From cheese to charcuterie and butter to biscuits, there are many foods we make exceptionally well in Ireland. Here, in no particular order, Katy McGuinness lists some of the stand-out homegrown products that you’ll want to add to your shopping basket
Our selection of 30 of the best Irish food products – listed below in no particular order – was made on the basis that the products are popular and reasonably widely available to consumers. We excluded fresh products such as meat, fish, poultry, fruit, vegetables and drinks, all of which are undoubtedly due a list of their own. There are so many wonderful Irish food products now that this was a very hard list to compile and could easily have run into the hundreds!
1 St Tola cheese
There are so many brilliant cheeses being made in Ireland at the moment that they warrant a 30 Best list all of their own – there’s no reason for cheese lovers to look outside the island, (Sheridan’s has the best selection, bar none.) But the cheese that comes up over and over again when Irish people are asked to name their favourite is the mature St Tola Ash, made in The Burren from goat’s milk. It is elegant, full-flavoured and capable of holding its own against any cheese in the world.
2 White Mausu peanut rayu
Katie Sanderson’s amazingly spicy, peanut-y condiment is a contemporary classic that’s done more to liven up the everyday eating of many Irish people than almost any other product that we can think of. Have it with roast chicken, in a sandwich, or with eggs and greens for instant elevation.
3 Gubbeen salami
Gubbeen salami is not exactly a secret, but perhaps it should be even better known than it is. Keep a length of it hidden at the back of the fridge, under some wilting lettuce, and you’ll always have something interesting to add to sandwiches and pizzas.
4 Pizza da Piero Pizza Bases
Speaking of which, why on earth would you even think about ordering in a greasy pizza from a chain when you can make your own – almost from scratch! – using these excellent Dublin-made bases and whatever toppings you like. Their pizza sauce is pretty good too, but the bases are a Friday night essential.
5 Glenilen Butter
We do dairy very well in Ireland, and our butter is the envy of the world. Basic creamery butter is a great product and Kerrygold has legions of loyal fans across the world. But delicious Glenilen, hand-made from the milk of grass-fed cows on Glenilen Farm in Cork, which costs a little more, is in a league of its own and worth keeping a small stash of, just for yourself.
6 Cuinneog Buttermilk
Cuinneog butter, traditionally made in Co Mayo, is another gorgeous Irish butter that you’ll find in some of Ireland’s best restaurants. A by-product is this tangy buttermilk, essential for baking and marinating chicken.
7 Smoked Fish from Sally Barnes’
Woodcock Smokery woodcocksmokery.com
Sally Barnes’ smoked Irish wild salmon is exceptional, but the price-point and availability mean that it can only ever be a rare and delectable treat. The good news is that Sally smokes other fish too, including kippers, haddock, mackerel and pollack, and they are not as pricey. She’s also experimenting with ray.
8 Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon
Hederman smokes his organic Irish salmon the old-fashioned way at his traditional smokehouse in Belvelly, Co Cork; the flavour of the beechwood makes it both distinctive and delicious. Wild Irish salmon is available sometimes, too.
9 Highbank Orchard Syrup
Canada may have its maple syrup, but we have Highbank’s organic apple syrup from Co Kilkenny which is even better – tangy and sweet at the same time – and can be used in dressings, baking, and cooking, whenever a little apple-y sweetness is required.
10 Happy Pear Basil Pesto
Whether or not you are a fan of the chirpy twins from Greystones, their sunrise swims and their handstands, and whether or not you enjoy eating in their cafés, you’ll know that their basil pesto is something that you should always have a tub of in the fridge, to use as a pasta sauce or dip, or to up your sandwich game.
11 Mezze Lavosh Flatbreads
Inspired by the Middle East but made in Ireland, from extra virgin rapeseed oil, salt and unbleached and wholemeal flours, these flatbreads are perfect for dipping and as vehicles for just about anything tasty. We’d happily eat them on their own too. The za’atar and seaweed versions are particularly good.
12 Barry’s Tea
Barry’s beats all-comers when it comes to a cuppa, judging by the number of packets of it that are shipped around the world to ex-pats who just can’t live without it. The only debate is whether you prefer the Classic or Gold Blend.
13 O’Neill’s Dry-cured Bacon
We Irish love our pork products, and bacon is a subject on which people have strong opinions. But the thought of a bacon sandwich made with dry-cured bacon from O’Neill’s in Enniscorthy is the one that sets more hearts pounding than any other.
14 Jane Russell’s Sausages
These handmade sausages are a national favourite, reminding those who eat them of the way that sausages used to taste, before mass production got in the way of flavour. Jane Russell produces them in Kilcullen with prime cuts of Irish pork using recipes handed down by her great-great-grandfather, Edmund Burke.
15 Inch House Black Pudding
Everyone has their favourite black pudding – Kelly’s, McCarthy’s, Annascaul and Clonakilty all have their champions – but for our money the square pudding from Inch House in Tipperary, made with fresh pig’s blood, is the one that delivers in terms of flavour, spicing and texture. We also like the smoked pudding from Hugh Maguire, The Smokin’ Butcher…
16 Goatsbridge Trout Caviar
The freshwater caviar from Mag and Ger Kirwan’s family trout farm in Co Kilkenny is a luxurious product that you’ll encounter in some of Ireland’s best restaurants, but that you could also buy a little tub of all for yourself and eat with a dainty silver spoon.
17 Velvet Cloud
The sheep’s milk yoghurt from the Flanagan family’s farm in Co Mayo has many culinary uses and is popular with chefs, but we like to eat it just on its own, perhaps with a little honey or granola or berries for breakfast. It’s lush and delightfully tangy at the same time, and may suit people who have trouble digesting dairy products.
18 Achill Sea Salt
Why buy imported salt when we have this beautiful product, produced by a family business on Achill Island?
19 Jack Rabbit Tsunami
Chef Ian Marconi developed this killer condiment – an umami-packed fresh blend of chilli, tomato, black garlic and a host of spices which he describes as a “fire-roasted BBQ sauce” – for his catering business, before deciding that it deserved a wider audience. Launched only a couple of months ago, Tsumami and the other sauces in the range, including a Hot’n’Herby salsa, are flying off the shelves and the number of outlets growing by the day.
20 Keogh’s Crisps
What can we say? Keogh’s crisps are the absolute business – our favourite flavour is Atlantic Sea Salt and Irish Cider Vinegar – and we love the fact that you can trace the potatoes used to make them to a particular field. We still have a soft spot for Tayto, mind…
21 James Whelan Butchers Beef Dripping
All credit to butcher Pat Whelan for bringing beef dripping back from the wilderness and introducing a new generation of Irish cooks to the wonders of potatoes roasted in dripping. Even more sublime is the Wagyu dripping, which we used in a toad in the hole recently to very good effect.
22 Wildwood Vinegars
Artist Fionntan Gogarty has turned what started as a recession business in Co Mayo into one of the most well-regarded artisan food businesses in the country; look out for his distinctive slender bottles in independent retailers. Our favourite is the smoked blackberry balsamic, but there are a couple of dozen flavours, all delicious.
23 Kilbeggan Oats
If you think that you don’t like porridge, the organic oats grown on the Lalor family’s farm in Co Westmeath may convince you otherwise. The fine oats make a creamy porridge that’s as wholesome a start to the day as is possible.
24 The Wooded Pig charcuterie
Engineer-turned-pig farmer Eoin Bird went to Italy to learn how to produce this superb range of Irish charcuterie – salamis, coppa and chorizo – from the free-range porkers that he rears on his family farm in the Boyne Valley. As good as any import.
25 Green Saffron Spices and Sauces
Arun Kapil’s range of spice mixes and sauces is one of the great success stories of Irish food in recent years; we love how they make it so easy to produce properly tasty curries and dahls in a hurry.
26 Murphy’s Ice-Cream
Murphy’s started out in Dingle and now has shops in Dublin, Galway and Killarney. The ice-cream is made using only fresh dairy milk, local cream, free-range eggs and organic sugar, flavourings made from real ingredients and contains no preservatives. Murphy’s even makes its own sea salt from Dingle sea water and uses Dingle rain water in its sorbets. There are other great Irish ice-creams, but Murphy’s range of flavours is hard to beat.
27 Killowen Farm Yogurt
This live yogurt is made from the milk of the Dunne family’s own herd of cows, with real fruit and just a little sugar. No additives or preservatives are used. It is simple, and simply delicious. You’ll find the yogurt under the Dunnes Stores Simply Better brand too.
28 The Lismore Food Company
Lismore’s range of sweet and savoury biscuits is exceptional. We particularly like the seaweed caraway savoury biscuit – lovely with cheese – and the dark chocolate and cardamom, which combines two of our absolute favourite flavours.
29 Rhoda Cocoa Chocolate
Rhoda’s hand-made bars of chocolate are sophisticated and delicious; our favourite is the dark chocolate with spices, Morello cherries, and pistachio. But the dark chocolate with crystallised ginger and almonds comes a close second.
30 Red Rooster Coffee
There’s a lot of guff spouted about coffee these days, but if you are looking for a brew without palaver, try a few of these small-batch roasts from William Davenport’s family business in Loughrea, Co Galway. We have a particular fondness for Bantams’ Brew, a classic mocha/java blend, strength four, made in a cafetière.