What Is Welsh Rarebit And What Does It Taste Like?

Welsh rarebit is one of those dishes that is super-popular in its native Great Britain, but somehow never really caught on to any extent on the other side of the Atlantic. Perhaps it has something to do with its name — what's a rarebit, anyway? It doesn't help that the dish sometimes goes by the name of Welsh rabbit, either. No, it doesn't contain any bunnies whatsoever, not even a chocolate one. While its monikers may not be quite as off-putting as those other British favorites toad in the hole, bubble and squeak, and Eton mess, still, it really doesn't do justice to this super-simple, tasty dish. All Recipes reviewers describe the taste as a delicious treat that is "pure comfort food."

Welsh rarebit is a dressed-up version of another UK delicacy, cheese on toast. British Grub Hub (no relation to food delivery service GrubHub) explains that welsh rarebit, however, is a cheese sauce that is served over toast. The dish dates to 18th century Wales and was originally called caws pobi, another name that probably wouldn't have played too well across the pond. According to the Columbia Guide to Standard American English (via Archive.org), "Welsh rabbit" was the earlier term and likely meant as a slur against an ethnicity presumed to be too poor to eat even such lowly meat as rabbit. The name was later changed to rabbit either to make it less offensive or just to avoid confusion due to the dish not containing that meat.

How you make Welsh rarebit

Welsh rabbit was originally made with a type of Welsh cheese called Glamorgan, most likely the same product that was used to make another cheesy, and slightly misleadingly-named, Welsh specialty called Glamorgan sausages. British Grub Hub says that the Glamorgan breed of cattle nearly died out, though, and as a result, their namesake cheese did become extinct. Sharp cheddar is the type of cheese most often used in Welsh rabbit nowadays, although if you want something a bit Welsh-er you can use Caerphilly instead.

Additional ingredients this sauce usually contains include eggs, beer, Worcestershire sauce, mustard (dried, not prepared), salt, pepper, and maybe a sprinkle of cayenne or paprika. Recipes from The Pioneer Woman and Alton Brown (via Food Network) also call for butter, flour, and either milk or cream in addition to beer. If you want to make this dish entirely booze-free, you can make a milder, creamier, version by just using these liquids instead.

How to serve Welsh rarebit

The type of toast you use as a base for your Welsh rarebit is entirely up to you. While a nice, crusty baguette will make it look fancy, plain old supermarket sliced bread is perfectly serviceable as long as you toast it until it's crunchy and maybe let the toast dry out a bit before ladling on the sauce if you don't like things too mushy. Alton Brown prefers rye bread for his Welsh rarebit, and one Epicurious reader, commenting on a Gourmet magazine recipe posted to that site, mentioned that their mom used to serve the sauce atop Saltine crackers. Another reader, commenting on that same recipe, spoke of a rarebit-type dish that used brioche French toast.

While Welsh rabbit can be eaten as is for a light — and vegetarian — meal or a snack, you can make it even heartier, and tastier, by topping it with a few slices of bacon, ham, or a poached egg. A slice of grilled tomato also pairs nicely with toasted cheese, while another Epicurious commenter even suggested using pineapple as a topper. If you want to add a little color, The Pioneer Woman suggests you finish things off with a sprinkle of chopped chives.