Irish food has a reputation for being stodgy and traditional, because of the sludge some Americans cook up on St. Patrick’s Day and pass off as the real deal. But travel to Ireland, and you’ll find quality foods with fresh ingredients that you’ll enjoy the entire time you’re there—not a single potato in sight.
There’s a reason Kerrygold Irish Butter is now sold in grocery stores around the world—including Costco chains in America: It’s rich, creamy, and flavorful. You’ll find many Irish restaurants using artisanal butters, but even the generic version is addictive. The Irish have been known to slather it on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise and even on digestive biscuits for dessert.
Need an excuse to spread more of that addictive Irish butter on something? Fresh brown bread is another Irish staple. Many restaurants make their own, with recipes perfected over generations, full of nutty whole-wheat goodness. Brown bread with treacle—a blend of molasses, sugar, and corn syrup—is a little sweeter and pairs perfectly with that salty Irish butter.
Many visitors to the Emerald Isle seek out that quintessential Irish breakfast, which includes bacon, sausage, black pudding, fried eggs, tomatoes, and maybe a few shriveled mushrooms. And while this “full Irish” might be a perfect hangover remedy, it’s not the world’s healthiest option. So breakfast is your chance to try out what most good Irish cafes bill as the “lighter option”—thick, creamy Irish yogurt with fruit compote or homemade granola.
There are two directions you can go when it comes to Irish ice cream. The first is the traditional “99” filled with thick, custardy vanilla soft-serve, towering high on a standard cone and speared with a Cadbury Flake chocolate bar. The second option is of the artisanal variety—most notably Murphy’s, which can be found in Dingle, Killarney, and Dublin. With flavors like “Toasted Irish Oats,” “Dingle Sea Salt,” and “Caramelized Brown Bread” (yep, that again) mixed with hard-serve ice cream, Murphy’s is a delicious —and truly Irish—treat.
You won’t find seaweed in a starring role on every menu, but you’ll find it in Ireland’s more inventive restaurants and fishmongers in coastal towns. Leading the way in Ireland’s food-foraging trend, you’ll find seaweed pop up in soda bread, pudding, and even hummus. Look for carrageen (a powder used to thicken pudding like the one in the picture), dulse or dilisk (a red, flaky flavor-enhancer), and herb-like kelp.
In a cold place, you appreciate a warming cup of pub-style vegetable soup. Filled with veggies like turnips, carrots, potatoes, and onions, the soup is then blended with a little cream. And aside from being delicious, it’s practical, too: Pub-style vegetable soup is often the safest dish to order on any menu in Ireland.