9 Healthy Irish Dishes Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day
Today, we want to celebrate Irish history with dishes that tell the story of the Emerald Isle through food. The people of Ireland have a long history of resilience and perseverance through hardships, and the nation’s cuisine mirrors this tale. Many Irish dishes are based on hearty ingredients such as dairy, grains, and root vegetables. The proteins are wide-ranging, from chicken to beef, and also include oysters: The city of Galway boasts some of the best oysters in the world, and hosts an annual oyster festival. This St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite healthy Irish recipes for you to enjoy.
This classic preparation of white fish utilizes fluffy potatoes and milk-simmered fish for a creamy, delicate dish. This is also a great, healthy way to use up leftover mashed potatoes from the night before. With light white fish added to potato cakes, you get a great protein boost and turn a side into a fast, easy main course. We’d recommend serving with a healthy homemade tartar sauce made with Greek yogurt rather than mayo, and that you enjoy these Irish Fish Cakes with a tray of roasted asparagus, or some sautéed cabbage.
Oats have dependably nourished Ireland for centuries. This grain thrives in cool, moist climates, and although we tend to think of porridge (or oatmeal) as a sweet breakfast food, it has historically been served in savory preparations throughout the day. Prepared in a savory way, these oats are great for gut health and are incredibly satisfying. A sunny-side-up egg adds plenty of protein, and bright green spinach adds iron.
Barley is one of the few grains that was used in early Irish food. Barley is a robust plant that can withstand a cold climate, and beef was also an important staple, though the eating and preserving of beef was reserved for winter months when other foods were more scarce. This tradition demonstrates the healthy practice of enjoying this protein in moderation. This comforting Beef and Barley soup recipe is one that has been made for hundreds of years, and with good reason! It’s delicious. This recipe includes a good serving of barley, which has been shown to support healthy aging and increased lifespan when included regularly in a diet. Try to include fresh bay leaves in the pot, if you can source them, which compliments the rich flavors.
This family-style dish involves minted peas — or peas with mint sauce — which are ubiquitous across both Ireland and the United Kingdom today. And we’re huge fans of the practice: peas are rich in minerals and prevent diseases derived from iron deficiency, while adding fiber to aid digestion. The combination of crispy pan-roasted chicken thighs and abundant peas make a protein-filled meal. With just one tray to prepare and clean, Chicken and Smashed Peas is perfectly friendly for weeknights, too.
How could we honor St. Patrick’s Day without discussing corned beef? This dish is as traditional as they come, and is widely served to celebrate the day. A “corning” preparation of beef was conceived in order to preserve meat. We revisit this historical Irish practice of utilizing beef during winter and using curing as a way for families to extend use of their valuable protein. This dish also includes spices like cardamom, coriander, and clove, as well as beet juice for color. Slow-cooking is the way to prepare the infused meat on the day of serving. The corned beef one might find in grocery stores include nitrates, which may damage blood vessels, leading to heart disease. This recipe shares a way to prepare corned beef at home, totally nitrate-free, with no mystery ingredients in the cure. When it comes time to serve this protein, we recommend a tray of simple Glazed Roast Vegetables with a sweet honey glaze.
We welcome the Irish version of “put something on toast.” Made with whole grains and plain yogurt, this very Irish soda bread is topped with delicate smoked salmon and horseradish sauce. Horseradish grows wild in Ireland, and is a brassica that packs a punch worth pursuing while flavoring dishes. Salmon is plentiful in Irish waters, and was originally served as a special treat on holidays. Now you see this omega-3-rich protein offered widely throughout the year, but served on brown bread, smoked salmon is a great Irish treat.
This White Bean Cabbage and Potato Soup celebrates a variety of well-loved, traditional Irish ingredients. Fiber-filled beans arrived on the scene later in Irish history, but they found a home very quickly. Serve the soup with satisfying whole-grain toast or oat-packed Irish Brown Bread — a healthy treat, and a fun project if you like baking. Shave sharp, grass-noted, Irish cheese (we’re fans of Dubliner by Kerrygold) with the first slice of warm bread.
As old world grains are celebrated in Ireland, so is the preservation of them in the form of beer — and what better way to celebrate Irish History than cooking with great Irish beer? We love that this recipes braises flavorful, bone-in chicken thighs, which have been shown to lower risk for cardiovascular diseases and type-2 diabetes. The braising process in this dish removes a majority of the alcohol content in the beer, leaving rich umami notes highlighting the quality of the beer used. Choose a great Irish brown ale to produce tender, flavorful braised chicken. Round out the meal with a classic Irish side dish, colcannon, which is typically made with mashed potatoes and steamed greens — although this recipe takes things for a healthy spin with mashed cauliflower. Overall, this one’s an excellent option for your St. Patrick’s Day salute.
Cabbage is a sweet brassica that families turn to with regularity in Ireland. This broth-based Cabbage and Ham Soup is a great way to elevate this simple vegetable. The soup is bright with beta carotene-rich carrots and textured with heart health-supporting cabbage. Choose red cabbage for more color — it’s also the most nutrient-rich cabbage of all. Made with ham bone, this soup is also efficient and thrifty: you can transform a feast from another day into supper tonight. If you haven’t recently roasted and saved a bone-in ham (or kept a ham bone in your freezer), you may easily replace this protein with a cubed ham steak. In that case, use bone broth to deepen flavor and add collagen-rich nourishment.
Raise an oyster on the half shell to toast this St. Patrick’s Day; Ireland has some of the best oysters in the world. Though we may not be able to taste the waters of Ireland through the oysters we source close to home, we can still enjoy them in a very Irish way: Raw, and simply dressed. However, if you prefer to cook them, I can tell you that as a person who grew up beside an oyster beach in the Pacific Northwest, my extensive research has concluded that grilling oysters as described in this recipe is the best way to enjoy cooked oysters while highlighting their unique and delicate flavor. This recipe calls for cooking oysters on the grill with a small amount of butter spooned on the half shell. And while that is delectable, I also recommend cutting the fattiness of the butter with a spoon of celebratory Guinness. While the oyster finishes cooking, the alcohol in the Guinness will bubble off, leaving only a salty, deep broth.
Heather Anderson is a food writer based in Seattle, WA. After working in restaurants around the world, she has devoted herself to making refined food accessible to the home cook. Follow her on Instagram @heatherscottagekitchen.
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