20 Traditional Irish Foods You Haven’t Heard Of (and Some You Have)
You probably know what shepherd's pie is, but how about boxty or champ? Follow along to discover traditional Irish food, one dish at a time.
Yes, we’re starting with potatoes. But boxty deserves the top spot! The potato pancakes are made with both grated raw and mashed potatoes and their origins stem back to the Great Famine. It’s even mentioned in an old Irish rhyme: “Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan; if you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man.”
Psst! We also have the scoop on classic British foods.
First appearing in the late 1700s, shepherd’s pie was a popular way to use up leftovers, with many Irish cooks developing a personal spin on the recipe.
Take note, there’s a difference between shepherd’s pie and cottage pie. Traditionally, shepherd’s pie uses lamb, whereas cottage pie uses ground beef. But today, many Americans use the term shepherd’s pie for both recipes.
Barmbrack, usually shortened to “brack,” is an Irish fruitcake filled with raisins, fruit and spices. It’s soaked in tea and whiskey overnight for a sweet snack in the afternoon. It also has a starring role at Halloween, when Irish folks put trinkets in the dough. If you find a coin, wealth is on its way; find a ring and you’ll marry within the year.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with more Irish baking recipes.
Champ is similar to mashed potatoes but with lots and lots of butter (preferably Irish butter). It’s made with potatoes, milk and scallions and topped with a knob of melting butter for a delicious, rich Irish dish. Serve with a fried egg if you want a little extra protein.
Irish stew is a comforting one-pot meal, cooked slowly until the meat is ultra-tender. This Irish dish is known for its simplicity, relying on only a few key ingredients. In Ireland, lamb is the meat of choice, though Americans often make this stew with beef. Potatoes, onions and sometimes carrots round out the dish.
Black and White Pudding
Black pudding is spicy, rich and earthy. The Irish like to enjoy black pudding with white pudding, which is lighter and tastes a little like oatmeal. It often appears on the table as part of an Irish breakfast, but can be enjoyed throughout the day for a tasty dose of protein and minerals.
Irish Soda Bread
You know this one, right? Irish soda bread is a quick bread made with baking soda (not soda pop). The basic recipe is pretty simple, but many Irish cooks add a personal twist by mixing in different fruit and spices. The unique Irish soda bread recipes are passed down from generation to generation.
A coddle is a one-pot stew made with leftovers from the week, such as sausage, bacon, potatoes and onions. Its name comes from “coddling,” or simmering, the ingredients for hours before it’s ready to eat. It’s a favorite dish in Dublin, along with these classic Irish recipes.
The traditional Irish food pairs creamy mashed potatoes with cabbage. It can also feature greens like kale, scallions and leeks (its verdant color makes it a St. Patrick’s Day classic) and is often served with boiled ham. Most Irish cooks have their own colcannon recipes, but our recipe for colcannon potatoes with bacon is a great place to start.
With so much whiskey produced in Ireland, it’s only natural that this spirit found its way into coffee, too. An Irish coffee is made with black coffee, Irish whiskey, a bit of sugar and cream.
Cabbage soup is a classic dish for a reason. It’s flavorful, warming and simple to make—all things we love. There are numerous spins on this traditional Irish food, but they often feature savory veggies like cabbage (of course), potatoes and celery, along with bacon (although you can also make vegan cabbage soup).
Thanks to the waters surrounding Ireland, salmon is a delicious traditional meal—especially when it’s smoked. Often, it’s eaten with lemon, butter and coleslaw, but you can also pair it with boxty or with a scrambled egg.
Even better? Making smoked salmon at home is simple!
Originally developed as a way to use up stale bread, bread pudding is a sweet dish, spiced with cinnamon and raisins. Traditionally, bread pudding is steamed, but you can also bake it to speed things along. You can get creative by using different types of bread as the base (croissants might not be traditional, but they are delicious) and throwing in additions like chocolate and nuts.
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Irish shortbread cookies go back centuries, where leftover dough from making bread was baked in an oven until it was crisp. Butter and sugar helped it evolve into a “biscuit” that pairs perfectly with Irish tea today. The secret? Irish butter has a slightly higher fat content than American butter.
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Integrating local ingredients into a seafood chowder that keeps you toasty on chilly nights? Count us in. You can use a mix of available fish (salmon, shrimp and cod are popular in Ireland) and other staples like potatoes and cabbage. Naturally, it should be served alongside Irish soda bread.
This drink is as luxurious as it sounds. Though it was created by a bartender in London, a black velvet is a classic Irish drink that pairs the dark hoppiness of Guinness with the effervescence of champagne. Discover more festive Irish drinks. Slainte!
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It might not sound like a crowd favorite, but blaa is a beloved Irish specialty, particularly in Waterford. It’s a soft, fluffy bread roll, often slathered with butter or used in sandwiches. They’re big at breakfast but can be enjoyed throughout the day.
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Fruit cake meets beer in this traditional Irish food. Porter balances sweetness with a bitter, distinct flavor and keeps the cake moist. It was often made around Christmas, but we don’t see any reason it can’t be enjoyed year-round. Here’s a fact to share—porter was first brewed in the 1720s, several years before Guinness opened its doors.
Irish Apple Cake
An apple a day keeps the doctor away—even when it’s cake, right? A traditional Irish food, this apple cake is mildly spiced and topped with thin slices of apple and a crumbly oat streusel. Opt for a type of apple that’s on the tarter side.
Boiled Bacon and Cabbage
This dish is a lesson in simplicity—it’s exactly what its name suggests. To make this traditional Irish food, use a cut of bacon from the shoulder or back of the pig (American bacon usually comes from the belly). It’s often served with a white parsley bechamel sauce.