Colcannon

5 from 7 votes
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Colcannon is a traditional Irish side dish perfect for serving during a St. Patrick’s Day feast. You get to enjoy sauteed leafy greens and creamy mashed potatoes all in one dish!

I serve this dish alongside my baked corned beef, Irish soda bread, and corned beef and cabbage.

Colcannon served in a white bowl.

Serving fluffy mashed potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day is a no-brainer, but have you tried adding greens? This colcannon recipe is a typical Irish dish with readily available spuds, butter, and dairy. Green vegetables add a pleasant, crunchy texture to those commonly smooth potato bites.

This side dish has veggies and carbs in one serving and goes well with various entrees. You can make colcannon with either cabbage or kale, but for this recipe, I use both! I find that more greens improve the taste and bump up the nutrition. While this is a popular side dish to serve on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s easy to whip up any day of the week.

Recipe ingredients

Colcannon recipe ingredients placed in bowls with labels next to them.
  • Potatoes: Use starchy potatoes, called “mealy” or “floury,” like Russets or Idahos. They are high in starch and low in moisture, making them crush and flake with ease. They are also great for absorbing liquids like milk or cream while staying light in texture.
  • Butter: Used to add richness to the mashed potatoes and sauteed greens.
  • Milk: Makes the mashed potatoes rich, light, and fluffy.
  • Cabbage: Use green cabbage instead of red so the color doesn’t bleed into the ivory-colored spuds. Cut the cabbage into ¼-inch shreds, about 2-inches long, for short, crisp bites.
  • Kale: Its dark green color and slightly bitter taste add color and flavor. I use hearty curly kale and chop it into thin ¼-inch shreds to make it easier to chew.
  • Onions: I use delicate green onions to add aromatic allium flavor without overpowering the dish. Remove the darker green portions and the more intense white parts. When sauteed, the raw onion flavor mellows and becomes subtly sweet.
  • Seasoning: The potatoes and vegetables are seasoned with salt and pepper.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Step 1: Heat the pot of water while preparing the potatoes. Add the water, stir in the salt once it is warm, and bring to a boil.

Prepare the potatoes

Cubes of potatoes in a colander being rinsed with water.

Step 2: Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Doing so exposes the starch molecules in the plant’s cell walls, making it easier to wash them off. Add the potatoes to a colander and rinse with cold water. You want the water to turn from cloudy to clear.

Pro Tip: Control the starch level to keep the texture light. If there is too much starch, the texture will be gummy when mashed.

Boil the potatoes

Spoon lifting cooked potatoes out of a hot pot of water.

Step 3: Smaller cubes provide more surface area for quick cooking, and the salted water adds flavor. Cook until fork-tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t want them overly soft and falling apart before mashing, or it will make the dish too watery.

Drain and rinse the cooked potatoes briefly with hot water before mashing them to remove any lingering starches on the surface. Drain well before mashing.

Mash the potatoes

Potato mashed being used on cubes of cooked potatoes in a pot.

Step 4: For a more rustic texture, use a potato masher. Alternatively, you can use a food mill, ricer, or sieve to make smooth mashed potatoes. Place the sieve over the warm pot used to cook the potatoes and use a spoon to press the spuds through. Work in batches as needed.

Add butter and milk

Spatula mixing a butter paddy into a pot of mashed potatoes.
Spatula mixing warm milk into a pot of mashed potatoes.

Step 5: To prevent gummy potatoes, mix them with butter. The fat coats any residual starches, preventing them from becoming gluey when adding the milk. Warm up the milk and season with salt. Gradually add the liquid, allowing the potatoes to absorb the moisture.

Pro Tip: Add whipping cream instead of milk for a creamier consistency.

Saute the vegetables

Kale and cabbage sauteing in a cast iron skillet.
Green onions being sauteed in a pan with cabbage and kale.

Step 6: Instead of boiling the vegetables like some traditional versions, I saute them to enhance their flavor. This technique also prevents them from making the mashed potatoes too watery—season with salt at the beginning of cooking to draw out the moisture for quicker evaporation.

Shredded cabbage and kale are sauteed in butter. The goal is to drive off as much moisture as possible and lightly brown the leafy greens for extra flavor. Sliced green onions are briefly cooked for a more mild taste.

Mix the vegetables and potatoes

Sauteed green vegetables placed into a pot of mashed potatoes.
Homemade colcannon in a large pot.

Step 7: Gently incorporate the sauteed vegetables into the mashed potatoes. You don’t want to overmix, making the texture of the spuds too dense. I like to serve the colcannon with a pad of butter on top, slices of fresh green onion, and black pepper.

Flavor variations

The colcannon recipe can be easily customized. Try these delicious options:

  • Potatoes: Other types of potatoes, like Yukon Gold, provide a more buttery taste but are waxy in texture and yield a dense consistency.
  • Cabbage: Textured napa or savoy cabbage can be used.
  • Kale: Other types of kale, like Tuscan Lacinato, with a more rubbery texture, are also good choices.
  • Onions: You can also use scallions or spring onions in the recipe. The difference is in the bulb, as scallions are more young and thin, and spring has a large round bulb. If using spring onions, chop the white part into smaller, ¼-inch pieces.

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

What is colcannon?

An Irish potato recipe consists of starchy spuds, like russet potatoes, with a light and fluffy texture, combined with chopped kale or cabbage. The ingredients are combined by mixing in butter and milk or cream. Some regional variations include scallions (green or spring onions), leeks, chives, onions, or laverbread (edible seaweed).

What’s the difference between champ and colcannon?

Both are Irish mashed potato dishes made with butter and milk or cream. Champ includes scallions, whereas colcannon also adds cabbage or kale, sometimes leeks, and occasionally fresh herbs like chives.

Can I use only cabbage or kale?

Yes, you can customize the recipe however you’d like with just one type of green vegetable. About ¾ cups of sauteed greens should be incorporated into the mashed potatoes.

A bowl of colcannon with a paddy of butter in the middle.

Recipe Science

To make the kale less bitter

If you are sensitive to the bitter taste of kale, massage the leaves. When the leaves are chopped or chewed, sulfur-containing compounds called isothiocyanates are released. Cut the leaves, then rub them to bring the bitter compounds to the surface. Rinse them away before cooking to reduce some of the harsh flavors.

Colcannon

Make colcannon for St. Patrick's Day with sauteed leafy greens and mashed potatoes if you are looking for a traditional Irish side dish.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Side
Cuisine Irish

Ingredients 
 

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 slices
  • ½ cup whole milk, or whipping cream
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups green cabbage, ¼” shreds
  • 2 cups kale, ¼” shreds
  • ½ cup sliced green onions, white and green parts

Instructions 

  • Boil the Water – In a large pot, heat water over high heat until warm. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir to dissolve, then bring to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare the potatoes.
  • Prepare the Potatoes – Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Add to a colander and rinse under cool water to remove excess starches until the water runs clear, about 1 minute. Drain well.
  • Boil the Potatoes – Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook until fork-tender but not falling apart, about 15 to 20 minutes. Pour the potatoes into a colander and rinse with hot water to remove any residual starches, about 30 seconds. Shake and drain well.
  • Mash the Potatoes – Use a potato masher to break the potatoes apart. Alternatively, for a smooth consistency, set a food mill, ricer, or fine-mesh strainer over the pot used to cook the potatoes and press the potatoes through. If using a strainer, use the back of a spoon.
  • Add Butter and Milk – Add butter and gently fold into the potatoes. Microwave the milk for 30 to 45 seconds until warmed to about 120ºF (49ºC). Add ½ teaspoon of salt to it and whisk to dissolve. Gradually fold the milk into the potatoes in three additions, allowing it to absorb before adding more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Saute the Vegetables – Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add the cabbage, kale, ½ teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. Saute until the greens wilt and most moisture evaporates, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the green onions and saute until tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Combine Ingredients – Add the sauteed vegetables to the mashed potatoes. Gently fold to combine. If needed, rewarm over medium heat, stirring occasionally. If desired, garnish with black pepper and green onions.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 3 cups
  • Serving Size: ½ cup
  • Make it Dairy-Free: Substitute butter for olive oil, dairy-free butter, or margarine. Use non-dairy milk like cashew, almond, or oat milk. The flavor will differ slightly and may not be as creamy.
  • Storing: Cool the potatoes thoroughly, then transfer them to an airtight container and refrigerate them for up to 3 days. Freeze for about one month.
  • Reheating: Warm on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Or cover and microwave on high power in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until warmed through. Frozen potatoes can be defrosted overnight, then reheated or rewarmed when still frozen.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 219kcal (11%)Carbohydrates 32g (11%)Protein 5g (10%)Fat 9g (14%)Saturated Fat 5g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 1gCholesterol 22mg (7%)Sodium 31mg (1%)Potassium 833mg (24%)Fiber 3g (12%)Sugar 3g (3%)Vitamin A 2608IU (52%)Vitamin C 46mg (56%)Calcium 94mg (9%)Iron 2mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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  1. Maria Terry says

    I saw this today and thought I must make this, and I will. Didn’t have what I needed today. Earlier today, as I was preparing your Shepherd’s Pie recipe, I thought Colcannon would be incredible on a Shepherd’s Pie. I might do that the next time I make your Shepherd’s pie recipe. It would be meat potatoes and an abundance of vegetables all in one dish!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Oh, I love the idea of adding greens to the mashed potato topping on the shepherd’s pie! I can’t wait to hear how that turns out.