Medieval Food

Learn about the food and Drink of Kings, Nobility, and the Peasantry class of Medieval times

Discover Medieval Banquets *Medieval Feasts of Kings and Some of the more Bizzare Foods and Recipes of the times!

See the Forme of Cury was the first cookery book ever written in 1390 and it's 200 recipes 196 of which were contributed by Royal cooks and Much More....

Medieval Banquets

Medieval Banquet in France

Medieval Banquets gave Royals and nobility the opportunity to show off their wealth and entertain their favourite quests Read more about the Medieval Banquets >>

Medieval Drinks

Medieval Drinks - Inside a medieval Inn

Medieval people had a fairly good choice of medieval drinks, although water could be dirty, many medieval people drank ale and wine as their medieval drink of choice. Read more about the Medieval Drinks >>

Medieval Feast & Banquets

Medieval Banquet in France

The medieval feast was served in the great hall of a medieval castle, the lord and lady would sit at the high table Read more about the Medieval Feast & Banquets >>

Medieval Recipes

Medieval Food Recipies

The wealthy nobility and royals enjoyed extravagant meat recipes that included more spices and flavourings. Read more about the Medieval Recipes >>



During the early years of the medieval era, food was very basic and most of the ingredients were grown locally. This changed in during the 10th and 12th centuries with the Norman Conquest. The Normans were influenced mostly by French and Scandinavian food, as they were also known to document their recipes which were handed down from master to apprentice.

Norman-Flag

Norman Flag

Types of Medieval Food

Medieval food was primarily determined by class. People who belonged to different classes ate different kinds of food.

Noblemen ate freshly killed meat and river fish, as well as fresh vegetables from aristocratic estates. They were also mostly cooked with heavy flavors and valuable spices with added special ingredients.

Medieval Nobility and Medieval Nobles

People of the peasantry class such as Serfs ate a more basic diet and preserved food that had been salted and pickled as soon as it was harvested. Peasants tended to cows so a large portion of their diet included buttermilk, cheese, curds, and whey.

Medieval women milks a cow

Peasant Medieval Women Milking a Cow

Medieval Peasants such as Serfs commonly ate a stew called Pottage or potage, the old French word pottage means ‘food cooked in a pot’.

Pottage *Thick Soup or Stew

Pottage *Thick Soup or Stew

Basically whatever food the peasant could lay his hands on at the time was thrown into a large pot to make a thick soup or stew. Often Vegetables and grains were added and possible fish or meat, commonly wealthier medieval people would add better ingredients.

The great advantage of ‘Pottage’ was that it could be easily cooked over an open fire and lasted for many days, also more ingredients could be added as and when required. For this reason, Pottage was popular for many centuries during the medieval period.


Sources of Medieval Food

Most medieval people lived in the countryside in villages, and peasants such as Serfs lived on manor estates that were controlled by a local Lord who was known as the ‘Lord of the Manor’.

Manor-House

Manor House

Crops and vegetation were cultivated and grown on the land of the manor estate until they were ready to be harvested by peasants who toiled in the fields such as Serfs.

Manor-Estate

Manor Estate

The farmlands on the manor estates on which food was grown were the primary sources of medieval food for most medieval people.


Peasantry Class Food

Medieval Serfs working land

Medieval peasant food was mostly made of grains such as wheat, oats, rye, or barley. They were boiled whole or stewed. Some of them were ground into flour and made into bread, commonly bread was made by a miller in a mill that was housed on the manor estate.

Quern Stone used by a medieval miller

Quern Stone also known as a grindstone was used by a medieval miller to grind wheat

Peasants also got their protein from legumes such as beans, lentils, and sometimes fish. They also got additional nutrients from fruits and vegetables. Their diets were very high in nutrients. However, food scarcity due to a poor harvest could at times cause poor nutrition among peasants and people of the lower classes.

Medieval-Food-Spelt


Food of Royalty & Nobility

Royalty and nobility on the other had an abundance of highly nutritious food that was served in castles and noblemen’s houses and included a variety of different meats such as venison, beef, pork, goat, lamb, mutton, heron, and poultry.

Medieval Fashion of Nobility

Medieval Nobility

Sometimes, they also served fish in their daily meals. Far away farmlands were also sources of food for the Royals and Nobles.

Banquets and great ‘Medieval Feasts’ were also very common amongst royalty. During these events, decks of spectacular food were served as these were perfect opportunities for noble families and royalty to show off their wealth.

Medieval Feast

Medieval Banquet in Castle of a Lord

Because the land and animals belong to the Lords, only the Nobles were allowed to hunt during this medieval period. They were free to hunt boars, deer, and other animals in the forest.

Medieval Sports Falconery

People of the lower classes were prohibited to hunt on the Lord’s properties or take anything from the Lord’s lands, including wild animals.

Medieval Peasants Clothes

The wealthy people of the medieval era also treasured goods imported from other lands. Most of these goods were also expensive. There was an ancient department at the Royal court called a “spicery” that specialized in spices. These spices were bought by wealthy people of the middle ages.

Medieval Spices

Spices being gathered and mixed into foods for Nobility


Medieval Food *Knights

Knights mostly served the Lords and more often than not, they hunted with the Lords as well. Beef and mutton were the most common meats that knights ate.

They usually got them from hunting. To avoid spoilage, meats were mostly kept close to the kitchen after slaughter. Knights also ate poultry and eggs. They also enjoyed common harvest depending on which part of the world they were and of course wine was something that knights could not do without. Wine was served like water during the middle ages!

Medieval Wine Making

Making Medieval Wine

Preserving Medieval Food

Because home appliances such as fridges were not invented during the medieval period, slaughtered animals usually stayed close to the kitchen. It was important for medieval people to preserve food for the winter season and they usually did this during the summertime.

Medieval Castle Staff Cooking for the Medieval King

Medieval foods such as meat were usually preserved with salt. Some historians believed that pepper was also used as a preservative during this time. However, pepper was more expensive so it was not usually used. Dry-salting was a common method for preserving food then and meat or fish were buried in salt and brine curing.

Medieval-Food-Vikings


Medieval Cooking Methods

The methods used for food preservation caused the meat to taste saltier than necessary so they introduced the use of spices during cooking. It was also common for them to cook fruits and vegetables as they believed that raw food could cause diseases.

Medieval Bread Oven

Medieval Bread Oven

Several cooking methods were employed during the medieval period. However, these methods were highly Dependant on class.  People who belong to the upper class cooked their food in kitchens serviced by servants. The lower class and peasants cooked their food on an open fire.

Flavoring of Medieval Food

It was believed by historians that there was a good amount of spices and flavorings during medieval times, however, the demand for food flavoring was not equally high. It was only during the late medieval period that refined cooking became a trend.  There was widespread use of sugar and honey as a flavoring for dishes during this time.

During the 13th century, flavoring with spices became a trend, especially when preparing food during fasting. The wine was flavored with spices and new flavors were introduced within the process of preserving food, apart from the conventional salting method.


Medieval Food recipes

The Normans had the biggest influence on medieval food. They were highly influenced by Scandinavian and French food. Normans were also known to document their recipes and hand them down to their apprentices, passed on from generation to generation.

Norman Clothing

Normans

The influence of Normans on medieval food had a more sophisticated effect than that of the English. However, it was the French who produced the first recipe books in the 13th century.

Forme of Cury was the first cookery book written in 1390.

It contained about 200 recipes and 196 of them were contributed by Royal cooks.

The Forme of Cury - First Medieval Cooks Books

The Forme of Cury – First Medieval Cook Books


Medieval Beverages

The water was often unclean during this time so the poor drank ale. Some people of the lower class drank mead and cider, while the nobles and royal families drank different kinds of wine.

Medieval Jugs for medieval drinks

Medieval Jugs used to serve ale, cider, and other drinks that were made to a medieval recipe


Banquet *Great Feast

Banquets and Feasts were also common during the medieval period. Different kinds of meat such as peacocks, seals, porpoises, and whales could be served during banquets and feasts, primarily because the meat was a sign of wealth during this era.

Squires Training to become Knights

Medieval Banquet

Several dishes were laid out in a luxurious manner. Everyday pies, jellies, fritters, and stews were also served. Custards were dyed in vivid colors accompanying other dishes. Other banquets provided special courtesy books to their guests. This was popular at the time as it gave instructions on how to behave during banquets.

For most noble and royal families, it was also a great opportunity for them to show off their wealth.

French Medieval Banquet

15th-century French medieval banquet


Medieval Food Summary

Medieval food was not ideal in medieval times, especially for the rich. Even if they had access to highly nutritious food, they did not eat a well-balanced meal. This was the cause of various illnesses such as bad teeth, scurvy, and rickets to mention a few. Nevertheless, medieval times showed how food defines culture and history.

The several influences during the medieval period also reflected how food and cooking evolved through time, especially with the recipes that were handed down from generation to generation.

Great Resources about Medieval Food

The Forme of Cury Paperback – August 20, 2016

Food in Medieval Times (Food through History)

Food and Feasts in the Middle Ages (Medieval World) Paperback – March 1, 2004

The Medieval Cookbook: Revised Edition Hardcover – May 8, 2012