Ireland: Potato Candy

Every year around Saint Patrick's Day we get a number of hits on our site from people who're looking for something called Irish Potato Candy.

When these inquiries first started coming in, EuroCuisineLady had been living in Ireland for about thirteen or fourteen years, and had never seen or heard of any kind of potato candy here. So she asked various of her neighbors and Irish friends about it. They told her that wherever "Irish potato candy" came from, it wasn't Ireland. None of the natives had ever seen or heard of it before, and they chalked it up to being yet another Irish-American invention like green beer. (To judge from this page, it may have come from Philadelphia.)

That said, people do still come to our site looking for potato candy. So here are the three recipes we've been able to dig up. (Also don't forget the above-referenced Philly-based confectioner selling their own version of Irish potato candy online. There's also a Michigan-based Irish-foods-and-gifts company selling something similar here.)

The first of the recipes we found has peanut butter in it, which instantly marks it out as not being native Irish: peanut butter was not available in Ireland before the 1980's except in a very few gourmet groceries. Now it can be found in supermarkets, but it's still not hugely popular.

The second recipe involves making a dough of out of mashed potato and confectioners' sugar (and sometimes shredded coconut as well) and then rolling it in cinnamon.

The third recipe produces tiny little potato shapes, but doesn't actually have any potato in it: its main ingredients are butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and coconut. (Jody at Eddybles has a nice take on this variation, too.)

So here are the recipes. (A side note: if you're interested in making a traditional Irish candy dating back more than two centuries, check out our recipe for Yellowman, a crunchy brown sugar-based toffee.)

Irish potato candy #1:

  • 1 small potato
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • Peanut butter

Boil potato until tender. Peel off skin and mash. Add confectioners sugar until a stiff dough is formed. Roll out on a sugared board until thin. Spread with peanut butter to cover the potato dough. Roll up like a jellyroll. Chill, then cut into thin slices.

Irish potato candy recipe #2:

  • 1/4 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Cinnamon

Put potatoes in large bowl (can use instant potatoes to make 1/4 cup). Add salt, sugar, vanilla extract, coconut and butter. Mix well. Knead several minutes, adding more sugar, if necessary, to make a stiff dough. Tear off a teaspoon of dough and form into a small log shape. Roll in cinnamon. Lay on wax paper for 1 hour to dry. Store in an airtight container.

Irish potato candy #3:

  • 55g / 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 112g / 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 5 ml / 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 480g / 1 1-pound box confectioners' sugar
  • 185g / 1 7-ounce bag flaked coconut
  • 7g / 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners' sugar; again beat until smooth.

Using your hands if necessary, mix in the coconut. Roll into balls or potato shapes, and roll in the cinnamon.

Place on a cookie sheet and chill to set. If desired, roll potatoes in cinnamon again for darker color.

(Optional: some versions of this recipe add a little more confectioner's sugar and a tablespoon of Irish whiskey. Also: wouldn't cocoa taste and look better?)

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