Home » Baking Recipes » Bread Recipes

Soda Bread Recipe

Have you ever eat­en a warm, crusty slice of Soda Bread, slathered with a shmear of creamy, melt­ing but­ter? Pure, unadul­ter­at­ed, quick bread heaven! 

loaf of Irish soda bread and buttered slices
Post may con­tain affil­i­ate links. See my Affil­i­ate Disclosure.

Until last week, I had nev­er made a soda bread recipe. I’d nev­er expe­ri­enced the crisp crack­le of slic­ing through the crunchy, gold­en brown crust into the soft, ten­der bread under­neath. How had I nev­er tried this drool-wor­thy quick bread recipe?

Well, need­less to say, that mis­take has been cor­rect­ed. And friends, I will not be look­ing back. This deli­cious bread will forever­more have a prized spot at the front of my recipe collection.

Like bis­cuits, soda bread is clas­si­fied as a quick bread. Both allow you to have home­made bread on your din­ner table in a lit­tle over 30 min­utes. Seri­ous­ly! 30 min­utes to make and bake home­made bread! 

homemade biscuits on a white plate slathered with butter and dripping with honey

Quick breads are a sim­ple, game-chang­ing for­mu­la that makes you a respect­ed bak­er to any­one who has the plea­sure of eat­ing a slice of one your fresh­ly baked loaves.

You’re going to rock this quick, easy and deli­cious recipe. And, you won’t want to make it for only one hol­i­day a year. It’s every­day great bread! You’re going to make it often and become an expe­ri­enced expert. You’ll be known far and wide as an accom­plished bak­er of bread. You’re kind of a hero. Ya know? 

You’ve got this! Let’s make soda bread!

Irish soda bread with raisins on a cutting board - irish soda bread recipe

Soda Bread Recipes vs Irish Soda Bread Recipes?

My desire to learn to make Irish Soda Bread came from want­i­ng to share it with you as a St. Patrick­’s Day option. It’s a recipe that always pops up in blogs, this time of year, and I was going to jump on the hol­i­day band­wag­on. Plus, I was just plain curi­ous, nev­er hav­ing eat­en it before.

I had to do a LOT of research to not only come up with a final recipe, but to also under­stand this sim­ple quick bread­’s ori­gins. And, my mind was blown to find that the ori­gin is not with the Irish. 

Native Amer­i­cans were actu­al­ly the first to be doc­u­ment­ed as using pearl ash, (a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring form of bak­ing soda), to leav­en their bread. The cred­it for soda bread can be point­ed direct­ly to them.

When bak­ing soda was intro­duced in the Unit­ed King­dom, in the late 1830’s, the first exam­ples of soda bread were seen in Ire­land. The recipe evolved out of neces­si­ty, after the pota­to famine. 

Irish soda bread with raisins on a cooling rack - irish soda bread recipe

Hun­gry fam­i­lies need­ed cheap, hearty food that did­n’t require expen­sive cook­ing resources. Even those in far-out and remote regions had access to the sim­ple ingre­di­ents and tools to make this hum­ble loaf.

So, in the end, I don’t real­ly think it makes sense to argue about the name. Whether you call it Soda Bread or an Irish Soda Bread recipe, it is a long-stand­ing tra­di­tion of both the Native Amer­i­can and Irish cul­tures. They seem to be essen­tial­ly the same hum­ble, peas­ant-style loaf that made it pos­si­ble to feed hun­gry fam­i­lies, no mat­ter who was mak­ing it or where it was made. 

I know with­out a doubt, that what­ev­er name you decide to call it, you will def­i­nite­ly define it as delicious.

Soda Bread or Tea Cake?

The most con­fus­ing thing I ran across in my quest to learn how to make soda bread is the WIDE vari­a­tion in recipes. I found a few sim­ple, 4‑ingredient recipes. But, if I’m hon­est, I prob­a­bly found more that were actu­al­ly enriched doughs con­tain­ing but­ter and/or eggs and sug­ar. I was puz­zled at the wide use of these extra ingre­di­ents, since I under­stood Irish soda bread recipes to be for hearty, loaves that the poor could afford on a day-to-day basis.

After more read­ing, I’ve come to real­ize that those enriched doughs would be con­sid­ered to be “tea cakes” to soda bread purists. Those tra­di­tion­al­ists agree that actu­al soda bread is only 4 ingre­di­ents. Like all recipes over time, even soda bread has evolved to adapt to the avail­able ingre­di­ents and per­son­al tastes of those mak­ing it.

quick bread recipe - slices of Irish soda bread showing crispy, goden brown crust and soft, tender crumb
Swoon! Just look at that crisp, crack­ly gold­en brown crust! Can’t you just imag­ine crunch­ing into it? And the soft, ten­der crumb of that scrump­tious bread! Yes, it’s quick bread heav­en, my friend!

So, even though I opt­ed for the more tra­di­tion­al approach; my addi­tion of raisins isn’t tra­di­tion­al. It leaves me square­ly out­side the tra­di­tion­al bound­aries of soda bread recipes for those who are purists. 

After all those deci­sions were made, I land­ed on my final recipe by read­ing many arti­cles and tons of oth­er peo­ple’s recipes. So, mine ends up being adapt­ed from watch­ing videos and read­ing recipes by Dari­na Allen and Paul Hol­ly­wood.

Dari­na’s was 100% tra­di­tion­al and Paul’s was­n’t too far off the mark. He did fla­vor his with cheese and caramelized onions, though. And, he com­bined white and whole meal flours. 

I also pre­ferred one bak­ing tem­per­a­ture rather than chang­ing it part way through.

The Ingredients

golden raisins added to dry ingredients in a mixing bowl

Flour: I use plain unbleached all-pur­pose flour. As with any bak­ing recipe, mea­sur­ing flour accu­rate­ly will make or break the suc­cess of your fin­ished prod­uct. Even­tu­al­ly, I’m going to get an entire post put togeth­er about how best to do that. But, in the mean­time, always fol­low the recipe instruc­tions and mea­sure with care. It’s all about the chem­istry and ratios.

Bak­ing Soda

Salt

But­ter­milk or Sour Milk: There’s real­ly no oth­er option. Plain milk will not work. You need the acid of the but­ter­milk to react with the alka­li of the bak­ing soda to achieve leav­en­ing in your loaf. Plus, but­ter­milk sim­ply takes the bread­’s fla­vor to scrump­tious heights!

In the notes sec­tion of the recipe card, I give instruc­tions for cre­at­ing buttermilk/sour milk with apple cider vine­gar and whole milk, in case you don’t keep but­ter­milk on hand.

Gold­en Raisins: These are 100% option­al and def­i­nite­ly not tra­di­tion­al in soda bread. How­ev­er, they are 100% deli­cious and add love­ly pops of sweet­ness against the deli­cious bread. I haven’t tried it, but I think dried cran­ber­ries would also be a love­ly addi­tion. And, now that I’ve seen the Paul Hol­ly­wood video, I’m excit­ed to try out a savory, cheese-fla­vored Irish soda bread recipe, too.

FAQs about Soda Bread Recipes

Should Soda Bread be Knead­ed?

No. As with all quick bread recipes, over­work­ing the dough will over-devel­op the gluten and make your soda bread tough. You’ll need plen­ty of flour on your counter and on your hands. To achieve the best soft, ten­der tex­ture, place your mixed dough onto a heav­i­ly floured board and gen­tly begin to use the palms of your hands to mold the sides of the dough into a round. Keep turn­ing and gen­tly mold­ing the loaf until it is round, tuck­ing the sides under as you go. Flour the top of the loaf and gen­tly press it down until you have a flat disc about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4″ thick. That’s all the shap­ing the dough requires.

Can I use plain milk in soda bread instead of but­ter­milk or sour milk?

Actu­al­ly, no. To rise prop­er­ly, the bread needs the chem­i­cal reac­tion that is cre­at­ed when the alka­li of the bak­ing soda com­bines with the acid of the but­ter­milk (or sour milk). With­out this reac­tion the bread will be flat and dense.

Can I make soda bread dough ahead of time and bake it lat­er?

While that would be con­ve­nient, the truth is that quick bread recipes use the chem­i­cal reac­tions of com­bin­ing ingre­di­ents to leav­en and light­en the loaves. As soon as those ingre­di­ents com­bine, the chem­i­cal reac­tion begins. You have a nar­row win­dow of time to get your soda bread into the oven to take advan­tage of that reac­tion. Soda bread should be baked as soon as the loaf is shaped. 

A Flour Measuring Pro Tip for Baking

weighing flour

Ide­al­ly, you will mea­sure the flour for soda bread, and any oth­er baked good, by weight to get results con­sis­tent with what a recipe author achieves. A good kitchen scale with a tare func­tion is an essen­tial kitchen tool for bak­ing. It does­n’t have to be expen­sive. I think mine was under $25 and I have used it for more than a decade. There are very impor­tant rea­sons for doing this.

Use 450 grams (or 1 pound) of unbleached all pur­pose flour to make this bread recipe. That amounts to about 4 cups by Amer­i­can stan­dard measurements. 

The prob­lem with mea­sur­ing it by the cup is that your cup, my cup and our neigh­bor’s cup can all have wild­ly vary­ing amounts of flour, depend­ing on whether we scoop and swoop or spoon and lev­el the flour into our mea­sur­ing cups. Whether the flour was aer­at­ed or left packed in the bot­tom of the can­is­ter before we start­ed mea­sur­ing will also affect the amount of flour in the cup.

This is why we have very respect­ed bak­ing orga­ni­za­tions that have very dif­fer­ent views about the weight of 1 cup of flour. If you look around online, you will find weights that vary from 120 grams to 150 grams. At a dif­fer­ence of 30 grams per cup times 4 cups, you’re look­ing at a vari­ance of about 1 full cup of flour. Now, do you see why how you mea­sure can have such an impact on your baked goods?

The good news is that pro bak­ers (and now, you and I) mea­sure out their ingre­di­ents by weight. The weight I mea­sure will be the same as the weight you mea­sure and the weight your neigh­bor mea­sures. It does­n’t change. Weigh­ing flour for baked goods is the surest way to a suc­cess­ful outcome.

adding buttermilk to dry ingredients in a clear glass mixing bowl

Other Delicious Add-In Possibilities for Soda Bread Recipes

I men­tion raisins, dried cran­ber­ries and grat­ed cheese in the post and recipe card. But, there are many oth­er deli­cious pos­si­bil­i­ties for get­ting cre­ative with the fla­vors of your soda bread.

You can also add a cou­ple Table­spoons of fresh herbs or 2 tea­spoons of dried herbs to your dry ingre­di­ents to cre­ate com­plete­ly new fla­vor pro­files for the bread. I espe­cial­ly love car­away seeds. DELISH!

Rose­mary is a nice com­ple­ment to bread, too. Try 3/4 tea­spoon of dried crushed rose­mary leaves in your dry ingredients.

For savory loaves, chopped sun dried toma­toes or black olives would be tasty add-ins. Paul Hol­ly­wood even chopped up caramelized onions in his loaf.

I’ve seen sev­er­al recipes for choco­late soda bread pop­ping up in my search­es. I’m not sure how they do theirs, but I would start by replac­ing 1/2 cup of the flour (56.25 grams) with an equal amount of bak­ing cocoa and see how the dough feels from there.

The oth­er idea that I thought sound­ed scrump­tious was to do some sort of a brown sug­ar & cin­na­mon swirl through a loaf. But, that is def­i­nite­ly still in the plan­ning stages. Even if I can’t get a swirl to work, I may still try adding some cin­na­mon to the dry ingre­di­ents of a loaf. I’ll let you know what I fig­ure out.

Get cre­ative. Make the recipe your own and cre­ate some home­made bread your fam­i­ly will get excit­ed about.

Meatball Stew in an ivory stonware bowl. There's a spoon in the bowl and it's all sitting on a barn board table.

What to Serve With Soda Bread

Noth­ing. And, every­thing. lol If you want to bake a loaf, sit down near a sun­ny win­dow and eat almost half of it with noth­ing but creamy but­ter, you go for it! ( Not that I would know any­thing about that. 🙂 ) 

But seri­ous­ly, soda bread is fab­u­lous for dunk­ing in soups, gravies and sauces. That makes it a beau­ti­ful accom­pa­ni­ment to almost any main dish you prepare.

I espe­cial­ly love it with Beef Stew or Meat­ball Stew and it’s deli­cious for zob­bling up left­over gravy on the plate when we have Meat­balls in Brown Gravy or a scrump­tious Pot Roast dinner.

And then, to go a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent direc­tion you could add slices to char­cu­terie boards, serve pieces on a meat and cheese plat­ter or enjoy it with cheese and fruit at an after­noon picnic.

The pos­si­bil­i­ties are endless!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew served in a white bowl next to a green print napkin

How to Make this Irish Soda Bread Recipe

  1. Pre­heat the oven to 450° F and add parch­ment paper to the bot­tom of a 10″ cast iron skil­let or to a bak­ing sheet.
  2. Mea­sure your flour into a large mix­ing bowl. Add the bak­ing soda and salt and stir to even­ly dis­trib­ute them through­out the flour. 
  3. If you are using add-ins like gold­en raisins or grat­ed cheese, stir them into the flour, now. This will help to dis­trib­ute them even­ly through­out the final dough. The coat­ing of flour keeps them from clump­ing togeth­er and helps to sus­pend them in the dough, so they don’t all end up sink­ing to the bot­tom of the loaf. 
  4. Make a well in the cen­ter of the dry ingre­di­ents and pour in all but about 2 Table­spoons of the the buttermilk. 

  1. With your hands or a wood­en spoon stir just enough to com­bine all the ingre­di­ents. The mix­ture should come into the shape of a shag­gy, sticky ball with no flour left in the bot­tom of your bowl. If the dough seems too dry or you can’t incor­po­rate all the flour, add the rest of the but­ter­milk and stir. Don’t over mix, though. The whole process of mea­sur­ing ingre­di­ents, mix­ing the bread and shap­ing the loaf should take only about 5 to 10 min­utes, once you have the recipe down.

Shaping the Loaf and Baking

For a visu­al tuto­r­i­al of shap­ing the dough, watch the video in the recipe card, below.

  1. Turn the shag­gy dough out onto a heav­i­ly floured board or counter top.Be sure you’ve floured your hands, too.
  1. Begin shap­ing the loaf into a round by using the palms of your hands to gen­tly press and turn the loaf. Scoop flour against the sides as you do, to keep it from stick­ing to your hands. Gen­tly tuck the sides under the loaf as you turn and round it, to start cre­at­ing a smoother sur­face. This is still a very soft and rough dough, but the sur­face will become much smoother than when it started.
  2. Gen­tly shape the dough into a round disc that is 1 1/2 to 2 inch­es thick.
  3. Dust the top of the loaf with flour and use a bench scraper or sharp knife to cut a cross into the full diam­e­ter of the top of the loaf. Cut deeply. You don’t need to cut all the way through, but at least an inch deep. Spread the cuts open slight­ly to help with even baking.
  1. Place the loaf of bread into your pre­pared skil­let or onto the pre­pared bak­ing sheet.
  2. Bake at 425 for 25 to 35 min­utes. To tell if the loaf is done check to see that the loaf has risen (will be domed in the cen­ter, where it was once flat) and it will be gold­en brown. The loaf will also sound hol­low when thumped on the bot­tom. The cen­ter of the cross will be dry and show no signs of mois­ture. And a tester insert­ed into the cen­ter should come out clean.
  3. Trans­fer the bread to a wire rack and allow it to cool for 15 to 20 min­utes before slicing.

THE RECIPE

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
cut soda bread loaf and buttered slices

Soda Bread


  • Author: Glen­da Embree (as adapt­ed from Dari­na Allen & Paul Hollywood)
  • Total Time: 38 min­utes
  • Yield: 12 serv­ings 1x

Description

Easy and deli­cious quick bread recipe that gets hot, home baked bread on the table in around 30 min­utes.  This should be as much of an every­day go-to bread recipe as my easy bis­cuits


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 4 cups unbleached all-pur­pose flour (450 g /1 lb.)
  • 1 tea­spoon salt
  • 1 tea­spoon bak­ing soda (bicar­bon­ate of soda)
  • 1 3/4 cups full fat but­ter­milk (about 400 ml / 13 — 14 flu­id oz.), (*See Notes for substitution)
  • option­al add-ins, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup dried cran­ber­ries, or 1 cup grat­ed Parme­san or Ched­dar cheese

Instructions

  1. Pre­heat the oven to 425° F and add parch­ment paper to the bot­tom of a 10″ cast iron skil­let or to a bak­ing sheet.
  2. Mea­sure your flour into a large mix­ing bowl. Add the bak­ing soda and salt and stir to even­ly dis­trib­ute them through­out the flour.
  3. If you are using add-ins like gold­en raisins or grat­ed cheese, stir them into the flour, now. This will help to dis­trib­ute them even­ly through­out the final dough. The coat­ing of flour keeps them from clump­ing togeth­er and helps to sus­pend them in the dough, so they don’t all end up sink­ing to the bot­tom of the loaf.
  4. Make a well in the cen­ter of the dry ingre­di­ents and pour in all but about 2 Table­spoons of the the buttermilk.
  5. With your hands or a wood­en spoon stir just enough to com­bine all the ingre­di­ents. The mix­ture should come into the shape of a shag­gy, sticky ball with no flour left in the bot­tom of your bowl. If the dough seems too dry or you can’t incor­po­rate all the flour, add the rest of the but­ter­milk and stir. Don’t over mix, though. (The whole process of mea­sur­ing ingre­di­ents, mix­ing and shap­ing the bread should take only about 5 to 10 min­utes, once you have this recipe down.)
  6. Turn the shag­gy dough out onto a heav­i­ly floured board or counter top.Be sure you’ve floured your hands, too.
  7. Begin shap­ing the loaf into a round by using the palms of your hands to gen­tly press and turn the loaf. Scoop flour against the sides as you do, to keep it from stick­ing to your hands. Gen­tly tuck the sides under the loaf as you turn and round it, to start cre­at­ing a smoother sur­face. This is still a very soft and rough dough, but the sur­face will become much smoother than when it started.
  8. Gen­tly shape the dough into a round disc that is 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inch­es thick.
  9. Dust the top of the loaf with flour and use a bench scraper or sharp knife to cut a cross into the full diam­e­ter of the top of the loaf. Cut deeply. You don’t need to cut all the way through, but at least an inch deep. Spread the cuts open slight­ly to help with even baking.
  10. Place the loaf of bread into your pre­pared skil­let or onto the pre­pared bak­ing sheet.
  11. Bake at 400° for 25 to 35 min­utes. To tell if the loaf is done check to see that the loaf has risen (will be domed in the cen­ter, where it was once flat) and it will be gold­en brown. The loaf will also sound hol­low when thumped on the bot­tom. The cen­ter of the cross will be dry and show no signs of mois­ture. And a tester insert­ed into the cen­ter should come out clean.
  12. Trans­fer the bread to a wire rack and allow it to cool for 15 to 20 min­utes before slicing.
 

Notes

* BUTTERMILK SUBSTITUTION: If you don’t have access to but­ter­milk, put 2 Table­spoons of Vine­gar in the bot­tom of your mea­sur­ing cup and add whole milk to make 1 3/4 cups of liquid.

**STORING SODA BREAD: Toss a clean tea tow­el over the loaf on your counter.  Soda bread is best eat­en the day it is baked.  My guess is you will nev­er have an issue mak­ing that hap­pen.   But, if you do have a slice or two left the next day, I have had the best luck with toast­ing the slices in the oven.

  • Prep Time: 8 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Cat­e­go­ry: Bread
  • Method: Bak­ing
  • Cui­sine: Irish Amer­i­can

More Delicious Quick Bread Recipes

Biscuits

biscuits on a plate with butter and honey
Easy 30-minute quick bread recipe!

Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread

chocolate swirl banana bread
Sweet deli­cious choco­late and banana are the stars of this quick bread recipe.

Cornbread

favorite sweet cornbread
Our dressed up corn­bread recipe is one of the tasti­est quick bread recipes you’ll ever get to eat.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Easy Sweet Pota­to Bis­cuits with Cin­na­mon But­ter. Delicious!

Alabama Pecanbread

A deli­cious quick bread loaf from Paula at Call Me PMc.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating