Traditional Irish boxty combines mashed, shredded potatoes

March 11, 2022

Thursday of next week is the annual celebration of all things Irish, as we raise our pint glasses to toast St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re looking for inspiration on what to serve at your party or bring to a gathering, you’ll find a startling variety of green foods on the internet. The most disturbing image was a dish of green macaroni and cheese, followed closely by green bagels and green velvet cupcakes.

Instead of dyeing our food green, we’ll build a more traditional Irish-inspired menu, including corned beef and cabbage, a tender loaf of Irish soda bread and a unique version of potato pancake known as “boxty.” Food historians believe the name comes from the phrase “aran bocht ti” which translates to “poorhouse bread.” This seems logical, as the abundant and inexpensive potato would be the basis for a filling dish.

What differentiates boxty from other pancake-shaped, potato-based foods is the combination of both mashed and shredded potatoes. The batter is formed into patties and cooked in lots of butter until crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. It’s like eating a soft, mashed-potato filling tucked between layers of crunchy hash browns.

Many countries across Europe have similar potato dishes, for example, potato latkes, which are made from shredded potato and shredded onion with matzo meal and egg as binders. The Swiss dish rösti or rööschti is made from shredded potatoes densely packed together in a skillet, cooked in butter and served in wedges.

While each of these have potatoes in common, they vary in technique and ingredients. I believe latkes are the easiest to prepare, even though they have the longest list of ingredients. Boxty recipes call for buttermilk to add a tart balance to the starchy potatoes, but cooking is tricky to get the surface crisp and the inside hot. The most elegant of these is rösti, which takes the longest to cook and would be an appropriate companion to your finest steak.

If you decide to make any of these, be sure to choose russet potatoes for their significant starch content, a requirement to keep things together. Many versions of both latke and  boxty recipes instruct you to wring the shredded potatoes and preserve the starch from their liquid, but I haven’t had any problems skipping that step. 

All of these can be topped with sour cream or applesauce to balance the fat in which they’re browned. I’ve included recipes for each of the three options, but you’ll want boxty on March 17, and be sure to top them with something green. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!



4 russet potatoes

2 t salt

1 C buttermilk

3/4 C flour

1 t baking powder

1/2 t white pepper

2 egg yolks

4 T butter for frying

sliced scallions for garnish

Peel potatoes. Chop two of the potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Place chopped potatoes in a saucepan with salt and add water to cover completely. Bring to a boil over medium-high; cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the remaining two  potatoes on the large holes of a box grater over a clean kitchen towel. Gather the edges of the towel around the potatoes and squeeze out as much liquid as possible; set aside while still in the towel. When boiled potatoes are tender, drain and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the grated potatoes and mash until combined. Pour buttermilk over the potatoes and stir to combine. Add flour, baking powder, pepper and egg yolks; stir to combine. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium low. Melt 1 T butter and swirl to coat. Use a 1/4 C measure to scoop batter into the skillet. Lightly flatten each pancake and cook until brown and crisp on the bottom, about 4 minutes.

Flip the pancakes and cook until the second side is browned, about 3 or 4 minutes more. Remove cooked pancakes to a plate and cover loosely. Repeat with remaining batter and butter. Serve immediately, sprinkled with scallions.



2 lbs russet potatoes

1 medium onion

3 T melted butter

2 eggs, whisked

1/2 C chopped scallions

1/4 C matzo meal

1/2 t baking powder

2 t salt

1/2 t pepper

oil for frying

Peel and grate the potatoes into a colander over a large bowl. Grate the onions and add to the colander. Squeeze and allow to drain for about 5 minutes. Pour off the liquid in the bowl, leaving the starchy paste at the bottom. Transfer the potato mixture to the bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. Pour about 1/8-inch layer of oil into a large skillet and heat until shimmering. Use a 1/4 C measure to transfer batter to the skillet. Flatten slightly and cook until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining batter. 



4 russet potatoes

4 T butter, divided

salt, to taste

Peel the potatoes and grate into a colander; allow to drain for 5 minutes. Melt 3 T butter in a cast-iron skillet. Add potatoes and sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium, stirring a few times to get all the potatoes coated with butter. Smooth the potatoes into a dense cake and cook for 10 minutes on low. Cover the pan and cook an additional 10 minutes. Once the bottom of the potatoes are golden, place a plate on top of the potatoes. Invert the pan to release the potatoes onto the plate. Place the pan back on the stove and add 1 T butter. After butter melts, slide the cake back into the pan, golden side up. Use the spatula to pack down the potatoes. Cook for another 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and cut into wedges to serve.


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