The Difference Between American And Irish Soda Bread

Creating the perfect St. Patrick's Day meal can take a bit of planning, especially if you want to feature an authentic Irish table spread. According to PBS, this goal proves challenging, considering people from Ireland would find the American perception of Irish food and culture very strange and inauthentic. As Ireland changed over the years, so has the food culture. While we might love to celebrate this green-themed holiday with colcannon potatoes, corned beef hash, or soda bread, don't assume every item that makes it to your table can claim authentic Irish heritage (via BBC). 

While we might think of soda bread as an Irish food, the first instance of this baked good stems from Native American tribes, who used pearl ash, a natural form of soda, to create bread without the use of yeast (via Trafalgar). Irish bakers created the first soda breads out of necessity — many lacked proper ovens and cooked the bread using sour milk and baking soda in pots or griddles over open flames. As a result, these ingenious cooks created a version of the bread that has stood the test of time. Over the years, this bread traveled the world, and the recipe mutated to fit what ingredients happened to be available. As a result, you won't see what some Americans consider soda bread in Ireland.

A soda bread defined in America

If you want to make an authentic Irish soda bread, the difference lies in what ingredients you should omit. According to Epicurious, Irish-American soda breads use caraway seeds and raisins in the recipe, while soda breads from Ireland lack both of these add-ins. To give your bread an extra Irish flair, you can score a cross in the top of the dough before you cook it, as superstitious bakers in South Ireland believed that the symbol expelled fairies from the bread and warded off evil (via Trafalgar). You could also model your bread after a North Irish version, and divide the dough into four triangle sections to get cooked separately.

No matter how you celebrate St. Patrick's Day, your Irish feast wouldn't come complete without a loaf of soda bread. If you want to create an authentic interpretation of this classic baked good, make sure to keep your bread simple and avoid any add-ins for a dish that can get anyone excited to celebrate the luck 'o the Irish.