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. 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.

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 before baking

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. You can watch me do this in the video tutorial above. Don’t stress, it’s really easy! Using a very sharp knife, score the dough. This allows the center to bake.
  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! We use buttermilk for the same reasons in my regular no yeast bread, too.

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 and Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes!

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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 (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 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 leftover bread at room temperature for up to 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. 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. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Recipe originally posted on Sally’s Baking Addiction in 2015.

Keywords: Irish soda bread

collage of 4 images showing steps to making Irish soda bread including dough in bowls, formed into a circle, and in a skillet before baking

Irish soda bread in a cast iron skillet

458 Comments

  1. 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!!!

  2. 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

  3. 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

    1. Yes! I heard that! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you!

  4. Amy, glad you love it! To be honest, it’s much too dense and dry with whole wheat flour.

  5. 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!

  6. Maureen Liggett says:

    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!”

  7. 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! 

  8. 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?

    1. Was it a metal pan? I always use cast-iron without any issue or over browning.

      1. Yes, it was a metal pan.  Thanks for the tip, will definitely try again with a cast iron pan

  9. Deanie Pidgeon says:

    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.

  10. 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!!!!!

    1. I don’t think that would be an issue at all.

  11. 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?

    1. What a thoughtful gift! I’m thinking maybe 25 minutes?

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

    1. What a great idea!

  13. 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!

    1. Great tip!

  14. Rachel Bejarano says:

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

    1. Happy you enjoy it 🙂

  15. 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!!

    1. I’m so happy you loved this one so much, Rachel! Thanks for reporting back.

  16. Peppermint Dolly says:

    Love me some soda bread so I do!! I’m Irish – so it’s in my blood haha!!

    Rebecca
    xx
    www.peppermintdolly.com

  17. 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. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    2. 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.

  18. 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! 

  19. Forest Davenport says:

    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,

  20. 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!

  21. Made this with walnuts and cheddar cheese to go with soup….very tasty!

  22. 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. 

  23. Hi Sally,

    I was wondering, if I remove the radon’s from the recipe do I need to change anything else?

    Thank you!!!

    1. I assume you meant raisins! Yes, you can leave them out. No need to alter the recipe at all.

  24. Hi Sally, this sounds delicious! I was wondering if you know whether using gluten free flour would work? I’d like to make it for my son 🙂
    I have tried some of your other recipes but am always skeptical about substituting the flour.

    1. Hi Debbie! I wish I could help, but I have very little experience baking with GF flour. Let me know if you try anything though.

      1. I will Sally. Hopefully on the weekend 🙂 Thank you for replying.

      2. This was my first time trying Irish soda bread. Loved it!

    2. Becki DeWare says:

      I am Gluten Free and have successfully made GF Irish soda bread.
      Last year, 2018, I made and used GF Oat flour and it was delicious!
      This year, I opted to try GF all purpose flour combined with brown rice flour. It is currently baking, so will let you know how it turns out! Also remember to use GF Baking soda, and about a 1/4 tsp of xanthum gum, to aid with the levening – unless your GF flour already contains it.

    3. Debbie, The Namaste gluten free flour blend might work just fine. I have substituted it in man, many recipes and not only does it work, most people can’t even tell it’s gluten free. I get mine from Costco though I know Kroger stores carry it.

  25. Hi Brenda! You can definitely try it. I don’t see an issue. Let me know how it turns out!

  26. Hi Sally! Your recipe states to transfer dough to a prepared skillet/pan. Does that mean the cast iron skillet should be greased? Thanks.
    I look forward to making your wonderful recipe next weekend!

    1. Hi Jo! This is a great question. If your cast iron skillet is seasoned, it does not need to be greased. If not, use a little canola oil. https://www.southernliving.com/food/how-to/how-t0-season-a-cast-iron-skillet

      1. Yes, it is seasoned. Thank you! One more quick question: if using a sheet pan, what do you recommend so the dough doesn’t stick? A baking mat, spray, or even cornmeal? Please advise, and thank you again! 🙂

      2. I use either parchment or a silicone baking mat. Both work great!

    2. Is the bread to be hard?

  27. Maureen Dempsey says:

    I plan to make this bread. Also, curious to know if you have a good “Irish Brown Bread” recipe?? We were in Ireland last summer, and fell in love with the brown bread. I am having a hard time finding a recipe that would be similar to what we ate!

    1. Ugh, I don’t! I’m searching for one. If you find one, feel free to share. Or if anyone reading has a good one, leave a link!

    2. Hello from Northern Ireland! Wheaten bread is what you’re looking for I think. Here’s a recipe https://supervalu.co.uk/recipe/wheaten-bread/

  28. I definitely plan to make this for Community Coffee hour this week! Perfect timing. I used a different recipe last year… it was just, meh. BUT your bread looks amazing! Loved the video

    1. Thanks so much Willa! Glad you enjoyed the video 🙂

  29. Hi Sally! Could I make this into mini loaves? If so, would you adjust the bake time much? Thanks~

    1. Hi James! Yes, you can divide the dough up into smaller dough balls for smaller loaves. The bake time depends on how small. When the exteriors are golden brown and the centers appear set, they’re done.

  30. Laura | Tutti Dolci says:

    My grandma inspires me as well, so I just love this post! And her Irish soda bread looks absolutely perfect!

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