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What Traditional Irish Foods to Serve on St. Patrick's Day

Updated on March 13, 2012
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St. Patrick’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to honor an Irish heritage - even if you have no connections to Ireland.

A celebration of the feast day of Patrick, as well as the anniversary of his death, the festival served as a day’s break from the strict observances of Lent. Today, celebrants are more likely to focus on shamrocks, leprechauns and green beer than on Ireland’s patron saint, as they march in parades and enjoy traditional foods.

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Corned Beef and Cabbage

Cabbage has long been a staple in the Irish diet, although pairing it with beef is more of an English tradition.

Corning your own beef is a very labor-intensive (and slow) project for a holiday meal, so take a little help from the grocery store or the delicatessen, and then spend that extra time with your guests.

Roughly chop a head of cabbage. Drop it into a large covered pot or Dutch oven. Add about 1/2 inch of apple cider, beef stock or beer. Place the corned beef roast on top of the cabbage. Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer everything until the cabbage is tender and the meat is hot.

Irish Soda Bread

Think making bread is too hard or too much trouble? Irish soda bread is a great first bread-making project - it’s easy to make and tastes good enough to bring out your Irish brogue.

Mix together 6 cups of whole-wheat flour, 4 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 4 cups of buttermilk, and 1/2 cup of dried currants. Knead the mixture for 1 minute, until it forms a dough ball. Divide it in half and form each piece into a round loaf. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat it well with non-stick cooking spray. Place the loaves in the oven, which you have preheated to 450⁰ F, and bake them for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400⁰ F, and bake the bread until it browns nicely - about 20 minutes longer.

If you don’t have buttermilk, substitute sour milk made by adding 1-tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Make a non-traditional version of the bread by substituting dried cranberries, blueberries or cherries for the currants.

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Colcannon

Although colcannon is not specifically a St. Patrick’s Day food, it is a traditional Irish dish made from potatoes and kale or cabbage. You could substitute other greens, but the bite of the kale is the perfect complement to the mild flavor of the potatoes.

Scrub one medium Irish potato for each person. Peel them, if you prefer; however, leaving the skins on adds both extra flavor and vitamins. Cube the potatoes, cover them with water and add about 1 teaspoon of salt. Boil until the potatoes are tender; drain the water and return the potatoes to the pot.

While the potatoes are cooking, wash the kale to remove any sand or dirt. Cook the greens in butter or bacon fat until they are tender.

Mash the potatoes, and add butter, cream or milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the kale and 1/2 cup of chopped green onions, using both the whites and the greens of the onions.


Serve your traditional St. Patrick’s Day foods with a tossed salad and a fruit dessert. Enjoy the Irish holiday celebration, whatever your own ethnic roots may be!

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