Irish Soda Bread
Searching for the best Irish soda bread recipe? Look no further! This authentic recipe comes straight from Ireland. So easy to make with just 4 ingredients.
I’m so excited March is finally here! It means I can finally start sharing all my best St. Patrick’s Day recipes!
Today’s is super-special, because as you may know, I just returned from a fabulous trip to Ireland, where I learned all about Irish baking, straight from the experts! I’m so thrilled to be sharing this authentic Irish soda bread recipe with you!
But today we are going more for that authentic Irish vibe, and this recipe couldn’t be more so.
I learned it at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork, Ireland. I have always wanted to go there, so it was truly a “pinch me” kind of moment! It really felt like a dream come true to learn real Irish baking from none other than Darina Allen herself. Such an incredible privilege!
She taught us that soda bread is so easy to make from just 4 simple ingredients, and it comes together in just a few minutes. If you’re craving homemade bread but you don’t have time for a big fuss, this is the recipe for you!
It bakes up crusty on the outside, with a soft, fluffy interior. The flavor is quite basic, but perfectly balanced.
You can jazz it up with interesting add-ins if you’d like (more on that later), but as it is it makes a perfect loaf that you’ll love to eat (with real Irish butter!) for breakfast or as an appetizer or side dish to your meal.
WHAT IS SODA BREAD?
Irish soda bread is an easy quick bread recipe that’s made with just 4 ingredients.
It’s much faster than most other bread recipes, because it does not contain any yeast. Soda bread is leavened with just baking soda, so you don’t have to wait a long time for it to rise.
You can whip up this homemade bread in less than an hour and have warm, freshly baked bread on the dinner table for your family in no time at all.
HOW TO MAKE AUTHENTIC IRISH SODA BREAD
To make this easy recipe, start by whisking flour, baking soda, and salt together in a big bowl.
Next, you’re going to add in buttermilk. The exact amount can vary based on the humidity in your kitchen on any given day, so you’ll want to start with a smaller amount and work your way up as needed.
I really think there isn’t any good substitute for real buttermilk in this recipe. If you search around, you’ll see that it’s possible to sour your own milk by adding lemon juice or white vinegar to regular milk, but in my experience that type of substitute only works well when there are lots of other ingredients (like in chocolate cake, for example). With a recipe as simple as this, where there are only 4 ingredients, I think the buttermilk takes on a lot more importance.
It’s definitely worth seeking out real buttermilk if you want to make this, and if you can get your hands on whole milk buttermilk, by all means do it. It’s thicker and richer tasting, and I can find it easily in the dairy section of my regular local supermarket.
Once you’ve added about 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk, begin mixing the dough with your clean hands. This is the way we were taught by the chefs at Ballymaloe! They taught us to make a “claw” with our fingers and mix the dough gently by hand.
You can get a better idea of what this looks like by viewing the video in the recipe card below.
If your dough seems really dry, add more buttermilk, a little at a time, until it gathers into a big, sticky ball.
Clean your hands and transfer the dough to a baking sheet.
Then dust your hands with flour and pat the dough into a circle that’s about 1 1/2-inches thick.
Flour the blade of your knife, and score the bread in a criss-cross pattern. This is traditional for Irish soda bread! It helps the loaf to rise evenly in the oven.
Last but not least, use the tip of your knife to puncture a slit in each of the 4 quarters. This is so important! My teacher at Ballymaloe explained that you have to do this in order to let the faeries out!
Bake the bread at a very high temperature initially (450 degrees F; this is not a typo!), then turn the oven down and finish baking at a slightly lower temp. This will really help the bread to rise nice and fluffy!
You’ll know your soda bread is done baking when it’s golden and crusty, and it makes a hollow sound when you tap it with the tips of your fingers.
HOW TO SERVE IT
There is truly nothing better than warm bread, fresh from the oven! Feel free to cut into this bread straight away.
I like it just as-is, smeared with imported Irish butter (it truly is worlds better!), and maybe a little homemade jam.
- Raisins, dried currants, or sultanas (aka: golden raisins)
- Shredded cheese (a sharp Irish cheddar would be especially nice)
- Herbs, such as chives, rosemary, or thyme
- Roasted garlic or caramelized onions
- Nuts and/or seeds, such as pistachios, walnuts, caraway seeds, or sunflower seeds
Really you could get as creative as you’d like!
IS SODA BREAD HEALTHY?
There’s lots of specific info in the recipe card below, but I can tell you that it is not gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, or vegan.
However it is vegetarian and egg-free, and it does not have any yeast.
And just to clear up any possible confusion, this is not the same as sourdough bread.
CAN THIS BE MADE AHEAD?
While this bread can certainly be made a few days ahead, you probably won’t need to do that since it’s so quick to make.
But if you’re really pinched for time, it will keep for about 4 to 5 days at room temperature. Just be sure to wrap it tightly so it doesn’t become stale or dried out.
Irish soda bread can be re-warmed in a low oven (170 degrees F). Wrap it in foil first, and heat it gently until it’s warmed through.
CAN YOU FREEZE IRISH SODA BREAD
Wrap this loaf up tightly in plastic wrap, then slip it into a freezer bag. It will last in the freezer for several months. Just thaw it at room temperature, and re-warm it as noted above.
If you’d like to see more of what I experienced on my recent trip to Ireland, check out the “Ireland” highlight on my Instagram!
And be sure to enter Williams Sonoma’s sweepstakes to win an Ireland trip of your own! Here’s the link: FREE Trip to Ireland.
Also if you happen to be in the Philadelphia area, I’d love to see you at the Authentic Ireland Cooking Class I’m teaching this weekend! Here’s where to register: Irish Baking Class.
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Irish Soda Bread
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Place the flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add about 1 1/4 cups of the buttermilk to the flour mixture, working it into a shaggy dough with clean hands.
- If the dough seems too dry, add more buttermilk until a sticky dough is formed.
- Knead the dough a few times (being careful not to overwork it), then transfer it to a baking sheet and pat it to a thickness of about 1 1/2-inches.
- Score the dough in a criss-cross pattern with a floured knife, and puncture each of the 4 quarters with the tip of the knife.
- Bake the soda bread for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees and bake for another 25 minutes.
- Turn the bread upside down and continue to bake at 400 degrees for another 5 minutes.
- Tap the loaf with your fingertips- it should make a hollow sound and be golden brown and crusty.