Colcannon Potatoes Recipe

Bowl of Irish Mash with melting butter on top.
Colcannon Potatoes

A traditional Irish mashed potato dish, Colcannon Potatoes were a staple of the Irish working class for centuries. Made with the simple ingredients of mashed potatoes, cabbage, milk or cream, and butter, additional seasonings such as onion, garlic, and bacon may also be incorporated into dish.

The earliest recording of Colcannon Potatoes dates back to October 31, 1735, when William Bulkely, a traveller from Wales, was visiting Ireland and was served this Irish mash and it left such a lasting impression on him, he wrote about it in a diary entry.

The name Colcannon comes from cál ceannann, a Gaelic word meaning white headed cabbage. While we might think this dish would be most associated with St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, it apparently has more ties with Halloween. Considered a fortune-telling food, one could expect there would, of course, be some folklore, symbolism, superstitions, rituals, and traditions involved and that is partly what makes Colcannon Potatoes intriguing.

Apparently, it was not uncommon for the cook to bury some treasures of sorts in the potatoes. Whatever trinket or charm a diner found in their serving of potatoes was supposedly foretelling of their future. For example, if one found a coin in their serving of Colcannon Potatoes, it signified wealth and a prosperous future; a piece of a stick meant an unhappy marriage; a piece of rag meant a future of poverty; a button or a thimble foretold of a lifetime of single status while a ring suggested marriage was in the diner’s future. One superstition surrounded maidens supposedly putting Colcannon Potatoes in a stocking and hanging it on the door in the hopes that the next bachelor to darken the door would marry them!

There is even a folk song about Colcannon Potatoes titled “The Little Skillet Pot”/“The Auld Skillet Pot”. Google it and you will find a number of folks and groups have recorded the jaunty little tune. So, even though the dish is made with the most humble of ingredients, it certainly has a lot of folklore and stories surrounding it.

Bowl of Irish Mash sits, surrounded by a green and white tea towel, on counter in front of a Shamrock Teapot and Plate in the background
Colcannon Potatoes

So, let’s make Colcannon Potatoes. There are different methods and amounts of ingredients for making this dish. What follows is my recipe.

Start by shredding the cabbage. I use just a basic white cabbage for this dish though other types of cabbages would also work. There is no right or wrong way or size to shred the cabbage. You could use a box grater with large holes, a food processor, a mandolin, or even simply chop the cabbage with a knife. Some like bigger cabbage pieces in the dish and others like smaller pieces. I tend to go with cabbage shredded similar in size to, or slightly smaller than, what I would typically use for coleslaw. I find these aren’t too large in the dish itself and they sweat/soften quicker than if bigger pieces are used. Set the cabbage aside and chop the green/spring onions or shallots, mince the garlic, and fry the bacon, if using it as a garnish, or even as an add-in, if you wish.

Bowl of shredded cabbage
Shredded Cabbage

Use a potato variety that is high in starch and low in moisture, like the Russet variety, for example. They are starchy/floury, dry, light and fluffy and a good potato for mashing. Peel the potatoes and quarter them and boil them with just enough water to cover them. Leaving them in larger chunks for boiling will help to keep them from breaking apart during cooking and becoming water-logged. Cook them till they are fork tender. We want to start with a good dry potato so, after draining them, put the potatoes in a colander for 2-3 minutes to allow any residual moisture to evaporate off them, shaking the colander a couple of times to move the potatoes about.

Once the potatoes have come to a boil, and while they are cooking, melt butter in a large, shallow skillet and begin sweating the cabbage, cooking it for about 5-6 minutes over medium or slightly lower heat. Depending on the size of the cabbage pieces, note that this may take longer than 5-6 minutes if the cabbage pieces are larger. However, don’t overcook the cabbage; it’s okay if it has a bit of bite to it as it adds texture to this potato dish.

Stir the cabbage frequently and keep it moving so it does not scorch. Add the green/spring onions (or shallots) and stir constantly for about 1 minute before adding the minced garlic, stirring it briskly for about 15-20 seconds, just until it becomes fragrant. Be mindful of the garlic that it does not scorch. Garlic is a taste so, if you don’t care for it, leave it out; if you are a garlic lover, add more according to taste. Stir in the cream and sour cream, the latter of which will add a wee bit of tang to the dish. Whole milk can be used in place of the cream but the cream will obviously make richer and creamier potatoes.

Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and mash them really well then fold in the cabbage mixture just until fully combined. Even dry varieties of potatoes can vary in their dryness so, if the mixture seems a bit too dry for your liking, heat a small amount of additional cream (or milk) in the microwave and stir it in, a half tablespoon at a time, to the potatoes until mixture reaches desired consistency. As a word of caution, adding too much cream or milk all at once can turn the mixture from moist to soupy very quickly. Also, be careful about over-stirring and over-mixing the potatoes as they can turn into a gummy mixture. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated and the desired consistency is reached.

Transfer the mixture to a serving dish and garnish with more butter, sliced green/spring onions and, if desired, chopped crisply fried bacon.

Bowl of Mashed Potatoes
Colcannon Potatoes

If the mixture has cooled too much while preparing the dish, pop it into the microwave for a few seconds to reheat before garnishing the dish with butter, green onions, and chopped bacon.

Serve Colcannon Potatoes as a side dish with the same foods you would typically serve basic mashed potatoes. These potatoes are lovely with beef, pork, chicken, or fish.

This recipe is sized for 4 servings but is very scalable so it can be doubled, tripled, etc., depending on how many servings are needed.

Plated meal of Colcannon Potatoes and Spareribs
Honey Garlic Spareribs served with Colcannon Potatoes

Colcannon Potatoes

Ingredients:

1 lb (454g) starchy/floury potatoes (e.g., Russets), peeled and quartered
½ tsp salt
Water to boil potatoes

2 – 3+ tbsp butter
8 oz (227g) shredded cabbage
3 – 4 green onions/spring onions, thinly sliced (or a small shallot, minced)
3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
3+ tbsp 18% M.F. cream (or whole milk)
1½ tbsp sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

Extra butter for serving
Additional green/spring onions for garnish (optional)
1 – 2 slices chopped crisply fried bacon for garnish (optional)

Method:

Shred cabbage to desired size (e.g., similar to, or slightly smaller than, the size used for coleslaw). Set aside.

Chop the green/spring onions or shallots, mince the garlic, and fry the bacon.

Peel and quarter potatoes. Place in saucepan with enough water to cover potatoes. Add salt. Cover and bring potatoes to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and place potatoes in colander to allow the excess moisture to evaporate from potatoes, approximately 2-3 minutes.

Once potatoes have come to a boil, and while they are cooking, melt 2 – 3 tablespoons of butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add the green/spring onions and, stirring constantly, cook for about 1 minute (add more butter, if needed). Add the garlic and stir briskly for 15-20 seconds. Do not let garlic scorch.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Whisk cream and sour cream together in small bowl and add to cabbage mixture. Stir just until the dairy is incorporated and warmed, about 45 seconds. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer potatoes to large heatproof bowl and mash very well. Fold in the cabbage mixture and mix well to combine ingredients. If mixture seems too dry, additional warm cream (heated for a few seconds in the microwave) may be added, a half tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Transfer potatoes to serving dish and top with butter, sliced green/spring onions and chopped bacon, if desired. Serve hot.

Yield: Apx. 4 servings

NOTE: If the potato and cabbage mixture has cooled too much while preparing the dish, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to reheat before garnishing the dish with additional butter, green/spring onions, and bacon.

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Colcannon Potatoes

An Irish dish, Colcannon Potatoes are made with mashed potato, sautéed cabbage, onions, garlic, butter, and cream. Great comfort food!
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Irish
Keyword cabbage, Irish Mash, mashed potatoes, potatoes
Servings 4
My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (454g) starchy/floury potatoes (e.g., Russets), peeled and quartered
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Water to boil potatoes
  • 2 - 3+ tbsp butter
  • 8 oz (227g) shredded cabbage
  • 3 - 4 green onions/spring onions, thinly sliced (or a small shallot, minced)
  • 3 - 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3+ tbsp 18% M.F. cream (or whole milk)
  • tbsp sour cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Extra butter for serving
  • Additional green/spring onions for garnish (optional)
  • 1 - 2 slices chopped crisply fried bacon for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Shred cabbage to desired size (e.g., similar to, or slightly smaller than, the size used for coleslaw). Set aside. Chop the green/spring onions or shallots, mince the garlic, and fry the bacon.
  2. Peel and quarter potatoes. Place in saucepan with enough water to cover potatoes. Add salt. Cover and bring potatoes to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and place potatoes in colander to allow the excess moisture to evaporate from potatoes, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  3. Once potatoes have come to a boil, and while they are cooking, melt 2 – 3 tablespoons of butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add the green onions and, stirring constantly, cook for about 1 minute (add more butter, if needed). Add the garlic and stir briskly for 15-20 seconds. Do not let garlic scorch.

  4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Whisk cream and sour cream together in small bowl and add to cabbage mixture. Stir just until the dairy is incorporated and warmed, about 45 seconds. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Transfer potatoes to large heatproof bowl and mash very well. Fold in the cabbage mixture and mix well to combine ingredients. If mixture seems too dry, additional warm cream (heated for a few seconds in the microwave) may be added, a half tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Transfer potatoes to serving dish and top with butter, sliced green/spring onions and chopped bacon, if desired. Serve hot.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 4 servings

NOTE: If the potato and cabbage mixture has cooled too much while preparing the dish, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to reheat before garnishing the dish with additional butter, green onions, and bacon.

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For More Great Potato Recipes From My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes
Twice Baked Potatoes
Bistro Style Potato Patties
Roasted Potato Stacks
Decadent Duchess Potatoes
Potato Salad
Tuna Stuffed Potatoes
Rustic Potato, Cheese, and Bacon Pie
Potato Leek Soup
Creamy Ham and Potato Chowder

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Irish Mash

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