What the Heck Is “Toad in the Hole”?

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If you have never encountered toad in the hole, your first impression may be that the dish involves a frog’s cousin in some strange way. The good news is that there is no amphibian cuisine involved here because the ‘toad’ is actually sausages.

The dish consists of a large Yorkshire pudding with sausages laid inside it, then finished with vegetables and onion gravy. No one is entirely certain where the name came from, though some think it is named so because the sausages look like a toad raising its head from his hole.


In 1861, Charles Elme Francatelli wrote of the dish but said that any kind of meat could be used, usually whatever was “cheapest at night when the day’s sale is over.” It was described as English cooked-again stewed meat rather than specifying sausages.

However, by 1891, an Italian cuisine book referred to the dish as Toad in the Hole and described it as leftover stewed meat that had been re-cooked in batter. During the war years, Spam was used in place of sausages.

While Toad in the Hole has seen some modern interpretations including herbs and garlic to various parts of the mixture, most British will tell you that the plain and simple Yorkshire pudding is always best.

Yorkshire pudding

Photo by Antony Shepherd

Perhaps your next quesion is what exactly is a Yorkshire pudding? The simple answer is that it is made by pouring a batter of milk, flour and eggs. The most common serving of a Yorkshire pudding is with a Sunday roast – roast meat, gravy, and vegetables.

The Yorkshire pudding is older than the Toad in the Hole with the first mention of a ‘dripping pudding’ dating back to 1737. By 1747, it was being referred to as Yorkshire pudding, though its form was flatter than the pudding known today. It was a cheap way of filling out a meal, rather than scrounging for more meat or vegetables.

At one time, in some of the poorest households, the drippings and blood from the roast of an earlier meal would be used to flavour the pudding and stretch a single meal into two. A gravy or sauce was used to moisten the pudding.

As well as being an essential part of the Sunday roast, Yorkshire pudding was also traditionally served as a sweet; with sugar, golden syrup jam or even a sauce made with orange juice. Ramekins or muffin tins can also be used to make a smaller size or specific shape of pudding. The traditional formula uses 1/3 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of liquid per egg.

"What the Heck Is “Toad in the Hole”?" originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.