Depending on where you are from, the times that people eat in Ireland might be a little different to what you are used to. Obviously, in bigger cities, you will find food at pretty much any hour of the day. But if you want to have a more traditional experience, you might want to learn when the locals tend to eat.
Meal Times in Ireland
|Meal||Time (Approx.)||Typical Dish||Average Price in Restaurant (Dublin)|
|Breakfast||6:00am – 8:00am||Full Irish Breakfast||€12-17|
|Lunch/ Dinner||12:00pm – 2:00pm||Sandwiches/ Roast||€4-11/ €12-25|
|Dinner/ Tea||5:00pm – 8:00pm||Roast/ Tea + Toast||€12-25/ €4-11|
|Tea/ Supper||7:00pm – 9:00pm||Sandwiches/ Tea + Toast||€4-11/ €5|
From the table above, you can see the times we eat in Ireland can vary a lot. It also might be strange to hear that someone is eating dinner at noon or having tea at nine in the evening. Here, I want to try and explain when Irish people tend to have their meals.
Urban Vs Rural Meals in Ireland
The main factor that will determine when you eat meals in Ireland is where you live. People in rural settings tend to eat their larger meals earlier in the day. Office workers will usually have a similar routine that can be found in other western countries when it comes to their meals.
The climate in Ireland is pretty (in)famous around the world as being damp and dreary. For people who work outside, it is generally better to get the most out of the few hours of sunshine that we get. This is more noticeable in the winter than the summer.
Farmers will usually try to get bigger tasks done in the morning. With days that often start at 6am, a large breakfast and mid-day meal will help to get you through a long day of hard work. Then in the evening time, lighter food like cold meats or sandwiches will work a little better.
This is pretty much the reverse of most people in urban areas in Ireland. Office workers will tend to have lighter meals at breakfast and lunch, with the heavier dinner later in the evening.
Usually, people will eat breakfast in Ireland between 6am and 8am. In most restaurants that are open during these hours, they will have specific breakfast menus. Though some may have all-day breakfasts available.
The Irish breakfast is famous all around the world and there are even regional variations around Ireland. While the meal that you will find on menus will consist of lots of fried meat and some eggs and veg, this is not what most people eat for breakfast.
Generally speaking, people in Ireland will tend to have a lighter breakfast most days in the week. A typical breakfast for most people will be toast, porridge, cereal or some variation. You will find the same kind of food served for breakfast in Irish homes that you would almost anywhere else.
The bigger fried meals are usually reserved for the weekends or special occasions. Depending on your profession, you might need the energy that these meals can provide. But for most people, this is not an everyday meal.
If you want my advice on where to find the best breakfasts in Dublin, you can find that linked here.
Most people in Ireland would consider lunch to last for between 30 minutes to 2 hours and be some time between 12pm and 2pm. But not everyone in Ireland calls it lunch. Especially older people will often call this meal dinner and I will describe a typical one later on.
If you do call this meal lunch, then it will usually be a lighter meal to keep you going until dinner at the end of the day. Though it will be more common to find warm food than at breakfast, that might not be the case.
A typical Irish lunch will usually consist of something like sandwiches. If you are purchasing lunch in a café or restaurant, then you will usually be given the option for a cup of soup. In recent years however, having more options has become common.
Many establishments will also have a set lunch menu.
Dinner can be a controversial meal in Ireland and there is great debate on when in the day it is. For people in more rural communities, there is no such thing as lunch and dinner will take its place. City dwellers in Ireland however will usually have this later in the day.
In rural communities, dinner will generally last for about an hour and will usually be sometime between 12pm and 2pm. In cities, dinner usually starts between 5pm and 7pm and will last for the same amount of time. This will typically be the largest meal of the day.
The traditional Irish dinner consists of “meat and two veg”. This meaning that you will get one portion of some sort of meat, one portion of vegetables with the remaining vegetable having more carbohydrates. A typical Irish dinner would be a roast.
Tea Time in Ireland
Tea is a meal in Ireland that will generally be between 7pm and 9pm with rural areas having tea between 5pm and 7pm. This will usually be a lighter meal consisting of sandwiches, toast, cold meats or something similar. It will often be accompanied by a hot drink, usually tea, where the meal gets its name from.
If an Irish household has this meal earlier in the evening, then it will look more like a typical lunch. Many farm workers in Ireland, for example, will simply reverse the meals of lunch and dinner that you would find somewhere like the United States.
If a household does have tea earlier in the evening, then there may be the option for supper. This will be something very light like a slice of toast and a hot drink.
While having that 4th meal in the day may seem like the Irish are like something from the Hobbit, in truth it barely qualifies as a meal!