Traditional Irish Soda Bread Recipe

If past attempts to bake beautiful, scrumptious loaves of bread have fallen flat, you won't need the luck of the Irish on your side to produce a hearty and dense round of traditional Irish soda bread. Many people think of Irish soda bread as the perfect pairing to corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day, but this delicacy tastes terrific any time of the year.

Some liken traditional Irish soda bread more to a scone than a bread, since it is missing a main bread ingredient: yeast. The most basic Irish soda bread contains four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. According to Today, the American version of Irish soda bread includes eggs and butter, along with sweet bites of raisins and sometimes caraway seeds. But the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread says it's not quite the same. Honestly, either version will be lip-smackingly good. 

This recipe from Miriam Hahn infuses flavor with butter, egg, and raisins, but skips the caraway. It's also really easy. "You don't need to get out a mixer and there is no kneading involved," Hahn said.

Traditional Irish soda bread might not make for the prettiest bread, but just one warm slice, fresh out of the oven and slathered with butter, will wow your taste buds. Give it a try!

The origin of Irish soda bread

As cooking teacher and chef Rory O'Connell told Today, traditional Irish soda bread actually is a "basic table bread — what we call a brown soda bread." The beauty of this bread, which surfaced in the early 19th century, was that it could be baked without an oven. People simply used a lidded cast-iron pot that was placed directly on coals, O'Connell explained. 

Hahn's recipe recreates that historic approach by using a cast-iron skillet (but without the lid) to bake her version of this tasty bread, which is perfect as a dessert or for breakfast.

Gather the ingredients

Hahn's version of traditional Irish soda bread calls for all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, raisins, an egg, butter, and buttermilk. The beauty of this bread recipe is that it takes just five minutes to toss together the ingredients and only 35 minutes to bake. And it tastes fantastic fresh out of the oven! You can use either salted or unsalted butter, Hahn said, and any size egg will be fine. "I use salted butter but have done it with unsalted also without much difference," she told Mashed, adding that "you can substitute currants or golden raisins if you'd like."

While she hasn't attempted a gluten-free version of this recipe, it's possible to modify a classic Irish soda bread recipe by using gluten-free flour, an egg, and a bit of xanthan gum or guar gum if the gluten-free flour doesn't already include it. A bit of extra sugar helps sweeten up the gluten-free flour blend, too.

Combine the dry ingredients

Preheat your oven to 400 F (375 F if you're using a convection bake setting) and take out both a large bowl and a medium bowl. Measure out the all-purpose flour and mix with it the sugar, salt, and baking soda. Make sure not to accidentally use baking powder instead, which contains sodium bicarbonate, but also contains other components and won't produce the loaf of bread you really want. 

Add in the raisins and stir the dough mixture until the raisins are thoroughly blended. 

Add the wet ingredients

Grab your medium-sized bowl and crack then beat the egg. Add in 1 ¾ cups of buttermilk and mix thoroughly. Melt the butter in the microwave for a few seconds at a time until softened and incorporate it into the buttermilk and egg mixture. Then add the bowl of wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix well. 

Hahn finds that using a whisk works well when mixing the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, but when blending the wet and dry ingredients, it's best to use your hands. "The dough will be very sticky, so mixing with your hands will be easier," Hahn advised. 

Bake the bread in a cast-iron skillet

Use butter to grease a cast-iron skillet or an enameled cast-iron or heavy duty baking sheet. Then place the ball of dough in the center. Dust the top of it with a pinch of flour and cut an X across the top of the ball of dough with a knife, delving about one inch deep. Pop the ball of dough into the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (check it after 30 minutes if you're using a convection oven). When it's a light brown, remove the bread from the oven and set it on a cooling rack, waiting at least 20 minutes before slicing the loaf.

How does it taste?

Hahn said her recipe for traditional Irish soda bread is more of a breakfast or dessert type of bread, primarily because of the sweetness of the raisins, which infuse into the dense bread.

"It goes really well with coffee and fruit. It is wonderful on a brunch menu. It tastes like a moist, sweet bread, but not too sweet, just a hint. It is unbelievably delicious, especially when it is still warm. It is great with butter and also butter and jam or honey," she said.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread Recipe
5 from 3 ratings
Easy and yeast-free, just one warm slice of this traditional Irish soda bread -- fresh out of the oven and slathered with butter -- will wow your taste buds.
Prep Time
5
minutes
Cook Time
35
minutes
Servings
8
servings
slice of buttered traditional Irish soda bread on a white plate with a knife near blueberries and red raspberries
Total time: 40 minutes
Ingredients
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add in the raisins and stir.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg. Add in the buttermilk and mix. Now add the melted butter.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Grease a cast-iron skillet with butter and place the dough ball in the center. Dust the top of the dough with flour.
  6. Cut an X across the top with a knife.
  7. Place the skillet in the oven and bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes
  8. Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the bread to a cooling rack. Wait at least 20 minutes before slicing.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 342
Total Fat 4.6 g
Saturated Fat 2.4 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 29.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 66.2 g
Dietary Fiber 2.4 g
Total Sugars 15.0 g
Sodium 337.8 mg
Protein 9.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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