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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the Irish Way with a Twist: Colcannon

Posted by Lisa Peterson -

"Did you ever eat colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream? With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream…." Colcannon, such a famous traditional Irish comfort food a song was written about it! St. Patrick's Day is a great day to embrace that inner Irishman and try an Irish side dish, such as colcannon. Aside from the common Irish cuisine of corned beef and cabbage, colcannon is a combination of potatoes, scallions, kale (or cabbage), milk, and butter. Colcannon is Gaelic for cal ceannann meaning "white-headed cabbage" and traditionally served during Halloween, but there is no rule you can't celebrate this Irish potato dish all year round! According to Irish folklore small tokens used to be inserted into colcannon, with each token representing a fortune. The most common tokens included a button: indicating bachelorhood, a coin: indicating wealth, a ring: indicating marriage within the year, and a thimble: indicating spinsterhood. Finding a ring in colcannon is similar to the American tradition of catching the bouquet at a wedding.

The main ingredients in traditional colcannon include potatoes, scallions, kale or cabbage, butter, and milk. Kale, a dark and vibrant leafy vegetable, is a great source vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. Not only does a serving of kale have more vitamin C than an orange, but it is also helps combat inflammation. Remember the brighter and more vibrant the color of fruits and vegetables the higher the amount of phytonutrients they contain. Phytonutrients assist in fighting free radicals to prolong the occurrence of cancer, and combat arterial plaque formation.

Colcannon incorporates nutritious green vegetables such as kale into a meal, but this tasty side dish can be high in fat and calories. The traditional colcannon recipe has 400 calories per serving with 16 grams of saturated fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, and 48 grams carbohydrates. After reviewing the traditional colcannon recipe, made with high amounts of cream and butter, the beneficial attributes of the kale, potatoes, or cabbage are hindered by the high amount of saturated fat. High amounts of saturated fat in the diet are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, the number one killer of Americans.

So, how can you take a famous and traditional Irish dish and make it healthier? Use fat substitutes. For a healthier and lower calorie twist, try substituting out the potatoes for cauliflower, switch out the whole milk for skim or fat-free, and try an unsaturated fat alternative. For example, instead of using butter in the colcannon recipe, I used olive oil and avocadoes. Also consider switching out the heavy sour cream topping for non-fat plain Greek yogurt and chives. Unsaturated fats,  poly- and monounsaturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels and are good for the heart. How to spot unsaturated fat? Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.

Colcannon with a Healthy Twist

Servings: 4

Total Time: 30 minutes

1 head of cauliflower

3 cups chopped kale

3 cloves garlic, crushed

4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

½ cup Fat-Free Milk

3 green onions (scallions)

1 avocado mashed (optional)


  1. Rinse cauliflower and pat dry, chop cauliflower into florets.
  2. Combine cauliflower florets and garlic in a microwave safe bowl with ¼ cup water, cover, and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes
  3. Using a food processor, pulse cauliflower and garlic until smooth. *Add optional avocado. Set aside.
  4. Over medium-high heat, coat skillet with olive oil-add kale and cook for 3-4 minutes or until wilted. Add green onions and cook 1 minute.
  5. Pour in the milk and cauliflower and mix well.

Nutrition Facts: 1 Serving, 290 calories, 22 g. total fat, 3 g. sat. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 85 mg. sodium, 19 g. carbohydrates, 8 g. dietary fiber, 7 g. protein.

Toppings: non-fat plain Greek yogurt & chives

Make it a meal! Incorporate strawberries or apples to the plate, a serving of salmon or brisket, and a glass of milk. Add grains to the meal with a slice of soda bread--an Irish staple, try a recipe developed by Kristin Bogdonas, Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator:

Have a fantastic St. Patrick's Day and don't forget to wear green tomorrow! For more quick nutrition, physical activity, or wellness tipsfollow me on twitter! Looking for upcoming programs? Visit our local extension website at:

Traditional Recipe from: "Colcannon." Colcannon Recipe. Bord Bia: Irish Food Board Accessed 16 Mar. 2015. <>.

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