I’m Irish by heritage and as it nears St. Patrick’s Day, I anticipate baking my annual loaf of Irish Soda Bread.
A quick bread recipe (meaning not a yeast bread) made with flour, buttermilk, and (depending upon who you ask), currants and/or caraway seeds, it’s ideal for toasting, smearing with jam (or Slow Cooker Apple Butter), and dunking in a big bowl of Instant Pot Beef Stew.
The edges are lightly craggy (I love picking them off); the inside is soft, but sturdy.
History of Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread was born from necessity. Bicarbonate soda (a.k.a. baking soda) came to the U.K. in the 1830s, a time when Ireland was hurting financially and lacked access to ingredients.
- Irish soda bread made the best of what people had available: soft wheat flour (which grows well in Ireland—it’s similar to cake flour or pastry flour), baking soda, salt, and soured milk (now we use buttermilk in its place).
- It required very little kitchen equipment to make and could be baked over an open hearth.
- Other additions, such as currants, were added only at special occasions, such as Easter.
How to Make Irish Soda Bread
Humble in origin and of great importance to its people, Irish soda bread is simple and sustaining.
Nowadays, it is a St. Patrick’s Day favorite for many. And it’s a perfect pair to another St. Patrick’s Day dish, Corned Beef and Cabbage.
I’ve been making this soda bread recipe for more than 15 years.
I’ve tweaked it over time to add healthy ingredients like whole wheat flour.
It wasn’t until I first shared it on my blog, however, that I realized how, ehrm, strongly some folks feel about Irish soda bread.
- To those of you who are here for a tasty Irish soda bread recipe, enjoy!
- To those of you who feel I departed too far from tradition, I’d love to learn about your version of traditional Irish soda bread. Feel free to leave me a note in the comments below.
In the mood for muffins? Try these Irish Soda Bread Muffins.
- Flour. I used a combination of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. The flour mixture is perfect for making a soda bread that’s moist and tender while also being hearty.
- Sugar. While this bread is not overly sweet, the sugar gives it just a hint of sweetness. It also ensures it has a tender crumb.
- Butter. Gives it that scrumptious buttery flavor.
- Egg. For extra richness.
- Buttermilk + Baking Soda. Essential ingredients for the perfect soda bread rise. The baking soda is also how this bread got its name.
- Molasses. Adds subtle complexity.
- Currants. Adds small pockets of tartness that’s a lovely contrast with the mild butteriness of the bread. Originally for special occasions only, we’re lucky to be able to add currants to our Irish soda bread any day we like.
- Pulse the dry ingredients together in a food processor.
- Add the butter.
- Whisk the wet ingredients together.
- Stir the dry ingredients and currants into the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Knead the dough, then shape it into a round loaf.
- Transfer the loaf to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and cut an “X” into the top of the dough. Bake Irish soda bread at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes, until golden brown with a nice crust.
- Let cool, then DIG IN!
- To Store. Store bread in an airtight storage container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
- To Freeze. Freeze bread in an airtight freezer-safe storage container or ziptop bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.
Meal Prep Tip
For easy, grab-and-go slices, wrap them individually (or in groupings) in plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw and enjoy as desired.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Food Processor. A food processor is great for mixing the dry ingredients and butter together.
- Mixing Bowls. A simple set of glass mixing bowls that you can microwave and refrigerate.
- Baking Sheet. Whether you’re making this delicious homemade bread, a one-pan meal, or Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies, you need baking sheets.
This is a humble, no-frills bread, and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much.
Slather a slice in butter, dunk another into your stew, and enjoy this Irish Soda Bread. It’s wonderful on St. Patrick’s Day or any day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Traditional Irish soda bread is really Irish. This recipe was inspired by the traditional recipes, but it does have some variations that may not be as common in Ireland.
The difference between American and Irish soda bread lies in the added ingredients. Our version in America typically includes a mix-in like currants, raisins, or caraway seeds, but the classic Irish version does not. Unlike its American counterpart, the Irish version also does not include butter or sugar.
If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, I have a simple trick for you. You can substitute buttermilk with 1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice. You can use 2% milk, but whole milk is even better. Mix the two together, and let them sit for 5 minutes, then use as directed
This is tricky to answer because I’ve not tested it with any gluten free flours. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!
Irish Soda Bread
- 1 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup (plus 1 to 2 tablespoons) buttermilk
- 1/2 tablespoon unsulphered molasses not blackstrap
- 2/3 cup dried currants or raisins optional
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, lightly pulse the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. (If you prefer not to use a food processor, whisk the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.)
- Scatter the butter pieces over the top. Pulse just until butter is incorporated but small pieces are still visible, about 10 to 15 pulses. (If you are not using a food processor, cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork.)
- In a separate, large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, and molasses.
- Add the dry ingredient mixture and the currants to the bowl with the wet ingredients. By hand with a wooden spoon or spatula, stir until a soft dough forms. If the dough seems too dry, add 1 additional tablespoons buttermilk as needed.
- Lightly flour a work surface, then dump the dough onto it. Knead the dough a few times (5 to 10-ish), then shape the dough into a round, slightly flattened loaf.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Using a serrated knife, lightly cut a 1/4-inch deep “X” on top of the loaf to allow air to escape.
- Bake the Irish soda bread for 45 minutes, until a thin, sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean. The dough will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and the internal temperature should reach 200 degrees F.
- Transfer the Irish soda bread to a wire rack. Let cool for at least 20 minutes. Slice and serve.
- TO STORE: Store bread in an airtight storage container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze bread in an airtight freezer-safe storage container or ziptop bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.
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