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. This was GREAT bread. Made it exactly as written. Preheated big pizza stone in oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes to get it good and hot. Built the bread on parchment paper, then placed on pizza stone. Came out great!
    Rolling the dough together had the same texture as making a humungous biscuit. Will definitely make again!

  2. Giovanni Mrtines says:

    I will do the bread tomorrow . Thank you Sally.

    1. Love the recipe, made it on the 18th for belated St. Patrick’s Day dinner. Decided to try this recipe, my last one was much more cake like and I wanted a more traditional soda bread. I added about 4 tsp carraway seeds and used golden raisins. Will be my go-to Irish soda bread from now on, thank you

      1. Golden raisins work awesome! Glad to hear! I have even used cranberries!

    2. Love this bread! Made it for St. Patricks Day! My husband keeps raving about it! I have another Irish Bread receipe I USE to make lol…but this one is definitely the ONE Now! Thanks so much!

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        So happy you loved it, Donna!

  3. As am diabetic do you have amount of carbs? I know most in flour. Is it ok to use a wheat flour instead?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Francie! 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. We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  4. I make this bread at least once a year right around St. Patty’s day and it has become a tradition. This will be my fifth year use your recipe. I sub in cranberries for splash of color and it’s a big hit. Thank you see you again next year.

  5. Sandra Sweeney says:

    I made this for St. Patrick’s Day and it turned out perfect! Reminded me of a scone, so the next time I make this, I’ll use dried cranberries instead of raisins and include orange peel and maybe a teeny bit of orange extract. Then, for another variation, dried blueberries and grated lemon peel. So easy and so good. Thank you for sharing this!

  6. CHRISTINE BAY says:

    Best soda bread recipe I’ve every tried! And your tips and hints were spot on. I used my big cast Iron pan to bake it on and it was perfect. Even good warmed over this morning!

  7. This was perfection! Made the recipe as written, except for subbing currants for the raisins. Used a cast iron skillet and crust was amazing! (Using past tense because family devoured the loaf.) Agree that it tasted like a giant scone. Thank you!

  8. Laura ohlweiler says:

    A new fan and just wonder if you could use almond flour instead, just wondering, thanks Sally. Laura

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laura, We don’t recommend almond flour as it has very different properties than all purpose. We have not tested any gluten free flours but other readers have reported using a 1:1 gluten free all purpose flour in some recipes if that could be something you wish to try.

      1. Hello, just wanted to say how much I am obsessed with this recipeI tried Irish soda bread for the very first time 2weeks ago & then found yoursAMAZINGSTRAIGHT FROM HEAVEN! OMGOODNESS!!!!!!!!!!I made this & I just can’t gwt enough, it’s just lightly sweetened, so subtle but what flavir & it REALLY pairs well with homemade veggie beef soup! It’s awesome rhat it’s not scary to make as well, I’ve always been afraid to make vread for not coming out like my grandma’s . But I’m Irish as well, maybe that helpsthank you for sharing this. I will cherish it & make it a part of my families traditions as well. God bless

  9. I made this recipe for St. Patrick’s day this week. It is awesome! My husband could not stop eating it. Thus is going to be my new go to recipe from now on.

  10. I made your soda bread recipe and it was a huge hit! Everyone loved it. It’s now on my list of favorite recipes! Thank you!

    1. Can I use salted butter?

      1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

      2. I reduced salt to 3/4 teaspoon. Turned out great.

  11. We use almond flour for baking. Pamela’s Pancake and Baking flour – available at Whole Foods and Mothers Market – works for most recipes.
    Just leave out the recipe’s call for salt, baking soda and baking powder.
    :). Pamela’s already has those ingredients.

  12. Made this bread last night, and it came out wonderfully! Did not include raisins because I’m unfortunately a picky eater, but I still loved the texture and taste. It was my first time making any kind of bread, and I’m so happy with the results! Thank you for the great recipe!!

  13. Mine turned out absolutely perfect!
    Wish I could attach a picture because it’s just beautiful.

  14. Shana Phelan says:

    I made this on St. Pat’s for my mom’s birthday (shared with your grandma!). I used one tablespoon of sugar instead of three because I didn’t want it to be a dessert-type bread. I also used the vinegar added to 2% milk trick since I had no buttermilk. It turned out so beautifully–absolutely delicious, something like a giant buttermilk biscuit. Mom ended up with half as it is quite a large recipe, and here at home we are still eating it with Irish butter and jam with our tea in the afternoon. I will make this again with real buttermilk, all the sugar and the raisins. I will also make one with no sugar sometime and pour gravy all over! It is sooooo good 🙂 Thank you for the wonderful recipe from Grandma!

  15. Hi, thanks for the recipe. I’m not a baker, but I gave your recipe a try. My first time out the bread was fantastic. The second time the bread was very good, but not as good as the first time. The difference is in the way I followed the recipe. With the first loaf, I forgot the butter until the very end after I combined wet and dry. The second one I followed recipe exactly. Is it possible that leaving the raisins and butter to be the last thing added helps? Like I said, I’m not a baker, so I’m asking for help. Either way, we loved the bread, thanks.

  16. Made this recipe & brought it to a birthday party yesterday. Huge hit! Everyone loved it. It was to-die-for topped with whipped butter. I’m going to bake another one today to use up the buttermilk. Thanks, Sally!

  17. I made this bread exactly as instructed, I opted not to put the egg, and it was gorgeous looking and delicious. I used dried cranberries and blueberries instead of raisins because I already had those. I recommend this recipe, and plan on making this again and again, next time I will buy raisins and use the egg. Thanks so much, five stars for sure!

  18. Absolutely delicious! I’ve made this twice since St. Patrick’s day. Wonderful taste every time. But for some reason each time, the top of the bread separated from the bottom during baking. (Looks like a mushroom.) I’m a pretty careful baker and followed the directions closely both times, or so I thought, but something must be off on my end. The dough has seemed a little sticky each time & I had to add more than the recipe amount of flour. Not sure if that could be affecting it? Other than not looking so pretty, it’s a fantastic soda bread.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heather! Make sure to cut a deep X in the bread before baking – that way, when the bread rises, it will rise up through those cuts, rather than splitting the bread into a mushroom like is happening for you. The sticky dough is completely normal. Thank you so much for giving this recipe a try!

  19. I’ve never made bread before. My wife mentioned making soda bread on St. Patrick’s day, but time didn’t permit. I followed your recipe as best as I knew how. Being inexperienced in baking, I’d have to say your directions and explanations made this easy even for me. The bread came out beautifully! It’s soft inside with a great crust. My family loves it and my wife says I can make this any time I want. Thank you for sharing this recipe and the memories of your grandmother.

  20. Hi, I want to thank you for the recipe. I never made bread before and I followed your recipe exactly using all the ingredients. I used 1 cup of golden yellow raisins as that is what I like they are tasty. The bread turned out perfectly and had mom and 2 of her friends for corned beef etc. I got great compliments too on the bead and everything I made. Special thanks to to your grandma. So sorry for your loss. Very sad. I will make this recipe as they only one for corned beef.

  21. Hi Sally! Thank you for this excellent recipe. I added walnuts to the mix with raisins. It came
    out perfect to your instructions.
    I will be using this recipe throughout the year for a breakfast bread in the morning. Thank you for your grandmother’s recipe.

  22. Linda Winkler says:

    Irish soda bread doesn’t have egg, fat or sugar in it. . It does have buttermilk and soda. This isn’t Irish Soda Bread it’s American Your Gonna Get Fat Soda Bread. Try Jamie Oliver the British chef’s version.

    1. Linda Winkler: what a horrid, ridiculously obnoxious, unnecessary review! And you spelled “you’re” incorrectly! Guess you were too busy amusing yourself with your rude little jibe.
      Anyway, this recipe is wonderful. It’s easy, it’s incredibly flavorful, and nearly fool-proof. I’ve made it 4 times in the last two weeks, and my entire family was blown away by how delicious it was. PS, we are Irish, one side is right from Ireland. Seems authentic to us!

    2. This made me laugh- Jamie Oliver’s recipe also has egg and sugar. Not sure what your problem is here.

  23. Another 5 star recipe from Sally’s baking addiction. Whenever I look for recipes, I don’t look at the sites name immediately, but at the ingredients and comments. Most of the time I’m reading and baking the recipes on this site. This was my 6th recipe of yours in the past 3 months and all have been 5 stars. My only changes to this were I soaked my raisins in Irish Whiskey overnight, and my cooking time was increased by almost 25 minutes, I think my cake pan was an 8 in round and took a long time to acook through. Last 15 minutes I pulled it out of the cake pan, put it on a cookie sheet and covered loosely with foil to prevent it from getting too dark. My knife kept coming out sticky from the center, I wound up using a digital temp and took if out at 190° F. It’s a very hard crust but it protected the delicious middle. Thank you for another great recipe, what to bake next?….

  24. Sheila Calnan says:

    I know I made this and I was looking for my post, as it’s the same question…so sorry.
    Can I use a food processor to start the butter and flour?
    Thanks.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sheila, we recommend using a pastry cutter, forks, or even your fingers. A food processor will quickly overwork your dough, though can work in a pinch.

      1. Sheila A. Calnan says:

        Thanks. I’ll use my pastry cutter, as long as my hand holds out.

  25. Michelle OGorman says:

    Superb and easy to make. Love this bread!!!

  26. I am no baker because it scares me to death. I adore soda bread so I thought what the heck. Your instructions were great and I followed them exactly except I added the zest of one orange. What a beautiful loaf! My family thought it was from an artisan bakery. They just raved. I was so proud of myself! For Easter I’m going to make one with orange zest and cranberries and one with golden raisins and walnuts. Yum! Thank you so much

  27. Sue Vendetti says:

    Love this recipe, it was straight forward and came together easily will definitely make again. My Irish neighbors loved it!

  28. I have made this every St. Patrick’s Day for the past several years. It is a keeper for sure! This time around I added some orange zest.

  29. Lois Skiffington says:

    Can yogurt Be substituted for the buttermilk?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lois! Buttermilk is key to the bread’s flavor, texture, and rise. See recipe notes for making your own DIY version if needed.

  30. This recipe was amazing! It was my first time making soda bread and the instructions were very easy to follow. The results were so worth it! So delicious, my new favorite bread. Thanks!

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