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. 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.

    2. 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.

  2. Sally

    I seldom have buttermilk on hand but always have my homemade yogurt. Could I sub yogurt thinned with a little milk instead. Thanks. Love your site!

    1. I have substituted buttermilk in biscuits by combining some Greek yogurt with milk. I think for regular yogurt I would add some vinegar or lemon juice to add some tang. Or, you could use the common substitute of milk and lemon juice or vinegar.

    2. You can use yogurt and milk (I prefer plain over Greek style most of the time). I do when I don’t have buttermilk on hand. I disagree with the effectiveness of soured milk (Buttermilk is not just soured milk after all) Every time I have used it, my desserts are not the same (flat, dry cakes, muffins, etc) Buttermilk is not only added tang, but texture.

      1. I used soured milk instead of buttermilk in Sally’s chocolate chip muffins and they were WONDERFUL!!!!!

  3. 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. 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! 🙂

  4. 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!

  5. 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. 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.

  6. I was asked to make this for St Pat Day so thank you for this recipe. And for your Grandma and the blessing she gave to you and now to all of us. I am sure it will be grand.

  7. Hi Sally! I’ve been making my mother’s Irish soda bread for years- she was from county Mayo. I put caraway seeds in it along with raisins- so good! I may make yours and mine for work and have a taste off!

  8. Thank you for posting this again. I love this recipe and have used it every St Patrick’s Day since you first posted it. The only thing I did different is used craisins that I soaked in hot water and drain before adding to recipe(only because I didn’t have raisins. We really liked it so that’s what I do).

    1. I’m so happy you love this recipe! Thanks for your positive feedback- and craisins sound like a delicious addition 🙂

  9. I was wondering if you know whether using gluten-free flour would work? I’d like to use buttermilk with greek yogurt as a substitute. I have tried some of your other recipes but am always skeptical about substituting the flour.

  10. This is a random comment, but thought I’d share something that I think is wonderful. I have tried and hated so many different pastry cutters/blenders until I finally found the best one! It’s called the Perfect Pie Blender. It is super comfy and the cutting part never bends out of shape. I’m not trying to advertise for them, but only share one of my best tool finds.

  11. Hi, I am so excited to make this bread. Can I make it in a dutch oven? I don’t have a cast iron skillet. Thank you!

  12. I have made Irish Soda Bread before using an Old Italian recipe, but I simply have to give yours a try. My grandmother’s birthday was also on St. Patrick’s Day and she would have been 95 this Sunday! Thanks Sally!

  13. Thanks for the Irish soda bread recipe..My great grandfather came over from Ireland…I will be during cornedbeef and cabbage on Saint Patrick’s day….This will be a great addition…

  14. Looks so good! Love me some crusty bread. When adding raisins, would it work to use the trick from your OR cookie recipe and soak them first? Or would that somehow negatively affect this recipe?
    Thanks!

  15. Hey Sally, I’m excited to try this! I am going to make it twice, once thursday night (for Friday) and once sunday am (for sunday afternoon). Could I make both batches of dough on thursday night and refrigerate the second batch until sunday? Inexperienced baker here!

  16. It’s delicious! I just wish I added a touch more flour bc my dough was still pretty wet so it came out a little dense. Will definitely get it perfect for my next batch. I love that this recipe is not too sweet. I will try my next batch with dried cranberries!

  17. Just made & bread is cooling. Is nutritional info available. Specifically looking for carb count/per serving. Thanks.

  18. Please add what size to shape the dough. A 6 inch round, 2 inches thick? I’m baking my bread on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

  19. This bread is delicious and reminds me of pancakes :-). I baked the bread in a cast iron skillet per your recommendation and the crust was beautifully crisp. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Hey Sally- I’ve made this recipe twice and my bread just doesn’t seem to get done on the inside! The second time I cooked it for an hour and 15 minutes! Still a bit doughy in the center. Any idea what I’m doing wrong? How deep do you cut the X in the top? Maybe my cut is too shallow? (The outside part of the bread is delicious though!!!)

    1. Hi Katey! I never usually measure, but about 1/2 – 1 inch deep. Depending on how thick and cold the loaf is, the bread will require a longer bake time. Avoid opening/closing the oven, which will extend the bake time. Cover with foil so the exterior doesn’t over-brown.

  21. I used Craisins (being from Cape Cod !) I made a small one the size of a large biscuit to be sure the taste was ok (bringing it to a St. Paddy’s party held by a first generation Irish American so I wouldn’t bring it if it weren’t good). And I sprinkled the top with pearl/cane sugar as was recommended in another recipe. The bigger bread is still cooking but the small one is on my plate and delicious. Sort of like a light textured scone. Bet it will be a hit!

  22. Giving this 3 stars because the dough was a wet mess. I measured the flour and sugar by weight, so I know I was on target. The resulting mixture was SOUP. I added extra flour but still had to use a scraper to get it off the counter. It’s in the oven now so I hope it comes out ok. Disappointed so far.

  23. I am not a fan of raisins, but I am using frozen blueberries instead. I will let y’all know when I make it tonight how it turns out.

  24. Thank you for sharing your grandmother’s recipe. My first attempt at soda bread and it came out perfect!

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