Irish Food History

irish food history

The history of Irish food dates back to prehistoric times. It was a diet of milk, cheese, meat, cereals and some vegetables.

When the potato was introduced into Ireland, it changed the way Irish people ate. However, the Great Famine of 1845 destroyed a lot of our crops and left many Irish starving.

Corned Beef

Corned beef is a staple of Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States. It’s often paired with cabbage, potatoes and Irish soda bread.

Although corned beef is not native to Ireland, the dish has a long and interesting history in the country. Its origins trace back to the Jewish community in Central and Eastern Europe.

During the 19th century, Ireland experienced the Great Famine. This left many Irish immigrants looking for a new life in America.

As they moved to urban areas and started making more money, they could afford meat for the first time. Rather than traditional bacon, these new Irish immigrants turned to beef.

They made their corned beef from brisket, a cut of meat from the front part of a cow. It was salt-cured with “corns” of salt, a process that originated in Eastern Europe.


Pork was the main meat of choice in Ireland during its early history. Cattle were expensive and were not slaughtered for meat unless old or injured, so pigs were the main source of protein in rural Ireland.

The meat was preserved in various ways. Parts were cured or preserved for later use, and others were consumed fresh. The pig was salted, placed in brine barrels, or smoked over a chimney.

Some pigs were kept by their owners and others were sold to other households as a source of food or income. Until the nineteenth century, most Irish rural households had some pigs.

As a result, many dishes considered typical of Irish cuisine were developed. These included champ (potatoes and scallions, or spring onions), colcannon (potatoes and cabbage), and Irish stew. These hardy, economical, filling foods sated the bellies of working and poorer classes and gave people some variety to their diet.


Potatoes have played a very important role in Irish food history. They are an essential part of any Irish meal.

In the late 1700s, the potato was introduced to Ireland and quickly became a staple. It was a good source of calories and nutrients, and the plant was easy to grow in the harsh conditions of Ireland.

However, it was also very susceptible to blight. The disease, which is caused by Phytophthora infestans, is water mold that kills both the leaves and the edible roots of the potato plant.

This blight destroyed the potato crop in Ireland during the 1840s, resulting in what is known as the Great Famine of 1845-1849. It is estimated that between a million and two million people died in this time period, half of them through malnutrition.

A large number of people emigrated from Ireland during this time, and many of them settled in Philadelphia. This likely contributed to the rise of Irish potato candy in the city.


Dairy has been an important part of Irish food history for millennia. It was a staple and there were many varieties of milk, butter and cheese available.

There was drinking milk, buttermilk, fresh curds and old curds (a by-product of coagulating milk), and even a drink made from whey mixed with water that was called sour milk. This was known as bainne clabair, which was quite thick and enjoyed by the Irish.

The Irish also ate bog butter, which was a butter that was stored in bogs and allowed to ferment before being eaten. It had a distinctive flavor and was valued for its bogginess.

Other foods in Ireland included meat, cereals such as oats, wheat and barley, vegetables like cabbage, onions, garlic and parsnips, fruit, seaweed and wild herbs. These ingredients formed the diet of the Irish until the introduction of the potato in the 16th century.