Pasties are a regional emblem of Cornwall. Stretching back through hundreds of years of Cornish history, the pasty is an iconic British food, and is one of the main things that Cornish people miss when they are away from home (aside from the rolling countryside, rugged coastline, cream teas, friendly locals…). Whether you choose a hearty, traditional pasty on a pit-stop hiking the cliffs, or sit down to enjoy a high-end dish at a local gastropub, there is a pasty to suit every taste. Naturally, then, in a county so proud of its heritage, many people stake a claim to the best Cornish pasty. It is a discussion that has been ongoing for decades, with fierce loyalty, localism and, of course, taste, thrown into the mix. But, if you’re planning a luxury Cornwall cottage holiday, eating a pasty is a bucket-list experience, so you want to make sure you’re tucking in to the ‘proper job’.
So, getting stuck in on the age-old debate, we scoured the web and asked for recommendations to find out where the best pasties are really made. Take a look and cast your vote below!
History of the Cornish pasty
Pasties have a long history in Cornwall that dates back to the beginning of the mining era. Whilst, initially, a version of the pasty was enjoyed by the British elite as far back as the 13th century, in the 17th-18th century, miners and farm workers adopted the pasty as an energy-rich and convenient meal for the long working day.
As Damian from Parkers’ Pasties, who make and sell Cornish pasties in the U.S.A, explains, whilst the original pasties contained expensive ingredients like eel and venison, Cornish pasties were decidedly more humble.
“The wives of Cornish tin miners would lovingly prepare these all-in-one meals to provide sustenance for their spouses during their gruelling days down the dark, damp mines, working at such depths it wasn’t possible for them to surface at lunchtime. A typical pasty is simply a filling of choice sealed within a circle of pastry, one edge crimped into a thick crust. A good pasty could survive being dropped down a mine shaft! The crust served as a means of holding the pasty with dirty hands without contaminating the meal. Arsenic commonly accompanies tin within the ore that they were mining so, to avoid arsenic poisoning in particular, it was an essential part of the pasty.
“It was such a commonly used method of eating amongst the miners that some mines had stoves down the mine shafts specifically to cook the raw pasties. And this is how the well-known British rhyme “Oggie, Oggie, Oggie” came about. “Oggie” stems from “Hoggan”, Cornish for pasty and it was shouted down the mine shaft by the bal-maidens who were cooking the pasties, when they were ready for eating. In reply, the miners would shout “Oi, Oi, Oi!” However, if they were cooked in the mornings, the pastry could keep the fillings warm for 8-10 hours and, when held close to the body, keep the miners warm too.”
Whilst, today, pasties come in all forms, from traditional recipes to unusual flavours and even gluten-free and vegan versions, the original recipe was very specific. The filling comprised of beef, potato, onion and swede, wrapped in pastry and cooked to form a delicious gravy inside the crispy pastry. Often, one end of the pasty would be reserved for a sweet filling as a dessert course. How versatile the pasty is!
Damian notes that the inclusion of carrots in a pasty was considered the mark of an inferior product, and – to some – still is. He comments
“The presence of carrot in a pasty, was originally the mark of an inferior pasty (and still is). There is much debate as to whether the ingredients should be mixed together before they are put in the pasty or lined up on the pastry in a certain order, with pastry partitions. The vegetables sliced and none should be cooked before they are sealed within the pastry. It is this that makes the Cornish pasty different from other similar foods.”
Who makes the best pasties in Cornwall?
Today, there are countless pasty producers in Cornwall, so of course everyone who’s tried the delicious treat has a different favourite. But who is in the running for the title of Cornwall’s best pasty? Here are the contenders…
Pasty-making was traditionally a family affair, with recipes passed down the generations for hundreds of years. This is what makes Ann’s Pasties so special. Ann from this much-loved pasty makers in Lizard tells us, “I am of three generations of pasty makers - my mum before me and now my son who will carry on.” Brought up making pasties from a young age, Ann learnt the true finesse required to make it as a stand-out pasty producer when helping out her mother at a Breton agricultural fair. Demand was so high that, by the end of the day, she had developed her skills so far that she could crimp and unbelievable speed!
This lifetime of knowledge is clear when you eat Ann’s pasties, which are a true reflection of the core tradition. Ann claims, “Our pasties are the best because we use the best, locally-sourced, ingredients for the making of them. They are made with care and layered and seasoned the correct way. Our pasties have been praised by Rick Stein, Aide Edmondson and several other celebrities. People from all over the world find their way to our shop at The Lizard as our reputation has reached out with the help of publications such as the Food Lover’s Guide to the World by Lonely Planet. My son Fergus and I are very proud of our pasty-making reputation.”
Hayle and across Cornwall
Philps Pasties was established in 1958, and has been making freshly-baked pasties every morning since. This family-run business uses traditional methods as well as a family recipe that has been passed down through the generations to create a pasty with uncompromising quality and wholesome goodness. Using premium steak, they create pasties that have been accredited by the Cornish Pasty Association.
Nina from Philps Pasties tells us: “We try to maintain what we have, which we believe is a traditional, tasty product that is good value for money. We aren't interested in getting involved with lots of different flavours, we just love our recipes and love what we do and hope to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.”
Tintagel, Bude and St Ives
Visiting Pengenna Pasties is an experience for more senses than the taste buds alone. At each of their three bakeries across Cornwall, customers can watch their meal being made right in front of them. Ashley from Pengenna explains, “We do things differently and are proud of the results. We are a specialist “on show” bakery specialising in pasties along with a selection of savouries and sweets.” As you pay for your pasty, you can marvel at the speedy crimping of their bakers, and watch exactly what it takes to make hundreds of delicious pasties every day.
Pengenna Pasties was established in 1985 and is a family owned and run business using family recipes. Ashley notes, “What makes us different is our top crimping vs the traditional recognised side crimping.” This (sometimes controversial) choice sets Pengenna apart – as it is usually Devonshire pasties that use the top crimp. However, this does leave plenty of space for the rich fillings, which are packed full of local meat and vegetables. Ashley concludes, “We focus on premium quality ingredients and the products speak for themselves.”
Warrens Bakery claims to be the oldest Cornish pasty maker in the world. Selling pasties since 1860, their products certainly have a lot of credentials – with their traditional steak pasty winning 2 stars from the Guild of Fine Food, to wins in Cornwall’s Favourite Pasty polls, the World Pasty Championships and the British Pie Awards.
The bakery has now opened stores across the south west, but they remember their roots in St Just where, 150 years ago, a farmer’s son and a baker’s daughter joined to make fresh pastries that soon became favoured among miners and the local community. Jason Jobling, master baker at Warrens Bakery says that their pasties’ strength lies in the quality produce used: “Each of our Cornish pasties is still hand filled and crimped by hand using the finest ingredients. Good, wholesome ingredients, put together with care. You just can’t beat that kind of experience.”
The Cornish Bakery
Mevagissey and across Cornwall
Our BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) is to be the number one Cornish Bakery in the world, one bake at a time. We’re well on our way! . . . #cornwall #mycornishmoment #cornwallstateofmind #feedyoursoul #wishyouwerehere #bakery #artisan #highend #awardwinning #pastel de nata #unionroasted #arabicacoffee #frenchpastries #pastries #awardwinninginteriors #iloveCornwall #ifollowCornwall #love_cornwall #cornish #cakes #pasty #pasties
Another big-name pasty company that has taken on the UK at large is The Cornish Bakery. After opening their first store in Mevagissey, this bakery has gained a huge reputation, and now has stores across the country. Stephen Grocutt, founder of The Cornish Bakery, explains that pasties bring real providence to British food – quite simply, he says, “Cornwall is a food capital.” When asked what makes their pasties so special, he told us:
“We are a previous winner of the World’s Best Pasty Competition at the Eden Project, and placed third this year. We are also one of the innovators in pasty making, creating different fillings such as sweet pasties, sweet potato and feta and more. The traditional is still the most popular flavour, but the variety opens the pasty up to people with different tastes.”
Stephen explains that, through their pasties, The Cornish Bakery seeks to foster a ‘Cornish state of mind’ – one that should be conjured every time they eat their pasties. This state of mind is the feeling of being in the beautiful Cornish countryside in the sunshine, on holiday with friends, or off down the beach. He explains that this atmosphere is created everywhere from the taste of the pasty to the design of the bakery itself, which features seaside-themed murals to really get you into that Cornish spirit.
If you’re looking for a truly traditional pasty experience, Aunt Avis in St Kew is not to be missed. This pasty shop is on a very small scale – a family-run business with just one bakery. However, to their customers, there is no better pasty. One fan on Facebook even proclaimed that Aunt Avis is “My first point of call with all North Cornwall jobs! The best pasties and anything warm in the world! Be quick though...they sell out quick... even after midday!”
Aunt Avis pasties are distinguished from their peers through the use of double cream when making the pastry. However, the recipe itself is something of a mystery, so you’ll have to go and check these locally-famous pasties for yourself!
Boscastle Farm Shop
Cornwall is famous for its local produce, but Boscastle Farm Shop is more than just a grocers and butchers. Set in the stunning location of the National Trust farmland of the Boscastle cliffs, just 50 yards from the coast path. From home-reared award-winning beef for your Sunday lunch to homemade cakes to enjoy with a cup of tea as you stare at the sea, Boscastle Farm Shop offers something to spark the taste buds for every occasion.
However, their pasties are perhaps the most popular products. Freshly baked using Boscastle potatoes, their red ruby beef or Davidstow cheddar, these pasties combine the best food of the local area in one delicious pastry package. While you sink your teeth into these delicious pasties, keep your eyes peeled for fascinating wildlife on the coast, where animals such as grey seals and Peregrine falcons can be spotted.
The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company
Whilst traditionalists defend the original pasty recipe with passion, the snack is now living up to its history of versatility, opening it up to people with various different dietary requirements. The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company is a pasty makers that has taken on the demand for meat and dairy-free cuisines and made it a unique selling point of their products, which are 100% vegan. As Samantha Grady, Chief ‘Pasty Pixie’, says, “Pasties are wonderful things in general! But for years vegetarians and vegans have had to make do with sub-par fillings; at best an interesting filling in a decent pastry, at worst it's a bland trio of vegetables.”
“The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company emulates the traditional Cornish pasty filling using a meat substitute; and the popular cheese and onion pasty using a vegan cheese that melts beautifully (so beautifully in fact that we'd challenge anyone to know it's vegan cheese). Additionally, our pastry is palm oil free, and we have a gluten-free chilli pasty too.”
Hand-made and using local ingredients wherever possible, these unique pasties are gaining quite a following among the local vegan community for their inspiring flavour combinations and pastry that is apparently near-impossible to distinguish from its butter-filled counterpart! Plus, if you head to their bakery, you can even help the local community, because they operate a ‘pay it forward’ scheme, allowing customers to buy a pasty for a local homeless person. When there are three donated pasties reserved, they cook and deliver them to a local charity.
Malcom Barnecutt Bakery
St Austell and Bodmin
Tuesday is always a cheat day and never a better day for a Barnecutts Cornish Pasty for lunch. They do loads of different flavours and sizes. They are also the perfect mid morning snack @malcolm_barnecutts #cornishfood #cornishpasty #cornishpasties #cornwall #foodfromcornwall #steakpasty #jumbosteak #instapasty #pastry #snacks #lunch #instafood #instagood #picoftheday #mealoftheday #barnecutts #follow4follow #instadaily
Malcom Barnecutt Bakery has been producing Cornish baked goods for over 80 years, and this experience is evident in their impressive products. When Malcom Barnecutt’s grandfather Percy founded the bakery in Liskeard in 1930, he probably didn’t anticipate just how prolific the family business would become. Now operating in locations such as St Austell, Bodmin, Newquay and more, Barnecutt’s make their famous pasties overnight and then bake them on demand in their shops.
Visitors can choose from traditional steak pasties, inventive varieties such as chicken Balti and pork and apple, or an array of vegetarian offerings including vegetable pasties, stilton and broccoli and cheese and bean. Each features high-quality ingredients and delicate craftsmanship, from the perfect filling to artful crimping. They even provide pasties by post, for “the taste of Cornwall delivered to your door”!
Kittows of Fowey
What makes Kittows of Fowey special is not only that they are a family-run pasty makers currently in their fifth generation, but also that they are a butchery with their own farm. Kittow’s are the perfect choice for those who are concerned about ethical consumption, but don’t want to commit to a vegan choice when looking for their ideal pasty. This is because animal welfare is a central value at the butchers, where quality is key. They say, “As farmers and butchers we know the animals and we believe that the best meat comes from happy, well cared for animals that can enjoy a life in the fields.”
Their pasties are all home-made on their farm by Jane. Using quality ingredients from their own farm, Kittows is popular with locals for its traceability – you can truly find out exactly where every ingredient came from. The end products are also delicious, full of rich gravy and flavoursome fillings.
Rick Stein’s Patisserie
Although not a Cornish institution in the sense that many family-run bakeries are, Rick Stein's Patisserie has become famous with visitors to the county for its high-profile presence in Padstow. As you stroll along the quaint harbour, you will no doubt be tempted into the stunning patisserie by the temping scents that lay within. One of these is the unmistakable aroma of a great Cornish pasty.
Celebrity chef Rick Stein took inspiration from local pasty makers in producing the patisserie’s offerings, and so their pasties are perfect for visitors who have already sampled the traditional fare and fancy a pasty with a twist. Whilst they offer great original steak and cheese and onion pasties with crisp pastry and a good hearty filling, it is their unique versions - like the haddock Cornish pasty – that sets this patisserie apart.