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. Andrew Gerding says:

    Can the dough be made and then baked later? Wrap and refrigerate?

    1. Hi Andrew, I’m sure you could get away with preparing the dough, covering, and storing in the refrigerator but I wouldn’t let the dough sit for too long. Definitely bake within a couple hours.

    2. I think you could run into an issue with the buttermilk reacting with the baking soda. By the time you thawed it out prior to baking there may not be much energy left in it, and if it deflates you’ll get a dense bread. Perhaps you could switch to baking powder if you want to freeze the dough, since heat will rise it?

      At any rate, the fun is in trying it out.

  2. Hi! Would bread or white whole wheat work flour in this recipe? It’s all I have on hand.

    1. Hi Angela, bread flour will work. I do not recommend white whole wheat.

    2. Terry Stevenson says:

      Hi Angela,
      I just made this wonderful recipe with King Arthur white Whole Wheat flour because it was all we had in the house and it was fantastic! My family just devoured most of the loaf, hot out of the oven, for St. Paddy day breakfast.
      I increased baking soda to 1/2 Tbsp and used an organic buttermilk. Also increased sugar to 4 Tablespoons sugar.
      I cooked the loaf in an oversized cast iron pan, at temp and time given in recipe. It came out nice & crispy on bottom, but not burnt. Perfect results and absolutely delectable!

  3. Just out of the oven & smells divine; what a big beautiful loaf! Recipe is very similar to Ina Garten’s, which is delicious. I baked it at 375 degrees for an internal temperature of 200 on my instant read thermometer. It took about 45 minutes on a parchment lined sheet pan and resulted in an evenly browned loaf, no need to cover it.
    Cannot wait to share with Irish born neighbor. Thanks for a great recipe.

  4. Could I used a Dutch oven to bake the bread without the lid on?

    1. Absolutely! See the first step. Keep the lid off.

    2. The recipe was great!! I used non fat buttermilk and baked for 1 hour covering half way as suggested. Came out perfect! Thanks Grandma!!

  5. Help!
    After 2 failed attempts at Irish Soda Bread,
    I’m asking for advice. Middle uncooked both times even with extended baking times.
    What are possible reasons?
    Thank You

    1. Hi Teri, are you cutting the slit into the bread deep enough? See if you can cut it deeper so the center bakes properly. Don’t be discouraged if your bread is taking longer. Bread bakes taller in smaller pans, which means it could require more time. If the bread begins to brown before the top center appears cooked, tent it with foil so it can bake a little more evenly.

      1. Going to attempt again now with your suggestions.
        Thank you
        Teri

  6. Karin Hendley says:

    Has anyone tried making this in the Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook?

    1. I think using the dough hook would probably overwork the dough. You can use the food processor, or grate the butter (frozen butter).
      This dough needs to come together quickly like scones.

    2. I thought about it, but you only kneed the dough for 30 seconds. Stand mixer would probably overwork it.

  7. I’ve now made this soda bread twice. The first time I thought it would go into the trash since I forgot to cut the butter in before mixing in the buttermilk but forged ahead anyway…. success! I cut the butter into very tiny pieces and cut/folded them into he dough and it turned out great! Second go ‘round just out of the oven and smells incredible. I did it correctly this time but divided the loaf into 2 loaves, baked about 35 min as suggested by others. Cast iron skillet 1st time and baking sheet with silpat second time. Bottom line, delicious! Moist, tasty, easy recipe – far better than store bought. Thank you.

  8. This recipe is pretty good, the only thing I changed was I soaked the raisins in sherry before adding them! The recipe makes a larger loaf than we’re used to though and we had to put ours back in the oven because the center wasn’t done. Next time I’ll split it into two loaves before baking.

  9. Michael Walsh says:

    My Nana would add caraway seed to this recipe and top with a coarse brown sugar. Yum.

  10. I made this yesterday for friends who were celebrating St. Patrick’s day. I used my toaster convection oven and did it a bit longer at a slightly lower temperature and it was fantastic! I just did it until the toothpick came out clean. I used the tinfoil strategy to keep it from over browning. I hadn’t baked in years so this was very encouraging! Moist and flavourful. Thanks!

  11. MIm mcdermott says:

    I measured everything meticulously and my dough was very wet. I had to add a bunch of flour to get it in a reasonable shape. HELP. don’t think I’ll be baking soda bread again.

    1. Oooo, don’t give up on your soda bread. It’s such a yummy bread to enjoy. At what altitude are you baking ? That could play in to it. Sometimes making a well in the center of your flour mixture can make a difference too.

    2. I am trying it and also found it to be far too wet, even though I weighed all ingredients and followed recipe exactly. Had to add a LOT of flour and it was still too wet to actually shape.

  12. This is a really good recipe. Loved the picture of grandma with her gardening gloves off to the side.

    1. Thank you very much, Suzanne.

  13. Reminds me of the Irish soda bread my aunt was famous for – used to love going there and getting a piece slathered in butter! I followed the instructions and it turned out perfectly this St. Patrick’s day. My family loved it. Thank you for another amazing recipe Sally! Happy Heavenly Birthday to your Gran too.

  14. I do not need a large loaf – can I cut the recipe in half?

    Also I was hoping to bake while my corned beef was in the oven. Could I bake at 325 for longer?

    Thanks~

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kathleen, You should be able to cut this recipe in half for a smaller loaf. We’re unsure of the exact bake time, but we recommend sticking with the stated baking temperature for best results. Let us know how it goes!

  15. Not sure what went wrong. After 50 minutes still not cooked after hour same result after hour 10 outside hard inside too doughy and undercooked. Disappointed

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jen, are you cutting the slit into the bread deep enough? See if you can cut it deeper so the center bakes properly. Don’t be discouraged if your bread is taking longer. Bread bakes taller in smaller pans, which means it could require more time. If the bread begins to brown before the top center appears cooked, tent it with foil so it can bake a little more evenly.

    2. Hi! If you haven’t already, I also recommend checking the temp in your oven with an oven thermometer. My oven runs cool. It will tell me it’s at temp but will be much cooler. I need to let my oven continue to heat up for about another 15 mins before it’s truly preheated. Never would have realized that without a thermometer. Lots of frustration and ruined goodies until I discovered this. Best of luck!

  16. Doreen English says:

    I would like to add caraway seed…how much though? One or two tablespoons?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Doreen, 1 Tbs should be enough, but you can definitely add more if you prefer!

  17. This bread was a delicious addition to our Irish dinner. I will definitely be making this again soon! Thanks for sharing your dear Grandma’s recipe:). I love the added history behind the recipe.

  18. Mary Etta Yu says:

    I’m getting a late start today on baking my bread. Oh, well. Better later than never. I was wondering if you chopped up your raisins so they would disperse throughout the dough better and not sink to the bottom? Or is that even a problem with the raisins and this recipe?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary, This dough is dense enough that sinking raisins hasn’t been a problem. Hope you love it!

  19. WOW- first time making Irish soda bread. SO delish! Will be making this more often and not just on St. Pattys! Followed recipe as is and used a scale for flour (:

  20. Gail Sadock says:

    Sorry, this was not good. I wish I’d read the comments sooner, both for adding more sugar and forming two loaves.

  21. Stephanie Scibilia says:

    At what temperature do you put the cast skillet on?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie! This soda bread recipe bakes in the oven at 400°F (204°C) – see step 1. Enjoy!

      1. Stephanie Scibilia says:

        Yes but it says you can do it in a cast iron skillet

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Yes! Bake the bread in the skillet in the oven at 400°F. Hope that makes sense!

  22. Grace Wheeler says:

    I’ve made a loaf in the past and it has come out great. Can I make rolls with this recipe, or does it need modification?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Grace! You can certainly try it. The bake time will be shorter. We would use the same oven temperature.

  23. Can this be made on a 8 x 8 glass baking dish? I don’t have the pans readily available

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melissa! See recipe notes for baking pan options. An 8×8 dish could work in a pinch, but a regular sheet pan would work better. Hope you love it!

  24. SO GOOD! I made it today (for saint Pattys day) and its delicious! I am probably going to make it every year for saint Patricks day! you should totally make this. I had to add a little bit of whole wheat flour since I ran out of regular but it worked out fine. I also didnt add any add-ins.

  25. DO NOT do this recipe for one loaf only !!!
    DO 2 of them right away… one to eat as soon as out of the oven and the other one for later. This is EXTREMELY good !
    I did use the kitchen stand mixer, it worked well.
    Thank you Sally for sharing this recipe.
    Happy St Patrick’s day everyone.

  26. Mary Washer says:

    Excellent recipe! My family loved it!

  27. Just brought it out of the oven. Looks delicious! Made just as directed.

  28. Greg Landtry says:

    It turned out great. Always keep some flour ready to pour onto the kneading surface, because, it’s sticky out of the bowl. But, it made a nice loaf shape, and 43 minutes at 400
    in a skillet, was perfect.

  29. Happy Birthday, Grandma! I feel like she gave me a gift today! Have been looking for a great Irish Soda Bread recipe for years and this is the one! After scrolling through lots of recipes online today and even after getting a recommendation forwarded to me from a friend of a friend, I decided to try this recipe of your Grandmother’s because of the great story that accompanied it and the sweet photo of her. Thank you for sharing this! I followed lots of tips from your notes: I cubed and froze the unsalted butter, I skipped the egg and only mixed it til it barely held together (I actually thought I ruined it because it was so crumbly, but it worked out great). I baked it in a Crisco-greased, 5 qt Dutch oven and covered it with foil half way through the cooking time. Perfect! Will make this recipe whenever I make Irish Soda Bread from now on!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you so much for giving this recipe a try, Margaret! So happy to hear you enjoyed it.

  30. So delicious! I was not expecting to like this as much as I did. It honestly tastes like a bready scone and I love it. It’s wonderful with butter or jam or both! I baked this in a cast iron skillet for about 40 minutes and it came out perfectly – didn’t even need to tent. I see myself making this again and again.

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