A traditional Scotch Broth calls for lamb. However, my partner does not like the strong smell, and lamb is not so easy to get a hold of anyway.

What meat can I substitute for lamb in Scotch Broth while still getting something approximating "what mother used to make"?

(I may also try a pure veggie option, but some meat seems to help it "stick to the ribs" on a cold day.)

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    Out of interest, where is it that "lamb is not so easy to get a hold of"? In the UK where I am, lamb is always available among the fresh meats. Jan 7, 2022 at 11:58
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    Just to be clear even in very Muslim areas of UK cites (which are usually quite small) local supermarkets will stock pork and lamb. The only exception would be a specifically hala butchers which wouldn't
    – Ian Turton
    Jan 7, 2022 at 18:09
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    @MawgsaysreinstateMonica what does Muslim predominance have to do with it? Lamb, unlike pork, may well be halal and is widely used in Muslim countries' cuisine.
    – IMil
    Jan 8, 2022 at 7:08
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    Don't underestimate the comparative rarity of lamb in the US. Though a Brit, I lived for several years in the US, and once paced down the length of the meat chillers in my local supermarket to measure what length of shelf space was devoted to packaged cuts of each meat: over 20 feet for chicken, over 20 feet for beef, about four feet for pork, and less than twelve inches for lamb - and this in a fairly cosmopolitan bit of New England. Lamb is a very niche meat in much of the US.
    – MadHatter
    Jan 9, 2022 at 9:43
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    @MadHatter I live just south of the Navajo Nation. The entire Navajo economy (at least, into the early 20th century) was built on sheep---lamb, mutton, and wool. Sheep are still immensely important to the Navajo economy. And even here, lamb is almost impossible to find (and when it can be found, it is imported from New Zealand, rather than produced locally). What a world. :/ Jan 9, 2022 at 15:04

5 Answers 5


I'm Scottish (and live in Scotland). Traditionally, Scotch broth was made using cheap cuts of mutton, often on-the-bone. I make this soup regularly in winter. It's real winter comfort food!

However, you can use any meat you want, or none.

Meats I've personally tried include: cheap cuts of lamb, beef, chicken, even ham. Leftovers are also a good option. A left over roast chicken carcass is as good as anything. In my opinion it's best if the meat is on the bone. It adds something extra special. On occasion I've also used supermarket cartons of meat stock, or even stock cubes. The absence of one ingredient (meat) would never stop me from making one of my favourite soups!

I've also made it completely vegan before by using vegetable stock cubes as the base for the soup. The rest of the ingredients are already vegan, basically root vegetables, onions, leeks, pearl barley, peas, pulses etc. Whatever you have available really.

At its core, the broth itself is really just a vegetable soup. The uniqueness of the flavour (the thing that makes it "Scotch" broth IMHO) comes from the use of pearl barley which is used to thicken up the soup. Without the pearl barley, it would just be a vegetable broth. The other ingredients are variable/optional.

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    What's "special" about the meat being still on the bone? What type of flavor or whatever does that specifically add? The only thing I can imagine it adding is... a bone. Jan 7, 2022 at 6:06
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    @CodyGray I'm not entirely clear on the specifics, but it has more to do with texture than flavor, IIRC. If you cook things like chicken soup and you use meat on the bones, the meat will fall off after a while and the bone itself will be cooked too, and then marrow/cartilage releases (I think it was called) collagens, and it will give a more oily texture to what's otherwise just salty vegetable/meat water. Jan 7, 2022 at 9:42
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    @Tinkeringbell - yup! Said it better than I could. Thanks.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jan 7, 2022 at 10:41
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    @CodyGray: To add to Tinkeringbell's excellent explanation, the collagens released by bones are better known by the name "gelatin" in the context of food. Jan 7, 2022 at 14:03
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    The marrow in the bone can also contribute to the flavor.
    – barbecue
    Jan 7, 2022 at 18:26

I would think that, as this is a dish of humble origins, it would have been made with whatever meat was available.

As such you could substitute pretty much any red meat. Beef or venison might suit as both are a traditional part of the Scottish scene. You could also go an older sheep meat such as hogget or mutton. These have quite strong flavours, and if your partner doesn't like the flavour of lamb, then they probably also won't like hogget or mutton.

More off the traditional route would be pork, goat or chicken - these would change the flavour substantially and the colour would also be quite different for chicken and pork.

More unusual but part of the Scottish scene meats might be things like pheasant or grouse - though these were more reserved for the rich land-owners that could afford to run a pheasant or grouse moor rather than the more common folk.

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    Alos rabbit or hare?
    – Mawg
    Jan 6, 2022 at 14:55
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    + for hogget which I had to look up.
    – Willk
    Jan 6, 2022 at 23:40
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    @Willk I love hogget. It is to lamb as veal is to prime beef. Hard to find though.
    – Graham
    Jan 9, 2022 at 8:56
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    @MawgsaysreinstateMonica Very good thought. I should have thought of those.
    – bob1
    Jan 9, 2022 at 21:23

You are not going to get the lamb taste without using lamb. There is a unique richness to the fat in lamb. The fat around the ribs especially is concentrated acid reflux. If your family is adverse to it it is probably just better to replace it with a more neutral tasting meat.


I'm a lamb producer and love the stuff, but it isn't everyone forte. Lamb has a stronger, earthy, grassy flavor to it. The closest substitute, which if processed properly would be milder, is venison. If your partner isn't into adventurous eating and needs something more tame, use beef.


Shin of Beef is a good alternative. We have an almost identical soup in Northern Ireland based on celery leaves and leeks.

Brown the steak, fill the pot with water and proceed as normal with your pulses and root veg. Once it has come to the boil, about one and a half hours should do it for an inch thick steak with a bone.

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