Colcannon is a classic Irish side dish that combines creamy, buttery mashed potatoes with sautéed greens. Hearty, comforting, and delicious year-round, it’s often enjoyed with ham, salt pork, or bacon and is especially popular at Halloween time in Ireland.
What is Colcannon?
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made primarily of creamy mashed potatoes mixed with sautéed cabbage, kale, or other greens and a hearty slab of butter. Some variations also incorporate green onions or leeks for additional flavor.
Often associated with St. Patrick’s Day here in the US, Colcannon has particular associations with Halloween in Ireland. Historically, trinkets or coins were hidden inside the dish during Halloween celebrations, and finding one in your serving was believed to bring good luck or foretell future events. For example, finding a ring might suggest an upcoming marriage, while finding a thimble could suggest a life of spinsterhood or bachelorhood.
Ingredients in Irish Colcannon
- Potatoes: Choose potatoes that mash well and yield a creamy texture. The best types of potatoes for this purpose are those with a higher starch content, for example, Russet potatoes (also known as Idaho potatoes), Yukon Gold potatoes, or red potatoes.
- Greens: Traditionally, kale or green cabbage is used, though you can use a mixture of both.
- Butter: Unsalted butter adds creaminess and flavor.
- Milk or Cream: For the creamy, luscious consistency that we love so much from mashed potatoes.
- Salt and Black Pepper: To enhance the flavor of the other ingredients, always season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Green Onion or Leeks (optional): Added for extra flavor.
How to Make Colcannon
1. Boil the potatoes: Peel and chop the potatoes into cubes of equal size. Add the potatoes to a large pot and cover with cold, salted water by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer. Boil for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender (but not overcooked). Drain in a colander and return the cooked potatoes to the pot. Set aside.
2. Sauté the veggies: Set a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Melt the butter and add the leeks. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened, then add the chopped kale—season with salt. Cook for an additional 4-6 minutes.
3. Mash the potatoes: Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes, gradually pouring in whole milk, half and half, or heavy cream until the mashed potatoes reach your desired consistency.
4. Add the cooked veggies: Stir the sautéed kale and leeks into the potatoes and add more salt if needed. Serve garnished with fresh minced chives or green onions, if desired.
Colcannon is traditionally served in a large bowl with a well in the center that’s filled with a pat or two of melted butter. This gives each dinner guest an opportunity to scoop out some of the buttery goodness from the center.
Serve this hearty Irish dish with an equally delicious meat dish. Popular options include corned beef, sausages, roast turkey breast or chicken, ham, or thick-cut bacon. You can also add the protein directly into the colcannon.
Difference Between Colcannon and Bubble and Squeak
Both colcannon and “bubble and squeak” are traditional side dishes that feature potatoes and greens as main ingredients, but they originate from different parts of the British Isles and have distinct characteristics.
Colcannon, as we know, originated in Ireland, while Bubble and Squeak hails from England. The main ingredients in colcannon are mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale, whereas Bubble and Squeak is traditionally made with leftover vegetables from a roast dinner, especially potatoes and cabbage. Over time, other veggies like carrots, peas, or Brussels sprouts may have been added. Its texture is more varied than colcannon due to the variety of leftover vegetables added, and may have a crispy exterior with a soft interior due to the frying process.
Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
You can also freeze colcannon for longer storage. For best results, divide it into smaller portion-sized amounts in freezer-safe bags or containers. Remove as much air as possible. Keep stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Before reheating frozen colcannon, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight first, then reheat in the microwave, covered, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating. You can also reheat colcannon in a small pot on the stovetop over low heat, stirring frequently and adding a bit of milk or butter if needed to retain its creamy texture.
More Potato Recipes
- Salt Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
- Kielbasa and Potatoes
- Twice Baked Potatoes
- Garlic Butter Boiled Potatoes
- Kartoffelpuffer (German Potato Pancakes)
If you try making this Easy Pistachio Delight Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
- 2 pounds red or white potatoes - peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- ½ stick butter - at room temperature
- 4 cups fresh kale - or cabbage; woody stems removed, chopped, and packed
- 1 leek - white parts only; chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt - plus more to taste
- ½ cup half and half - or milk; warmed
- Add the potatoes to a large pot. Fill with cool salted water so that the potatoes are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to a simmer. Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes or until they are fork-tender. Drain and return the cooked potatoes to the pot and set aside.
- As the potatoes cook, set a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter and add the leeks. Cook the leeks for 3-4 minutes or until softened then add the chopped kale and season with salt. Continue to cook for an additional 4-6 minutes, or until the greens are completely tender and cooked.
- Mash the potatoes in the pot using a potato masher then gradually pour in the milk until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Stir the sautéed kale and leeks into the potatoes and add more salt if needed. Serve garnished with fresh minced chives or green onions, if desired.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)