What Is An Irish Potato?

Originally appeared on CHW on March 26, 2018.

To commemorate my family heritage and National Irish Month, I have researched the origins of a little potato candy that packs a tasty punch. For those of you who may not like potatoes, don’t fret.  There are no potatoes in two versions of these delicious faux potato candies.

An Irish Potato is a coconut, cinnamon, sugary delight that originated in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They are a tasty Saint Patrick’s Day tradition that I have enjoyed since I was a child.

Every year in early March, my Italian grandmother (who married my Irish grandfather), would have the grandkids over for a day to make these little candies. I looked forward to it every year. What kid doesn’t like sugar and cinnamon at Grandma’s house? A lot of fond memories were made during these visits with my family and quite possibly a few cavities.

It is believed that Irish immigrants, living on the East Coast, were the first to make the creamy candy more than a 100 years ago. A typical Irish Potato is a bite-size, brown ball that resembles a regular potato, but is filled with a delicious blend of cream cheese, confectioners sugar, and coconut. Like many Philadelphians, I grew up unaware that Irish Potatoes were a local treat that isn’t shared by the rest of the country.

Although an obscure candy, Irish Potatoes have found their way to the west coast. Another variation is made by See’s Candies located in South San Francisco. They add a nougat-like mixture called divinity and nuts to their confection. A third version of the Irish Potato uses real mashed potatoes mixed with confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and coconut.

If you’re one of those unfortunate people whose never heard of or tasted an Irish Potato, you’re in luck. I’ve found an easy Philadelphia-style recipe by Saundra on allrecipes.com for Irish Potatoes, no cooking is required.


1/4 cup of butter softened

1/2 8 ounce package of cream cheese

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

4 cups of confectioner’s sugar

2 1/2 cups of flaked coconut

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon


Beat the butter and cream cheese in a medium-sized bowl until it’s smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioner’s sugar, beating the mixture once again until it’s smooth. Mix in the coconut. Roll the mixture into small balls, then roll in the cinnamon. Set the balls on a tray and chill in the refrigerator.

(Note: You may have to use your hands to mix the ingredients.)

Taitneamh a bhaint! Enjoy!

Author: Ellwyn

I live with my loving husband, two children and dog in Philadelphia, PA. I discovered my passion for writing in second grade when I had to write a book report for school. I was so excited to write the report, until my mother told me that I had to write about someone else's book and not my own story. I became indignant and decided that once I finished the book report I would most certainly write my own original story. I have been writing ever since! My self-published book Chris Kringle's Cops was a Finalist in The Reader's Favorite Book Contest for 2016. I am so happy to share this story with you.  My picture book Kamyla Chung and the Creepy Crawlies was given a 5 Star rating by Reader's Favorite Book Reviews in 2017.