Irish Brown Bread

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, both of which can also be ordered online.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves


  • 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 one package)
  • 1/2 cup (25 grams) coarse wheat bran, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups (450g) stoneground whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil


1 Prepare the pan(s): Generously spray a 9-inch loaf pan (or two 8 by 3 3/4-inch loaf pans—disposable aluminum pans are the perfect size) with non-stick 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.

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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.)

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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 Heat 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.

Irish Brown Bread

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.

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  • Monica

    Help! My bread rose like it should have, but it fell when I put it in the oven and baked it. Suggestions?


  • John

    This recipe is probably grand but it really a much simpler process. The original Irish Brown Bread is, 2 cups Brown Flour 1 cup White Flour (organic if possible) 1 teaspoon bread soda and 1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk (organic if possible) Mix flour and bread soda thru a sieve to a bowl then mix together with the buttermilk add a wee bit flour if needed. Place on a pizza stone sprinkled with maize meal to prevent sticking bake for 40 to 50 minutes (you will know) until baked.

  • Gina

    This was delicious! Very hearty and filling. I was skeptical of using a 9×5 pan, since I find it makes my yeast breads grow out, not up, and so I used my usual 8.5×4.5 and it turned out perfectly.


  • Judy

    When I was in Ireland in 2014, I ate McCloskey’s Cottage Brown Bread every day. It was sold, already sliced, in a cardboard tray covered with plastic, and I would walk to SuperValu every other day to buy a loaf. It looks much like this loaf. It’s not the same as the rustic Irish soda bread that so many Irish people make at home. I couldn’t get enough of it. Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cooking School also serves this loaf-type brown bread every day for the residents of the school. I actually brought several loaves of the Cottage Brown Bread home with me and put it in the freezer. It lasted quite a while. I’m going to try this loaf, Sally. I know the instructions (both yours and the Ballymaloe version) say to bake on the oven rack for the final few minutes, but I find that the crust is too hard that way. Slathered in Kerrygold butter, there just isn’t much better than this bread. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. This O’Brien gal is all about tasty, wholesome food, and this certainly fits that description.

  • Angela Lawton

    Hi I love your site and use many if your recipes. However this is not a bread we make here in Ireland . The irish brown bread is a ‘peasent’ dish so they would never have used yeast – too hard to get and expensive! The soda bread we make daily is very very easy to make and does rise with use of the baking soda and bicarbonate.( Sorry don’t know the US equivalent ) My American cousins make it with standard flour – and sour milk! Happy St Patrick’s Day tomorrow.

    • Sally

      HI Angela, I realize this isn’t the familiar, traditional brown bread that uses baking soda as leavening–maybe I should have called it something else, but it is something I had several times in Ireland. I love its hard crust and nutty flavor. Anyway I was inspired to figure out how to make it myself. It really is unlike any bread we make here in the US. , and I love the simplicity of it. I thought I’d try to offer something a little different, since I know Elise has a recipe for soda bread already on the site. Thanks so much for your input! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you, too!

  • robert canny

    My Aunt came to visit from Ireland in 1990 and tried to make her brown bread. The right flour was not available at the time. Without the right coarse wheat or bran flour the brown bread will be a disaster.

  • Anne Marie

    Sally, I loved the brown bread I had on my travels to Ireland. Will definitely be trying this recipe. If I use the King Arthur Irish Style flour which I try to keep on hand in my freezer, would I still add the bran? When you turn the bread out of pan and put loaf back into oven directly onto the rack, does the loaf go upside down or right side up? I ask because I have seen several recipes where it goes upside down. Thanks again for the recipe! Anne

    • Sally

      Thanks for writing, Anne Marie. The traditional Irish brown bread is made with baking soda (see comments!!), but I did have this bread made with yeast in Ireland several times, and loved it! If you use Irish Style flour you shouldn’t need the bran–I haven’t actually tried it with that flour in a few years. As I recall, it is not as dense as American whole grain flour and therefore should work without the addition of bran. I hope you make it and enjoy it!!

      As for the oven question, I don’t think it matters how you position the bread. I usually place it right side up, just in case the upside down position makes marks on the top of the bread. The whole idea is to brown and dry crust on the bottom and sides of the pan with the hot air circulating all around, and unencumbered by the pan! Happy St.. Paddy’s Day to you.! Sally

  • Renee Mills

    Oooooooh! My mouth is watering as I’m reading this! I love a good brown bread, and since I’m part Irish, I’m especially partial to this type.

  • Sionan

    Looks like lovely whole wheat bread but it’s not Irish brown bread. True Irish brown bread is a whole wheat soda bread. I plan to try this recipe, but it is not wheaten bread or Irish brown bread.

    • Sally

      Hi Sionan,
      Of course, brown soda bread is the most common brown bread in Ireland, but for a change I thought I’d offer this one, which I also had frequently. Either way, the bread is wholesome and tasty! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  • Kris

    With so much butter. The breakfast in Ireland was a highlight everywhere we went. I will try baking this.

  • Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet

    This bread looks fantastic! I wish I had a slice right now.

  • joanne

    When I visited my friend living in Dublin, the two of us would finish a whole loaf of Brown Bread with room temp cheddar while talking. Wonderful memories–I’m going to bake this!!!!

  • Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today

    I love the picture in a form, the bread looks amazing in it.

  • Malika A. Black

    This bread is great for breakfast with a little butter or for sandwiches!

    Healthier than store bought whole wheat breads that have tens of ingredients, who knows what they are for ? Great recipe Sally, thank you!

  • Sarah

    Is that goat butter in the photo? It’s very pale. You need some Kerrygold on there!

    • Sally

      No not goat butter :) It’s just plain unsalted butter. I agree, Kerrygold salted butter would be the very best.

  • Elise Bauer

    Sally, when I visited Ireland I couldn’t get enough of the brown bread for breakfast. Thank you so much for putting together this recipe! I can’t wait to make it.

    • Sally

      Thanks, Elise. I am going to make it tomorrow morning–I keep forgetting how easy and good it is!