Boxty, classic Irish potato pancakes are delightful for breakfast or supper. They are easy to make and are very satisfying on a cold autumn or winter day.
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You might be wondering what boxty is. Boxty pancake is a traditional Irish breakfast item that has stood the test of time. Basically, it is a potato pancake that is made from both mashed potatoes and grated potatoes. This pancake is cooked in fat on the griddle or in a cast iron skillet.
It is economical, and will fill you up if you're hungry, but the best part is the taste. We think it tastes similar to the filling of pierogi. If you like hash browns or traditional pancakes, you'll be a fan of boxty.
There is an old Irish nursery rhyme that goes, "Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan. If you can't make boxty, you'll never get a man." I like to think of it as the Irish's version of "Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake baker's man, bake me a cake as fast as you can."
If there is any truth to that old saying, it must be quite a tasty dish if many Irishmen want to eat it.
Boxty is made from ingredients that most Irish people would have in their pantry or fridge. All the ingredients are low cost and easy to find at a grocery store. Let's talk about the key ingredients.
- Potatoes: Choose a floury, not waxy, variety; in the US, this would be a russet potato. Half the potatoes are boiled and mashed, which add bulk, and the other half are grated.
- Buttermilk: This tangy ingredient provides the creamy acidity and works well with potatoes. If you don't have any at home, you can make your own by combining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and letting it rest for 10 minutes.
- Baking soda: This is the rising agent and reacts with the buttermilk to make them light and fluffy.
- Salt: This provides the right balance of flavor. In Ireland, they use less salt, but American palettes would prefer more.
How to Make
Not Pictured: Boil 3 potatoes in salted water with their skins on until fork tender. Cool 10 minutes and remove the skins then mash. Cover and cool in fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or use leftover mashed potatoes.
- Coarsely grate 3 peeled raw potatoes into a clean kitchen towel.
- Twist it over a bowl to wring out all the liquid from the potatoes.
3. Place the cooled mashed potatoes and the grated potatoes in a large bowl. Mix together with your hands, then add the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and bacon grease and mix again.
4. Add buttermilk until the batter reaches the consistency you want. Use 1 ½ cups for a thick batter, or more for a thin batter. Pictured below is a thick batter.
5. Let the batter rest for 20 minutes.
6. Over medium high heat, melt the fat in a cast iron skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the batter, using a spoon to spread it out. Lower the heat to medium low and cook each boxty pancake for 4 minutes on each side for a ¼ inch thick pancake. (Use a shorter cooking time for a thinner crepe.)
7. Keep the pancakes warm in a 180°F oven while you cook the rest of the batter.
8. Serve the boxty with while still crispy and warm with the toppings and sides of your choice.
Potatoes are the main ingredient. Boxty is a regional dish in Ireland, so there are many different recipes. Most recipes call for grated and mashed potatoes, but some only use the grated potato. Some traditional recipes call for reserving the starch which acts as a binder, and other recipes use melted butter or egg as the binder. Flour, baking soda, salt, and some sort of milk is also added.
The word boxty can refer to a batter that is shaped and fried in a griddle, made into a dough and shaped into a loaf, or made into a dough and boiled. Potato bread is a bread dough that has mashed potato kneaded into the dough and is baked in the oven. It is much lighter and fluffier than a boxty bread.
Traditionally, it was eaten on October 31, when the potato crop was plentiful, but it was also eaten throughout the fall and winter months. It is very satisfying on a cold, dreary day.
Boxty was invented by the Irish peasants back in the 1700's as another inventive way to use potatoes with ingredients they already had in their pantries. Potatoes were relied upon by many of the Irish to help them survive.
- Craving this for breakfast? Serve it along side fried or poached eggs and bacon and sliced tomatoes. It is similar tasting to hash browns.
- Thinking of a supper menu? Thin the potato batter with additional buttermilk, and make it into crepes that are filled with cubed meat, folded in half, and topped with a savory sauce. Served with a side of roasted vegetables.
- Want an elegant appetizer? Make small boxty pancakes topped with smoked salmon, sour cream and pickled onions.
- Don't like your boxty plain? Add grated apple, cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon or scallions to the batter.
- Make Ahead: The mashed potatoes can be made the night before, and if you prefer to use bacon grease, fry up the bacon and reserve the fat.
- Leftovers: Cover any leftover batter to use the next day, or store cooked and cooled boxty pancakes in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Reheat: To use up leftover batter, cook as directed in recipe. To reheat leftover boxty, warm it up in a cast iron skillet over medium low heat with a little fat until it is crispy.
- Freeze: Freeze leftover boxty pancakes for up to one month. When ready to use thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in a skillet with fat over medium low heat.
- Determine the thickness: Boxty batter can be thick like American pancakes or thin like French crepes.
- Alternative to bread: It is also served in some areas of Ireland as an alternative to brown soda bread, which is part of the Ulster fry (a full Irish breakfast).
- Keep extras warm: If you are making lots of boxty pancakes, keep the cooked ones warm in a low oven (180°F) while you fry up the rest of the batter.
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Boxty (Irish Potato Pancakes)
- 3 medium russet potatoes, mashed
- 3 medium russet potatoes, grated
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon sugar, optional
- 4 tablespoons bacon grease, 1 for batter, 3 for frying
- Scrub 3 potatoes, and place in a pot of cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Remove the lid and reduce the heat to simmer. Every 5 minutes check if the potatoes are done with a fork. Once soft enough, remove and allow to cool on a plate for 10 minutes. Remove the peel and mash while still warm. Cover and chill for a minimum of 3 hours or use leftover mashed potatoes.
- Scrub and peel 3 potatoes. Using a box grater, grate the potato over a clean kitchen towel. Wring the towel tightly to squeeze out the extra water over a bowl.
- Place the grated potato and cooled mashed potato in a large bowl and mix together with your hand, then add the flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, sugar, and mix well.
- Add 1 tablespoon of bacon grease (or melted butter) and mix in well before pouring in the buttermilk. Stir to combine. If you want a thin batter, pour in more buttermilk to get the consistency you want for the batter. Let the batter rest for 20 minutes.
- In a cast iron skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of bacon grease (or butter) over medium high heat until shimmering, pour in the potato batter, using a spoon to spread it around to get your desired thickness. Lower the heat to medium low. Cook 4 minutes each side for a ¼ inch thick pancake. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Irish potato pancakes take longer to cook then American pancakes because of the raw grated potato.
- Boxty or Irish potato pancakes taste best when served immediately to keep their crispness. They lose their appeal when they are soggy. Serve with your choice of savory toppings, such as chives, bacon, poached egg, sausage and sour cream. (They're similar in taste to hash browns.)
- Boxty or Irish potato pancake batter can be thick like American pancakes or thin like French crepes depending on the amount of buttermilk that is used.
- Irish potato pancakes are also served in some areas of Ireland as an alternative to brown soda bread, which is part of the Ulster fry up (a full Irish breakfast).
- If you are making lots of Irish potato pancakes, keep the cooked ones warm in a low oven (180°F) while you fry up the rest of the batter, but they taste best right off the griddle when they are crisp.
This post was originally published on March 8, 2018 and was republished on February 18, 2022 with new photos and updated content.