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

785 Comments

  1. Made this recipe today, I love the texture of the bread but I find that it tastes a lot like flour. What did I do wrong? I did find that the flour did not get crumbley when I cut butter in. I kept checking to make sure I had the right amount of butter and flour. It was still very fluffy from the flour, but I continued. Everyone’s reviews are so great, so I don’t understand what I did wrong. Help!

    1. Hi Rachel, I wonder if the bread was under-baked at all? Also, did you alter any ingredients or add more flour than written?

      1. Hi! It doesn’t seem under cooked, everything about it seems perfect except tastes a little floury. I did about half a tablespoon more sugar but other than that I followed the recipe exactly! 4 1/4 cups of flour, right? I read it 100 times lol! Baked for 45 minutes, covered halfway.

    2. Rachel, did you do the fluff–>spoon–>level method of measuring flour? Or did you weight the flour? If not, you could have had excess flour on board. Just a thought.

      1. Hi sue. Well I scooped then leveled. I know I probably should have spooned it but had a 2 year old as my helper so was trying to go quick. You think maybe scooping the flour was the issue?

    3. Omg the same thing happened to me today. I was maybe 1/4 off of the buttermilk so I stretched it and put a little water in the container to get the leftover out. The crust was perfect and I felt the same way about getting the flour and butter to crumble more. I will def try again once I get more butter milk

    4. Michele L Slowey-Ogert says:

      Hello Rachel,

      I am enjoying the aroma of your Grandma’s soda bread in my oven as I write this. I am thinking of her as it bakes, thank you for sharing a bit about her and her recipe. I can’t wait to take my first bite!!

  2. I made a loaf of this bread today. I substituted golden raisins for the regular ones (I like their flavor and softness better than dark raisins). It turned out great and is very delicious! I will make 2 loaves next time!

  3. Well, I made this again this year and had great results..again! I made one large loaf and then made another batch which I divided into 2 smaller loaves. I baked the small ones on the same parchment lined sheet for about 35 minutes, rotating the sheet half way through and covering loosely with foil the last 15 minutes. Yummy!

    1. Can you start the dough in bread machine than bake?

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Carolyn! We don’t recommend a bread machine for this dough.

  4. Kathy Pratt says:

    Added a 1/4 cup of caraway seeds along with the raisins. Baked in a 9 inch aluminum pie tin and put the recommended deep cross in the top. The dough was quite sticky and I kept adding flour for the kneading. It made a nice rise, a nice brown crusty top and it was delicious!!!!!

  5. Kathryn Orbe says:

    Perfect recipe. My husband said maybe a little more sugar or raisins but I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you

  6. Debbie Hickman says:

    Can I substitute Almond milk with the suggested lemon juice in this recipe?

    1. Yes, absolutely. Nondairy works (with the lemon) in the DIY buttermilk substitute. See recipe note.

  7. This is the best Irish Soda Bread recipe I’ve ever made! Pretty much every other I’ve made or bought has been on the coarse side and dry. This one was so moist and the crumb was fine and tender. This is the only recipe I’ll use going forward! I cubed my butter in small dice size and froze the cubes for about 15-20 min while I gathered the ingredients and pre-heated the oven – I threw my bottle of buttermilk in the freezer at the same time so it’d be as cold as possible. I worked the butter in with my fingers. I baked the bread in a cast iron skillet. I sprinkled a little granulated sugar over the top before baking to add a hint of sweetness to the crust. I covered the bread loosely with a sheet of foil halfway through so it wouldn’t over-brown and then removed it for the last 5 min. It came out perfect. I served it with Kerrygold Irish butter and it was a huge hit. Makes great toast the next day too!

  8. I would like to use powdered buttermilk. Is it acid enough?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ellen! Powdered buttermilk should work just fine – follow directions on the package to make the correct equivalent amount.

    2. Hi,
      Have you ever tried to do this gluten free and if so do you know if I’d use the same amount?

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Brieana, we have not tested this recipe with gluten free flour. Let us know if you do!

      2. Hi Brieana- I have a wheat allergy and made this recipe with Bob’s Red Mill 1to1 Baking Flour – left out of the egg as this flour tends to be richer on its own. It came out delicious!!! Texture was perfect and it browned lovely. I used my cast iron skillet in the oven. Couldn’t get enough compliments. Some family actually preferred this version over the second regular loaf that I made : )

  9. I made this Irish Soda Bread exactly as written. I weighed the flour and baked it in a parchment lined baking sheet. This is by far the best recipe that I have found. The flavor of the buttermilk comes through and it’s not too sweet. I did add the raisins and that is a must in my opinion. Thanks for this great recipe!

  10. I don’t have an iron skillet. Can I bake in a dutch oven?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Definitely! Or even just a baking sheet works perfectly – see recipe notes.

      1. LOVE THIS RECIPE!! i tried this out for st.patrick’s day and it turned out absolutely delicious! it came together in less than half an hour and tasted fabulous!! i didn’t include the egg because i didn’t have one and i baked it on a baking sheet lined with silpat mat! thanks so much for sharing!!

  11. Made this recipe this morning. Best Irish Soda bread I have ever made! It is a keeper. So delicious toasted with butter. Baked it on parchment paper for 45 minutes. So perfect!
    Many Thanks!
    Ava

  12. Most delicious Irish soda bread recipe! I soaked my raisins overnight in Irish whisky first. The only other change I would make (for me) is to add more sugar. Perfect texture and so delicious!!

  13. I made this last month – so good! The loaf rose a lot more than I was expecting so I had a lot of soda bread but it only lasted a few days before we ate it all… Used a tip from my grandma and soaked the raisins in whiskey overnight before adding. Will be making this again for St. Patrick’s day 🙂 it was delicious.

  14. I sprinkle turbinado sugar over crust prior to baking. Got 1 on the oven right now. I love all the comments. My family asks for this loaf often.

  15. As an anxious but adventurous baker, I had fun making this recipe. I had never done the spooning flour method and was wondering if I was doing it right. And anxious I cut in the butter wrong (I used a fork and finished with my fingers), but my 2 loaves turned out beautifully! I do want to try this again in my cast iron though because I originally had the cast iron loaf set on the bottom rack while the 1st loaf on a sheet pan on the top rack finished baking (thought they would both fit on one shelf – nope!). So the bottom overcooked slightly. Other than that, the recipe was a great success and won out over a store-bought soda bread brought by someone else. I always trust this site for amazing recipes and this one did not disappoint.

  16. I used non-gmo sweetened cherries and it came out just as good as raisins! Great recipe!

  17. Can I used salted butter? Or will it taste off?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      If you use salted butter you may wish to slightly reduce the amount of added salt in the recipe.

  18. Can someone pls explain spooning flour method? I packed mine and it seemed very dry

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can read about it in this blog post!

  19. Hello! This uses just plain flour? I thought traditionally it was half plain half Wholemeal? Did your grandmother ever use Wholemeal?

    1. Hi Adam, yes that’s correct. Our family doesn’t usually make this with wholemeal, but you can certainly try it.

  20. Can I use self rising flour? I really want to try this recipe but looked in the pantry and all I have is self rising flour.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Candace, you need regular all-purpose/plain flour for this recipe. Do not use self-rising.

  21. Delicious! Just out of the oven and it’s wonderful. I am taking some in to share at work tomorrow – suggestions on best method for storing overnight?

    1. Hi Jenne, I’m so glad you tried this bread recipe. For storing, lightly covering it with foil is great. You can tightly wrap it for longer storage, too.

  22. Hi, can you detail about the best way to store the bread once it’s baked? Like plastic wrap, tinfoil, container? I don’t want soggy bread… But I don’t want dry bread either… Thoughts? I definitely let it cool completely of course!

    1. Hi Vera, we always wrap it in aluminum foil for storing. Yes, let it cool completely before covering/storing.

  23. I made this recipe this evening because I want to try this easy recipe without yeast. I used 4 cups levels and add a coconut & almond flour for the 1/4 cup substitute and I followed the rest of the recipe with egg and raisins, bake @ 400 for 45 minutes and I used cast iron pan. When I try a slice of bread it’s absolutely tasty and moist.recommended to my friends. I even share to my Irish ☘️ neighbor after baking and he loves the moist bread. Thanks for this easy recipe without rising the dough.
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day ☘️ .

  24. Can I use a bread pan? If not I have a round cake pan is this okay? I also have a 9×9 glass dish! What one would be best out of the three??

    1. Hi Brittany, of those options I recommend the round cake pan.

      1. Brittany McCoy says:

        Thank you so much can’t wait to try never baked soda bread before I’m excited:)

  25. I made this recipe. I substituted one cup barley flour for one cup white. And add dry cranberries. Yum.

  26. So excited to try this tomorrow…QUESTION – Any tips for this recipe at elevation? I am in Denver and still trying to figure out how to bake in this city 🙂 Thx !

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mike, we wish we could help, but we have no experience baking at high altitude. We know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html Let us know how it goes for you!

      1. Thanks for the response Lexi! I did do some adjustments for elevation in Denver – kept temp the same, added 2 extra tablespoons buttermilk and the egg…also did raisins. Baked in cast iron. Bread was perfect – not dry at all, and baked for the 45 minutes. Thanks for a great recipe…will definitely make this my go to!

  27. Did you add dry raisins or did you let them sit in water so they wouldn’t take moisture from the bread and dry it out? Thank you

    1. Hi Kerry, we add them dry. Feel free to soak if you’d like but I don’t find that necessary.

  28. Beautiful recipe! I made it this morning. I live in Ireland so I subbed a bit of wholemeal flour and the texture and taste is amazing.

  29. This was the best recipe for Irish soda bread! Thank you for sharing a beloved recipe! I followed the recipe exactly and used currents instead of raisins. I baked it in a 12 inch iron skillet and was a bit concerned that the bottom was too dark but it was perfect! Moist, not dry and great great crunchy crust! My dough was very sticky and I was afraid of adding too much flour to the sticky dough when kneading and shaping it. How much flour approx do you recommend when kneading/shaping the dough! I just sprinkled enough flour on my board and hands to prevent it from sticking to the surface but it was pretty sticky. Thanks!

  30. We have an egg allergy in our family, so I was thrilled to find your recipe. It was absolutely delicious without the egg. My daughter insisted on dried blueberries instead of raisins, so I made two loaves. I followed another commenter’s advice and baked for 35 minutes. They were perfect!

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