Traditional Bubble and Squeak

by Elaine Lemm
2 to 4 servings

Bubble and squeak is a quirky name for a dish that is mostly fried leftover vegetables, usually from Sunday lunch—making it popular for Monday lunch or dinner. It’s also a popular British appetizer.

The origins of the name bubble and squeak are not known, but there is a reference in the “Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” from 1785: “Bubble and squeak is beef and cabbage fried together. It is so-called from its bubbling up and squeaking while over the fire.” In Ireland, colcannon is made from mashed potatoes, cabbage or kale, and onion, and it’s very similar to bubble and squeak, as is rumbledethumps in Scotland.

Traditionally, bubble and squeak will be eaten on a Monday for lunch or dinner, sometimes with a fried egg on top, and can include a little bacon or leftover meat from the day before. It makes a nice side dish for a meaty dinner, too. There are no hard-and-fast rules for this recipe except for mashed potatoes—it’s the “glue” that holds the dish together. Use bubble and squeak as a way to use up whatever you have left from dinner and transform it into something delicious.


6 tablespoons unsalted butter (or vegetable oil)
1/2 cup onion (finely chopped)
1 pound mashed potatoes (about 2 cups)
1 cup leftover vegetables (e.g., cabbage, kale, peas, cooked swede, cooked carrots, and/or cooked Brussels sprouts; finely chopped)
Optional: bacon pieces, leftover roast, bangers, and/or ham pieces
Salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
For serving: fried or poached eggs

Steps to Make It

Gather the ingredients.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat and make sure it doesn’t brown. Add the finely chopped onion and fry gently for about 3 minutes or until soft and translucent.

Turn the heat up ever so slightly and add the mashed potato and all of the chopped up leftover vegetables. Add the chopped meat, if using. Fry for at least 10 minutes, turning everything over continuously in the melted butter to ensure that the potato and vegetables are thoroughly reheated. You are also aiming to brown (but not burn) the outside edges of the vegetables, so occasionally press the mixture into the pan to brown a little before turning.

Finally, when the mixture is heated right through, give the vegetables one long final press onto the base of the pan with a spatula and leave to cook for 1 minute. Flip over and repeat. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with either a fried or poached egg on top. Enjoy.