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Why we eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day

The Daily Meal logo The Daily Meal 3/12/2019 Daisy Nichols
a plate of food on a table: Corned beef and cabbage © istockphoto.com Corned beef and cabbage

These days, shamrocks, wearing green and drinking beer are all fairly synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations here in the United States. And when it comes to food, a corned beef with cabbage recipe is considered an essential dish for the Irish holiday. But have you ever stopped to wonder why we eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day?

Ireland has a long history of exporting salted meats that dates back to the Middle Ages, but for much of the population, buying beef to cook at home was a luxury that was out of the question. Instead, for religious holidays and other celebrations, many turned to pork — a cheaper option, with salted pork (similar to bacon) a staple in most Irish homes along with (after it was introduced in the 16th century) the ubiquitous potato.

When Irish immigrants arrived in America, however, they discovered that rather than beef being more costly than pork, the opposite was true. And so they turned to corned beef — which happened to be a kind of beef all could afford, as well as a food their homeland had once been famous for.

What had once been considered a luxury ingredient was now much more readily available and affordable, and so the growing Irish-American population paired it with cabbage — a traditional accompaniment to salted pork — and the rest is history! Make the most of this year’s St. Paddy’s Day celebration — skip the chain restaurants, grab your corned beef and some cabbage and don’t forget to check out the best Irish pubs in America.

Related video: How to Make Beef Tartare

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