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What The Heck Is Colcannon?

What The Heck Is Colcannon?

The Irish are masters of potato dishes, and colcannon is one of the best. Traditionally served for St. Patrick’s Day, this tasty side dish can be served any day, and might become an instant family favorite. But what the heck is it?

The word “colcannon” derives from the Gaelic term cal ceannann, which means “white-headed cabbage.” In Ireland, during the 17th and 18th centuries, potatoes, cabbage, and leeks were considered foods of the common man. So it makes perfect sense that one of the country’s most popular dishes would combine these ingredients. It’s not uncommon to find a colcannon recipe printed on the back of a bag of potatoes in Ireland.

There are many regional variations of the dish; some require adding bacon and some suggest boiling the greens with the potatoes. You can also enjoy your leftover colcannon for breakfast by cutting it into patties and frying it with your leftover corned beef.

Traditional Irish Colcannon

Irish Mashed Potatoes


2 lbs russet potatoes (roughly 4 large potatoes), scrubbed, peeled, and cut into chunks
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus 2 tablespoons for serving)
3 cups lightly-packed chopped green curly kale, cabbage, or other leafy green
3 scallions, chopped (including the green parts)
1 cup whole milk or heavy cream
Kosher salt
Pepper to taste


Add potatoes to a pot of cold, salted water. Cook until tender (about 15-20 minutes). Drain and return to the pot.

In a separate large skillet, cook the greens with butter, about 4-5 minutes until they are wilted. Add the scallions and cook another minute. Pour in the milk or cream, mix well, then add the potatoes. Reduce the heat to medium.

Use potato masher and hand mash the potatoes, mixing them up with the greens. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot, with 2 tablespoons of butter in the center, which will melt.

There’s even a song!


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  • Mikki says:

    I use green onions (scallions) in my potato soup – adds much more flavor than white or yellow onions – I’ll use a few leaves of cabbage for my homemade vegetable beef soup though – scoop them out before serving as the kids never liked cooked cabbage in any form, but love cole sale.

  • tiffany says:

    I have been making colcannon for years. It is a cheap and yummy meal that makes it easy to feed kids their veggies. We add crispy, crumbled pieces of bacon and often use sour cream or buttermilk instead of cream. It tastes like a big bowl of loaded mashed potatoes. So good! And good for you.

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