What to Eat in Ireland: 14 Foods You Can’t Miss

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Discover what to eat in Ireland as you travel from Dublin to the quaint towns along the coast. Irish pubs and restaurants are filled with delicious dishes tourists will love.

A photo collage shows several dishes from local Irish pubs and restaurants.

We spent a glorious 7 days in Ireland this month, starting in Dublin and traveling to Limerick, Blarney, Galway, and the Cliffs of Moher on the western coast.

Though we were on a school trip and had to follow a strict itinerary which included eating several meals at our hotel, I had the opportunity to venture out into the local Irish pubs and restaurants to taste some of the best Ireland has to offer.

When you have just a few opportunities to explore on your own, it is even more important to take advantage! I found all the best things to eat in Ireland that you should definitely hunt down on your next vacation.

Jump to:

Plan Your Meals for the Day

When you’re visiting Ireland, chances are likely you’ll be spending long days out in the fresh air exploring the cities and natural wonders.

This means you’re going to work up a hearty appetite!

It’s a smart idea to fuel up with a hearty Irish breakfast, popular for excellent reasons, because you’ll need the energy to make it through all the walking and sightseeing on your list.

We often didn’t eat again until very late in the afternoon/early evening. So plan to have an afternoon snack and a late dinner or a hearty early dinner before heading out to the pubs for live music and fun.

Traditional Irish Breakfast

A breakfast plate at an Irish hotel serves the traditional breakfast of fried egg with ham, hashbrown, and tomato.

The first traditional Irish food we were introduced to was the classic Irish breakfast. I was surprised to find this iconic menu item on most hotel restaurant menus, in several local pubs, and even at the quick service restaurants at the local gas stations!

A traditional Irish breakfast is made up of the following items:

  1. Fried Eggs: Yolks up!
  2. A Potato Hashbrown
  3. Irish Bacon: This looks like a slice of ham to us Americans
  4. Irish Sausage: A traditional looking sausage link, closer in size to a bratwurst than a traditional American breakfast sausage link
  5. Fresh Tomato Half: Warmed and lightly seasoned.
  6. Black Pudding: This item isn’t featured on my plate above, we had the option to pick our items from a buffet line and I confess I wasn’t brave enough to try the traditional blood sausage which is made from pork blood, with pork fat and a cereal, usually oatmeal.
  7. Baked Beans: Also something I didn’t sample, but they looked just like the baked beans Americans would be familiar with.
  8. Mushrooms: Offered next to the tomato but not my cup of tea. I swapped it for a bowl of fruit that was also served as part of the buffet.

The quick service restaurant we visited offered the Irish breakfast as a “You pick 5 or 6” with different prices the more items you added. If you’re ordering at a restaurant, the options may be more fixed in selection.

Everything I tried was delicious and it tasted particularly amazing coming off of 24+ hours of school-trip travel and jet lag.

Irish Scones

A simple breakfast plate has a yogurt bowl with fresh fruit and a scone.

When you’re spending a week in Ireland, the classic Irish breakfast can start to feel a little overwhelming.

Thankfully, though it is a classic, it isn’t the only breakfast offered in Ireland.

You’ll definitely spot plenty of breakfast breads and rolls including fresh baked Irish scones, with or without dried currants inside.

Irish scones are much denser and dryer than the blueberry scones I make at home. You will definitely need a big cup of coffee or hot Irish tea to wash it down, but they were quite delicious.

Our hotels also offered a yogurt parfait buffet featuring the most delicious, tangy, natural yogurt offered with fresh fruits and cereals.

You will likely find Irish porridge offered in many places as well. While the porridge is quite thick, they top it with brown sugar and sometimes fruit or oats for texture.

Irish Brown Bread

Slices of Irish brown bread appeared at every breakfast spot we visited and was often served in lunch lines and dinner buffets as well.

The brown bread is served in thick cut slices and is a very dense soda bread that can be sometimes topped with oats for garnish.

Spread a bit of Kerry Gold butter on it for a true taste of Ireland.

Irish Pub Food

A hamburger and chips are served at an Irish pub.

When folks imagine eating in Ireland, visions of hearty Irish pub menus are likely the first thing to come to mind.

The biggest surprise for me after visiting a few pubs in Dublin and Galway specifically, is that the pubs offer a shorter list of items and most of them are quite familiar for American tourists.

I never did see items like the famous Dublin coddle or Bangers and Mash on any of the menus at the pubs we visited.

You are definitely likely to find a traditional hamburger on most pub menus and then there might be a few other items that could include:

  • Fish and Chips
  • Irish Stew
  • Shepherds Pie
  • Chicken Tenders or Wings
  • Soup of the Day: Often a potato soup or tomato bisque
  • And even surprising items like “Irish Nachos” which is something my daughter decided to try and apparently loved.

Fish & Chips

A plate has a piece of fried fish next to mushy peas and a container of chips/french fries.

Of all the Irish pub food I did try, my very favorite thing was the fish and chips.

Traditional Irish fish and chips is served with a large piece of battered and fried flaky white fish alongside a dollop of mushy peas and thick-cut potato fries or “chips.” Fresh lemon and tartar sauce are common condiments.

The mushy peas took me by surprise the first time it was offered. Green peas are mashed with a bit of cream or butter and are definitely quite tasty.

Vegetable Soup {Potato Soup}

My daughter’s very favorite dish from the entire trip was the nightly “vegetable soup” our hotel offered as the first course for dinner.

While we imagined a brothy minestrone-style soup, we were surprised to find that “vegetable soup” in Ireland actually means “potato soup.”

The potato soup is thick and smooth and creamy and is often made with the fresh vegetables the restaurant has on hand that evening pureed together with a bit of cream or butter and mild herbs and seasonings.

One evening it was potato leek soup, another night we tasted a hint of carrots in the mix, I wouldn’t be surprised if broccoli or cauliflower get thrown in on other evenings.

One thing was common between all the soups: they were each comforting and cozy after a long day in the chilly winds and tasted even better with a bit of fresh bread spread with Irish butter for dunking.

Irish Stew with Beef or Lamb

Once you’ve spent a couple days in the Irish weather, you’ll quickly understand why traditional Irish food is so warm and cozy.

The Irish beef stews we tried were filled with the most tender bits of beef and savory vegetables like carrots and celery in a rich brown gravy.

The beef or lamb stew is often served with mashed potatoes on the side.

It’s truly not a trip to Ireland without trying this delicious dish at least once.

Irish Ham and Cabbage

Our trip fell during the week of St. Patrick’s Day. You can see more notes about what to eat on the holiday below but the biggest surprise to the Americans on our trip?

No corned beef and cabbage appeared on any menu at any point in our trip.

The closest we came was a single night at the hotel when they offered us the choice between:

  1. Irish Ham and Cabbage
  2. A dinner that had a suspiciously lot in common with a traditional American Thanksgiving

I chose the ham and cabbage as it was the closest to corned beef I could find and it was one of the only times I spotted cabbage on the menu during the whole trip!

The ham was served in thick slices and ran a little on the fatty side for my taste. The cabbage was chopped and I assumed braised or sautéed. It looked a bit more like a chunky slaw.

Honestly, this was not one of the better meals I had on the adventure, but it was a nice change of pace given the options.

Afternoon Tea

A table is set with a tea pot, several cups of tea, and a plate of scones with jam and clotted cream.

The rainiest day of our trip fell on Mother’s Day in Ireland and we just happened to accidentally wander into an afternoon at The Savoy in Limerick as we tried to escape the cold drizzle outside.

This accidental stop is one of my favorite moments from the trip as I got to experience a traditional Irish afternoon tea with good friends.

A pot of hot black Irish tea is served with a plate of Irish scones alongside strawberry preserves, blueberry preserves, and clotted cream.

If you’ve never had clotted cream before, it is like a cross between whipped cream and butter but is unsweetened. You spread it with a knife on your scones like you would softened butter.

It tastes absolutely amazing with the scones and jam.

I strongly suggest planning for an afternoon tea during your adventure.

I can’t think of anything more perfect than filling up on a hearty breakfast in the morning, planning for a late tea in the afternoon, and finishing your day with dinner at an Irish pub.

A Pint of Guinness

A row of beer glasses filled with Guinness.

Is it really a trip to Ireland if you don’t get a pint of Guinness??

Even this confirmed wine drinker gave it a shot during a visit to the Guinness Storehouse.

The rest of the folks in my group swore up and down that it tasted so much better in Dublin than it does in America.

I took my one sip and passed it on to someone who appreciated it more. Ha. If anything, it was good for a picture.

Apple Pie

When it comes to desserts in Ireland, most Americans are surprised to discover that apple desserts, specifically apple pie, is a traditional Irish dessert.

While an Irish apple pie looks a lot like an American one, the biggest difference is the apples themselves.

The climate in Ireland is perfect for the apple trees and you’ll find whole new varieties of apples available in the country as compared to the US.

So for a true taste of Ireland, order the the apple pie while you’re there!

Irish Donuts

Rows of fresh baked donuts in a shop.

The foodie surprise that made me giggle while visiting Dublin was to discover that donuts are apparently a really big deal in the city!

One of the teens on our trip was super excited to pass by a donut shop he remembered from a family vacation years before. I teased him that they must have been amazing donuts if he remembered them that long.

Eyes wide, he said: “You have to try them.”

Challenge accepted.

I took an afternoon break to visit The Rolling Donut in Dublin and was downright overwhelmed by the delicious choices.

After plenty of debate, I decided to go with the Irish Creme donut they had on special for St. Patrick’s Day and it was incredible.

The server at the counter told me that The Dub, Kinder Bueno, The Lotus Biscoff, and the White Kinder are the most popular sellers. You can check out their line-up here.

What to Eat on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin

After the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Dublin, a group of us wandered up Grafton St. looking for a place to eat dinner.

We were surprised to discover 2 important things:

  1. Most Pubs in Dublin’s City Center DO NOT Serve Food on St. Patrick’s Day.
  2. Dinner is actually not a very big deal for the holiday at all.

We had a long chat with a bouncer at one of the most popular pubs off Grafton St.

He told us that the pubs don’t serve food because they’re too busy managing the drink orders for the holiday. He suggested we find a pub outside the city center if we were looking for more food. A calmer pub will have more time to mange the regular menu.

He also said that traditionally, the Irish enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with drinks and light nibbles at the pub. Think more along the lines of a pint and a plate of chips not a hearty corned beef and cabbage dinner.

All the more reason to fuel up with that Irish breakfast first thing in the morning!

Potato Crisps & Cadbury Chocolate

A store shelf is filled with Tayto Brand Tayto Chips.

Last but not least, when I travel to another country one of my favorite things to do is pop into a local grocery store or convenience store to peek at the different brands of food available for the locals.

It turns out that both my daughter and I agree: potato chips (or crisps) 100% taste better in Ireland than in the US!

The famous potato chip brand Tayto crisps can often be found at gas stations and snack shops in a variety of flavors. If you’ve seen Derry Girls, this will make you smile.

But my favorite were the O’Donnells Crisps in the Irish cider vinegar & sea salt flavor. I miss them already.

Be sure to also take a peek at the huge variety of Cadbury chocolates available in Ireland that are not found in the US.

You can preview some of the fun varieties by looking at their product line-up here. It doesn’t hurt to buy a candy bar or two for “research purposes” back at your hotel later in the evening. It is a vacation, after all.

One Comment

  1. Loved your take on “musts” in Ireland! I’m going back in a few days and I will try some of you suggestions for sure! Donuts… who knew!
    Thank you so much!

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