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Traditional Irish Food – Delicious and Heart-warming Meals

In this article we will explore traditional Irish food and the history explaining why each recipe has stood the test of time.

Nowadays these Traditional Irish meals are commonly eaten for lunch or dinner as they are quite filling. As you will see throughout this article, food in Ireland was very functional. The majority of people had active lives, working on busy farms all day. Their breaks were far and few between so nutritious and filling meals were made.

Throughout history and up until a few decades ago, Ireland was a relatively poor country and families tended to be quite large. Food was never thrown out or wasted, and much of the meat and vegetables were produced on the farm or shared between neighbours. This was reflected in what we ate, namely large filling meals that could be prepared in one pot over a fire. So throughout this article you may notice a common theme in the types of Traditional Irish Food and the way in which it is prepared.

Traditional Irish Food - Traditional Irish Stew
Traditional Irish Food – Traditional Irish Stew

It is also worth noting that a lot of iconic meals was made using whatever ingredients were available. Many poor people could not afford to buy specific ingredients for meals, most ingredients were grown or produced by families, with essentials being bought in shops. So each family recipe is usually different in various parts of Ireland.

Traditionally, meals were eaten together as a family; it was one of the only times in the day where everyone would be together and many Irish older people are nostalgic of the food they grew up with because of this. Even as more food options became available and wealth increased, people enjoyed the food they grew up with and the things it represented.

So to sum the importance of traditional Irish food up: many dishes in Ireland were made with scarce ingredients for large families. They are not fancy, but they remind us of home and are hearty and nostalgic dishes

Traditional Irish Food – Everything You’ll find in this article

  • Traditional Irish Soda Bread

Traditional Irish Breakfast Foods:

  • A Full Irish Breakfast
  • The Breakfast Roll
  • Boxty

Traditional Irish Meals:

  • Traditional Irish Stew
  • Shepard’s Pie
  • Bacon and Cabbage
  • Colcannon and Champ
  • Dublin Coddle
  • Seafood

Traditional Irish Sweet food:

  • Baírín Breac or Barmbrack
  • Bread and Butter Pudding
  • Gur Cake

The perfect way to end a meal of Traditional Irish food:

  • Irish Coffee

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

Starting off our list is a food that was commonly eaten throughout the day in traditional Ireland, as a simple breakfast or quick snack at lunch and supper. Soda bread was usually buttered and paired with a mug of tea when eaten. It is a simple classic and nearly every family in Ireland has their own unique recipe.

The history of making soda bread, like many Irish foods, began for practical purposes. The first people to actually use soda itself were the Native Americans. The Irish earned a worldwide reputation for their soda bread.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread was first created during the late 1830s when baking soda was introduced in the UK.  Ireland was going through financial strife and had little access to ingredients. Soda bread was considered a necessity as you didn’t need expensive ingredients to make it.

These ingredients include wheat flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt. To make soda bread soft wheat flour was preferred and the Irish climate was considered one of the only places suitable for growing this type of wheat, which definitely helped raise its popularity.

From then on soda bread became the perfect Irish recipe that families could make at home as it was a simple and filling dish. Many of the lower class homes would cook the bread in Iron pots or on griddles over open hearths. This is how the bread got is signature texture; a hard crust and slight sourness that the bread is now famous for.

Eating soda bread makes many people nostalgic as it was a staple of Irish life growing up.

Traditional Irish Food: Soda Bread
Traditional Irish Food: Soda Bread

Traditional Irish Foods – Breakfast

The following foods were common breakfasts in traditional Ireland. Breakfast was definitely considered one of the most important meals of the day in Ireland. A busy day of physical work would lie ahead, and the prospect of breaks were rare.

A Full Irish Breakfast

There’s no denying that the Irish love their food. There has been a long Irish tradition of having a fried breakfast (simply called a ‘Fry’) because it is a meal that fills you up and gives you energy for the day ahead.

Traditional Irish Food: A Full Irish Breakfast or Fry
Traditional Irish Food: A Full Irish Breakfast or Fry

What is in a traditional fried breakfast?

A traditional Irish breakfast includes a variety of meats and other items including:

  • Bacon (we call them rashers)
  • Sausages
  • Black Pudding
  • White Pudding
  • Fried Eggs
  • Hash browns

Other possible breakfast components that can be substituted in include:

  • Baked Beans
  • Fried Mushrooms
  • Fried tomatoes
  • Fried Potato
  • Boxty

The hearty breakfast is also served with homemade Irish soda bread, a strong cup of tea, or a glass of fresh orange juice.

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It was originally a tradition to have a fry to help prepare people for a full day of work on the farm. Many farmers would spend hours working outside before returning for lunch or dinner.

People are definitely more health aware nowadays and wish to avoid eating large quantities of fried food regularly. Even the healthiest Irish people will find it difficult to turn down this traditional Irish dish though.

The tradition of preparing a fry serves as a staple treat in many Irish households. It is usually prepared on a Saturday or Sunday morning when people have time to make and enjoy the breakfast. It’s also a meal that you can have for your evening dinner if you wish.

Traditional Irish Food: Irish Chef Neven McGuire makes his version of a Full Irish Breakfast

The Breakfast Roll

A change in our working lives meant that many people did not have time to fry a breakfast each morning. As a result the breakfast roll was created; it’s impossible to deny that we aren’t able to adapt our lives or create new inventions when it comes to the important things in life!

Essentially a breakfast roll is a full Irish fry inside a baguette with butter and ketchup. The breakfast roll is iconic in modern Ireland and its quality is usually a good measure of a shop or deli. As our careers have diversified and we are no longer predominantly a farming country, people who work outside the home usually don’t have time to cook a fried breakfast. 

The breakfast roll consists of sausages, rashers, pudding, eggs and hash browns. The only item which may rival its popularity is the chicken fillet roll which is also popular which contains a breaded chicken fillet, lettuce and cheese in a baguette. 

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Boxty, also known as potato cakes or potato bread is a mixture of mashed potatoes, salt, flour and butter that is fried in a pancake-like batter.

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Traditional Irish Food – Dinner

There is so much delicious traditional food in Ireland. so we have included the most iconic meals on our list. As you will soon learn, many Irish dishes were created to use up leftovers. Food was scarce many times throughout history in Ireland and because of this it is valued highly, even when plentiful. Food was never thrown out or wasted, and this sustainable way of life created many popular dishes.

Traditional Irish Stew

This is one of our most beloved classical Irish food dishes and it is actually thought of as the national dish of Ireland. It is very common to have Irish Stew on St. Patrick’s Day. The most popular ingredients you would find in Stew are lamb, mutton, potatoes, carrots, turnips and onions. Lamb can be substituted for beef without comprising on taste or flavour.

When Irish people started immigrating to America they brought their food traditions with them. They started to adapt and evolve recipes over time to include local offerings. You’ll find a lot of places around Ireland still serve the traditional style of stew; it is a must try next time you’re at a pub or restaurant in Ireland. Characteristics of a traditional stew are that it is slow cooked and has a variety of vegetables as well as a thick gravy.

This dish has been around for many centuries and is most popular in the winter months. Irish stew is served with some form of potatoes, usually jacket ‘spuds’ or mashed potatoes.

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Guinness Stew:

Guinness, a popular pint of stout famous for being Irish can be used as a cooking ingredient, most commonly in Guinness stew. The Guinness adds a more intricate flavour to the dish, and makes a rich, creamy sauce. Beef is favoured over lamb for this dish, but it really goes down to personal preference and whatever is on hand!

Traditionally, Irish meals are slow cooked which creates amazing flavours. Practically speaking, many dishes were cooked over open fires in the past without any modern appliances, so slow cooking was the only way to cook meats. As dishes could be left alone for hours to slow cook, whoever was making the meal had more time to do other things while they waited. Traditional Irish food is nothing if not practical!

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Shepard’s Pie

Shepard pie is very similar to stew and mash, it is just prepared a bit differently. It is a staple of any Irish dinner table, with a rich filling comprised of lamb, vegetables and gravy topped with mashed potatoes. The dish is the definition of a comfort food and Irish people love to have it during the cold, dark winter months.

Popular ingredients include:

  • Beef or Lamb
  • Seasonings & Gravy
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Turnips
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Cheese

Shepherds pie was first introduced by housewives in the late 1700s who were looking for ways to incorporated leftovers into their meals. Even though it was created to use up leftovers, it soon became a popular Irish dish in its own right.

As time has gone on Irish people have loved to put their own spin on the dish with different seasonings and vegetables. Everyone makes their own version of mash potatoes, so depending on where you are having it eating the pie can be a very diverse experience. For many Irish people, even the most skilled chefs in the world could not improve the recipe they grew up with!

You will find shepherds pie in most Irish pubs and you may notice different tastes depending on what part of Ireland you’re in.

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Bacon and Cabbage

A firm favourite in many households, Bacon and Cabbage are boiled together in a pot and are usually accompanied by boiled potatoes, turnips and carrots as well as a parsley sauce.

It is another simple dish, but it is hearty and serves it’s original purpose to be a nutritious meal for farmers working long days in the field. Once again, many Irish people experience great nostalgia eating the dish. The secret is boiling your cabbage in the same pot as the bacon. The saltiness of the meat flavours the cabbage nicely.

The American version of this dish is corned beef and cabbage. While this is not traditionally eaten in Ireland, it is interesting to see how recipes can evolve over time. Bacon was probably more expensive or less common in America and so corned beef became the substitute and a traditional Irish-American dish in its own right.

Bacon and Cabbage is one of the most popular traditional Irish foods you can find.

This post first appeared on Travel Blog, Culture And Travel Vlogs From ConnollyCove, please read the originial post: here

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Traditional Irish Food – Delicious and Heart-warming Meals


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