It’s no coincidence that National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day shares a date with St. Patrick’s Day. While this dish can be found during other times of the year, it is most frequently eaten on March 17th.
Keep reading to learn about the origin of corned beef and cabbage, why we eat it on St. Paddy’s and ways to celebrate this March national day.
We’ve also included an easy crockpot corned beef and cabbage recipe if you’d like to try making this dish at home this year! Serve it alongside your favorite beer or an Irish coffee for a delicious St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
Days like National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day are a fun way to celebrate a variety of things. Be sure to check out this national days guide for more information about the history of national days and why we celebrate them.
What is corned beef?
Corned beef is a cut of beef (usually brisket) which is cured in a salt brine with pickling spice. Most recipes also have nitrates added, which are preservatives that give corned beef its pink hue.
You might be surprised to know that there is no corn in corned beef! The word “corn” refers to the large grain of rock salt used to cure the meat.
Once the corned beef is cured, it is cooked. While traditionally boiled, there are also Instant Pot and crockpot corned beef recipes which making cooking this St Patrick’s Day meal easier.
You might be thinking that corned beef sounds a lot like pastrami, which is true! Both are made from beef which is brined. However, the two items have key differences.
Pastrami vs corned beef
One main difference between pastrami and corned beef is the preparation. After both are brined, pastrami is smoked, whereas corned beef is boiled.
Pastrami typically uses more spices than corned beef, which has an effect on the flavor.
The cut of meat is another difference between corned beef and pastrami. Corned beef is made from brisket, which comes from the lower area of a cow’s chest. Pastrami is made with a fattier cut of beef like beef plate (at the cow’s navel) or beef shoulder.
Is corned beef and cabbage a traditional Irish food?
Though we associate corned beef and cabbage with St. Patrick’s Day, it isn’t a traditional Irish food. The meal more commonly eaten in Ireland is bacon and cabbage.
To make bacon and cabbage, the bacon and cabbage are boiled. When plated, the bacon is topped with a parsley sauce, like the picture below.
In Ireland, pork and bacon were less expensive than beef, so they were more frequently consumed by the Irish people. Beef’s high price tag made it inaccessible to the people of Ireland.
Since cows were so expensive, if they were owned at all, they were primarily used by the Irish people for field labor and dairy production, not meat consumption. They were usually only slaughtered for meat if they were too old to work.
Even though beef wasn’t commonly eaten, Ireland became a large exporter of beef in the 17th century.
Ireland’s low salt tax allowed them to purchase high quality salt at almost a tenth of the price the English could. This allowed Ireland to make good quality corned beef at a low price and export it to England.
What is the origin of corned beef and cabbage?
In the mid 19th century a potato blight caused The Great Famine, which led to a mass exodus from Ireland. During this time of starvation and crop disease, many fled Ireland on were known as coffin ships.
The majority of Irish immigrants who made it to the United States ended up in Massachusetts and New York.
When they arrived in New York, they noticed that the corned beef sold by their Jewish neighbors was less expensive than pork and bacon.
The Irish immigrants decided to swap the inexpensive corned beef they got from kosher butchers for the bacon they were accustomed to eating. This transformed the traditional Irish meal of bacon and cabbage into corned beef and cabbage.
Interesting facts for National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day
Learn some interesting corned beef and cabbage facts to celebrate this March 17 national day. Some may surprise you!
- President Abraham Lincoln ate corned beef and cabbage during his first inaugural dinner, in 1861, at the Willard Hotel.
- While most frequently consumed on St. Patrick’s Day, corned beef and cabbage is also eaten on New Year’s Day, and is thought of as a lucky food that will bring health and wealth for the coming year.
- Corned beef has been to space! On March 23, 1965, a NASA pilot named John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich onboard Gemini III. He shared some with his command pilot, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, before pocketing the sandwich due to its flying crumbs.
- There is no corn in corned beef. “Corn” refers to the large grain of rock salt used to cure the meat.
- Corned beef isn’t a traditional Irish food eaten in Ireland, but bacon and cabbage is! Corned beef and cabbage gained popularity in the United States when Irish immigrants used corned beef in place of bacon to make this St Patrick’s Day dinner.
How to celebrate National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day
Would you like to celebrate National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day in a special way? Try one of these ideas.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you if you purchase through an affiliate link.
- Go out to a restaurant that serves corned beef and cabbage and order a plate. There’s no better day for corned beef and cabbage than today!
- Check out our St. Patrick’s Day word search and word scramble printables and see if you can locate “corned beef” in both of them!
- Get a sign for the butcher cuts of beef to display in your kitchen, and more fully understand where corned beef comes from.
- If you’re Irish, celebrate that today by getting a new apron to wear while cooking that shows appreciation for Irish heritage.
- Try our slow cooker corned beef and cabbage recipe below to make this dish for yourself! If you’re looking for what to eat with corned beef and cabbage, traditional Irish soda bread is always a great addition to this meal.
- If you’re cooking corned beef and cabbage today, get your meat from a kosher butcher, as the Irish immigrants did when they popularized this tasty dish.
Share this post about National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day with your friends on twitter:
Did you find the corned beef and cabbage origin as it relates to St. Patrick’s Day interesting? If so, don’t forget to share it with your friends. Here’s a tweet to get you started:It's no coincidence that St. Patrick's Day and National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day share a date! Head to Always the Holidays to learn why! 💚🤍🧡#StPatricksDay Click To Tweet
More March 17 national days
Did you enjoy learning about National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day? Well you’re in luck, March 17 is host to more than just one national day!
Here is a complete list of all the March 17 national days:
- National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day
- St. Patrick’s Day
- National Irish Food Day
- Camp Fire Girl’s Day
- Doctor Patient Trust Day
- National Buzzard Day
More national days in March
There are close to 2000 national days in the year and over 150 of them are celebrated in March.
To see them all, have a look at this post to discover more about the national days in March. If you enjoy puzzles, be sure to also check out the March word search printable which features many of the national days hidden in a word find puzzle.
Is food your thing? Each day of the month has a food or drink associated with it, too. You’ll find all the March food holidays here.
Be sure to also check out these national days of March:
- National Canadian Bacon Day – If you’re in the mood for bacon instead of corned beef, check out our post on National Canadian Bacon Day!
- National French Bread Day – Brush up on your French bread knowledge and get a recipe for French bread pizzas to celebrate this national day.
- International Waffle Day – Celebrate this popular brunch food that plays an important part in the history of Galentine’s Day.
- National Landline Telephone Day – Check out the history of landline telephones to appreciate how this invention shaped communication as we know it.
- Goddess of Fertility Day – Learn more about Aphrodite and the other goddesses of fertility on this national day which falls immediately after National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day.
Pin this post about the history of corned beef and cabbage for later
Would you like a reminder of this post about the origin of corned beef and cabbage for National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day?
Just pin this image to one of your trivia boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases. Nutritional information is approximate due to natural variation in ingredients and the cook-at-home nature of our meals.
Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 753Total Fat: 42gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 240mgSodium: 176mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 4gSugar: 4gProtein: 68g
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutritional information is approximate due to natural variation in ingredients and the cook-at-home nature of our meals.
Since graduating from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Jess has been living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She is a freelance writer, specializing in content related to fashion, food and drink and film industry topics. Find out more about Jess here.
FACT CHECK: Our editorial staff aims to be accurate and fair in all posts. If you see something that doesn’t appear correct, please click here to contact us. Always the Holidays reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.