Oat Cuisine: a selection of Scotland's definitive biscuit

  • The Larder
  • 1 May 2009

Mary Contini of Valvona & Crolla helps us pick through the crumbs

Oatcakes are the definitive Scottish biscuit, but there’s a vast range. The Larder got together with Mary Contini in the Valvona & Crolla Food Hall in Jenners to sample a selection.

Nairns Organic Oatcakes

In their green tartan box with convenient, individually portioned packets, these are one of the more ‘polished’ oatcake varieties available. They contain no added sugar and are made using rough oatmeal and without the addition of wheat flour – which cannot be said of all oatcakes, so those with intolerances beware. A relatively neutral taste, they would perhaps make a good vehicle for a strong cheese or game pâté.

Macleans Cocktail Oatcakes

From the small Outer Hebridean island of Benbecula come these lovely little bite-sized oatcakes, produced by Macleans’ small but successful family business. They have a home-baked feel to them and smell fresh and sweet, although they contain no sugar. Darker in colour and flavour from a longer bake, with their unusual grainy texture they are both rich and moist. Also made in a larger, triangular size, these are one of our favourites.

Isle of Skye Baking Co Original

These attractively packaged oatcakes are one example of a wide range of goods from a small independent bakery in Portree, Skye. Made in the traditional way – using lard and a combination of fine oats and pinhead oatmeal – these oatcakes have a rough, dry texture and a rustic, home-baked style. Notable more for their texture than any distinctive flavour, they’re designed as a good carrier for cheese or perhaps marmalade.

Paterson’s Olive Oil Oatcakes

Paterson’s markets these oatcakes as being orang-utan friendly, as they avoid the use of contentious palm oil, the cultivation of which endangers vast numbers of rainforest wildlife in south-east Asia. This particular variety has a crisp, high-baked texture, though there’s no doubting the olive oil gives them a distinctive taste. Made using the bare minimum ingredients – oats, oil and salt – these are good for vegetarians and those with wheat intolerances.

Stockan & Gardens Cocktail Oatcakes

Another island entry, this time from Stromness in Orkney. These elegant little oatcakes benefit from the addition of a little sugar as well as the usual salt, giving them an appealing sweet and salty tang. The texture is grainy and mealy – almost buttery – thanks to the combination of oats and wheat. Also sold in quarter round (triangular) packs of varying thickness – which itself alters the way the oatcake tastes.

Wooleys Arran Oatcakes

In general oatcakes suffer from flimsy and unattractive packaging, so these stand out from the crowd with their easily resealed or folded bag. Their crisp texture, high-baked flavour and fresh, home-baked smell are appealing, but as a thick oatcake they offer more than a hint of digestive biscuit – possibly thanks to the addition of brown sugar to the mix.

Adamson’s of Pittenweem

These well-known hand-made oatcakes have a distinctive triangular shape and are rough-and-ready in appearance. Unfortunately they don’t travel well and tend to break easily, not helped by rather flimsy packaging. While they are nutty, rustic oatcakes with an old-fashioned and traditional charm, their thickness and large size make eating just one quite an undertaking.


These oatcakes have been made using the same Inverurie family recipe since 1928, and are a good example of the fact that many small local bakeries still produce their own oatcake. Unusually for an oatcake recipe, they contain a splash of milk, which gives them a crumbly, soft texture. Very thin and with a high fat content, these oatcakes taste unlike any of the other brands on the market.

Perthshire Oatcakes

This small independent Perthshire bakery makes four different styles of oatcake, all in a distinctive rectangular or square shape. The green-packaged ‘Traditional’ variety are pale in appearance and have a fairly soft, floury texture. The yellow-labelled ‘Thin and crispy’ variety are sweeter, with a crisp, crunchy texture that finds an affinity with cheese. A popular artisan product, the range also includes a thicker sweet oatcake and a black pepper version.

Walkers Fine Oatcake

These factory-produced oatcakes are very different from their hand-made cousins, both in appearance and texture. Vegetarian and with a high oat content, this variety is fine and slightly floury – although curiously contains no wheat flour. They are savoury, with no sugar added, but are on the bland side. The packaging features text in a variety of languages, reflecting these oatcakes’ scope in the export market.

Isle of Skye Baking Company – Dill & Black Pepper

Another strong contender from the little Skye bakery. Plenty of pinhead oatmeal in the recipe creates a nutty texture, with a taste that is spicy and savoury, with just a hint of the herby dill at the end. Peppery without being too intense, they would go well with a mild creamy goat’s cheese or crowdie, perhaps with the addition of some smoked salmon for a bit of luxury.

Stoats Cracked Black Pepper Oatcake

These are very ‘short’ oatcakes, made without the addition of flour. Crispy but not crunchy, they are light in both taste and texture. The black pepper is definitely present, but not so intense as to mask the good-quality basic oatcake underneath. An underlying sweetness comes through the spice, which makes these oatcakes a great match for a smoked fish pâté.

The earliest oatcakes were made in the seventeeth century using a mixture of barley and oats, creating a filling breakfast biscuit that could keep a worker going until evening. With little wheat flour available to bake bread, oatcakes were also valued for their keeping qualities, offering a traveller sustenance for many days into his journey.

A MacLeans Bakery (Benbecula) Ltd.
Uachdar Balivanich, Isle of Benbecula, Western Isles, HS7 5LY
For over fifteen years the MacLean brothers have been baking breads, cakes and oatcakes from MacLean's Hebridean Bakery on the outskirts of Balivanich. A small, independent bakery, Allan MacLean remains still personally involved in the baking of all…
B The Isle of Skye Baking Company
Portree Wool Mill, off Dunvegan Road, , Portree, Isle of Skye, Highland, IV51 9HG
Operating from their home kitchen until they moved into their own bakery with shop, cafe and art gallery in 2010, Barry and Liza Hawthorne run an independent bakery set up originally to make oatcakes and shortbread for Skye. A pastry chef by profession…
C Wooleys of Arran
Invercloy, Brodick, Isle of Arran, North Ayrshire, KA27 8AJ
Wooley's of Arran bake breads, rolls, cakes and their famous oatcakes in their Brodick bakery, selling there and from a smaller shop in Lamlash.
D Perthshire Oatcakes
Strowan Farm, Crieff, Perth and Kinross, PH7 4HU
Using the only brand of oatmeal guaranteed to be Scottish from seed to mill to finished product, Perthshire Oatcakes (known until recently as the Handmade Oatcake Company) now produce nine varieties. These take in the traditional to more adventurous…
E Paterson Arran Ltd
The Royal Burgh Bakery, Livingston, West Lothian, EH54 5DN
Paterson Arran Ltd began as a family business in 1890 and is now a leading supplier of shortbread, oatcakes, biscuits and other foodstuffs to the retail and food service industries. The company's brands also include the Bronte brand of biscuits, the…
F Stockan's Oatcakes Ltd
The Granary 25 North End Road, Stromness, Orkney Islands, KW16 3AG
Stockan's are one of the leading oatcake manufacturers in Scotland, supplying oatcakes and biscuits to the retail and wholesale markets. Their signature product, the oatcake, has a distinctive triangular shape. Stockan's products are widely distributed…
G Walkers Shortbread
Aberlour-on-Spey, Moray, AB38 9PD
The company was founded by Joseph Walker when he opened his village bakery in 1898 and today his grandchildren and great grandchildren carry forward the tradition of baking the finest shortbreads, biscuits, cakes and oatcakes, using his original…
H Nairn's Oatcakes Ltd.
90 Peffermill Road, Edinburgh, EH16 5UU
Baking oatcakes since 1888, Nairn's use only wholegrain oats grown in the Scottish Borders (except for gluten-free products). They now make a range of oatcakes, oat biscuits, oaty bakes and gluten-free foods, all free of artificial colourings, flavours…
I Stoats Porridge Bars
24 West Telferton, Edinburgh, EH7 6UL
Stoats, founded in 2004, are really, really enthusiastic about porridge. The company began as a mobile provider of fresh porridge to customers at music festivals, but customers queueing at the Stoats Porridge Bar were sometimes confused that they…
J Adamson's Pittenweem Handmade Oatcakes
12 Routine Row, Pittenweem, Fife, KY10 2LG
Allegedly the oldest bakery in the UK, Adamson's exclusively produce hand-made oatcakes from Ken Adamson's Granny Agnes's 1887 recipe. Even the traditional stone-floored ovens they are cooked in date back to the 1930s. The thick, crumbly triangular…
K Mitchells of Inverurie
Market Place, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, AB51 3XN
Established in 1928, Mitchells Dairy supplies milk, cream, other dairy products and products from their bakery to customers in Aberdeenshire and throughout the northeast. They are one of the very few dairies still offering doorstep delivery. To home…