This hearty recipe for Irish mashed potatoes with cabbage (aka Colcannon) combines rich, buttery mashed potatoes and cabbage sautéed with onion for a side dish that’s satisfying, nutritious, and delicious.
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.
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. This recipe is loosely based on the recipe from that cookbook.
And even though this side dish is traditional for Halloween, it's delicious enough to enjoy anytime! It goes well with corned beef, and makes a great side dish for Saint Patrick's Day dinner. You can also pair it with roast chicken, pot roast, grilled meat, or a rich, hearty stew.
The Tradition Behind Colcannon
Years ago in Ireland (or perhaps it’s still done to this day?), it was traditional to serve Colcannon for Halloween and hide coins or small charms in it.
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, and served it with a fantastic Basic Beef Stew Using Pantry Staples. In keeping with tradition, I was tempted to put (thoroughly scrubbed) pennies in it! However, 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.
What is Colcannon?
Colcannon is a rustic dish of Irish mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale. It frequently has some kind of onion as well.
The original recipe I found called for scallion, but that just wasn’t enough onion for me! I added a regular cooking onion as well. However, leeks are another great option. In fact, just about any kind of onion will do!
Colcannon 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 the added nutrition of cabbage and onion.
And it's no small amount of cabbage! If you think cabbage isn't your thing, I highly recommend this recipe. Paired with butter and potatoes, you might find that you love cabbage!
Colcannon is delicious, and also loaded with vegetables! If you're trying to eat more real foods, this side dish is a good choice.
And this recipe is easy to make for all skill levels!
Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage) Ingredients and Substitutions
In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.
- Potatoes - Pictured here are Yukon Gold potatoes, which are my favorite for making most types of mashed potato recipes.
- Salt and black pepper - These pantry-staple spices make sure our potatoes aren't bland.
- Unsalted butter - Adds rich buttery deliciousness! You can use salted butter instead and reduce the added salt by ¼ teaspoon + ⅛ teaspoon.
- Half and half - Whole milk will also work here, but half and half adds an incredibly rich flavor and texture. I don't recommend using all heavy cream, but you can use about ⅓ cup of heavy cream + ⅔ cup of whole milk if you don't have half and half on hand.
- Green cabbage - This decadent side dish has 2 pounds of cabbage in it! Green cabbage is my favorite here, but Savoy or Napa cabbage also works well. Or you can use half the amount of kale instead.
- Onion - I like to sauté a yellow onion along with the cabbage for savory depth of flavor. This is completely optional though (and I forgot to include it in the ingredient photo above!), especially if you add scallion.
- Scallion - Blurring the lines between Champ and Colcannon, I like to serve this side dish with scallion stirred in and more on top.
- First things first, peel the potatoes. Chop the peeled potatoes into large cubes.
- Put the potatoes into a pot and cover them with cold water by about 2 inches. Bring them to a boil, cook until tender, drain well, and put them back into the pot they cooked in.
- Now it's time to make the cabbage component of this recipe. Start by thinly slicing green cabbage. Peel and chop an onion if you're using it. I love the savory flavor it adds here. Thinly slice a few scallions. Don't skimp out on the scallion! They bump up the freshness and add a subtle burst of savory flavor.
- Sauté the cabbage and onion in butter with salt and black pepper until it's tender, and then stir in half of the sliced scallion.
If you think cabbage isn't your thing, taste it at this point! It will have a rich, buttery flavor with a hint of savoriness and should be tender enough to almost melt in your mouth, but with just a little touch of al dente texture. Careful, you're about to become a cabbage lover.
- To the hot potatoes, add the butter and salt, and give the potatoes a good mash. Add the half and half a little at at time, mashing between additions. By adding it a little at a time, it ensures that the potatoes absorb all the liquid.
- Just look at how rich and creamy these mashed potatoes are!
- Add the cabbage mixture to the mashed potatoes.
- Give it a good stir to combine.
Transfer the Colcannon to a serving bowl. Top with a little more butter and a little more scallion, because why not?! Serve it up, and revel in the fact that you have unlocked the secret to the world's best mashed potatoes.
- Swap out the cabbage for kale. I find that about 1 pound of kale instead of the cabbage works well. Note that the final dish will look significantly different with dark leafy green flecks!
- The potatoes. I like to use either Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes here. I don't recommend using waxy red-skinned potatoes because I find that they turn gummy or gluey when mashed.
- Garlic. Although it's not found in traditional Colcannon recipes, it is a delicious addition! If you want to add garlic, I'd go with 2 large cloves, peeled and minced, and add it during the last couple minutes of sautéing the cabbage.
- Garnishes. I like to use scallion (aka green onion) here to bump up the savory onion flavor and to add a pop of green. Chives are another good option, or you can go with fresh parsley.
Irish Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage FAQs
What Type of Potatoes Should I Use For Mashing?
To make mashed potatoes, I like to use either Russet potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes.
Russets yield a light and fluffy mash with a creamy white color. Yukon Golds result in a rich and dense mash with a buttery yellow color.
I used Yukon Gold potatoes to make this Colcannon recipe, but you can use whatever you prefer.
What is the Difference Between Champ and Colcannon?
Both Champ and Colcannon are mashed potato-based dishes. However, the main difference lies in the additional ingredients.
Champ is mashed potatoes with scallion.
Colcannon is mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale.
I've also found that Champ is mashed to a much smoother consistency than Colcannon, which is commonly somewhat of a rough mash.
What Do You Serve with Colcannon?
If you're wondering what to eat this Colcannon recipe with, know that it's delicious with anything you'd eat mashed potatoes with! Here are a few ideas:
- Instant Pot Beef Tips and Gravy
- Homemade Irish Sausage with Onion Stout Gravy
- Dutch Oven Pot Roast
- Guinness Beef Stew
- Instant Pot Chicken Sausage Guinness Stew
More Delicious Potato Recipes
- Garlic Roasted New Potato and Asparagus Salad
- Vegetable Beef Guinness Casserole Topped with Champ
- Creamy Dijon Potato Salad
- Chicken Pot Pie Topped with Garlic and Herb Potato Mash
Colcannon Recipe (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Cabbage)
- 2 pounds potatoes peeled and cubed (about 4 medium-sized potatoes)
- 2 ¾ teaspoons salt divided
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 pounds green cabbage quartered, core removed, and thinly sliced (about 1 small head)
- 1 medium onion diced
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 scallions white and green parts, thinly sliced, divided
- Put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover by 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. Put the drained potatoes back into the pot they cooked in, and mash them with 1 ¼ teaspoons salt and 5 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.
- Add 5 tablespoons butter to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, onion, remaining 11/2 teaspoons salt and the black pepper. Cook until tender, about 10 to 14 minutes. Stir in half of the sliced scallion, and cook 30 seconds more.
- Stir the cabbage mixture into the mashed potatoes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
- Serve hot, with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and remaining scallion on top.
- Recipe Inspiration: Recipe adapted from the recipe for Colcannon in Irish Pub Cooking published by Parragon Books Ltd.
- Green Cabbage Substitute: If desired, you can substitute Savoy or Napa cabbage for the green cabbage in this recipe. Just be sure to decrease the cooking time accordingly (or if you prefer, you can use half the amount of kale instead).
- What Type of Potatoes to Use: To make the mashed potatoes for this recipe, I like to use either Russet potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes. Russets yield a light and fluffy mash with a creamy white color. Yukon Golds result in a rich and dense mash with a buttery yellow color. I used Yukon Gold potatoes to make this Colcannon recipe, but you can use whatever you prefer.
- Marjoram: If I have it on hand, I like to add ½ teaspoon dried marjoram to this dish.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on October 31, 2011 and updated on March 12, 2021.