Irish Soda Bread

It appears everyone has their favorite Irish soda bread recipe. Some with caraway seeds, some with raisins, some with both, some with neither. The essential ingredients in a traditional Irish soda bread are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The acid in buttermilk reacts with the base of the baking soda to provide the bread’s leavening.

Irish Soda Bread

This soda bread is a slightly fancied up Americanized version of the Irish classic, with a little butter, sugar, an egg, and some currants or raisins added to the base. You can bake it in a cast iron frying pan (now that’s traditional!) or an a regular baking sheet.

You can also make a simpler version without eggs or currants, but with some caraway seeds, or you could turn your soda bread dough into biscuits.

Soda bread dries out quickly so is only good for a day or two. It is best eaten freshly baked and warm or toasted.

Irish Soda Bread

Updated from the archives, first posted 2007.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Makes one loaf


  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup currants or raisins
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk


1 Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.

2 Using your (clean) fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then add in the currants or raisins.

3 Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir. Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add in a little more flour. Do not over-knead!

irish-soda-bread-method-600-2 irish-soda-bread-method-600-3

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. Note that the dough will be a little sticky, and quite shaggy (a little like a shortcake biscuit dough). You want to work it just enough so that the flour is just moistened and the dough just barely comes together. Shaggy is good. If you over-knead, the bread will end up tough.

irish-soda-bread-method-600-4 irish-soda-bread-method-600-5

4 Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a baking sheet (it will flatten out a bit in the pan or on the baking sheet). Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about an inch and a half deep in an "X" shape. The purpose of the scoring is to help heat get into the center of the dough while it cooks. Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes. (If you use a cast iron pan, it may take a little longer as it takes longer for the pan to heat up than a baking sheet.) Check for doneness also by inserting a long, thin skewer into the center. If it comes out clean, it's done.

Hint 1: If the top is getting too dark while baking, tent the bread with some aluminum foil.

Hint 2: If you use a cast iron skillet to cook the bread in the oven, be very careful when you take the pan out. It's easy to forget that the handle is extremely hot. Cool the handle with an ice cube, or put a pot holder over it.

Remove pan or sheet from oven, let bread sit in the pan or on the sheet for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool briefly. Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted. Best when eaten warm and just baked.

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Adapted from Saveur Magazine.


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Showing 4 of 99 Comments

  • kris

    Hi Elise,

    First, let me say that I love your blog.

    I would love to try this bread, but where I live buttermilk is quite hard to find. any suggestions for a good substitute? I don’t like substituting ingredients but in cases like this, I have no choice.

    Thanks a lot!

  • Renee

    Because of the sugar, eggs and raisins this is more of a cake than a soda bread. My granda used to make simply a bread and it was something they made almost daily for meal, not sweet at all – flour, salt, soda, sour milk.

  • Peggasus

    Kris, if I don’t have buttermilk I use an old trick my mother taught me: add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk and let it sit for a few minutes. Instant buttermilk! It works great in recipes.

    And because I can’t usually use a carton of butttermilk before it goes bad, I found a dry, cultured buttermilk powder in the baking aisle of the grocery store that can be added to recipes. The brand name is SaCo, and it’s one of those things that’s usually on the bottom shelves.

  • jspin77

    My 100% Irish wife will tell you that this is certainly not Irish Soda Bread. However, this is pretty close to what she makes and calls soda bread. She has no problem with the fact that it is not traditional. However, when she makes it for her off-the-boat irish, they all ask her for her “cake”.

    By definition, this recipe is cake, hence the sugar and eggs. However, once you move past that fact, people LOVE this stuff.

    Traditional soda bread looks terrible to me!

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