Irish Brown Bread (With Yeast)

You'll love this hearty, wheaty Irish brown bread! Leavened with yeast, it's made with 100% whole-wheat flour and flecked with wheat bran. Toast a slice and spread it thickly with good Irish butter.

Irish Brown Bread recipe
Sally Vargas

My grandfather was born and raised in Ireland. Although he died before I was born, his Irish roots run deep in our family. My father and uncles made regular trips to the old country to visit relatives and returned with plenty of amusing stories to tell.

In time, I made several journeys back to Ireland myself and developed a decided kinship to the land of my forefathers. Like every traveler, I was introduced to the full Irish breakfast accompanied by slices of brown bread slathered in thick slabs of butter.

I aspired to master the art of the Irish loaf, and this year for St. Patrick's day, I'd like to share the results with you!

Irish Brown Bread in bread pan
Sally Vargas

What Does Irish Brown Bread Taste Like?

It's a bit tricky to get a high, well-risen loaf out of bread that is made of 100 percent whole-wheat flour.

Normally, when water and white flour are mixed and worked together, strands of gluten develop, which give bread the muscle to rise. However, whole-grain flour contains bran, which cuts into these strands.

This translates into a rather flat, slightly crumbly loaf. In fact, this bread will hardly rise at all in the oven, so what you see before you bake it is what you get.

The trade-off is the full, sweet, nutty taste of unadulterated whole wheat, which is enhanced when the bread is toasted.

Irish Brown Bread sliced
Sally Vargas

The Best Flour for Irish Brown Bread

Note that Irish flour is more coarsely ground than most American brands. To more closely approximate a true Irish loaf, I use stone-ground flour and add extra wheat bran, both of which are available through Bob's Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills. You could also order King Arthur's Irish-style flour from their catalog.

The traditional method of making this bread—brief kneading and a single rising—makes sense in this context. It also simplifies the job of the baker.

Don't skip the final step of turning the loaf out of the pan and setting it directly on the oven rack to bake for a few minutes longer. This ensures you will obtain the characteristic thick crust that is the hallmark of this bread.

how to serve Irish Brown Bread
Sally Vargas

I often make two small loaves because they can be sliced thinly and served in place of crackers for an appetizer—the perfect accompaniment to smoked salmon, fish pate, or bold cheddar.

In full disclosure, when we children were young, St. Patrick's Day was usually celebrated with garish green-iced cupcakes (and if we were lucky, the sight of my nana doing an Irish jig). These days, I'd much prefer a slice of this Irish brown bread.

Irish Brown Bread With Soda vs. Yeast

There are really two types of Irish brown bread: one that's leavened with baking soda, and the other (this one) that's leavened with yeast. Both are on the dense side (in the best of ways), and both are packed with whole-wheat flour.

If you're looking for brown bread leavened with baking soda, this one is a little closer.

More Yeast Bread Recipes to Make!

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Irish Brown Bread (With Yeast)

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Servings 9 slices
Yield 2 small loaves

Look for bran and stone-ground whole-wheat flour with the specialty flours in the baking section of your grocery store. Two good brands are Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills.


  • Vegetable oil spray, for the loaf pan

  • 1 1/2 cups (350g) warm water (about 100°F)

  • 2 tablespoons milk

  • 2 tablespoons molasses

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (slightly less than 1 package)

  • 1/2 cup (25g) wheat bran, plus more for sprinkling

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 3 1/2 cups (450g) stoneground whole-wheat flour, divided

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil


  1. Prepare the pan(s):

    Generously spray a 9-inch loaf pan (or two 8 x 3 3/4-inch loaf pans—disposable aluminum pans are the perfect size) with nonstick spray.

  2. Mix and knead the dough by hand:

    In a large bowl, stir the warm water, milk, molasses, and yeast together and let stand until the mixture starts to bubble, about 5 minutes. Add the wheat bran, salt, butter, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon in the same direction for 1 minute.

    Add enough of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is difficult to stir with a wooden spoon and pulls away from the side of the bowl.

    Using one hand to hold the bowl, use your other hand to knead the dough in the bowl for a minute or two. The dough will stick to your hands but should pull away from the side of the bowl after about a minute. If necessary, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. While the dough will be damp, it should not feel muddy.

    Alternatively, mix with a stand mixer on medium speed with the paddle attachment, beating for about 1 minute until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

    Ingredients for Irish Brown Bread

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    Irish Brown Bread flour

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    Irish Brown Bread dough

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  3. Shape the loaf:

    On a lightly floured work surface, pat the dough into an oval shape approximately 9 inches long with the long side of the oval parallel to the edge of the work surface. Starting with the long side closest to you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam closed.

    Flip the loaf over, so it's seam-side down. Tuck the ends under so the loaf is uniform and even. Place the dough in the pan with the seam-side down.

    (To make 2 small loaves, divide the dough in half and shape as above, making the oval 7 inches long.)

    How to shape Irish Brown Bread

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    Irish Brown Bread

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

    Irish Brown Bread dough sprinkled with bran

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  4. Let the dough rise:

    Drizzle the vegetable oil on top of the dough and smooth it over the dough as you pat it into the corners of the pan. Sprinkle with extra bran, if you like. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough rises about 1 inch above the top of the pan,

  5. Preheat the oven:

    About 20 minutes before the loaf is ready to be baked, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 400°F.

  6. Bake the loaf:

    Place the loaf in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375°F. Bake for 35 minutes for a large loaf, or 25 to 30 minutes for 2 small loaves, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

    Color of perfect baked Irish Brown Bread

    Simply Recipes / Sally Vargas

  7. Harden the crust:

    Remove the bread from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan. Place it directly on the oven rack and continue to bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the crust browns.

  8. Cool the loaf:

    Remove and set on a wire rack to cool. When thoroughly cool, store the loaves in plastic bags.

    The bread is best eaten on the day it’s made, but after a day or two, it is still good toasted for breakfast or tea. Well-wrapped in plastic and then foil, the bread may be stored in the freezer for up to a month.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
235 Calories
6g Fat
42g Carbs
8g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 9
Amount per serving
Calories 235
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 7mg 2%
Sodium 286mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 42g 15%
Dietary Fiber 7g 24%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 35mg 3%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 297mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.