Spicy and Sweet Potato Colcannon with Pancetta

November 13, 2009
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish (makes 4 cups)
Author Notes

This recipe began as a riff on traditional Irish colcannon—a potato, cabbage (or kale), and onion dish. Colcannon is typically served around Halloween, which coincides with the Celtic harvest celebration, Samhain. A bit of fortune-telling legend is also attached to the dish: A plain gold ring is hidden in the serving platter, and the one who finds it will be married within the year. Here, colcannon gets a boost of color and spice: The orange and green combine to lend visual interest (and a tribute to the Irish flag), and the addition of cayenne pepper will have you doing a perfect Irish jig in no time. —Allison Cay Parker

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Allison Cay Parker is a baker and freelance editor living in New York City.
WHAT: A traditional Irish colcannon updated with sweet potatoes, pancetta, and cayenne.
HOW: Combine sweet potatoes with kale and half-and-half. Add in sautéed chopped onion, cayenne powder, and freshly-cooked pancetta. Serve immediately, or enjoy it the next morning with an egg.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Our usual complaint about mashed potatoes is that they don't have enough flavor—or butter. This recipe puts an end to those woes, packed with flavorful herbs and vegetables. You can try serving it as a side, as long as your main dish is okay with it stealing the show. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1/3 pound kale, rinsed well and stripped of coarse stems
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper, plus more to taste
  • 4 1/8-inch thick slices pancetta, diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder, plus more as desired
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  1. Place kale in salted boiling water for 8 minutes, until tender and bright green. Reserving the boiling water, remove with a slotted spoon, drain well and squeeze out excess water, then chop fine.
  2. Boil the sweet potato in the water used for the kale for 15 minutes, covered, or until tender. Drain and pass through a potato ricer or food mill, into a large, heat-proof pot. (Note: If you have neither a ricer nor mill, push potato through a sieve or otherwise be sure to mash thoroughly until smooth.)
  3. Add the chopped kale to the sweet potato. Season with salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the inclusion of cayenne and pancetta later in the recipe will boost the levels of both salt and spice; be judicious.
  4. In a medium skillet over moderate heat, cook the pancetta until crisp but not browned. Remove using a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel.
  5. In the same pan you used to cook the pancetta, melt the butter. Add onion and cayenne and sauté over medium heat, until onion is translucent and has lost its crunch. Set aside.
  6. In a small saucepan, heat half-and-half, then beat it into the sweet potato-kale mixture (I just used a fork, which worked best). Add the pancetta. Add the onion and the fat from the pan. Combine all ingredients well, and serve warm.
  7. This dish may be prepared in advance. In fact, it tastes even better the next day. Also, try pressing the colcannon into a pie plate and chilling overnight: The next day, cut into wedges and fry up in additional butter or oil to accompany a breakfast of scrambled eggs.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • aargersi
  • cheese1227
  • NakedBeet
  • lastnightsdinner
  • Allison Cay Parker
    Allison Cay Parker

11 Reviews

jasmine September 26, 2020
I can't say enough good things about this colcannon. It's consistently the recipe that everyone asks for every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and anytime it's on the menu. It's best on day 3 so make it, throw it in the refrigerator, and heat it up when you're ready. Don't be afraid to be generous with the cayenne. So so so good.
amandauc09 November 11, 2021
How would you recomended reheating if this is made in advance? Looking to add this to our Thanksgiving meal this year and love the idea of one less thing to worry about day of.
Kat January 15, 2018
Oh my! I grew up on my mother’s colcannon and love all variants, but this looks particularly fabulous. Can’t wait to try it!
Tanya April 13, 2015
This is a delicious dish. It also adapted very nicely to Yukon Gold potatoes.
aargersi March 18, 2015
This sounds wonderful! Adding to my must-try list
cheese1227 November 18, 2009
Great recipe!
Allison C. December 18, 2009
Thank you!
NakedBeet November 16, 2009
I've been craving hot vegetables lately and now I can do something different with my sweet potatoes, too! Can you substitute chard for the kale?
Allison C. December 18, 2009
Yes, you can totally substitute chard for kale, though it will be even more of a departure from the traditional Irish recipe. Still, departures are good. Go for it! Thanks for the comment.
lastnightsdinner November 14, 2009
What a fun spin on colcannon - yum!
Allison C. December 18, 2009
Sorry I'm so late checking comments and replying, but... thanks!