Traditional Scottish Barley Bannocks from Outlander on Starz

Barley Bannocks in the Thieves Hole - Outlander on STARZ Episode 111

There was a grating sound from overhead and a sudden shaft of light. I pressed myself against the wall, barely in time to avoid a shower of mud and filth that cascaded through a small opening in the roof of our prison. A single soft plop followed the deluge. Geilie bent and picked up something from the floor. The opening above remained, and I could see that what she held was a small loaf, stale and smeared with assorted muck. She dusted it gingerly with a fold of her skirt.

“Dinner,” she said. “Hungry, are you?”

Outlander, chapter 25, "Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live"

If she'd only stay put, as Jamie repeatedly asks, Claire would have a much easier time in the 18th C.

Free of BJR's slimy grasp for only a few days, she's now off to the Thieves' Hole with Geillis, and things are most definitely not looking up.

Claire Theive's Hole

Nothing like a little muck to go with your carb-laden dinner, right?

I've decided that we're going to forgo the muck and get straight to the main course.

barley meal

Barley has been a staple of the Highland diet for thousands of years. Long before the now ubiquitous oat appeared on the scene, crofters grew a primitive form of barley, called bere, which grew well despite a short growing season, harsh climate and poor soil.

Bere was eventually (mostly) replaced with higher yielding varieties of barley, which were then joined in the fields by oats,  and, ultimately, following the Scottish Agricultural Revolution, wheat.

barley bannock

Barley bannocks, oatmeal, oatcakes and vegetable pottages (stews) formed the basis of a poor Highlander's diet throughout the 18th Century.

It's true that Claire and Geillis wouldn't be considered poor in their everyday circumstances, but I think we're safe to assume that the guards didn't throw down a loaf made of imported wheat. More likely, it was made of barley.

bannock6 copy

I've made my bannocks a little thinner than what they would have been back then. A true 1/2" thick bannock is dense and heavy, and a lot to get down, in my opinion. I took my lead from the author of a fascinating read I recently finished, "The Garden Cottage Diaries - My Year in the Eighteenth Century."

The author, Fiona Houston, spent a full 4 seasons in a croft-like house, and became very familiar with the sort of subsistence nutrition that kept the Highlanders alive, often barely. She preferred a thinner bannock (her favourites were made with chicken fat), and I have to say I do too. If you prefer to try a thicker version, check the notes at the bottom of the recipe.

Barley Bannocks

Keep the cooked bannocks warm in a low oven until ready to serve. I served them with green onion and black pepper butter, which was delicious. A sweet compound butter like that on Mrs. Bug's Cinnamon Toast will give you a more dessert-like treat to munch on during the show.

Show/Hide Comments


15 Apr 2015 - 3:56am

Cherie Chilvers

She is making me so crazy as to why she don't listen to her husband. She is in the 1800 century and she needs to trust him when he tells her something for her own good. She needs another spanking to talk some sense to her. She is putting them both in danger and possibly being pregnant to boot.

22 Mar 2016 - 5:54pm


Dear Theresa, thank you a lot for such a great site! I discovered eating simple and tasty traditional food without modern additives and I feel a bit happier :)rnAs for the recipe: each time I cook these bannocks (5 min each side, medium heat), they golden outside but stay unbaked inside (keeping in pan longer makes them burn). They still taste good, but the consistence inside is far from perfect. What could be possibly wrong? I tried to bake them also and they become nice crackers.rnGreetings from Russia!

14 Apr 2015 - 12:34pm

Merry Miller Moon

Well, that's what I'm making--but on Sunday-not Saturday-since on Saturday, my MIL and I are off to KY to hear 'Herself' speak!!!! :) Thank you for another great recipe Theresa!

14 Apr 2015 - 12:37pm

Anna Lapping

Since I love your other bannocks so much I will have to try these. I always have rendered bacon fat in the refrigerator so I'll probably use that in mine.

14 Apr 2015 - 5:41pm

Kris Rasmussen

Could you share how to make the green onion and pepper compound butter? I couldn't find a link to the recipe.


Of course! It's very easy. I took about 2 tablespoons of butter, and mashed it together with 1 thinly sliced green onion and a few grinds on the Pepper mill. There's an example of a more complicated compound butter (but ooooh, so tasty) in this . Theresa

14 Apr 2015 - 6:30pm

Marta Giles

Do you use barley flour, or barley meal? Does it matter? Thanks!


Marta, a quick google tells me that barley meal and flour are the same. I can't guarantee that, although you can certainly use barley flour, even though I suspect it will be finer than the meal I ground myself. Start with the 3 T of milk, then add more if you need. Please let me know how it turns out! theresa

14 Apr 2015 - 6:50pm


Hi Theresa, The Millionaire Shortbread was hit as Easter dessert! Next to try are the barley recipes. Thanks so much!

14 Apr 2015 - 8:55pm


It's been six months since my epic Scottish journey that included Orkney. We visited Barony Mills (even tho they were officially closed), had a bit of a tour and chat with the miller and left with a packet of bere biscuits. Orcadians are quite protective of their brand but we were told that somewhere in British Columbia is an Orkney transplant who is growing her own bere. More recipes at the bottom of the Mill's website.

15 Apr 2015 - 12:41am

Ann Francis

Hi, Theresa, thanks for your great recipes! We love your Castle Leoch bannocks and always have them on hand, making about 2 batches per week. . Now i am intrigued by the barley flour version and can't wait to give them a try!

15 Apr 2015 - 11:51pm

Susan O'Meara

Not big on barley but will try for the fun of it.

16 Apr 2015 - 1:48am


sorta remind me of my Guatemalan husband's homemade tortillas made with masa harina in place of the barley meal.

16 Apr 2015 - 2:36am

Bonnie Botts

would one be able to grin the Pearl Barley in a flour mill. I have one that I use popcorn to make fresh cornmeal.

20 Apr 2015 - 12:39am

Kate Jones

What isthe recipe for the ginger nut biscuits, please?


You'll find it here, Kate: nnYou can find all of the recipes in the .

20 Apr 2015 - 3:44am

Ali Wilson

Starting 3 book would really like recipe for Bannocks, can't find spot to send to my email Thanks...Live these books

03 May 2015 - 10:13am


Hi, I got a question. What does 'Tble' mean?

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