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 Tutorial: 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 (optional, see note)
  • 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. 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.

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

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

490 Comments

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  1. This is fantastic! My partner is from Ireland and he misses his Granny’s soda bread. So I gave this a go and he said it tastes very similar to his Granny’s. The recipe is very easy to follow.

  2. Mike O'Brien says:

    Sally
    Love your recipe! Is it possible to make “dinner rolls” using this recipe – how should I adjust baking time / temperature?

    1. Hi Mike! You can certainly try it. The bake time will be shorter. I would use the same oven temperature.

    2. Margaret Mendelson says:

      Check your oven temperature about once a year I have to reset mine. it’s in the book somewhere how to do it I don’t remember but it goes out of that 25 to 50 degrees and always before Thanksgiving

  3. Absolutely love soda bread! This is the first recipe that we tried, but despite leaving the loaf in the oven for about an hour, it was still very raw in the middle. Tried to give it a little benefit, but even the more-cooked end pieces didn’t have much flavor. I think my irish heritage is failing me on this one
    🙁

  4. I’ve made many Irish Soda Breads over the years, but never seen a recipe call for egg. I’m curious if there’s a reason why yours calls for it!

    1. It yields a richer bread, but feel free to leave it out or try my no yeast bread. (Similar recipe.)

  5. this was delicious!!!!!!! and so quick and easy. i’ve been having the baking itch quite a bit these days (like all of us) and I made this on a Friday night at 9pm. I think I ate half the loaf by midnight. Used golden raisins and some dried cherries (cause that’s what I had). I love using my cast iron skillet to bake. Sally…you are literally the BEST baking teacher!!!!!!!

    1. I forgot to add — yes it was a bit hard in the morning but nothing that 5 min in the oven didn’t fix. Froze slices and been heating the slices up in the oven daily…divine.

  6. Not so sweet just I wanted. It is my first time I have ever tried. Very nice…. It took very long time baking 1 hour and 15 Min. I did with strong white bread flour. Last 30 mins I decrease the heat to 160 (fan)

  7. Hello Sally! Do you choose the top and bottom fan mode for electric oven?

  8. Do you think it would still be good w salted butter? That’s all I have on hand. Thx

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

  9. Brock Croome says:

    Tried your grandma’s recipe today…was excellent and tasty. Substituted dried cranberries for raisins (raisins are not good for dogs and our poodle has to try everything) and it still came out 100%.

    Thank you and thank your grandma wherever she may be!

  10. What a lovely recipe! It is reminiscent of a rock cake, which is no bad thing, but with all that Irish soda bread offers. A true delight and one for the archives. Will definitely be making this again… and again…

    1. Brian Joyce says:

      Hi Sally,
      Followed your recipe precisely except I used salted butter. The bread was amazingly wonderful. Heavenly. Used a 12” perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet middle rack of oven 410 degrees. Had to add 10 minutes bake time because knife test was a bit wet after 40 minutes but no big deal. The bread was the best part of our Corona isolation. Blessings to you and your grandmother.

  11. Do I have to wait two days to eat it or is that for how long it will be good for at room temperature?

  12. I made this bread today, and it was amazing. Will be making it again real soon. Just wondering if you could make this into two loaf pans. Would be easier to slice for toasting…Any comments would be helpful. A top 5 stars, I would give more if I could.

  13. I made this bread today, and it was amazing. Will be making it again real soon. Just wondering if you could make this into two loaf pans. Would be easier to slice for toasting…Any comments would be helpful. A top 5 stars, I would give more if I could.

  14. This recipe was so easy and the flavour balance was perfect! Not too sweet or plain, can have with soup or on it’s own with condiments thank you for posting the recipe

  15. This was delicious! Thank you. It’s very similar to our damper that we make here in Australia!

  16. Delicious and beautiful!

  17. My husband enjoyed this! Curious, any tricks for incorporating the cold butter? I struggled without a pastry knife, but I’m thinking maybe it was too cold? (straight from the fridge).

    1. Hi Marissa, You can use two forks or even just your hands if you don’t have a pastry cutter. I use it straight from the refrigerator or even the freezer. Cut it into cubes and toss in your flour mixture until the butter cubes are coated and then begin to use forks or your hands.

  18. Audrey Fatula says:

    The best yet!

    I would like to make it in a loaf pan for easier slicing. Are there any tips on how to do this and get the same crunchy outer and soft inner bread?

    1. Hi Audrey, glad you love it! I don’t recommend a loaf pan because the loaf may not bake evenly inside. This dough is best as a flatter loaf.

  19. I tried 2 recipes and this was by far the best. Very easy. The bread was very tender and delicious.

  20. Edward McNulty says:

    Can I use unbleached all purpose flour?

  21. Can you make this a savory soad bread? For example with Cheese.

    1. Hi Carmen! Absolutely- I recommend using my no yeast soda bread recipe. I include lots of flavor ideas in that post- see recipe note.

  22. I made this today. I followed the recipe exactly as written, but it was so wet I couldn’t knead it at all. I kept adding more flour and it just stuck all over my hands. Should I maybe just add the buttermilk till it’s just slightly tacky and not necessarily add all the milk? I baked it and it looks just like yours but haven’t tried it yet… what am I doing wrong? Sally, help!!!!

    1. Hi Geri, this is a very sticky dough. It will stick to your hands no matter what. Feel free to reduce the buttermilk to 1 and 1/2 cups for next time. How did it taste?

      1. Hi Sally,
        Thank you for your response. It was very helpful going forward. The bread was SUPERB! Both my husband and I Loved it! Next time I will start with 1 cup of buttermilk and add more until it is the right consistency. It just seemed that no one else had the same problem so I thought I was doing something wrong… I’m not a novice baker and have made Irish Soda Bread before so I thought maybe I did something wrong. How do you deal with the wetness of the batter? Add more flour? I’m afraid to add too much for fear of it making the bread overly heavy… I also want to thank you for all the emails you send regarding measuring ingredients, etc. you make baking so accessible to everyone. You are such a pro! I have 2 of your books and love your recipes… Thanks again for the help..

  23. Hi Sally, I don’t have a buttermilk. Can i use an Almond milk instead? Thanks

    1. No, you need buttermilk to react with the soda. You can make buttermilk by adding vinegar to regular milk. See the recipe notes.

    2. I made buttermilk with almond milk and it worked just fine! I put 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice in a measuring cup, added almond milk to measure 1-3/4 cups; stir and let rest for 5 minutes. Then I added the egg, whisked it all together. Then just followed the recipe. I also used white whole wheat flour because that’s all I have. Worked great and tasted delicious!

  24. Made this bread and it is wonderful. When I get low in bread I know what recipe to use as I don’t like taking an hour to make bread. Next time I will make cinnamon raisin.
    Love your website, use it often.
    Rosie

  25. I love all of your bread recipes and have already made a bunch quite successfully! So thank you!
    But for some reason whenever I bake Irish soda bread, the loaf always splits down near the bottom and then it bakes like a raised mushroom. While it tastes great, it’s not so pretty and I hesitate to make it for others.
    I make sure I have no weak seams when I shape it prior to baking and I score the top with an X. I bake mine on parchment lined cookie sheet.
    What am I doing wrong? I even searched the internet and cannot find an answer. Thank you.

    1. Hi Mary, The bread will crack open around the sides (happened to me once!) if the scoring isn’t deep enough. If you try the bread again, score a little deeper.

      1. Ok I will take your advice…making another likely tomorrow with my leftover buttermilk! Will let you know if I am successful. Thanks so much. Oh and I ordered the malt barley syrup online – cannot wait till it arrives. Going to make your bagel recipe!

  26. Hi Sally, this looks like a great recipe. Before, I try it however, I was wondering if I could use loaf pans to make slicing easier. Thank you.

    1. Hi Monica, I hope you try it sometime soon! I don’t recommend a loaf pan. See recipe note.

  27. Hi Sally:
    I would love to make this soda bread. My other soda bread recipe, I make in a 8″ round pan and it comes out beautifully. Do you think that I can use the 8″ pan for this recipe?
    Thank you,
    Mary

    1. It’s on the smaller side, but if you shape this dough to be a little smaller (and taller), it should be fine. Score it deep enough. The bake time will be longer since it will be taller.

  28. Karen Hogan says:

    My son and I made this bread today for a school assignment. (Food/recipe linked to European ancestry)… It is so delicious, thank you! It’s like a big scone…Lovely. I think it would also be wonderful with anise seed.

  29. Polly Duddy says:

    Awesome recipe! This is the first time I have ever made the bread and it was a hit! Thanks for sharing!

  30. Margaret Mendelson says:

    Check your oven temperature about once a year I have to reset mine. it’s in the book somewhere how to do it I don’t remember but it goes out of that 25 to 50 degrees and always before Thanksgiving

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