By Michelle Reese
The cheesesteak, the soft pretzel…and the Irish potato? Yes, Irish potato candies are a Philadelphia tradition going back over 100 years. There aren’t any actual potatoes in the Philadelphia version of this confection. Instead, they get their name because they look like miniature potatoes. Typically the candies have a coconut butter cream inside and a cinnamon coating. No one seems quite sure of who invented them, but they were likely created as a commemoration of the Irish Potato Famine that lasted from 1845-1851. Today, they are widely associated with St. Patrick’s Day as a celebratory seasonal treat.
With St. Patrick’s Day just a few days away, you’ve probably seen Irish potatoes for sale in grocery stores (or even the odd place like a Bed, Bath & Beyond!). Chances are, the name on these packages will be Oh Ryan’s. Oh Ryan’s Irish Potatoes is a family-run company based in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania. Making Irish potatoes since 1989, Oh Ryan’s has grown to the largest producer of Irish potatoes today. While 90% of their sales have been in the Philadelphia area, they have also shipped them across the country from Massachusetts to Florida, to California and as far away as Alaska.
In addition to Oh Ryan’s, there are plenty of Philadelphia-area shops that offer the sweet treats. Try Stutz Candy Co, Shane Confectionery, the Italian Market’s Anthony’s Italian Coffee and Chocolate House or the Reading Terminal’s Pennsylvania General Store.
For the absolute freshest Irish potato candies you could have this St. Patrick’s Day, make them yourself! Here’s an easy kid-friendly recipe that would make a great addition to your St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 14-oz. bag of sweetened coconut
- Approximately 2 tablespoons cinnamon
In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until combined. Mix in the coconut.
With a small cookie scoop, measure out balls of the mixture. Roll gently in your hands to smooth and place on a cookie tray covered in parchment paper. Lightly cover the tray and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Candies will be easier to roll when cold and just slightly dried this way.
On a small plate, sprinkle cinnamon. To avoid overly coating the candies, sprinkle about a teaspoon of cinnamon onto the plate at a time. Roll coconut cream balls in the cinnamon, lightly coating. Add more cinnamon to the plate as necessary. Store Irish potato candies in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
Make them yourself or leave it to the experts, treat yourself to Irish potatoes this St. Patrick’s Day!