Real Irish Colcannon is one of those classic Irish recipes that everyone loves. Made with green cabbage, Irish butter, and optional Irish cheddar cheese, it doesn’t get more Celtic than this. A traditional Irish dish with a history that may surprise you (hint: it’s not traditionally a St. Patrick’s Day dish).

Irish colcannon with large pieces of cabbage and spring onion topped with melted butter

I can’t think of anything more comforting than an easy side dish of traditional Irish mashed potatoes with heaps of Irish cheddar cheese and lots of butter. This is why I I call it ‘real Irish’. Based on a traditional Irish colcannon recipe, it’s a cross between Irish champ and colcannon with cheese and spring onions (green onions/chopped scallions). 

Before you come at me, I know cheese and the onions are not traditional in colcannon; this is why they are listed as optional in the recipe and how my family made them back in the U.K.

A closeup of the colcannon showing the melting butter, cabbage and spring onion

The butter and cheese are really the best there is out there. The Irish are very proud of their dairy and so they should be. I’m not being paid to say this, this is just my opinion and if you try them, you’ll agree and are available in most grocery stores here in the U.S.

Cabbage or Kale in colcannon

I receive many comments and messages, with some of you adding cabbage and others insisting that cabbage is NEVER used in colcannon, only kale. Read on for a little history of where cabbage plays a part in colcannon, as well as an ingredient that not many know about. Furthermore, it has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day but another holiday that will surprise you.

Colcannon history

The word colcannon comes from the Gaelic phrase ‘cal ceannann,’ which means ‘white-headed cabbage.’ On the 31st of October 1735 (yes, Halloween), Welsh politician William Bulkeley was on a trip to Dublin and wrote an entry in his diary (of which there are photos) that reads: ‘Dined at Coz. Wm. Parry, and also supped there upon a Shoulder of Mutton rosted (his spelling mistake, not mine), and what they call there Coel Callen, which is Cabbage boiled Potatoes & parsnips, all mixed together. They eat well enough, and it is a dish always had in this Kingdom on this night.'”

A fork full of colcannon

Using Irish butter and cheese

Because I see Irish butter and cheese in so many grocery stores, there was no reason not to use them in this recipe. The butter and cheese truly stand out as some of the best available. The Irish are very proud of their dairy, and rightfully so. I’m not being paid to say this; it’s just my opinion, and if you try them, you’ll agree.

Make ahead colcannon and reheating

A traditional colcannon recipe can be made 2 days ahead of time. You can simply reheat it in the microwave for a few minutes or in a pan over low heat. Add a small amount of milk to prevent it from drying out and burning on the bottom, stirring often.

Best potatoes for colcannon

I like Yukon Gold potatoes (similar to Vivaldi or King Edward in the U.K), which are floury potatoes that are creamy and have great flavor. Red potatoes, russets, Jersey Royals—all are good choices. Ultimately, the choice of potato is up to you; they will all work.

My tips for boiling potatoes

Start the potatoes in a large pot of cold water. The water comes up to temperature with the potatoes, ensuring they cook more evenly and faster. In lieu of a potato masher, I like to use a potato ricer for perfectly smooth mash.

Type of cabbage for colcannon

Traditionally, colcannon is made with either Savoy cabbage or green/white cabbage. The choice of cut is up to you:

  • Large pieces: For a more prominent cabbage flavor and texture.
  • Finely chopped cabbage: For a seamless blend with the mashed potatoes.

Brussels Sprouts in Colcannon

Feel free to substitute Brussels sprouts if you don’t have cabbage on hand. They’ll add a similar flavor and delightful texture to your colcannon so it mixes well with the mash. No cabbage? No problem, you can use any Brussels sprouts that you have.

Large pieces of beef, carrots and vegetables in beef stew cooking in a pan

What to serve with Irish colcannon

Traditional Irish food is a must—whether it’s the classic Irish stew (pictured above) or one of my personal favorites, Corned Beef and Potato Pie (picture below). They also make a delicious mash topping for Shepherd’s Pie.

A slice of corned beef and potato pie

Leftover colcannon

If you happen to have any leftovers, don’t forget to store them refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. When you want to enjoy them, you can make a classic British dish called Bubble and Squeak (pictured below). It’s typically made from the leftovers of a Roast Beef Dinner, mainly the mash.

Reheating colcannon

The colcannon can be made 2 days ahead of time and reheated. You can simply reheat in a the microwave for a few minutes, or to a pan over low heat. Add a small amount of milk so it doesn’t dry out and burn on the bottom, stirring often.

Patties on a wood board with gravy

Irish Desserts

Why not try my Irish dessert ideas too if you want to complete Irish meal?  Irish Chocolate Cake with Baileys Buttercream Frosting (picture below) or Irish coffee Milkshake Shooters.

If you’ve made this Real Irish Colcannon, or any other recipe, please leave a comment below. I love to hear from my readers.

Yield: 4

Irish Colcannon

A large bowl of mashed potato mixed with green cabbage, spring onion, Irish cheddar and Irish butter

A creamy and easy side dish with cabbage, spring onion, Irish butter and Irish cheddar.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 2 pounds (907 grams) potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 6 tablespoons Irish butter
  • 2 spring onions/scallions, chopped (optional)
  • 6 cups/10 ounces (284 grams) green cabbage or kale, chopped
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) whole milk, warm
  • 2 cups (160 grams) Irish sharp cheddar cheese, grated (optional)
  • Salt to taste


  1. Fill a large pan, ¾ way full with water and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes until tender.
  2. While the potatoes boil, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the cabbage and cook until softened. Stir in the spring onions, remove from the heat.
  3. Drain the potatoes, add to a large bowl and mash. Stir in the cabbage and onion mix, milk and cheese into the hot potatoes. Season with salt to taste. Serve warm.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 330Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 63mgSodium 429mgCarbohydrates 26gFiber 7gSugar 12gProtein 10g

This nutrition calculation is provided by Nutronix that is only a guideline and not intended for any particular diet.