If you don't don green on St. Patrick's Day, you leave yourself vulnerable to ferocious, pinching leprechauns. So says the legend, anyway. Apparently, everything from mint to teal will turn you invisible to the mystical creatures. The one day of the year that their little fingers are most likely to come after you? March 17.
And just like that, the tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day was born. Though historians don’t know exactly where that urban legend came from, it has obviously stuck with us—every year, you’ll see people decked out in the color of the Emerald Isle ordering green beers in bars and guzzling minty Shamrock Shakes.
The color green goes hand in hand with the holiday—almost as much as the classic Irish-American meal of corned beef and cabbage. But you can get into the spirit with green eats that are both festive and healthy. Whether you want to cook a full-on emerald-themed meal or just throw a verdant ingredient or two into the mix, check out our roundup of green foods and recipes before you celebrate.
10 of the healthiest green foods
Green tea leaves are finely ground to produce matcha powder, a more intense, earthy tea. It’s not only packed with antioxidants and fiber, but also contains only about one-third of the caffeine you’d find in coffee. Whisk matcha into hot water for a classic preparation, or experiment with adding it to smoothies or and other recipes.
Try it here: Organic Stone-Ground Green Tea Powder
This nutrient-dense, spiral-shaped algae is nearly 60 percent protein—wow! Plus, a few studies have indicated that spirulina can reduce inflammation, fight seasonal allergies, and keep the heart healthy. In handy powder form, it works wonderfully in green smoothies, but can be used in almost any dish. A few of the recipes below even call for spirulina as a main ingredient!
Try it here: HealthForce Spirulina Powder
Like spirulina, chlorella is an algae packed with good-for-you compounds including chlorophyll, protein, and essential fatty acids. Mix a spoonful into water for an instant nutritional boost, or, to mask the grassy flavor, add it to a smoothie or detox drink.
Try it here: Chlorella Powder
There’s a reason why every Jamba Juice features a forest of tiny wheatgrass plants—it’s super good for you. In fact, with more than 70 vitamins and minerals, it’s one of the most concentrated sources of nutrients on the planet. If you don’t have a juicer on hand, freeze-dried wheatgrass powder is the next best thing.
Try it here: Freeze-Dried Wheatgrass Powder
While we’re on the subject of water-dwelling plants, we couldn’t skip over seaweed. Nori, dulse, kelp, and other seaweed snacks have become popular for their umami flavor and vitamin content. Try a piece of nori wrapped around sushi, snack on dried seaweed, or even incorporate pieces of dulse into a miso soup.
Spicy peppers like jalapenos get their kick from capsaicin, a compound that may also support weight loss and even help you live longer. That’s enough reason to add a few slices on top of your fish taco, if you ask us. (If you’re sensitive to heat, just remove all the seeds, and you’ll get the flavor without the intense burn.)
Try it here: Organic Mild Jalapeno Nacho Slices
To add some heat to Japanese dishes, look no further than wasabi. The lime-green paste you’ll find in most sushi restaurants is actually just wasabi powder—made from the root of the plant of the same name—blended with water. As long as you have the powder, it’s easy to recreate at home.
Try it here: Wasabi Powder
There’s a reason why olive oil has such a sterling reputation as a healthy fat: It's made from green olives, which are full of anti-inflammatory compounds that can work wonders in the body. Pop a few as a mid-afternoon snack, garnish a salad with them, or even add a few sliced olives into pasta sauce.
Try them here: Organic Green Olives
Pasta with only 15 calories per serving? It doesn’t seem possible, but it is with spinach shirataki noodles. (Shirataki is made from fiber-packed glucomannan starch, and also happens to be gluten-free.) This great-tasting "miracle noodle" transforms your favorite pasta dish from beige and basic into a green dream.
Try them here: Spinach Angel Hair Shirataki Noodles
Green goddess dressing
This classic tahini-lemon salad dressing packs in tons of flavor without any of the artificial ingredients and unhealthy additives you’ll find in conventional options. The pale green hue only adds to its appeal.
Try it here: Organic Goddess Dressing
25 good-for-you green recipes
Smoothies and drinks
Aloe Vera Detox Drink
Wake yourself up naturally with an aloe vera, basil, cucumber concoction. Hydrating, vitamin-rich, and detoxifying, it’s a worthy swap for coffee or tea.
Get the recipe: Aloe Vera Detox Drink
Green Smoothie Bowl
Made from green fruits and veggies only—kale, spinach, pear, and cucumber—this vibrant bowl will help start off your day on the right note.
Get the recipe: Green Smoothie Bowl
Avocado Smoothie Bowl
The unbelievably thick and creamy consistency might be enough to convince you that you’re eating ice cream for breakfast. Don’t be fooled—it’s just nutrient-packed avocado!
Get the recipe: Avocado Smoothie Bowl
Supercharged Green Smoothie
Prefer sipping your smoothies out of good old-fashioned cups? Try a traditional kale-pineapple blend amped up with a spoonful of coconut oil for extra energy.
Get the recipe: Supercharged Green Smoothie
Tropical Green Popsicles
Though just as colorful as the kind you’ll find in the supermarket, these DIY green popsicles blow storebought options out of the water. Blend a dreamy base of ripe mango, thick avocado, sweet banana, and nutrient-packed spinach, then pour it into paper cups or popsicle molds to freeze.
Get the recipe: Tropical Green Popsicles
Detoxifying Green Soup
Juice cleanses are so 2015—soup cleanses are the detoxifying trend du jour. The concept is simple: combine a bunch of nutritious vegetables in a soup, blend it until velvety and smooth, and enjoy. Here, key ingredients broccoli, kale, watercress, and parsley come together in a gorgeous verdant hue.
Get the recipe: Detoxifying Green Soup
Almond–Green Bean Soup
While we’re on the subject of soups, why not try green bean? Though a little non-traditional as soups go, the beans work beautifully when paired with another leafy green, like kale, plus almonds.
Get the recipe: Almond–Green Bean Soup
Kale Caesar Salad
Upgrade to kale instead of iceberg, fresh dressing instead of bottled, and bacon and avocado instead of croutons for a Paleo-friendly version of the classic Caesar. Free of dairy and gluten, it’s a perfect lunch or dinner for primal eaters and gluten-free foodies.
Get the recipe: Kale Caesar Salad
Crunchy Brussels Sprouts Slaw
Ready for a new way to eat your Brussels? Try them shaved and raw, as in this fresh slaw with Granny Smith apples, radicchio, dried cherries, and a tangy mustard vinaigrette.
Get the recipe: Crunchy Brussels Sprouts Slaw
In just 15 minutes, you’ll be done whipping up this easy side. Saute tender broccolini, whisk together a quick dressing, and slice some cherry tomatoes—that’s it!
Get the recipe: Broccolini Salad
This light and refreshing combination of cucumber, red radishes, and various seaweeds is one of the most popular appetizers in Japan. Serve it alongside grilled seafood for a fresh weeknight meal.
Get the recipe: Cucumber-Seaweed Salad
The traditional recipe for creamed spinach calls for heavy cream and lots of butter. Here, we’ve swapped in coconut oil, coconut milk, and nutritional yeast for a dairy-free alternative.
Get the recipe: Coconut-Creamed Spinach
Brussels Sprouts With Sour Cherries, Prosciutto, and Hazelnuts
Compound ghee—clarified butter mixed with garlic, sour cherries, apple cider vinegar, and honey—really makes Brussels sprouts shine. Salty prosciutto and crunchy hazelnuts add an extra depth of flavor.
Get the recipe: Brussels Sprouts With Sour Cherries, Prosciutto, and Hazelnuts
Marinated Green Olives
For a crowd-pleasing hors d’oeuvre, marinate the jarred green olives in warm olive oil, and add herbs for a little extra kick.
Get the recipe: Marinated Green Olives
A sweet-and-spicy sauce—made from coconut aminos, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, and coconut sugar—takes the classic finger food to a addictive new heights.
Get the recipe: Hawaiian Edamame
With loads of garlic, olive oil, a hint of tamari, and ginger, spirulina masquerades as a sort of tapenade. Slather it on sandwiches, or serve it alongside fresh bread and crudites for a sophisticated aperitif.
Get the recipe: Spirulina Tapenade
Salt and Vinegar Brussels Sprouts Chips
The outer leaves of Brussels sprouts make perfect little chips when oven-roasted. Adding olive oil, Himalayan pink salt, and apple cider vinegar gives this gluten-free snack a lovely tang.
Get the recipe: Brussels Sprouts Chips Recipe
Probably the food with most intensely grassy color, spirulina instantly makes any dish green. This traditional risotto is no exception—and it’s jaw-dropping hue hints at the zucchini and veggies inside.
Get the recipe: Spirulina Risotto
Sautéed Green Beans and Snow Peas
Our friend the green bean pops up again, this time paired with snap peas, snow peas, purple potatoes, and red onion for the most colorful side dish we’ve ever seen.
Get the recipe: Sautéed Green Beans and Snow Peas
Green Wellness Bowl
What do broccoli, kale, pea shoots, avocado, and cucumber have in common? Aside from the fact that they’re all green, they all taste lovely together when dressed in a simple spirulina vinaigrette.
Get the recipe: Green Wellness Bowl With Spirulina Vinaigrette
Pine Nut Chimichurri Sauce
The classic Argentine steak sauce harnesses the bold flavors of garlic, parsley, pine nuts, and vinegar. Use it as a marinade for grilled meats, or top a medium-rare steak with a dollop.
Get the recipe: Pine Nut Chimichurri
Raw Matcha Ice Cream Cake
All it takes is two tablespoons of matcha green tea powder to give raw coconut milk “ice cream” a delightful seafoam tint. Rich coconut milk forms the base, while almonds, honey, and coconut oil come together as a crust.
Get the recipe: Raw Matcha Ice Cream Cake
Matcha-Chocolate Coated Snack Sticks
Pocky—the classic Japanese biscuit treat—typically comes dipped in milk chocolate, but here, we’ve concocted a matcha white chocolate coating to keep it festive.
Get the recipe: Matcha-Chocolate Snack Sticks
Matcha Chia Pudding
Omega-rich chia seeds already pack a powerful, energy-boosting punch, but green tea powder amps it up with a little caffeine kick, making chia pudding equal parts sweet treat and healthy snack.
Get the recipe: Matcha Chia Pudding Recipe
Maca Matcha Milkshake
Skip the Shamrock Shake in favor of a healthified almond milkshake flavored with matcha, vanilla, and honey—all jazzed up with mood-boosting maca. Bonus: The make-at-home version tastes way better than Mickey D’s, too.
Get the recipe: Maca Matcha Milkshake
An easy way to turn any dish green
There’s one other kitchen shortcut to turn any food you like into a St. Paddy’s Day treat: green food coloring.
Don’t run out to buy the conventional kind, though. While the science isn’t conclusive, some researchers have linked yellow food dye to hyperactivity and behavioral disorders, and some now-outlawed artificial colors even act as carcinogens.
Instead, try ColorKitchen’s line of plant-derived food colorings. The blue comes from spirulina, and the yellow from turmeric—it doesn’t get more natural than that! To get green, mix the two together. Then add to any of the following recipes.
Coconut flour and lots of eggs are the key to fluffy, grain-free pancakes. Dye them green and top the finished flapjacks with sliced kiwi or Granny Smith apples for even more color!
Get the recipe: Paleo Pancakes Recipe
Break out that shamrock cookie cutter—these sweet sugar cookies are just begging to be frosted in emerald icing. P.S. We bet they go pretty nicely with an Irish coffee.
Get the recipe: Sugar Cookies
Bet you didn’t realize you could make your own marshmallows at home—but you can, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Plus, the recipe can be easily customized for endless variations. Might we suggest lime-green vanilla?
Get the recipe: Vanilla Marshmallows
Gluten-Free Coconut Cake
This four-layer cake is stunning in white—but it would be equally striking if slicing into the ivory icing revealed a pop of lime green. (Just add the blue and yellow packets right into the batter.)
Get the recipe: Gluten-Free Coconut Cake
Bonus tip: Make Instagram-worthy green beer at home by mixing the blue and yellow powders in a teaspoon of water, adding the liquid to a pint glass, and pouring beer over. The carbonation will naturally mix in the dye, creating an emerald drink any leprechaun would envy!
Photo credit: Paul Delmont