Grandma’s Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread that does not require any yeast. Instead, all of its leavening comes from baking soda and buttermilk. This Irish soda bread recipe is my grandmother’s and has been cherished in my family for years. It’s dense, yet soft and has the most incredible crusty exterior. Buttermilk and cold butter are the secret to its delicious success!

Irish soda bread loaf

Welcome to my favorite Irish Soda Bread recipe. I shared this no yeast bread recipe on my blog a few years ago and decided to revisit with fresh new pictures and a video tutorial.

I’m often asked where I gather inspiration in the kitchen. The answer is simple: my grandmother. She passed away in 2011, 2 weeks before I started this food blog. I dedicated my 1st cookbook to her. Full of energy and the creator of the best homemade pie crust on earth, she would be in her 90s today. St. Patrick’s Day is her birthday.

Grandma Harlett

Irish soda bread cut into slices

Irish Soda Bread is a Quick Bread

Does the thought of homemade bread send you running for the hills? Sometimes homemade bread feels daunting, but you’re in luck today. Irish soda bread is a quick bread made with baking soda, not yeast. It’s a shortcut bread that doesn’t skimp on flavor.

What’s the texture like? The best Irish soda bread, like this recipe, has a golden brown crust with a dense, tight crumb. The bread isn’t heavy, it’s actually quite tender and soft inside. The crust is nice and crisp when it comes out of the oven and becomes a little chewy on day 2 and 3. It’s so good.

The raisins are optional, but Grandma would never let you skip them!

Video: Homemade Irish Soda Bread

My grandmother’s Irish soda bread contains some sugar, but it’s not overly sweet. It’s a wonderful companion for savory dinners like hearty stew or you can serve it with butter, jam, and/or cheese.

Irish soda bread dough in cast iron skillet

How to Make Irish Soda Bread in 6 Steps

Irish soda bread dough comes together in about 10 minutes. You need buttermilk, egg, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and butter.

  1. Whisk the wet ingredients together.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
  3. Cut cold butter into the dry ingredients. Like scones and pie crust, cutting cold butter into the flour is a key step. Coating the flour in cold butter guarantees a lovely flaky texture. You can use a fork, your hands, or a pastry cutter.
  4. Add the wet ingredients.
  5. Bring the dough together with your hands and knead a few times. You can watch me knead the dough in the video tutorial above. Don’t stress, it’s really easy!
  6. Bake until golden brown.

Buttermilk is the Secret

Irish soda bread only requires a few ingredients, including buttermilk. Buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to provide the bread’s leavening. It also adds wonderful flavor!

Irish soda bread in a cast iron skillet

3 Success Tips

  1. Don’t over-work the dough. It’s supposed to look a little shaggy.
  2. Score the top of the dough with an “X” before baking. This helps the center bake through.
  3. You can bake Irish soda bread on a baking sheet, in a baking pan, or in a cast iron skillet. I recommend a cast iron skillet because it helps guarantee a super crispy crust. Here’s how to keep your cast iron cookware seasoned.

Irish soda bread cut into slices

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Irish soda bread cut into slices

Grandma’s Irish Soda Bread

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 1 loaf
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Irish

Description

Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread that does not require any yeast. Instead, all of its leavening comes from baking soda and buttermilk. This Irish Soda Bread recipe is my grandmother’s and has been cherished in my family for years. It’s dense, yet soft and has the most incredible crusty exterior.


Ingredients

  •  1 and 3/4 cups (420ml) buttermilk*
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 and 1/4 cups (515g) all-purpose flour (plus more for your hands and counter)
  • 3 Tablespoons (38g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed*
  • optional: 1 cup (150g) raisins

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). There are options for the baking pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, use a seasoned 10-12 inch cast iron skillet, or grease a 9-10 inch cake pan or pie dish. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Set aside. Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers. Work the dough until into coarse crumbs, then stir in the raisins. Pour in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Gently fold the dough together until dough it is too stiff to stir. With floured hands on a lightly floured surface, work the dough into an (approximately) 8 or 9 inch round loaf as best you can. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds or until all the flour is moistened. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
  3. Transfer the dough to the prepared skillet/pan. Using a very sharp knife, score an X into the top. Bake until the bread is golden brown and center appears cooked through, about 45 minutes. Loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil if you notice heavy browning on top. I usually place foil on top halfway through bake time.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted with desired toppings/spreads.
  5. Cover and store bread at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: Baked and cooled bread freezes well up to 3 months. Freeze the whole loaf or individual slices. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then reheat as desired.
  2. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is key to the bread’s flavor, texture, and rise. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you can make a homemade “DIY” version. Whole milk or 2% milk is best. Add 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 1 and 3/4 cup. Whisk together, then let sit for 5 minutes before using in the recipe.
  3. The colder the butter, the less sticky the dough will be. Make sure it’s very cold, even frozen cubed butter is great!
  4. I have most success when I bake this bread at 400°F (204°C). I used to bake it in a hotter oven, but found that the bottom would easily burn if you don’t watch it carefully. 400°F is perfect.
  5. Recipe originally posted on Sally’s Baking Addiction in 2015.

Keywords: Irish soda bread

Sally's Baking Addiction | Grandma's Irish Soda Bread Recipe with step-by-step photos

Sally's Baking Addiction | Grandma's Irish Soda Bread Recipe with step-by-step photos

229 Comments

  1. Made this today, St Patty’s Day. Came out wonderfully. I weighed the ingredients. I cooked mine in a 9 inch cast iron skillet. The dough is sticky, so have extra flour on hand. I usually flour my hands and the counter. I also used a dough scraper to help knead it. 45 minutes was perfect. Let it sit for about 30 minutes before cutting, then made rather thick slices. My dear husband ate almost 1/2 of the loaf! I will try this as an Easter bread with the addition of cardamon, walnuts and dried fruit. Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

  2. Hi, how long should we bake in the skillet and on what heat level? Am I reading correctly to put the skillet in the oven? Or do it stove top? Im new to cooking but im excited to branch out and try new recipes!

  3. I’ve been making Irish Soda Bread for years but decided to try your recipe because I love all your recipes! I’ve found my new Irish Soda Bread recipe! So delicious!

  4. I don’t like raisins so I used dried apricots. It was fabulous. Cooked it in a cast iron skillet. Everyone loved it

  5. I halved this recipe for my small “party,” and it was perfect! I baked it in my small oval cast iron pan, and the crust was excellent. I added currants and orange zest. Delicious!

  6. First time making Irish Soda Bread and I was SO thrilled! Wow, delicious bread, so easy and amazing texture with perfect sweetness. My guests could not get enough. 50 minutes gave me a golden brown loaf and moist chewy inside.
    I used Craisins which were perfect for this bread.

  7. Great recipe! With so many different recipes floating around for this seemingly simple and humble bread, THIS recipe gets it right: The buttermilk and cold butter are key. I showed up at a St Patty’s Day potluck with this bread and found 3 other folks had also brought Soda Bread. Mine disappeared hours before the others. I used currants in place of raisins, but made no other changes. Thanks!!

  8. Came out perfect and very delicious! No substitutions and baked in a 9 inch pie plate. Lightly toasted a slice for breakfast this morning too – very yummy! Thanks Sally!

  9. Made it yesterday for St. Patty’s Day and it was amazing. Baked for about 50 minutes. Making another loaf today for leftovers and it’s at 50 minutes in the oven and still not cooked. Not sure what I did wrong. Any suggestions anyone?

    1. Hi Nick! I’m so glad you made and enjoyed this bread. Thanks!

      Depending on how thick and cold the loaf is, the bread will require a longer bake time. Avoid opening/closing the oven, which will extend the bake time. Cover with foil so the exterior doesn’t over-brown.

      1. I took it out to put foil on about halfway through, so maybe that’s why it took a little bit longer. Just took it out at about 1 hour 5 minutes of cooking and the whole house smells amazing!

  10. I only had about 250 grams of flour on hand and no time to run to the store. Out of desperation, I added about 100 grams of almond flour/meal, and made up the balance with whole wheat flour. It was absolutely delicious! I might even make it this way on purpose next time. Thanks for a delicious and flexible recipe.

  11. I made this for St Patrick’s Day as part of a baking trifecta (also made Pistachio Drop Cookies and Guinness Brownies) and it turned out wonderful! I didn’t make it with raisins as my partner isn’t a fan, but I want to try adding them next time. The dough is definitely sticky, so extra flour was a must. It baked up perfectly, and sliced like a dream. The flavor reminded me of tea biscuits my grandma and mom used to make (which was a lovely taste memory :)). Thank you Sally for another awesome recipe!

  12. Didn’t add currents but 1/2 Tbsp of caraway seed. It was delicious! Great toast the next day! I do think cutting in the butter made all the difference!

  13. I noticed you added a scale feature. I like it! Two comments:
    * the buttermilk is not scaling with the rest of the recipe
    * please add a 1/2 scale option. I’ve often seen you write that we can divide your recipes in half (and I do!). A “half” scale button would really help that. 🙂

  14. I made this to bring to a friends, and everyone loved it! Thank you for sharing your grandmothers recipe with us.

  15. Came out perfect the first time I made it. Everyone loved the Irish Soda Bread. Love that the weights of the ingredients was included. Use weight instead of cup measurements like the pros do, assures what one bakes comes out right every time!

  16. I watched you mix and knead the dough and although you added the dry ingredients too fast for me to see, it didn’t appear that there was an ingredient totaling 3 tablespoons ( the sugar) That seems like an awfully lot of sugar!!! Especially when you already have the natural sweetness of buttermilk, butter and raisins. What do you think??

  17. It’s in the oven as I type this,got the coffee brewing.Smells delicious,thanks for sharing !

  18. Sally, do you preheat the cast iron pan like with traditional yeast bread? Not sure if my cast iron pan is properly seasoned. What do you recommend….lightly brushing it with oil or butter? Thanks.

    1. Hi Susan! You can pre-heat the cast iron skillet if desired, but sometimes I forget or don’t have enough time. The crust will still be pretty crusty even if you don’t! Give the cast iron pan a light brush or drizzle of vegetable oil to grease it.

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