Classic Irish Soda Bread is one of my favorite breads to make in the wintertime because it’s just so darn simple. I promise you, anyone can make a delicious loaf of soda bread!
It’s a quick bread—meaning it’s leavened with baking soda instead of yeast (hence the name)—and that makes this bread speedy enough to make even on a weeknight.
A lot of folks reserve soda bread for their yearly St. Patrick’s Day dinner (served with Dublin Coddle or Corned Beef and Cabbage, perhaps), but I urge you to break soda bread out from its March 17th box! It’s too delicious and too easy to be reserved for just one holiday a year.
Soda bread is a rustic wheat bread leavened with baking soda. Good soda bread is crispy and crunchy on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside, with a tang from the baking soda. From my bit of research, traditional Irish soda bread is very, very plain—an everyday bread. But my favorite version has raisins and caraway seeds. I think the sweetness from the raisins and the rye flavor from the caraway seeds take this bread over the top!
Why do they call it soda bread?
Soda bread got its name because it’s leavened with baking soda instead of more traditional bread leavening techniques—like added yeast or sourdough starter.
How do you make soda bread?
The beauty of soda bread is just how easy it is to make! This is a one-bowl bread—meaning you mix all the ingredients up in one mixing bowl, form it into a rustic loaf, and then bake. It takes less than five minutes to make this soda bread and get it in the oven.
How do you get that traditional soda bread loaf shape?
Soda bread is one of the easiest bread loaves to shape! Using floured hands, form the dough into a boulé shape—a rounded dome. Then use a sharp knife (a serrated one works well) to slash an “X” about 1-2” deep in the top of the bread. As the bread bakes, it’ll expand and release steam from those score marks—giving you the traditional soda bread shape. These slashes also allow the heat to penetrate all the way through the dense dough.
Do you have to use caraway seeds and raisins in this soda bread?
Nope! You can leave out one or both if you prefer. I love the flavor and texture of them, though!
Can you use whole wheat flour in this bread?
Yup! Both white whole wheat and all-purpose flour work wonderfully in this soda bread recipe. The nature of the whole wheat flour will make it slightly denser and more crumbly—and you might need to add a touch more liquid to get the right texture.
Uh-oh, I’m out of buttermilk! What can I use instead?
It never seems like I have buttermilk when I need it! Instead, you can use kefir, or make soured milk by mixing in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for every 1 cup of milk—let it sit for a few minutes, and it will curdle and work in place of the buttermilk.
What should I eat with soda bread?
Spread a little softened butter on soda bread, and I’m a happy camper. I think soda bread is so good, it could be an entire meal for me! As a side dish, it works beautifully with any meal where gravy or sauce needs to be sopped up with some good crusty bread—think Dublin Coddle, Drunken Beef Stew, or Slow Cooker Ham and Beans. Add a fresh green salad to the side, and you’ve got one of my favorite winter dinners!
What do you put on Irish soda bread?
My peanut butter-loving husband likes to slather soda bread in peanut butter, but I’m a big fan of keeping it simple—a spread of softened salted butter is my favorite way to enjoy soda bread!
How do you keep soda bread fresh?
Store your soda bread in an airtight container on the counter for 2-3 days, or in the fridge for 3-5. You can also freeze it in slices for always-fresh soda bread. Since we are a small family of three, whenever I make a full loaf of soda bread, I take half of it and freeze it in slices for the next time we have stew.
Why is my soda bread so crumbly?
Soda bread is naturally more crumbly than, say, sandwich bread—in fact, that’s one of the hallmarks of a good soda bread! If it’s too crumbly though, you may have too much flour or too little liquid. The dough should feel sticky when you’re working with it. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease a large cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
Using a pastry mixer or fork, cut butter into the flour mixture until well-incorporated.
Stir in raisins and caraway seeds, if using.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and add egg and buttermilk to the well. Stir until just incorporated. Do not overmix! This makes the bread tough. Some lumps of flour are fine.
Dust hands with flour and form the dough into a round loaf. Place the dough into the prepared pan. Using a serrated knife, cut 1-2″ deep in a crosshatch fashion (this allows heat to penetrate through the dough).
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until top is browned and the bread sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped. If top gets too brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil while the bread finishes off.
If you are using whole wheat flour, you might need a touch more liquid—add a tablespoon more buttermilk at a time until you get a sticky dough.
This is a great recipe for the food processor. To make in the food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Then add in the butter, and pulse until it is well incorporated. Add in the caraway seeds, egg, and buttermilk, and pulse until just incorporated. Fold in the raisins, if using, and proceed with step 6 of the recipe.
At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.
Cassie is a holistic nutritionist, cookbook author, and all-around food lover. She grew up cooking dinner with her parents every evening, and her passion for home cooking has been strong ever since. Cassie is the author of two published cookbooks (Cooking with Greek Yogurt and Chia, Quinoa, Kale, Oh My!) and dozens of recipes published in major magazines and newspapers. Cassie has been sharing her award-winning recipes on Wholefully since 2010. She loves dark chocolate, homegrown tomatoes, motorsports, and anything that sparkles. She lives in Indiana with her family on a small homestead.