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

787 Comments

  1. I’ve made this bread twice now, both times to rave reviews from my husband. I’m wondering if I can make two smaller loaves and freeze one. It’s a large loaf for just two people.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We are happy you enjoyed this recipe! Yes, you can divide this into two smaller loaves. The bake time will be less.

      1. Thank you! How can I tell when they’re done? The toothpick method doesn’t appear to work for bread. I’m new to bread.

  2. We get together with good friends every St. Patrick’s Day. For the last two years my daughter and I have made this bread. (She’s 10 and does most of the work.) Everyone loves this soda bread! The texture is perfect.

  3. love, love, love this bread!!! I have made several times.

  4. I was excited about making this but came out as heavy as a brick. I think it needs a lot more than one tsp baking soda for 4 cups of flour. Or perhaps my soda is too old? I didn’t have buttermilk so I substituted vinegar and milk, maybe that could be an issue, too.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chris, this is supposed to be a denser bread since it’s not leavened with yeast. But if it seemed too dense, it could be that your baking soda isn’t fresh. We find it can lose strength after just 3-4 months. Thank you for giving this bread a try!

  5. Hi,
    I am going to prepare this soda bread for the first time and using treacle. Fingers crossed 🙂 thanks for sharing the recipe.

  6. I can’t see what temperature this soda bread should be baked at or for how long. Help please. Thanks

    1. “Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).”
      and it’s to be baked for about 45 minutes.

  7. Thank you for this gorgeous recipe! I have made several different recipes/ loaves since ST.Patrick’s Day. This is delightful!

  8. I love this recipe. I’ve been making it once a week since I came across it a few months ago. I’ve made it enough times now that I felt qualified to make a few changes based on having experience with the recipe. For the flour I used 1/3 whole wheat and 2/3 all purpose. I substituted honey for the sugar. I’m thrilled with the final product. It is more complex and not quite as sweet as the original (which to be clear is absolutely scrumptious but I eat this often enough that I need to be a little healthier about the ingredients). I’ll try even more ww flour next time.

    I’d really like to make this with lemon and blueberries but I haven’t been able to find a recipe with those ingredients to get an idea of the amount of lemon zest to use. I tried the zest of one lemon and it wasn’t detectable. I’d appreciate recommendations on how to get a lemon flavor. Thank you for the great recipe!

  9. Just found this recipe. Can I make without the sugar?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Fran! If you’d like, you can try it with 1 or 2 Tablespoons, but we recommend keeping the sugar amount as-is for the best flavor.

  10. This bread is fantastic. Definitely going to be a regular in this house!

  11. Just tried this bread last night and it was deemed by all to be a keeper! I didn’t tent it in the oven, but let it get a really rich brown, and it was just spectacular!

  12. I’m a 84 year male who never made bread before. I purchase soda bread on occasion and decided to try making myself. I made it this morning and just finished eating a piece from my toaster. Oh so good, delicious, truly awesome! I am so pleased with myself for making it. I’m looking forward to treating myself with making it again. I’m freezing half hoping it wil lkeep a bit of time for later eating. Thanks for sharing a great recipe.

  13. Too sweet, more like a big scone. After 50 minutes in the oven it was still raw in the middle.
    Too complicated for what should be a simple bread

  14. Thank you, now I can eat my Irish Soda Bread in Belgium whenever I want it

  15. I really enjoyed baking this bread… it tastes great… and very light
    Wondering what adjustment I will need to make to the recipe if I were to use whole wheat flour. Thanks

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hikari! We don’t recommend whole wheat flour, the bread will be extremely heavy. Feel free to use half whole wheat and half all-purpose, but the bread will still be quite dense.

  16. Angry baker says:

    Would love to know what Im doing wrong. The dough is just a soggy mess with no structure. Followed the recipe perfectly. But from what Ive seen, you need to either increase the flour to liquid ratio or its not going to work. 4 1/4 c of flour to 1 3/4 milk is definitely not working

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi there, 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!

  17. I would like the soda bread sweet and the bread soft. What should I do. Also, can I add vanilla instead of an egg or both ? Thank you.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donna! The egg is optional (adds richness and density), and we haven’t tried adding vanilla to this bread. We find the bread to be plenty soft and just lightly sweet with the small amount of added sugar and optional cup of raisins. You can always top it with a sweet fruit jam for a sweeter slice. For a sweeter bread, you might enjoy one of our other quick bread recipes. Let us know what you try!

  18. Hmmmmm, just baked this bread it a delicious. Thank you for the recipe I will be making this bread again and again. It is a easy recipe to follow without any substitute it will come out great, however I used cranberries instead of raisins.
    I liked how the bread is soft and just the right sweetness.

  19. Hello Sally,
    I made this today and it was perfect! I live in Portugal where it is hard to find buttermilk, so I used natural greek yogurt instead. The bread is crispy on the outside and soft inside! Thank you for a great (and very easy) recipe!

  20. Interesting recipe. Here in Dublin, Ireland, we don’t use eggs or buttermilk. Sour milk was the usual, but, if no sour milk was available we made it sharp with cream of tartar. We put fruit in for a tea time bread but none for breakfast or dinner bread.

    I will try your version soon, we also have brown soda bread, very tasty…

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