13 Traditional Irish Dishes To Eat

Ireland is well-known for its relationship with potatoes, but have you ever wondered about the other traditional Irish food that the Emerald Isle offers?

People shopping for olives

You might be surprised by the variety of traditional foods that Ireland still makes. In fact, Ireland has a famed dairy industry, including strict regulations that make some of the most well-known butter and cheese.

Due to the proximity of nearby countries and historical influence, Irish cuisine has been cultivated over the years into its own hearty food culture.

Unsurprisingly, a few of these traditional Irish food dishes include potatoes, which have become closely associated with the country through the Irish Potato Famine.

In this guide, I break down the most popular Irish foods that you need to try.

Whether you’re a visitor hoping for an authentic experience or someone wanting to know more about Irish cooking, you will learn about some of Ireland’s most popular, traditional foods.

1. Boxty

Boxty is a type of potato pancake praised for its simplicity. Most boxty is made using two ingredients: potatoes and flour.

Some people add a sauce or pair it with beef, but it’s really great when you eat it as is. I recommend serving it up with some butter, honey, or just a dash of sugar.

The two main methods of preparation are to bake or pan-fry this potato pancake.

Those familiar with hashbrowns or griddle-cakes will be familiar with the pan-fried method, as it’s very similar. 

Boxty is quite versatile, as it can be a great breakfast, side dish, or even main meal if you fix it up correctly. 

2. Irish Stew

Many consider Irish stew to be the national dish of the country.

Although recipes vary, traditional Irish stew uses:

  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Mutton

Many people add a tiny bit of a quick flour roux to thicken the stew. A roux is a cooked combination of flour and fat, which is whisked until smooth.

Mutton has traditionally been used in the stew because it was more readily available than beef.

Ireland’s sheep industry is quite large, so it makes sense that a traditional Irish dish would use the sheep farmed for milk and wool who were older. 

A stew is cooked over a long period of time, a necessary aspect of a great Irish stew. 

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3. Soda Bread

Irish soda bread is probably one of the dishes best known outside of the country.

Many bakers may be familiar with this starter bread, known for being a quick introduction to bread-making. 

Like many other Irish dishes, soda bread is simple. Soda bread ingredients are baking soda, flour, salt, and milk. What makes Irish soda bread unique is that it uses baking soda in place of yeast. 

Many people will take the simple Irish soda bread recipe and give it a twist by adding some raisins, nuts, or butter.

Because it’s such a simple recipe, it allows people to get creative and make something delicious.

I love pairing this bread with Irish stew so I can soak up the leftover sauce.

4. Irish Breakfast

Also commonly called ulster fry, the Irish breakfast is a large, hearty breakfast plate.

Historically, the Irish breakfast would give someone energy to work for the rest of the day.

The classic Irish breakfast consists of:

  • Sausages
  • Fried bacon
  • Black pudding
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggs
  • Baked beans
  • Toast

If that sounds like a lot, it is supposed to be quite massive! If you want it even bulkier, serve it with a side of soda bread, and top it with butter.

I have this breakfast with a strong cup of coffee, and I don’t think there’s a better way to start the day!

5. Smoked Salmon

Ireland’s smoked salmon is famous due to Ireland’s access to real Atlantic salmon.

To make smoked salmon, the fish is first filleted and then cured using salt. The cuts are then dried and smoked to perfection. 

In general, salmon is a healthy food loaded with essential vitamins and packed with protein. 

Irish smoked salmon makes for a great breakfast side as it’s low in unhealthy saturated fats, and it tastes exceptional. 

One of my favorite breakfasts is a fresh bagel topped with cream cheese and Irish smoked salmon.

6. Barmbrack

Barmbrack, sometimes just called brack, is a type of sweet bread with a unique history in Irish cuisine.

The sweetbread bakes with sultanas and raisins, which are spread evenly throughout the dough.

In Ireland, Barmbrack is historically associated with Halloween. Various objects are baked into the bread.

It was thought that the item you receive in your piece of bread would predict your future. Each item has a corresponding prediction, which is as follows:

  • Pea: no marriage that year
  • Ring: predicts marriage within a year
  • Coin: riches and good fortune
  • Bean: no money in your future
  • Stick: unhappy marriage or relationships
  • Piece of cloth: bad luck
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In the current day, the only item in the Halloween barmbrack bread is a toy ring.

7. Black and White Pudding

Black pudding is one of the most traditional Irish foods. Black pudding is a blood sausage, while white pudding is a bloodless version of the former. 

Black pudding cooks using either pork or beef blood (more commonly pork blood), mixed with animal fat and a type of cereal. The cereal varies, but it’s commonly an oat-based cereal or oatmeal. 

White pudding is also called oatmeal pudding or mealy pudding. White pudding is similar to black pudding, it just excludes the use of blood. Instead of blood, ground pork or pork liver go in its place.

I was skeptical about trying blood sausage for the first time, but I now love the dish, and I’m glad I gave it a chance!

8. Coddle

Coddle is considered a leftovers dish. Because coddle is cooked using leftovers, there’s no specific recipe associated with it.

Most of the time, coddle is made up of sausages, “rashers” (thinly-sliced bacon), roughly chopped potatoes, onion, salt, pepper, and herbs. Parsley is typically used, but some people like to include chives.

The dish is prepared by boiling the meat and then braising the ingredients using the stock from the meat preparation. 

Coddle is often considered comfort food and is heavily associated with the cold winter months. 

9. Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s pie, also known as cottage pie, is a baked meat pie. Shepherd’s pie uses mincemeat, which is known as ground meat in the United States. This meat is usually beef or lamb.

The mincemeat is covered in mashed potatoes and then baked until the meat cooks through and the mashed potatoes have formed a gold-brown top.  

Many people use shepherd’s pie as a recipe similar to coddle since you can use leftover meat or fresh minced meat. It’s a great way to empty your fridge while still getting a delicious meal.

I like to add carrots and peas to my Sheperd’s pie to bulk it up and add more nutritional value.

10. Beef And Guinness Stew

It doesn’t get more Irish than a beef stew made with the famous Guinness stout beer. This dish is synonymous with pub food.

The real key to perfect beef and Guinness stew is browning the meat before letting it simmer for hours. It brings out a flavor that works so well with the Guinness. 

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Traditional beef and Guinness stew use cut beef (usually chuck roast) and bacon. It also uses:

The bold umami flavor of this stew makes it the perfect Irish food for a cold day.

11. Irish Coffee

If you love coffee and are of legal drinking age, this alcoholic beverage is definitely for you. 

A classic Irish coffee is made with hot coffee, Irish cream liqueur, Irish whiskey, a dash of nutmeg, and topped with whipped cream.

The proper way to prepare it is to mix the coffee and sugar thoroughly with the whiskey and then carefully pour the cream in, keeping the layers separate.

I love whipping up an Irish coffee after a meal in place of a dessert, as it’s the perfect sweet treat with a caffeinated kick.

12. Bacon and Cabbage

The name of this dish may clue you into how simple it is. Bacon and cabbage are the primary ingredients. The dish is easy and cost-effective. 

You use back bacon in this meal. This meat is a slightly leaner cut of bacon than most.

Many Irish-Americans would consider corned beef and cabbage the correct combination, but in Ireland bacon is the true pairing for this traditional Irish food. Corned beef was the cheaper option for poor Irish immigrants coming to America, which is why it’s commonly considered an Irish food in America.

The cabbage and the bacon are boiled with the potatoes until the texture is soft with a little bite left in the potatoes. 

Bacon and cabbage is often served with a bit of the boiling juice poured over and a white sauce. The white sauce is a plain mix of:

  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Milk

Sometimes people add a bit of parsley or chives for flavor. 

13. Colcannon and champ

Colcannon and champ are very similar Irish food dishes, both consisting of mashed potatoes.

For colcannon, cooked cabbage or kale is mixed in with the mashed potatoes. For champ, butter, milk, and some chopped spring onions are added to the mash. 

Colcannon is often considered the healthier option of the two, though any proper mashed potatoes will have a good bit of Irish butter in them.

Champ is also commonly known as “poundies,” depending on the area it’s served in. 

Champ is more popular in the province of Ulster, while you will be more likely to find colcannon in the other provinces. 

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  1. A fellow student from Taiwan ordered an Irish coffee at a lab lunch. He took a sip, and looking horrified, asked, “Does this have alcohol in it?”

    When we told him it did and asked what he was expecting, he answered, “Coffee, grown in Ireland.”

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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