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Around Ireland in 15 Dishes

Irish stew and a pint of beer
Hi, I'm Nicola!

Nicola Brady is a travel writer based in Dublin. She writes for the Irish Independent, Condé Nast Traveler, The Times and more, and her first book, Dublin Like A Local, was released in 2021.

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Hi, I'm Nicola!

Nicola Brady is a travel writer based in Dublin. She writes for the Irish Independent, Condé Nast Traveler, The Times and more, and her first book, Dublin Like A Local, was released in 2021.

see more

You might not think of Ireland as a food-forward destination, but that’s all changed in recent years. Nowadays, there’s a thriving food scene all over the country, from centuries-old food markets to oyster trucks and pop-up restaurants. And while there are always new, exciting concepts to discover, the best Irish food relies on the solid classics, such as native seafood and, of course, the humble potato. If you’re looking to get a taste of Ireland, here are some of the dishes that you have to try during your trip.


A huge helping of Irish oysters being held up by a vendor.
Irish oysters at the Galway International Oyster Festival. | Photo Credit: Stephen Barnes / Shutterstock

For a taste of the sea.

Traditionally considered a peasant food, oysters have been eaten in Ireland for 4,000 years and are now a staple in plenty of bars and gastro pubs, particularly in the regions of Connemara and Mayo. And while most people think that oysters pair best with champagne, it’s actually Guinness that makes a perfect match—the dark, chocolatey stout marries beautifully with the salinity of the oysters. Go for an oyster tour and tasting in Connemara to see how they’re cultivated, or head to the Galway Oyster festival, typically held in September. You’ll soon see why so many connoisseurs believe Irish oysters to be the best in the world.

Soda bread

Irish soda bread with currants and butter.
Few things beat Irish soda bread with a thick pat of butter. | Photo Credit: vm2002 / Shutterstock

An Irish staple.

You’ll find thick slices of soda bread on many an Irish table, be it at home or in a restaurant. Raised with soda rather than yeast, this bread is more cake-like and dense, particularly when it’s made traditionally with treacle or molasses. It’s best served slathered in salty butter, or with a sliver of smoked salmon on top. In Northern Ireland, it’s often made on a stove top and cooked like a super thick pancake, then cut into four pieces and served as part of an Ulster fry breakfast, with bacon (rashers), sausage, and black pudding.


A crate of fresh Irish lobsters.
Irish lobsters are small but particularly sweet. | Photo Credit: Swach / Shutterstock

Best served in a pool of Irish butter.

Head to any Irish shore and it’s likely you’ll spot some lobster pots dotted around. Much like oysters, lobster was once considered a poor man’s food, and often fed to pigs. Nowadays, things are a little different. Irish lobsters are smaller than you might be used to, but they’re packed with flavor and the meat is thick, sweet, and juicy. The season generally runs from May to September, with the biggest bounty in August, when lobster is generally at its cheapest. It’s prevalent on the west coast, but is also fished around Howth in Dublin.


A flight of Irish Guinness.
Guinness is a meal in a glass. | Photo Credit: Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

For a drink that’s as good as a meal.

It might not technically fall under the category of food, but many people say that a pint of Guinness is a meal in and of itself. You’re also pretty much guaranteed to find a pub serving it no matter where you are in Ireland, from an island in County Mayo to the mountains outside Dublin. There’s an art to pouring the perfect pint, too—it takes exactly 119.5 seconds and there are six steps to follow. Learn how to pour one yourself at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, where the tour finishes with a pint overlooking the city in the Gravity Bar.

Fish and chips

Irish takeaway fish and chips.
Irish fish and chips are unbeatable. | Photo Credit: benlambertmedia / Shutterstock

The only accompaniment to a day by the sea.

Known as “Dubliner’s caviar,” fish and chips are a staple not only in the city but in seaside towns all over Ireland. You’ll still find “chippers” (fish and chip shops) inland, but the fish is often cooked from frozen and is accordingly subpar. The best chippers, then, are by the sea, where the chips are thickly hand-cut, doused with lashings of malt vinegar and salt, and you can eat your cod with the smell of the ocean in the air. You can also get a taste of the classic Dublin chippers on a city food tour.


Irish boxty potato pancakes on a plate.
Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake. | Photo Credit: Fanfo / Shutterstock

Part potato, part bread … what’s not to like?

Most commonly associated with the midlands and the west of Ireland, boxty is a pancake made from grated potato and flour, then cooked on a griddle pan. Some people add scallions or onions to the batter, but more often than not they’re served plain, usually at breakfast with a fried egg on top.


Irish chowder and soda bread.
Irish chowder served with soda bread and butter. | Photo Credit: Salvador Maniquiz / Shutterstock

Chilly day comfort food.

What do you do when you’re surrounded by excellent seafood, but the climate is less than tropical? You make a chowder, of course. This thick, creamy soup is made with a combination of fish stock and cream, with chunks of fish and shellfish throughout—think: salmon, smoked haddock, clams, and mussels. Everyone makes their chowder a little differently, but the key is to make sure each bowl gets the same amount of the good stuff.

Insider tip: It almost always comes with some buttered soda bread on the side, for dunking.

Spice bag

A spice bag in Ireland, filled with chips and curry.
The humble spice bag has something of a cult following in Dublin. | Photo Credit: Saba To Go / Tripadvisor

The ultimate hangover cure.

This distinctly Dublin dish was born in a Chinese takeout restaurant, and is now found all over the city. Take deep fried shredded chicken and fries, along with sliced and fried bell peppers and onion, then shake it all up in a bag with slices of fresh chili and a mix of spices. Now, enjoy! It’s got a bit of a cult following among Dubliners, but the distinct flavor combination is now found in some of the city’s top restaurants—think spice bag bao buns or even a spice bag cocktail.

Irish stew

A hearty Irish stew with carrots and herbs.
A homemade Irish stew is a thing of beauty. | Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Like a hug in a bowl.

A good old Irish stew may be the dish most commonly associated with the Emerald Isle, but the truth is it isn’t something that Irish people order when eating out. A proper stew is something only a mother can make, and it will always cure what ails you. Usually made with lamb or beef, the stew is simmered for hours with carrots, turnips, and big chunks of potato, sometimes with a bit of Guinness thrown in the stock, too. If you want to try it on your travels, though, a country pub is your best bet.


Unwrapped Irish butter.
Real Irish butter is famously delicious. | Photo Credit: Anna Hoychuk / Shutterstock

There’s one benefit to all that rain …

Forget the bland, white butter you find in diners. The butter in Ireland is unparalleled, mostly because it comes from cows who have nothing to do all day but eat that green, green grass. Irish butter is salty, bright yellow, and adds a vivid flavor to every dish, whether it’s spread thickly on bread or dripping over crab claws. There’s even a butter museum down in Cork.


A bowl of Irish porridge with berries and bananas.
Steel cut oats make for extra tasty oatmeal in Ireland. | Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Even better with a kick.

It may not be a particularly exciting food, but porridge (oatmeal) is a staple in Irish cuisine. Irish oats are steel cut, which makes for a more textured bite, and they’re often cooked with a dash of salt and a splash of milk or cream. The main difference is the secret ingredient added in at the end on special occasions—a drizzle of whiskey.


Colcannon combines mashed potato, cabbage, and butter—here it is in a big bowl in Ireland.
Colcannon combines mashed potato, cabbage, and butter. | Photo Credit: vm2002 / Shutterstock

A side dish that tastes like fall.

Traditionally eaten at Halloween, when a coin is hidden inside the dish for one lucky diner to find, colcannon is made from mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale, often with scallions thrown in for good measure. It’s usually served in one pot to be shared at the table, with a big pool of melted butter on top. The leftovers can be formed into potato cakes and fried the next day.

Related: 7 of the Best Halloween Parties and Celebrations Around the World


Irish coddle stew in a bowl, its sausages and potatoes.
Hearty coddle is just the dish for winter. | Photo Credit: larry mcguirk / Shutterstock

You won’t see this on Instagram.

Another dish you’ll find only in Dublin, coddle is one of those foods that tastes way better than it looks. Ostensibly a stew, coddle is made with thick sliced bacon, potatoes, and sausages, which are cooked whole—its these boiled sausages that give the dish its rather unfortunate appearance. It does, however, taste great, and was reputedly a favorite of James Joyce, who mentioned it in his writing. Try it yourself at the Gravediggers pub, next to Glasnevin Cemetery.

Black and white pudding

A helping of black pudding and all the sides of an Irish breakfast in a pan.
Black pudding is a Full Irish breakfast staple, albeit a divisive one. | Photo Credit: Joerg Beuge / Shutterstock

Nose-to-tail dining at its purest.

If you’re squeamish, it’s best not to know too much about how these savory puddings are made—hint: the main ingredient in black pudding is blood, combined with oats, onions, and spices, and you’ll most frequently find it served as part of the Full Irish breakfast. White pudding is a little more subtle, as it’s made with similar ingredients but no blood (although there’s likely some suet involved). Ireland’s so-called “favorite black pudding”—Clonakilty Blackpudding—is made down in, you guessed it, Clonakilty, where you’ll find it on many a menu.


A glass of whiskey on a table in Ireland.
Round out your meal with a drop of Irish (or Northern Irish) whiskey. | Photo Credit: Irina Wilhauk / Shutterstock

The only way to finish off a meal.

With the word whiskey stemming from the Irish phrase uisce beatha (water of life), its importance on the island is clear. Nowadays, there are any number of whiskey distilleries across Ireland and Northern Ireland, from the big names you’ve probably heard of including Jameson and Bushmills, to the new boutique distilleries such as Teeling. Take a tour of any one of them to learn about the history of whiskey in Ireland, and sample a few tasters to boot. Or take a whiskey crawl through the city.

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See all Ireland tours
1,669 tours & tickets
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An atmospheric old street in Dublin in Ireland
Visiting Dublin for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do