The Irish Food Culture

The Irish have a long history of eating and celebrating their traditional foods. They have a strong food culture that is steeped in myth, legend and folklore.

The traditional diet in Ireland revolved around dairy, meat and potatoes. It was an ideal way to get calories for a hard day’s work.


The Irish food culture has developed in many ways over the centuries. Traditionally, Ireland was a largely agricultural country.

Eating was a major part of the life of the people and their traditions, and meat was a key element of this diet. Large animals such as deer were raised for their flesh and venison, while smaller species were often used in stews and other dishes.

Dairy products such as milk, cheese and butter were also a main part of the diet. There were various types of cheese such as tath, a hard cheese made with pressed curds, and mulchan, a skimmed version.


Traditional Irish foods are hearty and nourishing, often made with ingredients that have been around for centuries. For example, potatoes are still a staple of the diet and many Irish meals include potato scones, similar to biscuits or muffins.

Meat was a common part of the diet for many Irish families. It was cheap and provided plenty of calories for a hard day’s work.

Pork was often eaten for celebratory occasions. It was an inexpensive, tasty meat that was easy to prepare.


The Irish, like most people of the Western World, have a long tradition of eating dairy products. This is because milk is so readily available, and cows are able to graze on pasture year-round.

In the past, the Irish consumed milk in many ways – as a fresh drink (called’milky water’) or with meals. They also used their own sheep’s milk to make cheese.

In recent times, the artisan production of cheeses using cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk has emerged, creating some truly stunning results. This is a very exciting development in the irish food culture.


The introduction of the potato in the 18th century was a game changer for the Irish. It grew rapidly and was readily available to the poor.

A nutrient rich and cheap food, potatoes provided the essential nutrients needed for the average Irish family.

However, in 1845, a disease called Late Blight wiped out the potato crop and left millions of people starving.

A lack of other foods resulted in the Great Irish Famine, which killed nearly a million people. After the famine, vegetable production improved and vegetables became a staple of many diets.


Bread, a baked food product that is moistened and kneaded, has been a staple of diets around the world since prehistoric times. It is now made with a variety of ingredients and methods, including fermentation.

The origins of bread in Ireland are as complex as the history of the country itself. It is a staple in Irish homes and is served alongside other dishes at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The earliest breads were probably of coarsely crushed grain mixed with water, spread onto heated stones and baked. This was a form of fermented porridge, possibly similar to Turkish tarhana or Middle Eastern kashk.


Fish is a key element of Irish food culture. It is popular in both rural and urban areas.

The most cherished variety of fish (iasc) is wild salmon (bradan fiain). It is well known for its taste and nutritional qualities.

Another important ingredient in the diet is shellfish such as crabs, lobsters and oysters. These are abundantly available in coastal areas of Ireland and renowned for their fine quality.

There is also a wide range of other types of seafood. Some of the most notable dishes include a crab sandwich and seafood chowder.