Irish soda bread is a no yeast bread that's hearty yet soft with an incredible crusty exterior. This easy quick bread is ready in 45 minutes!
Traditional Irish soda bread is made with baking soda and buttermilk as the leavening agents, which makes it a quick bread. It can include raisins and currants, or left plain as I prefer. Slice and toast it with a slab of butter, or dip it in your favorite soup. You will love how easy it is to make this delicious bread!
We like to make Irish soda bread as a celebration for Saint Patrick's Day, but did you know the method was first created by Native Americans? The Irish then discovered the chemical reaction of baking soda (hence the name) to leaven their bread during the mid-1800s when hard times hit and yeast was unavailable. This popularized soda bread and became a tradition.
Because Irish soda bread requires very few ingredients and little equipment, it was the perfect recipe for the lower-class people of Ireland during their darkest times. It was filling for them and accessible to cook in cast iron pans over an open hearth.
4 Ingredient Irish Soda Bread Recipe
(full printable recipe at end of this post)
I like to focus on recipes with simple and accessible ingredients from the grocery store or already in your pantry. Below are the ingredients to make this soda bread.
Here's what you need:
- Flour - Use all purpose flour for this recipe.
- Salt - Regular table salt does the trick.
- Baking soda - This mixes with the buttermilk to create the rise.
- Buttermilk - Reacts with the baking soda to leaven the bread and adds flavor.
Soda breads can include extra add ins such as raisins, nuts, or herbs, but I chose to keep mine plain. You can really taste the buttermilk, almost giving a biscuit sort of flavor and texture. It's pretty dense and very filling.
Scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the step-by-step instructions on how to make soda bread. The general steps are as follows:
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Sprinkle flour on baking sheet, baking stone, or cast iron skillet; set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
- Add buttermilk and use wooden spoon to stir until the dough comes together.
- Transfer dough to a floured surface and gently knead for 30 seconds.
- Using floured hands, form dough into a round loaf and place on prepared baking surface.
- Use a sharp knife to score a cross on the top of the loaf.
- Bake 20 minutes, reduce temperature to 400°F and bake an additional 20 minutes, until golden and crusty.
Dough: To keep the bread soft, be careful not to over work the dough.
Crust: The crust for soda bread will be crispy and golden brown, but if you notice it's browning too quickly you can loosely cover with foil.
Buttermilk: This recipe is best with real buttermilk, but in a pinch you can substitute it by souring regular milk with a tablespoon of white vinegar.
Baking pan: I like to use my cast iron skillet to bake this Irish soda bread, but you can use any large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or seasoned baking stone.
Egg: You can add an egg to the mix for a richer and more dense bread. I like a lighter loaf, so I leave it out.
- Slice bread and serve with a slab of butter or jam.
- Cut into cubes and toast into croutons for split pea soup.
- Serve to dip in to a hearty stew.
- Stir in caraway seeds, raisins, currants, or orange zest into the flour mixture for more variations.
Storage and Leftovers
Store: Irish soda bread is only good for a couple of days. Store it tightly covered on the counter for up to 2 days.
Freeze: After its cooled to room temperature, you can freeze it by tightly wrapping in plastic wrap, then a freezer bag and storing in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Baking this soda bread for Saint Patrick's Day? Then you may like to try these:
Made this recipe? Leave a star rating and tag me on Instagram @seededtable so I can see. I love hearing from you!
This article was originally published March 16, 2010 and updated March 3, 2022.
Irish Soda Bread
- 3 ¼ cups flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 12 ounces buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Sprinkle flour onto the center of a cast iron skillet or baking stone, or line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in all of the buttermilk at once. Use a wooden spoon to gently mix until a dough forms. Transfer dough to a clean floured surface.
- With floured hands, gently roll out dough just enough to tidy it up. Flip the dough over and carefully round the dough to about 1 ½ inches deep. Place on prepared baking pan.
- Using a sharp knife, score a deep cross in the round loaf, making sure to let the cuts go over the sides of the bread.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then without opening the oven, reduce heat to 400°F and let bake for another 20 minutes, or until golden brown. The bread is cooked with it lets a hollow sound while tapping. Cool on wire rack.