Irish Soda Bread

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Discover the secret to the perfect Irish soda bread with our family recipe. Made with only 6 ingredients, this bread is soft on the inside and crusty on the outside.

Irish Soda Bread isn’t just good for St. Patrick’s Day. The no-fuss baking soda bread recipe is good for any day because it comes together so quickly. No waiting for yeast or dough to rise, just mix the bread and pop it into the oven.

Our family’s old-fashioned recipe uses buttermilk, which makes the bread both tender and delicious. I made this constantly when the kids were little as an easy addition to our dinners. Enjoy it fresh out of the oven with butter and jam, or as a side to your favorite stew.

closeup of irish soda bread in a skillet

About this Irish Soda Bread Recipe:

  • Flavor: The flavor of this bread is buttery and rich thanks to the butter and buttermilk. It has just a slight hint of sweet.
  • Texture: It is typically shaped into a round loaf and is known for its distinctive dense texture, hard crust. It is slightly crumbly in texture.
  • Method: This bread bakes in the oven. You can bake it in a skillet as we did, or simply use a baking sheet. No dutch oven or special tools are needed.

What is Irish Soda Bread?

Irish soda bread is a type of quick bread that is traditionally made in Ireland. It is different from other breads because rather than yeast to make the bread rise, it uses baking soda as a leavening agent. This means no rise time since the baking soda will rise the bread in the oven during baking.

According to Ancenstry.com I’m 50% British/Irish, so I’m not claiming this is an authentic recipe. There are countless variations to the traditional bread, many with ingredients such as eggs, sugar, caraway seeds, raisins, currants or nuts. But this is the recipe my family knows and loves.

overhead view of irish soda bread with butternut squash in a bowl

Ingredients

There are only 6 ingredients in this bread:

  • Flour. I used all-purpose flour, but read below about authentic Irish flour.
  • Baking soda. Since this is what is going to make bread rise, make sure it is fresh baking soda.
  • Salt.
  • Sugar. Just 2 tablespoons for a hint of sweet.
  • Butter. The butter should be cold. I use salted butter, but unsalted is ok, too.
  • Buttermilk. I prefer store-bought buttermilk in this recipe rather than mixing my own buttermilk with milk and white vinegar or lemon juice. The buttermilk in the store is thick and rich.

So which ingredient is the secret?

It’s a combination of two. Butter and buttermilk. The cold butter is cut into the dough, leaving little chunks of dough throughout. When that butter melts into the bread during baking, it creates flaky layers.

Buttermilk tenderizes the bread by breaking down strands of gluten which makes bread chewy. Both of these combine to make our bread taste amazing.

Wholemeal Flour

If you want an authentic textured bread, you must use an Irish flour. Wholemeal flour is made in Ireland and typically used for this bread. It makes a “grainy” soda bread because the flour is coarse.

If you’d like to try to recreate this without spending as much money, use half coarse whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.

a slice of irish soda bread in a pan

How to Make Irish Soda Bread

To prepare, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Place a piece of parchment paper into a baking pan or cast iron skillet.

  • Mix dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  • Cut in the butter. Cut in the cold butter into the flour mixture. There should still be chunks of butter in the bread. It will melt into the dough as it bakes creating a tender crumb.
  • Add buttermilk. Add the buttermilk and stir until barely combined.
  • Knead. Turn the dough out onto a pastry mat or counter. (I didn’t need more flour for the surface, but if your dough is extra sticky, use a lightly floured surface.) Knead 4-5 times just until all the flour gets combined and the mixture comes together. This should only take about 30 seconds.
  • Prepare to bake. Form the dough into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the parchment paper. Whisk together the buttermilk and melted butter. Brush this over the top of the dough. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross on top of the dough.
  • Bake. Bake the loaf for 50 minutes. The internal temperature of the bread should be about 190-200ºF.

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For extra buttery flavor, brush loaf with melted butter right after it comes out of the oven.

drizzling sage brown butter over a loaf of irish soda bread

Why does soda bread have the cross in the center?

The main reason for the cross cut on top is that it serves a practical purpose of allowing the bread to expand, rise and cook evenly during baking. Other breads besides Irish soda bread (like our artisan sourdough bread) also have cuts on top.

In the past, history has shown people may have made the cuts to ward off evil spirits or bring good luck, but is done now mostly to give the bread a traditional look.

Storage Instructions

If you’re trying to keep the bread warm after baking, wrap the loaf in a tea towel while to soften the crust and to keep the bread warm.

Irish soda bread will get dry quickly, so it is best to eat it while it is warm and fresh from the oven. I recommend eating the same day and serving leftovers within 24 hours.

The bread can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days wrapped tightly in an airtight container.

To freeze, double wrap the bread. First wrap in plastic wrap, then place in a second airtight container. Place in the freezer for up to 2 months.

irish soda bread in a cast iron skillet
irish soda bread in a cast iron skillet

Irish Soda Bread

4.67 from 3 votes
Discover the secret to the perfect Irish soda bread with our family recipe. Made with only 6 ingredients, this bread is soft on the inside and crusty on the outside.
Servings 10
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes

Ingredients
 

For the bread:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour 520 grams
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup cold salted butter cut into tablespoons, 6 ounces
  • 1 ⅓ cups buttermilk

For topping:

  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Place a piece of parchment paper into a baking pan or skillet.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
  • Cut in the cold butter into the dry ingredients. There should still be chunks of butter in the bread. It will melt into the dough as it bakes creating a tender crumb.
  • Add the buttermilk and stir until barely combined.
  • Turn the dough out onto a pastry mat or counter. (I didn’t need more flour for the surface, but if your dough is extra sticky, lightly flour the surface.)
  • Knead 4-5 times just until all the flour gets combined and the mixture comes together. This should only take about 30 seconds.
  • Form the dough into a round loaf.
  • Place the loaf on the parchment paper.
  • Whisk together the buttermilk and melted butter. Brush this over the top of the dough.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut a cross on top of the dough.
  • Bake the loaf for 50 minutes. The internal temperature of the bread should be about 190-200ºF.
  • Wrap in a tea towel while it is warm to soften the crust and to keep it soft.

Notes

Refer to the article above for more tips and tricks.
The calories shown are based on the recipe serving 10, with 1 serving being 1 slice of bread. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information. The information in the nutrition box are calculated through a program and there is room for error. If you need an accurate count, I recommend running the ingredients through your favorite nutrition calculator.**

Nutrition

Calories: 344kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 435mg | Potassium: 103mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 516IU | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 2mg
Course Bread
Cuisine Irish American
Calories 344
Keyword easy bread recipe, no yeast bread

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About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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Emma Murphy
1 day ago

5 stars
Thanks, Julie for such an easy recipe on Irish Breads. I was looking for it as my dog loves slices of bread, so I will try to make one for him!