A twist on traditional Irish soda bread, this no-rise crusty cheddar and bacon bread is packed with melted cheese, savory meat, and scallions.
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There is one traditional St. Patrick’s Day recipe my family always looks forward to each year, Irish soda bread! This version is a little different. I make it with generous bits of chopped bacon, melted sharp cheddar cheese, and scallions in each crusty slice. It is perfect for enjoying with classic St. Patrick’s Day dishes, such as corned beef and cabbage, or delicious stews.
The best part is that each loaf is ready in under an hour. No need to wait for the dough to rise. Preparing only takes 15 minutes, and the loaf comes together in one bowl. I usually get the corned beef and cabbage going earlier in the day and then make this soda bread about an hour before dinner.
The leavening agent is baking soda instead of using yeast to make the bread rise. That means the prep time is quick and easy. Essentially known as a “quick bread,” you can add your favorite ingredients to make this soda bread delicious.
I have done traditional loaves and sweet soda bread in the past. However, this bacon soda bread recipe is my favorite rendition so far! I even received a stamp of approval from my half-Irish husband, Jason. It probably doesn’t hurt that I incorporated his favorite ingredient, bacon!
I use American-style bacon slices for a smoky flavor and crisp texture. Regular or thick cuts can be used. Cook the two pieces in a saute pan or cast iron skillet. It only takes a few minutes to prepare.
Alternatively, make a big tray of bacon in the oven, then use the leftovers for meal prep. Irish bacon can also be used. It has less fatty and is lean. Just sear and chop up the bacon to add to the bread.
Make the dough
This savory bacon and cheese quick bread is made all in one large bowl. Combine the dry ingredients first; sifted flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, and sugar. I use sharp cheddar cheese, nitrite-free bacon, green onions, and a hint of freshly cracked pepper to intensify the savory notes. Add the buttermilk, mix, then knead and shape into a rough dough ball.
The Irish soda bread is scored with a cross shape on top to help the heat in the oven penetrate the thickest part. These cuts help for quicker and more even baking and allow for the dough’s expansion as it rises for a nice dense round loaf.
Bake the bread
Use a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a cast iron skillet to cook the bread. Bake until the bread is lightly golden brown, about 25 minutes. There are a few additional ways to tell if the bread is done cooking. Tap the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, it’s a good indication that it is ready.
Alternatively, use an instant-read thermometer. It’s ready when the thickest part is between 190 to 200°F (88 to 93ºC).
Slice and serve
Let the bread cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before slicing to allow for carryover cooking. The crunchy brown crust with a gorgeous rise in the oven results in a tender, chewy center! The smell of smoky bacon and aromatic green onions is so enticing when you slice into a loaf when still steamy and fresh out of the oven.
Irish soda bread is best enjoyed when served warm; the cheese is like lava. Your guests will devour this soda bread, so you may want to double the recipe and make two loaves! I think this year I will be serving this with my Guinness corned beef stew recipe, yum! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
More Irish recipes
What is traditional Irish soda bread?
There are many variations of Irish soda bread. They all typically contain flour, baking soda, and dairy (milk, buttermilk, yogurt, and even sour cream). The magic in Irish soda bread is baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), the leavening agent that allows the dough to rise without hours of proofing. The baking soda reacts with the acid in the mixture (buttermilk), resulting in carbon dioxide (gas) released in the dough, causing the dough to expand and rise.
Cheddar and Bacon Soda Bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 ounces sharp cheddar, cut into ¼" cubes
- 2 slices bacon
- 2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- Preheat the Oven – Set the oven temperature to 400°F (204ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and sprinkle a small amount of flour onto the sheet where you will be placing the bread.
- Cook the Bacon – In a saute pan set over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Cool, chop, and reserve.
- Make the Dough – In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, and sugar, and whisk until combined. Add the cheddar, bacon, and green onions, and stir to combine. Add the buttermilk, mixing until combined.
- Knead the Dough – Knead for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough is hydrated and holds together. Form the dough into a round loaf and transfer it to the floured parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cut a cross into the top of the dough, about 1/2-inch deep and 2 inches long.
- Bake – Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the surface is lightly browned and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom of the loaf. If you have an instant-read thermometer, test the center of the bread for doneness, it's ready between 190 to 200°F (88 to 93ºC).
- Storing: Wrap in foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost before using.
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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