Luck of the Irish: Vegan Colcannon

by Gena on March 16, 2011

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Greetings, all!

Nice responses to yesterday’s post. I was amazed at how many of us said that nutritional yeast (“nooch”) was on our list of foods that we’d never have tried without veganism. At the risk of turning this post into one giant debate about whether or not nooch is healthy, I did want to respond to reader Andrea (aloha, Andrea!) who asked:

I noticed that LOTS of folks expressed their love of nooch in their comments. I’ve always had it (and used in homemade seitan) but recently I’ve been eating a lot more, and i was curious what you think about this food item. For me it falls under the “it’s too damn good, I am not sure if i should be eating it” category!

Good question, but my answer is that I don’t think you ought to worry. Judging purely from its nutrition label, nooch is perfectly healthy—in fact, it’s a very convenient way to pack eight grams of protein into a dish. And while the safety of nooch for candida sufferers is hotly contested, my own view is that the yeast in nooch is 100% inactive, and safe to eat. I’ve run this by my physician (who is vegan friendly) and a fellow dietician, who have both agreed. You can probably find some heavily anti-nooch sentiments online (that’s true of any ingredient), but my feeling is that it’s as safe as it is delicious.

Nooch happens to have a supporting role in today’s dish, which is in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Since I’ll be traveling tomorrow, St. Paddy’s came two nights early for me and M, with a potato themed feast. I whipped up some Irish soda bread (a vegan version of Elise’s recipe for it), a simple cabbage and white bean soup, and my personal favorite Irish dish: colcannon.

Colcannon is an example of simple, rustic food at its best. It’s a mashed potato dish made with cabbage or kale, though the cabbage variety is more traditional. Depending on how fancy you want to be, you can add chives, sour cream, butter, leeks, bacon, or ham to the dish: I happen to think colcannon is best when it’s on the simpler side. I always make it with kale, since I prefer kale to cabbage, and I always add a good hefty dose of Earth Balance: this is not the kind of food that begs for health-minded restraint. It’s a dish that begs for a liberal hand with buttery flavor. With all of that said, I’ve got my own recipe down to two tablespoons of Earth Balance and a bit of olive oil, which I don’t think is too outrageous. And since the boy is a big fan of Field Roast, I thought I’d replicate some of the smokiness and flavor that typically comes from ham or Irish bacon with a bit of the Field Roast apple sage sausage, which had been seared and had also gone in my cabbage stew. Good move. I added just enough that it was hard to detect, but lent flecks of salt and flavor to the dish.

There are tons of colcannon varieties at large on the web: a quick search will present you with many options for making it. Mine was first inspired by Lolo’s recipe, and it has evolved each time I make it. I generally like to sauté my kale in a little garlic, and add my cooked potatoes to that same dish, so that they soak up the flavors and the kale is distributed evenly. You could definitely mash your potatoes first, and add the kale after; if you want, you could even leave the kale raw. I toyed with that idea this time, and then decided that I eat enough raw kale; it begs for some cooking now and then.

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Vegan Colcannon (vegan)

(serves 3-4)

5-6 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 cups of finely chopped and washed kale
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Earth Balance
1/3 cup almond milk
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp thyme (optional)
1/3 cup seared and finely chopped Field Roast sausage (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Put a salted pot of water on to boil. When it’s boiling, add the potatoes and boil till very tender.

2) Heat the oil in a large skillet or shallow pot, and add garlic. Swirl garlic around till its a little golden, and then add the kale. Flash cook the kale till soft and reduced, about a minute.

3) Add potatoes to the kale, and mash roughly with a hand held potato masher. Add Earth Balance, almond milk, and salt and pepper. Make sure to season well. Add the Field Roast if using, and mix to incorporate.

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4) Serve hot. Swoon.

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As a rule, I’m a cook with impressive self-restraint: I tend not to fall into the trap of licking and tasting and nibbling as I work. It’s a lot nicer to save my appetite for dinnertime. But this dish had me licking the spoon and “checking for seasoning” like my life depended on it. It’s so simple, so delicious, and so comforting. I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’ve got even a spare moment before tomorrow’s celebration, whip this one up. You won’t regret it.

And now, I must pack up my things for tomorrow morning’s 7 AM flight. Sad smile Where to, you ask? Well, fans of David Simon will probably consider this a dead giveaway:

I’ll be checking in tomorrow from the Big Easy! Night guys.


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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) March 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Nutritional yeast is one of my favorite new foods in the past few months and I’m not even a vegan!

Vegan Colcannon sounds amazing! I love all the ingredients, even the Field Roast, which is another vegan food that I am fond of. Plants rule!! :D


Annie@stronghealthyfit March 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I grew up eating brewer’s yeast (that’s what my Mom called it, and I believe it’s the same thing as nutritional yeast) on popcorn and now as an adult I put it on everything! I’ve seen “nooch” used on blogs but could not for the life of me figure out what it was. Thanks for bringing me up to speed :-)


Mary March 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm

by the way, Annie: Brewer’s yeast is not the same as nutritional yeast. Nooch is grown on molasses. Brewer’s Yeast is grown on grain. They taste different too.


Freya March 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I love nooch! Though I get confused – on the packet I have, it says if you heat it above 100degrees C, it loses all its nutrient value – yet basically all the recipes I see with it in have it cooked at much higher heats – like 160-200degrees C. Is it true that it loses its nutrients when heated?
As for that colcannon – um, yum!
Have a safe flight tomorrow :)


Lisa March 16, 2011 at 5:19 pm

This sounds yummy! And I’m glad to hear your opinion about nooch—it would be a big ruin on my anti-candida diet to know I’d been sabotaging myself :)


Mary March 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm

That’s the thing Lisa, I think nooch is fine for most people but for me, eating nutritional yeast results in major candida flair-ups. It probably doesn’t help that dishes containing nooch also often contain tahini and/or cashews, which also trigger reactions…sigh, it is super yummy but not good for all people.


Mary March 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I just went back to read the post again, and realized that Gina specifically mentions Candida and that she doesn’t think it matters. This has not been the case in my experience at all–of course, the combination of sesame, cashews and nooch might be the culprit, not nooch alone.


Emily @ One Sweet Vegan March 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I love nutritional yeast and add it to most everything nowdays. Yum! :-)


Tawney March 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Yup, I have similarly acquired a love for the nooch. I’m not making kale chips on a regular basis because they’re just too tempting… I have been experiencing some period stomach discomfort (cramping, bloating, etc), and I have been wondering if the nutritional yeast may be the cause. I’ve cut it (and a few other things like raw sweet potato and squash) out of my diet for a bit just to try and figure out what I’m sensitive too. Anyone else experience difficulties digesting nooch?


Tawney March 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Oops, make that “periodic”.


Meagan March 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Yes! I get a “lactose intolerant” reaction from it. I just read a comment above which said it is grown on molasses, which is interesting, because I get the same type reaction when I eat molasses or brown sugar. Who knows.. my body is weird!


carla March 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Yes!!! Been feeling quite uncomfortable lately – and noticed that l have been eating a lot more nutritional yeast, but l have been also eating more tahini lately.
could not figure out what the culprit was until l read your post – will cut out and see what happens.


melissa March 16, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Looks so good! like kale mashed potatoes. I haven’t heard of the dish in any form-raw or cooked, but it looks tasty!


Elizabeth March 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm

I NEVER taste! In fact, I kind of freak out if someone tries to put a spoon in my mouth. Over the years, anyone I’ve cooked with regularly has learned not to dare offer me anything to eat before dinner’s actually being served. Then again, it’s rare for me to make anything with more than four or five ingredients and without a huge margin for error, so it’s not much of a problem. If something’s “off”, I’ll adjust next time I make whatever it was.


Aurelia March 16, 2011 at 6:44 pm

As usual, your post strikes a chord — for the past few days, I’ve been wondering whether nooch was candida-friendly or not. I’m so tempted to try it now!


Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) March 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm

I have never heard of this dish before, then a few days ago my business partner was telling me about how she saw a mashed potato dish on the internet that had kale in it . . . but that it was loaded with butter and heavy cream. I immediately put it out of my mind and then you come at me with this! Is it a sign? Do I need to be making some of this yumminess?

Have an awesome trip!


Clare @ Fitting It All In March 16, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I just made Vegan Colcannon for dinner too! Except I used a sweet potato and seiten. SO good!


pure2raw twins March 16, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Love nutritional yeast! Still trying to get the BF to like it. I have to use such a small amount with him, haha. Baby steps right ;)

And your Vegan Colcannon looks amazing!!!


Nicole March 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I love your blog. For that reason, I’m passing on the One Lovely Blog Award to you! Check it out here.


Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) March 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Colcannon…I had no idea what that WAS til I read the recipe. It definitely looks wonderful and full of flavor and like my hubs would ADORE it.

Ironically I just posted a potato themed recipes post today in honor of St Paddy’s Day with about 20 of my tater recipes. The funny thing..I don’t even “love” potatoes. They are fine, but I’d rather eat green veggies…and sweets :)

Seriously though, great work on this one!

And I liked your nooch commentary. I am one of those readers/people who love nooch and only got into it a couple years ago.

Have fun in the Big Easy!!!!!! Don’t drink too much green beer. (kidding!)


Danielle March 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Could you share how you veganized the soda bread? pretty please?


FoodFeud March 16, 2011 at 9:25 pm

I wrote a colcannon post not too long ago with both kale and cabbage, sweet, and regular potatoes: White, Orange, and Green for the flag! I think it makes up for my not food-celebrating tomorrow.


bitt March 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm

I had never even heard of colcannon until today I’ve seen a few recipes for it. Sounds like a good combo of yummy vegan things.

ps: when I tried to post this for the first time it failed said to contact the blog owner and have them look into java something and cookies. tech speak.


Emma (Namaste Everyday) March 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm

very creative! thanks for the inspiration, always. you are giving me hope that some day, when the time is right in my life, I can live 100% vegan!


Sasha @Blyssful Health March 16, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Never heard of this before. Sounds really good.


thefruitpursuit (Sabine) March 17, 2011 at 2:36 am

Haha this is hilarious. Here in Holland it’s such a traditional winter dish: mashed potato with endive or kale, some butter, milk and salt. We make a little ‘pool’ in the middle for gravy and tradionally eat it with either bacon bits throughout, or a hunk of sausage next to it. We call it ‘stamppot’, something like mashed dish. The Dutch get made fun of because of this dish (ok and maybe our windmills…)


megan @ the oatmeal diaries March 17, 2011 at 2:55 am

This looks great. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!


Audrey March 17, 2011 at 8:08 am

I’ve never had colcannon…I might have to try it. That cabbage white bean soup sure sounds delicious, though? Do you have a recipe? :D


Kate (Peacocks & Moonshine) March 17, 2011 at 9:17 am

Definitely making this tonight! Two of my favorites-kale and potato-married in the magic of garlic and (vegan) butter :) I really appreciate the nooch insight. I love it and use it on countless salads, but always felt a tinge of worry-will this cause yeast growth? But I have not noticed any negative impact on my diet/health, so its good in my book. Speaking of nooch, I made your tomato tahini dressing two nights ago for a big dinner with my best friend, her new boyfriend and family. Wow-it went over sooo well. Even her dad was raving about the dressing. Thanks again for another amazing recipe Gena :)


Michelle {the lively kitchen} March 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

This is the first I’ve heard of colcannon. thanks for introducing it to me! I have all the ingredients (except the sausage) on hand now, so this may get made in the next few days. Happy and safe travels to you.


Namaste Gurl March 17, 2011 at 10:29 am

Looks delicious- nice to see you veganized a classic, unhealthy Irish dish! So simple, yet super wholesome, and not lacking the “yum” factor!
Have a good day!


nadia jaber March 17, 2011 at 10:29 am

Do you have any feelings or suggestions about Vit B supplementation for adults and kids (10 y/o) who try (their best) to follow a similar diet? Thanks!


Valerie @ City|Life|Eats March 17, 2011 at 10:58 am

This looks so good, and I totally agree with you: kale over cabbage, any day :) I had not had much kale until late 2008/early 2009 and now I am obsessed and am confused that I lived so many years without it LOL :)

Have fun in NOLA :) :) :)


Karen March 17, 2011 at 11:45 am

Safe travels, Gena! Hope you have a blast in NOLA!


Sonia @ Master of Her Romaine March 17, 2011 at 2:04 pm

This looks so yummy! I’m making it today :)


Heather @ Get Healthy With Heather March 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm

This dish combines so many of my favorite things! Potatoes, kale, nutritional snd yeast, yum! I like to taste test as I go along. You know to make sure it tastes alright ;)


Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day March 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm

I love colcannon and this looks great!


Meghan @ StruggleMuffins March 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Ooo this looks so yummy! I’m trying to incorporate more savory meals (and by ‘savory,’ I mean not breakfast) into my repertoire and I think I’ll have to take a crack at this one; looks so creamy and comforting!


Hannah March 18, 2011 at 5:02 am

This does look fabulous! However, having read your last comment about raw kale directly after perusing your (more recent) raw mashed potato post, I’m suddenly going all a-whirly about the idea of raw vegan colcannen…


andrea devon March 19, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Thanks for the information (and the shout-out) Gena! I always buy nooch in bulk and never looked at the nutritional info- but i am so glad that i did. aloha, andrea


Johanna GGG March 20, 2011 at 12:57 am

wish we had kale more easily available here (melbourne) – I usually end up with plain old cabbage but I like this dish – don’t get your sausages here but often use some smoked paprika for flavour and I have recently discovered some wonderful vegan bacon that is a mix of red beans, buckwheat groats and flavourings – would go very well in this dish


Christin@purplebirdblog March 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I made my first colcannon a few months back and I absolutely love the combination of flavors!


Kristina Melendez March 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm

This Recipe is AMAZING! This was my first St. Patrick’s day being vegan,which i thought would be SO hard. I had to cook all my family recipe’s and colcannon typically has meat in it. I used this recipe and about half way through our meal family & friends were digging into my vegan colcannon It was a HUGE success and I didn’t even miss any of the traditional fare im use to every year. I had so much fun turning all my recipes vegan this recipe inspired me. Thanks SO much! – Kristina


Aaron March 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I can’t do almond milk for mashed potatoes, taste too much like almonds :/ instead I’ve found adding veganaise is REALLY good, just enough with the butter to give it some creamy texture. Not a whole lot though i try to keep it low fat as possible, But if you have the perfect amount it is amazing.


Gena March 17, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Thanks Aaron!


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