Ireland Food Guide – What To Eat In Ireland
When wondering what to eat in Ireland, we can certainly help. After spending 20 years traveling to Ireland and now living here, we can help create the ultimate list of typical Irish cuisine to try when traveling to the Emerald Isle. These are the must-eat foods to try in Ireland.
What Do Irish People Eat
When researching what other articles add to their list of what is Ireland famous for when it comes to food, there seems to be a bit of a romanticized notion of classic Irish food. I’ve read a lot of statements like “every Irish family has its own recipe for….” Modern Irish food, though, means that a lot of families don’t make traditional dishes from scratch. Some of these so-called-must-eat dishes I’ve never seen on a menu in my 20 years of traveling to Ireland.
In this post I want to share our experiences to help you find the best Irish food when traveling to Ireland. This will include some typical Irish pub food as well as some contemporary popular dishes. They might not be traditional Irish comfort food but some of them can certainly be considered contemporary comfort food and you are almost guaranteed to see them on restaurant and pub menus.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.Traveling to Ireland? Check out our Ultimate Ireland Packing Guide
Planning A Visit To Ireland
Looking to plan a tour to Ireland but don’t want to plan it yourself? I totally understand. Overall, Ireland is an easy place to travel to, particularly because they speak English. But, here are some travel tips to make the most of your stay.
Insurance: We recommend using World Nomads for travel insurance for every international trip you take. You never know and it is better to be safe than sorry. This is particularly true if renting a car or doing any hiking or outdoor activities in Ireland. They offer immediate quotes so you know the cost and coverage immediately. Check out World Nomads here.
Rental Cars: In order to see the best of the island, though, you need to hit the open roads. If looking to rent a car, we recommend RentalCars.com. They compare prices at the top rental car companies to get you the best deal. Some travelers don’t like the idea of renting a car in Ireland, though, because they drive on the “wrong” side of the road. It can be a challenge, particularly on narrow and windy roads.
Recommended Group Tour: As an alternative, we recommend booking a tour through Intrepid Travel. They offer an 8 day tour of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The tour visits Dublin, Belfast, the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, and even the Aran Islands. Check out the full itinerary here. We took an Intrepid Tour in Morocco and we would definitely recommend them if you want to book a group tour.
A Reputation For Irish Fare
Traditionally, travelers didn’t make their way to Ireland because it is known for great food. Much like traditional British cuisine, it just doesn’t have the same sort of reputation for great food as Italy or Spain.
In recent years, though, typical Irish food has experienced a bit of a renaissance, predominantly because of a renewed interest in fresh, local ingredients. With verdant green hills and pastures, there’s a huge opportunity for locally grown produce as well as some of the best beef, pork, and lamb in the world. There’s also some amazing seafood to be eaten, and not just fish and chips. Irish dishes include more than just meat, potatoes, and cabbage.What To Learn More About Ireland Food And Drink? Check out our Guide On What To Drink In Ireland
Irish Foods List – 17+ Must Eat Dishes
So what is Ireland known for when it comes to food and drink? Here’s our list of must-eat dishes, from Irish snacks to desserts and everything in between. Most of these dishes can be found at traditional Irish pubs or more contemporary gastropubs. Some are a little harder to find. In the end, though, it’s a comprehensive list of the best food in Ireland.
Traditional Irish Breakfast
I remember clearly our first trip together to Ireland. We arrived very early in the morning. Eric introduced me to his aunt and we passed out to catch an hour or two of sleep. We woke to the sound of a typical Irish breakfast. His aunt cooked us up everything fresh and now it is a tradition at least a few mornings during our visits to Ireland.
One the west coast of Ireland, we call the traditional Irish breakfast a “fry,” but in the north it is called an Ulster Fry. It’s a massive plate with an egg or two along some combination of toast, Irish sausages, rashers, black and white pudding, a grilled tomato, mushrooms, and sometimes baked beans. For travelers who don’t have an aunt to cook for them, most Irish pubs that serve food will offer a fry in the morning. Some hotels and B&Bs will also offer a full breakfast included in the room rate. Enjoy an Irish fry with an Irish tea like Barry’s or Bewley’s, or for those nursing a hangover a Guinness would be a great hair of the dog.
Irish Traditional Cooking Pro Tip:
If you are staying at a hotel or B&B that doesn’t do a full Irish but offers Irish breakfast sausage, here’s a tip. Cut the sausage in half, length-wise, and put it on a piece of fresh bread with Irish butter. The sausage melts the butter into perfection. This is probably the most common breakfast you will find me eating in Ireland.
Black and White Pudding
Part of the big platter of tasty breakfast deliciousness includes black and white pudding. Although most commonly found in a full breakfast, it’s not uncommon to see breakfast sandwiches with one or both of these sausages on offer. Both of these sausages are an acquired taste but they are definitely classic Irish dishes. The sausages are a mix of pork meat, oatmeal and other grains. The black pudding includes pork blood. I know that might turn off some travelers. But, it is an Irish speciality and when grilled and dunked in some fried egg yolk, it’s worth trying at least once.
Many people write that an Irish breakfast normally includes bacon. That can be considered true. In reality, though, the Irish breakfast actually includes what are known as rashers. Rashers are entirely different from both American bacon and Canadian bacon. It is more commonly known as back bacon. It’s wider and thicker and totally tasty. It also makes a good sandwich.
I will admit, this is my drunk food in Ireland. It’s a Irish pork sausage that is battered and deep fried. It’s most commonly sold at fish and chip shops. They will ask if you want salt and vinegar. Say yes!
Irish Breakfast Bap
Put all of this together on a roll and you have the Irish breakfast bap. A bap is just another word for a sandwich. One of the best ways to eat a sandwich in Ireland is to include a full Irish breakfast on it. Even though this photo makes it look like a complete mess, this is nothing but tasty. It has eggs, black and white pudding, sausages, rashers, beans, and mushrooms all on a buttered roll. Totally messy but totally worth it.
Irish Bread – Soda Bread, Brown Bread, and Irish Butter
Authentic Irish food has to mean two things: bread and butter. First, Ireland has an amazing reputation for quality dairy. I love the butter in Ireland. The most famous brand is Kerrygold from Cork, Ireland. (And, no they are not paying me to say this. It’s what Aunt Theresa buys and I love it!).
Second, I always associate bread with Ireland, in part because Eric’s uncle is a retired bread deliveryman. Some of our earliest trips to Ireland are punctuated with memories of fresh bread that “fell” off the truck. The two most popular types of bread are Irish brown bread and soda bread. Soda bread is a quick bread, meaning it doesn’t need to be leavened with yeast.
I’ve read a lot of articles about Irish food products talking about how every Irish family has its own recipe handed down by generations. From my experiences, most families today are too busy to make their own bread each day. We’ve learned how to make Irish brown bread and it is not difficult, it’s just that modern life has taken over. In recent years, some of the healthy-eating trends have taken over and our family has started to make fresh bread at home, generally porridge bread.
Check out our recipe for Traditional Irish Brown Bread, made in our kitchen in Ireland!
I have a softness for great scones with cream and jam. Whether for breakfast or as an Irish snack in the afternoon, we often seek out a tasty scone in Ireland. We’ve had some great scones to traditional tea in Northern Ireland but I actually swear by the scones from Dunnes, the Irish grocery store chain. If you are renting an apartment or house in Ireland and have a kitchen, definitely pick up a few scones from Dunnes.
Fish And Chips
Okay, so fish and chips are most likely a British import, but there is no getting around eating them in Ireland. In fact, I don’t even know if I would consider this one of the Irish foods you must “track down.” Chances are it will come to you.
Fish and chips will be found on every Irish pub and gastropub menu across the country. For a more traditional way to eat it, though, go to a local takeaway or “chipper” and get the fish and chips wrapped in paper and drizzled in cider vinegar. A real treat, generally at half the price!
Cod And Prawn Bake
This is a super traditional dish made with local cod and prawns. It’s a creamy casserole made with milk, flour, and cheese. It’s made and served in a baking dish and comes out steaming from the oven.
Irish Seafood And Oysters
There is a wine festival every fall near where we lived in Spain, in the Costa Brava. There was always one stall that specializes in Irish oysters, normally from Galway. Sometimes I forget how good the Irish seafood and oysters are.
There’s even a Galway International Oyster And Seafood Festival held annually at the end of September. Even if you are not a fan of oysters, definitely try to find some local seafood, which can include smaller lobsters as well as langoustines. You can also eat prawns from Dublin Bay and clams and mussels from the west coast.
Irish Salmon – Fresh And Smoked
It’s uncommon to find any Irish menu that doesn’t offer salmon in some way, shape, or form. Salmon is one of the most common fish and is a staple food of Ireland. It’s often poached or grilled. But, one of the true traditional Irish dishes has to be smoked salmon, particularly from the west coast. In particular, look for smoked salmon and other products from the Burren Smokehouse.
Irish Seafood Chowder
I love a good seafood chowder. Because Ireland produces such great seafood and salmon. Our favorite is from the Curragower in Limerick, which is chock full of prawns, mussels, and Irish salmon. Normally it is served with a slice of brown bread or soda bread and Irish butter. It’s just the perfect mix of a lot of the popular Irish food products I mentioned already.
Colcannon is an Irish food that always graces every must-eat list for Ireland. It’s a traditional dish made of mashed potatoes, cabbage, and with some form of pork, either boiled ham or smoked sausage. It is such a traditional Irish food that it is not commonly eaten at home by modern Irish. That said, you might see it on the menu at a traditional Irish pub or gastropub. That said, it is super common to see potatoes at every meal. The potato is a staple of Irish traditional cooking.
Irish Bacon And Cabbage
This is my favorite dish to eat in Ireland. Eric’s aunt makes it at least a couple of times for me every visit. And it is a dish that many Americans and international travelers probably wouldn’t even know about. That’s because it is not commonly found on Irish pub menus.
Yet, Irish bacon and cabbage is a humble dish and quite commonly eaten. It’s probably more common to eat than shepherd’s pie or corned beef and cabbage. It’s made with a cured Irish back bacon, which is boiled until soft. It’s served with boiled cabbage and mashed potatoes. Eric’s aunt serves a large cup of cabbage water on the side to moisten the potatoes and Coleman’s spicy mustard for the pork. It’s my favorite for sure!
Seaweed And Dillisk
These are some definite Irish foods to try, particularly for adventurous food travelers. There is a growing trend in Ireland to forage for local ingredients including those that come from the sea. In recent decades, seaweed from the Irish coast was exported to Asia. Now, the locals are realizing there are a lot of benefits from eating local seaweed.
Dillisk is one type of seaweed, which is dried in the sun until crisp and salty. I am, honestly, not a fan. Eric’s cousin was a huge fan and would sit down with a bag of dillisk and a beer. There are a lot of different kinds of seaweed and moss that are being incorporated into dishes, even desserts and puddings. This is a resurrection of very old-school recipes. And, they are loaded with nutrition. Seaweed might not be the most popular food in Ireland, but if you see a dish made with it, give it a shot.
Periwinkles are small snails that are a common seaside treat in the summer. They make a good beer snack. More traditionally you see people sitting on the beach eating the small snails with a pin. Look for them in coastal towns, often served from a little wooden cart just in front of the beach or promenade. Most carts that sell periwinkles also sell dillisk. There is one cart in Kilkee, County Clare, where we often go for the summer that has been serving periwinkles for over 100 years.
The Irish Boxty
The Boxty is another traditional Irish potato dish made from finely grated and fried potatoes. It’s a cross between a potato pancake and an American pancake. It will normally be served with some side dishes, like a fried egg, baked beans, or rashers. You can find boxty at some contemporary Irish cafes. Some more modern restaurants have started offering a more contemporary version, sometimes with quality Irish beef or a whisky sauce.
Irish Meat Dishes – Irish Lamb, Beef, and Pork
When driving around Ireland it becomes blatantly obvious that the meat is local. Sheep and lamb grace the mountainside, cows graze in the green pastures, and there are more pigs in the country than you can shake a stick at. We only found out a few years ago that our home away from home in Limerick was once known as Pig Town because of the extensive pork industry.
It’s possible to eat lamb or beef in an Irish stew, along with potatoes, carrots, and onions. When enjoying a Sunday roast, don’t be surprised to see multiple types of potato on one plate. When eating Irish dinner at home, Eric’s aunt always has at least two or three types of potatoes on the table. It also means that there are some great burgers to be eaten in Ireland. The beef is just so good.
Irish Spiced Beef
This is something we didn’t learn about until we started living in Ireland. It’s a traditional Christmas dish, but not something our family apparently does. We tried it our first Christmas living in Ireland based on our butcher’s recommendation.
Spiced beef is just that, a large piece of beef, spiced with bay leaves, ginger, mace, all spice, and other spices. It’s pickled, normally by a butcher, and then boiled at home. After boiling, it’s chilled and served cold. It’s a perfect cold cut to serve with salads or as a tasty sandwich with mustard.
Irish Desserts – Puddings
We are not big dessert people. I tend to eat more savories and fill up before dessert. In Ireland, though, there are a handful of desserts I love. Many of these desserts are influenced by the Brits, but I don’t care. They are tasty and commonly found on restaurant and gastropub menus.
Check out our collection of Traditional Irish Dessert Recipes if you want to learn how to make some of these at home.
Bread and Butter Pudding
I love bread and butter pudding, or bread pudding as it is generally referred to in the States. This might more of a British-influenced dish rather than a classic Irish dessert.. It’s tasty. It is made by layering slices of buttered bread in a pan, along with egg and cream, perhaps some raisins and cinnamon. When it comes out from the oven, it is soft and gooey and magical.
This is one of the more traditional Irish desserts, even if it is probably British influenced. A Victoria Sponge is a sponge cake that is layered with cream and jam. Named after Queen Victoria, it is probably more common in Northern Ireland.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
This is another of the popular Irish desserts even if again it is probably British influenced. Sticky toffee pudding is a large, super moist sponge cake covered in a toffee sauce. It can be sickly sweet, but when covered in vanilla ice cream it can be heavenly.
Typical Irish Dishes That Aren’t Commonly Found In Ireland
There are a few dishes that are associated with Irish cuisine, particularly some that are found on every Irish pub menu in the US. Most of these dishes we’ve never actually eaten in Ireland. Either they are so traditional that most Irish don’t make them any more or they are more American creations. Some of these dishes might me available at many places to eat in Ireland, but that also might mean the restaurant is a little more touristy.
If you ask most Americans about what is Ireland known for when it comes to food they would probably say corned beef and cabbage. That really is an American invention. What is a common traditional Irish dinner would be bacon and cabbage, a fresh ham made with cabbage and mashed potatoes. It’s not common to find on restaurant menus though.
Another dish that is common to find on the menu at many American Irish pubs is shepherd’s pie. I’ve never eaten shepherd’s pie in Ireland. That’s not to say it is not a food to eat in Ireland, I just don’t generally see it on menus on the west coast. We’ve learned to make a meat pie in Dingle at the Dingle Cookery School, which was filled with West Kerry lamb. It was probably more along the lines of a lamb pot pie more than a shepherd’s pie.
Irish Bar Food
These might not be traditional, but recently some of the most popular food in Ireland is certainly inspired by the United States. Because of its rick pork history, pulled BBQ pork is now on almost every gastro pub menu on the island. At least that’s how it seems. Another recent introduction is hot wings. Because we’ve been living outside of the US for so long, this is a trend I am thrilled with. We eat more buffalo wings than anything in Ireland, generally after a few rounds of Guinness.
It should also be noted that not all Irish pubs serve food. Many of our favorites only serve Tayto’s potato chips (try the cheese and onion). Look for gastro pubs with menus outside to be sure.
FAQs - Typical Irish Food
Ireland is probably most famous for its use of the potato. It certainly features prominently in a lot of the Irish dishes above. Even our Irish relatives can’t eat a meal without at least one, or more, types of potato!
Eating in Ireland is not cheap. It is an island, so much of the cuisine has to be brought in. Labor is also expensive, which makes the cost of eating out higher than in some countries in mainland Europe. Expect to pay between €15-20 for an entree at a restaurant or gastropub. Cheap eats in Ireland can be found at the chipper, takeaways, and cafes serving sandwiches.
Many people say Irish strew is Ireland’s national dish. We, however, associate bacon and cabbage more as a national dish because of its history and simplicity.
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Eating Typical Irish Food In Ireland
There are few dishes that I didn’t include on this list because they are so traditional and rarely made by restaurants. This includes packet and tripe, which is a uniquely Limerick dish. It’s made with cow’s stomach and black pork blood. Not all traditional Irish cuisine includes the nasty bits. There’s so much great food to try when traveling in Ireland. Don’t always go right to the fish and chips!
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