Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage and Onion {Colcannon}

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Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage and Onion {Colcannon}

Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday. I kind-of see it as a non-holiday holiday that must be endured before the real holiday season can be ushered in (and for this I apologize to my darling Halloween-loving readers!).

But…I will admit there are some fun things about it. Costumes, for example. And jack-o-lanterns. Scary movie marathons. And if you’re still young enough to do so, trick-or-treating is always a blast (who would refuse free candy, right?). These are the traditions that I grew up associating with Halloween.

Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage and Onion {Colcannon} 2

I think it’s interesting to see how people in other parts of the world celebrate the same holiday, which is why I was intrigued when I recently found a recipe for Colcannon, a traditional Irish Halloween dish, in a cookbook called Irish Pub Cooking. Colcannon is basically mashed potatoes with cabbage (or kale) and some kind of onion. (The recipe I used called for scallion, but that just wasn’t enough onion for me so I added a regular cooking onion as well; the book said you could substitute leeks if you prefer, so I’m guessing just about any kind of onion will do.) The recipe also has a somewhat obscene amount of butter and half and half (as do so many recipes for mashed potatoes), but in my humble opinion, this tastes so much better than most mashed potato dishes out there and at least it comes with added cabbage and onion.

So, a little bit about the custom. Years ago (or perhaps it’s still done to this day?), it was traditional to serve Colcannon for Halloween and hide coins or small charms in Colcannon. If it was coins that were found, the finder would have good fortune in the upcoming year; if charms were used, the particular charm would determine the finder’s future – for example, a button meant the finder would stay a bachelor for the year, and a thimble meant the finder would stay a spinster. I’ve also heard tales of Colcannon pertaining to marriage. Legend has it that an unmarried woman would put Colcannon into a stocking and hang the stocking on the door…apparently the next unwitting chap to come through the door was her future husband!  You can read more about Irish Halloween traditions and recipes on IrishCentral.)

I made this lovely dish for dinner with my parents’ a couple weekends ago (I served it with a fantastic pantry-staple beef stew). I was tempted to put (thoroughly scrubbed) pennies into it, in keeping with tradition, but I feared my mom would see even scrubbed pennies as unclean (and no, I definitely do not blame her for that, lol!).

Coins present or not, this is comfort food at its finest.

Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage and Onion {Colcannon} 3

Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage and Onion {Colcannon}
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 servings
  • 2 lbs (about 4 medium) starchy potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2¾ teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, divided
  • 1 cup half and half (or milk if you prefer...I won’t even suggest using cream ;) )
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 lbs (about 1 small head) green cabbage, quartered, core removed, and chopped (see Note)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon ground marjoram (optional; see Note)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced and divided
  1. Put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover by 1 to 2 inches with cold water; bring to a boil over high heat, then turn heat down and simmer until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes; drain. Transfer to a large bowl and mash with 1¼ teaspoons salt and 4 tablespoons butter (leaving lumps if you like). Gradually mash in the half and half a little at a time so the potatoes absorb it all.
  2. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and the canola oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the cabbage, onion, remaining 1½ teaspoons salt, marjoram, and pepper, and cook until tender, about 10 to 14 minutes. Add 4 sliced scallions and cook 30 seconds more.
  3. Stir the cabbage mixture into the mashed potatoes; taste and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
  4. Serve hot, with the remaining 2 sliced scallions sprinkled on top.
Recipe adapted from Irish Pub Cooking’s recipe for Colcannon; published by Parragon Books Ltd.

Cabbage: I think Savoy or Napa cabbage could be substituted for the green cabbage, just be sure to decrease the cooking time accordingly (or if you prefer, kale can be used instead). Regarding the cooking method, in the cookbook, they shredded the cabbage and boiled it until tender, which is probably the more traditional way. I wanted to sauté it in butter, since I think there is little else in this world that’s better than cabbage sautéed in butter.

Marjoram: Ground marjoram is my own twist on this recipe, since marjoram is one of my favorite herbs to pair with cabbage; feel free to omit it if you like.

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  1. says

    I adore pub food! It’s comfort food personified. This looks wonderful, Faith, and you stayed true to the dish, too.
    Halloween is such fun; it may not be your favorite holiday, but I love how everyone gets so creative and their sense of humor shines through.

  2. says

    Faith, thank you for showing us halloween in different parts of the world! I’ve made calcannon before but never knew it had anything to do with this holiday! I’m with you and also am not a fan of halloween… much more excited for the ones to come, but with a dish like this, I would find any excuse to celebrate!!

  3. says

    Never heard of this dish…and from your description and ingredients it sure sounds and look delicious.
    Like the idea of cabbage with potatoes.
    Hope you have a wonderful week ahead Faith :-)

  4. says

    This sounds so hearty and delicious! Those legends are really interesting. It reminds me of the baby in the king cake. :) Another fabulous recipe Faith, thanks for sharing1

  5. says

    This looks so interesting, I’ve never heard of anything quite like it. Cabbage in mashed potatoes, who would have thought. What exactly does it taste like? Cabbage? Potatoes? Spices? I am intrigued.

  6. says

    I’m going to make this with kimchi. Why not? Both are with cabbage. :D

    As a Christian, I’m not enamored with Halloween either…I do like the candy sales though! hee hee

  7. says

    wow…I always thought Halloween was just about dressing up and trick-or-treating! haha…..To be honest, I never used to like Halloween either, because I never had any friends who would go trick-or-treating with me so i would always be at home whilst other people were celebrating- and sometimes, kids who knock on doors aren’t that nice :S But I actually like Halloween now, with all the cute and creative foods that food bloggers come up with ;) Putting coins in foods reminds me of those movies where the guy tries to propose to a girl by putting the ring in food but the girl ends up eating it…lol But it sounds like a really fun thing to do! This looks very delicious- I love mashed potatoes, and this sounds even better than any mashed potatoes I’ve ever had!

  8. says

    Oooh, nice..I love butter and cream :) I bet it tastes amazing!
    I’m with you…halloween is something I put up with, but just can’t get excited about!

  9. says

    There is wisdom in the folktale. I am looking at Halloween with a different perspective now. I am happy to have experienced a little of Irish Halloween by just reading your blog. I just feel a little weird about finding coins in a dish. I am guessing those are pretty big coins or any other stuff just to be on the safe side, you do not want to be doing Heimlich manuever to your guests after serving Colcannon on Trick or Treat Night. Right? Just a thought…Thanks for the post!!!

  10. Samantha says

    This looks unbelievable! To make it a little more Irish, could you serve it up with some cod…. I’m looking for a way to get some protein in there somewhere to go with this dish!

    • admin says

      Samantha, Oooh, I think it would be wonderful with cod! I served it with a very easy beef stew, which was also quite tasty (recipe coming soon!). :)

  11. says

    I have nothing against Halloween … but as a Freakonomics devotee, I’m fascinated by the things we do and how they compare to the things we say we do. And the one data point that stands out is: if we love dressing up so much, why do we only do it once a year? Whatever happened to the non-Halloween costume party?


  12. says

    I’m a potato junkie…hence, this will certainly be one more recipe to put on my to-do list ;o)

    Faith, have a great week and looking forward to what you do for the next non-pleasurable holiday. LOL


  13. says

    What an interesting dish. I’ve never heard of this before and enjoyed learning about the different types of items you could put in this and what the items signified. Thank you for sharing that, Faith. Colcannon sounds like a dish I’d surely enjoy.

  14. says

    LOVE this – and I’ve basically made it before, and many variations of it, but never realized the history of the combination of these ingredients! I’m with you on the sauteed cabbage for sure, and I just adore leeks. (tried to grow them this year, but I’m never successful there!)

  15. says

    Colcannon is lovely – serve it up with a bit of boiled bacon for ultimate Irish comfort food!
    I’ve never had a coin hid in mine though – there is a traditional heavy Irish cake called a barn brack in which a ring is hidden. The person to find the ring in their piece will be first the marry. This is something that we always had at Halloween and you can buy them in the shop or make your own.
    Halloween is celebrated a lot in Ireland, it has roots in the ancient pagan festival of Samhain and we’ve basically never stopped celebrating it!
    Sorry for the long comment, I just loved your recipe and thought I’d add my tuppence worth. :)

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