For many, a Sunday Roast Dinner is a family tradition. There may be slight variations on the plate week-to-week, beef vs chicken, or roasted vs mashed potatoes, but everyone sits down to enjoy it on a Sunday. While for others Sunday Dinner is more reminiscent of afternoons in the pub with friends. But what is true is that the Roast Dinner is a British Classic.


The Sunday roast has been a British tradition for centuries and came to prominence during King Henry VIII’s reign. The rich often cooked their meat on a spit over the fire, while the less well-off borrowed the cooling bread ovens of the local bakery while they were at church on a Sunday morning. Although we now enjoy roasts cooked in a more modern way, the tradition of a Sunday Roast Dinner is still very much alive.

Yorkshire Pudding. Historically was served as a starter to fill everyone up so they needed less meat. Although now part of the main meal itself it is still very much part of a traditional Yorkshire roast, and many outside Yorkshire would agree that it is essential!

Roast dinner Yorkshire Puddings
Freshly baked Yorkshire Puddings

Traditional Recipe

Here is a popular and foolproof Sunday Roast recipe for you to try from BBC Good Food.

Pot-roast beef with French onion gravy

  • 1 kg silverside or topside of beef, with no added fat
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 young carrots, tops trimmed (but leave a little, if you like)
  • celery stick, finely chopped
  • 200ml white wine
  • 600ml rich beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 500g onion
  • a few thyme sprigs
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp light brown or light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Rub the meat with 1 tsp of the oil and plenty of seasoning. Heat a large flameproof casserole dish and brown the meat all over for about 10 mins. Meanwhile, add 2 tsp oil to a frying pan and fry the carrots and celery for 10 mins until turning golden.
  • Lift the beef onto a plate, splash the wine into the hot casserole and boil for 2 mins. Pour in the stock, return the beef, then tuck in the carrots, celery and bay leaves, trying not to submerge the carrots too much. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 hrs.
  • Meanwhile, thinly slice the onions. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and stir in the onions, thyme and some seasoning. Cover and cook gently for 20 mins until the onions are softened but not coloured. Remove the lid, turn up the heat, add the butter and sugar, then let the onions caramelise to a dark golden brown, stirring often. Remove the thyme sprigs, then set aside.
  • When the beef is ready, it will be tender and easy to pull apart at the edges. Remove it from the casserole and snip off the strings. Reheat the onion pan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 min. Whisk the floury onions into the beefy juices in the casserole, to make a thick onion gravy. Taste for seasoning. Add the beef and carrots back to the casserole, or slice the beef and bring to the table on a platter, with the carrots to the side and the gravy spooned over.
BBC Good Food classic Roast Dinner
BBC Good Food Roast Beef with French Onion Gravy

New Trends

In recent years there have been various emerging trends when it comes to The Roast Dinner. Which meat should you have for your Sunday roast? Is it still a Sunday Roast if it is served deconstructed with celeriac purée?

Traditionally the centrepiece of a roast dinner was beef. However, it seems Brits are in fact split on the ideal meat for their roast. According to a YouGov poll in 2018 while ‘beef’ was the most popular with 33% of the vote, it was closely followed by chicken on 27% and lamb on 20%.

YouGov Roast Dinner Poll

Sainsbury’s Future of Food report suggests that by 2025 “Vegans and vegetarians look set to make up a quarter of the British population, and flexitarians (primarily vegetarian but with occasional meat) just under half of all UK consumers.” With the ever-increasing popularity of vegetarianism here in the UK, how will it affect the roast dinner tradition? At the moment the YouGov poll shows that a vegetarian option is the fourth most popular behind beef, chicken and lamb.

Another emerging trend over the last few decades has been the increased importance of provenance and food traceability. ‘Farm-to-fork’ is a social movement that combines various ideas including that food production should be secure and sustainable as population levels change, and, that ‘food miles’ remain as low as possible. This trend can be seen in our Sunday dinners when restaurants display the source of their food products or we spend slightly more money on higher quality, locally produced meat.

Your Roast Dinner

Whichever way you enjoy your Roast dinner you can find some great local meat, veg and vegetarian alternatives on YouK. Use our Map feature to source local produce and enjoy your delicious meal.


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