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What are Irish Potatoes?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are several things that may be called Irish potatoes. When referring to actual potatoes, Irish potatoes have a white interior and brown skin. They are sometimes just called the white potato, and they are specifically relatives of the nightshade family called Solanum tuberosum. Irish potatoes can also refer to candies or cookies made that look like potatoes, or they may reference recipes using potatoes that are prepared in traditional Irish ways.

It’s perhaps to the detriment of the Irish that Irish potatoes became such an important crop there. They grew very well, and by the 19th century, they formed an essential part of the Irish diet. However, in the mid-19th century, the potatoes were infected with a blight that rotted most of them, and this led to mass starvation in Ireland. It is estimated that within a few years, 1.5 million people died, over an eighth of the population. This problem resolved eventually, but not without extreme cost to the Irish. Still, today the potato is an important part of the diet and likely to be served with many meals, or as the main part of a meal.

Some of the traditional dishes made with Irish potatoes include potato soup, usually a combination of carrots, possibly leeks, onions, and potatoes boiled together. Steamed or boiled potatoes are often simply served with a little salt and pepper. Champ uses steamed or boiled potatoes finely mashed. Milk and scallions are added, and the dish is served with butter, or alternately shredded cooked cabbage leaves may be added and the dish is then sometimes called colcannon.

Another dish made with Irish potatoes is boxty, a version of the potato pancake. It combines grated raw potatoes, mashed cooked potatoes, wheat flour, milk and butter. The ingredients are mixed together and flattened into cakes, and are then fried on griddles or in pans with bacon grease. A simpler recipe called fadge makes smaller cakes that are usually topped with sugar. Alternately, if oatmeal is used with mashed potatoes to make cakes it may be called pratie oaten.

Candy Irish potatoes may mean candy that contains potatoes or resembles them, and sometimes it means both. Some recipes call for mashed potatoes, which may be combined with powdered sugar, and other ingredients like peanut butter. Since the candy is easy to mold, it can be shaped into little potatoes and rolled in things like cinnamon sugar or cocoa, which give it a brown exterior. Other recipes don’t use potatoes but may make use of things like cream cheese and powered sugar to create the center.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By amypollick — On Oct 08, 2012

@anon295849: What do you want to bet your grandfather brought that train out in the spring after the hard winter author Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about in "The Long Winter"? I'm betting it was. The Ingalls family lived in DeSmet, S.D. at that time. That is really wonderful! She has three chapters about the train coming.

Also, for all our failings in dealing with other races, Southerners always welcomed the Irish. The ones who came in through Virginia and the Carolinas never had a problem being accepted in the South, and most Southerners are of Scots-Irish-English ancestry. All you have to do is look through the phone book to see our roots.

Anyway, so very cool about your grandfather! What a wonderful history to know!

By anon295849 — On Oct 08, 2012

@Trogjoe19: Could the Jews have just moved away from Germany? Removed the yellow stars, ignored restrictions and gone on with their lives somewhere else. Genocide in both of these cases was programmed to entrap with slow changes that seemed an inconvenience but not recognized for what they would lead to.

The Irish who did escape to this shore were reviled as lazy and worthless criminals, "No Irish Need Apply"... living for the most part in New York in third basements, in indescribable poverty.

The Irish part of my family finally made their way to Iowa and then South Dakota where their good lives began, but only after my great aunt was raped and impregnated as a young girl, keeping house for the parish priest, her baby removed and never heard about again. She was disgraced and shamed.

My grandmother was to be offered up next and ran away to Huron at 16. My English grandfather was a boy building the railroad depot where he met my grandmother, who was a waitress. They married and raised three sons. My grandfather rose to engineer and brought the train through in the spring after the long winter that starved many more to death. My grandmother somehow found her sister. No details remain. As a product of England and Ireland, I am so incredibly amazed at my Irish ancestors, their incredible abilities to meet and transcend adversity. So glad they got together over here.

By anon242360 — On Jan 23, 2012

There was no "famine" from natural circumstances in Ireland during 1845-1852. It was manufactured, and occurred while there were bumper crops of every variety except the potato.

British military marched in by the tens of thousands, and in armed procession, removed all these other crops completely, turning them over military ships, docked in every Irish harbor, to England for food and profits. Only the potato was left.

They planned and enacted when the cycle for when blighting on potatoes would again occur. This is called genocide by starvation, and was intentional, to remove a population deemed unwelcome to the british empire.

By Proxy414 — On Dec 02, 2010


Although a legitimate question, the idea that the Irish died of a lack of resourcefulness is potentially offensive and quite ignorant of the nature of famines. Despite all of our crop advances, our modern society is dependent on agriculture to this day. If our crops and farms were to be destroyed the population would be hard-pressed to find a sustainable diet. Add to that the unstable socioeconomic plight and dire poverty of the Irish during the famine and you have a recipe for disaster. This had nothing to do with "finding crop someplace else." Their nearest neighbor happened to be England, their fiercest tyrant and persecutor.

By TrogJoe19 — On Nov 30, 2010


Couldn't the Irish have simply gone fishing during the famine, or found some other way to survive? It seems that the point about the famine is overused by the Irish.

By Proxy414 — On Nov 29, 2010

Another interesting Irish Potato product is Poteen, which is illegal liquor made from potatoes and comes from the Irish Gaelic word for "little pot." This beverage is highly alcoholic and was made as a source of income. With so many uses for the potato, one can imagine why the Irish were so devastated by the blight.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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