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What is Champ?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Champ is a dish closely associated with Ireland, where it has been made for centuries. It consists of mashed potatoes, traditionally mixed with scallions, and sometimes with peas added. During Ireland's historical periods of financial struggle, numerous families ate champ frequently, since it was cheap and relatively nutritious. The dish is related to colcannon, another Irish potato dish. Most countries have some variation on champ, such as the Dutch stamppot boerenkool.

In addition to being eaten year round, champ is also traditionally served at Halloween. The cook includes a coin, and good luck is said to strike whoever eats the portion with the coin included. Some Irish families continue the tradition of eating champ at Halloween, in a nod to their heritage. People outside of Ireland frequently come across recipes for champ when looking for things to cook with potatoes.

To make champ, potatoes suitable for mashing are boiled in a large pot. While the potatoes boil, milk or cream and butter are gently heated in a saucepan. Scallions, also called spring onions, are thinly sliced and added to the milk mixture, so that the milk will be infused with the flavor. The potatoes are drained and mashed or run through a food mill, and the milk is mixed with the potatoes. The resulting dish is mashed potatoes with an oniony twist. Some cooks add peas or other vegetables to their champ, making the dish more interesting in flavor as well as more nutritious.

Colcannon, a related dish, is made with cabbage or kale instead of scallions. Usually the added ingredient is cooked separately, rather than being mixed with the milk and cream. Plentiful amounts of salt and black pepper are added to both dishes, which can also easily be made vegan with the use of ingredients such as margarine and soy milk. Other ingredients and spices such as nutmeg, garlic, or paprika can be added to champ for more variation.

Numerous variations on champ and colcannon are served around the world. They are often served at dinners which are intended to celebrate Irish heritage, since the potato is so closely linked with Irish history. Ingredients like scallions, kale, and cabbage were also common in Ireland, since they grow in poor soil and in cold weather conditions. The nutritional value of ingredients like kale mixed with potatoes helped to stave off starvation for the Irish during lean periods. Although these ingredients no longer need to be eaten out of necessity, many people have developed a taste for them.

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.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon246932 — On Feb 12, 2012

Can you please tell me why champ is called champ? Where does the name come from?

By burcidi — On Oct 03, 2011

@fify-- I think beef roast and stew are the most popular foods that champ is served with. I've had it with beef roast before and it was amazing.

But you know, there are no hard and fast rules. I've seen champ served with salmon in a restaurant. So feel free to do change things around.

If you want to make it a strictly Irish meal, then an Irish stew or some roasted beef is just fine.

By fify — On Oct 03, 2011

This sounds just like mashed potatoes. I'm a fan of garlic mashed potatoes and potatoes and gravy. I think I would love this too.

Is champ also a side dish in Ireland as mashed potatoes are here? I don't mind having mashed potatoes alone, but it would be excellent if it had a sirloin steak and some corn next to it.

I'm wondering if the Irish do the same thing? What are the most popular foods served with Irish champ?

By bagley79 — On Oct 02, 2011

We have some family history in Ireland and Scotland, and my husband and I were able to visit there a few years ago.

Whenever I travel somewhere new I like to sample as many traditional dishes as possible. When I saw champ listed on the menu, I had no idea what it was.

When the waitress explained to me what it was and how it was prepared, I was anxious to try some. I don't think you can go wrong with mashed potatoes no matter how they are fixed, but these sounded delicious.

I wasn't disappointed and ended up eating champ more than once on my visit. If I were making them at home I would like to add some melted cheese to the potatoes too.

By sunshined — On Oct 01, 2011

My son in law is from Ireland and when he married my daughter, their wedding was in Ireland. We spent some time over there before the wedding and had a wonderful meal at his parents house.

She fixed some traditional Irish dishes for us and one of these was champ. It looked like mashed potatoes with peas added to it, but tasted wonderful. I had never heard of potatoes being referred to as champ before.

Many of their meals are quite simple, and meat and potatoes dishes are served often. I remember my son asking if they ever ate fast food, and her reply was that she liked her vegetables with dirt on them!

By Speechie — On Oct 01, 2011

Champ sounds good, minus the peas. I like the fact that you don't have to add vegetables if you do not want to. I understand when times are rough to do this because if that is all you are going to eat, it is good to add as much nutrition as possible. I would personally prefer to have vegetables separate.

I have a little Irish in me, that may be why this dish seems so good, although I think I would still like potatoes regardless of my heritage. Mashed potatoes are comforting to me, especially when it is cold outside. It seems like I could eat champ alone, or just with a couple additions, and feel satisfied.

If you want to make a healthier version of this champ, you can substitute cauliflower instead of potatoes. I know it sounds weird, and it breaks the whole Irish theme of potatoes, but it tastes good, and almost has the same texture, and flavor when you add the right ingredients, like scallions, margarine, salt and pepper.

By turquoise — On Oct 01, 2011

I'm half Irish on my mom's side which is so apparent because I love potatoes. I can have potatoes and meat everyday and won't complain at all.

Champ is definitely one of my favorite Irish potato dishes. It is so easy to make and some people think that milk, scallions and potatoes can't be too tasty, but it really is. My mom makes it pretty often, but it's never missing from the table if there is family reunion or a holiday.

I actually like my grandmother's champ even better than my mom's because she adds some cream into the milk as well. My mom doesn't want to make it heavy, so she avoids that. But it's even more satisfying with the cream and not too fattening if you don't have it every day.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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