Traditional Full Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish?

You will see the signs everywhere in Ireland from gourmet restaurants to petrol stations –  traditional Irish Breakfast – Full Irish breakfast – Ulster Fry Breakfast or even Irish Fry Up.  They are all versions of the same traditional full Irish breakfast served for years throughout the country.

Even Anthony Bourdain raved, “No morning in Ireland is fully experienced without the sublime wonder of a traditional Irish breakfast.”

This massive cooked breakfast will fill you up and get you ready for a hard day of hiking, trekking, touring and visiting ancient castles and ruins in Ireland. A full breakfast is a traditional Irish breakfast that has been served for years items have been added and removed over the years but originally the traditional Irish breakfast was made to fortify those who were cutting turf or working on the farms that crisscross the country.

A fry-up breakfast in Ireland is part of thetraditional Irish food culture of the country. It also sets you up for a day of travelling the Emerald Isle.

man sitting in front of a plate of a traditional Irish breakfast. The breakfast consists of fried eggs, sausages, beans, Irish bacon, mushrooms and boxty.

In Ireland, you will find a full Irish breakfast all over, even petrol stations have them. Usually, when done at home it’s a weekend or holiday treat because the calorie level is pretty high. Oh, and by the way, unlike some websites that say Bubble and squeak are in a full Irish breakfast ignore them that is a British tradition and it is not a breakfast favourite.

Are Hash Browns served with an Irish breakfast? Sadly the ubiquitous American hash brown is now a common part of an Irish breakfast obviously this is not traditional but they are perfect to collect those lovely egg yolk drippings.

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Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

What is part of a traditional full Irish breakfast?  

What is an Irish breakfast? There is no absolute Irish breakfast recipe it is simply a host of fine ingredients served on a plate and enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of it. Here are the traditional Irish breakfast foods.


Irish breakfast ingredients 

Irish breakfast ingredients consist of a variety of items that are typically cooked together in a skillet or frying pan to create a hearty meal. The main ingredients include pork meat, american bacon, black pudding (a blood sausage), white pudding, and fried potato or a potato farl.

A full Irish breakfast recipe is part of a full breakfast usually involves frying these ingredients on a medium heat until crispy, season with salt and pepper, and served with brown sauce and a cup of tea along with a glass of orange juice. Each ingredient might have different cooking times, so it’s important to time everything correctly. This comfort food is often enjoyed in Ireland on weekends after a night on the lash at the pub and is a staple on the Irish breakfast menu.

Leftover mashed potatoes are used to make farls or boxty which is the key to a great Irish breakfast. Your Irish breakfast may be served casually at a road side convenience shop or on fine china at a swanky hotel. This real Irish breakfast will be found on the breakfast menu of most Irish restaurants.

  • Irish sausages pork – should be a high meat content and be locally made
  • Irish bacon slices – not American streaky bacon
  • fried eggs – the white firm and the yolk lovely and runny usually sunny side up
  • or scrambled eggs or even poached eggs can be involved
  • beans – good old baked beans usually Heinz – although some Irish swear this is a British addition
  • tomatoes – cut in half and grilled till a little soft and bubbly with caramelized edges
  • button mushrooms – sliced and sauteed in butter
  • hash browns – an American tradition usually a triangular shape and they come frozen and are fried till crisp and golden
  • fried bread – not so much an Irish thing (except in the North) day-old or stale bread fried till golden in bacon fat
  • boxty/fadge/potato pancakes – thin triangular-shaped potato pancakes very traditional, and also known as Irish potato bread
  • Irish Soda bread –  called potato farls in Northern Ireland are a triangular-shaped soda bread (traditional in the North) that is fried with some bacon fat
  • Irish Brown Bread – a soda bread popular all over Ireland made with full bran flour.
  • Irish butter –  a little knob of Irish butter (preferably Kerry Gold) is a must to slather on your brown bread or soda bread preferably Kerry Gold.
  • of course, there is also orange juice and tea on the side
  • Irish black pudding – black pudding (also called blood pudding) is made from pork blood and – is surprisingly tasty when grilled or fried 
  • white pudding is also called drisheen and is made from pork fat
  • big cup of tea – best is Barry’s Tea
  • Brown Sauce – usually HP sauce
Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

When cooking a Full Irish breakfast at home you need good smoked Irish bacon or Irish rashers (in N. America these are usually called English or Canadian bacon or smoked pork from the loin). You can usually pick up some boxty or potato pancakes at British speciality shops and occasionally some farls. A full Irish breakfast simply isn’t complete without the boxty, farls or potato pancakes as far as I’m concerned.

Irish rashers or bacon unique to Ireland

What are Irish rashers? Irish bacon is traditionally made from the back of the pig as opposed to the pork belly. It is similar to Canadian bacon; both Canadian and Irish bacon is referred to as back bacon but the Irish variety has a little more fat and it is not rolled in bread or cornmeal crumbs.

Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

A typical Irish breakfast is not necessarily a full Irish breakfast meal, most Irish save the traditional Irish breakfast for special occasions, Sunday morning or have a much smaller version if they need the energy to do a strenuous job.

What is an Ulster Fry?

What is an Ulster fry? You will see that some ‘experts’ note the difference between a Full Irish and an Ulster Fry is that an Ulster Fry includes potato pancakes also known as farls or boxty. However not quite true as many Full Irish breakfasts include boxty the only real difference is that an Ulster Fry includes Irish Soda Bread. A favourite on the go breakfast is a breakfast roll which is stuffed with an Ulster Fry.

Planning a trip to Ireland? Here’s everything you need to know

Difference between full Irish and full English

What’s the difference between a full English Breakfast and an Irish breakfast? Full Irish, Full English, Full Scottish, Ulster Fry, Full Welsh, a fry up, and the full Monty are all names for a meal that is the fuel of a good day.  Served throughout the British Isles and Ireland for breakfast this great plate of food is consumed in vast quantities. The main difference between the full English and the full Irish is the use of baked beans which the Irish claim not to have with breakfast. However, I’ve been to many a restaurant in Ireland where breakfast is served with beans.

Truth be told there isn’t much difference between a full Irish breakfast and the “competing” Welsh, Scottish or English versions. Most of these “full” breakfasts have a range of ingredients but usually always a pork sausage and a rasher or two with eggs. Beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and black or white pudding are optional depending on what region of the country you are from.

Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

Generally, it is served only on special occasions or weekends as it does tend to be a bit heavy, but many B&B’s, roadside stops and restaurants offer their version of a Full Irish breakfast. Each area has its own version of the breakfast, often served with regional favourites.

A Full Irish Breakfast – the all-important brown soda bread or boxty

A full Irish breakfast will always include Irish farls otherwise known as potato pancakes, fadge, and boxty, rashers (Irish bacon), black and white pudding, eggs, sausages and sometimes a nice homemade soda bread. You will occasionally these days find pre-made hashbrowns and beans although most Irish will swear that beans should never be added. It may also include a grilled tomato and sauteed mushrooms.

Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

A full English breakfast

Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

A Full English Breakfast tends to begin with a couple of fried eggs, good lean English back bacon, a couple of tasty pork sausages, fried bread (delicious white bread fried in the bacon grease), baked beans, grilled tomato and mushrooms and sometimes black pudding depending on where in England you are.

A full Scottish Breakfast

Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

What is the difference between a full English and a full Scottish breakfast? A Full Scottish will have a couple of eggs, good Scottish bacon, black pudding, white pudding, Lorne sausage, tattie scones, and toast.

A Traditional Welsh Breakfast

Welsh breakfast is very similar but served with Laverbread or laver cakes, these are a kind of pancake that is made with seaweed and oatmeal and is traditionally served with breakfast but sometimes with a roast dinner.

Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

Traditional Irish breakfast – boxty, farls, tattie scones, poundies

Potato “bread” goes by many regional names, including slims, fadge, potato cake, potato pancakes, farls, and tattie scones in Scotland, Boxty (bacstaí in Gaelic)  poundy or poundies.  These are totally different to Potato Bread as they are a sort of flat unleavened triangular-shaped patty, they are usually made with raw grated potato and some leftover mash although some folks have been known to make them with just leftover mashed potato. There are also Soda Farls which is a leavened potato bread often served at breakfast as well.

Potato boxty in a dark black griddle. The boxty is decorated with bacon tomatoes and onions. It is a lovely crispy brown shade

Get your Boxty recipe by downloading here

The best recipes for fadge consist of finely grated, raw potato and mashed potato with flour, baking soda, buttermilk and sometimes egg.  The mixture is then gently pulled together and rolled into a flat round shape and then cut into triangles.

It is then fried on a griddle until it is browned a little.  The “cakes” can then be frozen or kept for a few days in the fridge to be pulled out for breakfast.  For breakfast, they are fried in a little butter until the cake gets slightly crisp outside.

Best traditional Irish breakfast in Dublin?

I can give you a couple of restaurants in Dublin that serve a traditional Irish breakfast and here they are:

Place: Sophie’s Restaurant and Bar Location: 33 Harcourt St, Dublin 2 Breakfast Time: 7.00 am – 11.00 am

What to Expect: Sophie’s Restaurant and Bar is a spacious glasshouse restaurant on the top floor of The Dean Dublin. The top floor it offers 360-degree views of Dublin. It also has an open-air top-floor terrace that looks out over Harcourt Street and Dublin rooftops as far as the eye can see. Their full Irish breakfast also known as ‘The Works’ comes with all the trimmings; sausages, bacon, black and white pudding, fried eggs, beans and toast.

Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

Place: Bewley’s Grafton Street Location: 78- 79 Grafton Street, Dublin 2. Breakfast Time: Monday to Friday 7.30 am – 12.30 pm. Saturday and Sunday till 2.30.

What to Expect: Bewley’s Grafton Street is one of Dublin‘s most iconic landmarks. Their full Irish breakfasts have two to choose from; the Bewley’s Breakfast and the Bewley’s Light Breakfast. Sliced bacon, hand-tied sausages, black and white pudding, cherry tomatoes and scrambled eggs are all served with a generous helping of traditional brown soda bread. Add a cup of their world-renowned traditional Irish tea and coffee and you’re set for the day.

Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

Place: Gallagher’s Boxty House, Location: 20-21, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Breakfast time Monday to Friday at 9am and Saturday, Sunday 10 am.

What to expect: Gallagher’s is known for authentic Boxty a sort of potato pancake and they serve the 3 types of Boxty found in the border counties of Leitrim, Cavan and Fermanagh.

You can eat Boxty Eggs Benedict, or try the full Irish Boxty breakfast it comes with sausage, Irish bacon, mushroom, baked tomato, black pudding, fried eggs and Boxty crisp.

Traditional Irish Breakfast: what is a full Irish breakfast?

Want to know where to eat in Dublin and get a great full Irish? From breakfast to dinner here are our Irish faves.

So there you have it so enjoy your full Irish breakfast wherever you may find it. This traditional Irish breakfast will keep you going for hours.

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  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

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