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. This recipe is my grandmother’s. 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. Like my easy no yeast bread, this is a shortcut bread that doesn’t skimp on flavor. (If you want a yeast bread, I recommend my sandwich bread recipe!)

  • 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.

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


Video Tutorial: Homemade Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread dough in cast iron skillet before baking

Overview: How to Make Irish Soda Bread

The full printable recipe is below. Irish soda bread dough comes together in about 10 minutes. You need buttermilk, egg, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and butter.

  1. Whisk buttermilk and 1 egg together. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in another bowl.
  2. Cut cold butter into the flour mixture. 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. Add the wet ingredients.
  3. Bring the dough together with your hands. Using a very sharp knife, score the dough. This allows the center to bake.
  4. 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! We use buttermilk for the same reasons in my regular no yeast bread, too.

Feel free to Skip the Egg

Irish soda bread can be made with or without an egg. 1 egg adds richness and density. Feel free to skip it to make a slightly lighter loaf. No other changes necessary, simply leave out the egg.

Irish soda bread in a cast iron skillet

Irish soda bread cut into slices

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.

If you’re baking for St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll love my Guinness Brownies, Baileys and Coffee Cupcakes, and Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes too.

Print
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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 (optional, see note)
  • 4 and 1/4 cups (531g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), 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 & pan options: Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). There are options for the baking pan. Use a regular baking sheet and line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (bread spreads a bit more on a baking sheet), or use a seasoned 10-12 inch cast iron skillet, or grease a 9-10 inch cake pan or pie dish. You can also use a 5 quart (or higher) dutch oven. Grease or line with parchment paper. If using a dutch oven, bake the bread with the lid off.
  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. Mixture is very heavy on the flour, but do your best to cut in the butter until the butter is pea-sized crumbs. Stir in the raisins. Pour in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Gently fold the dough together until dough it is too stiff to stir. Pour crumbly dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, work the dough into a ball as best you can, then knead 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 leftover bread at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. We usually wrap it tightly in aluminum foil for storing.

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. Baking Pan: There are options for the baking pan. You can use a lined large baking sheet (with or without a rim), a seasoned 10-12 inch cast iron skillet, or a greased or lined 9-10 inch cake pan or pie dish. I don’t recommend a loaf pan because the loaf may not bake evenly inside. This dough is best as a flatter loaf.
  3. Buttermilk: Using cold buttermilk is best. Buttermilk is key to the bread’s flavor, texture, and rise. The bread will not rise without it. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you can make a homemade “DIY” version. Whole milk or 2% milk is best, though lower fat or nondairy milks work in a pinch. Add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough cold milk to make 1 and 3/4 cups. Whisk together, then let sit for 5 minutes before using in the recipe.
  4. Egg: 1 egg adds richness and density. Feel free to skip it to make a slightly lighter loaf. No other changes necessary, simply leave out the egg.
  5. Cold Butter: The colder the butter, the less sticky the dough will be. Make sure it’s very cold, even frozen cubed butter is great.

Keywords: Irish soda bread

502 Comments

  1. Colin Wilson says:

    Hello, I’ve just made this for the first time, I’ve only tried baguettes (baking) a couple of times so thought I’d try this. It came out beautiful except probably took it out of the oven a little bit early as my wife said to. She said as we’re using a fan forced (FF) oven temp/time should possibly be reduced. Should I adjust for FF or are the times for a FF oven? Next time I’ll try it without the egg. She also said it was perfect where I thought it still looked a bit moist, the centre underneath was light in colour.
    Many thanks Colin

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Colin! Thank you so much for giving this recipe a try. All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. If you use convection (fan) settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.

  2. I was wanting to try making this (hopefully sometime this week) but I live at a higher elevation (5000 ft) and I wanted to know what changes I should make to the recipe to account for the altitude? I looked online and saw that you can adjust the sugar/butter/baking soda/flour and I’m unsure which is the most likely to cause issues and whether or not I should be looking for a slightly different consistency in the dough pre-bake.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emily, I wish we could help, but have no experience baking at high altitude. Some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

      1. I live at 4500ft-ish, haven’t adjusted, and it’s come out really well both times I’ve made it. Don’t know if it made a difference that I had to use a bit of Greek yogurt to make the full 1 3/4 c buttermilk. Does seem to take a bit longer to bake, though – not sure if that’s the altitude or my older oven (I do use an thermometer in it to check the temperature).

  3. Phyllis Clarke says:

    I made this bread today , and I had to comment.
    Not only did it look beautiful and bakery quality, it was delicious.
    It has a crusty golden exterior, and inside was just the right texture.
    The raisins add just enough sweetness, and a touch of butter on top was a finishing touch. Everyone loved it, and I’m speaking of it in the past ten

  4. Robert Thomas says:

    This looks easy enough, was given Soda bread often during my tours of Northern Ireland back in the day. Still remember the taste after 45 years.

  5. This recipe is amazing! I have never ever made homemade bread before, and made this for a family in need of some homemade dinners etc.… And it came out unbelievably tasty! I will be making one for our family this weekend! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe! (I found Zante currants too!)

  6. Just curious here,why is soda bread called soda bread if it has no soda in it? do you know?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Aria! Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread that does not require any yeast. Instead, all of its leavening comes from baking soda and buttermilk — which is why it’s referred to as a soda bread. Hope this helps!

  7. I love this recipe! My favourite way to eat it is with butter and strawberry jam. It never stays around for long but I know it keeps well if I hide it in the fridge or freezer!

  8. Carol Robertson says:

    Why has your recipe got butter in it. All the other ones I looked at had no butter and no egg. Just asking

  9. Jana Willibey says:

    My dough was very sticky. I added flour as I was kneading it but was afraid to add too much. Any suggestions?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jana, the dough is supposed to be pretty sticky, but if it seems stickier than what you see in the photos and video tutorial, feel free to add a bit more flour — try an additional tablespoon at a time until it starts to come together. Flouring your hands helps also. Thank you for giving this recipe a try, and let us know if we can help troubleshoot further!

  10. I start with this basic recipe. Adds: 1/2 currents soaked in Baily’s Irish cream. Microwave for 30 seconds, set aside to cool. Brown sugar, not white, and a teaspoon of vanilla. I do use the egg because the currents add liquid. I add a bit of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon for the same reason. Once I have a rectangle, I dot it with frozen blueberries, flip it in half to make a new rectangle, and dot it with more blueberries. I cook for an extra 15 minutes. The loaf is bigger. Delightful! I think it is more of a fruit bread?

  11. I need to make this in the morning or day ahead. Can I reheat it successfully and how. Thank you.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Edie, if you make this bread ahead of time, you can reheat individual slices in the microwave or even in the oven or toaster for a toast-like bread.

      1. I am serving with stew and don’t want toasted. I thought to heat in oven. Do I wrap it in foil and warm at and what temp? For how long? Thank you.

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        You can reheat in the oven, with or without foil — we’re unsure of the exact time, but reheat until it is warmed to your liking. You can reheat it at the same temperature or even a bit lower.

  12. Absolutely delicious. Soaked my raisins in sherry. Love it toasted with tea. Thank you for the recipe.

  13. Shaun P Kelly says:

    Replace the buttermilk with a bottle of beer, the yeast in beer does the job better.

  14. what kind of soda is better here, pepsi or coke?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      The “soda” in the recipe title refers to baking soda, which give this bread its rise. Hope this helps!

  15. Corinne Verrycken says:

    Hello!
    I have tried a few soda bread recipes and this one is the best! I love the texture of this bread. Unlike other soda breads which tend to be dry and difficult to swallow this one is lovely. It is also the only bread I seem to tolerate ( I suffer from PoTS, Mast cell activation syndrome and EDS). I can enjoy a slice without getting tummy pain. Thank you .

  16. Although the finished product came out great (I’m all about crust), I feel that the dough was VERY sticky using the egg. I think it would benefit from reducing the buttermilk by 1/4 cup to allow for the liquid of the egg. That’s how I plan to do it next time. My first time making Irish soda bread and it’s definitely a keeper. Very slightly sweet with the add’l sweet kick of the raisins and an amazing crust. Baked in a 12″ iron skillet and didn’t put foil over the top and it was fine. Looking forward to see how it changes over the next couple of days.

  17. Very good tasting, excellent crust and texture inside, all really good- it could’ve been a smidgen more sweet…but I should’ve realized with 3 tablespoons only.

  18. Is it better to follow in weight measurements or volume? I’ve tried to follow both but the weights and volumes don’t line up as listed in your recipe. Now I’m more confused on which to follow? Thanks in advance for any advice.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary! Weight measurements will always be the most accurate. You can ready more about properly measuring baking ingredients in this post 🙂

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