Rabbit or Rarebit?

First, hitting the books

The recipes, by century

18th century


To make a Scotch rabbit,

toast the bread very nicely on both sides, butter it, cut a slice of cheese about as big as the bread, toast it on both sides, and lay it on the bread.

-1747. Hannah Glasse. The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy. Prospect Books ed. p.95


To make a Welch rabbit,

toast the bread on both sides, then toast the cheese on one side, lay it on the toast, and with a hot iron brown the other side. You may rub it over with mustard.

-1747. Hannah Glasse. The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy. Prospect Books ed. p.95

To make an English rabbit,

toast the bread brown on both sides, lay it in a plate before the fire, pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up. Then cut some cheese very thin and lay it very thick over the bread, put it in a tin oven before the fire, and it will be toasted and browned presently. Serve it away hot.

-1747. Hannah Glasse. The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy. Prospect Books ed. p.95

Or do it thus.

Toast the bread and soak it in the wine, set it before the fire, rub butter over the bottom of a plate, lay the cheese on, pour in two or three spoonfuls of white wine, cover it with another plate, set it over a chafing-dish of hot coals for two or three minutes, then stir it till it is done and well mixed. You may stir in a little mustard; when it is enough lay it on the bread, just brown it with a hot shovel.

-1747. Hannah Glasse. The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy. Prospect Books ed. p.95

Glasse - First catch


The 1740’s

Scotch Rabbit

Toast a bit of bread on both sides then lay it on a plate before the fire. Pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up, then cut some cheese very thin and lay it thick over the bread and put it in a tin oven before the fire and it will be toasted and browned presently….You may stir in a little mustard.”

—   Scottish manuscript, cookbook of Moffat family.

The Thirteen Colonies Cook Book, p. 238

 Thirteen Colonies Cookbook



To make a Scotch Rabbit.

Toast a Piece of Bread on both Sides, butter it, cut a Slice of Cheese about as big as the Bread, toast it on both sides, and lay it on the Bread.

-1753. The Lady’s Companion. London. p. 264-5.(foodtimeline)


To make a Welch Rabbit.

Toast the Bread on both Sides, then Toast the Cheese on one Side, lay on the Toast, and with a hot iron brown the other Side. You may rub it over with Mustard.

-1753. The Lady’s Companion. London. p. 264-5.


To make a Portugal Rabbit.

Toast a Slice of Bread brown on both Sides, then lay it in a Plate before the Fire, pour a Glass of red Wine over it, and let it soak the Wine up; then cut some Cheese very thin, and lay it very thick over the Bread; put it in a Tin Oven before the Fire, and it will be toasted and brown’d presently. Serve it away hot with Sugar over it, and Wine poured over.

-1753. The Lady’s Companion. London. p. 264-5.




Or do it thus.

Toast the Bread and soak it in the Wine, set it before the Fire, cut your Cheese in very thin Slices, rub Butter over the Bottom of a Plate, lay the Cheese on, pour in two or three Spoonfuls of White Wine, cover it with another Plate, set it over a Chafing-dish of hot Coals for two or three Minutes, then stir it till done, and well mixed. You may stir in a little Mustard; when it is enough lay it on the Bread, just brown with a hot Shovel. Serve it away hot.

– 1753. The Lady’s Companion. London. p. 264-5


An Italian Rabbit.

Toast a Slice of Bread, butter it, put upon it a Slice of Cheese the Length of your Bread, Let that be toasted; then put upon the Cheese some Mustard and Pepper, then Parsley minced, and upon the whole some Anchovies, in Pieces, very thick, to serve away.

-1753. The Lady’s Companion. London. p. 264-5


Lady's Companion 1753

The Lady’s Companion:

Containing Upwards of Three Thousand Different Receipts in Every Kind of Cookery: And Those The Best and Most Fashionable; Being Four Times the Quantity of Any Book of this Sort to Which is Added, Bills of Fare For Every Month in The Year. Also, Directions For Brewing Beers, Ales, Etc., Making All Sorts of English Wines, Cyder, Mum, Metheglin, Vinegar, Verjuice, Catchup, Etc. 1753.


19th century

“Welsh Rabbit was reputedly improvised when a Welsh chieftain ran out of game for his banquet table and asked his cook to devise something from whatever stores were at hand. The cook produced this cheese dish, which he named – presumably not to call the guests attention to the fact the meat supply had vanished – “rabbit”. It persisted as Welsh Rabbit most American kitchens (although some befuddled cookbook writers have “corrected” matters by referring to the dish as “rarebit”). This recipe is adapted from one given in Sarah Josepha Hale’s New Cook Book.”

1 pound sharp natural Cheddar cheese

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon dry mustard


Dash of cayenne

Dash of paprika

½ cup ale or beer

Shred the cheese and set aside. Mix all the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and place over a very low heat until ale or beer is hot Add the cheese and stir until it is melted. Pour over hot toast triangles. Serves 4 to 6.

                 The American Heritage Cookbook. 1964, 1969. p. 125.


American Heritage CB


No. 164. How to Make a Welsh Rarebit.

First, make a round of hot toast, butter it and cover it with thin slices of cheese; put it before the fire until the cheese is melted, then season with mustard, pepper, and salt, and eat the rarebit while hot.


Francatelli, Charles. A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes. p. 78.

 francatelli C Plain book of cookery


Welsh rabbit.

Welsh rabbit is made by melting cheese and adding wine and other seasonings.

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book. p. 206.

 beechers domestic receipt book



Welsh Rabbit or Welsh RareBit.

Toast a slice of bread on both sides and butter it; toast a slice of English cheese on one side, lay it next to the bread, and toast the other with a salamander; rub mustard over and serve very hot

Mrs. Esther Levy. The Jewish Cookery Book. p. 61

Mrs E Levy Jewish domestic cb

1875 cassell’s


Welsh Rare-Bit

Cut thin slices of bread, remove the crust, and toast quickly; butter it, and cover with thin slices of rather rich cheese, spread over a very little made-mustard, and place on a pie-tin or plate in a hot oven till the cheese is melted, when cut in square pieces of any size desired; and serve at once on a hot platter, as it is quite spoiled if allowed to get cold. The mustard may be omitted if desired; and some think it more delicate to dip the toast quickly, after buttering, into a shallow pan of boiling water ; have some cheese ready melted in a cup, and pour some over each slice. The best way to serve is to have little plates made hot, place a slice on each plate, and serve one to each person.

                                 The Buckeye Cooking Book. p. 326.

Buckey cb


Welsh Rarebit.

¼ pound rich cream cheese.

¼ cup cream or milk.

1 teaspoonful mustard.

½ teaspoonful salt.

A few grains of cayenne.

1 egg.

1 teaspoonful butter.

4 slices toast.

Break the cheese into small pieces, or if hard grate it. Put it with the milk in a double boiler. Toast the bread, and keep it hot. Mix the mustard, salt, and pepper ; add the egg, and beat well. When the cheese is melted, stir in the egg and butter, and cook two minutes, or until it thickens a little, but so not let it curdle. Pour it over the toast. Many use ale instead of cream.  (There are a several variations to turn it into a cheese soufflé; cracker a la crème; or sardine canapes, rather mind boggling.)

Lincoln, Mrs. D.A. Boston Cooking School Book. 1884. (Dover reprint) p. 282. Section: Entrees and Meat Rechauffe.

Boston Cooking School Lincoln


Welsh Rarebit I

1 tablespoon butter.

1 teaspoon corn-starch.

½ cup thin cream.

½ lb. soft cheese,

cut into small pieces.

¼ teaspoon salt.

¼ teaspoon mustard.

Few grains cayenne.

Toast or zephyrettes.


Welsh Rarebit II, p. 469

Oyster Rarebit, p. 469

English Monkey, p. 469

– 1896. Fannie Merritt Farmer. The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.

Boston Cooking School Book

  1. Margaret Huntington Hooker. Ye Gentlewoman’s Housewifery. p. 70 Welsh Rabbit. p. 71. Another Welsh Rabbit. but mentions Rare Bit

“Obs. Ceremony seldom triumphs more completely over Comfort than in the serving of this Dish; which to be presented to the Palate in perfection, it is imperatively indispensable that it be introduced to the Mouth as soon as it appears on the Table.” p. 71.

Early American Cookery Hooker

20th century

( I’m going for highlights at this point – it’s a little overwhelming and/or Master Thesis territory.)


Welsh Rarebit, p. 212.

         – 1901. The White House Cookbook, p. 212.


Toasted Cheese, or Scotch Rarebit

INGREDIENTS – ½ lb. good rich cheese, 1 oz. butter, a teaspoonful made mustard, 2 tabespoonfuls milk or ale, buttered toast.

Mode – Melt the cheese and butter chopped finely together in a lined stewpan, add the ale or milk and stir till smooth, then pour over slices of hot buttered toast and serve quickly.

Time, about 5 minutes. Average cost, 10d. Sufficient for 3 persons.

– 1902. Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book.p. 197.

Toasted Cheese, or Welsh Rarebit.

INGREDIENTS – Slices bread, butter, Cheshire or Gloucester cheese, mustard, pepper

          Mode – Cut the bread into slices about ½ inch thickness; pare off the crust, toast the bread slightly, and spread it with butter. Cut some slices from a good rich fat cheese; lay them on the toasted bread on a cheese-toaster; be careful that the cheese does not burn, and let it be equally melted. Spread over the top a little made mustard and a seasoning of pepper, and serve very hot. The cheese may be cut into thin flakes, or toasted on one side before it is laid on the bread. It is a good plan to melt the cheese in small round silver or metal pans, and to send these pans to the table, allowing one for each guest. Slices of dry or buttered toast should always accompany them, with mustard, pepper, and salt.

Time  – about 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Sufficient – aloow a slice to each person.

         – 1902. Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book. p. 197.

Mrs Beetons pb


Welsh Rarebit

– 1903. The ‘Settlement’ Cookbook. pp. 94-5.


A Really Digestible Welsh Rarebit

Melt on tablespoon of butter, add one fourth teaspoon of salt and paprika, half a teaspoon of dry mustard and one third of a cup of ale or beer. Stir constantly, and when hot put in half a pound of cheese cut into small pieces. As it gradually melts it may thicken, for no cheese is exactly alike in the amount of liquid it require. If it seems thick, add more beer. If the rarebit is preferred creamy instead of stringy, add one beaten egg just before serving. The paprika in this recipe makes the cheese perfectly digestible. If the regulation toast is not on hand for serving rarebit, pour it over saltines.

         Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book. The Phelps Publishing Co. (facsimile ed. Heart Books.) p. 60. I.G.C.

good housekeeping 1903 reprint


Welsh Rarebit, p. 250

Welsh Rarebit with Ale, p. 250

  • The New England Cookbook. p. 250.


Welsh Rabbit, p. 26.

  • Mrs. C.F. Leyel and Miss Olga Hartley. The Gentle Art of Cookery. p. 26.


Rarebit Sauce


2 tbsp. butter in top of double boiler. Add

1 tbsp. flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. mustard Mix until

Smooth. Pour in

1 cup milk, stirring constantly

until thick. Add

1 cup grated cheese, stir until melted. Add

1 egg, slightly beaten, and return to boiler

Cook a few minutes longer, pour over halibut and sprinkle with paprika.

*note – under ‘Fish Dishes’.

      Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes. M. Barrows & Co.: New York. p.66.


Ring-Tum Diddy


2 tbsp. butter in top of double

boiler. Stir in

1 tbsp. flour and mix well. Add

1 cup tomato soup

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce and

2 cups cheese, cut fine. Stir until

melted and

1 egg, beaten

Let cook until thickened. Before removing from stove to serve, add a pinch of soda. Serve on squares of toast or on crisp cracker. Serves four.*

*note: under ‘Meat Substitutes’.

          Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Tried and True Recipes. M. Barrows & Co.: New York. p.63.

 wakefield tried and true cb


Welsh Rabbit, p. 206.

  • Mills, Marjorie. Cooking on a Ration. p. 206.


Chili Rabbit, p.344.

Midnight Rabbit, p. 345

Old Time Welsh Rabbit, p. 345

Welsh Rabbit with Beer, p. 345

  • Good Housekeeping Cookbook. Good Housekeeping Book Div. NY. pp. 344-5.


Welsh Rabbit, p. 351

English Monkey, p. 352

Tomato Rarebit, p. 352.

  • Cunningham, M. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 12th ed.


Welsh Rarebit, p. 21

Cheese Muff, p. 21

Yorkshire Buck, p. 19.

  • Mrs. N. Prescott, compiler. Early Settlers’ (Australian) Household Lore, 4th ed.



Stilton Rarebit

1 ½ T butter

1 ½ teas flour

1 tsp Coleman’s dry mustard

1 ½ C milk

1 C Stilton (4 oz)

1 ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

4 slices WW bread, toasted

Walnuts, chopped


  1. …Whisk flour in and cook 30 seconds. Whisk in mustard.
  2. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
  3. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer till thickened, whisking occasionally: 5-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add ½ the cheese and whisk until melted. Add remaining cheese, whisk until melted and smooth.
  5. Season with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
  6. Cut toasted bread slices on diagonal and overlap 4 halves on each of 2 plates. Ladle rarebit over.
  7. Garnish with chopped walnuts.

2 servings.

            Bon Appetit magazine. Dec 1994 issue ( New Year’s supper 1994)

BA Dec 1994

 21st century


 Welsh Rarebit

6 servings

Our correspondence is closed on the subject of rarebit versus rabbit. We stick to “rarebit” because “rabbit” already means something else. We can only answer the controversy with a story. A stranger trying to calm a small crying boy: “I wouldn’t cry like that if I were you.” Small boy: “You cry your way and I’ll cry mine.”

Melt in the top of a double boiler over simmering water:

1 tablespoon butter

Stir in and heat until warm:

1 cup beer, ale, milk, or cream

Gradually, stir in:

4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar or Colby (1 pound)

Cook, stirring constantly with a fork, until the cheese is melted. Stir in:

1 egg, beaten

    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

    1 teaspoon salt

    ½ teaspoon sweet paprika

    ¼ teaspoon dry mustard

    (¼ teaspoon curry powder)

    Pinch of ground red pepper

Cook, stirring, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Serve at once on top of

12 slices white, rye, or other bread of your choice, toasted, or 18 crackers

Rombauer, Irma S., Becker, Marion Rombauer and Ethan Becker. Joy of Cooking. Scribner: NY. p. 112.

 The Mackie

Prepare Welsh Rarebit, above, topping toasted slices of white bread with sliced tomatoes and crisp bacon before covering with cheese mixture.

Rombauer, Irma S., Becker, Marion Rombauer and Ethan Becker. Joy of Cooking. Scribner: NY. p. 112.

Blushing Bunny

Prepare Welsh Rarebit, above, substituting tomato juice or canned condensed cream of tomato soup for the beer or the milk.

Rombauer, Irma S., Becker, Marion Rombauer and Ethan Becker. Joy of Cooking. Scribner: NY. p. 112.

joy of cooking 75th





2 thoughts on “Rabbit or Rarebit?

  1. Great minds run in the same channels — I just posted on Rinktum Ditty, a dish from Cheshire England, sometimes also called tomato rarebit. (And could something called Rinktum Ditty be from anywhere besides England?) During the Depression, the original concept was altered to be more like the “Blushing bunny” noted above, using tomato soup. If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about this version, along with my spin on the recipe, here’s the URL: https://worldsfare.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/rinktum-ditty/ But thanks for the thread on melted cheese — and the list of all the cookbooks. Cynthia

    Liked by 1 person

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