Irish Soda Bread

by Kristin on March 14, 2012

If you only learn how to make one Irish recipe, learn how to make soda bread. If you visit Ireland you’re bound to have it at some point, either served at breakfast in a B&B with butter and jam (my favourite way to have it) or a slice or two alongside a bowl of soup. You’ll often find brown soda bread too, which is a white soda’s wholemeal cousin. With so few ingredients, soda bread takes only minutes to make — your oven won’t even have finished preheating by the time it’s ready — and only half an hour to cook, plus it lends itself to all sorts of additions and tweaks. It’s a handy little recipe to have up your sleeve.

Superstition says that bread marked with a cross wards off evil, but the Irish slant is that it protects it from the fairies, who were liable to jinx your baking. A more prosaic explanation for the cross is that it prevents the bread from cracking and lets the heat penetrate the loaf while it’s baking. Either way, better safe than sorry, right?

This recipe is delicious as it is, but soda bread is incredibly versatile. Once you’ve made the basic recipe, try some of these variations (though the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread might take exception to your bread still being called soda bread if you do!). Or check out this Guardian article about how to make the perfect loaf of soda bread.

  • Add 1 teaspoon of sugar, reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon and add 50 g (1/3 cup) raisins to make a fruit soda (also sometimes called spotted dog instead of soda bread)
  • Add a few tablespoons of various seeds for a multiseed soda
  • Fresh herbs, especially thyme, chives or parsley
  • Cooked, chopped bacon, grated cheddar cheese and sliced scallions or chives
  • Wild garlic, sliced into thin ribbons
  • Thinly sliced dillisk for a seaweed soda bread
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons treacle
  • Cut the dough into circles and cook for only 20 minutes to make white soda scones
  • Rachel Allen’s soda focaccia
  • Catherine Fulvio’s pesto pinwheels
  • Use it as a base for a quick and easy, if unconventional, pizza

Irish Soda Bread

Makes 1 loaf

No buttermilk? No problem! Just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 250 ml (1 cup) of milk, stir and wait a few minutes, and voila! You have soured milk as a substitute.

450 g (3 3/4 cups) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
400 ml (1 2/3 cups) buttermilk, shaken well

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper (for a round loaf) or grease or line a loaf tin.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda into a large bowl, then whisk them together to make sure they’re combined well. Pour in the buttermilk and using a wooden spoon, stir everything together until it forms a dough (or you can mix everything together by hand instead). The dough will be wet and shaggy at this point. Lightly dust your work surface and your hands with flour, then turn the dough out and knead it gently, just until it comes together a bit better. Pat it into a smooth circle 1 inch deep and transfer it to the lined baking tray, then cut a deep cross in the centre. Alternatively, form it into a loaf and place in a greased or lined loaf tin.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, checking it halfway through the cooking time to rotate the tray and ensure it isn’t browning too quickly. When it’s done, it should be golden brown and the bottom will sound hollow when you tap it. Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before you slice it. Soda bread is best eaten on the day it’s made, but any leftovers are excellent when toasted.

{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

paulaannryan March 14, 2012 at 8:14 am

I love soda bread and each time I make it I query as to why I don’t do it more often!! Love your list of additions, must try some of them out!!

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:11 am

I’m the same – I make it and think, ‘This is so easy! I should make this fresh every day for the kids’ lunches!’ But yeah, that never seems to happen. ;)

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Kathryn Morrissey March 14, 2012 at 8:18 am

I absolutely adore soda bread and make it all the time. It is literally the best recipe to have up your sleeve! My mum makes about 4 loaves of it daily in our house and it is almost always gone by dinner time. It is as addictive and moreish as it is easy to make. Hot out of the Aga, with proper butter and homemade jam. The stuff dreams are made of! Love the idea of adding caraway seeds. Lovely post to read over my morning cuppa. Cheers!

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:13 am

Wow, four loaves a day? Your mum is a soda-making machine! Butter and jam, fresh from the Aga – sounds like a little slice of heaven.

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Dermot June 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Kathryn
Going on holiday to a home that has an Aga. What temp or number ( the Aga has 1 – 5) does your mother set the oven to bake soda bread? How long in the oven ?
Thanks
Dermot

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Kristin June 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I’ve never cooked in an Aga, so I’m afraid I’m no help on this one!

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Alan Bourke March 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Warm with salted butter. Lush.

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:13 am

Have you tried the Glenilen butter? Best butter in Ireland.

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Liza in Ann Arbor March 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I’ve done it panetonne style with golden raisins, cranberries and crystallized ginger for the holidays. I think it would also be good with chocolate chips. Why not? I’m not a breadmaker so I luuuuv how easy soda bread is!

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:15 am

Chocolate chips? Why not indeed! My family loves crystallized ginger (they eat it like candy), so I’m going to give your version a try.

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Susan Fontenot March 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Please send the recipe for crystallized ginger.
Thanks

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Leah March 14, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I made fresh butter on Sunday and just happen to have some buttermilk sitting around! Awesome- Gonna make it Saturday!

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:16 am

Soda bread made with your own buttermilk and spread with your own butter – that sounds absolutely unbeatable!

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Kathryn Morrissey March 14, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Mouth. Is. Watering.

Fresh butter sounds amazing! And panetonne style soda bread-thats so clever! Love it. Sometimes I blend flavours into the actual buttermilk itself. Roasted red peppers and basil works really well, served with creamy mushrooms on top. nomnomnom

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:16 am

I never would have thought of infusing the buttermilk itself with flavours – great tip!

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Amee March 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm

We were always lead to believe the cross was to leave the ‘divil’ out – maybe a regional difference or there are less farie infestations in Tipperary?

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:18 am

That sounds much more sinister! Though the fairies aren’t to be trifled with either.

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Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen March 15, 2012 at 1:58 am

Let the fairies out!! I search on it and its true. Its a shame how these folktales are easily forgotten! Beautifully moist looking soda bread there! :)

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:17 am

Thank you!

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MónaWise March 15, 2012 at 7:56 am

We never make white soda bread here. Always brown… Must give this a whirl in my cast iron pan and see how it turns out. Enjoy the weekend festivities!

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:18 am

Let me know what you think if you make it! x

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Gio of The Hungry Giant March 16, 2012 at 2:42 am

This looks really simple! I was surprised that it doesn’t have yeast but since it already has an acid and a base, it makes sense. I’d like to try this one! :D

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:19 am

It really is simple – I don’t think you could find an easier bread recipe. Do give it a try!

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Kathryn Morrissey March 16, 2012 at 7:39 am

Caraway soda bread in the oven , along with some brown soda, for the train from :) London Cheltenham! Even have the Kerrygold ready to go! :)

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Kristin March 16, 2012 at 8:10 am

You’ll be sure to get envious looks from the other passengers! I’d love to hear how the caraway version turns out.

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melodyangel March 18, 2012 at 6:05 am

Not keen on it myself; too “heavy” of a bread for me. I much prefer French bread!

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Julia March 18, 2012 at 8:02 am

About how many cups of flour are in a pound? I don’t have kitchen scales. Have you tried it with organic whole wheat flour or any other flours? I’ve been doing half white flour and half organic whole wheat flour in my pizza doughs, pancakes, etc. and love the results. Think it would work with this bread?

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Betty March 18, 2012 at 9:13 am

According to this site, four cups of flour equal one pound.
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_cups_of_flour_are_in_one_pound

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Kristin March 18, 2012 at 3:14 pm

3 3/4 cups of flour = 1 lb (check out my conversions page for more tips). You can absolutely swap out some of the white flour for whole wheat, in which case you’d have a brown soda bread.

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Mags March 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I am cooking a plain one – although I struggled to remember how many cups a pound is/was. It’s approximately four. Anyway, I am also cooking a savory one to go with a pork roast this afternoon. Trying rosemary, little garlic and onion powders, too. Betting that it will taste like heaven and make the house smell great at the same time!

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Twila Jean June 23, 2012 at 2:07 am

I love soda bread so much! this inspored me to make it again tonight! I made it along side lamb stew. I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog <3

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

I bet it was perfect alongside the stew!

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Jessica July 27, 2012 at 9:25 am

Mmm with chives, caramelised red onion and a bit of danish blue in the mix! Heaven!

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Kristin August 1, 2012 at 9:19 am

That sounds like a gorgeous combination, thanks for sharing!

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Emily September 3, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I’ve made a few different recipes for soda bread with slight variations of ingredient amounts, and this is absolutely the best! I tried it in a muffin tin & they were perfect alongside of a bowl of beef stew.

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Kristin September 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Thanks so much! And what a great idea to make little breads in a muffin tin.

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Liz September 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I just made soda bread using your recipe. The tip about mixing lemon juice into ordinary milk was fantastic as I did not have any buttermilk. The bread is a hit with the family, thank you.

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Kristin September 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Delighted to hear it was such a hit with your family, it’s a favourite in my family too.

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Cara October 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Hi, I tried the lemon juice & milk as I didn’t have buttermilk, and the bread is quite yellowy and stinks of the bicarbonate, what have I don’t wrong? What a waste of flour! :(

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Kristin October 22, 2012 at 11:58 am

Hi Cara – was your bicarb expired? Or were there clumps of it in the bread because it wasn’t sifted? Those could be two explanations for why it didn’t turn out quite right. I’m at a loss as to why the bread was yellow – 1 tablespoon of lemon juice shouldn’t have that effect. I hope you’ll give it another go sometime!

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Sean December 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Did you use the Baking Powder or Cream of Tartare? I only use Bicarbonate of Soda (As in Soda Bread). The first two will give you an awful yellowish end result. I sometimes use live set natural yoghurt… Lovely

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Nico January 23, 2013 at 10:46 am

Glad I found your blog, and this recipe in particular. I shall be baking it later.
Looking forward to reading further.

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Kristin January 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Thanks so much! Hope the bread turns out well for you.

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Vanessa January 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Can you make a wholemeal irish soda bread loaf and if so do you use all wholemeal flour or what are proportions of white/brown? – First time bread maker

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Kristin January 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm
sophiloveslife March 23, 2013 at 3:22 am

Great recipe. The bread came out nicely. A little thick in the middle…and I mean only a little, but I think that was my mistake. Good, solid food, to satisfy real hunger!

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Kristin March 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Thanks so much! Like you said, it’s just good, proper, unfussy food.

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valerie November 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Hi could you please tell me if you use plain or self raising floor

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Kristin November 21, 2013 at 7:06 pm

It’s plain flour – the baking soda is the raising agent. Hope that helps!

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Avril December 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I’ve just found this page and I’m making some this week for the first time. Husband’s very happy although I think adding anything to it would be sacriledge to him – his mum’s one was always the best of course – no changes required:-) Also going to try Aussie Damper bread. Let you know how that works!

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Kristin January 30, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Hope it turned out well and rivalled your mother-in-law’s bread!

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Ragna Russo-Davis January 5, 2014 at 11:31 pm

I’ve just recently started making soda bread, and tonight’s was the first time it really turned out. OMG! It’s amazing! Warm from the oven with butter and homemade peach preserves. To. Die. For.

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Kristin January 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Delighted to hear it worked so well! Like you said, it’s hard to beat when it’s still warm and spread with butter and jam. Breakfast of champions!

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Avril January 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Bread was great! Now an addict it’s the only type of bread we have… making walnut and honey today along with caramelised red onion and a first try at wheaten bread… !

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Kristin January 30, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Love the sound of a walnut and honey version!

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