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Easy Colcannon Recipe (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Leeks and Kale)

Colcannon is an Irish mashed potato recipe combined with leeks and kale. It’s that time of year again and this green-filled dish is perfect for your St. Patrick’s Day Menu. Come learn all about Colcannon, how to make Colcannon Potatoes, and my tips and tricks for preparing your very best Colcannon.

white bowl of irish mashed potatoes on a table

This recipe for Colcannon with Leeks and Kale was originally published March 14, 2012. It has recently been updated from the archives to include additional information.

What is Colcannon?

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish created mostly from mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale. Basically, it’s a delicious bowl of buttery mash!

Traditional Irish colcannon usually contains green cabbage. Different areas often prepare their own variations on this classic Irish favorite.

Some versions use green onions instead of leeks. You might also find recipes that contain kale or chard instead of green cabbage.

This Irish recipe was once considered to be a frugal dish that could be served year round. However, I did not find that Colcannon tastes “cheap.” It was pure comfort to me.

I took some liberty with the traditional ingredients and added mashed parsnips to the mixture and included two types of potatoes for varying flavors and richness.

Then, I enhanced the flavor with sauteed leeks (love them!), rather than green onions, in addition to the traditional kale.

My husband liked this even better than your basic mashed potato recipe. I think I might have to agree with him.

overhead close up shot of a bowl of kale and leek colcannon (irish mashed potatoes)

Why is this Irish Potato Dish Called Colcannon?

Colcannon – pronounced kowl·ka·nuhn – comes from the Gaelic term cal ceannann, which means “white-headed cabbage.” Other interpretations explain that cal and ceannann stand for cabbage and leek.

An Easy Recipe for St. Patrick’s Day

If you’re planning an Irish themed meal for St. Patrick’s Day, consider serving this Irish mashed potato recipe with your meal. It is perfect because it’s relatively easy to prepare, has plenty of green in it, and is a classic Irish dish.

While in the United States, Colcannon is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day it is actually a traditional Halloween dish in Ireland.

Prizes or small charms are often hidden in the colcannon. These prizes are said to predict the future of the recipient.

What I Love About Colcannon

3 reasons I love this Irish Potato Recipe:

  1. I love the extra flavor and texture that the kale and leeks add to the potatoes!
  2. The green of the kale and leeks adds a pop of color to an otherwise bland looking dish.
  3. Colcannon is total comfort food, just like mashed potatoes!
ingredients needed to make colcannon (irish mashed potatoes) on a white farmhouse table

Ingredients for the Best Colcannon

To make this amazing recipe for Colcannon with Leeks and Kale, you’ll need some simple ingredients, most of which are pretty traditional. Though some recipes call for green cabbage, this colcannon recipe requires these ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Bay Leaves
  • Butter
  • Leeks
  • Kale
  • Whole Milk
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper

What Kind of Potatoes Do You Use in Colcannon

You can use a variety of different potatoes to make colcannon, such as Russet Potatoes, New Potatoes, Red Potatoes, White Potatoes, or Yukon Gold Potatoes. In this recipe I like to use a mix and it calls for Russet Potatoes and Red Potatoes.

What Kind of Kale Do You Use in Colcannon

In this St. Patrick’s Day side dish you will want to use curly kale or dinosaur kale. Both varieties are typically found in most grocery stores.

You can use frozen kale, too but you will need to thaw it and squeeze out any excess moisture before adding it to the recipe.

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

Recipe Variations

If you’d like to change up this recipe for Colcannon Mash to make it your own, you can try the following variations and substitutions:

  • Try green cabbage or savoy cabbage in place of kale
  • Substitute green onions in place of leeks
  • Swap Heavy Cream or Half and Half in place of whole milk
  • Use a different variety of potatoes
  • Skip the parsnips and use extra potatoes in their place
  • Add homemade bacon bits

Typically I don’t recommend making a bunch of substitutions when preparing a new recipe. When making substitutes, you won’t know if you don’t like the recipe or if the recipe didn’t turn out due to a preparation mistake, an ill effect from the substitute, or something else.

However, if you do choose to make substitutions in a recipe, I recommend only making one substitute at a time so you don’t have a building effect of multiple poor substitutions.

How to Make Colcannon

You’ll be surprised at how simple this Irish side dish is to prepare. To sum it up, you’re just making a creamy mashed potato base and adding sauteed kale and leeks to it. Then, you’ll season the dish with salt and pepper. Not much harder than a basic mashed potatoe, but it has tons more flavor!

Prepare the Potatoes and Parsnips

  1. First, add the potatoes, parsnips, and bay leaves to a large pot with cold water. Make sure that you add enough water to cover the potatoes completely.
  2. Then, bring the water to a boil.
  3. After the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a low boil or simmer and cook until the potatoes and parsnips are tender enough to be mashed.
  4. Once potatoes and parsnips are tender, drain the excess water and discard the bay leaves.
  5. Next, press potatoes and parsnips through a potato ricer (I use the OXO Good Grips Potato Ricer).
  6. Then, set aside in a large mixing bowl.

Saute the Leeks and Kale

  1. Melt the butter in the pot used to boil the potatoes. Then, saute the leeks over medium heat until tender.
  2. Add the chopped kale and saute a couple of minutes until tender.
  3. Add the remaining butter to the kale mixture and stir in the milk, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium until heated.

Combine the Potato Mixture with the Kale Mixture

  1. Then, pour over the mashed potato mixture and stir until combined.
  2. Next, taste for seasonings and add additional salt and pepper if desired.
  3. Lastly, transfer to a serving dish with an extra butter on the table for people who like lots of butter

The above is simply a quick summary of this recipe. Check out the free printable card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.

Make Ahead and Time Saving Tips

  • Leeks can be cleaned and chopped up to 3 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
  • Kale can be washed, dried, and chopped up to 3 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
  • You can peel and boil the potatoes for this recipe earlier in the day to save time during the evening rush. I don’t recommend peeling potatoes ahead of time without cooking them because they can oxidize and become discolored.
  • You can cook the kale and leek mixture the day before and store it in the refrigerator.
white bowl of irish mashed potatoes (colcannon with leek and kale) on a wooden tray

Can I Cook the Potatoes in an Instant Pot for this Colcannon Recipe

Yes, you can use your instant pot or other electric pressure cooker to cook the potatoes for this traditional Irish mashed potato recipe.

Follow the appliances instructions for boiling potatoes. Then, proceed with the recipe as instructed after cooking the potatoes.

Tips for Preparing Colcannon

  • I like to use a potato ricer instead of a potato masher because it produces a fluffier mash.
  • Make sure you clean your leeks properly; they can have a lot of dirt between the layers.
  • Go the extra mile and purchase Irish butter to use with these colcannon potatoes.
  • If you aren’t serving right away, keep warm over low heat so the bottom doesn’t scorch. You can keep them warm in a slow cooker until you’re ready to serve.

Can this Recipe for Colcannon Be Made in Advance?

Yes! If needed, the Colcannon with Leeks and Kale can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Reheat to serve — a foil covered baking dish works well in the oven.

I don’t recommend preparing the dish more than 48 hours ahead of time.

How to Store Leftover Colcannon

Store Colcannon in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Leftover potatoess will last up to 5 days when stored properly.

How to Reheat Colcannon

I like to put leftover Colcannon with Leeks and Kale into a foil-covered baking dish and reheat them at 350F for about 15 to 20 minutes (exact timing will depend on how much you’re reheating).

You can also reheat this dish in the microwave. I recommend using 70% power and shorter intervals, stirring the potatoes in between for best results.

Can You Freeze Colcannon?

Yes, you can freeze this recipe for Colcannon. First, let the Irish Potatoes cool completely, then seal inside freezer bags or freezer-safe containers.

Label, then freeze up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

woman holding a bowl of Easy Colcannon Recipe (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Leeks and Kale)

What to Serve with Colcannon

Colcannon is the perfect side dish to serve with other Irish recipes on St. Patrick’s day We serve our Leek and Kale Colcannon alongside my favorite Honey Marmalade Mustard Glazed Corned Beef.

But you don’t have to wait for St. Patrick’s Day to serve this Irish recipe! Colcannon is a great way to sneak some extra vegetables in your meal. Here are a few other recipes that would taste great with colcannon:

More St. Patrick’s Day Recipes & Fun

St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have to be all Guinness, Green Beer, or Corned Beef. With kids at home, this Irish holiday can be a day focused on family fun and connections. These Slice and Bake Rainbow Cookies are so fun for kids to make (and enjoy during story time!).

Your kids will love checking out these 30 St. Patrick’s Day Read Aloud Books! Nothing says luck of the Irish like reading these St. Patrick’s Day books and enjoying a little treat afterwards!

This Oven Baked Glazed Corned Beef is a fun take on the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal. Rather than stewing in the CrockPot all day, the homemade corned beef is braised with plenty of seasonings before broiling in the oven with a delicious honey marmalade mustard glaze.

This Baked White Cheddar Mac n Cheese with Kale and Bacon is pure comfort food. The macaroni noodles are coated in a creamy cheese sauce that is loaded with sharp Irish cheddar cheese and fresh parmesan.

Got leftover corned beef? Thinly sliced leftover Corned Beef and Roasted Cabbage combine to make a tasty Reuben Panini Recipe. The meat and cabbage is sandwiched in between Pumpernickel bread with mustard, thousand island dressing, and gruyere cheese.

Still need more ideas for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration? Check out my favorite St. Patrick’s Day recipe ideas: from green foods, like Brussels sprouts and kale, to traditional foods for St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations. Make your St. Patrick’s Day meal a special occasion for the whole family with these menu ideas.

What do you like to serve on St. Patrick’s Day?

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white bowl of irish mashed potatoes on a table

Colcannon with Leeks and Kale

Yield: serves 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish created mostly from mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale. If you’re looking for a new side dish recipe to add to your St. Patrick’s Day menu, you should give this Colcannon with Leeks and Kale a try.

Ingredients

  • 4 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 8 ounces red potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 10 ounces parsnips, peeled and sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 4 ounces kale, chopped
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Instructions

  1. In a stock pot or cast iron pot, add both potato types, parsnips, and bay leaves.
  2. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat to a slow boil or simmer and cook for 20 - 30 minutes, or until the potatoes and parsnips are tender enough to be mashed.
  4. Once potatoes and parsnips are tender, drain the water and discard the bay leaves.
  5. Press potatoes through a potato ricer (I use the OXO Good Grips Potato Ricer).
  6. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
  7. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the stock pot or cast iron pot used to boil the potatoes.
  8. Saute the leek over medium heat until tender, about 3 - 5 minutes.
  9. Add the kale and saute for 2 - 4 minutes, or until tender.
  10. Melt the remaining butter and stir in the milk, salt, and pepper.
  11. Cook over medium until heated.
  12. Then, pour over the mashed potato mixture and stir until combined.
  13. Taste for seasonings and add additional salt and pepper if desired.
  14. Serve with Honey Marmalade Mustard Glazed Corned Beef.

Notes

Can this Recipe for Colcannon Be Made in Advance?

Yes! If needed, the Colcannon with Leeks and Kale can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Reheat to serve — a foil covered baking dish works well in the oven. I don't recommend preparing the dish more than 48 hours ahead of time.

How to Store Leftover Colcannon

Store Colcannon in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Leftover potatoes will last up to 5 days when stored properly.

How to Reheat Colcannon

I like to put leftover Colcannon with Leeks and Kale into a foil-covered baking dish and reheat them at 350F for about 15 to 20 minutes (exact timing will depend on how much you’re reheating).

You can also reheat this dish in the microwave. I recommend using 70% power and shorter intervals, stirring the potatoes in between for best results.

Can You Freeze Colcannon?

Yes, you can freeze this recipe for Colcannon. First, let the Irish Potatoes cool completely, then seal inside freezer bags or freezer-safe containers. Label, then freeze up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 296Total Fat 9gTrans Fat 0gFiber 6gProtein 7g

Did you make this recipe?

I’d love it if you let me know what you think! Snap a photo and tag me on Instagram at @goodlifeeats with the hashtag #goodlifeeatsrecipes so I can see what you’re cooking up in YOUR kitchen!

Photography: photos taken in this post are by Rachael from Set the Table.

Heather of Kitchen Concoctions

Wednesday 14th of March 2012

I love your version of this Irish staple!

Shaina

Wednesday 14th of March 2012

I love colcannon. It is seriously the only way I'll eat mashed potatoes these days. I've always just used the traditional green onions, though. I like the idea of using leeks instead.

Casey@Good. Food. Stories.

Wednesday 14th of March 2012

You'd think I was Irish by my name (swear I'm not!), but I will gladly pretend to be if it means I can eat loads of colcannon. I add a little bacon to mine...

Pili

Wednesday 14th of March 2012

Sounds super yummy! This one I have to try for sure!

Kathryn

Wednesday 14th of March 2012

Love the additions of kale and leeks, it sounds simply delicious!

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