Make colcannon if you’re looking for a traditional Irish side dish for St. Patrick’s Day. Its sauteed leafy greens and creamy mashed potatoes pair perfectly with beef stew and corned beef.
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Serving fluffy mashed potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day is a no-brainer, but have you tried adding greens? Colcannon is a typical side dish in Ireland, where spuds, butter, and dairy are readily available. Green vegetables add a pleasant crunchy texture to those commonly smooth potato bites.
This side dish has veggies and carbs all in one serving, and it 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 dish to serve on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s easy enough to whip up any day of the week.
What is colcannon?
An Irish potato recipe that consists of starchy spuds, like russet potatoes with a light and fluffy texture, combined with chopped kale or cabbage. The ingredients come together by mixing in butter and milk or cream. Some regional variations include scallions (green or spring onions), leeks, chives, onions, or laverbread (an edible seaweed).
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 still staying light in texture. Other types of potatoes like Yukon Gold provide a more buttery taste, but they are waxy in texture and yield a dense consistency.
Rinse off the starches
It’s crucial to control the starch level to keep the texture light. Too much, and the texture will be gummy when mashed. Peel, then 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 give it a rinse. You’ll notice the water turn from cloudy to clear.
Boil the potatoes
Smaller cubes give more surface area for quicker cooking, and I boil them in salted water to be more flavorful throughout. Cook until fork-tender, about 15-minutes. You don’t want them overly soft and falling apart before mashing, or this will make the dish too watery. I rinse them briefly with hot water right before mashing them to remove any lingering starches on the surface. Drain them well.
Use green cabbage instead of red so that the color doesn’t bleed into the ivory-colored spuds. Different varieties, like the smooth and sweet green or more textured napa or savory cabbage, can be used. Cut the cabbage into ¼-inch shreds, about 2-inches long, for nice short, crisp bites.
The dark green, slightly bitter vegetable adds a pop of color and flavor dimension to the colcannon. I use hearty curly kale and chop it into thin ¼-inch shreds to make it easier to chew. Other types of kale like Tuscan Lacinato, with a more rubbery texture, is also a good choice.
Add green 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 out and becomes subtly sweet. 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.
Saute the vegetables
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 them with salt at the beginning of cooking to draw out the moisture for quicker evaporation and better seasoning.
The shredded cabbage and kale saute in butter. I enjoy the butterscotch flavor the browned milk solids add to the vegetables. The goal is the drive off as much moisture as possible and lightly brown the leafy greens for extra flavor. The sliced green onions briefly cook for a more mild taste.
Mash and season
For a rustic texture, crush them using a potato masher, but if you desire a smooth consistency, use a ricer or press them through a fine-mesh strainer or sieve. Now, mix with butter. The fat helps coat any residual starches and prevents a gummy texture.
I use warm whole milk to moisten the potatoes, so they don’t become too dense. Gradually add in the liquid, allowing the potatoes to absorb the moisture. For a creamier consistency, add whipping cream instead of milk.
Mix the vegetables and potatoes
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 with a pad of butter on top, slices of fresh green onion, and black pepper.
Serve this with
Colcannon is derived from the Gaelic phrase cal ceannann, or “white-headed cabbage.” In Ireland’s 17 and 18th centuries, potatoes, cabbage, and leeks were food staples, so this became a popular recipe. Traditionally, it was cooked with a coin, stick, or rag when eaten on Halloween. If one of those items ended up in your serving, it predicted your future.
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.
Yes, you can customize the recipe however you’d like with just one type of green vegetable. There should be about ¾ cups of sauteed greens to incorporate into the mashed potatoes.
To make the kale less bitter
If you are sensitive to the bitter taste of kale, massage the leaves. Sulfur-containing compounds called isothiocyanates release when the leaves are chopped or chewed. Simply cut the leaves, then rub them to bring the bitter compounds to the surface. Then you can rinse them away before cooking to reduce some of the harsh flavors.
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- 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
- 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.
- Cook – Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook until fork-tender but not falling apart, about 15-minutes.
- Drain – Pour the potatoes into a colander and rinse with hot water to remove any residual starches, about 30-seconds. Shake and drain well.
- Mash – Set a food mill, ricer, or fine-mesh strainer over the pot used to cook the potatoes. Working in batches, press the potatoes through into the pot. If using a strainer, use the back of a spoon. Alternatively, use a potato masher.
- Season – 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 the milk 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.
- 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.
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