Traditional Irish colcannon is a dish made with mashed potatoes, leeks, and kale. It’s hearty, comforting, and perfect for a cold winter evening. If you’re looking for a recipe to warm your soul, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how to make Irish colcannon using potatoes, leeks, and kale.
Some History Of Colcannon
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish that has been enjoyed for centuries. It’s typically made with mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, and butter or cream, and is often served as a side dish with meat, such as ham or corned beef.
The origins of colcannon are somewhat unclear, but it’s believed to have originated in rural Ireland, where potatoes were a staple crop. It was a way for families to stretch their food supply by adding nutrient-rich greens to their meals.
In addition to being a hearty and satisfying dish, colcannon also has symbolic significance in Irish culture. It’s traditionally served on Halloween (known as Samhain in Irish), and a game is often played where small items, such as a ring or a coin, are hidden in the colcannon. The person who finds the item is said to have good luck in the coming year.
Colcannon has also been mentioned in several Irish songs and poems, including a famous ballad called “The Little Skillet Pot,” which describes a family’s joyous celebration when they finally have enough food to make colcannon.
While the basic recipe for colcannon has remained relatively unchanged over the years, there are many variations on the dish, depending on the region and personal preferences. Some people add bacon or ham to the dish, while others use different types of greens, such as spinach or Swiss chard.
Ingredients Needed To Make Colcannon
- 2 pounds russet potatoes
- 2 or 3 leeks, (enough to make 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped)
- 1 bunch of curly kale, ( about 4 or 5 cups chopped)
- Butter, 4 tablespoons
- Half and half or whole milk, 1/2 cup
- Salt and black pepper
Preparing the Colcannon
St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than with a traditional Irish dish? Irish colcannon is a delicious dish that consists of buttery mashed potatoes mixed with leafy greens, usually cabbage or kale. It’s a great main course option or a side dish to complement your favorite Irish recipe.
To make traditional Irish colcannon, you will need a large saucepan to boil the potatoes, and a hand mixer, potato masher, or potato ricer.
Begin by peeling and cutting 2-pounds, (four to six large), of russet potatoes into chunks, and place them in the pot with enough cold water to cover them by about an inch.
Bring the potatoes to a slow rolling boil over medium-high heat, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are tender when pierced with a fork.
I prefer to cook them until they are soft so they will be silky smooth when mashed. Once the water was boiling, I set my timer for 16 minutes, and the potatoes were quite soft and easy to mash.
Drain the water from the potatoes using a large strainer and then place them back into the saucepan.
Heat 1/2 cup of half and half or whole milk in your microwave, (45 to 60 seconds). Add the milk to the potatoes and mash with a hand mixer or a potato masher until the potatoes are smooth.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the leeks and kale.
Chop the greens of the leeks off, keeping the white and light green parts of the leek. Chop off the root end and then split the leeks into two pieces as shown in photo #3. Turn the leeks to the flat side and chop them into thin rounds, photo #4.
Also, check to make sure there is no embedded dirt between the layers of the leek. Mine were quite clean. If there is dirt, rinse the leeks under cold, running water.
To prepare the kale, you will need to tear or cut the kale greens from the woody stem. I find that it is easy to just pull the greens off by hand but use a knife on stubborn pieces.
Once all the kale is separated from the stems, Give the leaves a good chopping with a chef’s knife to make small pieces, (about 1-inch square). Kale is a little tough so the smaller pieces make it easy to enjoy.
In a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter on medium-low heat then add the leeks. Sautee the leeks for 3 minutes while stirring occasionally.
Then add the kale and fold until the greens are coated with the butter. With the heat still on low, cover the skillet with a lid and steam the kale to wilt and soften, for 3 or 4 minutes.
The next step is to mix the greens with the potatoes. If your saucepan is large enough, you could mix them in that. I used a separate bowl as you see in the photo. Give the potatoes a taste and add salt and black pepper if desired. I added 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Serve the colcannon hot and maybe top with another tablespoon of butter.
Variations To Try
Irish colcannon is a versatile dish that can be customized to suit your taste preferences. Here are a few other variations to try:
- Sweet Potato Colcannon: Substitute some or all of the white potatoes with sweet potatoes for a slightly sweeter twist on the classic recipe.
- Colcannon Cakes: Instead of serving the colcannon as a side dish, shape it into small cakes and pan-fry them until crispy on the outside. This is a great way to use up any leftover colcannon.
- Cheese and Garlic Colcannon: Add grated cheese and minced garlic to the mashed potatoes for a savory and flavorful twist.
- Colcannon Soup: Blend the mashed potatoes, kale, and leeks together with some vegetable or chicken broth for a creamy and comforting soup.
- Colcannon Shepherd’s Pie: Use the colcannon as a topping for a traditional shepherd’s pie instead of mashed potatoes. Just layer cooked ground beef or lamb, mixed vegetables, and the colcannon in a baking dish and bake until golden brown and bubbly.
- Colcannon Stuffed Potatoes: Scoop out the centers of baked potatoes and mix the insides with the colcannon. Refill the potato skins with the mixture and bake for a delicious and filling main course.
Whether you stick to the classic recipe or try one of these variations, Irish colcannon is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Experiment with different ingredients and see what works best for you.
Some tasty garnishes can also be used on the colcannon too. Try topping with green onions, crispy bacon bits, chopped chives, or shredded cheese.
If you’re looking to make Irish colcannon more kid-friendly, there are a few things you can do:
- Make the colcannon with more familiar tasting ingredients. Rather than kale, make it using green cabbage or chopped fresh spinach.
- Add cheese: Kids love cheese, so adding some grated cheddar cheese or parmesan to the colcannon will make it more appealing to them.
- Make it smooth: Kids can be picky about textures, so if they’re not fans of chunky mashed potatoes, try blending the colcannon until it’s smooth and creamy.
- Use fun shapes: Use a cookie cutter or mold to shape the colcannon into fun shapes like stars or hearts. This will make it more visually appealing to kids.
- Let them help: Kids are more likely to eat something if they’ve had a hand in making it. Let them help you chop the kale and leeks or mash the potatoes. They’ll be more invested in the dish and excited to try it.
What To Serve Colcannon With
I am an Irish purist and on St. Patrick’s Day make traditional colcannon and corned beef. But here are some other meats that pair well with colcannon.
- Pork chops
- Roast beef
- Grilled sausages
- Roast lamb
- Grilled chicken
- Irish stew
Have a great St. Patrick’s Day and mix up a tasty, creamy Irish colcannon. This simple recipe is an Irish food treat.
The printable recipe card is below.
Here are some more tasty side dishes recipes to try:
- Kale Salad with Cranberry Orange Dressing
- Lemony Curly Kale Salad
- Golden Crispy Oven Fries
- Simple Basil Pesto
Traditional Irish Colcannon Recipe
- 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
- 2 or 3 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced, 1 to 1 1/2 cups
- 4 to 5 cups chopped kale, small pieces
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk, heated for 45 to 60 seconds in a microwave oven.
- 1 tsp salt
- black pepper if desired
- Boil potatoes in salted water until soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
- While the potatoes are boiling, in a large skillet, melt 4 tbsp butter and add the leeks, saute on low temperature, 3 or 4 mins.
- Add the kale to the skillet and fold to fully coat with butter, cover the skillet with a lid and wilt for another 3 or 4 minutes.
- Mash the potatoes with a hand mixer, masher, or with a potato ricer, adding heated half and half a little at a time until the desired smoothness.
- In a large bowl or the potato saucepan if it is large enough, fold the sauteed kale and leeks together with the mashed potatoes. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve the colcannon hot.
- You can substitute green cabbage or fresh, chopped spinach for the kale.
- Add crispy bacon or ham for extra flavor and texture. Also, you can garnish with chopped scallions, chopped chives, or shredded cheese.
- For a vegan version, use plant-based milk and vegan butter.
- Make it spicy by adding red pepper flakes or hot sauce.
- Store leftovers covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- I have made this recipe during the day and kept it warm in a serving dish by covering the dish with plastic wrap and a lid and placing it into a 170° oven for several hours.