what did knights eat

Feasts of Valor: What Did Knights Eat in the Middle Ages?

When we think of knights, we often picture them clad in armor, ready to charge into battle. But have you ever wondered what they ate to fuel their bravery? The Middle Ages was a time of nobility, chivalry, and grand feasts. Knights were no exception to this lavish lifestyle, and their diet was an important aspect of their daily routine. In this article, we explore the cuisine of the Middle Ages and uncover the secrets of what knights ate in their quest for valor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Knights had a rich and diverse diet that consisted of various meats, grains, and vegetables.
  • The ingredients used in knightly dishes were often expensive and reserved for nobility.
  • Knightly banquets were a grand affair, showcasing the opulence of medieval feasts.

Knightly Diet: A Glimpse into the Past

In the Middle Ages, food played a crucial role in the lives of knights. It was not only a means of sustenance but also a symbol of social status and cultural identity.

The knightly diet was influenced by the historical context of the time, as well as by the availability of ingredients and the cooking techniques employed. As a result, medieval food was characterized by its simplicity, yet also by its rich and hearty flavors.

The knightly diet consisted primarily of meat, bread, and grains, with occasional additions of fruits and vegetables. The meat consumed by knights was usually sourced from game animals such as deer, boar, and hare, which they hunted themselves or acquired through trade.

Bread was a staple food in the Middle Ages and was often made from coarse grains such as barley or rye. Knights also consumed porridge and gruel, which were made by boiling grains in water or milk.

The knightly diet was not only nourishing but also indulgent. Knights enjoyed lavish feasts and banquets, which featured an array of dishes and desserts. These feasts were often accompanied by wine and ale, which were consumed in copious amounts.

The knightly diet was not without its challenges. Knights often had to travel long distances, and food had to be portable and easy to preserve. As a result, they relied on dried fruits, nuts, and preserved meats, which could be carried with them on their expeditions.

Overall, the knightly diet was a reflection of the times and the culture in which knights lived. It was simple yet hearty, nourishing yet indulgent, and above all, a symbol of their social status and cultural identity.

The Noble Palate: Ingredients Fit for Knights

The cuisine of medieval knights was associated with luxury, extravagance, and opulence. As such, the ingredients used in their dishes had to reflect their noble status and the high value placed on their meals. In this section, we will explore the key ingredients that were essential to the noble palate of knights.

Meat: The Epitome of Knightly Food

Meat was undoubtedly the centerpiece of the knightly diet. Being an important source of protein, it was a staple food for warriors who needed the energy to fight and engage in physical activities. Knights were especially fond of meat from game animals, such as deer, boar, and hare, because it was considered a delicacy and a show of hunting prowess. However, meat from domesticated animals, such as pork, beef, and lamb, was also widely consumed.

Spices and Herbs: Adding Flavor and Aromas

Spices and herbs were integral to the noble cuisine of knights, as they added fragrance, richness, and depth of flavor to their dishes. These included saffron, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pepper, among others. Herbs such as parsley, thyme, sage, and rosemary were also used to complement the meaty flavors and add a touch of greenery to the plate.

Fruits and Nuts: A Touch of Sweetness

Fruits and nuts were not as common in knightly dishes as they are today, but they were nonetheless present in some recipes as a way of adding a hint of sweetness and texture. Some examples of fruits used by knights were apples, raisins, and figs, which were often combined with meat in stews and pies. Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, were also favored for their crunchy and nutty taste.

Dairy: A Sign of Wealth and Status

Dairy products, such as cheese, butter, and cream, were rare delicacies in medieval times, and only the wealthy and powerful could afford them. Knights, being part of the nobility, often had access to these products and used them in their cooking to add richness and creaminess to their dishes. Cheese, in particular, was a frequent ingredient in savory pies and casseroles.

As we can see, the ingredients that made up the knightly diet were mainly sourced from nature and had to be produced locally. Knights valued the quality and freshness of their food, and often insisted on having it served hot and steaming. Next, we will examine the role of meat in the knight’s table and the hunting practices that knights employed to catch their food in the wild.

A Hunter’s Feast: Meat in the Knight’s Table

Meat was a prized ingredient in the knightly diet, with hunting being a popular sport among the nobility. Knights would often go on expeditions to hunt for game, which was then served at banquets and feasts. The types of game that were hunted often depended on the region and time period, but some of the most commonly consumed meats included deer, boar, and rabbit.

Hunting in medieval times was not just a means of acquiring food, but also a way to demonstrate one’s wealth and status. The more exotic and rare the animal, the greater the prestige. Some knights even maintained their own private hunting grounds, which were highly coveted and often a source of conflict between noble families.

Types of Game Description
Deer One of the most popular game meats, venison was often roasted or stewed.
Boar A symbol of strength and virility, wild boar was commonly prepared as a roast or in a rich stew.
Rabbit A smaller game animal, rabbit was often roasted or used in pies and stews.

Game dishes were often flavored with herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. These spices were expensive and highly valued, and were often used as a way to show off one’s wealth and sophistication.

While meat was a staple of the knightly diet, it was not always available. During times of scarcity or while on the move, knights would often rely on preserved meats such as salted beef or cured ham. These could be easily transported and stored, making them ideal for long journeys or military expeditions.

In summary, meat played a central role in the knightly diet, with hunting and game dishes being an important part of medieval cuisine. The types of game consumed often reflected the status and wealth of the knight, with exotic and rare animals being highly prized. Spices were used to add flavor and sophistication to dishes, showcasing the knight’s refined palate.

Breads and Grains: The Sustenance of Knights

Bread and grains were considered staple food items in the knightly diet during the Middle Ages. From simple flatbread to fancy loaves, bread was consumed in various forms.

Medieval bread was made from coarse flour, unlike the refined flour used in modern times. This bread was denser and chewier than modern bread. It was a common source of carbohydrates for the knights, providing them with the energy they required for their daily activities.

Knightly grains such as barley, oats, and rye were also essential components of their diet. These grains not only provided energy but also important nutrients. Porridge made from grains was a common breakfast item for the knights.

White bread was considered a luxury item and only the wealthy could afford it. The knights would indulge in white bread made from fine wheat flour on special occasions.

Types of Bread Description
Manchet A fine, white bread made from wheat flour
Rye Bread Made from rye flour, this bread was common among the lower classes
Flatbread A simple bread made from flour, water, and salt

Grains such as barley and oats were also used to make beer and ale, which were the preferred drinks of knights. These alcoholic beverages not only provided hydration but also nutrition.

Bread and grains were easily accessible, making them ideal food items for knights during travel. They did not require refrigeration and could be stored for extended periods.

A Feast for the Senses: Knightly Culinary Delights

During the Middle Ages, knights indulged in extravagant feasts and banquets, which were more than just meals but also served as grand displays of wealth and power. These events were known for their opulence, including dishes made from exotic ingredients and served on elaborate table settings.

Medieval feasts were a gastronomic indulgence that involved many courses, each with its own unique flavor and texture. The dishes were carefully prepared, and the presentation was just as important as the taste. The variety of food and drinks served at these feasts left a lasting impression on guests and showcased the host’s extravagance.

The centerpiece of any knightly banquet was the meat. Wild game such as deer, boar, and pheasant were hunted for their rich and savory flavors. The meat was often roasted or stewed and served alongside vegetables and grains. Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg were used to add depth to the dishes and mask any unwanted flavors.

The desserts and drinks served at these banquets were equally delicious. The nobility enjoyed a variety of sweets, including custards, pies, and tarts. Honey and sugar were used to sweeten the desserts, and fruit preserves were also added for a burst of flavor. To wash it all down, guests were served an assortment of beverages, including wine, mead, and ale.

Nourishment on the Move: Traveling as a Knight

While knights may have enjoyed lavish feasts in their castles, their travels on expeditions presented a different challenge when it came to food. Portable meals were essential for nourishment on the go, but they also had to be able to withstand long journeys and varying weather conditions.

Knights often carried dried fruits and nuts, which were high in energy and could last for extended periods. Jerky and smoked meat were also popular choices as they could be preserved and would not spoil quickly. Hard-boiled eggs and cheese were other options and were easy to transport.

For sustenance on longer journeys, knights would bring bread that was baked to last, such as hardtack, or biscuits made with flour and water. These staples were filling and could be eaten alone or with other foods.

When hunting, knights would often eat their catch, which included game such as deer, wild boar, and birds. These meats were cooked and eaten on the spot, providing instant nourishment for the knights during their travels.

Overall, traveling as a knight required careful consideration when it came to food. Portable meals were essential for nourishment on the move, and the options used by knights varied depending on the length and nature of their journey.

The Sweet Side: Desserts and Drinks

Aside from hearty meat dishes and grains, knights also enjoyed an indulgent array of desserts and beverages. These medieval delicacies may seem simple by today’s standards, but they were a true feast for the senses.

Medieval Desserts and Knightly Sweets

One of the most popular desserts during this period was gingerbread, which was often shaped and decorated with gold leaf or intricately piped icing. Other sweet treats included custards, fruit tarts, and sugared almonds. One beloved treat was marzipan, a paste made from almonds and sugar, which was often molded into intricate shapes and painted with edible dyes to resemble fruits and flowers.

Knightly banquets also featured preserved fruit, candied citrus peel, and sweetmeats, which were small confections made from sugar, honey, and spices. These treats were often served on delicate silver platters and were a sign of the host’s wealth and status.

Beverages in the Middle Ages

Knights had a fondness for ale and mead, which were often brewed on their own estates. Wine was also a popular drink, but it was reserved for the upper classes and was often imported from France or Italy.

One popular drink during this time was hippocras, a spiced wine made from red wine, honey, and a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Another favorite was posset, a warm drink made from milk curdled with ale or wine and flavored with nutmeg and sugar.

It’s clear that knights in the Middle Ages enjoyed a variety of sweet and flavorful treats, from gingerbread to spiced wine. These delicacies were not only a way to satisfy their sweet tooth, but also a symbol of their wealth and influence.

The Sweet Side: Desserts and Drinks

Knights may have lived a tough life, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t indulge in some sweet treats and refreshing drinks. Desserts and drinks were an integral part of a knightly feast, and many recipes and traditions have survived to this day.

Desserts in the Middle Ages often featured fruit, honey, and spices. Apples, pears, and quinces were commonly used in pies and tarts, while figs and dates were a popular choice for sweetmeats. Honey was used as a sweetener and was often combined with nuts, ginger, or cinnamon to make a sticky candy.

Knights also had a variety of beverages to choose from. Ale, beer, and mead were popular among the common people, but knights often had access to more refined drinks. Wine, imported from France or Spain, was the drink of choice for the nobility. It was often served with a splash of honey or spices to enhance its flavor.

The Knightly Sweet Tooth

For knights with a sweet tooth, there were plenty of options to choose from. One popular dessert was blancmange, a creamy pudding made from ground almonds, milk, and sugar. It was often flavored with rosewater or orange blossom water and topped with chopped almonds or pistachios.

Made from a mixture of eggs, cream, and sugar, custard tarts were another favorite of the knights. They were often flavored with spices such as nutmeg or cinnamon, and sometimes had raisins or currants added to them.

Quenching the Thirst

Knights had many options when it came to drinks as well. Hippocras, a spiced wine, was often served at the beginning of a meal to awaken the appetite. It was made by boiling wine with sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves and then straining it to remove any solids.

Ale and beer were also popular, and were often made by the local brewer. These drinks were an important source of hydration for knights, especially during long journeys or battles.


While the knightly diet may have been focused on meat and grains, desserts and drinks were still an important part of the culinary culture in the Middle Ages. From sweet tarts to spiced wine, knights were able to indulge in a variety of treats to satisfy their sweet tooth and quench their thirst.

The historical significance of medieval cuisine and the knightly diet in particular cannot be overstated. The meals they enjoyed were not just a means for nourishment, but were also a symbol of their status and a reflection of their cultural values. By studying their diet, we gain a deeper understanding of the lives of knights and the society they lived in.


Q: What did knights eat in the Middle Ages?

A: Knights in the Middle Ages had a varied diet consisting of meat, bread, grains, and other ingredients commonly available during that time period.

Q: Why was food important to knights?

A: Food was crucial to knights as it provided them with the necessary energy and nutrition for their physical activities and battles.

Q: What were some common ingredients used in knightly dishes?

A: Common ingredients used in knightly dishes included meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices.

Q: Did knights consume a lot of meat?

A: Yes, meat was an important part of the knightly diet, and knights often enjoyed a variety of meats such as beef, pork, and game.

Q: What role did bread and grains play in the knightly diet?

A: Bread and grains served as staple foods for knights, providing them with necessary carbohydrates and sustenance.

Q: Did knights indulge in lavish feasts and banquets?

A: Yes, knights often enjoyed extravagant feasts and banquets, where they indulged in a wide array of delicious dishes and fine beverages.

Q: How did knights manage to eat while on the move?

A: Knights faced challenges in terms of food while traveling, but they often carried portable meals and provisions for sustenance during expeditions.

Q: What desserts and drinks did knights enjoy?

A: Knights indulged in a variety of desserts such as sweet pastries, fruit tarts, and custards. They also enjoyed beverages like ale, wine, and mead.

Q: How significant was the knightly diet in the Middle Ages?

A: The knightly diet played a vital role in providing knights with the necessary sustenance and fuel for their physical activities, battles, and overall well-being.