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You can make these savory, satisfying colcannon cakes from scratch, with leftover mashed potatoes, or with leftover colcannon. No matter how you do it, they're quick to make and quicker to disappear.
Why we love this recipe
Fritters are basically perfection under any circumstances. And when you can make them from leftovers, they skyrocket to a whole new level of genius. Colcannon cakes are a great any-day meal made from scratch, and it's especially good in the days after Thanksgiving or St. Paddy's when you want to transform your leftover mashed potatoes or colcannon into something new.
Colcannon cheddar skillet cakes are:
- Crisp outside, tender inside
- Full of savory flavors
- Great as a vegetarian main dish (maybe with an egg on top) or as two-bite snacks or starters
- Family-friendly and super-flexible
I first published this recipe here in 2105. I've since updated the post for clarity, but the recipe remains the same. If you're a fan of old-school food blog narrative, you can scroll below the recipe card for a taste of the original text.
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make colcannon cakes.
- Here I've started with leftover mashed potatoes. You'll need that, leftover colcannon, or potatoes, whole milk, and butter.
- I love the delicate, complex flavor of shallots, but you can use one small yellow onion instead if that's what you've got.
- The sharpest cheddar makes the best colcannon cheddar skillet cakes (and, in my opinion, the best everything). That said, this recipe is super-flexible, and you can pretty much use any meltable, semi-hard cheese that you like.
- No need to get fancy with the cabbage. A head of good old salt-of-the-earth green cabbage works brilliantly. You can sub in other hearty greens instead if you prefer.
- Safflower oil (not pictured) is my high-smoke-point, neutral-tasting oil of choice for pan frying. Other good contenders: vegetable oil blend, canola oil, peanut oil, and sunflower oil.
How to make them
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a cozy batch of colcannon cheddar skillet cakes. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get the details in the recipe card below.
- Your first steps will depend on where you're starting. In the photos here I've started with leftover mashed potatoes, so I'm sautéeing the cabbage and shallots in some olive oil first. If you're starting with raw ingredients, you'll also cook and season the potatoes before proceeding.
- Once all the elements are prepped, you'll start to mix everything together. Here I've stirred the cabbage mixture into the leftover mashed potatoes and am adding a couple of beaten eggs, the pepper, and shredded cheddar.
- After everything else is mixed together, you'll sprinkle on the flour and stir until it's incorporated.
- Heat some safflower oil on a skillet and cook the colcannon cakes for several minutes on each side, until browned and cooked through. That's it!
Expert tips and FAQs
Colcannon is a dish of Irish origin made from potatoes and cabbage or kale. I think of it as Irish mashed potatoes loaded with my favorite things — greens, something oniony, milk or cream, and butter. Beyond that, the details of traditional colcannon vary by region.
Any semi-firm, shreddable cheese that melts well is a great choice for colcannon cakes. Gruyere, smoked gouda, pepper jack, fontina, and provolone come to mind immediately as easy options, each of which would give these fritters its own delightful character.
As with cheeses, you can substitute a wide variety of hearty cooking greens into these fritters. Kale is a classic option, but collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, spinach, and many more would work well. If there's any liquid in the pan after cooking, drain it before adding greens to the colcannon cake mixture.
Fritters are at their crisp outside, tender inside best shortly after cooking. That said, they can be made up to a week in advance and reheated in a 300°F oven or toaster oven if you like. Treat leftovers the same way.
Like fritters? Me tooooooo. Don’t miss:
- 4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (about 2 pounds/900 grams)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 shallots, minced
- ½ head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) butter
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
- 1 cup (235 ml) whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ounces (115 grams) extra-sharp cheddar, shredded
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
- Safflower oil for the skillet
- In a medium pot, cover the potatoes with cold water by an inch or two, add the tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes give or take depending on how big the pieces are. Drain potatoes in a colander and set aside.
- While the potatoes cook, prepare the shallots and cabbage.
- Return the same pot to the stove and heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cabbage and cook, stirring frequently (tongs are useful here), until cabbage is wilted and somewhat tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the milk, raise heat to high, and warm until gently simmering. Remove pot from heat. Return the potatoes to the pot, add the teaspoon of salt and the pepper, and mash well with a potato masher. Stir in the cheddar.
- At this point the mixture will need to cool slightly — so either turn it out into a mixing bowl to speed the process or leave it in the pot to spare a dirty dish and wait a few minutes longer.
- Make a well in the center of the potatoes and crack the eggs into it. Beat them well, then stir completely into the mix. Sprinkle the flour over the whole thing and mix in thoroughly.
- Heat a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. When it shimmers, spoon about three tablespoons of the mixture into the pan to form a reasonably round cake. You should be able to fit 4 cakes in the skillet at a time without crowding. Cook undisturbed for a few minutes, until the underside is nicely browned. Flip gently with a spatula and cook until the second side is browned, a few minutes more. You may need to adjust the heat so the cakes cook through in the same amount of time they take to brown.
- Set on a paper towel-lined plate or in a 200°F oven while you cook the remaining batches. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- If starting with leftover mashed potatoes or colcannon, use about two pounds.
- For leftover mashed potatoes, begin by cutting the shallots and cabbage and cooking them in the olive oil (omit butter, since it's probably already in your mashed potatoes). Let cabbage cool a bit, then add to a large bowl with the mashed potatoes, pepper, and cheddar and stir together. Proceed from step 6.
- For leftover colcannon, place it in a large bowl, stir in cheddar and pepper, and proceed from step 6.
- Any semi-firm, shreddable cheese that melts well is a great choice. Gruyere, smoked gouda, pepper jack, fontina, and provolone come to mind immediately as easy options, each of which would give these fritters its own delightful character.
- As with cheeses, you can substitute a wide variety of hearty cooking greens into these fritters. Kale is a classic option, but collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, spinach, and many more would work well. If there's any liquid in the pan after cooking, drain it before adding greens to the colcannon cake mixture.
- Fritters are at their crisp outside, tender inside best shortly after cooking. That said, they can be made up to a week in advance and reheated in a 300°F oven or toaster oven if you like. Treat leftovers the same way.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 356Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 443mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 11g
A taste of the 2015 text
Scripps National Potato Day
In truth, St. Paddy’s this year was no more to us than The Day After the Spelling Bee. We had a competitor in the regional round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a.k.a. the only time I cross paths with ESPN. She did great, and then, like 93 out of the 94 competitors from our region, she spelled something wrong. We needed a day to recover.
This won’t surprise you: boy did I love being in the audience at the spelling bee. There were magic moments. I liked how much you could tell about a kid by whether they chose the microphone that was slightly too short or slightly too tall for them. There was a boy who went everywhere skipping. One child asked to please be read the definition of “macaroni” — a clear stalling tactic I would emulate every day if I could. The sheer number of food words, arranged neatly by language of origin, verklempted me more than once. And the whole thing was both live-streamed on the sponsoring newspaper’s website and recorded on an analog tape deck. Which malfunctioned and was rewound with a pencil. Because it’s 2015.
With all that excitement, who could cook cabbage the following day? Lucky for all of us, this is a leftovers recipe you can make all at once. Technically colcannon itself — mashed potatoes with cabbage sneaked in — is usually leftovers to begin with, so making this recipe in a single bound pretty much breaks the space-time continuum. That’s a lofty goal for comfort food, but it’s one you can achieve P-R-O-M-P-T-L-Y.