Spelt Irish Soda Bread

5 from 19 votes
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Easy and flavorful spelt soda bread recipe made with brown sugar, yogurt, beer, nuts, and raisins. For convenience, I use baking soda to help the dough instantly rise.

Irish soda bread made with spelt, raisins and walnuts.

You can’t serve corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day without thick slices of Irish soda bread! The recipe is seriously the easiest loaf you will ever make as there’s no yeast which means no waiting for it to proof. All you have to do is mix, knead, shape, bake, and devour!

This version switches up the traditional recipe by adding a little sweetness, nuttiness, and boozy notes. Guinness adds richness and depth to each bite. Your hungry guests won’t even realize the difference in texture, and you’ll look like a superstar pulling out a warm crusty loaf from the oven, just as the timer for the corned beef summons.

Loaf of spelt soda bread on a wooden cutting board.

How does the bread rise without yeast?

Irish soda bread is a type of quick bread, similar to buttermilk biscuits or muffins. There is no proofing like allowing the yeast to ferment and produce gas bubbles to help the bread rise. Instead, it uses baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as a leavening agent.

The baking soda reacts with liquid from the beer and acid in the yogurt creating carbon dioxide gas bubbles, similar to yeast fermentation. The hot oven temperatures help the reaction occur rapidly, and the proteins in the dough set and lock in those bubbles for soft and tender bread.

Large bread loaf with a dusting of flour on top.

What is spelt flour?

Spelt flour is a species of wheat, triticum spelta that can be ground into whole-grain flour with a nutty, sweet flavor, without any bitterness. It’s also high in protein and fiber, but when added to baked goods isn’t too heavy, yielding soft and tender products.

In this recipe, the flavor of the spelt flour complements the walnuts, fruit, and bitterness of the beer. Spelt has a moderate amount of gluten-forming potential, so it works great in baking applications or blended with other flours.

Can you use different types of flour?

If spelt flour is not stocked in your pantry, you can use other types of flour like all-purpose, white whole wheat, whole wheat flour, rye, and even gluten-free flour. You can also try blending various types of flour together to create a lighter taste and texture.

When substituting, just note that flours with more bran tend to soak up more water, and the opposite for the more refined varieties. Adjust the dough with more or less flour as you work and knead the dough.

Several slices of spelt bread on a wooden cutting board.

Yogurt creates a tastier bread

This recipe uses yogurt to deliver a more complex flavored acidity from the probiotic fermentation in the dairy. The acids help to activate the baking soda, forming bubbles in the dough. It also provides more creaminess from the fat in the milk, making the bread more tender.

You can substitute buttermilk, however, you may need to add more flour due to the consistency being less thick compared to yogurt.

Beer works wonders for quickbread

Adding Guinness or any type of stout beer to the bread mix gives an amazing roasted flavor with a slightly bitter note. To balance that bitterness, there’s a touch of brown sugar in the mix. The effervescence from the stout, plus the reaction of the baking soda and acidity in the yogurt with liquid, makes the bread light and tender while helping the loaf rise.

Spelt soda bread slices where you can see the walnuts and raisins inside.

Switch it up by adding nuts and fruit

Traditional Irish soda bread can be simply made with hints of licorice from caraway seeds or more savory like my bacon Irish soda bread. In this recipe fruit and nuts add interesting bursts of flavor and texture.

I use chopped walnuts, but pecans would make a lovely addition. Raisins add a slight tartness and sweetness, I use a mix of golden and Thompson varieties. Currants or dried cherries are nice swaps too. When the first slice of bread is cut, it reveals these attractive bits as an intriguing surprise.

Knowing when the bread is ready

Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness in the thickest part of the loaf. When the internal temperature reaches 180°F (82ºC), the bread is ready. Also, give the bottom of the loaf a quick tap to hear if it sounds hollow.

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Butter patty melting on top of a slice of Irish soda bread.

Recipe Science

Forming the dough into smaller portions

This recipe yields a pretty large loaf, perfect for feeding a crowd, however, it can be easily divided into 2 or 4 smaller rounds, or even individual rolls. Keep a close eye on the bake time and appearance change using the internal temperature to gauge when the portions are ready. Instead of using a baking sheet, smaller sizes can be baked in a cast-iron skillet, which makes the bottom crunchier.

Spelt Irish Soda Bread

Spelt soda bread is a delicious and nutritious alternative to traditional wheat-based bread. Made with whole-grain spelt flour and leavened with baking soda, this bread is easy to make and has a hearty, nutty flavor.
5 from 19 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Servings 12 slices
Course Bread
Cuisine Irish

Ingredients 
 

  • 4 cups spelt flour
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup raisins, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup greek yogurt, plain
  • 1 cup stout beer

Instructions 

  • Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 400°F (204ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
  • Make the Dough – In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, raisins, and walnuts. Add the yogurt and beer. Stir until the dough comes together into a ball.
    If the dough seems too wet, add a tablespoon more flour at a time. The dough should be slightly sticky but easy to shape.
  • Knead the Dough – Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead into a rough ball, about 1 to 2 minutes. Shape into a 12-inch long by 4-inch wide loaf, then transfer it to the baking sheet.
  • Bake the Bread – Sprinkle the loaf with some flour and use a sharp knife to make four diagonal scores across the surface. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped or the internal temperature reaches 180°F (82ºC).
  • Let it Cool – Allow the bread to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack, or serve warm.

Notes

  • Yogurt Substitute: Use buttermilk.
  • Spelt Flour Substitute: Use whole wheat, white whole wheat, all-purpose, gluten-free, or rye flour.
  • Brown Sugar Substitute: Use coconut or granulated sugar. Honey or maple syrup can also be substituted but should be mixed in with the beer and yogurt.
  • Beer Substitute: Use apple cider.
  • For Smaller Loaves: The dough can be shaped into 2 smaller loaves or individual rolls. The cook time will be shorter, so check the internal temp, it’s ready when it hits 180°F (82ºC).
  • Mix of Raisin Types: For variety, I used half golden and half Thompson raisins.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 12 slices
Calories 248kcal (12%)Carbohydrates 41g (14%)Protein 8g (16%)Fat 5g (8%)Saturated Fat 0.3g (2%)Polyunsaturated Fat 2gMonounsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 1mgSodium 402mg (17%)Potassium 38mg (1%)Fiber 6g (24%)Sugar 9g (10%)Vitamin C 0.2mgCalcium 30mg (3%)Iron 2.2mg (12%)

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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5 from 19 votes (13 ratings without comment)

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14 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Mama Donata says

    This recipe is fantastic. We have enjoyed the bread for 5 days. It is soft and moist and is perfect for toast! We added dried cherries. Scrumptious. I had to mix in a little water and a bit more stout to get my personal desired consistency and then I baked on a cookie sheet as a dome shaped loaf and this worked perfectly. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Barrie says

    First time to make soda bread. Made a few mistakes, forgot to adjust quantities for high humidity in Fl. Also should you add walnuts and raisins with the dry ingredients. We loved the bread, and the oven corned beef, potatoes and added cabbage.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback Barrie! I’ve updated the recipe. So glad to hear that you enjoyed the bread with your St. Patricks Day meal!

  3. Karen says

    Hello. This looks great. Just a quick question, you mention you can substitute apple cider for stout. Do you use the same volume ? Thanks.

  4. Terri says

    Love this bread! We went to Ireland last year and had the most amazing Irish soda bread with walnuts. When we came back to the states, we wanted to see if we could replicate the bread. I found this recipe, and my husband Loves it!! The spelt flour really gives this bread a great flavor! I’m baking another loaf right now!

  5. Nicoletta @sugarlovespices says

    Love this bread! I already yummed it but had to comment. I bake with spelt flour a lot. Glad to hear you like it too. I also love the combination of flavors so much. Going to make this one.

  6. Raquel says

    This bread looks amazing, Jessica! I love the chewy/crunchy/boozy combo. I’ll see if I can get this baked up by St. Patrick’s day.. AJ would be very happy about that 🙂