Irish soda bread has a crisp crust and tender crumb, begging for butter. Make this recipe in one hour 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.
What is Irish soda bread
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.
In Ireland, the traditional soda bread recipe contains only four ingredients:
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 in 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 – This recipe calls for the addition of 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 smush 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 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!
Recipe Tips and Tricks
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 350F until the outside is crisp.
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.