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.

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Homemade Boxty Irish Potato Pancakes
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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.

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shepherd's pie
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Shepherd’s Pie

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.

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Traditional Irish Barmbrack Tea Cake
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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.

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Irish Champ is a simple food made of potatoes, milk, green onions, butter close up in the bowl. Horizontal top view
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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.

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irish stew
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Irish Stew

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.

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Cumberland sausages, bacon, baked beans and black pudding in a white bowl
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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.

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Irish Soda Bread
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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.

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tasty Irish coddle with pork sausages, bacon and vegetables
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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.

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Irish colcannon, mashed potatoes with savoy cabbage closeup
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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.

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Homemade Irish Coffee with Whiskey
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Irish Coffee

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.

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Autumn vegetable soup with fried bacon closeup in a bowl. Horizontal top view
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Cabbage Soup

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).

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Irish smoked salmon
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Smoked Salmon

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!

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Bread Pudding Christmas dessert
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Bread Pudding

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

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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seafood chowder, corn bread and butter in a bowl on a black board
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Seafood Chowder

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.

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Glass of black velvet cocktail
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Black Velvet

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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Baked bread - Baked Irish BLAA bread
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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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Quincy, MA – Angela Durkin makes her Irish Porter Cake at her home in Houghs Neck on Thursday, March 10, 2011. Staff Photo by Matthew West.
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Porter Cake

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.

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irish apple cake slice
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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.

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Traditional Irish boiled bacon and cabbage
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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.

Kim Bussing
Kim Bussing is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She has written for publications including Reader’s Digest, Modern Farmer, Clean Plates and Vice, among others, and she is working on her first novel. She is always on the hunt for the perfect gluten-free cinnamon roll.