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. It’s a shortcut bread that doesn’t skimp on flavor.

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: 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

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 and knead a few times. You can watch me knead the dough in the video tutorial above. Don’t stress, it’s really easy!
  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!

Irish soda bread in a cast iron skillet

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.

Irish soda bread cut into slices

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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
  • 4 and 1/4 cups (515g) all-purpose flour (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. With floured hands on a lightly floured surface, work the dough into an (approximately) 8 or 9 inch round loaf as best you can. Knead the dough 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 bread at room temperature for 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. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is key to the bread’s flavor, texture, and rise. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you can make a homemade “DIY” version. Whole milk or 2% milk is best. Add 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 1 and 3/4 cup. Whisk together, then let sit for 5 minutes before using in the recipe.
  3. The colder the butter, the less sticky the dough will be. Make sure it’s very cold, even frozen cubed butter is great!
  4. I have most success when I bake this bread at 400°F (204°C). I used to bake it in a hotter oven, but found that the bottom would easily burn if you don’t watch it carefully. 400°F is perfect.
  5. Recipe originally posted on Sally’s Baking Addiction in 2015.

Keywords: Irish soda bread

Sally's Baking Addiction | Grandma's Irish Soda Bread Recipe with step-by-step photos

Sally's Baking Addiction | Grandma's Irish Soda Bread Recipe with step-by-step photos

220 Comments

  1. Hey Sally! I made this tonight and used DIY buttermilk. When you made this recipe did you use store bought buttermilk or did you make your own? I found my dough was extremely sticky to the point where I was adding waaay too much flour. I followed your recipe word for word with the buttermilk substitution. Thanks!

    1. I typically use real buttermilk when I make this bread. Adding more flour as necessary is OK, but the bread can still be somewhat sticky going into the oven. How does it taste?

  2. We are vacationing in Italy right now and the other day we were in San Gmignano on market day. In one of the many stalls there was one with bread and cheese. We chose a crispy large roll filled with raisins, white raisins and nuts. It was crispy on the outside, and soft, but chewy on the inside. It reminded me of the Irish soda bread I have made several times. When I return home I plan to try your recipe but shape it into smaller loaves and see what result I get. We have also had the most delicious multigrain croissants. I call bread my “addiction!”

  3. I make a soda bread similar to this recipe. However, I soak my raisins in Irish Whiskey before I put them in the bread,,,,yum!!!

  4. I never understood the closeness of grandparents. I was raised far away from mine. Then we moved up here and I grew very close to my grandma. So I can honestly say I’m sorry yours isn’t around anymore and I can understand the heartbreak. I’m glad you have cooking to remember her by. I’m going learn to sew in honor of my grandma. 

    Decided to make this soda bread tomorrow. Hehe

  5. This is a great recipe! Thanks for sharing. I used salted butter because that is all I had and used raisins & cranberries. I also made the buttermilk using 2% and lemon juice. It came out perfect and tastes great! Just wondering if you can make it with whole wheat flour? 

  6. Hi Sally!  Your recipe is perfection except for a fun fact I thought you might enjoy! You make a cross, not an x on the loaf. Legend has it that the cross keeps the leprechauns away!

    I would love more Irish recipes!! 

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!! 
    Anne

  7. This is in my oven right now! Looks great! I know it’s not St Patrick’s Day yet, but I have two favorite St. Patty’s day meals that I like to make every year, so I have to start early to get them both in this week! One is Split Pea Soup with a side of Irish Soda Bread; the other is a traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner. Looking forward to enjoying this yummy bread with my soup in a hour!

  8. Amazing recipe Sally! but I have to ask if I did something wrong as mine came out a lot wetter than it should seem. I used correct portions of everything but maybe it seems a little bit less buttermilk would have lended a more workable dough instead of the sticky substance I got after working it all in. Im a novice, perhaps I should have mixed the milk in slowly but no one’s got time for that!

  9. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I made your Grandmother’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread last night and was so pleased with it; absolutely delicious!  I just had a piece toasted with my morning coffee.
    “Top of the morning to you!”

  10. Made this the other day as part of our St. Patrick’s Day dinner, and it was absolutely scrumptious! My dad had no idea it was homemade until I asked him if he liked the bread I made, he thought we got it from Great Harvest Bread Co.! Thanks for the keeper recipe! 

  11. Just made your Irish soda bread and it was delicious except burned on the bottom.  Cooking time was right, used a dark non-stick pan.  Any suggestions?

  12. love your recipe. Red Hill makes a good premix. I will add blue berries for a variety instead of raisins. and now, I can use Kerry Gold Butter from Ireland with it!!!!!! Wit good coffee, it is often our breakfast with bacon.

  13. Hello, Sally. I was just wondering if I can make this receive through step 2 then refrigerate the dough overnight and bake it the next day? Thank you!!!!!

  14. I’m thinking I want to bake a few of these for the holidays to gift with some apple butter! If I were to split the dough into four rolls, how long would you recommend baking for?

  15. Great recipe Sally! I made these into individual irish soda breads using a muffin tin- they came out great! Thanks again for sharing 🙂 

  16. Absolutely LOVE this bread. I stored mine in a ziplock bag after cooling to trap in all the moisture. This will allow the bread to stay intact and not crumble. Thanks for the recipe, Sally!

  17. This bread is just amazing. I swear its easier than making cookies even! Each year its a success. Thanks Sally!

  18. Thanks Sally! Made this bread this morning and it turned out great! I’ve made a few other Irish Soda Breads this week and my family wanted something more like what we got in the store. I read your recipe and thought it would fit the request. I didn’t believe it when you wrote that the bread would spread on the baking sheet…mine almost filled the whole sheet, but it raised well and looked beautiful – slightly larger than the traditional circle. 🙂 Absolutely tasty and easy! I didn’t kneed it though as I didn’t want to get my hands sticky and was short on time. I just plopped it on the baking sheet, smoothed out the top with a spoon, made the cuts and baked it. I only baked mine for about 30 minutes and it was done. My husband, who has been critical of the other recipes I’ve tried, ate his piece with satisfaction and rave reviews. I will be making this again. It was so easy that I’ll probably make it at least once a month. Thank you so much!!

  19. Hi Sally! Others have had my comment as well. But, I thought I’d check again. My soda bread is in the oven now. I have no doubt it will be delicious. However, as some have noted, my dough came out SO stick I had to add WAY more flour. I just kept adding, adding, and adding until I could somewhat get my dough into a ball. Is this OK? I did use gluten free flour. But, I have had this problem before with other recipes I have tried. Also, I did bake in a greased cake pan. I have a cast iron skillet. But, we always cook fish in it. I was worried the cast iron might give my bread a bit of a fishy taste! Should I not worry about it next time? What about baking the bread in a Le Creuset Dutch Oven? Could that work?

    1. A dutch oven absolutely works. I’ve never worked with gluten free flour before so I’m not really sure if that is the issue. I usually keep adding flour until I can form into a ball. It will still be sticky though.

  20. Hello! First I wanted to say I LOVE your recipes! You truly bake with your heart and I like to think I do the same – hence the reason you are my go-to for new recipes. 

    I had a question regarding this recipe though. My bread turned out a tad under-done after just over 50 minutes of baking. The outside browned very quickly so I loosely covered it with foil per your instructions. It looks perfect, but the inside is still sticky. Im afraid had I left it in much longer the bottom would have been burnt. The ‘done’ sections are fantastic (taste wise). Do you have any suggestions you could send my way? 

    Im not at all a beginner in the kitchen, Ive been baking for about 15 years but this is the first attempt I have made at Irish Soda Bread. Any suggestions are appreciated, thank you and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

    1. Hi Jen! If you decide to try this Irish soda bread recipe again, feel free to reduce the oven temperature and bake for longer. This should prevent the bottom from burning and slowly cook the center too. And cover with foil too.

      1. Oh I will absolutely make it again. Turns out it was only one small section that wasn’t completely done. Odd. But it is so tasty and even my husband (picky eater) loves it! Thank you for the quick reply! 

  21. Made this on the day before St. Patrick’s day and it turned out great. Very tasty with raisins and a few dried cranberries. I will definitely be making it again. Thanks,

  22. Made this for St. Patrick’s day.  Such an easy and good recipe.  Love the texture very similar to a scone inside but nice and crusty on the outside.  10/10, will make gain and maybe try a savoury variety with cheese and herbs, my kids aren’t too keen on raisins and I honk a cheese and herb version would be great with soup or stew

    1. Thanks for reporting back about the Irish soda bread recipe, Tracie! I’m so glad you enjoyed the texture. A savory version would be so, so tasty!

  23. Hi,
    I’m sure this tastes delicious, but it is actually a scone recipe.
    Soda bread is much simpler and is only flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk and a small quantity of water, and is, de facto, savory.
    Try eating yours with jam and clotted cream – cream first! ;o)

  24. Made this tonight for my husband and it was the best I have ever made. I used whole milk with lemon but also added the zest of the fruit, baking raisin’s, substituted 1 and 1/4 of the flour for wheat flour, and used brown sugar. Snuck some cinnamon/nutmeg in too because he wanted it as a dessert. I didn’t kneed at all just put the semi sticky dough in the pan, floured my hands, and shaped the mound. Came out perfectly and he told me to start using your recipes more often! Thank you for a wonderful bread!

  25. Have just made this using Gluten-Free self raising flour, it’s turned out beautifully exactly like photo, it’s the first gf soda bread that’s come out edible, there is already two in the bin this week, can’t recommend this highly enough, all you coeliacs out there give it a go , it’s a real winner. 

  26. Hi Sally just got my soda bread out of the oven looks lovely but it seems a bit spongie in the middle …when I cut it …what have I done wrong …..Sharon A

  27. I made this last night using 1 c raisins and adding a healthy dose of caraway seeds + 1/2 c of candied citron in the spirit of the season. Lovely!

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