Irish Soda Bread

A round loaf of Irish soda bread rests in a cast iron skillet. A hand holds the handle of the pan.
Recipe At-A-Glance
Vegetarian45 minutes
Classic Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread recipe that is rustic and flavorful. Serve it with your favorite soup or stew for a hearty dinner.

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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.
A slice of buttered bread rests on a brown and white plaid cloth. A bowl of butter sits in the upper left corner.

What is Irish soda bread?

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.

Two halves of a round loaf of bread are stacked on a muted plaid cloth against a black background.

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.

A round loaf of Irish soda bread rests in a cast iron skillet.

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.

A round loaf of bread is cut in half. One half is buttered. Golden knife with butter rests beside the bread.

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!

A slice of buttered bread sits on a brown and white plaid cloth.

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!

 
A round loaf of Irish soda bread rests in a cast iron skillet. A hand holds the handle of the pan.

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Classic Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread recipe that is rustic and flavorful. Serve it with your favorite soup or stew for a hearty dinner.

Adapted from Simply Recipes.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups white whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup raisins, optional
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, optional
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease a large cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Using a pastry mixer or fork, cut butter into the flour mixture until well-incorporated.
  4. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds, if using.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 552Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 763mgCarbohydrates: 99gFiber: 13gSugar: 18gProtein: 20g

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 the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

12 Responses
  1. Jenn

    I made Irish Soda bread for the first time a couple of months ago… loved how easy it was to make! Thanks for sharing a different version. Never thought to add other stuff to it.

  2. beabee

    I love bread made this way! My dad made lots of breads and biscuits without yeast (I’m more of a yeast lover, myself, but pretty much any bread is good). Tomorrow *is* St. Patrick’s Day, isn’t it? Happy anniversary!

  3. Melissa B.

    Your soda bread looks great! I’m making Guinness stew (with a side of Guinness, of course), and Irish soda bread, as well! My recipe looks pretty much identical to yours. I have absolutely no Irish in me, but it’s awesome to celebrate other cultures ancestry by making and sampling their foods!
    Happy anniversary 🙂

  4. K-role

    It’s been a while now that I’m following this blog and that’s the first recipe I try : well, I like it very much but that’s not so surprising!! What is more surprising is that my husband likes it too (tell a French man that you’re going to make a recipe from an american healthy blog!!), I’m really happy he changed his mind : I will be able to make so much more of your recipes!!
    Thx Cass and sorry if there are any mistakes : I’m French too!

  5. Tammy

    Looks delicious; last year I made Irish Soda Bread Muffins using King Arthur Gluten Free Flour (it was from their website) , but this year I plan to make yours. Only change I will make is currants instead of raisins. As always, thanks for your wonderful recipes.

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