In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, you can use artificial dye to tint anything green, from glasses of beer to entire rivers. If you’d rather avoid food coloring, though, you can also find lots of naturally green things to serve for the occasion, from avocados to zucchini—but then you may stray far from the Irish roots of the holiday. If you choose your ingredients carefully, you can create an entire meal that’s both naturally green and evocative of the Emerald Isle’s traditional foods.
We’ve gathered at least one verdant victual for every course, and tried to make sure there’s something authentically Irish about each one too, even if a few inclusions may have been under a rather looser interpretation of what constitutes “Irish” cuisine. And like so many other Americans under the spell of Saint Paddy’s Day, we couldn’t resist green beer either.
For a less traditional but more vibrantly colored take, you can make a spring lettuce and leek soup, but this recipe relies on leeks alone to lend gentle color and fantastic flavor. Potatoes and just a handful of other ingredients join the leeks for a simple but delicious dish. Get the Traditional Irish Leek and Potato Soup recipe.
Mushy peas are more English (often served alongside fish and chips), but they’re enjoyed widely in Ireland too. Make a nice minty mash for topping toast, or spooning on a plate as a potato alternative to accompany protein and other vegetables. Get the Mushy Peas on Toast with Mint recipe.
The Irish soda bread you see in stores around St. Patrick’s Day is usually studded with currants or raisins, which technically makes it tea cake, not true soda bread. Of course, this version, tinted green with spinach (not to mention vegan too), is also non-traditional, but it does stick to the spirit of simplicity that marks the original incarnation. Get the Green Irish Soda Bread recipe.
Traditional corned beef and cabbage is a wonderful combo and hard to pass up, especially if you only make it once a year, but if you’re looking for something a little different, this omelette gets its green hue from arugula pesto, and cradles chopped corned beef—which may not actually be Irish, but is inextricably associated with Irish-American St. Patrick’s Day celebrations by this point (and makes a damn fine Reuben if you have any left over). Get the Green Eggs and Corned Beef recipe.
Ireland has always been big on dairy and still produces beautifully flavored, luscious butter, so if you can get it, use that in this spinach sauce to go over salmon (which also has a place in Ireland’s culinary history, although their numbers aren’t what they used to be). Get the Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter recipe.
The phrase “Irish lamb” may usually be followed by the word “stew,” but consider trying something a bit different—and green, of course. If rack of lamb seems too much to tackle (or just too expensive), try these lamb burgers with rosemary pesto instead, but this preparation is much easier than it looks. Get the Rosemary Pesto Rack of Lamb recipe.
When you think green vegetables of Ireland, cabbage is probably what comes to mind, but kale has a place in their repertoire too (and kale is, after all, related to cabbage). This is basically a sturdier version of creamed spinach and goes well with just about anything. Get the Irish Creamed Kale recipe.
Colcannon is essentially a mixture of mashed potatoes and kale (sometimes cabbage instead), but this version adds cheese—use a delicious Irish cheddar if possible—and horseradish for a kick. If you want a more uniform green mash, you can achieve it with a higher ratio of leaves that are more finely puréed, as in this spinach mashed potatoes recipe, but chunkier colcannon is texturally pleasing and green enough for us. Use it to replace regular mashed potatoes atop shepherd’s pie, or serve as a side with pretty much any protein. Get the Cheddar Horseradish Colcannon recipe.
Yes, it’s kale again, this time blended into pesto and tossed with nutty, pleasantly chewy barley, an Irish grain that predates potatoes in the country’s agricultural history by thousands of years—but tossing this pesto with roasted spuds wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Get the Lemony Barley Salad with Kale Pesto recipe.
Mint has grown wild in Ireland since at least the late 1800s, so it can reasonably be considered an Irish-ish ingredient. If you want a more vivid hue sans artificial dye, your best bet is intensifying mint’s natural shade with matcha or even making a minty smoothie with spinach added, but for something more akin to McDonald’s seasonal Shamrock Shake, try this pale green fresh mint and vanilla ice cream concoction. Get the Naturally Green Shamrock Shake recipe.
Pistachios are in no way Irish, but tea definitely is, and a warm cuppa is clearly the perfect partner for this cake, so why not let it squeak by as an appropriate St. Patrick’s Day dessert? It is organically green, after all, and also happens to make a lovely breakfast the next morning, which is always a bonus. Get the Pistachio Cardamom Pound Cake recipe.
All right, so this one is all Irish-American, but if you really want green beer and really don’t want man-made food dyes (especially if you’re gonna down a whole bunch of these), you still have multiple options for going green! This source helpfully breaks down what happens to the flavor of the beer when it’s combined with each naturally derived shade of green, too (matcha, wheatgrass, and spirulina)—happily, they all sound surprisingly appealing. Get the Naturally Green-Tinted Beer recipes.