Two typical seafood dishes come to mind for most travelers to Ireland; fish ‘n chips and seafood chowder. Both are delicious and a must-eat when in Ireland. But there’s so much more to Irish seafood. After all, Ireland is an island. In this Irish Seafood Guide, we’ll look at a variety of other seafood and dishes worth tasting while in Ireland.
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What Is Irish Seafood?
Ireland is known for many things. Its stunning scenery. Its history. And unfortunately, Ireland’s bad weather. In terms of Irish food and drink, everyone knows Guinness and Irish whiskey. Shepherd’s Pie, lamb stew, and corned beef and cabbage are some of the most common dishes associated with Irish food. But what about Irish seafood?
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Irish Sea to the east, and the Celtic Sea to the south, the waters off Ireland are a bounty of incredible seafood. From fresh fish and shellfish to seaweed, Ireland is a big producer and exporter of seafood. It’s only been in the last decade that Ireland has come to appreciate what it has in its waters.
Led by a multitude of Irish-born chefs who’ve returned home, Ireland has been in the midst of a culinary renaissance. Using locally sourced ingredients, Irish chefs are rewriting what is Irish food. From the sea, chefs are using locally caught seafood in ways never seen before in Ireland. Here’s a look at some of the seafood ingredients finding their way onto plates across Ireland.
Types Of Fish In Ireland
Ireland is fortunate to have a steady supply of high-quality fish swimming off its shores. This allows chefs across the country to prepare a range of mouthwatering dishes from the traditional to the contemporary. But which fish can you expect to find on Irish restaurant menus? While there are many fish in the sea, these are just a few you’ll find being served up in Ireland.
Admittedly, not our favorite fish to eat, but in Ireland, salmon is incredibly popular. Most salmon in Ireland were once caught by huge nets. That practice has stopped due to overfishing. Today, most Irish salmon is organically farmed. They are raised in large pens and fed only the finest organic food, ensuring the highest quality fish.
You’ll find Irish salmon prepared several ways. It’s one of the main ingredients in Irish seafood chowder. It’s often baked with an Irish whiskey glaze. But without a doubt, Irish smoked salmon is the way to go. So we’ve been told. One of the best producers of smoked Irish salmon is the Burren Smokehouse. Located near the famous Burren in County Clare, the Burren Smokehouse has been producing award-winning smoked Irish salmon since 1989. A stop at the Burren Smokehouse is an absolute must when visiting the Burren and Cliffs of Moher.
Fished off the south coast of Ireland, pollock is a highly versatile fish used in many traditional Irish seafood dishes. A flavorful white fish, pollock is often used as a substitute for haddock and codfish. It’s not uncommon to find pollock used in fish ‘n chips and fish fingers. You’ll also find pollock in Irish seafood chowder and Irish fish pie.
One of our new favorite fish to eat, Hake is loaded with vitamins and minerals including the all-important Omega 3 fatty acids. Referred to by the Spanish as the “King of the fish,” hake can be found on menus across Ireland. Its firm flesh and delicate flavor make hake ideal for baking, frying, and even barbecuing. For us, a simple pan-fried hake with lemon and Irish herb butter is all you need.
We first got turned onto monkfish when living in Girona, Spain. It’s a mainstay of Catalan cooking and one of our favorites. Monkfish is a delicious and meaty fish that’s often used in stews and curries. A bottom-feeding fish, monkfish will never win a prize for the most beautiful fish in the sea. Just Google monkfish to see for yourself.
Odds are you’ve eaten haddock and didn’t know it. Haddock, along with cod and pollock, is the fish most often used in fish ‘n chips. Its meat is flakey yet tender allowing it to stand up to deep-frying. In addition to being used in fish ‘n chips, haddock is often smoked and served with colcannon, a traditional Irish recipe of mashed potatoes, and cabbage.
Types Of Shellfish In Ireland
In addition to a wide range of fish, the waters off Ireland are home to all kinds of tasty shellfish and crustaceans. Once predominately reserved for export, Irish shellfish are increasingly being enjoyed in Ireland. Whether you enjoy them raw or cooked, make sure to sample some of these incredibly delicious treats from the sea.
Growing up in the US, we’ve always associated oysters with Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Irish oysters never crossed our minds until recently. Ireland, especially west Ireland along the Atlantic Ocean, is littered with incredible oysters. From Donegal in the north, down past Galway, onto Kinsale in County Cork, oysters are abundant and best of all delicious.
There are at least three different types of oysters cultivated in Ireland. The European flat oyster, Portuguese rock oyster, and Pacific oyster. Many of the oysters produced in Ireland are cultivated by oyster farmers up and down the coast. If you find yourself on the Wild Atlantic Way, there are several oyster farms offering tours and tasting including Flaggy Shore Oysters in Co. Clare, Sligo Oyster Experience in Co. Sligo, and Kelly Oysters in Co. Galway.
In addition to oysters, the nutrient-rich waters off the Irish coast are ideal for growing fresh mussels. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, you’ll find Irish mussels on the menus of gastropubs to Michelin star restaurants across Ireland. Irish mussels are prepared in several ways including in seafood chowders as well as steamed in Irish cider or white wine.
You’ll find a number of mussel farms along the west coast of Ireland offering tours and tastings. Two of the best mussel farms are Mulroy Bay Mussels in Co. Donegal and Roaring Water Bay Rope Mussels in Co. Cork.
Dublin Bay Prawns
These little crustaceans go by many names including Norway lobster, langoustine, and scampi. Regardless of the name, they are delicious. A member of the lobster family, Dublin Bay Prawns are widely found in the waters of Ireland. They are commonly prepared by simply sauteing in garlic, white wine, and good Irish butter. However, don’t be surprised if they turn up in an Irish seafood chowder.
Irish Brown Crab
Without a doubt, Irish Brown Crab Claws are our favorite Irish seafood dish. Unfortunately Amber has a minor intolerance to Pacific Ocean crab, including Alaskan King Crab. As a result, we’ve not eaten a lot of crab during our travels around the world. Thankfully, she has no intolerance for Irish Brown Crab which means whenever we see it on a menu, we order it.
While they are not the size of an Alaskan King Crab, Irish Brown Crabs are actually meaty with a slightly sweet taste. Irish Brown Crabs claws are prepared several ways across Ireland. Chilled with lemon, poached in garlic, Irish butter, and lemon or as a Dressed Crab are just some of the ways you’ll find them.
Best Seafood Towns In Ireland
Up and down the coast of Ireland there are small towns and larger cities home to some of the best seafood in Ireland. From top seafood producers, smokehouses, and of course must-visit restaurants, these are just a few of the best seafood towns in Ireland worth exploring.
Kinsale Co. Cork
One of Ireland’s most picturesque towns is also one of the best for seafood. Located in the southern part of County Cork on the River Bandon, Kinsale has a deep connection to the sea. From sailing to fishing, to enjoying freshly caught seafood, Kinsale is a must for anyone who loves the water. Only 15 miles from Cork City, Kinsale makes the perfect day trip. However, if you want the full Kinsale experience, it’s best to spend a few days.
Dingle Co. Kerry
Situated on the Atlantic Ocean in Co. Kerry, Dingle is one of the most visited towns in all of Ireland. A stone’s throw from the famous Ring of Kerry, Dingle has a long maritime history dating back to the 12th century. Today, visitors to Dingle not only get to explore a picture-postcard Irish town but eat some of the freshest seafood in all of Ireland. From seafood markets to dozens of seafood restaurants around town, there’s no shortage of places to experience Irish seafood in Dingle.
Wexford Co. Wexford
Tucked quietly away in the Southeast corner of Ireland, Wexford might very well be the crown jewel of Irish seafood town. With access to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea, local fishermen bring back a bounty of Irish seafood to fishing towns like Duncannon, Kilmore Quay, and Wexford town. Some of this catch is off to one of the two smokehouses located in County Wexford. Duncannon Smokehouse and Ballyhack Smokehouse are artisan smokehouses not to be missed on any trip to Wexford. They produce some of the finest smoked seafood in Ireland.
Dundalk Co. Louth
Located an hour north of Dublin, Dundalk is one of the rising stars of Irish seafood. The waters off Dundalk produce some of Ireland’s best seafood including Dublin Bay Prawns, razor clams, and blue lobster. These daily catches can be enjoyed in seafood restaurants around the city. If you are short on time, Dundalk is a great day trip from both Dublin and Belfast. Otherwise, there’s plenty of tasty seafood to stay a couple of days.
Galway Co. Galway
A vibrant city located on a harbor that shares its name, Galway City is an overlooked seafood destination. The city is filled with dozens of restaurants serving up delicious locally sourced seafood dishes. Galway is also a county stretching along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. County Galway is home to many of the best seafood producers in Ireland. Whether it’s smoked fish from Connemara Smokehouse or fresh oysters from DK Connemara Oysters you are guaranteed to find incredible seafood in Galway.
Irish Seafood Trails
With the increased interest in Irish seafood so too has the interest in meeting the producers. Thanks to the creation of two seafood trails, visitors to either side of Ireland can meet the men and women producing some of the best seafood in the world.
Taste The Atlantic Seafood Trail
The west coast of Ireland is home to the famous Wild Atlantic Way. A 1600 mile long scenic coastal route stretching from Donegal in the north down to Kinsale in Co. Cork. The route is packed with stunning coastal scenery and picturesque small Irish towns. For food travelers, the Wild Atlantic Way is a big draw with the development of the Taste the Atlantic Seafood Trail.
Consisting of over twenty Irish seafood producers, Taste the Atlantic allows visitors an opportunity to taste some of the freshest seafood in the country. Many of the producers along the Taste the Atlantic Seafood Trail offer guided tours and tastings of their products. From oysters to mussels, smoked salmon, and brown crabs, there’s plenty to sample.
Sea Louth – Scenic Seafood Trail
Located in Co. Louth just north of Dublin, the Sea Louth -Scenic Seafood Trail, is a 45-mile long tasting trail. Running through towns like Dundalk, Port Beach, and Drogheda Sea Louth features seafood producers and restaurants showcasing the best of east coast Irish seafood. From oysters and brown crab to the famous Dublin Bay Prawn, visitors along the Sea Louth Seafood Trail can taste many of the most iconic Irish seafood products.
Irish Seafood Festivals
One of the best ways to experience a country’s cuisine is by attending a food and drink festival. They are a great way to sample local dishes and ingredients all in one place. Thankfully, Ireland hosts a number of world-famous food and drink-related festivals throughout the year. Here are some of those festivals specifically devoted to Irish seafood.
Galway Oyster Festival
No seafood festival in Ireland grabs the spotlight more than the Galway International Seafood & Oyster Festival. First held in 1954, the festival draws seafood and oyster lovers and professionals from around the world. The festival is held at the end of September to coincide with the oyster harvest. During the festival, visitors can witness the World Oyster Opening competition, sample a wide range of seafood including oysters, and attend the Mardi Gras Gala dinner. Tickets need to be purchased in advance.
Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival
The Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival is held each July to celebrate the incredible Irish seafood caught off the coast of Co. Wexford. This family-friendly event features live music and games, but most importantly cooking demonstrations and sampling of some of Ireland’s best seafood. Kilmore Quay is located 30 minutes drive from Wexford City. Direct bus and train service from Wexford CIty to Kilmore Quay is available.
Dingle Food Festival
While not purely a seafood festival, it’s impossible not to include the Dingle Food Festival in a list of top Irish food festivals. Dingle, after all, is one of Ireland’s most important seafood towns. This annual event takes place over 3 days in early October. It features local meats, vegetables, cheeses, and of course seafood. Visitors to the festival can experience cooking demonstrations, markets, and a Taste Trail around Dingle town. This is one of the most popular events in Ireland. Purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended.
Best Seafood Restaurants In Ireland
From East to West, North to South, Ireland is loaded with great restaurants showcasing the best of Irish seafood. Using locally sourced seafood, each restaurant puts its own unique stamp on traditional Irish seafood dishes. Here’s a sampling of a few seafood restaurants worth checking out.
Fishy Fishy in Kinsale, Co. Cork
No trip to Kinsale is complete without a stop at Fishy Fishy. This award-winning restaurant is run by a husband and wife team who really know their seafood. Chef and co-owner Martin Shanahan is a former fishmonger who only serves the freshest Irish seafood. With Kinsale’s location near the south coast of Ireland, guests at Fishy Fishy are in for some of the best seafood dishes in Ireland.
Monks in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare
First opening its doors in 1980, Monks Seafood Restaurant & Bar in Ballyvaughan serves up some of the best Irish seafood in the country. Situated only feet away from Galway Bay, diners are in for stunning views along with excellent seafood. Originally know for more simple seafood dishes like chowder and fish cakes, Monks features locally caught Galway Bay oysters, Doonbeg Bay lobster, and our personal favorite Irish Brown Crab claws. Located in northern Co. Clare, Monks is within a short drive from the world-famous Burren National Park.
Linnane’s Lobster Bar in New Quay, Co. Clare
Located just 30 minutes from the Burren National Park, Linnane’s Lobster Bar is a must-visit when exploring northern Co. Clare. Just steps from any active fishing pier, Linnane’s features a wide range of fresh, locally sourced Irish seafood. Gigas oysters, wild clams, Irish mussels, and Irish Brown Crab claws all feature on Linnane’s menu. While the food at Linnane’s is the main draw, its breathtaking views of Aughinish & Galway Bay will ensure you don’t want to leave.
Goldie Fish n Ale in Cork, Co. Cork
Goldie Fish n Ale is not your traditional Irish seafood restaurant. You’re not going to find Irish seafood chowder or traditional fish ‘n chips on their menu. Instead, Goldie serves up mouthwatering dishes like Thai-inspired steamed Irish mussels, Taiwanese fried fish nuggets, and pan-fried monkfish with langoustine ghee butter dhal. All of their seafood is locally sourced and caught daily. Goldie Fish n Ale is a shining example of where Irish cuisine is heading thanks to the incredible seafood caught off the coast of Ireland.
Killybegs Seafood Shack in Killybegs, Co. Donegal
With a menu featuring high-quality breaded and fried calamari, cod, and scampi keeping it simple is the way they do things in Donegal. Located in Ireland’s biggest fishing port, Killybegs Seafood Shack is exactly what you want to enjoy when staring out over the sea. The team behind the Seafood Shack also runs Anderson’s Boathouse Restaurant. There you’ll find an extensive menu featuring some of the best seafood in Ireland, including their award-winning Irish seafood chowder.
The Fish Basket in Long Strand, Co. Cork
Not sure what’s more appropriate when describing the Fish Basket in Co. Cork, “come for the food and stay for the view” or vice versa. Either way, you are in for two special treats at this beachside seafood restaurant in West Cork. Located steps away from the mile-long beach in Long Strand, the Fish Basket serves up delicious locally caught seafood. Building off their past experience in the hospitality and fisheries industries, owners Peter and Elaine Shanahan pride themselves on providing high-quality seafood at a good price. As they say, “a trip to the Fish Basket will also send you away not just happy, full and vowing to return but you’ll also have changed in your pockets!”
Best Irish Seafood Dishes
Deciding what to order when traveling is never easy. Trying to understand what’s good and what’s local is frustrating. To alleviate some of that frustration, we’d add a few Irish seafood dishes that are absolutely worth sampling.
Irish Seafood Chowder
A fixture on nearly every restaurant menu in Ireland, a proper Irish Seafood Chowder is not to be missed. Proper Irish seafood chowder is made with salmon, mussels, and a white fish, usually haddock. Add in Irish potatoes and Irish double cream and you’ve got Ireland in a bowl. And whatever you do, don’t forget the Irish Brown Bread.
Fish ‘n Chips
Love it or hate it, there’s no getting around eating fish and chips during any trip to Ireland or the UK. It’s just what you do. That said, it’s important to remember that while cod is the preferred fish to make fish n’ chips, haddock is usually what your eating.
Irish Fish Pie
Think Shepard’s Pie made with fish. That’s Irish Fish Pie. Whitefish (haddock, cod, or pollock) are cooked in milk, butter, flour, and herbs. This mixture is added to a baking dish and topped with mashed potatoes. Baked in an oven until the potatoes have a nice outer crust, the dish is served piping hot.
Grilled Dublin Bay Prawns
In our travels for food, we’ve learned that simply prepared foods are often the best. With Grilled Dublin Bay Prawns it doesn’t get much simpler. In this dish, freshly caught Dublin Bay Prawns are cut in half, grilled over an open flame, and served in a creamy garlic and herb butter sauce. Paired with a proper pint of Guinness or local Irish craft beer and you’re in for a treat.
Guinness And Oysters
Guinness and oysters was once a very popular pairing in Ireland. Over the years it fell out of fashion but has been making a comeback. While this might not sound like a winning combination, somehow it works. There’s something about the saltiness of the oysters and the rich, creamy bitterness of Guinness that makes this a great food and drink pairing.