St. Patrick’s Day Dishes and Their History

St. Patrick’s day falls on March 17 each year. All around the world, people will be painting shamrocks on their faces, listening to Irish music, and having a good time with friends and family. Many of them will also be enjoying some traditional Irish fare. Here’s a rundown on some St. Paddy’s Day dishes and their history.

Soda Bread

Soda bread has been traditional in Ireland since the 1840’s, when bicarbonate of soda was first introduced to the country. Irish soda bread is made with the most frugal of ingredients: flour, baking soda, soured milk and salt. Before the loaf was baked, a cross was cut into the top with a knife to protect the household from evil. These days, the shape of the loaf will vary depending on the region in which it is made. For example, in the Northern counties, it’s flattened into a round disc, cut into quarters then cooked on a griddle, whereas in the Southern counties it’s made as a whole loaf and cut into slices.

Fried Breakfast

An Irish fried breakfast will get you set up for the whole day. A traditional plate includes two or three rashers of fried bacon, fried tomato slices, slices of fried black pudding (blood pudding) and slices of fried soda bread. This is usually accompanied by a large pot of Irish breakfast tea.


This traditional dish is made from boiled potatoes mashed up with kale or cabbage and mixed with onions and butter. The name comes from the Gaeliccal ceannann” meaning white-headed cabbage. It is often accompanied by Irish bacon or boiled ham. This was once a year-round staple dish, which is now only eaten during the autumn and winter.


Boxty is a savory pancake-style dish made with potatoes. This dish is popular in the Northwestern counties of Ireland. Traditionally, there are three different types of boxty, each named for the method you use to cook them. These are: pan-boxty, boiled boxty and loaf boxty. The dish is made with grated potatoes, egg, and milk.


Coddle – also known as Dublin coddle – is an Irish stew often made from leftovers. It, therefore, doesn’t have an exact recipe, but often contains layers of sliced pork sausage, rashers of fatty back bacon, chunks of potatoes, and sliced onion. It’s seasoned with salt and pepper and sometimes parsley. Occasionally, it may also include barley. Coddle is most commonly associated with Dublin, Ireland’s capital city.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Though you might eat this dish here in the U.S. on St. Patrick’s Day, this is not a traditional dish for the day in Ireland. So how was the association made? During the time of the Irish immigration to the United States, the first generation of Irish settlers was yearning for the comforting flavors of their homeland, which on St. Patrick’s day meant boiled bacon. But at that time, the immigrants couldn’t afford the high prices of pork meat, so they substituted bacon with the cheapest meat available: beef brisket. Rather than boiling the beef, the Irish adopted the method of brining. ‘Corned’ having nothing to do with the vegetable, refers to the size of the salt crystals used in the brining process. The corned beef was paired with cabbage as this was the cheapest available vegetable at the time.

Gather with family and friends this St. Patrick’s Day dinner, and enjoy these traditional dishes from the Emerald Isle. If you are having a drink, please do so responsibly. Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Author: Henry Moore


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