How to Plan a St. Patrick's Day Potluck—Plus, a Few Festive Menu Ideas to Inspire Your Own

These are the Irish dishes you should cook and the ones you can ask guests to bring.

slices of foolproof irish soda bread on cutting board
Photo: Matthew Hranek

St. Patrick's Day takes place on March 17th every year and is centered around enjoying Irish culture—especially Irish food and drinks. If you're planning a get-together to mark the holiday, consider hosting a St. Patrick's Day potluck. As with other potlucks, there aren't hard and fast rules about what you should make versus what you should ask guests to bring, but you'll want to plan out the menu so you're certain all the courses are covered and that there will be enough food for everyone.


Consider making the main course for the potluck and asking guests to bring appetizers, sides, and desserts. You can contact guests individually to ask them what they're comfortable making or buying to bring or assign them a specific dish—or create a sign-up sheet so everyone can pitch in. Be clear on how many guests are coming so everyone knows how many people their dish should serve.

Guests who aren't comfortable cooking for the potluck can bring store-bought food or drinks or even special holiday napkins and décor (just make sure they arrive early if they are bringing decorations.)

St. Patrick's Day Potluck Menu

This is a day to go all-out with Irish food and drinks. That doesn't mean long hours in the kitchen for you—the joy of the potluck is that everyone contributes.


Some guests may not want to bring a dish—so ask them to bring drinks, says Billy Lawless, owner of The Gage in Chicago. For a pre-dinner drink, he says a good option is an Irish gin, like Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, and a favorite tonic water.

When you hit the main course, switch to beer, says Gage. "A classic Irish red ale will work perfectly," he says. His favorites for a St. Patrick's Day celebration are Smithwicks O'Hara's Irish Ale or Three Floyds Brian Boru Irish Red Ale. Be sure to provide non-alcholic options, from beer to soda and sparkling water, for those who don't wish to imbibe.


The appetizer course is a great way for your guests to contribute to the potluck. Have someone bring a loaf of Irish Soda Bread or our Irish-Style Brown Bread. Ask another guest who doesn't have time to cook to bring smoked salmon. Smoked salmon on buttered brown bread is a classic appetizer for a St. Patrick's Day. Lawless suggests topping it with caper berries, shaved red onion, a touch of black pepper, lemon juice, and a dash of hot sauce.

Another option for an appetizer is a seafood chowder, says Lawless. Try our Seafood Chowder, which features shrimp, clams, and cod.

shepherds pie
Con Poulos

The Entrée

For a main course, Lawless recommends Shepherd's Pie. It's a hearty dish of ground meat, onions, garlic, herbs, and vegetables in gravy topped with mashed potatoes. In Ireland, it is most often made with lamb but in the United States, ground beef has become popular. As it's a casserole-like dish, you could ask a guest to make Shepherd's pie and bring it, or you can make it ahead and bake it just prior to the potluck or make it entirely ahead and reheat it as guests arrive.

Vegetarian Main

If you need a meat-free menu option for your St. Patrick's Day potluck, try our Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie.

Other Entrée Options

Another type of traditional Irish dish that serves a crowd and can be made ahead is a stew. "Slow-cooked beef stews or lamb stews are probably the most popular," says Clodagh Mckenna, chef, restaurant owner, and cookbook author.

Side Dishes

If you're serving Shepherd's pie, it comes with potatoes, but if you serve a stew you'll need a side of tatties. McKenna recommends Colcannon, "butter mashed potatoes with cabbage folded through—it's real Irish soul food," she says. Another reason she recommends this dish? It can be made ahead by a guest and reheated at your home—plus it doesn't spill, so it's easy to transport.


If you ask guests to bring vegetable sides, make sure there are at least a couple of options. They can either be dishes to reheat in your kitchen or ones that can be served at room temperature. Irish-inspired options include simple root vegetables like Glazed Carrots, Braised Leeks, or a cabbage dish such as Shredded Sautéed Cabbage or a cooling, crunchy slaw. Alternatively, you can take care of the vegetables yourself.

celtic knot cookies
Mike Krautter


There are plenty of make-ahead, easy-to-bring desserts you can ask guests to bake such as Celtic Knot Cookies, Chewy Irish-Coffee Blondies, or Irish Stout Cupcakes on St. Patrick's Day. If you want to round out the dessert selection with something you make, Lawless suggests a cheesecake flavored with Irish cream.

You might like to serve Irish coffee with the desserts or try the dessert cocktail that Gage calls "Farewell Irish Coffee."

For each drink, you'll need:

  • 5 ounces black coffee
  • 2 teaspoons light-brown sugar
  • 2 ounces Irish whisky
  • ½ ounce heavy cream
  1. Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake to combine.
  2. Pour into a serving glass, then pour the heavy cream over a teaspoon to let it settle on top of the drink.

Alternatively, make a pot of tea to serve with the desserts—it's another favorite Irish tradition.

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