Colcannon Traditional Irish Halloween Fare

Colcannon, translated from the Irish words cál ceannann, meaning “white headed cabbage” is a traditional Thurles dish made from mashed potatoes and cabbage. It is interesting to note that in Holland a similar dish exists called ‘Stamppot Boerenkol’ made  from potatoes and kale mashed together.

Irish people will eat this very traditional Irish dish over the Halloween three-day bank holiday weekend that coincides with the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Samhain (pronounced “sowan”). So popular is colcannon that a song was written about it, sung here by popular Tipperary singer Nora Fogarty in true Irish Sean-Nós (old style) style and which can be found on her current album ” One Star Awake”

[audio:|titles=Colcannon|artists=Nora Fogarty]


Irish-colcannon2.5 lbs of floury potatoes
1 small head of green cabbage

Note: In Ireland Stinging Nettles were used in early Spring  when cabbage was scarce. Stinging Nettle are both nutritious and delicious having a flavour similar to spinach when cooked and are rich in vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium.

1 cup milk
1/2 stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste.
One finely chopped green onion can also be added for taste, but not essential.


1. Scrub potatoes and leave skins on. Place in cold water with a generous pinch of salt, cover and bring to a boil.

2. When the potatoes are about half cooked, which takes approximately 15 minutes, strain off two thirds of the water. Then replace the lid and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked using a gentler heat.

3. Discard the outer dark outer leaves of the cabbage. Wash the rest and cut into quarters; remove the centre core and slice finely across the grain.
Cook in a little boiling salted water until soft. Drain, then season with salt and pepper and add the butter.

4. When the potatoes are fully cooked, put the cup of milk into saucepan and bring to the boil. At this stage add your green onion if you so wish. Peel the skins off the potatoes, mash quickly and beat in enough of the hot milk and onion to make a fluffy purée.

5. Stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning.

6. Serve on a hot dish and make a well in the center to add butter additional butter.

Note:  Colcannon at Halloween used to contain a plain gold ring, a sixpence, a thimble or button. Finding the ring meant marriage within the year for the person who found it, the sixpence meant wealth, the thimble spinsterhood and the button bachelorhood. Today, however many Irish mother’s simply wrap one or two large washed coins in heat-proof paper and hide them in the dish.


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