Many variations are strongly associated with British cuisine. Recipes vary greatly and can be desserts or savoury courses. They are typically boiled or steamed, though some baked variations and recipes adapted for microwave ovens exist.
The Paignton pudding was also a variation of suet pudding.
The suet pudding dates back to at least the start of the 18th century. Mary Kettilby's 1714 A Collection of above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery gives a receipt for "An excellent Plumb-Pudding", which calls for "one pound of Suet, shred very small and sifted" along with raisins, flour, sugar, eggs, and a little salt; these were to be boiled for "four hours at least".
Christmas pudding developed from a meat dish. The ancestor of the suet pudding was pottage, a meat and vegetable stew originating in Roman times. This was prepared in a large cauldron, the ingredients being slow cooked, with dried fruits, sugar and spices added. In the 15th century, Plum pottage was a sloppy mix of meat, vegetables and fruit served at the beginning of a meal.
The name suet pudding refers to the fat mixed with the flour; it is the fat from around the kidneys of mammals. Pudding is a British term for foods using this pastry, and the dishes can be sweet deserts or savory dishes.
In George Orwell's 1947 essay "Such, Such Were the Joys," recounting the miseries of his preparatory school education, St Cyprian's School saves money by serving distasteful unsweetened suet pudding as a first course to "break the boys' appetites."