What do Britons like most on their chips?

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
August 13, 2020, 11:00 PM UTC

Mayonnaise, mushy peas, curry sauce: the answer varies wildly depending on where in the country you ask

Back in June an old reddit map purporting to show the UK’s favourite chip shop toppings began recirculating on twitter. If there’s two things we love at YouGov, it’s chips and properly conducted surveys, so we decided to see what the real map should look like.

In early July we asked more than 36,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales what toppings they like on their chip shop chips. The results tell a very different story to the unscientific Reddit approach. Excluding salt and vinegar, only three toppings take the top slot in the various subregions of Britain: tomato ketchup, curry sauce and mushy peas.

Tomato ketchup triumphs by some margin in England (34%) and Scotland (25%), whereas in Wales curry sauce reigns supreme (35%).

Looking at a county level reveals a new front in the North/South divide. Tomato ketchup dominates in the south of England, with Cornwall and Bristol the only holdouts, both favouring curry sauce.

Curry sauce is also the most popular choice through much of the West Midlands, as well as in Merseyside and England’s three northern-most countries: Tyne and Wear, Cumbria, and Northumberland.

Mushy peas cover most of the rest of the Midlands and the north, although there are tomato ketchup footholds in Durham, East Riding, and the south-bordering counties of Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.

Salt and vinegar

As mentioned previously, we excluded salt and vinegar from the map as they simply dominate everywhere (salt especially). Around eight in ten Britons have salt on their chip shop chips: 84% in Scotland, 82% in Wales and 79% in England.

There are more obvious national differences when it comes to vinegar, with 77% of Welsh people dripping a dash on their chips compared to 66% of Scots. English people sit in between, on 69%.

Tomato ketchup

In Britain as a whole, tomato ketchup is the third most popular topping choice, coming only behind salt and vinegar at 25%.

Tomato sauce is noticeably more popular in England (34%) than Scotland and Wales (both 24%). It is worth noting, however, that in Scotland it is still the most popular member of the ketchup/mushy peas/curry sauce triumvirate, with the other two accompaniments getting only 10% and 14% of the vote respectively.

Within England it is especially beloved in Oxfordshire, where 45% of people will pour some red sauce on their chips. It is least popular on the Welsh border, with 18% of Herefordshire residents going for it.

Mushy peas

Mushy peas are the topping that Britons vary most widely on. They are at their most popular in South Yorkshire at 46%, while just 10% of people in East and West Sussex opt for a serving of green mush.

It is far less popular in the South in general: only 16% of Southerners ever choose it, compared to 29% in the Midlands and 33% in the North.

Curry sauce

As mentioned above, curry sauce is particularly popular in Wales, at 35%, compared to 26% in England and 14% in Scotland.

On a county level, Worcestershire are the #1 curry sauce fans, with 44% adding a dash of orange to their bed of yellow. East Sussex again comes bottom of the table, with only 13% ever purchasing any.

Gravy

Gravy is a particularly popular chip accompaniment in the North. Close to a quarter of Northerners pour the brown stuff over their purchase (23%) compared to 15% of Midlanders and 9% of Southerners.

It is also far more popular in Wales (22%) than it is in England (14%) and Scotland (7%).

Greater Manchester is clearly the spiritual home of gravy on chips, with 38% of residents indulging. You’re least likely to see a fellow customer in a chippy asking for gravy in East Sussex, Surrey, West Sussex and Worcestershire, where just 4% will purchase it.

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise on chips is an import from continental Europe, and on that basis perhaps it’s no surprise that it is most common in the South. Close to one in five Southerners (18%) have the egg-based sauce with chips, compared to 13% of Midlanders and 10% of Northerners.

Dorset, Berkshire and Wiltshire are the number one counties for mayonnaise (25%), while you are least likely to see the white sauce in West Yorkshire, with just 7% ever taking it with their chips.

Chip spice

You are only likely to be aware of chip spice if you have spent time in or around Hull. Chip spice is a salt mixture containing paprika and tomato powder among other ingredients. It is often replaces both salt and vinegar in the region’s takeaways.

In both Hull and the wider East Riding region overall, 36% of people say they have chip spice on their chips, in stark contrast to the rest of the country where 0-7% ever encounter it.

Chippy sauce

For those unfamiliar, ‘chip sauce’ or ‘chippy sauce’ is a concoction composed of brown sauce and vinegar. It is traditionally associated with Edinburgh, and indeed 28% of respondents in the city chose it, making it the most popular option in the city behind salt and vinegar.

By contrast just 9% of Glaswegians say they ever have it, and the figure for Scotland as a whole is only 11%. It is rarer still in England and Wales, with just 2% in each country claiming they get it shaken over the chips.

Cheese

Only 9% of Britons request a cheesy chips from their chip shop. It is most common behaviour at the very bottom of the country, with one in five (20%) inhabitants of Cornwall going for the dairy option. Take-up is lowest in Bedfordshire and Cheshire, at 4%.

Pepper

Despite salt and pepper being a stereotypical pairing, a mere 8% of Britons have pepper on their chips. East Sussex, a county that has eschewed so many of the other accompaniments, is something of an outlier here with 18% saying they add a sprinkle of blackness to their chips.

It is least popular in Cheshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, at just 2%.

HP sauce/Brown sauce

A mere 6% of Britons have HP sauce or brown sauce.

Not only are inhabitants of Oxfordshire the most likely to favour red sauce, they are also the most likely to choose brown, at 12%. Fans are least likely to be found in Leicestershire, where a 1% sliver of the population go for some brown sauce.