When you think about Irish food, the first thing that probably comes to mind is corned beef and cabbage. But it turns out corned beef is not considered an Irish national dish, says David McKane, the executive chef of Kilkea Castle in county Kildare. "The connection with Saint Patrick's Day specifically originates as part of Irish-American culture, and is often part of their celebrations in North America," he says. This might lead you to wonder then: What do people who live in Ireland eat? Here, Irish chefs and restaurant owners dish on traditional Irish food, so you can serve the most authentic meal at your St. Patrick's Day party, including soda bread and a seriously tasty trifle to whip up for dessert.
1. Bacon and Cabbage
Traditionally, Irish bacon, a lean, smoked pork loin similar to Canadian bacon, was the most ubiquitous meat on the table in Ireland, namely because it was cheap, says McKane. But when Irish immigration to the United States exploded, immigrants found the cost of pork in this country to be prohibitively expensive, so they began cooking beef instead. As a result, bacon and cabbage is technically the more traditional Irish dish; corned beef and cabbage is the Irish-American variant.
2. Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread is a quick bread made without yeast. It rises, because, when combined, baking soda and buttermilk act as a leavening agent. According to The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook, the bread is usually scored with a cross to help it rise. Irish folklore says this also helps ward off evil and let the fairies out.
3. Irish Stew
An easy and flexible meal that's commonly considered the national dish of Ireland, says Amy Lawless, an Irish American and co-owner of The Dearborn in Chicago. Though generally made with mutton, onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes, Irish stew can also be created with beef or chicken, she explains.
4. Irish Coffee
Irish coffee isn't your average cup of Joe. It's a cocktail that's made with a strong hot coffee, Irish Whiskey like Jameson, and sugar, says Amy Lawless. The whole thing gets topped with a thick head of whipped cream.
5. Corned Beef and Cabbage
Of course, corned beef and cabbage still pops up on many a dinner table come St. Patrick's Day. According to The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook, traditionally, the brining liquid included is Saltpeter—a bactericide that helps produce that ultra-pigmented pink color. This is one dish you're going to have to plan ahead for: To properly brine the meat, you need to give yourself at least a week.
A staple side dish on many Irish tables during the winter, this comfort food is a mixture of braised white cabbage and creamy mashed potatoes, says Joe Scully, an Irish chef and owner of Chestnut and Corner Kitchen in Asheville, North Carolina.
Also known as pigs feet, crubeens are generally fried and eaten by hand, though they can also be braised, says Scully.
8. Irish Seafood Chowder
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Like Irish stew, Irish seafood chowder is a very adaptable dish that contains a variety of seafood like salmon, trout, and shellfish, as well as vegetables like celery and potatoes, says Scully.
Similar to a latke, raw potatoes are grated, then mixed into mashed potatoes and fried like a patty, says Scully.
10. Cured Salmon
Ireland is globally renowned for its smoked salmon, says McKane. It's served all day long and can be found everywhere from breakfast buffets, to Afternoon Tea, to dinner.
11. Dexter Beef
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This type of beef is native to the island of Ireland, says McKane. It's regarded for its sweet and slightly nutty taste.
12. Cottage Pie
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This everyday comfort food is essentially a way to disguise leftovers, says Scully. The layered casserole is simple: The previous night's stew is topped with mashed potatoes, then baked.
13. Black Pudding
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Black pudding—or blood sausage—is typically served at breakfast, but can be enjoyed throughout the day, says Scully.
14. Irish Breakfast
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This classic is a real smorgasbord that generally includes fried rashers (thin slices of bacon), fried sausages, fried eggs, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, white and black pudding, baked beans, and toast, says Clodagh Lawless, an Irish American and co-owner of The Dearborn in Chicago.
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This layered dessert traditionally contains custard, sherry- or fruit juice-soaked sponge cake or lady fingers, fruits, jam, and whipped cream, says Amy Lawless.