Welsh Rabbit a.k.a. Welsh Rarebit: Creamy cheese sauce with a hint of mustard and beer is served over garden fresh pan-fried sweet onions and toast. This is one incredible vegetarian main dish, but it is next level incredible if you sneak a couple of slices of crisp bacon under the cheese sauce!
Did you know there’s no actual rabbit in Welsh rabbit? In fact, most of the time, there’s no meat at all in a Welsh Rabbit. It’s a vegetarian dish!
The actual name is Welsh Rabbit even though there’s a complete lack of Bugs Bunny in it, and the phrase “Rarebit” came along later, probably in an attempt to make sense of the name Rabbit in a dish which had none. The Oxford English Dictionary can confirm Welsh Rabbit has been made as early as 1725 but they believe it may pre-date even that!
“HUH?!?” you say, and I don’t blame you. I do not know why anyone circa 1720 might have called it rabbit, and all anyone else has is theories.
What is Welsh Rarebit?
While no one seems to be able to agree why it’s called what it’s called, Welsh rarebit or Welsh rabbit is generally acknowledged to be comprised of cheese or cheese sauce on toast.
We can all agree is a very good thing, indeed. This is my favourite take ever on the cheese sauce on toast theme and it is inspired by my dear friend, Sandii, an Australian national and her American husband, Matt.
To summarize: former colonies unite to revamp a British classic! My Welsh Rabbit starts with toasted baguette instead of a slice of toasted sandwich bread. Baguette holds up better to the cheese sauce, in my opinion.
Our toasted baguette is topped with pan-fried onions, thick slabs of fresh summer tomatoes, crispy bacon, and is then finally doused in a hearty helping of a beer-based, hint-of-mustard Welsh Rabbit. Good golly. I die of happiness every time I eat this.
So WHATEVER the origins of Welsh Rabbit or Rarebit and whichever you prefer to call it, it’s delicious. I’m sure there’s a better adjective for it than ‘delicious’ but delicious it is, so it stands.
I think a long, thin baguette is the perfect bread for the job here because it’s sturdy enough to retain some character after being drizzled with olive oil, toasted, covered in fried onions, juicy tomatoes, bacon, and a dousing of cheese sauce. If you can’t lay your hands on baguette, thick slices of homemade sourdough or hearty white bread would stand in admirably.
I like sweet onions for the onion component here, but any good onion will do. Keep in mind that it will be a stronger finishing onion flavour if you start with a stronger onion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing!
When I eat this Welsh Rabbit in warmer months, I pile on a couple slabs of ripe, juicy, summer tomato. If you decide to try this with tomatoes midwinter, well, good luck to you.
Midwinter, I’d still make Welsh Rabbit and nix the tomato portion of the programme. A side of tangy pickles or cherry tomatoes would be nice for the fresh punch you need to cut through the richness of the cheese sauce.
Do yourself a favour and err a little toward under measuring your flour for the Rabbit. There’s not much sadder than a clumpy, grainy Rabbit sauce, and too much flour will do just that.
If you want to be VERY precise, use a serving spoon to lightly sprinkle flour over your measuring spoon and then use the handle of the spoon to scrape across and level the spoon taking great care not to shake it and settle it into place. I know that sounds fussy, but it’s not THAT much extra work, and your sauce will thank you.
While I’m normally a fan of extra sharp cheddar for, um, everything, I prefer regular sharp cheddar for Welsh Rabbit. It avoids some of the grainy issues that extra sharp cheddar introduces and still gives a good old Cheddar punch. You’ll make up for some of the lacking sharpness with the dry mustard and grainy mustard you add into the sauce.
Yes, you’re mixing a raw egg yolk into the finished sauce. If this seems a health risk you’re unwilling to take, use a pasteurized egg yolk.
Most of the time, food-born illness is a result of the shell or the egg white, so you really needn’t fret a raw egg yolk here and there, though. Decide according to your comfort level.
Now you’re going to want a nice cold beverage with this, of course. A chilled beer is a natural selection, but a Boozy Strawberry Basil Lemonade or Berry Kombucha Margaritas would also be extra refreshing alongside it.
Welsh Rabbit a.k.a. Welsh RarebitRate Recipe
- 1/2 baguette sliced in half as if for a sandwich, then divided in half lengthwise to yield 4 pieces
- 2 tablespoons butter softened or melted
- 2 sweet onions peeled, sliced into 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick slabs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 ounces thick sliced bacon cooked 'til crispy
- 2 beefsteak tomatoes sliced thickly
For the Welsh Rabbit Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup beer preferably ale
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder preferably Coleman's Mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard grainy or smooth
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar shredded, about 1 1/2 cups
- 1 egg yolk
- Set your oven's broiler to HIGH. Arrange the bread, cut side up, on a cookie sheet. Spread or brush a thin layer of butter over the baguette slices and pop the pan under the broiler. Toast until the bread is uniformly golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When it is shimmery, lay the onion slabs in the pan and let them fry 3-4 minutes on one side, undisturbed, or until you can ease a spatula underneath, lift it gently, and find it to be golden brown.
- Lay a flexible spatula over each slice, slide another one underneath, and gently turn each over to fry for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden brown on the second side. Transfer to a plate and tent gently with foil.
- Return the pan to the burner, adjust the heat to low, and melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk it in. Toast for 1 minute, or until fragrant, whisking the whole time.
- Whisk in the beer until smooth, then the milk. Whisk in the dry mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and Dijon mustard until perfectly smooth. Stir in the grated cheese until melted, then remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolk.
- Serve immediately with the toast, fried onions, fresh tomatoes, and bacon. The Welsh Rabbit is best served hot or warm.
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
This post was originally published August 20, 2014 and republished in April of 2022 with improved instructions, information, and photos.