especially pan sausage ones- they won’t be identical, but they’re very good and can be had at almost any donut shop (as well as specialty markets in places with a highly German or Czech descended population).

    • dp

      *klobasniky ugh autocorrect

  • zzz05

    Walkers (or other) oatcakes

  • Sandra Mohabir-McKinley

    Cadbury’s chocolate not made under license by Hershey’s; Thornton’s chock; Frank Cooper’s marmalade; salad cream; good instant coffee; marzipan; suet for Christmas pudding; moist tasty fruit cakes; black pudding…the list goes on and on! Oh, and anything from M&S!!!

  • Pingback: 7 British Food Habits Americans Will Never Understand | Mind The Gap | BBC America

  • sue

    You never used to be able to buy Branston Pickle, I don’t know if you can now.

  • Bruce

    If I may chime in as a native born American who likes to try new things, and also a Whovian, JELLY BABIES! I have to order them from Amazon and wait forever to get them. They are addictive!

  • Mike Willis

    One of my favorite foods is Cornish pasties. Unfortunately, you just can’t find them very many places in Virginia
    http://www.londondrivers.com/

  • Wendy Eames

    I have had the jarred clotted cream Whole Foods sells, it’s pale, bland & too watery. The fresh I had in England was pale yellow & thick enough to stand on it’s own. The jarred will serve to moisten a scone & that’s all.
    The 2 don’t compare : (

  • Mitch

    Frijj – the U.S doesnt have Frijj.
    that delectable thick and smooth milkshake that makes me go off into a brief daydream about ……….. for a couple of minutes.
    -chocolate, banana, strawberry, cookie dough, banoffee, sticky toffee, raspberry and white chocolate. (limited orange and mint flavours too).

  • Juli Agat

    Honestly, I belive that these foods above are nearly exactly the same as in Great Britain. They are just labeled a different name. Also, Americans can too cook scones! My scones are made properly, and administered along with peppermint tea; or Boston Creme. And this is coming from an incompetent child of age 14.