Irish Soda Bread is a simple, rustic bread recipe that’s easy to make. This authentic Irish recipe makes a crusty loaf with soft inside perfect for everything from breakfast toast to sandwiches.
Irish Soda Bread is a very easy bread to make for all skill levels.
It’s made with just a few wholesome ingredients.
While baking it transforms from a smooth round loaf to a craggy, rustic bread with a firm exterior and soft middle.
It’s perfect for St. Patrick’s Day but too good to just enjoy then.
You’ll be making it regularly for toast, to butter for a side with meals or to devour after school (if you are my kids).
I was given this recipe when I was in Ireland years ago and have never made it any other way.
What is Irish Soda Bread?
Soda bread is a quick bread that only uses four basic ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk.
This recipe was given to me in Ireland years ago and also includes a bit of sugar.
Irish Soda Bread rises without yeast.
Instead a chemical reaction between the baking soda and buttermilk caused the bread to rise while baking.
The ‘leavening’ or rising begins as soon as the baking soda and buttermilk come into contact.
Therefore this bread should be quickly mixed and formed into a loaf (see notes in the recipe steps photo tutorial below).
I also recommend ensuring the oven has come to temperature before adding the buttermilk to the dry ingredients!
Does Soda Bread have Eggs or Butter?
No, traditional Irish soda bread does not use eggs or butter.
There are many recipes available for soda bread with eggs and butter but they are most likely recipes adapted from traditional soda bread recipes.
- All-Purpose Flour (regular or gluten-free measure-for-measure flour blend)
- Baking Soda
- Granulated Sugar
How to Make Irish Soda Bread – Step-by-Step
STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a rack in the upper portion of the oven.
STEP 2: In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, baking soda and sugar (photo 1). Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients (photo 2).
STEP 3: When the oven has reached 450 degrees, pour the buttermilk into the well in the dry ingredients (photo 3). Quickly mix into a soft dough (photo 4).
NOTE: the chemical reaction between the soda and buttermilk happens immediately. It’s important to not let the dough sit while the oven heats.
STEP 4: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (photo 5). Knead the dough into a round loaf 3-inches high (“as high as your fist”)(photo 6).
PRO TIPS – Kneading the Dough
- The dough should be gently kneaded just enough to form a smooth loaf.
- Over kneading with regular (gluten) all-purpose flour can make the loaf tough.
- If it is not kneaded enough it won’t stay together or rise well. It will only take a few turns of the dough to pull the dough into a nice loaf.
STEP 5: Lightly flour a baking sheet (photo 7) and place the the soda bread on the pan (photo 8).
STEP 6: Dip a large sharp knife in some flour and make two 1-inch deep cuts in the top of the loaf, crossing each other (photo 9).
STEP 7: Bake for 30-45 minutes until the top of the loaf is golden (photo 10). The loaf is done when tapped on the bottom it sounds hollow.
STEP 8: Allow the Irish soda bread to cool for 5 minutes on a cooling rack (photo 11) then wrap it tightly in a clean kitchen towel (photo 12). This will keep the crust from over hardening.
Why Make the X?
The ‘X’ creates more surface area for the delicious crust to develop. It also allows the heat to penetrate and cook the center of the soda bread loaf.
Serving Irish Soda Bread
Allow the loaf to fully cool before slicing or cutting wedges. Cut the bread as you need it to prevent it from drying out.
- Slice and toast it. Serve with butter and preserves or marmalade.
- Use it to dip in soups or chili.
- Make sandwiches with it.
- Use it in French Toast.
Brown Soda Bread (or Wheaten Bread) – it’s the same recipe but with wholemeal or whole wheat flour replacing the white flour. A mix of flours could also be used.
Spotted Dick – adding 1/2 cup of Sultanas makes a classic recipe called ‘Spotted Dick’. Sultanas are not a well known term in the United States. They are raisins made from white Thompson Seedless grapes.
How to Store
The bread crust in particular can become dry and harden.
The tip of wrapping the newly baked loaf in a kitchen towel helps prevent this.
After the bread has cooled or slicing the bread, store the loaf well wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days.
More Irish Recipes You’ll Love
- Authentic Irish Colcannon Recipe
- Dublin Coddle
- Irish Potato Champ
- Authentic Irish Coffee
- Irish Potato Soup
- Cottage Pie
Try these Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day too!
- Instant Pot Corned Beef Brisket
- Slow Cooker Beer-Simmered Corned Beef and Vegetables
- Chocolate Truffles with Irish Cream Filling
- Irish Chocolate Mousse with Baileys
- Irish Whiskey and Baileys Cheesecake
- Lucky Leprechaun Shots
- Leprechaun Bait Bars
Irish Soda Bread
This authentic recipe for Irish Soda Bread is a simple, rustic bread that's easy to make with either regular or gluten-free flour. It's a quick bread recipe requiring no yeast for rising.
- 4 cups All-Purpose Flour (regular or gluten-free measure-for-measure flour blend)
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon Granulated Sugar
- 2 cups Buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place an oven rack near the top of the oven.
In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, salt, baking soda and sugar. Make a well in the center. NOTE: Do not pour in the buttermilk until the oven has come to temperature.
- Add the buttermilk and quickly mix the ingredients together with a cooking spoon to form a soft dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead the dough enough to form a round loaf about 3-inches tall. SEE NOTES BELOW.
- Place the loaf on a lightly floured baking sheet.
- Dip a knife in some flour and make a cross on the top (one line across the middle in two directions) about 1-inch deep.
- Place the baking sheet with the loaf in the oven on the adjusted rack near the top. Bake for 30-45 minutes until the loaf is lightly golden on top. When baked if you tap the bottom of the loaf it will sound hollow.
Allow to cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Then wrap in a clean kitchen towel. This will help the crust from becoming too hard.
PRO TIP - Add the Buttermilk when the oven is at 450 degrees
The chemical reaction between the baking soda and buttermilk begins immediately so don't add the buttermilk until the oven is ready. This makes the time short between assembling the bread and baking it.
*Working the Dough
If using traditional all-purpose flour (gluten flour) overworking the dough will make it tough. But if it isn’t kneaded a bit it won’t rise properly. It does NOT need to be kneaded like yeast bread.
When is the Soda Bread 'done'?
Inserting a toothpick is not a reliable indicator of when this bread is done baking. It will be golden brown on the top and when the bottom is tapped with your knuckles it will sound hollow. The loaf in the photos baked 40 minutes.
PRO TIP - Wrap in a Kitchen Towel
After the bread has cooled on a rack for 5 minutes, wrap it snugly in a clean kitchen towel to completely cool. This helps the crust from becoming overly hard.
Gluten-free Flour Recommendation
If baking this recipe gluten-free I recommend using Bob's Red Mill gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour.