Through my ultra-American lens, Ireland seems like a country defined by Guinness, more alcohol, rolling greenery, and potato famines. However, I “met” a fellow Mac DeMarco fan online who lives near Dublin, and he set the record straight on Irish food, culture, and stereotypes (yes, drinking copious amounts of alcohol is true). 

Although I’ve never been to Ireland myself, he helped me compile a list of ten traditional Irish foods to try in Ireland - everything from Tayto Crisps to Barmbrack is included, and the tasty meals are even more reason to fly across the pond this summer. 

1. Beef, Carrots, Spuds, and Parsnips Stew

The name says it all–oozing with winter grit and warmth, one bowl of this and 3 degrees Celsius doesn’t seem like a big deal. The Irish are into simple but filling meals, and this stew checks off all the hearty boxes. I didn’t know what a parsnip was before this article, but Google images showed me a paler and more gnarly cousin of the carrot. Parsnips are also apparently sweeter than carrots and “earthier.” 

2. Barmbrack

Barmbrack is the fruit loaf I wish Publix sold around the holidays (forget that sticky loaf they try passing off as “European” bread). Featuring fruit soaked in tea or whisky and baked into a bread, barmbrack is in between cake and your boring pumpernickel or rye.

It’s an Irish staple around Halloween, but I could definitely eat its raisins and sultanas all year long. According to my friend in Ireland, the eater digs around for a little gold ring in the center during Halloween–boo! 

3. Bangers and Mash

Known as sausages and mashed potatoes to American tongues, this classic duo is a basic but flavorful dish from Great Britain and Ireland. To explain the aggressive name, sources agree that meat during WWI was packed with fillers and water to save money–the antithesis of juicy, dripping sausage. This “meat” would pop in the oil, causing mini explosions or “bangs” in the kitchen. Pair this duo with fried onions and peas, and you’ll be a traditional Irish lass (or lad) in no time. 

4. Bacon and Cabbage 

Once again, the Irish are creative with their food names–this dish includes smoked bacon (also called rashers in Ireland), boiled cabbage, and spuds (potatoes) with a sprinkling of parsley on top. This cooking is reminiscent of my German upbringing, when my grandfather would make potato pancakes or rouladen with sprigs of green on top. Interestingly, the bacon is also boiled (which makes my “cook in the microwave for one minute” brand seem ridiculous).  

5. Tayto Crisps

This is one of the most authentic and creepy Irish foods I’ve come across. Featuring a neon yellow, Clip art-looking potato as their mascot, Tayto Crisps were founded in 1954. I’ve never tried them personally, but these chips can be bought on Amazon for $20 (flavors also range from cheese and onion to smoky bacon, prawn, and salt and vinegar). 

The personality of Mr. Tayto Ireland is unnerving–just check out his Twitter profile of “A dapperly dressed crisp connoisseur,” and the website that includes playlists to eat Tayto Crisps to. They also air sexually charged commercials on Irish TV– yum? 

6. Guinness Crisps

One can’t think of Ireland without Guinness coming to mind – forget the rolling greenery, the wildlife, the savory inhabitants with names like Cathal and Tadgh, and wholesome sheep farms. No, I think of alcohol. The Guinness brewery is at St. James Gate, Dublin, but these Guinness Crisps are actually from a different company, Burts. Cooked in “roasted barley and hops,” these crisps are probably less terrifying than Mr. Tayto Crisp. 

7. Boxty (Potato Pancakes)

I grew up with the German version of this recipe (kartoffelpuffer), and I remember my Opa standing by the griddle and laboring over these pancakes while everyone else ate. The Irish version is (surprise, surprise) loaded with more potatoes – not just grated but mashed and mixed with buttermilk as well.

According to Culture Trip, “boxty” comes from the Irish word for “poor-house bread.” Recipe websites also all had this quote: “Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan, if you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get your man!””

Looks like I’m going to be single for a while. 

8. Cottage Pie

This “pie” is a dish most people are familiar with; toss in some veggies (i.e. carrots and onions) and meat, add a potato crust on top, and you’ve got a 350 degree hot pocket. The only difference between the two names is the meat: Shepherd’s pie is minced lamb while cottage pie is usually beef. One of the best Shepherd’s pie I’ve eaten is from Mother’s Pub, a dive in Gainesville, Florida that mixes bar food with Irish classics. 

9. Irish Traditional Fry

“Irish Traditional Fry” basically means a big-ass breakfast with meats, eggs, baked beans, rashers (bacon), and toast. Practically impossible to finish since most people aren’t working on farms anymore, this breakfast is equal parts wholesome and unhealthy. It also features black pudding (a concoction of meats, spices, and pig’s blood) and white pudding – for maximum flavor, these items should be cooked in the same buttered pan, blood and all. 

10. Chicken Fillet Roll 

Salad + breaded chicken + baguette = the chicken fillet roll. It’s basically the Irish version of the chicken tender pub sub , but don’t tell Irish people that! The hero of most delis, this sandwich is popular in Ireland and probably savorier than the pig's blood mentioned above. There’s even a Facebook meme page dedicated to it. 

Irish Food-isms

Maria Pinzon

Cathal, my Irish friend, also told me about this bizarre piece of Irish food-lore: Drinking 7 Up is seen as a tried-and-true remedy. Have a cold? Drink a glass of 7 Up. Constipated? 7 Up. It seems to be the holy grail of medicine, similar to Irn Bru in Scotland.

Overall, I learned oodles about the food culture of Ireland – they hearken back to the staples, potatoes and meat, but also liven up their palettes with crisps, pies, and beer. If there’s a universal definition of “wholesome food,” it’s Irish cuisine.

A massive thank-you to Cathal O. for helping me with this article!