Discussing a Virginia Food Tradition: Is a Ham Biscuit on a Roll?

Over the holidays, a question I’d never given any thought to came up: is a ham biscuit on a roll?

The day after Christmas, my husband noted that we hadn’t eaten any ham biscuits this year. What? Yes, we had. Just hours earlier, in fact.

Then it became clear. Our understanding of a ham biscuit was not the same.

I’d never questioned the truth. A ham biscuit is a small party sandwich of salty, shaved Virginia ham, swiss cheese, and a buttery mustard sauce served on a dinner roll. Why on earth would one imagine a ham biscuit being served on a biscuit?

So, I took to the internet. And, after a little bit of digging around, it became clear that the ham biscuit is a hyper-specific Virginia delicacy. Other states may put ham on a biscuit and they may even serve similar ham sandwiches on rolls, but this variation is unique to the Old Dominion.

Is a Ham Biscuit on a Roll?

Of course, Adam refused to believe my insistence — and the internet’s — that a ham biscuit is actually served on a roll. Now, there’s only one research-driven way to solve a debate: Instagram story polls. I asked my Insta friends, “If you’re from Virginia, are ham biscuits on an actual biscuit or on a dinner party style roll?”

Well, the people spoke. 67% voted ROLL.

I also received more messages than I’ve ever received in response to a question. Most were enthusiastically defending the ham biscuit on a roll. Some offered their recipe variations and preferences in rolls and ham.. A few offered alternate names, including ham delights and funeral biscuits. But the general consensus is, a ham biscuit is not on a biscuit at all.

Note: despite my clearly worded question that said, “If you’re from Virginia,” there were more than a few confirmed non-Virginians (ahem, friends of mine) voting for biscuit. So, the numbers *should* be even more in the favor of roll.

Let’s talk about the history of putting a ham biscuit on a roll…

While I’m not sure how Virginia came to call a biscuit a roll, the agreement is that a ham biscuit consists of thinly shaved salty Virginia ham (some swear by Smithfield, others rely on Edwards), swiss, a sauce relying on butter, mustard, and poppy seeds, and a slightly sweet, small dinner roll that could be King’s Hawaiian or Sister Schubert’s.

They’re cooked in the oven until the cheese melts and then served at any family or social gathering. Holidays year round, bridal showers, baby showers, if people are together, they’re eating ham biscuits.

So, by now, you’re probably curious about the recipe, right? Well, let’s end this debate with exactly how to make this delicious little bites.



is a ham biscuit on a roll - virginia ham biscuit


Print Recipe
Virginia Ham Biscuits
A classic Virginia ham biscuit...served on a roll, as it should be.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and whisk together with mustard, Worcestershire, onion, and poppy seeds. Split the rolls –– if you are using the 24 pack, it can be easiest to treat it as one large roll. Spread the butter mixture on both sides of the roll. I typically wrap them in foil before putting them in the oven to keep drips to a minimum. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the swiss has melted and the tops are golden brown. With the King's Hawaiian rolls, you should get a nice toast on the top. Serve warm (or eat cold from the fridge as leftovers the next day). Enjoy!


is a ham biscuit on a roll - virginia ham biscuit

is a ham biscuit on a roll - virginia ham biscuit


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