Irish Brown Bread

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Make a loaf of this delicious Irish brown bread recipe for your next St. Patricks Day feast! A hearty quickbread made from whole wheat flour with sweet and malted flavors. Each tender slice pairs perfectly with corned beef and cabbage.

Here's how to make a traditional Irish brown bread.

I bake a traditional loaf of Irish soda bread yearly to serve at our families’ St. Patricks Day celebration. However, to switch things up, slices of Irish brown bread are our new favorite addition to the feast. The good news is it’s still quick and easy to prepare, made using baking soda.

Instead of using all-purpose flour, whole wheat adds a more hearty and nutty taste. I use a combination of ingredients to add a hint of sweetness and malty flavor to each slice. It’s also great to serve for breakfast, especially toasted with creamy butter and corned beef hash.

What is Irish brown bread?

Ingredients necessary to make this Irish brown bread recipe.

Traditional Irish brown bread combines whole wheat, all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. It’s very similar to soda bread. However, the bran from the flour adds a brown hue and more chew. There are various ways to customize the recipe.

Add in sweeteners, butter, or oils to make the bread more tender. Oats add exciting texture. Beers like a dark stout provide interesting yeasty flavor without needing long rise times. The bread can be shaped in rounds for drier dough or a loaf pan with a thick batter.

Mix the dry ingredients

Rolled oats, baking soda, salt, and whole wheat flour in a large blue bowl.

I skip the white flour and use all whole wheat flour. The slightly high protein content, 13 to 14%, and ground bran give a dense, heartier bread. A small amount of old-fashioned rolled adds a slight chewiness and nutty flavor. Quick oats or instant oats are a good substitute.

Both the flour and oats add extra fiber to each slice. Baking soda gives the quickbread instant rise for a stunning domed top. Kosher salt helps to enhance the flavor. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl to disperse the fine particles evenly.

Incorporate the butter and sugar

Wheat flour can dry out the bread since the germ and bran are left in the product. To add tenderness and fat, use butter. Break the cubes of cold unsalted butter into the flour mixture; it should look like cornmeal. This is a similar process used in homemade biscuits to give a more interesting scone-like texture.

To add sweetness, mix in some dark brown sugar. It also acts as a humectant, keeping the bread soft for nearly a week!

Add the wet ingredients

To make the brown bread more moist and flavorful, I use a combination of three liquid ingredients. Buttermilk adds tanginess to the bread, and the acid helps to activate the baking soda, giving the bread rise as it bakes. Molasses adds sweetness and a darker brown hue. To amplify the flavor, add in Guinness Irish dry stout.

The malted and roasted barley hops, and yeasts, add incredible flavor, dimension, and aroma to the bread. Quickbreads tend to lack the flavor that yeast bread has due to the fermentation of the yeast. Adding in the beer provides that taste without the time required to develop it. Whisk the ingredients together, then stir into the flour mixture until a thick batter forms.

Bake the bread

The bread batter is going to be very wet. Bake it in a metal 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. To make removing it easier, line the pan with parchment paper, creating a sling. Grease the inside of the pan and paper with cooking spray or neutral oil. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. I like to sprinkle rolled oats on top of the dough for a pretty presentation.

Bake at 350ºF (177ºC). The process takes about 50 minutes. The bread is ready when the center reaches 190ºF (88ºC), signaling that the proteins in the flour are fully cooked. The texture will taste between wheat bread and banana bread. It’s soft and tender yet still chewy.

Cool and slice

Brown bread being cut into slices on a wooden cutting board.

Cool the loaf in the pan for 5 minutes to finish any carryover cooking. Use the parchment paper overhang to remove the bread, then transfer it to a wire rack. My family always asks for a slice soon after it comes out of the oven. The warm bread covered in melted Irish butter is hard to resist.

Serve this with

Frequently asked questions

Is brown bread healthier than white bread?

Brown bread made with whole wheat flour contains more fiber, vitamins, and minerals since the germ and bran are left intact.

What is the difference between rye bread and brown bread?

Rye bread is made with rye flour, giving it a unique, sour taste and a denser texture with a dark brown hue. It’s made using yeast-leavened dough. Irish brown bread is a quickbread that tends to be sweeter, moister, and has a brown shade from wheat flour and any added ingredients like molasses or beer.

How do you keep brown bread moist?

Let the bread cool completely, then tightly wrap it in foil—place it in a resealable plastic bag to prevent moisture loss. Slices can also be frozen, then toasted, giving a tender texture when reheated.

Irish brown bread with butter spread on one of the slices.

How to keep the bread tender

This Irish brown bread recipe stays moist and tender for several days after baking. That’s because brown sugar and molasses are humectants that attract moisture from the environment. The oats and proteins in the flour also create a gel-like matrix when cooked, trapping water in the crumb. Slices can be enjoyed for up to 5 days when properly stored at room temperature.

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Irish Brown Bread

Get your taste of Ireland with this mouth-watering Irish Brown Bread! Made with wholesome ingredients, this bread is perfect for cozy mornings or hearty meals.
4.84 from 12 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time55 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 10 Slices
Course Bread
Cuisine Irish


  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup Guinness stout
  • cup molasses


  • Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Heat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Line a 9 by 5-inch metal loaf pan with a 9-inch wide piece of parchment paper, that overhangs about 1 inch. The sling will make it easier to remove. Grease the bottoms and sides of the paper and pan with cooking spray.
  • Mix the Dry Ingredients – In a large bowl, whisk the whole wheat flour, oats, baking powder, and salt.
  • Incorporate the Butter – Using your fingers, break the butter into very small pieces, until the flour mixture resembles cornmeal. Stir in the brown sugar. Make a well in the center of the bowl.
  • Add the Wet Ingredients – In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, Guinness, and molasses. Add to the center of the flour mixture, and stir until a batter forms. Do not overmix!
  • Bake – Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, spreading it into an even layer. If desired, sprinkle oats on top. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 190ºF (88ºC), and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 to 55 minutes.
  • Serve – Lift the loaf out of the pan and transfer it to a wire rack to cool. Slice and serve warm.


  • Molasses Substitute: Use maple syrup or honey. The bread will not be as dark brown in hue.
  • Substituting Guinness: Use all buttermilk (the bread won’t be as dark) or use root beer. 
  • Smaller Loaves: Bake two mini loaf pans (about 5 by 3 inches) on a baking sheet. Check at 35 minutes for doneness, adding more time as needed. Loaves are ready when they reach 190ºF (88ºC). 
  • Storing: Cool completely and wrap in foil and place in a plastic bag. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost the loaf before using it.
  • Reheating: Toast room temperature or frozen slices of bread.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 10 Slices
Calories 238kcal (12%)Carbohydrates 45g (15%)Protein 7g (14%)Fat 5g (8%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0.1gCholesterol 10mg (3%)Sodium 329mg (14%)Potassium 366mg (10%)Fiber 4g (16%)Sugar 16g (18%)Vitamin A 133IU (3%)Calcium 84mg (8%)Iron 2mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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16 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Patti says

    This bread looks so good! I’m going to try it very soon. Need to get some buttermilk. Is the buttermilk powder as good as the real thing? I assume I would mix it in liquid.

  2. Patti says

    I made this bread today, absolutely delicious. It’s very easy to make and the result is so flavorful with a lovely texture. I will toast some up for a sandwich tomorrow. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Russ G says

    This is very good! Exceptional. I served it with blood orange marmalade and softened cream cheese. I used the extra buttermilk instead of the beer, but I stirred maybe 3/4 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet into the buttermilk. It was very brown bread! Next time I think I’ll substitute half a cup of dark brewed coffee for the beer.

  4. Cyndi says

    Question, the recipe list says baking soda but steps say baking powder, which one is it? I’m making it now and I’m going to go by the recipe list and hope I picked the correct one.

    • Lara says

      Same question! This seems to be a type of soda bread so I’m going with soda – hope I picked the right one too!

  5. Laura says

    Having just returned from a trip to Ireland. I sought endless recipes that could come close to what we had there. This is it!!!!!

  6. Christine says

    I’d like to try this recipe, but would also like to reduce the added sugar content. Could mashed banana, an egg or Greek yoghurt be used to substitute the brown sugar, and perhaps some extra Guinness to substitute some of the molasses? Finishing up with just 1/4 cup of molasses? Any suggestions appreciated!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Christine- I think you could substitute equal parts of mashed banana for the brown sugar, or reduce it to 1-2 tablespoons for a less sweeter taste. I would keep the molasses for the color, moisture, and humectant properties. Let me know how it goes!

  7. Mark says

    This recipe is exactly how my wife and I remember the Brown bread on a recent trip to Ireland. Can’t believe it isn’t popular here in America. Soda bread is completely different – dry and bland.

  8. Kathryn says

    Amazing—easy and delicious. I made a double batch and it tastes even better than the brown bread we had last week in Ireland!

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