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Irish Soda Bread

This recipe for Irish Soda Bread is a quick and easy yeast-free bread that is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day! This Irish classic is made with simple baking ingredients and is easy to assemble. The results are a light and fluffy loaf that is perfect for slathering with butter or jam.

Irish soda bread is a unique type of quick bread that originated from Ireland. This bread gets its name from the baking soda that is used as a leavening agent instead of yeast. The ingredients are very simple and consist of flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, buttermilk, and butter.

Irish soda bread is a light and fluffy quick bread that has a slightly sweet and tangy flavor. The buttermilk gives the bread a slightly sour taste, while the sugar provides just a hint of sweetness. There are many variations of Irish soda Bread, including adding different types of fruits or nuts.

This easy recipe is great for beginners and will yield the perfect soda bread loaf that’s wonderful to serve with a cup of tea or Irish Coffee with a little Homemade Irish Cream Whipped Cream on top for St. Patrick’s Day!

Close up view of bread in a skillet.

Irish Soda Bread Ingredients

  • All-Purpose Flour – This is the main ingredient that helps to make up the dry base of the soda bread. It holds all the ingredients together and creates a light and fluffy texture.
  • Granulated Sugar – Though optional, using a bit of sugar to sweeten the bread adds a great depth of flavor.
  • Baking Soda – This is what helps to leaven the bread and gives it that classic soda bread texture.
  • Salt – Just a pinch of salt is all you need to balance out the sweetness of the sugar and add a bit of flavor.
  • Buttermilk – This is one of the key ingredients in Irish soda bread, as it activates the baking soda and provides moisture to the bread.
  • Unsalted Butter – Adding butter to the dough not only gives it a delicious flavor but also helps to keep the bread moist.
  • Raisins – Adds a sweet and tart flavor throughout the bread, though it is optional.
  • Caraway Seeds – These bold-flavored seeds are popular in rye bread and soda bread to give them flavor. They are optional.

How To Make Irish Soda Bread

  • Prepare for baking: Preheat the oven to 350°F, and prepare the baking pan. Set aside. (see recipe tips on how to choose the correct baking pan)
  • Mix the dry ingredients with butter: Add all of the dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk to fully combine. Cut the butter into small cubes, then add it to the dry mixture. Using a pastry cutter, two forks, or your hands, cut the butter into the dry mixture until a coarse cornmeal texture is formed. Stir in the raisins and caraway seeds (if using) until well coated in flour.
  • Add the wet ingredients: Pour in the buttermilk and stir until the dough becomes soft. It should be a shaggy texture. If it is too sticky, add 1-2 tablespoons of additional flour.
  • Bake the soda bread: Form the dough into a rounded shape, and transfer into a prepared baking pan. Use a sharp knife to score the dough with an “X”. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool and serve: Transfer the Irish soda bread to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving with your favorite spreads.
Collage showing how to make irish soda bread.

Recipe Tips

  1. Choosing the right baking pan: There are a variety of baking pan options available for this recipe. We used a 10.25-inch cast iron pan that was well buttered. A large baking sheet, Dutch oven, or 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan can also be used. Using a large pan, such as a baking sheet, will cause the bread to spread more since there are no sides for it to press against as it rises. For a taller loaf, try using an 8-inch cast iron pan or even a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Just make sure that the amount of dough will fit into the pan and have adequate room to expand.
  2. We don’t recommend substituting the buttermilk with another milk (homemade or dairy alternative). The acid in the buttermilk is just the right amount to activate the baking soda allowing the bread to rise while still providing the correct amount of moisture.
  3. Raisins and caraway seeds are classic ingredients in Irish soda bread but are completely optional.
  4. The granulated sugar is also optional, but many people love the sweetness it provides to the bread. The sugar can be adjusted up to 1 cup for a sweeter bread or omitted completely for a more savory bread.

Variations

  • Add in dried fruits for a sweet and tart flavor. Dried cranberries or apricots are all great options for sweetening the loaf.
  • Add in your favorite nuts to the mix. Nuts such as walnuts or pecans also add texture and flavor to the bread.
  • Add in your favorite spices. Commonly used spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger.
  • To make gluten-free Irish soda bread, use a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend in place of the purpose flour. Be sure to also use a gluten-free baking soda.
Two pieces of raisin Irish soda bread on a plate.

Can I use a different kind of flour?

Yes, you can use whole-wheat flour or all-purpose gluten-free flour in place of the white whole wheat. Just be sure to also use a gluten-free baking soda if needed. If the dough is too dry, add additional buttermilk to reach the correct texture. The texture and taste will vary slightly from using white whole wheat flour but should still be delicious.

Can I use a different type of sweetener?

Yes, you can use honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar in place of the granulated sugar. Just be sure to reduce the amount by about one-third as these types of sugars are more dense than granulated sugar.

Storing and Freezing

Storing: Irish soda bread can be stored at room temperature for up to two days in a large Ziploc bag or in the fridge in a container for up to four days.

Freezing: To freeze, tightly wrap the cooled Irish soda bread in plastic wrap, then place it in a freezer-safe container or bag. It will last up to three months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

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Yield: 1 Loaf

Irish Soda Bread

Cast iron skillet with a loaf of irish soda bread.

This recipe for Irish Soda Bread is a quick and easy yeast-free bread that is perfect for St. Patrick's Day! This Irish classic is made with simple baking ingredients and is easy to assemble.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Cool Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar, optional
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup raisins, optional
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, optional
  • 1 ⅓ cups buttermilk, no substitute

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and prepare the baking pan (see notes below). Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, two forks, or your hands. The mixture should look like coarse cornmeal.
  3. Stir in the raisins and caraway seeds (if using) until well coated with flour.
  4. Slowly add the buttermilk until a soft dough forms. The dough should be stiff and slightly shaggy, but not sticky or tacky. If the dough is too sticky, add 1-2 additional tablespoons of flour.
  5. Form the dough into a rounded loaf, and transfer it to the prepared baking pan. Use a sharp knife or bread lame to score the top in the shape of an “X.”
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely. Allow bread to cool before slicing.
  7. See post for storage options.

Notes

*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of 1 slice (1 sixteenth) of bread. Actual calories will vary.

*For more information, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to the post.

*There are a variety of baking pan options available for this recipe. We used a 10.25-inch cast iron pan that was well buttered. A large baking sheet, Dutch oven, or 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan can also be used. Using a large pan, such as a baking sheet, will cause the bread to spread more since there are no sides for it to press against. For a taller loaf, try using an 8-inch cast iron pan or even a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Just make sure that the amount of dough will fit into the pan and have adequate room to expand.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 244Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 253mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 4g

*The calories are an estimate and are based on the ingredients and serving size listed. The calories can vary depending on the brand of product purchased.

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