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.
Irish soda bread tastes mild and lightly buttery, similar to a fluffy biscuit (like these Drop Biscuits) or Savory Scones with Bacon Cheddar and Chive.
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.
Leftover bread works well for sandwiches (like Avocado Grilled Cheese). You can also use the leftovers to create a decadent bread pudding or soda bread croutons (the perfect addition to Potato Leek Soup).
What to Serve with Irish Soda Bread
Crockpot Beef Stew
One Pot Meals
Cabbage and Sausage Skillet
Soups & Stews
Potato Cheese Soup
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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I love this post, Erin! And I love that you’re a slatherer of good butter. All kinds of yes!
You know, it never occurred to me make whole wheat soda bread before. Yours is gorgeous. Such great pics! And the texture looks amazing.
I love your thoughts on heritage. I think I totally agree with the second part that people rarely think about which is what are we leaving behind for the next generation. I love this bread also. I love the whole wheat spin.
What a lovely post on heritage, Erin! I didn’t know you were Irish – how fun! Ugh, I couldn’t agree more about leaving something behind for the next generation. I’m always trying so hard to take my mother’s recipes and remake them so I have them for my children and beyond. I want to instill in my future children our heritage and culture. This bread looks amazing!! Looks like you’ve got a winner to hold on to for many generations to come!
I love the idea of you learning your mother’s recipes Julie. What a beautiful legacy to pass on!
I’m not a bread eater, but I just might have to make this one. Probably minus the caraway, though.
I absolutely love your comment about heritage. It speaks to the journey I’ve been on throughout my life. What I’ve learned is that it’s important to know where you came from, but it’s even more important to become who you were meant to be. Your comment has made for a wonderful start to my day. Thank you for that.
Susan, thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing that thought! I hope you love the bread, with or without the caraway.
Hey girl- that looks so yummy!! I am a little bit down home country and a little bit of everything else!!
Your soda bread looks fantastic. I’ve never made soda bread before but have wanted to try to. This whole wheat version sounds like a great place to start.
I love soda bread, it’s such a hearty perfect bread to have with soup or stew, and so quick and easy to make. I’ve never added caraway seeds, but that sounds amazing. Can’t wait to try this one!
I love it, “one of those maiden names that start with ‘O'”!! lol. I love soda bread and haven’t had it in years, nor have I had a whole wheat version. I’m definitely going to try this, Erin!
This soda bread looks incredible, Erin! I love how hearty it is and the texture looks perfect! Loved reading your thoughts on heritage!
I have an Irish heritage as well! We have a full-on Irish themed meal for St. Patrick’s Day and I always make the soda bread. This looks great!
I want to claim my heritage as Irish just so I could have this bread :P :P
Oh my word, Erin! This bread looks amazing!
I love this post Erin! Great analogy between you and this beautiful bread. It is far better to be imperfect and have room to grow. I do love the simplicity of this bread and it looks so inviting.
Mmmm, pass the butter please! I’d like a big slice of this along with my coffee for breakfast.
The caraway seeds are such a clever idea! Looks delicious for breakfast or even just for a snack throughout the day.
Erin, I didn’t know you were Irish . . love what you said here about heritage!! what a beautiful post. . and I’m all about unfussy breads . . the whole process of bread making is so beautiful so you definitely don’t want something that’s going to stress you out!
Perfect! And you a temper?? I’d love to witness that. I have one myself which people are often surprised to find out. Ha! Happy Friday girlfriend!
Hello, Erin. I didn’t know you were Irish. So nice! I love this post! You’ve never had or made Irish Soda Bread before, but you’ve me inspired to try ;-)
This looks like the perfect bread with a nice cup of tea :) I have Irish heritage, too (my name has a Mc in it), and I think that’s where my temper must come from…haha!
Had never thought I could prepare Irish Soda Bread, but I see your post and why not? :)
this looks to die for! and the butter looks scrumptious spread on top of it!
I’ve never made soda bread so this is a must for me!
I have never made Irish Soda Bread so I am especially excited to try this! I love the addition of currants and caraway seeds – yum!
I served Irish Soda Bread to my 2nd grade students… they loved it! I can not wait to try this whole wheat version. P.S. I am IRISH!!
Tracy, I love that you make soda bread for your students! Teacher of the year :) I hope you enjoy this whole wheat version just as much and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
I used whole grain spelt flour and it was delicious. Hard to store it without drying out though!
I’m so happy that it was a hit, Stina! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
The Irish Soda bread looks yummy. I’ve never had it that I know of. Wonder if it is possible to make it gluten free
Hi Elizabeth! I haven’t tried it myself but if you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!
I made this to accompany corn beef and cabbage for our St. Patty’s Day family celebration. It was the best Irish soda bread I have ever made. I think the molasses and whole wheat flour are what set it apart. I make my own kefir and used that in place of buttermilk. It was good warmed in the toaster or microwave the next day. It is a keeper.
Hi Debra! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Lovely crumb and texture. Not like my Grandma Kate’s (from County Mayo Ireland), but delicious. I used 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour and no white flour. Was concerned it would be heavy, but cooked to 200degrees, and it is delicious.
Hi Kristine! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Made this exactly by the recipe. It came out perfect! Great texture and crumb. Will make it again. Had it with our roasted corn beef St Patties Day dinner. Everyone loved it. And it was super easy!
Hi Arleen! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!