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Sowans is a Scottish dish made with the starch of inner husk of oats. It is typically prepared by soaking the husks, straining them, and separating the solids from the strained liquid, which are cooked in water with salt to make a creamy gruel called Sowans. Sowans has been an inexpensive source of nutrition for common people in Scotland. Similar dishes made with oats were prepared in Britain in the past where they have become obsolete.

Ingredients and Preparation

The dish is made with oat husks, water and salt.

It is typically prepared by soaking the oat husks in lukewarm water for about a week, in which time they ferment and acquire a sour taste. The liquid is then separated by straining, and the sids are crushed by hand to extract as much of the solids as possible. This liquid is then allowed to stand so that the solids collect at the bottom. When the dish is to be prepared, the liquid is discarded and these solids are cooked with fresh water and salt to obtain a thick, creamy consistency.

In old times, some people conserved the sediments for preparing Sowans by changing its water regularly. Others also dried them and cut them into cubes for future use.


Sowans is served hot, like a porridge. It is sometimes served with butter. Thinned Sowans was sometimes served as a drink in the past, often one containing whiskey.

Related Dish

Sucan, Llymru and Wash Brew are names for similar dishes which have been prepared in various parts of Britain in the past. They were prepared by soaking oat husks in water and allowing them to sour, after which the liquid was strained and boiled to a creamy consistency. The resulting dish was allowed to cool and set, and then it was served with cold milk in bowls, and was traditionally supposed to be swallowed without chewing. Sugar and added flavor could be mixed into the dish before setting.


  • Christmas Eve, which is observed on the 24th of December in Scotland, as in many other countries across the globe, is also called 'Sowans Nicht'. It is considered to have got its name from the 'Sowans' dish which was eaten on this day.
  • Marian McNeil, in his account of the Boer War, describes how a Scottish soldier kept his garrison alive by making Sowans with the contents from his horse's food box.