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. 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.

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

Video Tutorial: 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 before baking

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. You can watch me do this in the video tutorial above. Don’t stress, it’s really easy! Using a very sharp knife, score the dough. This allows the center to bake.
  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! We use buttermilk for the same reasons in my regular no yeast bread, too.

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 and Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes!

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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 (515g) 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 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. 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.

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

collage of 4 images showing steps to making Irish soda bread including dough in bowls, formed into a circle, and in a skillet before baking

Irish soda bread in a cast iron skillet

490 Comments

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  1. Made this bread and fell in love with it! Has a very scone like taste. 5 adults finished almost the entire loaf with dinner! Nobody even had the dessert, just another piece of this great bread!

  2. I have just used your recipe. I believe your metric conversion for flour is incorrect. Using all the metric measures the dough is far too wet and unworkable. I had to add a lot of flour. 4.25 American cups equates to 637.5g. The final product is just cooling – smells good – fingers crossed!

    1. my bread is totally watery! could not cross cut it! after 20 minutes in the oven, i cuttet it right now. so angry, i think it won’t be good and it’ll go in the trash. what a waste of time, money and FLOUR! really hard to find here during corona time…

      1. susan vandenborn says:

        Just made Irish soda bread. I used. 1
        3|4 cup of buttermilk. 4 plus 1\4 cup of flour. 2 extra tablespoons of cold butter. plus the rest of ingredients. My loaf looks like the picture. Yeah. My husband likes it.

    2. I am curious to find out where you got that metric conversion from. All conversion charts I have found say that 4 1/4 US cups of all purpose flour is 532 grams.

      1. Corey Mitchum says:

        The conversion chart I found on King Arthur baking states 1cup of all purpose flour weighs 120g. If my math is correct,, 4 1/4 cups = 510 grams. Interesting that we are coming up with different conversion weights… One would think something as common as flour would have a universally agreed upon weight. Since the chart I’m referencing puts me within 5g of Sally’s listed weight, I’m going with that. It is her recipe after all… 🙂

      2. I wonder if differences in weight have to do with climate. that is, humidity. It’s very humid where I am and I think sometimes my flour seems to have more moisture in it.
        Look forward to trying this recipe.

      3. 1 cup of flour is 140 grams

    3. I’ve been looking forever for the same recipe I learned when I was a little kid living with an Irish American family. This turned out exactly right. The only modifications I made were whole wheat flour and caraway seeds (that’s how they ate it).

    4. This is a helpful conversion chart for baking. I think this may be the answer to the problems in converting flour to metric. https://www.traditionaloven.com/culinary-arts/flours/all-purpose-flour/convert-measuring-cup-us-to-milliliter.html

  3. made this recipe to go with my slow cooker guinness beef stew, the whole family loved it, the first 5 minutes of our meal consisted of nothing but mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, mmmm. It was easy to make simple ingredients, and quick.

  4. I put a pint of blueberries in the dough instead of raisins and it turned out to be even better than my first batch where I used raisins…so delicious! (I also skip the sugar, both times) Thanks for the recipe, Sally! Love it!

  5. First time I have ever baked pretty much anything, bread terrifies me. This worked awesome super yummy! Scone / biscuit like taste. Really good with honey & butter. I’m thinking stew tonight and with the left overs a biscuit and gravy type breakfast! Thanks so much for this!

  6. Conversion to metric is way out. I had to add about twice the flour and it was still a wet mess. Is 420 ml a typo? Should it be 240 ml?? What a waste of ingredients.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Charco, Thank you for trying this recipe. One cup of buttermilk is 240ml so 1.75 cups is 420ml. 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 as you have been doing. Flouring your hands helps also.

    2. Followed instructions; fresh ingredients, I used the Cast Iron skillet, watched it carefully and I got a big lump of half baked goo!! Cost about $10 to throw away in the garbage! GROSS!

      1. https://www.traditionaloven.com/culinary-arts/flours/all-purpose-flour/convert-measuring-cup-us-to-milliliter.html

        This is a helpful chart when converting flour to metric.

  7. Hi Sally. Can I use bread flour instead of all purpose flour? I need to use up 2 bags of bread flour within a month and I wanna try a no yeast bread recipe like this.

    1. Hi Cathy! You can. Your bread will be slightly chewier.

    2. I’ve just made this and it was runny, added 100g more flour plus more soda, thought perhaps i had put wrong milk amount as someone else said, fingers crossed it turns out ok.

  8. Hi
    I’m not sure why some people are having a problem with this recipe, I’ve just followed the recipe (apart from adding a bit of spelt flour and using sultanas instead of raisins and adding a few chopped walnuts !) and it turned out perfect. The quantities given were absolutely fine. Just wanted to reassure anyone who may have been put off. I’ve book marked it and will definitely use it again. It’s great that people out there are kindly sharing good stuff. Thanks Sally

    1. Don’t follow the ml measurements on this recipe, they are incorrect and you will end up with a soggy mess, the cup measurements are correct however.

  9. Dear Sally:
    Thank you for this wonderful recipe. This is my first time making Irish Soda Bread. I used currants instead of raisins as I am not raisin fan. I baked it in my Italian grandmother’s skillet. The bread turned out perfectly golden brown. The crust was perfect and the bread was not heavy, I don’t know why I thought it would be, but it wasn’t at all. My Irish Grandmother would be pleased.

  10. Great recipe!! Thank you so much for sharing! I did not add the raisins, only because I did not have them on hand. I added wholewheat ground flour 1 1/4 cup to the white flour to make the same total of 4 1/4 cup.

  11. Made this today to go with my new years corned beef and cabbage dinner. It turned out great and is completely yummy. Thank you.

  12. I’ve made this recipe several times and love it! I cut it down to 1/3 of the recipe and it turns out like a giant scone (perfect for a single family to eat at dinner while it’s still warm).

  13. Leigh Rossingnol says:

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something which not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy I found this during my hunt for something concerning this.

  14. Hi Sally
    i made this with 1/2 while meal wheat and 1/2 besan flour plus had to make the DIY buttermilk and used less sugar it was perfect crust ,divine – just like childhood

  15. fiona whelan says:

    My mom used to make it all the time. My kids and I were very happy with the recipe and I didn’t have buttermilk the first time so I had to use the milk and vinegar alternative. It was delicious! This batch I am making with buttermilk and can’t wait for the outcome! I have saved this recipe and will continue to use it.

  16. Rosaleen E Bolger says:

    Outstanding in every way .
    I followed measurements exactly and measured in grams not cups.
    I did not have buttermilk so used suggested lemon juice mixed with milk. Seemed to work well
    Great taste and texture and aroma a really authentic Irish recipe and the best keeping quality of any soda bread I have made. This is a keeper.

  17. Gráinne Pardy says:

    This bread was scrumptious. I didn’t use all the liquid as the dough was getting too sticky, held back about 90 mls.

    It is very simple. I baked it at 205degrees c. and covered the top with silicone baking sheet half way through.

  18. This was excellent! I did exactly as instructed and only added mixed dried fruit instead of raisins because it’s what I had. My whole family loved it.

  19. Delicious! I rarely follow a recipe exactly, but I guess I’ve been cooking long enough that I recognize when I need to make changes. I followed the recipe, but didn’t use raisins, although I would have loved it. The bread turned out perfectly, and was devoured by my family. It’s so good! I didn’t weigh anything, it just measured it out. I didn’t have buttermilk, so I used milk with lemon juice. I also used a 10 inch cast iron skillet. The bread was crusty on the outside and soft and moist on the inside.

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