How To Cook Cabbage Irish Style


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Potatoes and cabbage are probably the two vegetables Ireland is most famous for.  Millions of heads of cabbage will be cooked and eaten on March 17th and in the days leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.  Irish cabbage is boiled and shredded and served with melting butter.

When I was preparing corned beef last week, I mentioned to my husband that I planned to steam the cabbage in wedges.  A look of disappointment crossed his face as he declared:

“Don’t give me any fancy wedges of cabbage.  I like my cabbage Irish style.”

And so I cooked our cabbage Irish style, boiled and cut up into shreds, then served with melting butter.  My grandmother always cooked cabbage in the same pot and salty water she used to boil bacon.  I like the flavor a little bacon adds to cabbage, so I thought I would share my cabbage cooking technique with you today, in preparation for our favorite saint’s feast day.  It comes with a seal of approval from my Donegal man.




1/2 head of green cabbage

1 teaspoon of peppercorns

3 slices of streaky bacon

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Water for boiling.

Note:  Cooking half a head of cabbage yields about 4 servings.  I usually cook just half a head at a time, but this recipe works fine if you cook the whole head of cabbage, yielding about 8 servings.


Here is my trick for adding a little bacon flavor to my American boiled cabbage.  I take the outer leaf off the cabbage head and remove the hard stalk at the very end.

Next I place 3 slices of bacon folded over in the center of the leaf, together with 1 teaspoon of peppercorns.

Next comes time to fold up this flavor packet, by bending the sides of the leaf inwards over the bacon, then rolling up the cabbage leaf.  Secure it with some cotton thread, that will withstand boiling water.

Next cut the cabbage head in two halves.  Remove the inner hard core of the cabbage by slicing on either side of it.  Wiggle it and it should pop right out.

Peel the leaves off the cabbage head, layer by layer.  Pop them in a colander and rinse them under cold water.

Transfer the cabbage leaves into a large saucepan, tearing any large leaves into smaller pieces.  Add the bacon and peppercorn packet prepared earlier.

Cover the cabbage with water and season with salt.  Bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes until the cabbage is tender.

Drain the cabbage and return it to the pot.

Discard the cabbage package with the bacon and peppercorns.

Using a knife cut through the cabbage leaves.

When shredded nicely, add some butter if desired.

Serve with potatoes and corned beef.  Simply delicious with a few knobs of butter melting over the cabbage and potatoes.

Wishing you all happy cabbage cooking for St. Patrick’s Day.



Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)



Irish American Mom


  1. Yummy, this looks so good. Do you do anything special for St. Patrick’s Day?

  2. Never thought of cooking the cabbage like that. I always cut mine up before I cooked it. That is neat the way you flavor it with streaked meat without the fat. I am going to try that this week-end because I will bet you get ALL that delicious cabbage flavor with none going out in the drained water. Thank you for this. I love cabbage. I’m Irish American too. :-)

    • Mary – I just checked out your website. I could spend hours browsing through all of your wonderful recipes. I will definitely check it out in more detail when I get a spare moment. Thanks for stopping by.


  3. I am so looking forward to trying this for St. Patrick’s day, along with the guiness crockpot stew and some hard crusted bread. My family loves cooked cabbage, but the wife can’t stand corned beef. This will be a good alternative.

    I have yet to find it, but I swear I must have some Irish blood in me somewhere. I have always had a great affinity for Ireland, and hope to get there some day (much to the chagrin of my brother who has fully embraced our proven Scottish heritage). I thoroughly enjoy your site, and look forward to trying more recipes.

    • Jim – I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day celebration and that all your dishes turn out delicious.

      I believe if you feel a kinship to Ireland then you probably do have an Irish link somewhere in your past. Remember Ireland and Scotland are very closely linked through our celtic heritage. In the 19th century many Irish rovers went to Scotland and England in search of work over the summer months. At one point only 12 miles separates Ireland from Scotland and the legendary Giant’s Causeway supposedly once linked the two. So be proud of your known Scottish celtic heritage and your hidden Irish identity.

      Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


      • I did it! I made this cabbage, and the Guinness Irish Stew (with a few minor mods). They were absolutely wonderful. I chronicled my experience on my blog.

        I hope you don’t mind me mentioning you, and linking to your site, in my blog. Your recipe’s really made this St. Patrick’s Day for the family. To top it off, I even discovered last night where that Irish bug in me came from. With a little bit more work on my family tree, I discovered last night that one of my great great grandmothers was born in Ireland in 1833.

        Thanks for such a great site. I plan to revisit often.

        • Jim – Thank you for linking to my site and for your kind words. I loved your post. I made stew and shepherd’s pie for some friends yesterday to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It really was hearty winter fare for a day in the 80’s.

          I am delighted you found your family connection to Ireland. Wishing you every success a you continue to research your family tree. Thanks for visiting and I will look forward to your comments.


  4. Christian Ragan says:

    Have you ever cooked potatoes directly in with the cabbage utilizing the above method?

    • Christian – I have never done that since there is no way to prevent potato pieces from sticking to the cabbage. I would only boil them together if I intended to make colcannon, and mash both of them together. However, it is hard to coordinate the exact cooking time of the cabbage with that of the potatoes. Bigger potatoes take longer to cook than the cabbage, so you might have to start the potatoes boiling and then add the cabbage.
      All the best,

  5. Penny Wolf says:

    My Mom and I cook the potatoes with cut up cabbage,celery, and onions,with plenty of black pepper and parsley, and HAM. We never had corned beef (Mom was down on it for some reason) with the cabbage. The dish comes out almost a soup/stew/ one pot meal.I bet the ham and bacon do a similar thing to the cabbage in flavor. Butter and homemade bread to soak up the peppery juices finishes it off.
    I continue to love your site!

    • Penny – Your dish sounds delicious. I bet your Mom wasn’t keen on corned beef since it’s not really Irish. We never ate corned beef when I was growing up in Ireland. We always had ham or bacon instead.
      Thanks so much for stopping by. Best wishes for a very happy St. Patrick’s Day.

    • Jennifer says:

      What kind of ham? Like a canned ham?

      • Jennifer – I’m afraid only Penny can answer this question. If she sees your response, she will hopefully let you know the answer.
        Best wishes,

      • My mom and her entire side of the family is from Ireland. Very unlikely it is canned ham. The ham I always had growing up was a cured country ham. Sometimes it is boiled, sometimes it is baked. Depending on what you are making. There are lots of recipes on the web for Irish dishes that include ham.

        • Thanks CJ – I’d say you’re correct – a cured country ham is delicious and would work great for Penny’s cooking suggestions.
          Thanks so much for checking out this post on cooking cabbage and for adding to our little discussion.
          All the best,

  6. Is there a reason the cabbage is shredded after cooking? It seems like it would be easier to shred it prior to cooking.

    • Jessica – It definitely would be easier to shred the cabbage before cooking. However, my mom’s theory for why she shredded it after cooking goes like this. When pre-shred, the cabbage leaves leak more of their juices into the boiling water through their cut and exposed edges. My mom believes that by keeping the leaves as intact as possible, you retain more of the goodness of the cabbage. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I have always shredded my cabbage after cooking.
      All the best,

  7. Maureen O Hanlon says:

    Thank you Mairead for your lovely recipie, We all love Bacon and cabbage, very interesting fact you have there about leaving the cabbage un shredded while boiling, my mother never shredded the cabbage before boiling it either, and neither do I, and didnt realise until you said it, by cooking it unshredded it keeps in the juice, ive often seen people shredding cabbage before boiling it, and though it l;ooks so proffesional, but i dont do it, and im glad now, and i always make home made white sauce with it.

    • Maureen – We both seem to have learned the same cooking tips and tricks from our Cork mothers. I have always shredded cabbage after cooking, simply because it’s how my mother and her mother before her cooked cabbage.
      Homemade white sauce with bacon and cabbage – simply yummy. :)
      All the best,

  8. Shredded cabbage pan fried with grated potato and finely chopped bacon….fry it all up together with black pepper, no salt (the bacon provides salt)..…


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