It doesn’t get better than a warm slice of Irish Brown Bread served with a slather of butter. Made with wholesome and simple ingredients, you can make this brown bread recipe in under an hour for a deeply rich and nutty bread perfect dipping or dunking in your favorite stew. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, St. Patrick’s day, or those everyday warm bread cravings!

A wooden cutting board topped with parchment paper and a loaf of Irish brown bread with a bowl of butter and a butter knife at the top.

Years ago I made my first loaf of Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day and instantly fell in love. I loved the thick, hearty texture and simple, yet complex, flavor. It’s truly a fabulous bread that I have enjoyed over and over since first trying it. After tackling Irish soda bread, I wanted to learn more about Irish brown bread.

I found tons of recipes, all seeming to contradict each other in terms of what makes Irish brown bread truly “authentic”. In the end, it seemed that there was no one set of rules for Irish brown bread and I decided on this version from David Lebovitz, which comes from the chef/owner of Longueville House in Ireland.

I loved this version because it included such a wide variety of flours and grains – all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and a combination of wheat bran and wheat germ. It takes the hearty texture of the bread to a whole new level and is absolutely, utterly delicious. I think I am now officially converted to the brown bread version of Irish soda bread – it’s delish!

What is Irish Brown Bread?

If you have been to Ireland, you no doubt have come across this hearty bread. Irish brown bread, also called Irish brown or brown bread, is a traditional Irish bread recipe often served with breakfast and lunch. Many years ago, white flour was more expensive than wheat which meant you were more likely to make or find a loaf of brown bread over Irish soda bread.

How is Irish Brown Bread Different From Irish Soda Bread?

If you really want to get technical, brown bread is a form of soda bread since it uses baking soda as the leavening agent. However, the two loaves differ pretty significantly from there.

  • Irish brown bread has a deep, nutty flavor because of its wheat flour and wheat bran while soda bread uses only white flour.
  • Soda bread is slightly sweet and more scone-like while Irish brown bread is more savory with a tender interior.

Baking Irish Brown Bread

Made with basic ingredients typically consisting of coarse wheat flour, buttermilk, and baking soda this is truly a pantry-staple recipe. The extra crisp exterior surrounds a dense, but tender, interior for an unforgettable slice of bread.

Gather Your Ingredients

  • Flour Mixture – A mix of whole wheat flour, wheat bran, and all-purpose flour come together in this loaf to add a rich, nutty flavor.
  • Buttermilk + Baking Soda – The buttermilk helps prevent the bread from drying out during the baking process but also works with the baking soda to leaven the bread.
  • Salt – Flavor, flavor, flavor!
  • Butter – Cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces.
  • Molasses – Adds a hint of sweetness to the loaf while also adding to the brown color of the bread.

The ingredients for Irish brown bread in bowls on a counter labeled with that each ingredient is.

How to Make Irish Brown Bread

  • Preheat the oven: Set the oven to 350°F.
  • Prepare a baking sheet: Line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and put it on the center oven rack.
  • Whisk wheat flours: Mix together whole wheat flour and wheat/oat bran with a whisk in a large bowl.
  • Whisk dry ingredients: In a medium bowl whisk together all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt.

Three side by side photos of the making of Irish Brown Bread the first shows just the dry ingredients, the middle shows the dry ingredients topped with wet ingredients, and the third photo shows the dough in a bowl mixed with a wooden spoon.

  • Combine dry ingredients: Add the dry ingredients to the wheat flour mixture and whisk to combine.
  • Rub in the butter: Using your fingers, rub the butter pieces into the flour mixture until as small as possible.
  • Add liquid ingredients: Stir in buttermilk and molasses until the dough is uniformly damp.
  • Knead into a ball: Gently knead the dough on a lightly floured countertop until the dough forms a smooth ball.
  • Cross the top: Use a sharp serrated knife (or a lame) to slice a cross 1-inch deep into the bread. Place loaf on the hot baking sheet.

Irish brown bread dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet with a cross cut in the top of the loaf.

  • Bake: Put the loaf in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the loaf is firm on top and when you tap the bottom, it feels hollow.
  • Cool: Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour before serving.

Recipe Notes

  • Pan for baking: I prefer to use a lined baking sheet for this brown bread recipe but you can also use a seasoned cast-iron skillet.
  • Storing: Store fresh baked Irish brown bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days after baking.
  • Freezing: If you don’t plan on eating your bread right away I suggest freezing the loaf. Wrap the cooled loaf tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Reheating: When you are ready to reheat the loaf, remove it from the freezer and allow it to come to room temperature. Pop in the oven and bake at 350°F for 5-10 minutes.

Sliced Irish brown bread on a wooden cutting board with a small bowl of butter to the right.

Serving Suggestions

I truly believe you can’t go wrong with toasting a slice of this delicious bread and spreading on a little Irish butter. Some other ways you can indulge in this hearty bread include:

Other Bread Recipes to Try Next

A slice of Irish brown bread slathered with butter on a wooden cutting board.

Irish Brown Bread

You don’t need the luck of the Irish to make this Irish Brown Bread recipe! No yeast, no rise time, and crisp on the outside, tender on the inside every time makes this the only brown bread recipe you will need.

If you make this Irish Brown Bread Recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

A loaf of Irish Brown Bread on a piece of parchment paper on a wooden cutting board.

Irish Brown Bread

This traditional Irish Brown Bread recipe makes the perfect loaf of bread for a slather of butter or dunking in stew.
4.75 (4 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 1⅛ cups (127 g) whole wheat flour
  • 1⅓ cups (85 g) wheat bran
  • 2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (0.75 teaspoon) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) salt
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • cups (300 ml) buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons (1 teaspoon) molasses

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and put it on the center oven rack.
  • Whisk together the whole wheat flour and wheat/oat bran or wheat germ in a large bowl.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the wheat flour mixture and whisk to combine.
  • Add the butter pieces and rub them into small pieces with the flour mixture using your fingers or a pastry blender, until as small as possible.
  • Stir in the buttermilk and molasses until the dough is uniformly damp. Turn out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead gently, until the dough forms a smooth ball.
  • Use a sharp serrated knife (or a lame) to slice a cross deeply into the top of the bread, about 1-inch deep. Place the loaf on the hot baking sheet.
  • Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the loaf is firm on top and when you tap the bottom, feels hollow.
  • Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about one hour before serving.

Notes

  • Equipment: Rimmed baking sheet or cast iron skillet
  • Wheat Bran: You can substitute oat bran or wheat germ, by weight.
  • Buttermilk: If you do not have buttermilk and can't get it, use this substitution: Place 1½  tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar in a liquid 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough whole or 2% milk to bring the mixture to 1½ cups. Stir it, then let it sit for 5 minutes before using. Discard ¼ cup to get the correct measurement for this recipe.
  • Storing: Store fresh baked Irish brown bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days after baking.
  • Freezing: If you don't plan on eating your bread right away I suggest freezing the loaf. Wrap the cooled loaf tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Reheating: When you are ready to reheat the loaf, remove it from the freezer and allow it to come to room temperature. Pop in the oven and bake at 350°F for 5-10 minutes.
  • Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz.
Calories: 213kcal, Carbohydrates: 45g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 8mg, Sodium: 194mg, Potassium: 457mg, Fiber: 13g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 103IU, Calcium: 62mg, Iron: 4mg

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Photography by Lauren Grant.