The Adorable St. Patrick’s Day Candy You’ve Never Heard Of

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Our team here is made up of a bunch of knowledgable cooking wizards. They know everything about food. I mean everything. So imagine my surprise when I mentioned Irish potato candy and no one knew what I was talking about.

I didn’t realize until the moment when Google told me that the classic St. Patrick’s Day treat is only a classic in the Philadelphia area, which is where I’m from. And that this isn’t a candy everyone (or even most people) knows about.

What Exactly Is Irish Potato Candy?

It’s candy! Made to look like tiny little potatoes! Despite the name, the treat does not have roots in Ireland, but instead was created in Pennsylvania. And (again!) despite the name, most do not even contain potatoes (although some homemade versions do).

Typically, Irish potato candy is a no-bake concoction of coconut, powdered sugar, and cream cheese that’s rolled in a coating of ground cinnamon. It is delightful!

I grew up eating this stuff once a year: My middle school band director (yes, I was in band and I used to go to band camp!) would bring in trays and trays of these things to share with all the kids every St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t remember if he ever explained why we were eating them — if he tried, I’m guessing we never listened. (Look, you guys, sugar!)

Where to Find Irish Potato Candy

Plenty of Pennsylvania bakeries make the candies during the early spring. The most well-known ones come from Oh Ryan’s in Linwood, Pennsylvania. The shop claims to be the largest distributor of Irish potato candy, shipping about 80,000 pounds to major chains and smaller candy stores in the area.

Buy: Oh Ryans Irish Potatoes, $9 for seven ounces

California’s See’s Candy makes a slightly different version. Theirs features an inside that’s more like a nougat and a milk chocolate coating, which is then rolled in cocoa and cinnamon, and topped with pine nut “potato eyes.”

Buy: St. Patrick’s Day Potatoes, $26 for six at See’s Candies

This version feels like a fake to me, but some accounts have See’s recipe being 10 years older than Oh Ryan’s.

Which is right? Neither, actually, because I’m a firm believer that these things should be homemade. And then toted in single layers between waxed paper in disposable roasting trays — just like they were when I was in 5th grade.

Get the recipe: Irish Potato Candy

Did you grow up eating Irish potato candies? Share your experience in the comments!

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