Every St. Patrick’s Day since I can remember, my mother has made our traditional celebratory meal of corned beef and cabbage, with a side of soda bread. And though I’m about 25 percent Irish (thanks Ancestry.com!), I’ve never been what you would call “into” this traditional meal. Still, any proper quarter Irish woman wants to celebrate her heritage on this fine Irish holiday, which is why I started researching alternative St. Paddy’s Day meals to eat that didn’t involve homemade corned beef.
The history of Irish cuisine or traditional Irish food is actually quite complex—British colonialism and the Great Famine obviously had a huge impact on what is technically now considered traditional Irish fare. (Despite the fact that potatoes are what Ireland seems to be known for, they were actually brought by British settlers.) And though Irish cuisine is much more diverse than it gets credit for, much of it is categorically hearty (makes sense since clouds and rain are prevalent here—they don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing). The reality is however, if you walk into any Dublin pub you’ll find a varied, traditional menu that may not have the word cabbage written once. But most likely you will have a meal that is perfect for soaking up an Irish stout. Here’s how to bring some Dublin pub food into your own kitchen come St. Patrick’s Day without even cruising by the cabbage in the grocery store.
Similar to the better known colcannon, champ is a flavorful combination of mashed potatoes, scallions and a whole lot of butter (sidenote: there’s a lot of dairy in Irish food in general as dairy farming is and always has been big here). Eat it as a side for breakfast alongside Irish bacon or at dinner with pork or beef. Even if you’re not Irish, consuming this amount of dairy in this recipe for dinner might make you an honorary Irishman for at least a night. Get the Champ recipe.
Black Pudding and White Pudding
Often served for a traditional Irish breakfast alongside eggs or bacon, these puddings are not like the sweet chocolate or rice puddings you’re imagining. Black and white puddings are cased sausages made from a varying combination of ground meat, oatmeal, fat, and starch fillers. What sets apart black pudding, also called blood sausage, is the ingredient of pig’s blood. Don’t let that turn you off, though, this is the perfect breakfast comfort food. Get the Black Pudding recipe.
Ireland is, after all, an island! Much like other cool climate islands in the north—looking at you Iceland—fish and shellfish play a large part in Ireland’s food economy. If you’re wondering where to go in Ireland for your Native Flat Irish Oysters, look no further than Galway, who hosts a renowned yearly Oyster Festival. Ireland also has Pacific oysters year round, but it’s the luxurious seasonal native oyster (only available April-September) that draws crowds. Flat oysters served au natural with Guinness and buttered soda bread is the only way to make this a meal, according to locals. (See our guide to appreciating and eating oysters.)
Much like a latke, a boxty is the Irish version of a potato pancake, one of the main differences being the use of mashed and chopped potatoes for texture, like in this recipe. This is an Irish classic and potatoes are often immediately associated with Ireland because of the famine, even though ironically enough they weren’t actually introduced to Irish cuisine until almost the 17th century by Sir Walter Raleigh, via the Americas. Get our Boxty (Irish Potato Pancake) recipe.
Irish Goat Cheese
As previously mentioned, Ireland’s dairy products are aplenty because of the endless lush green pastures perfect for cows to graze. Classic cheddar is an Irish favorite, but specialized goat cheese is also a pride of many Irish farmers. Try this flavorful St. Tola Ash Log for a smokey flavor not found outside the isle.
Guinness is clearly one of the most Irish things you can imbibe and if you ever make it to the Guinness Factory in Dublin to taste the freshest, crispest pint you’ve ever had, you’ll truly understand why. It’s no wonder it’s Irish tradition to use this thick stout for a rich and beefy dinner stew like this one. Get our Guinness-Braised Beef recipe.
This soft and fluffy yeast bread originated in the Irish town of Waterford, an adaptation of a recipe brought by French Huguenot refugees fleeing persecution by the Catholic Church. Covered in white flour like this recipe, blaa tastes quite similar to what Americans would classify as a dinner roll, but is often served at breakfast or used for sandwiches. Get the Blaa recipe.
A hearty combination of ground beef, veggies and mashed potatoes, this simple dish is an Irish staple. Often referred to as a cottage pie, or meat pie, Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally made with lamb and named for the shepherds who tend to sheep. Get our Shepherd’s Pie recipe.
Lesser known than its soda bread counterpart, barmbrack (brack for short) is an Irish sweet bread usually made with various kinds of raisins. Similar to the Mardi Gras tradition of baking a toy baby into a king cake, it’s common for this bread to have a prize baked into it for Halloween as an apparent predictor of fortunes. Get the Barmbrack recipe.
Coddle came about as a way to use up leftover meat Thursday evenings before the Catholic tradition of meatless Fridays for lent. It’s a slow cooked stew usually made up of stock, scraps of meat like Irish bacon or sausage and various vegetables. This stew has a little bit of everything, and is often referred to as ‘Dublin Coddle’ to delineate where the recipe came from. Get the Coddle recipe.
Often thought of as a British staple, Bangers and Mash is also considered an Irish staple. Strangely called bangers because UK’s post World War I sausages were often filled with non-meat products causing them to pop and crack when cooked, these sausages are combined with mashed potatoes and served alongside homemade gravy. This particular recipe features cabbage in the mix with the potatoes, technically making it bangers and colcannon. Get the Bangers and Mash recipe.
Even though Yellowman sounds kind of like a Marvel super villain, it’s actually a type of toffee candy famed for being a mainstay at Ballycastle’s 400 year old Ould Lammas Fair. Often compared to honeycomb toffee, what makes this toffee recipe stand out is the very hard and crunchy rind— there’s even a song about it! Get the Irish Yellowman Candy recipe.