Give this absolutely delicious and totally traditional Irish recipe a try this St. Patrick's Day.
Champ is a potato specialty in Ireland and is one of my favorite side dishes. Delicious and easy, champ is made by warming chopped green onions in milk before mixing them through mashed potatoes. Topped with a knob of melting butter these onion-laced spuds ooze with buttery goodness.
We Irish love our spuds and as a result, we expertly serve potatoes in many ways. Champ is made throughout Ireland, but especially in the northern counties. It’s a great alternative way to serve mashed potatoes, and very easy to make from scratch.
By warming milk with chopped green onions, or scallions as we say in Ireland, the milk becomes infused with a subtle onion flavor, that once combined with mashed potatoes, takes those taters to a whole new level of tastiness.
Colcannon combines mashed potatoes with curly kale, while champ is a green onion and potato combination. There are many variations of champ throughout Ireland, and the green onions can be substituted with leeks, chives, parsley, parsnip, garlic or even young nettles.
However, for today’s recipe, I’m going to stick with the more traditional version of champ, using green onions and potatoes. So, if you’re ready for an Irish twist on mashed potatoes, let’s learn how to make champ.
Traditional Irish champ recipe
- 6 to 8 unpeeled potatoes
- 4 ounces or one bunch of green onions
- 1 to 1.5 cups of whole milk
- Salt and pepper to season
- 2 to 3 ounces of butter
The first decision when making champ is whether to peel your potatoes before or after you boil them. I like to use unpeeled potatoes since I think boiling them in their jackets helps to retain some of their floury texture and helps seal in their flavor.
If you can use a floury potato that would be wonderful. You can check out my post about floury potatoes if you don’t understand this ever so Irish term for describing potatoes.
In America, I use Yukon Golds or russet potatoes, but when I’m in Ireland Golden Wonders are my favorite potato variety for champ.
Scrub the potatoes and place them unpeeled into a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender.
While the potatoes are cooking prepare the green onions or scallions.
I cut off and discard the bottoms and the upper third of the green stalks. The lower white onion bulb and lighter green stalks are the tastiest.
Finely dice the remainder of the green onions.
Place the chopped scallions in a saucepan and cover with one cup of whole milk.
Reserve the additional 1/2 cup of milk, only to be used if needed. The exact amount of milk required is dependent upon how floury a potato variety you use. I don’t use all the milk when softening the green onions, since it is better not to add too much milk to the potatoes initially, just in case you make them too sloppy.
Turn the heat to a low setting and slowly bring the milk to simmering point. Let it simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let it stand so the onion flavor can infuse the milk.
Next, it’s time to get mashing the potatoes. Once they are cooked, drain the water and let them cool slightly.
Peel the potatoes and return them to the saucepan.
Use a potato masher to smash the potatoes.
Add one ounce of butter to the hot milk and green onion mixture and allow it to melt.
While the milk and potatoes are still hot, mix them together. Use the potato masher to combine them fully.
If your potatoes are very floury you may need an additional 1/2 cup of milk. If so heat it slightly in a microwave for about 20 seconds, then gradually add it to the potatoes until you achieve a loose consistency.
Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. White pepper would be used in Ireland rather than black pepper. I prefer not to see black specks of pepper in my champ.
Serve the champ in a bowl as a side dish or spoon it onto the plate beside a meat or fish dish.
Most importantly use the back of a spoon to create a little hollow in the top of the champ. Then place a knob of butter right on top of the hot champ.
The butter will melt and start to ooze down the sides of the champ. Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!
Champ is an economical, nutritious and extremely tasty side dish. It can be made in advance and can be reheated in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes. Place it in an oven proof dish but be sure to cover the top with foil. Otherwise, hard skin will form on top as it is reheated.
Champ and colcannon can be made using leftover mashed potatoes. Simply heat the milk and green onions and add it to the cold mashed potatoes. Then, transfer to an oven proof dish and reheat for about 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven. This tastes lovely, but champ is best when made with freshly boiled potatoes.
Champ is a great side for cod and parsley sauce, fish cakes, lamb chops, or pork chops.
One great tip is to substitute some cream for some of the milk or use half and half instead of milk for a creamier champ.
You could also use red potatoes and mash them skin and all. The red flecks of the potato skins look lovely with the green onions.
And if you like to spice things up a little more than the typical Irish palate is accustomed to, why not try a dash of cayenne pepper instead of regular pepper. That’s altogether delicious and kicks this champ recipe up a notch or two in its flavor profile.
*Mairead Geary came to America for one year 20 years ago. She now lives with her husband and children in Kentucky and is proud to be an American citizen. Read more on her blog here.
What's your favorite Irish recipe? Let us know in the comments!