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

778 Comments

  1. Kristy Moses says:

    Hello Sally-

    I made this bread today in my cast iron skillet and not only did it turn out beautiful, it is delicious! A bit hit with my family. Thank you again for posting all these recipes. Using your detailed instructions and videos, I have tried baking things that I never would have considered previously. What a wonderful way to honor your grandmother on her birthday. I’m sure that she is very proud of you:-)

  2. Can you make this in a bread maker?

    I messed up the first time. The bottom burnt before the middle was done cooking. Next time, I think I’ll split it into 2 like other suggestions.

    It tastes so good though!!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda, We don’t suggest using this recipe with a bread maker. So glad you’re enjoying it!

  3. Kristy Moses says:

    Oh good grief….I meant to say a BIG hit!! I should not attempt to multi-task.

  4. just made this delish bread.baked in cast iron skillet.sooooo good. mixed in my kitchen aid. will make it again. from nebraska

  5. This is a wonderful recipe! I will be making it again. I did add a tsp of caraway seed and it gave only the slightest hint of flavor, so yes. 1tbl would be fine. The family loved it. Not much left to toast in the morning but definitely looking forward to it!

    1. Haha. OMG I cannot believe this came out of my kitchen! It was not a flat brick a la my usual bread attempts. It was beautiful, looked professional! Got right in there with my hands. I added a bit more flour as I was kneading, just enough so not sticky. Cast iron was the right choice. I scored it deeply (approx ¼ to ⅓ the depth). Perfect crumb and cook. Crunchy, flakey crust, soft inside. Thank you for posting! I haven’t been so chuffed with myself in some time!

      1. Ah! my stars didn’t go through. 5++

  6. This was a very easy recipe and the bread was delicious. Crusty in the outside, moist on the inside. Will bake again.

  7. Excellent, delicious, so easy, and I wasn’t going to add the raisins, BUT since your grandma never skipped them, then neither did I. Super impressed and glad I added them. My 11 year old son loved the bread and with no butter.

  8. Absolutely delicious!

  9. this is the best Irish soda bread recipe,, nice crisp crust, lovely color, I added 3 tablespoons of caraway seed. My family raved over it. Great with the traditional St. patrick‘’s day corned beef and cabbage

  10. After searching for a soda bread recipe today I found my way to this site. I must say that this bread was truly outstanding. The inside is rich and dense and the top was very crusty. So glad I found this, no need to look for one next year!

  11. Happy Birthday to your Grandmother — thank you for such a great recipe! I halved everything and ended up with one beautiful, delicious loaf. I used cranberries instead of currants and sour cream in place of buttermilk as that was what I had in the kitchen, omitted the egg, added 1/2 TBSP of caraway seeds and baked on parchment for 40 minutes. I can’t believe how simple it was to make yet tasted and looked so amazing, will be making this every year from now on 🙂

  12. Is this recipe for one or two loaves? see someone’s comment, I should have devided it in two. Her bottom was burned.
    Thank you

  13. Once again, Sally came through! Everything I try from this website turns out beautifully!!
    St. Patrick’s Day is also our wedding anniversary. I made soda bread to go with our corned beef & cabbage dinner. We forgot to buy the raisins so I used dried currants & chopped dates. Baked it in a cast iron Dutch oven. OH MY GOSH!!! So amazing!!! Thank you so much for this recipe!!!

    1. I agree. Everything I’ve tried from Sally’s website is spot on!

  14. Just made this for an Irish meal at a friend’s house. It was delicious! Dense and moist inside with crusty exterior… fabulous with butter! My friend had bought Irish soda bread from publix… compared… publix was dry and not much flavor. This recipe is so easy as well!

  15. The best recipe I’ve made. I did not use the egg and it was perfect.

  16. Made it tonight in my Grandmother’s cast iron pan & didn’t skip the raisins 😉
    Delicious! Thank you for sharing your Grandmother’s recipe.

  17. I never comment but this was a great recipe. To anyone who reads this after the fact learn from my error! Knead in the butter with your fingers BEFORE adding the raisins. Hard to feel the butter clumps among all the raisins.

  18. I love your recipes, Sally! But this one didn’t go well for me. I extended the baking time as the dough did not bake in the middle. It was quite wet when I was preparing, and even after adding a lot of flour it still hasn’t cooked through! Tented, but outside very brown and inside undercooked.

  19. Perfection!! Sally’s Baking Addiction is my first (and only!) stop for my baking needs – Thanks!

  20. Thank you for sharing this terrific recipe for Irish soda bread. I’ve made it numerous times before but this recipe is fantastic. I added craisins along with raisins to the dough. I made it for tonight’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. I plan on slicing the leftover loaf for tomorrow morning’s French toast. Perfect combination. Thank you and this recipe has been added to my collection.

  21. Carrie DeYoung says:

    First time & it turned out perfect. I didn’t have buttermilk so had to use the vinegar trick. Did not put in egg, did use sugar. I cooked in a cast iron skillet and put foil on top at about 20 minutes. It was a perfect color and tasted great. Looking forward to having some in the morning with jam. Thanks!

  22. Although I am an avid baker, and try out different recipes with my family, I’m very bad at rating and leaving comments afterwards. BUT, I had to make sure I took the time this time. This recipe is delicious and a true gem! I needed a recipe for Irish soda bread that would go along with our St.Patricks Day dinner. Boy was this the highlight of the dinner! My family of six kept commenting at the dinner table about how yummy this bread is. Thank you SO much for sharing this treasured family recipe! This recipe is one that will be used over and over again.

  23. I made this yesterday and it was really yummy, but my crust came out more craggy and the top of the loaf didn’t seem to want to cook through. I cooked an extra few minutes but didn’t want to do so too much because I used a cast iron skillet and didn’t want the bottom to burn. Any tips?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kristina! 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. We’re glad to hear you enjoyed this one!

  24. I made your bread yesterday for the first time for St. Paddy’s Day. It was easy to make and delicious. I didn’t have buttermilk so I used the milk and vinegar trick. I will be making it again.

  25. Made your Grandma’s Irish Soda Bread yesterday in a iron skillet and put raisins in it, my husband and I loved it. I have tried other Irish soda recipes before, this has been the best. We enjoyed a slice toasted for breakfast this morning.
    Thank you for sharing your recipes.

  26. Great recipe! very moist with crispy outside.

  27. This bread was delicious and I made two loaves yesterday. My only struggle was the bake-time. Even at 55-60 minutes the center middle was still not done. I suppose I just need to experiment with my oven’s cooking times. I will most certainly be making this again!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pooja, 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. We’re glad to hear you enjoyed this one!

  28. Debra Estes-Peterson says:

    Hi Sally,
    I made this bread yesterday to go with an Irish Stew for supper. I left out the raisins, but I followed all the other instructions and it turned out great! I have made your scone recipe before and I understand the importance of using frozen butter. Your recipes are all very easy to follow, the tips are great and the results are excellent. Keep up the good work!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you, Debra — we’re glad you enjoyed this one so much!

  29. Priscilla Mitchell says:

    Oh, my. This is the best soda bread ever!! This will be my fourth year making it for St. Patrick’s Day and it never fails to be the highlight of the meal. Each time I have made it, though – the dough is REALLY sticky!! More flour helps, but it’s actually hard to get it off my hands to transfer it to the floured surface! I didn’t notice any other comments about the stickiness, so I’m guessing it’s just me – but no matter – it always comes out just fine! Thank you, Sally – and Grandma, too!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pricilla, 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. If it’s turning out well then you aren’t doing anything wrong — so glad you enjoy this recipe!

  30. Made this recipe yesterday for St. Patrick’s Day to go with our corned beef. I followed the recipe exactly but divided the dough into two parts and baked for about 35 minutes. Put the aluminum foil on top after about 20 minutes. It was delicious! I really liked the contrast between the crispy crust and the soft interior. Looking forward to more today. Thank you for the recipe.

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