Classic Irish Soda Bread

For many people living in the United States, when they hear the words Irish soda bread many think of a sweet bread dotted with raisins and caraway seeds. While the American-Style Soda Bread is delicious, it is not the traditional Irish soda bread. The traditional bread only includes four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The “soda” in the name comes from the use of baking soda to leaven the bread instead of yeast and kneading. This bread is very easy to make, but it does take a light touch. You want to use a minimum amount of handling, only mixing it until the ingredients come together. The more you handle the dough, the tougher the bread will be. If you want your bread to be even more “authentic”, bake in it a cast-iron pan. The cast iron pan gives the soda bread a golden crust that’s thin and crisp, with a bit of a chew. Serve warm topped with butter or jam.

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Classic Irish Soda Bread

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  • 3 cups bleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons table salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (2 tablespoons softened + 1 tablespoon melted for crust)
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or line a baking sheet or cast-iron pot with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Using your fingertips, work two tablespoons of softened butter into the dry ingredients until texture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork just until dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a flour-coated work surface and knead just until loose flour gets incorporated, about 12 to 14 turns; do not overknead.
  4. Pat dough into a 6 inch diameter round about 2 inches high; place on prepared baking sheet or cast-iron pot. Using small sharp knife dipped into flour, cut 1/2-inch-deep cross into the top of the dough.
  5. Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of loaf comes out clean or internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with 1 tablespoon of melted butter; Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Yields: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, March 1997

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10 Responses to Classic Irish Soda Bread

  1. When I lived in Ireland, they made soda bread out of oatmeal and brown flour, sour milk and soda. They probably put salt in it, but it always had oats in it.

  2. Butterfly buttermilk? I’m in!

  3. This looks like the best version of soda bread I’ve seen. Thanks!

  4. ChgoJohn says:

    Sounds great and your bread looks delicious! (BTW, That’s how you butter bread!)

  5. Oh I am so going to be in trouble now! Yum!

  6. Thanks for the education. Now I know what REAL Irish soda bread is. And, I like your real version better than the raisin kind (I happen to hate raisins in baked goods). This look easy and yummy. I’ll give this a try on the 17th!

  7. The Teenage Taste says:

    Classic irish soda bread is the best! I am not a fan of the caraway seed and raisin-laden kind anyways! 🙂

  8. I love Irish soda bread.. I guess it’s my Irish ancestry! Beautifully made today!

  9. fransfavs says:

    I must try this–you can’t go wrong with a Cook’s Illustrated recipe! I made a non-sweet version using the aforementioned raisins and caraway seeds. It makes fabulous toast!

  10. I love soda bread too – and the cross in the top is to let the naughty little fairies out!

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