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

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

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

452 Comments

  1. Easy, quick, and delicious!! 10/10 bread, cheers!

  2. I’ve failed baking any bread that required yeast in the recipe. I found your recipe and decided to try it. I baked it on a cast iron skillet like you suggested. Success! Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. My first successful homemade bread. This will be a household staple from now on. Thank you for sharing your Grandma’s recipe, Sally.

    1. Hi Marie, I’m so happy that you decided to give this a try and that it was a success!

  3. Feel free to use a dairy-free milk in the DIY buttermilk substitution noted in the recipe notes. Solid coconut oil or dairy-free butter (such as Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks) would be best. Enjoy!

  4. This is so easy and so good. No more fussing with biscuits for me. This is just as good and much, much easier. Having made biscuits in the past, and knowing one of the keys to success with that is grating super cold butter, that’s what I did with this recipe. Worked great. I also use a stiff old fashioned whisk to cut in the butter, as I am trying to cut down on excess cooking utensils. That also worked great with the cold grated butter. We liked slices better warmed quickly in the microwave instead of toasted. Keeper recipe forever!

    1. I’m thrilled that you enjoy this recipe so much, Denise! Great idea to use your old fashioned whisk!

  5. Johnathan Crawford says:

    I made this WONDERFUL recipe but eliminated the sugar and used gluten-free flour with 1/2 tsp of Xanthan gum. I also rolled the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper to 3/4″ thick and cut it into square “biscuits” each with a knife-cut “X” on top. The results were FABULOUS and I served these mini-soda breads alongside Irish Stew for a heaty, cold weather meal. They sopped-up the gravy really well!

  6. Made it for the 2nd time, perfect taste. Many thanks for this recipe . Luc, grts from Belgium

  7. Can this recipe be portioned into rolls? I’m tasked with providing Irish Potato Soup and soda bread for a fourth grade geography class; seems like it would be inconvenient and hard to produce even portions with sliced bread. Thank you, in advance, for any guidance you can provide.

    1. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work, Susan. Let me know if you try it!

  8. Can you bake the bread in a Dutch Oven pan? Because I heard that keeping the lid on the pan for the first 30 minutes and THEN removing it for the last 10 minutes might yield a better crust (because of the steam staying in the Dutch Oven. Or would you not recommend using a Dutch Oven at all?

    1. Absolutely. I recommend following the baking instructions for my no-knead cranberry nut bread.

  9. This bread was very easy to make and has such a lovely texture and flavor. I did not add raisins because I plan on eating plain or with a roast. I didn’t have buttermilk so I substituted with vinegar and whole milk, which I think made it a bit too heavy so baking took longer. Seemed like it was a bit too wet or my oven truly isn’t heating to the proper temp so it was a bit doughy in the center, which I don’t mind since it wasn’t raw. (Disclaimer this was my first time making bread since I was about 10!)

    Will definitely make again but will likely tweak the liquid amount or try with actual buttermilk. Sure beats a yeasted bread!

  10. Hi Sally – Just tried this recipe and it was beautiful coming out of the oven and tasted even better! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe for Irish Soda Bread!

  11. Dear Sally,
    I’m looking forward to making this recipe! One question: there are SO many kinds of salt on the market these days – is there any particular type you recommend for this recipe? Thanks!

    1. Honestly, I make this with regular table salt. Wouldn’t change a thing about that!

  12. Can you use cake flour instead of all purpose flour?

    1. I don’t recommend it– cake flour isn’t strong enough for this bread.

      1. Thank you. I thought it might make the bread more dense and cake like since cakes made from cake flour are much denser. I’ll stick to the recipe

  13. Am I the only one that found this to be a gooey mess? I couldn’t even begin to knead it as it was. I had to add almost another 1/2 cup of flour to get it to a stage that I could handle it. It’s in the oven now, so we’ll see. And yes, I counted out 4 and 1/4 cups of flour.

  14. Hi Sally,
    I’d like to share this with your readers– today I really wanted to make this bread but was low on butter. So I put olive oil to harden in the freezer as butter replacement. The bread was still a success! (By the way, I always use whole wheat flour, and I live in a high elevation area.) Ever since I’ve learned your grandma’s recipe, I seldom buy bread from the store. Without raisins, the bread is so versatile– for tuna salad sandwich, chicken sandwich, soups, etc. I appreciate your sharing this recipe!

  15. Thanks for the Recipe….!!!

  16. Whole wheat flour will make the bread heavier but I’m glad your family still enjoyed it. I have not tested this recipe with any egg substitutes.

  17. My mom was born in Ireland and passed away in 2012… We had a mother daughter trip to visit her homeland when her mother turned 90 and we stayed with my Aunt. Every morning we had toasted brown bread (which I am assuming was soda bread with wheat flour). It was a little dense I remember so I am going to try white wheat flour first and see if I can bring back some of those memories! Thanks for the recipe Sally.

  18. Kim Goldfeder Clarke says:

    Loved it! I made this recipe yesterday as a treat for my husband. Irish soda bread is one of his favorites and I try to make it every year for him. Was looking to try a different recipe and yours was a HUGE HIT! This will be my go to from now on.

    Just a few questions: I found that the bottom slightly caught and burned in the time it took to full cook the loaf throughout. I followed your instructions exactly but in the mentioned cooking time the inside of the dough wasn’t done, so I had to leave it in a bit longer, resulting in the burned bottom. Do you think if I made a flatter loaf this would help?

    Also, what do you think about adding zests of lemons or oranges in to the dough to make it a little zesty?! Do you think that’d be a nice addition?

    Thanks again for this recipe. It’s marvelous! And coming from another woman who was so very close to – and shared recipes with – her grandma, I send you many hugs and smiles!

    1. I’m thrilled it was such a hit, Kim! I’m curious what type of pan you were using to bake it. A cast iron pan is thicker and the bottom shouldn’t burn. You can certainly try shaping it a bit flatter so that it cooks through more easily. A little orange zest might go well with the raisins – let me know if you try it!

      1. Kim Goldfeder Clarke says:

        Isn’t that interesting? I used a regular baking sheet tray instead of my cast iron bc I thought the latter would cause a darker/harder bottom crust layer. I’m going to make it again today and perhaps I’ll try it in my cast iron pan to see the difference, as well as forming the dough a bit flatter.

        And yes, I might make it with orange and craisins! That seems like it’d be a nice combination! Thanks again! Will let you know how it turns out!

  19. The flavor and crumb are just divine! It’s like a slice of scone only easier! Don’t skimp on the raisins. I will add 1 1/2 cups next time. I agree the critical components are the buttermilk and the iron skillet to get the right browning and crisp crust.

  20. Has anyone added caraway seeds? I remember an Irish bread that contained them.

    1. I always add caraway seeds to my Soda bread….with currants instead of raisins

  21. Sally A Dawson says:

    Hi Sally – I want to make this for my fellow teachers for St. Patrick’s Day, so I will need several loaves. Any suggestions for increasing the recipe? Thank you!

    1. Hi Sally! So as not to over-mix or under-mix the dough, I recommend making separate batches. At best, you could double the recipe and divide the dough in half for 2 separate loaves. But for overall best taste and texture, it’s ideal to make each batch separately.

  22. CAN I MAKE THIS RECIPE USING GLUTEN FREE FLOUR?

    1. Hi Carolyn! I haven’t tested it. Let me know what you try!

      1. Alison Whyte says:

        I have and it worked pretty well, not as well as regular flour but my son loved it.

    2. Yes. I used a mix of homemade flour blend plus Namaste GF. Loved it.

  23. Hey Sally, can I put this in a bread loaf pan vs the round version?

    1. Hi Carol! I haven’t tried it before, but it shouldn’t be a problem. The loaf will be taller and more narrow, so the bake time will be longer. Tent with foil so the exterior doesn’t begin to over-brown.

  24. Hi Sally. Do you think I could make 2 smaller loaves? I don’t think it would matter, I would just bake less tome, but wanted to check w the pro! Thanks

    1. Absolutely! Unsure of the exact bake time, but the oven temperature remains the same.

  25. Hi Sally, if I wanted to make a loaf of spotted dog, would I use this same recipe and add the currants and cinnamon? Also, would you add more sugar? Thanks!

    1. Hi Shannon! You can use this same recipe and add currants (and cinnamon, too). Feel free to add extra sugar if you’d like it sweeter.

  26. Hello there can I make this using bread machine?

    1. I don’t recommend it for this quick bread recipe.

  27. You can! See recipe note #2.

  28. Do you think this would be good without the raisins, or maybe with crystallized ginger instead? I just don’t care for raisins in bread. Thanks!

    1. You can leave out the raisins or add a little crystallized ginger. That flavor would be wonderful here!

  29. If you freeze butter you can grate it right in to the flour and skip the cutting in. My new pro tip. Works great!

    1. I think it would be more hassle to grate the butter and clean the grater than to just cut the butter in. Not to mention the mess of grating butter.

  30. Michael W Irwin says:

    Can I make the bread loaf today, refrigerate and bake it next day?

    1. For best taste and texture, I recommend baking it right away.

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