Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread is a delicious quick bread that requires no yeast but gets its beautiful rise from a combination of baking soda and buttermilk. It has a crisp crust and a dense, tender crumb, which makes it the perfect bread for soaking up the remnants of your favorite beef stew (or just slathering in butter!). This simple soda bread can be made in just one hour and with simple ingredients!
Following the lead of the traditional Irish recipe, we are making a simple bread that comes together quickly with just a few ingredients.
We get the same crispy outer crust and tender inner crumb, but amp it up with a little richness. It’s perfect for pairing with my Guiness Beef Stew on St. Patrick’s Day (or any day, really)!
I’ve made a ton of variations on traditional Irish soda bread over the years – scones, brown bread, whiskey soda bread with Irish whiskey butter, and rye soda bread – however, this original classic version continues to be my absolute favorite.
It bakes up with a fabulous crisp crust and a light, tender crumb. It’s the perfect vehicle for slathering on embarrassing amounts of Kerrygold butter.
Irish soda bread history
This easy bread is considered an iconic Irish recipe, like Shepherd’s Pie and corned beef.
It’s an adaptation of a quick bread developed by American settlers in the 1700s. The American version was made with potash – a precursor to modern-day baking soda.
By the mid-1800s, sodium bicarbonate (the scientific name for baking soda) became commercially available in Europe, and Irish soda bread was born.
What’s in Irish soda bread
In Ireland, the traditional soda bread recipe contains only four ingredients:
- Baking soda
- Low-Protein Flour
They are mixed together just until a rough dough forms and baked golden brown.
The resulting bread has a crispy exterior and soft, tender interior. It welcomes butter and is perfect for sopping up a delicious stew.
- Flour – One of the main differences between a classic soda bread recipe and the ingredients in this one is the flour. The wheat produced in Ireland was low in protein. Being low in protein meant it didn’t have enough structure to work well with yeast in bread recipes. This being said, the flour was much softer, so it did work marvelously with baking soda! These days, all-purpose flour has a higher protein than the flour in the traditional bread. As a result, we will add some cake flour, which has a lower protein count. Blending cake flour with all-purpose provides the perfect protein ratio for this bread.
- Acidity – The traditional recipe relies on buttermilk reacting with baking soda to create the leavener. This recipe boosts it with the addition of cream of tartar.
- Sugar – There’s a small amount of sugar in this recipe. Not much, just two tablespoons. This helps balance out the saltiness from both the salt and baking soda.
- Butter – Butter gives the bread extra richness, more flavor, and a softer crumb.
How to make Irish soda bread
Because this is a “quick bread” recipe, the process is very easy and only takes about ten minutes!
- Prepare the Oven – Preheat your oven to 400°F. Also, adjust the rack to the middle-top position, to ensure you get a beautiful golden-brown crust.
- Prepare the Base – Break out a large mixing bowl, and dump in your dry ingredients: flours, salt, sugar, and cream of tartar. Whisk them together with a fork, and then add the softened butter. Use the back of your fork or your fingers to smash the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
- Make the Dough – Use your fork to stir in the buttermilk just until the dough comes together. Turn it out onto a well-floured counter and gently work the dough until it’s bumpy and cohesive. Form it into a 6” disc, place it onto a 12” cast iron skillet or parchment-lined baking sheet. Score the top of your loaf with an X so that it can expand in the oven.
- Bake the Bread – Place the loaf in your preheated oven and bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The interior should be 180°F when read with an instant-read thermometer. Baking should take 40-45 minutes. Brush the loaf with your melted butter and allow it to cool completely (about 30-40 minutes) before slicing, serving, and enjoying!
While I love this recipe au natural, you can put tons of different spins on it! Here are some ideas for you:
- 1 cup of raisins, golden raisins, or currants
- 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds
- Other chopped dried fruit, such as figs or cherries
- Chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pistachios
- Cubed cheddar cheese + grated apple
- Black pepper + Parmesan cheese
- Chopped sundried tomatoes + crumbled feta
- Make it sweet with chopped dark chocolate + shredded coconut
Recipe tips and tricks for soda bread
- For the quickest bread make sure to have all your ingredients measured and in place before you begin.
- Do not knead the dough until it is smooth. Stop once it is lumpy and cohesive – about 12-14 turns. If you knead it until it’s smooth, your finished bread will be tough.
- Use a cast-iron skillet for the crispiest crust. A baking sheet will work fine, but there’s something magical about cast iron.
- To store the bread wrap it well in plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature for up to three days.
- Reheat slices of the bread in a toaster oven at 350 degrees F until the outside is crisp.
Irish soda bread
This quick and easy soda bread requires no yeast and is the perfect sidekick for soup night or anytime you’re craving freshly baked bread but don’t want to wait for it to rise. A must-have recipe for everyone!
If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️
Irish Soda Bread
- 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (120 g) cake flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons (1.5 teaspoons) baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons (1.5 teaspoons) cream of tartar
- 1½ teaspoons (1.5 teaspoons) salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1½ cups (360 ml) buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips until the texture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add the buttermilk and stir with a fork just until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a floured work surface and 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 turn out tough.)
- Pat the dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Score the dough by cutting a cross shape on the top of the loaf.
- Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, or the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F on an instead-read thermometer, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and brush the surface with the melted butter. Cool to room temperature before slicing, about 30 to 40 minutes. Leftovers should be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- Cake Flour - You can purchase cake flour in most grocery stores or online; if you can't get it, substitute ¾ cup sifted all-purpose flour + 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Buttermilk - This is the key to the bread's rise and phenomenal texture. 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.
- Equipment - Cast iron skillet
- Mix-Ins - See the list above for both traditional and non-traditional mix-in ideas.
- Freezing Instructions - You can freeze the entire loaf or individual slices. Cool the bread completely, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe zip-top bag. Freeze for up to 3 months; thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
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 Ari Laing
This may not fit the bill for a traditional Irish soda bread, but everyone who I shared my batch of this bread with said it was the best soda bread they’d ever had. This recipe will be a staple in our kitchen going forward. (Surely this would all be considered blasphemy! My ancestors are surely turning in their graves right now!! They can fight me. They have no idea what they’re missing.) I also lightly salted the top before baking. And dare I even admit, I finely grated some Kerrygold Skellig cheddar into the mix?! Damn near put myself over the edge. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to trying more of your recipes!
Hiya petal thank you for your home made soda bread ingredients was just wondering about the oven temperature most ovens are different just like the gas oven what is the oven settings for fan ovens please thank you so much please stay safe and thank you again petal happy new year to you petal x
Can I use dry buttermilk (e.g. SACO Cultured Buttermilk Blend) in place of regular buttermilk without sacrificing taste or texture?
I haven’t used that in this particular recipes, but I have used it in others and it worked wonderfully! I would say give it a shot!
Loved this recipe! Made Irish Soda Bread for the first time March 2020 (guess why). Knew BEB recipes were always good, so I didn’t bother searching elsewhere. It was a great addition to the corned beef etc, especially for mopping up. I rarelly get around to after-action reports on recipes, but this one is a winner, and so easy.
I made this for St. Patrick’s Day and it was really good!
Made this today. Followed your directions. Added currants into the mix and sparkling sugar across the top. It came out great. Everyone loved it. Very nice soda bread.
I was just reading through the comments so I wasn’t redundant. I make a similar traditional/classic recipe that has been passed down to me through the generations that adds raisins and caraway. The warm slice with Irish butter has inspired me to make it this morning. I just wanted to add you say you cut an X on top…I’ve always been taught that it’s a cross and you say “in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as you do it. 🤷🏼♀️ Just thought it was interesting. ☘️ Thanks for posting this lovely recipe.
Made it for dinner tonight. Loved it. Definitely a keeper and will be making it at least once a week!
I have been looking for a good grasshopper pie recipe for a long time.This one is delicious. Love you recipes.
Do you grease the cast iron pan before baking?
Do you preheat Cast iron pan ?
Hi Michelle. I just made your Irish Soda Bread today. My husband and myself, just had a nice warm slice with Kerrygold whiskey butter. It is delicious. I make soda bread a lot. Your recipe and mine are different with different results. I like them both. It’s fun to change things around and put a new spin on what you know. Or as I say to my husband when I move the furniture around or change the kitchen cabinets, “Change is good.” Thanks for yet another tasty and great recipe
P.S. I made your bourbon cake and it was a hit. Now, I am going to make it again tonight with Irish whiskey.
Classic or Traditional Irish Soda Bread does NOT contain eggs, raisins, sugar, butter, etc. Just four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. See The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread., http://www.sodabread.info/menu/
The whole point of soda bread was the simplicity and availability of the ingredients.
I suggest you remove the reference to “classic” because, it’s simply not. The addition of things like raisins, sugar, etc. is more of an American thing.
Catherine is correct to my teaching about soda bread. That is the way I was taught, too. Too many people have never been in Ireland or have not been taught by Irish bakers or have the old recipes that have been handed down from older bakers. My brisket and a piece of bacon(fatty cured pork) is cooked (simmered) in a beer with cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. The harshness of the lives of the Irish made the old recipes what they are. Newer recipes had been developed with the glitz of added ingredients and should be described as modern recipes so as not to confuse people who like the sweeter and more modern tastes of added fruits and even nuts.
Excuse me, I come back just to say, concerning the cream of tartar : this is an acid agent, and we know that acidity is necessary in combination with bread soda (baking soda) to let it react. But you already have the acidity with the buttermilk. I made your recipe without the cream of tartar and it worked perfectly (so don’t worry if you have no cream of tartar in your kitchen !)
And concernig the butter, I was confusing with “fat”, so you were right when saying that in hard times, butter (I mean real butter, not lard or other fat) was a luxury ingredient
But what I still don’t understand is : why unsalted butter…
I don’t know if this recipe is “purely” irish or not, as said someone, but sure butter in irish soda bread mau ALSO be irish. Now you may add butter or not (some do, some dont’, personnaly I don’t) but I agree that butter was part of the “fats” that were possible to afford in hard times. What I don’t understand is : why “unsalted” ??? Irish butter, s salted (as ours, in Brittany, hmmmm, too good !!!) And what I find no use is crema of tartra. But it’s nice to get different recipes, so we can try each one and then, mix and make our own. So thanks a lot for giving yours. Emsi, from Brittany
Turned out great! I used my biscuit technique of grating frozen butter with a cheese grater instead of cutting in – just seems quicker to me. I left out the one cup of cake flour until turning out and kneading (in retrospect, I think I’d leave out one cup of the AP flour for the turning instead), and like biscuits, I barely worked the dough. With this loaf, I do wish I had kneaded just a little bit more than I do with my biscuit technique; 12-14 turns mentioned in the recipe didn’t seem to be quite enough, so when cutting with a knife, the loaf isn’t quite supported enough in places and a few pieces would break off. I would definitely knead a bit more to make the loaf more cohesive, but my biscuit technique starts the kneading process with a very wet dough, almost a batter. The flavor, crumb, texture, baking time and temp etc was all perfect!
I’ve been trying to make “great” biscuits seems like FOREVER! Lol! Never have had a really good recipe, so when I read all of your comments about your “wonderful” biscuit techniques I want MORE! Will you please share that?? FYI, I LOVE crispy (“crunchy”!) on outside and soft on inside!!!
Thank you in advance!!
Hands down, the greatest soda bread I’ve ever had , let alone made! I didn’t have cream of tartar, so used baking powder with an extra 1/4 tsp of soda. Fantastic recipe, thank you!
P.s. I made it to take to st pattys corned beef and cabbage @ a friend’s. I made a half batch with raisins and caraway seeds (because we couldn’t wait!) Exquisite!
Had to add some extra butter to get more of a coarse crumbs texture, but the bread still turned out great. Also substituted milk with lemon juice for the buttermilk.
The intro refers to slicing a warm piece right out of the oven and the total time is 1 hour but the recipe says to let it rest 30 to 40 minutes after baking. Does it need the resting time to finish baking or can it be eaten right away? Thanks!
Hi Diane, As with all bread, it’s best to let it cool to room temperature before slicing so it sets up properly, but sometimes I just dig in because warm bread is so wonderful!
I made this recipe this morning before work because it’s so quick! I’d never tried soda bread before, but I like it. I combined all the dry ingredients last night, and this morning combined in the softened butter and buttermilk. The crust from baking it in my cast iron was perfect. I did use a 10-inch, and while the loaf does expand, it didn’t encroach on the edges.
I actually read the recipe out of the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book (the updated Baking Illustrated), and per the recipe ended up needing a full 1 3/4 cup of buttermilk, so if you find some of your flour at the bottom of the bowl not quite getting in there, this might be why.
This is wonderful bread Turned out perfectly – easiest recipe and best results so far!Most Helpful!!!
I am curious what the addition of cake flour to this batter does? I actually have some cake flour I bought on sale because I’ve always wanted to use it – I am curious what’s different about it. But I am curious what it adds/gives to your Irish bread batter. I haven’t had soda bread in a long time and sometimes when I’ve purchased in the store it’s terribly “dense” and overall too dry. I am curious if the cake flour adds some softness to it. If you had time to let me know, I’d be grateful!
PS Your little boy is a darling!!!!!!!!!! Lucky you!!!!!!!
Your soda bread looks and sounds wonderful. Over the years I’ve had many different recipes, most with raisins, with and without caraway seeds. I find that I prefer a bit of sweetness in the bread. I made a recipe one time and on a whim, added some honey. It was delicious! I wish I still had that recipe. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Hi KC, Aw, thank you! :) Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, which helps to give baked goods a softer, more tender crumb.
Thanks for dredging up an old memory. WAY back in the late 1940’s my brother and I would come home from school, mix up a soda bread and had eaten half of it well before dinner. We did it the way Mom did and never had a written recipe. She was from Kilkenny and could cook anything! Anyone who says the Irish can’t cook never met the likes of her. Butter was scarce in those days so we used lard in the mix. We had real milk then which probably made a difference. We often put caraway seeds in but never raisins. We also never had cake flour or cream of tartar either.
I have purchased bakery soda breads in recent years and they are not even close to the real thing. Your recipe sounds delicious but all you really need is flour, salt, sugar shortening or butter and caraway seeds if you like.
I have been thinking about trying Irish Soda Bread to go with the colcannon I’m making for supper this evening. How do you think this would bake up if placed in a baking cloche? A cast iron skillet its one kitchen “tool” I do not own :/ Also, I recently heard that toasting sliced Irish soda bread in the oven makes it very similar to biscotti and is delicious with a cup of hot tea or coffee. Have you tried that? Happy St Patrick’s Day!
You can just bake it on a sheet pan. No big deal. If you toast leftovers They will be very good but i doubt they will get as hard as a biscotti, unless you burn the heck out of them. Toasted leftovers with lots of butter! YUM!
Hi Michelle, I’m not sure, I’ve done it in a cast iron skillet and on a baking sheet with parchment. I reheated mine in the toaster oven at 350 degrees and it did get nice and crisp, but nowhere near biscotti. If you did it at a higher temperature, you might get that!
I was just thinking this morning that it would be an appropriate time to update your Irish Soda Bread photos! I made this yesterday and it was one of THE best breads I’ve ever made! It’s so much better than when I bought one from the store. My husband called it ‘cracker bread’ which I think fits, the outside pieces are crunchy like crackers and it’s so addicting! Enjoying a piece with jam while I drink my morning cup of Joe and I know I’ll have a piece with butter later today. Thank you!
It looks delicious ! I would like to eat it : D
oh how your photography skills have improved since 2009!!!! :)
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”
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.
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.
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.
Oh my. I just had this for dinner with butter and jam! Delish!
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.)
Thank you so much for sharing your mom’s recipe! I can’t wait to try it!
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!
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.
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! :D
Hi Chelsea, Yes you can definitely make two smaller loaves and, as you said, reduce the baking time. Enjoy the bread!
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.
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.
Take nothing but ancestors, leave nothing but records.
I made Irish soda bread for the first time last year and loved it! I can’t wait to make it again this week!
I’m a total sucker for soda bread. Thanks for the recipe! I’ll def. try it.
Your bread looks delicious! I’ll have to add it to my list of breads to make. :)
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!
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!
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!
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.
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…
Looks great! Nice job. I had never made one or tasted it either before yesterday. I think we used a very similar recipe too.
Hope you enjoyed the holiday! The bread looks yummy!
Looks delicious and I’m loving the beautiful crust!
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!