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Colcannon (5532418361).jpg
A bowl of colcannon
CourseMain course or side dish
Place of originIreland
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsMashed potatoes, cabbage or kale

Colcannon (Irish: cál ceannann, meaning 'white-headed cabbage') is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale.


Colcannon is most commonly made with only four ingredients: potatoes, butter, milk and cabbage (or kale). Irish historian Patrick Weston Joyce defined it as "potatoes mashed with butter and milk, with chopped up cabbage and pot herbs".[1] It can contain other ingredients such as scallions (spring onions), leeks, laverbread, onions and chives. Some recipes substitute cabbage for kale.[2] There are many regional variations of this staple dish.[3] It was a cheap, year-round food.[4][5] It is often eaten with boiled ham, salt pork or Irish bacon. As a side dish it goes well with corned beef and cabbage.[1]

An Irish Halloween tradition is to serve colcannon with a ring and a thimble hidden in the dish. Prizes of small coins such as threepenny or sixpenny bits were also concealed inside the dish.[6] Other items could include a stick indicating an unhappy marriage, and a rag denoting a life of poverty.[7] The dish champ is similar but made with scallions, butter, and milk.[2] It was traditional to offer a portion of champ to the fairies by placing a dish of colcannon with a spoon at the foot of a hawthorn.[8]


The origin of the word is unclear. The first syllable 'col' is likely derived from the Irish 'cál' meaning cabbage. The second syllable may derive from 'ceann-fhionn' meaning a white head (i.e. 'a white head of cabbage') – this usage is also found in the Irish name for a coot, a white-headed bird known as 'cearc cheannan', or 'white-head hen'. The phrase may also be borrowed from the Welsh name for a leek soup known as cawl cennin, literally "broth (of) leeks."[9]

In Literature[edit]

In his novel The Thirteen-Gun Salute, Patrick O'Brian describes Stephen Maturin (fictional Irish physician, naturalist, and spy for the United Kingdom's Royal Navy) "recalling an eating house by the Four Courts," where a coarse-mannered patron ordered "colcannon, a cut off the sirloin and half a pint of sherry," and ate offensively "with deliberate coarseness, hunched there with his elbows on the table, fairly exuding hostility and defiance" to the other patrons (who would likely have been upper-class dignitaries such as judges, lawyers, and the like, since the Four Courts is a large court complex).[10]


The song "Colcannon", also called "The Skillet Pot", is a traditional Irish song that has been recorded by numerous artists, including Mary Black.[6][11] It begins:

Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

The chorus:

Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I'm to cry.
Oh, wasn't it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.

Similar dishes[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Andrews, Colman (21 December 2012). The Country Cooking of Ireland. ISBN 9781452124056.
  2. ^ a b Sheraton, Mimi (13 January 2015). 1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover's Life List. ISBN 9780761183068.
  3. ^ "Recipe from An Bord Bia (Irish food board)". Archived from the original on 19 February 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  4. ^ Irwin, Florence (1986). The Cookin' Woman: Irish Country Recipes. Blackstaff. ISBN 0-85640-373-3.
  5. ^ Friedland, Susan R. (2009). Vegetables: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking 2008. ISBN 9781903018668.
  6. ^ a b Allen, Darina (2012). Irish Traditional Cooking. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. p. 152. ISBN 9780717154364.
  7. ^ Allen, Darina (28 October 2020). "Eat, drink, and be scary this Halloween". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  8. ^ Mahon, Bríd (1998). Land of milk and honey : the story of traditional Irish food and drink. Dublin: Mercier Press. pp. 138–140. ISBN 1-85635-210-2. OCLC 39935389.
  9. ^ Evans, H. Meurig (1980). Y Geiriadur Mawr. Gwasg Gomer.
  10. ^ "O'Brian Patrick - Aub-Mat 13 - The Thirteen Gun Salute". Retrieved 6 March 2022. On being shown the bill of fare he questioned the waiter about every other item: 'Was the mutton well hung? Had the parsnips no wood in their middle? Was it bullock's beef or cow's?' and eventually he called for colcannon, a cut off the sirloin and half a pint of sherry.
  11. ^ "The Black Family" CD, 1986, Dara Records, DARA CD 023

External links[edit]

Media related to Category:Colcannon at Wikimedia Commons