Irish Soda Bread

5 from 5 votes
↓ Jump to Recipe 4

This post may contain affiliate links | disclosure policy

A St. Patrick’s Day feast is not complete without a freshly baked loaf of Irish soda bread. Each slice has a crisp crust and tender crumb. Perfect for serving with corned beef and cabbage.

For more variations of this classic, try my bacon soda bread, sweet soda bread, Irish brown bread, and spelt soda bread.

Slices of Irish soda bread on a cutting board.

This is our family’s favorite Irish soda bread recipe, and it comes together in just an hour. I usually make a big feast for St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate my husband’s Irish heritage (hence the last name Gavin). It’s fun sharing our traditions with our children and having them try dishes like corned beef, cabbage, and colcannon.

My kids look forward to helping make the dough and shaping it into a loaf. We add raisins for a hint of sweetness. The benefit of this type of bread is that you don’t have to wait long to enjoy it. Cutting the crisp crust to reveal a soft, steamy center is always a treat. Once you learn how to make the classic recipe, it’s easy to customize.

“I made my first one Thursday, and now, on Saturday, it’s gone, so I’m making my second loaf. Not bad for an old dude. Grandkids are coming in late tonight, and I wanted to make sure they had something good before they went to bed.”—Bernie B.

Recipe ingredients

Ingredients needed to make this Irish soda bread recipe.
  • Flour: All-purpose flour is the base of the bread. It contains a moderate amount of protein—10 to 13%—which gives it good structure and tenderness.
  • Baking Soda: The potent leavening agent gives the loaf an instant rise instead of waiting hours for yeast bread. Once hydrated, the carbon dioxide bubbles will form quickly, so bake the bread shortly after shaping.
  • Sugar: Adding granulated sugar adds flavor and tenderness, accelerates the browning of the crust, and reduces the amount of gluten formation.
  • Salt: Salt enhances the taste of the bread.
  • Butter: A small amount of unsalted butter adds richness to the dough and a crisp crust.
  • Fruit: I like to add raisins for pockets of sweetness and chewy texture. The dried fruit is optional if you prefer a savory loaf.
  • Dairy: Buttermilk adds a tangy flavor and reacts with the baking soda for leavening. I use 1.5 to 2% milkfat buttermilk, which helps tenderize the bread.
  • Egg: The fat in the egg yolk creates a more decadent bread, and the egg whites help with binding, creating a spongy crumb. The egg can be omitted. The loaf will just be a little lighter in consistency.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Prepare the pan

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). This temperature creates a nice crisp, browned crust on the bread. Traditional Irish soda bread is made in a cast iron pan. The heavy skillet retains heat well, giving a beautiful golden brown crust with extra crispiness on the bottom. I use a 10-inch size, then grease it with vegetable or olive oil to prevent sticking. The loaf expands to about 8 inches wide.

Alternatively, a greased parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet works well. Check a few minutes earlier for doneness because it heats fast and has more hot air around the loaf. A greased pie dish or Dutch oven can also be used.

Mix the dry ingredients

Bowl of flour, sugar, and baking soda about to be whisked.

Step 2: Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients well to distribute the fine particles, ensuring an even loaf rise.

Incorporate the butter

Bowl of flour mixture with cubes of butter spread throughout.

Step 3: Breaking the cold butter into flour, similar to cornmeal, creates pockets of fat. This technique is used to make biscuits or scones, as the extra fat helps the crust become crisp and brittle.

The ratio is much lower than other quick breads because we want the crumb to be chewy, not crumbly. This makes a lovely contrast to the bread’s soft and tender interior.

Add the raisins

Raisins added to a bowl of flour.

Step 4: It’s the chef’s choice whether to add sweet or savory mix-ins to the bread. I love the hint of sweetness that dried fruit like raisins, currents, or cherries adds to the bread. I use one cup. It’s just the right amount for flavor every few bites.

Add the wet ingredients

A mixture of eggs and buttermilk inside a measuring cup.

Whisk buttermilk and egg.

Pouring buttermilk mixture into a bowl of flour.

Add the liquid to the flour.

Bowl of wet and dry ingredients being mixed together to make a dough.

Step 5: I use buttermilk and egg to hydrate the flour mixture. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then stir in the liquid. When the baking soda and buttermilk combine, you’ll hear fizzing and see bubbles form. The tanginess adds terrific flavor, so the slices don’t taste bland.

Shape the dough

Bread dough with raisins being kneaded on a floured board.
Ball of soda bread dough on a floured work surface.
Knife slicing an X into the top of a ball of Irish soda bread dough.

Step 6: Dust a work surface with flour, then knead the dough for about a minute. Sprinkle on more flour to help prevent sticking. The goal is to work the dough enough to encourage gluten formation but not become tough.

Shape the dough into about a 6-inch round. Transfer the dough to the greased cast iron skillet and score the letter “X” on top. This helps the bread cook quicker in the center while the steam releases, creating more lift and a taller loaf.

Bake the bread

Freshly baked Irish soda bread in a cast iron skillet.

Step 7: Bake at 400ºF (204ºC) for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is golden brown. The internal temperature should reach 190 to 200ºF (88 to 93ºC). Towards the end, if the crust gets dark but the bread isn’t done yet, loosely tent it with a piece of foil.

If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, insert a toothpick in the center. When removed, the wet dough shouldn’t stick to it. You can also knock on the bottom. It should sound hollow, meaning it isn’t soggy in the center.

Let it cool before slicing

The interior of Irish soda bread loaf.

Step 8: Let the soda bread sit in the hot pan for 5 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to finish cooling to room temperature (if you can wait!). The loaf expands to about 8 inches, making for generous slices. Our family loves eating the bread warm, so we slice and eat it soon after!

Flavor variations

Now you know how to make Irish soda bread like a pro! Try these ways to switch up the next loaf:

  • Flour: Other types of flour can be used, like whole wheat, white whole wheat, or spelled. Make a gluten-free Irish soda bread with gluten-free flour.
  • Fruit: Dried fruit like cherries or apricots can be used. Omit any dried fruit if you don’t want a sweet flavor.
  • Seeds and Nuts: Adding caraway seeds is a traditional ingredient in Irish soda bread for a hint of anise and citrus flavor. Try adding sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds for extra texture. Chopped nuts like walnuts or almonds add a delightful crunch.

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

What is Irish soda bread?

A traditional type of bread made in Irish cuisine. The loaf is a quick bread leavened using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and acidified buttermilk. The combination creates carbon dioxide bubbles, instantly helping the dough rise. The bread is typically made with flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. Sugar, honey, butter, and eggs are often added for a more moist and tender texture.

Why is Irish soda bread so hard?

The crust should be crisp due to the buttery, biscuit-like texture. However, the crumb should not be tough. Do not overmix baking soda-leavened dough, or it will taste tough. Knead for about a minute, just enough to shape into a round, keeping the center soft and spongy.

Can I make smaller loaves?

Yes! You can halve this recipe to make two smaller loaves. I don’t recommend making them any smaller because you’ll lose the proper ratio of crust-to-interior, and they will taste too dry. Check for doneness at about 25 minutes, adding more time as needed.

Slices of homemade Irish soda bread with butter spread on it.

Substituting baking powder for baking soda

If you don’t have baking soda in your pantry, use baking powder instead. You’ll need three times as much since baking soda is more potent. Substitute 1 tablespoon of baking powder when making this recipe for Irish soda bread.

Irish Soda Bread

Learn how to make Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day. This quick and easy bread can be enjoyed plain or with toppings like butter or jam.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 10 Servings
Course Bread
Cuisine Irish

Ingredients 
 

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 cup raisins, or currants
  • 1 ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg

Instructions 

  • Prepare the Pan – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Heat to 400ºF (200ºC). Lightly grease the bottom of a cast iron skillet with vegetable or olive oil. Set aside. Alternatively, use a greased parchment paper-lined sheet pan.
  • Mix the Dry Ingredients – In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  • Incorporate the Butter – Add the chilled cubes of butter to the bowl. Use fingers or a pastry cutter to break them into smaller pieces. The mixture should resemble coarse cornmeal.
  • Add the Raisins – Stir in the raisins, then make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
  • Add the Wet Ingredients – In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs. Pour the mixture into the well of the flour mixture. Use a spoon to stir until a shaggy dough forms. It will be tacky.
  • Shape the Dough – Generously flour a work surface. Using floured hands, knead the dough until a ball forms, sprinkling more flour as needed to prevent sticking, about 30 to 60 seconds. Do not overwork!
    Shape into a 6-inch round ball and transfer to the greased skillet. Cut a shallow "X" into the top, about ½-inch deep and 4 inches long.
  • Bake – Bake until the center reaches 190ºF (88ºC), the surface is golden brown, and the bottom is hollow when tapped, about 45 to 50 minutes. If you notice the surface getting brown too quickly, loosely cover it with foil.
  • Cool and Serve – Cool the bread in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack. Slice and serve while warm or cool completely.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About an 8-inch loaf
  • Substituting with Baking Powder: Add 1 tablespoon of baking powder instead of baking soda.
  • No Buttermilk?: You can try these substitutes. However, since the recipe has a large amount, it will taste the best with the actual product.
  • Storing: Cool entirely and tightly wrap in foil—store at room temperature for up to 2 days. Freeze the loaf of slices for up to 3 months.
  • Reheating: Warm inside the oven at 300 degrees. Alternatively, warm the slices in a toaster.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 10 Servings
Calories 301kcal (15%)Carbohydrates 54g (18%)Protein 7g (14%)Fat 7g (11%)Saturated Fat 4g (20%)Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0.2gCholesterol 17mg (6%)Sodium 392mg (16%)Potassium 231mg (7%)Fiber 2g (8%)Sugar 5g (6%)Vitamin A 211IU (4%)Vitamin C 1mg (1%)Calcium 61mg (6%)Iron 3mg (17%)

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.

Tried this recipe?

Tag me on Instagram. I'd love to see how it turns out!

Tag @jessica_gavin

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.

Quick & Easy Meals in Under 30 Minutes!
Get 25 simple meals your whole family will love.
Jessica Gavin standing in the kitchen

You May Also Like

Reader Interactions

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Bernie Bramante says

    Thank you for this recipe. I made my first one thursday, and, now on saturday it’s gone, so I’m making my secondloaf. Not bad for an old dude. Grandkids coming in late tonight and I wanted to make sure they had something good before they went to bed.
    A friend recommended using honey. Will do that for sure.

    Bernie