Anatomy of a Full Irish Breakfast

Cook, Holidays, Holidays, Regional Spotlight, St. Patrick's Day

What Is a Full Irish Breakfast

St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner, and if you plan to celebrate by throwing back a pints of stout or shots of whiskey, you might want to follow that up with a solid meal. Enter the full Irish breakfast.


A full breakfast, or “fry-up,” as it’s sometimes known, is common in pubs across Ireland. It’s a major meal that’s not for the the faint of heart: Historically, it was meant to prepare farmers for a long day of labor, and many of the ingredients featured, from the eggs to the vegetables to the sausage, served to make the most of what was on the farm.


In case you’re curious as to what complete a full breakfast in Ireland, here’s a rundown (detailed on the plate above, clockwise from top left):


  • Eggs: Two farm-fresh eggs, either fried to your liking or scrambled
  • Streaky bacon: Streaky bacon, or American bacon, is often served on the plate.
  • Pork sausage: A couple of links of fried pork sausage
  • Rashers: Instead of streaky bacon, in Ireland, many full breakfasts come with rashers instead. Rashers are a leaner, wider cut of back bacon that’s similar to Canadian bacon.
  • Black pudding: Black pudding, or blood sausage, is a common part of full Irish, Scottish and English breakfasts. It’s typically made using pork blood, pork or beef fat, oatmeal and flavorings such as allspice.
  • White pudding: Like black pudding, white pudding contains pork, spices, and oatmeal, but it doesn’t contain blood. A specialty of certain Irish counties (like Cork), white pudding is a crucial part of an Irish breakfast.
  • Potatoes: Unsurprisingly, potatoes usually make it onto an Irish breakfast plate. This typically means a potato pancake called boxty, or, if you’re a true purist, potato leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. (We like to think the fries here count.)
  • Baked beans: Both English and Irish breakfasts often include a generous serving of baked beans, white cannellini beans stewed in a tomato-based sauce with sugar and vinegar.
  • Fried or broiled vegetables (not pictured): Often, a plate of Irish breakfast will come with halved tomatoes that have been broiled or lightly sautéed, a medley of mushrooms or a single portobello mushroom cap.

On the side, you might expect to be offered HP Sauce, a spicy, tart condiment that’s served with sausage; toasted brown or soda bread, which is ideal for sopping up the saucy beans; ketchup, to pair with anything potato; and another great hangover cure: strong cup of coffee or tea. Of course, if you want to keep the party going, you could always reach for an Irish coffee.


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