Leprechauns, bagpipes, and shamrocks? St. Patrick’s Day must be near!
The March 17th holiday began as early as the 9th century as a Catholic feast day, paying tribute to the patron saint of Ireland. Today, it’s a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and heritage, often culminating in a St. Patrick’s Day parade or festival.
Food plays an important role in modern St. Patrick’s Day festivities, bringing friends and family together over a shared meal. But most of what many people think of as traditional Irish food typically includes heavy dishes that are high in meat and dairy. And while many Irish families raised animals in addition to farming their own vegetables in previous centuries, according to a 2016 study, the Irish diet was primarily plant-based over 2,000 years ago. Barley bread and other plant foods were the staples, while meat and dairy were “restricted to certain occasions.”
So if you want to add a healthier, plant-focused twist to your shamrock shenanigans, take inspiration from the Iron Age Irish and discover how to make plant-based Irish food — and enjoy trying these seven healthy St. Patrick’s Day recipes!
Traditional St. Patrick’s Day Food
The traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal of recent memory was often Irish bacon (pork joint) and cabbage. In Ireland, pork was more affordable than other meats like beef or chicken. Many families were tenant farmers of the British crown and couldn’t always eat everything they grew or raised. But they did have access to pork.
As the Irish emigrated to the United States through Ellis Island, bacon was replaced with corned beef, which was more readily available at the Jewish delis in New York City. The dish’s popularity and association with the St. Patrick’s Day holiday really took shape in North America during the Great Potato Famine, as Irish immigrants sought to recreate a familiar dish amongst the unfamiliar.
Other dishes associated with St. Patrick’s Day include:
- Irish stew or stobach — a peasant dish that includes root vegetables and mutton or lamb.
- colcannon potatoes — mashed potatoes with greens like cabbage or kale.
- shepherd’s pie — minced meat and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes.
- soda bread — a quick yeast-less bread made with baking soda.
Making Irish Food Plant-Based
While many of these St. Patrick’s Day foods are heavy on the meat, they don’t need to be. In fact, as we’ve seen with the rise in veganism and plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, it’s easier than ever to replace or eliminate animal products altogether. Not only that, but adopting plant-based versions of traditional St. Patrick’s Day meals is better for your health and the planet.
Interestingly enough, Ireland now ranks as the number three country per capita in terms of veganism. One study found that Dublin is the most vegan-friendly city in the world, with over 21% of its restaurants offering vegan options to diners.
So how can you make plant-based versions of Irish recipes at home?
While you can certainly leave out the meat entirely from a recipe, sometimes you do so at the risk of losing a particular texture. One of the best ways to replace meat in Irish recipes is by substituting beans or lentils. Legumes offer a chewy texture similar to meat while also providing an abundance of protein and nutrition. With the right seasoning, tempeh can stand in for bacon or corned beef. And lentils go well in shepherd’s pie because they have a similar color to browned meat.
Plant-based meat alternatives are another option that may get you even closer, from a culinary standpoint, without the saturated fat and harmful dietary compounds like TMAO or nitrates. But they’re processed foods, and for health reasons, you may want to keep them to a minimum.
Replacing dairy in St. Patrick’s Day recipes is also easier than ever. The variety of plant-based milks available continues to increase, allowing you to sub in almond, soy, oat, or other milks. You can use olive or avocado oil in place of butter, or a store-bought cultured vegan butter like the one from Miyoko’s Creamery. In baked goods like soda bread, you can replace butter with applesauce or nut butter. And you can create vegan buttermilk from apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and plant-based milk.
7 Healthy St. Patrick’s Day Recipes That Are Packed with Plants
Get ready to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day the plant-based way! The flavors of Ireland are known to be humble, wholesome, and comforting, which makes them perfect for a day full of feasting! However you choose to pay tribute to the Emerald Isle and St. Patrick himself, we’re sure these Irish-inspired recipes are a mouthwatering way to celebrate the holiday!
Robust, malty, and earthy flavors of Irish Breakfast Tea — a unique blend of black tea leaves, mainly Assam and Ceylon — play the lead role in our Dublin Fog Latte. This slightly bitter, intensely flavorful, and lusciously silky latte is a great addition to your morning Irish Boxty or hearty breakfast favorites! Plus, the addition of cashews and banana makes this latte extra creamy, sort of like a festive St. Patrick’s Day sweet cream mocktail… if you catch our drift!
Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake that is simple, savory, and ultra-comforting. It’s like a cross between a fluffy pancake and a crispy hash brown. A combination of mashed potatoes, grated potatoes, tangy buttermilk, and whole-food quinoa flour, these light yet hearty pancakes are a humble breakfast offering that is wonderfully delicious!
Colcannon is a beloved comfort food dish in Ireland, so much so that a traditional children’s song is dedicated to the delicious decadence of these creamy mashed potatoes. While traditional colcannon is made with generous amounts of butter, cream, hearty winter greens like cabbage or kale, and green onions or leeks, our equally luscious plant-based version is just as creamy, wholesome, and delicious with a few additional nourishing ingredients mixed in! Bonus: The vibrant kale ribboned throughout makes it a standout side on your St. Paddy’s Day table!
Can any St. Paddy’s day celebration be complete without a bowl of warm and comforting Irish stew? We say, “Níl!” Hearty Irish Stew is a true stick-to-your-ribs “meat and potatoes” dish, but instead of meat, we used beefy mushrooms and hearty root vegetables! A gentle simmer brings out an intensely flavorful and rich stew that even the pickiest of meat-eaters will love!
While this may not be exactly like Grandma’s, our Corned Chickpea “Beef” is surprisingly tender and, well, beefy! Plus, it hits all the right flavor notes of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day favorite. Made with chickpea flour and marinated in traditional corned beef spices, these lightly crisped chickpea beef strips are delightful, tasty, and very versatile. It makes an excellent addition to a vegan corned beef hash, corned beef with cabbage, or as a meaty filling for a corned beef sandwich on rye!
A slightly sweet and tangy twist on a traditional corned beef Reuben is our Corned Beet Reuben. Pickled beets add just the right bite to give this sandwich a unique and delightfully craveable taste. Layered with tart sauerkraut and generously topped with creamy Thousand Island Dressing, these loaded “sammies” make the perfect assemble-and-go sandwich any day of the year!
What better way to celebrate the luck of the Irish than with our naturally sweet and creamy Vegan Shamrock Shake! Vibrant green spinach, cooling peppermint, and creamy frozen banana make a cool, frosty, and velvety plant-based treat that is a festive addition to your holiday celebrations!
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the Healthy Way!
Although many traditional Irish dishes are based on meat and dairy, you can easily create plant-based versions of St. Patrick’s Day recipes. In fact, early Irish diets may have been primarily vegan or vegetarian. Eliminating meat or using a meat or dairy alternative is easier than ever and can help you go green without the need for food dye (green beer, anyone?). We hope you enjoy these seven St. Patrick’s-inspired Irish recipes in good health — or, “le do shláinte” as they say in Irish!
Tell us in the comments below:
Do you plan on making any of these healthy St. Patrick’s Day recipes?
What are some of your favorite St. Patrick’s Day recipes?
Featured Image: iStock.com/gorchittza2012