Popular Irish Foods Explained
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Popular Irish Foods Explained

Irish soda bread and other dishes are diverse and delicious
Popular Irish Foods Explained
minadezhda/Shutterstock

Everyone’s a little bit Irish when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, or at least they try to be. For many, that means cramming into local Irish pubs, drinking beer and eating a sad attempt at corned beef and cabbage or soggy fish and chips. But there are plenty of Irish culinary options out there that don’t involve corned beef, and we’ve tracked down 15 that you should really know about.

Bacon and Cabbage

Bacon and Cabbage
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The precursor to corned beef and cabbage, bacon and cabbage isn’t made with the same smoky pork bacon you eat for breakfast. It’s made with Irish back bacon, which is made from cured pork loin. The dish is paired with fresh produce like cabbage and sometimes onions, potatoes, carrots or turnips. Everything is boiled together and topped by a creamy white sauce made from butter, flour, milk and parsley.

Bangers and Mash

Bangers and Mash
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This is one food you need to try when traveling to the U.K. This dish is popular throughout the British Isles and is a common example of “pub grub.” Bangers are sausages, which are usually pork and heavily seasoned with sage. Bangers and mash was reportedly given its name due to the loud banging sound made by the sausages when they burst open while cooking. And mash is, well, mashed potatoes. The duo is usually topped with a ladle of onion-based gravy.

Battered Sausage

Battered Sausage
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This is just what it sounds like: a banger that’s been battered and deep-fried. The batter is usually the same one that’s used for one of Britain’s most iconic restaurant dishes: fish and chips. In Ireland, the sausages are sometimes split after frying and are filled with onion then topped with ketchup. This sounds like one of those foods that put your blood pressure through the roof.

Boxty

Boxty

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A boxty is essentially the Irish take on the potato pancake. It’s made by combining mashed potatoes with grated potatoes, flour, buttermilk and egg, then cooking it like a pancake on a griddle. It can be served as a side for meat-based dishes or consumed on its own. 

Champ

Champ
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Champ is about as simple as it gets: mashed potatoes with butter and milk, as well as a big handful of chopped scallions. It’s a great comfort food to make ahead and freeze for a weeknight.

Coddle

Coddle
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A coddle, also known as Dublin coddle, is a one-pot dish with a name derived from the French word “caudle,” which means to boil gently. It’s usually made by boiling pork sausages and slices of Irish back bacon (called rashers) with sliced potatoes, onions and occasionally barley and parsley. It makes for the perfect home-cooked meal on a cold day alongside a pint of Guinness.

Colcannon

Colcannon
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Instead of eating popular Halloween candies like Americans, in Ireland, it’s a Halloween tradition to eat colcannon. Much like champ, colcannon is a mashed potato-based dish. There are many regional variations, but the traditional recipe consists of shredded cooked cabbage or kale cooked with milk, butter, salt, pepper and greens including spring onions, leeks and chives. It’s typically eaten with boiled ham or Irish bacon. 

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

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Cottage pie is made by cooking ground meat (usually lamb or beef) and vegetables, adding the mixture to a casserole dish and topping it with mashed potatoes, which are then browned on top. But before you attempt to make this dish, perhaps consider that you might be cooking chicken, turkey, steak and other foods all wrong.

Farl

Farl

Photo Modified: Flickr / JianEn Yu / CC BY 4.0

A farl is a circular bread made by mixing dough and spreading it on a griddle or frying pan. It makes use of basic ingredients such as flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk. The word “farl” comes from the process of rolling the dough into a flat circle, then dividing it into four pieces (“farl” derives from an old word meaning “fourths”). You can find this bread on a plate alongside some of Ireland’s most iconic breakfast foods, in particular the Ulster fry, which also includes sausages, eggs, bacon and tomatoes.

Full Irish Breakfast

Full Irish Breakfast
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Once you’ve had an Irish breakfast, you will never want to skip breakfast again. A full Irish “fry-up” is a hearty breakfast usually comprised of fried eggs, Irish bacon, sausage, white pudding, black pudding, beans, fried tomato and bread, which can be anything from a farl to brown soda bread. It’s almost always a breakfast option at pubs and the most spectacular hotels in the country.

Irish Stew

Irish Stew
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A classic Irish comfort food dinner, Irish stew can be any combination of meat and vegetables slow-cooked in a stew. This dish was invented from using what was mostly available or leftover ingredients. Most traditional recipes call for some combination of lamb or beef (or occasionally goat or mutton), potatoes, onions, parsley, carrots and pearl barley, simmered for a couple of hours.

Pastie

Pastie
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Unlike your iconic dessert pies, this Northern Irish pie adds a savory component. Irish pastie is made by forming a patty with minced pork, onion, potatoes and spices, dipping it into a batter and deep-frying it. This is very different from the English or Cornish pasty, which is more similar to a meat-filled turnover. It’s usually served with fries, also called crisps, in pubs.

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie
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This is certainly not to be mistaken with the pies you might find at the sweetest dessert shops. Shepherd’s pie is similar to a cottage pie, but with one difference. Cottage pie can be made with basically any kind of meat, but a true shepherd’s pie must be made with only ground lamb.

Soda Bread

Soda Bread

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Is Irish soda bread even Irish? Either way, it’s a food that many people enjoy eating in Ireland. Soda bread is any type of bread made with baking soda as a leavening agent instead of yeast. In Ireland, there are a couple of varieties: the one made with soft wheat flour that you usually find in American grocery stores around St. Patrick’s Day, and a whole-grain variety commonly known as brown bread. They’re both delicious, especially when toasted and topped with some Irish butter, like Kerrygold. Or you can turn it into a sandwich with smoked salmon.

Steak and Guinness Pie

Steak and Guinness Pie

Meat pies are very common on the Emerald Isle. They’re usually made with beef (generally a cut that’s good for stewing instead of steak), slowly cooked into a stew with Guinness and vegetables, which gets baked into a pie until golden brown. Many other pies, including ones filled with steak and kidney, are also found in Ireland. Guinness adds flavor to the meat, but there are plenty of other unusual ways to marinade your meat, such as with Dr. Pepper.

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