Irish Soda Bread ~ Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Although I am one-quarter Irish, I am embarrassed to admit that I really am not educated on the food and traditions of the Irish culture. As a result, I thought for St. Patrick’s Day I would bake up something traditionally Irish and take a little time to learn about the background of the dish. I chose Irish Soda Bread since I have seen so many variations of it online over the years and I put it on My 100 list of things to make. Not only had I never made this bread before, but I had never tasted it either. I dove in with no real expectations and about an hour later became officially addicted to this bread. As in, devoured a large portion of the loaf. I had to practice some serious restraint and was happy to share it with some family!


I found the history of Irish Soda Bread to be interesting, as it is a result of Ireland  not producing grain with a high enough protein content to work successfully with yeast. However, the lower protein content resulted in a softer flour that worked exceptionally well with baking soda and together could product a beautiful rise. I was always under the impression that Irish Soda Bread contained raisins or some sort of dried fruit, but from what I read, this is the Americanized version of the bread and traditionally it only included four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. This bread could not be any easier to put together. One bowl, a whisk, a fork, and some light elbow grease is all you need. I love the rustic nature of the bread and how hearty it tastes. Slather it with butter and jam, toast it and drizzle it with honey, or slice off pieces and eat it plain (guilty). However you eat it, just be sure to make it and enjoy it; this is an Irish tradition I am likely to repeat year after year!


Classic Irish Soda Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 to 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour


3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for crust
1½ cups buttermilk


1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400°. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl. Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips until the texture resembles coarse crumbs.

2. Add the buttermilk and stir with a fork just until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a flour-coated work surface; knead just until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy, 12 to 14 turns. (Do not knead until the dough is smooth, or the bread will be tough.)

3. Pat the dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Score the dough by cutting a cross shape on the top of the loaf.

4. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, or the internal temperature reaches 180°, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and brush the surface with the melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes.

(Baking Illustrated, pages 42-43)


35 Responses to “Irish Soda Bread ~ Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”

  1. Jillian on March 18, 2009 at 1:18 am

    Hi Chelle,

    I love making soda bread. I make it a couple times a year at least! It’s really good with stews that are chock full of veggies or with maple syrup on it.

    I’ve never heard of brushing melted butter on the loaf once it comes out of the oven. I always just sprinkle some sugar on the top before I bake it.

    Also: if you don’t have a thermometer or a skewer (but really who doesn’t?) you can check to see if the loaf is done by turning it over and tapping the bottom. If it makes the “thwunk thwunk” sound, like a ripe watermelon, it’s done. =] That’s my favorite way to check.

    Happy baking, and happy St. Patrick’s day!


  2. Joelen on March 18, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Looks delicious and I’m loving the beautiful crust!


  3. Maria on March 18, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Hope you enjoyed the holiday! The bread looks yummy!


  4. claire on March 18, 2009 at 9:24 am

    your bread looks really nice and fluffy! this st. patrick’s day got my interest in irish soda bread all perked up. i’m going to have to try it, soon…


  5. Tracey on March 18, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Looks great! Nice job. I had never made one or tasted it either before yesterday. I think we used a very similar recipe too.


  6. Claire Mason on March 18, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Yours looks like it turned out lovely. My grandma (who’s Irish) includes just a little bit of caraway seeds, and that gives it a kind of rye bread-y taste. So good.
    I share your guilt. Whenever it’s around, I can’t resist it either.


  7. Nicole on March 18, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Yum! this looks delicious. I have had Irish Soda Bread a couple times at an Irish pub but you’re right… I think it may have had some raisins of which I could do without. Yours looks great. I will have to try it soon especially since there is no rise time!


  8. Elyse on March 18, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    What a great occasion to learn about your Irish history! Your bread looks fabulous, and the evolution is quite interesting. Happy belated St. Patty’s Day!


  9. MarthaAndMe on March 19, 2009 at 7:20 am

    I love soda bread. This year I made my family recipe and Martha Stewart’s for a taste-off. Both were good. You can see them here:
    I love the color of yours and it looks like sliced nicely without crumbling!


  10. Amber on March 19, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Your bread looks delicious! I’ll have to add it to my list of breads to make. :)


  11. Mick on August 30, 2009 at 1:44 am

    I’m a total sucker for soda bread. Thanks for the recipe! I’ll def. try it.


  12. nicole on March 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I made Irish soda bread for the first time last year and loved it! I can’t wait to make it again this week!


  13. Randall on March 20, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Take nothing but ancestors, leave nothing but records.


  14. Jarrett on March 3, 2011 at 11:50 am

    For years I’ve made the soda bread from Sarah Leah Chase’s “Cold Weather Cooking” (a must-have book for one who lives in Minnesota). Her little truc is that it calls for golden raisins plumped in Irish whiskey. It makes for nice surprise. So if you ever do want to add dried fruit, give that a try. Speaking of try, I definitely will be giving this Back to the Basics version a try. It looks and sounds wonderful.The addition of the cake flour must make for a wonderful crumb.


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  16. Tamara on March 11, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    I made Irish soda bread a few years ago only because I didn’t have a bread maker and wanted homemade bread. :-) The bread was great! I am thinking about making it again this year, but adding raisins.


  17. Chelsea on March 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Hello! I’m making this recipe tomorrow, but I was wondering if I would be able to split what is supposed to be this one loaf, to form two smaller loaves. Do you think this would work well without affecting the bread? I’m guessing I would just have to cook them for less time. I’m planning on making this tomorrow, so I hope you respond! Thank you SO much! Love your site! 😀


    • Michelle on March 14th, 2011 at 12:07 am

      Hi Chelsea, Yes you can definitely make two smaller loaves and, as you said, reduce the baking time. Enjoy the bread!


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  19. Debbie on March 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I’ve been baking up a storm with your recipes and they’ve never failed me!!! My friends are hosting a St. Patty’s day party and I was hoping to make something a day or two before the party. Is it possible to make this awesome bread a day or two before, if so what is the best way of storing? Thanks so much!


    • Michelle on March 15th, 2011 at 7:45 pm

      Hi Debbie, I have found that this bread is definitely best the day it is made. However, if you are really crunched for time, you could make it a day ahead and store it in a paper bag, then pop it back in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes to warm it up before serving.


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  21. Kathleen on November 12, 2011 at 3:08 am

    My parents were from Galway and my mother was famous for her Irish bread over here (Boston and Maine). She died almost twenty years ago and people still rave about it! She did put raisins in it and sometimes added caraway seeds, but they can be left out. She didn’t really measure, just sort of eyeballed the ingredients, but since I’ve taken over and I don’t make it every day like she did, I measure a little more. You don’t have to be exact as it’s very forgiving.

    She used 4 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached), 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp each of baking powder, baking soda, and salt (all sifter together). She then cut in 1/4 cup butter with her fingers. She added about a cup of raisins at this point. She added a lightly beaten egg to the buttermilk (about 1 1/2 cups or more), then added that as needed to the flour mixture with her hands (which was why everything in the kitchen always had a glob of dough on it!) until all the flour was wet. She kneaded a little flour into it just until it didn’t stick to her floured hands (better to be too wet than too dry) then formed it into a ball. It went into a greased and floured cast iron pan (10 inch) and was flattened slightly.

    Before she cut the cross into it, she coated the top with a slightly beaten egg yolk, then it went into a 350 degree oven for about an hour. Mine is always done in an hour. It is best just to take it out, turn it over, and thump it to see if it sounds hollow to know if it’s done. The yolk wash turns the crust a beautiful golden brown color which contrasts with the white of the cross. The more recipes for Irish bread out there, the merrier! (I’m still going to try yours.)


    • Michelle on November 12th, 2011 at 10:52 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing your mom’s recipe! I can’t wait to try it!


  22. Elizabeth Healy on March 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Oh my. I just had this for dinner with butter and jam! Delish!


  23. Mel on July 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I am not sure how this happened, but there are recipes all over the web which call themselves Irish soda bread, but they really aren’t. This recipe does look very good, and I am sure it tastes awesome, like all your other recipes. However, it is not Irish soda bread! The only ingredients in Irish soda bread are all purpose flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. It was created as a cheap, but filling food for farmers in Ireland. It should not have sugar, butter or any other ‘expensive’ additions.


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  27. Jocelyn on March 17, 2014 at 1:43 am

    This is a very nice Irish soda bread. It went wonderfully with our St. Patrick’s Day soup. I will be making it again. Thanks so much.


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  29. Branden on January 14, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Here in Ireland it would be very unusual to have white soda bread. It is almost always made with a mixture of half AP flour and half wholemeal flour. cake flour is almost imposible to get here. It is also quite common to sprinkle some oatmeal on top of the bread before it goes into the oven. The adition of an egg to the dough also makes for a more moist bread. If you are making it again this St. Patrick’s day give that a try and should get a fairly authentic “brown bread” as it’s called. Allso the bread that you discribe with dried fruit does exist here, it is usaly lightly sweetened and refered to as cake. People would typicly slather it with butter and wash it down with tea. It is often even made with stout. Try looking up “porter cake”


    • Branden on January 14th, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      Also do by all means put butter into it, contrary to what the person above commented butter is and has been for thousands of years a staple of the irish diet. It has never been considered a luxury ingrediant, in fact during hard times butter and milk might have been the only fat and protien that a family on a small farm could afford.


  30. jyllzie on March 10, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    oh how your photography skills have improved since 2009!!!! :)


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