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Irish Colcannon

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Mashed potatoes with a helping of Irish green.

This Irish colcannon recipe, buttery mashed potatoes mixed with cooked kale or cabbage, makes a truly marvelous mash — perfect for both St. Patrick’s Day or as a simple, hearty side dish any time you like.

colcannon served with butter
Colcannon ready for its closeup (and a serving spoon).

What is colcannon?

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made by combining soft, buttery mashed potatoes with cooked kale or cabbage. Though cabbage is more commonly used today, kale is the older and more traditional ingredient stirred into the potato mash.

Colcannon can be served with a nice dollop of butter or thin-sliced green onions on top, or plain right from the pot. Either way, colcannon makes a hearty and nourishing side dish full of simple, honest Irish flavor.

Traditional Irish colcannon
Serve with the remaining scallions and a good dollop of butter on top.

What does colcannon taste like?

Colcannon pretty much tastes like fluffy, buttery mash potatoes, with a boost from cooked greens and scallions. Added flavor and texture comes from the butter, salt, and greens that get added into the mash. The overall flavor is mild but tasty.

What to Serve With Colcannon

Colcannon makes a great side for meat and fish dishes alike, such as corned beef, salmon, or braised beef.

Irish colcannon

Adapting This Irish Colcannon Recipe

This recipe is directly adapted from the Ballymaloe Cookery School cookbook. Ballymaloe Cookery School and related country hotel, Ballymaloe House, is located in Shanagarry, Ireland, a small southern country town near Cork.

I had the pleasure of staying at Ballymaloe House in the fall of 2023, and enjoyed so much of the traditional Irish cooking. A big bowl of simply-prepared potatoes was placed in the center of the table at each meal, for starters. Nothing wrong with that!

Ballymaloe Cookery School is the real deal, and a long-time standard bearer of Irish cooking and recipes. Suffice to say: If Ballymaloe says this is how it’s done, then that’s how it’s done.

ingredients for traditional Irish colcannon
To make colcannon, you’ll need potatoes, kale or cabbage, butter, scallions, milk, salt, and pepper. That’s it!

Recipe Ingredients

The primary ingredients of this simple colcannon recipe are potatoes and kale. Some recipes use bacon, but this recipe is very traditional and stays vegetarian.

I prefer kale to cabbage when making colcannon. In addition to its traditional Irish recipe roots, kale, with its vivid green color, looks more vibrant and beautiful than cabbage when stirred into the mashed potatoes.

Here is the entire colcannon recipe ingredient list:

  • 3 pounds Russet potatoes (about 5 medium-large potatoes), cleaned, peeled, and halved
  • 10 ounces baby kale, or very thinly-sliced kale of choice. You can also use cabbage — see below for substitutions
  • 7 tablespoons good softened Irish butter, such as Kerrygold, divided
  • 2 scallions or green onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces hot milk
  • Salt and pepper
cooked kale for colcannon
Cook the kale until it is soft and wilted. You can also substitute cabbage, but I love the vivid green of kale in this dish, which is also traditional.

Irish colcannon recipe notes and substitutions

If you prefer to substitute cabbage instead of kale, you will need a one-pound head of Savoy cabbage, sliced very thin.

You can also use Yukon gold potatoes in Irish colcannon, which are commonly found in the United States. If you are in Ireland, you would have better luck using Ballymaloe’s recommended Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pink potatoes as substitutions. I prefer russet potatoes, however, because they are starchy and very fluffy when mashed.

Leftovers taste great reheated the next day. Leftover colcannon can be reheated in the microwave, or in a pot with a splash of milk.

kale and mashed potatoes in pan
Stir scallions and cooked kale into the fluffy mashed potatoes just before serving.

Directions

Making Irish colcannon is a two-pot process, but easy because everything can cook at the same time. Here’s what to do:

  1. Scrub and peel the russets. Cut the potatoes in half and boil them in well-salted water in a large pot until fork tender. Some schools of thought say to boil potatoes with the skins on, which does have its merits. But it’s simpler this way and tastes just as good.
  2. While the russet potatoes are boiling away, heat the milk until hot, but not boiling.
  3. Heat a wide skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the kale and cook, stirring often, until wilted and well cooked and any residual moisture has cooked out. Give it a nice pinch of salt (I use about 1/4 teaspoon here) and taste for seasoning. If you’re using cabbage, you can use this same method.
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and return them to the pot. Cook off any residual water.
  5. Add 4 tablespoons of butter and most of the sliced green onions. Mash the potatoes until fluffy and soft. Stir in the warm milk and season with salt and pepper. As a reference, I use about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.
  6. Stir in the cooked kale and mix until it is evenly distributed in the potatoes.
  7. Spoon the colcannon into a serving bowl. Top with the remaining sliced green onions and the final tablespoon of butter on top. Serve hot.

cooked kale stirred into colcannon mashed potatoes

Enjoy this simple and nourishing colcannon recipe all year ’round — and especially around St. Patrick’s Day. This is Irish food at its finest.

Love this Irish colcannon recipe? Check out these other Irish-inspired favorites:

Irish colcannon

Irish Colcannon

So simple and so good, this traditional Irish colcannon recipe combines fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes with cooked kale into a truly marvelous mash. Adapted from Ireland's famed Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Ireland.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Irish, vegetarian
Keywords:: colcannon, irish, kale, mashed potatoes, St Patricks Day
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 336kcal
Author: Lisa Ruland
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Ingredients

  • 3 pounds russet potatoes (about 5 medium-large)
  • 10 ounces baby kale (see notes for substituting cabbage)
  • 7 tablespoons good Irish butter, such as Kerrygold, divided
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced very thin
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) whole or reduced-fat milk
  • Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
  • Fresh-ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Scrub and peel the russet potatoes. Cut the russets in half and boil them in well-salted water in a large pot until fork tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander and return them to the pot. Cook off any residual water.
    PRO TIP: Some schools of thought say to boil potatoes with the skins on, which does have its merits, such as holding in starch. But it's simpler this way, saves you from having to peel hot potatoes by hand, and tastes just as good. Plus, halving the potatoes' size reduces the cook time.
  • While the russet potatoes are boiling, heat the milk until hot, but not boiling. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat a wide skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the kale and cook, stirring often, until wilted and well cooked and any residual moisture has cooked out. You may need to add the kale in a few additions. Give the cooked kale a nice pinch of salt (I use about 1/4 teaspoon here) and taste for seasoning.
    TIP: If you're using cabbage, you can use this same method.
  • Add 4 tablespoons of butter and most of the sliced green onions. Mash the potatoes using a potato masher until fluffy and soft. Stir in the hot milk and season with salt and pepper. (I add about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.)
  • Stir in the cooked kale and mix until it is evenly distributed in the potatoes. Spoon the colcannon into a serving bowl. Top with the remaining sliced green onions and the final tablespoon of butter on top. Serve hot.

Notes

Irish colcannon recipe notes and substitutions

If you prefer to substitute cabbage instead of kale, you will need a one-pound head of Savoy cabbage, sliced very thin. Cabbage has greater moisture content than kale, so you may have to cook it a bit longer, until the excess water has evaporated.
You can also use Yukon gold potatoes in Irish colcannon, which are commonly found in the United States. If you are in Ireland, you would have better luck using Ballymaloe's recommended Golden Wonders or Kerr's Pink potatoes as substitutions.
Leftovers taste great reheated the next day. Leftover colcannon can be reheated in the microwave, or in a pot with a splash of milk stirred in. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Nutrition

Calories: 336kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 931mg | Potassium: 1172mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 5195IU | Vitamin C: 57mg | Calcium: 201mg | Iron: 3mg

Disclaimer: Nutrition information is provided for courtesy purposes only, and is an estimate not verified by medical or nutrition experts. Read the full nutrition disclaimer.

3 comments

  • 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe. I come from North Cork, about an hour from Ballymaloe and in past enjoyed weekly visits there. I live close to Dublin now so sadly no weekly trips to Ballymaloe ! Look forward to visiting over the summer !
    Thank you for your cookery ideas and recipes. They are always interesting and I look forward to them.
    Happy St. Patrick’s Weekend !
    Mimi

    • Unpeeled

      Hello, Mimi! I am so happy to receive this message! Thank you so much. I wish I could go to Ballymaloe all the time. It is a special place, and a special region and country as well. Thank you for your kind words, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend to you!

  • 5 stars
    I don’t like cabbage, so I was very happy to see that this recipe uses kale! I am looking forward to making this for the weekend.

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