IRELAND — Traditional Food Profile


Food in Ireland has always been defined by invaders, the Celts of eastern, northern and southern Europe and Anatolia, the Vikings, Anglo-Normans, Saxons and Britons, by countless migrants and by the relationships coastal and river people developed as traders with seafarers and travellers.

Early food was based on grains – barley, einkorn, oats, spelt – on dairy produce, on game meat, on inshore, lake and river fish, on eggs (domesticated and wild), on honey and on wild berries and fruit.

Porridge made with milk and oats is one of the oldest traditional dishes. Oats were used in numerous ways, in soups and stews, in confections like honeycomb, and as the essential ingredient in griddle bread. They were fermented to provide the leaven for bread, before bicarbonate of soda and baker’s yeast.

Cooking, curing and curdling methods were influenced by the invaders. The Vikings specialised in air-dried fish but it is likely that the tradition of salt-dried fish was brought from the Iberian peninsula. Whatever the origin, drying fish was a tradition around the Atlantic fringe.

Cockle, eel, haddock, herring, langoustine (Dublin bay prawn), mackerel, pike, salmon, trout and winkle provided protein for coastal, lake and river communities. Sea vegetables such as dulse and sloke were eaten as snacks, and cooked in breads and soups.

Meat from domesticated and wild birds (duck and goose in particular), small animals (hares and rabbits) and large animals (boar and deer) was common, and defined traditional dishes.

The event of the potato, brought by Basque fishermen in the mid-1600s, had a profound effect on traditional food. Usually cooked whole in their skins, a method that retained minerals and vitamins, the potato was used as a thickener for soups (early chowders, for example), as a bulking agent in stews and as a companion for countless dishes – boxty, champ, coddle, colcannon, pratie.

Kale, the essential ingredient in colcannon

Nothing was wasted. Offal was mixed with pig’s blood and oats to make black pudding. Pig trotter’s were served whole or as an aromatic thickener in soups and stews. Sausage making utilised pork meat and biscuit rusk in a combination that was unique (the continentals put rusk in their meatballs – a tradition that never caught on in Ireland).

Mutton became an important food in the late 18th century. The consequence was Irish stew, made initially with mutton, potatoes, onions and salt, then much latter with other root vegetables and herbs.

Bread making went through countless adaptations in the early 19th century as new ingredients were introduced, and produce and products from overseas – bicarbonate of soda, dried fruit, molasses, soft wheat, spices and sugar – led to the beginnings of many of the dishes now associated with Irish traditional food.

Cakes and confections proliferated, influenced by migrants from France, Italy and Switzerland who introduced home bakeries and ice cream parlours.

Breakfast became the most important meal of the day, and epitomised traditional food, continuing to this day. Depending on the region, breakfast included a combination of foods from bacon rashers, black and white puddings, fried eggs, pork-rusk sausages, potatoes in their various disquises, white soda bread and steak sausages followed by wheaten soda bread and scones with butter, jams and preserves, milky tea or coffee with hot milk. Fast breakfast was fadge – bacon, eggs and potato cakes.

The concept of meat, vegetables and potatoes on a plate probably started in Ireland. Now bacon / gammon / ham, cabbage and mashed potatoes / chipped potatoes or roast stuffed pork, carrots, gravy and mashed potatoes / chipped potatoes or sirloin steak, crispy onion and mashed potatoes / chipped potatoes are thought of as traditional dishes.


Fish brothers O’Connell at the English market in Cork city

Antrim Dexter Beef

Aran Sweet Beef

Ardagh Castle Goats Cheese – goat’s milk

Armagh Apple Juice

Atlantic Battered Hake

Atlantic Carrageen

Atlantic Crab

Atlantic Dulse

Atlantic Pan-Fried Mackerel

Beal Cheddar – cow’s milk

Ballyhooly Blue Cheese – cow’s milk 

Beara Blue Cheese – cow’s milk

Beara Pan-Fried Mackerel

Belfast Bap

Belfast Bookies Sandwich

Bellingham Blue Cheese – cow’s milk

Brotchán Foltchep (leek and oatmeal soup)

Cais Dubh Cheese – cow’s milk 

Cais Rua Cheese – cow’s milk 

Carlow Cheese – cow’s milk 

Elizabeth Bradley at her cheese stall

Carrowholly Cheese – cow’s milk 

Cape Clear Mackerel

Cavan Boxty (potato cakes, potato dumplings)

Cleire Goats Cheese – goat’s milk

Connemara Chowder (carrageen, dulse, potatoes, mussels)

Connemara Hill Lamb*

Connemara Potato Cakes

Connemara Rowanberry Jelly

Connemara Scallops

Connemara Scones

Connemara Scones made with buttermilk

Coolattin Cheddar Cheese – cow’s milk 

Cooleeney Farmhouse Cheese – cow’s milk 

Cork Drisheen (black / blood pudding)

Corleggy Cheese – goat’s milk

Creeny Cheese – ewe’s milk

Dexter Beef / Marshalls’ Dexter Beef

Dilliskus Cheese – cow’s milk with seaweed

Dingle Smoked Mackerel Pâté

Donegal Champ / Stelk (mashed potatoes and scallions)

Donegal Potato Faros

Donegal Dexter Beef / Marshalls’ Dexter Beef

Donegal Oysters

Drumlin Cheese – cow’s milk

Dublin Coddle (modern version)

Emerald Cheese – cow’s milk

Galway Bay Lobsters

Galway Bay Oysters

Glebe Brethan Cheese – cow’s milk

Hibernia Cheese – cow’s milk 

Inismaan Chowder (sea vegetables and potatoes)

Irish Breakfast Bap / Roll

Irish Coffee*

Irish Stew

Irish Fry

Irish Sea Battered Prawns (scampi)

Kerry Blue Cheese – cow’s milk

Kerry Salt Cod

Kilcummin – cow’s milk

Killary Mussels*

Knockanore Plain Cheese – cow’s milk

Knockatee Cheddar Cheese – cow’s milk

Knockatee Gouda Cheese – cow’s milk

Leitrim Fadge

Limerick Ham*

Lough Neagh Eels

Lough Neagh Pollan

Louth Spelt Berries

Louth Spelt Flour

Andrew Workman at one of his spelt fields in Lough

Maighean Cheese – cow’s milk

Millhouse Cheese – sheep’s milk

Mount Callan Cheddar Cheese – cow’s milk

St Brigid Cheese – cow’s milk 

St Brigid Beag – Cheese cow’s milk with green peppercorns

St Gall Cheese – cow’s milk 

Tipperary Barm / Round Brack* 

Tipperary Pies

Triskel Dew Drop Cheese – goat’s milk

Triskel Gwenned Cheese – cow’s milk

Ulster Fry

Ulster Steak Sausages

Waterford Blaa Bread

Waterford Blaa Steak Sandwich

Wexford Honey Mousse

*Indicates potential Geographic Indicator Status


Jimmy Mulhall collecting his vegetables at Carlow street market

Apple (Bramley, Crab)


Brown Trout / Sea Trout













Kale / Curly Kale


Lemon Sole 









Pork including belly and trotter (cruibín)







Spring Onion / Scallion


Aran Islands cow

Baked Crusted Salmon

Baked Crusted Salmon

Baked Sea Trout

Black (Blood) Pudding (drisheen) and White Pudding

Bookies Sandwich rump or sirloin steak with onions in a bread roll

Boxty potato cakes / potato dumplings

Burren Smokehouse Salmon

Buttermilk Scones

Cabbage and Bacon / Gammon / Ham

Carrageen Jelly*

Carrageen, Mackerel and Potato chowder

Carvery roast beef / roast pork with potatoes, leaf and root vegetables

Champ / Stelk mashed potatoes and scallions

Coddle bacon, gammon, ham hock, onions, potatoes, sausages with kale 

Colcannon buttermilk, kale and potatoes

Cruibín (pig’s trotters)

Fadge bacon, eggs and potato cakes or boxty

Farm Eggs

Farmhouse Cultured Butter

Pan-Fried Mackerel

Pan-Fried Sea Trout

Pork Sausages

Porter Cake

Potato Farls

Potted Crab

Roast Chicken

Rowanberry Jelly

Scones – Spelt

Scones – Wheat

Smoked Mackerel

Smoked Salmon

Soda Bread – Spelt

Soda Bread – White Wheat

Soda Bread – Wholewheat

Spelt Bread

Steak and Chips with Crispy Onions

Steak Sausages

Stiffner mashed potatoes with buttermilk

Sultana Scones

Tea Brack

Wheaten Bread

Wild Garlic Soup

Yellowman sugar confection


… to follow