British Steak and Kidney Pudding is a traditional savory British dish that’s both rich and hearty. Tender pieces of beef steak and kidney are cooked in a rich Guinness gravy, steamed (rather than baked) in a flaky suet based (beef fat) pastry.
Just in time for St Patrick’s Day, this classic savory pudding is delicious when served with peas (as mum used to do), but you can serve any vegetables you like.
Steak and kidney is a classic filling not just for this pudding, but is also be used in a classic pie form for a Steak and Kidney pie that is also one of Englands national dishes.
Savory v’s sweet pudding
Not to confuse things (I hope), in the U.K., we also refer to pudding as a dessert.
Kidneys are a popular ingredient used in British cooking, but they’re not for everyone as they do have a very rich and intense flavor. If they are not to your liking, then you will love my British Steak and Ale Pie which has a very similar filling, minus the kidney.
What is the difference between Steak and Kidney Pudding and Steak and Kidney Pie?
In a nutshell, a pudding uses suet pastry and is steamed while a pie uses the same filling with a shortcrust (traditional pie crust) pastry that is baked.
Steak and Kidney pudding is a very old dish born in the 1800’s. It is one of the most popular British comfort foods and “pub grub” that can be purchased in supermarkets in tins (Fray Bentos being the most popular brand). But of course, homemade is always best.
Suet pastry is an old fashioned British pastry that’s perfect for steaming. What exactly suet? It is the beef fat from around the beef kidneys. A good substitute would be either lard, beef tallow (a rendered form of beef fat) or vegetable shortening. Suet is different in texture than lard or shortening, but can be prepared the same way. Details are in the recipe.
A traditional pudding bowl is used for this this recipe. I use a 1.2 liter (2.5 pint) (6 x 4-inch/15 x 10 cm) ceramic pudding bowl/basin that I purchased on Amazon that is inexpensive.
After lining the bowl with the pastry, then adding the filling, a circle of pastry is put on top then the excess pastry is folded over and a good seal created. See picture above.
The bowl is tightly covered with foil and string is tied around the rim. I like to make a simple handle using string to help lift the bowl in and out of the steaming pan. See picture above.
How do you steam Steak and Kidney Pudding?
Fill a large pan with water, 3/4 of the way up to the top of the bowl. It is best use a ring of foil or upturned bowl to rest the bowl on to keep it raised off the bottom of the pan.
You can also steam steak and kidney pudding in a slow cooker. Your slow cooker must be tall enough to house the bowl and room for the lid. Cook on high for 6-8 hours.
It is best to keep the bowl off the bottom of the pan while steaming and this can be done with a small ceramic ramekin, or a piece of foil made into a ring (see picture above). All these details can be seen in the attached step-by-step video.
I’ve had some requests for adding garlic to the filling. Where it is not traditional, I have the option in the recipe to add a garlic cloves.
Add the vegetable oil and butter to a large, heavy, ovenproof saucepan or braising pan over medium high heat. Add the beef, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and cook, turning the pieces until brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
To the same pan, add the onion and carrot, cook until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add the kidney, stir. Add garlic, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to mix well and cook for 1 minute.
Sprinkle in the flour, mustard powder, rosemary and thyme and stir well until all the flour is well mixed. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the Guinness and stir until it starts to thicken. Stir in the beef stock and beef.
Cover with a lid and allow to come to a low simmer for 35-45 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for 15 more minutes to thicken the liquid. You do not want the liquid too runny, it should be thick. The meat should be quite tender, but will also continue cooking in the oven. Taste for seasoning, add the ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper if needed.
For the pastry:
Add the flour, baking powder, salt and suet to a large bowl. Drizzle in the water and mix using a fork until it starts to come together and holds together when pressed in your hand. You may not need all of the water. If using lard or shortening, you will need to rub between your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs, then add the water. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Cut off a ¼ of the dough and set aside.
Use the butter to grease well the inside of a 1.2 liter (2.5 pint) (6 x 4-inch/15 x 10 cm) ceramic pudding bowl/basin.
Roll out the large piece of dough into a 15 inches (38 cm) round, large enough to leave some hanging over the edge of the bowl. Transfer to the bowl and press evenly onto the inside of the bowl leaving some hanging over. Add the steak and kidney filling (reserving some gravy for serving) and flatten the top. You don’t want too much gravy in the filling as it may make the dough soggy. Roll out the 1/4 piece of the pastry into a circle to fit the top of the pudding. Fold the edges over the top of the circle and use water to wet your fingers to smooth the edges and create a nice seal.
Cut 2 circles of parchment paper to fit inside the bowl and a large circle of foil large enough to cover and a little down the side. Use the butter to grease both of the parchment pieces and lay one on top of the pudding, butter side down and the other on top of that, butter side down. Cover with foil and seal firmly. Tie a length of string around the rim to keep the foil in place. You can also tie another piece of string to that to make a handle. See the video to see step-by-step.
Add a riser of rolled up foil shaped into a circle or a small ceramic ramekin and place in the bottom of a large pan that has a lid. This is to keep the bowl off the bottom of the pan. Place the bowl on the riser in the pan and fill with water up to ¾ of the side of the bowl. Cover the pan with a lid. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. If your lid is well sealed the water should not evaporate so keep and eye on the water level and fill if needed.
After 2 hours remove the bowl from the pan and allow to cool slightly before removing the foil and parchment paper.
Place a large plate on top of the pudding and flip over. Slice and serve.
Suet is dried beef fat. Beef tallow or lard is a more readily available substitute in the U.S.
8 Comments on “British Steak and Kidney Pudding”
I used to love the individual steak and kidney puddings that were served at what used to be known as transport cafes. I emigrated to Australia in 1977 and haven’t had one since. I’m going out right now to buy the ingredients and a bowl. Thank you!
I hope my recipe lives up to what you remember and thanks for sharing your story. Please come back and leave a review to let me know how it turned out. Enjoy 😊
Originally, oysters would have been used instead of kidney as they were a cheap and abundent pauper food. As they became more expensive the oysters were replaced with kidney. Originally, puddings were tied up in cloth and boiled. Ceramic pudding basins are a much later invention and didn’t come into use until the 17th century. Suet is the fat from around the kidneys of a cow. It has a much higher melting point than any other animal fat and it produces a light pastry that crisps nicely on the outside. Lard or tallow would work but they would never produce the same delicious pastry that suet does. It’s good to see you enjoying this dish across the pond though. It’s my favourite and would be my last meal if I were on death row! God save the King!
Thank you for the additional info.
Very nice recipe and easier to make than I thought. I added mushrooms and a little carrot for sweetness. I couldn’t get the kids to eat the kidney 🙂
Ha ha, I’m happy you enjoyed it 🙂
After seeing your recipe show up in your newsletter, I saw kidney at the store and decided to buy it and give it a try. A little skeptical since I’ve never tasted kidney before. I made the pastry using lard step 1 accomplished, then step 2 was the filling. It smelled so good while cooking and I gave it a taste and happy to say I like it. I’ve never steamed a dish of this kind before and the pastry turned out really nice and moist. I enjoyed it, my wife, lets just say she moved the kidney to the side and ate the rest. Thank you for helping me expand my palate.
This is all wonderful to hear and I completely relate as my husband doesn’t have a taste for kidney either ☺️