A thick slice of Traditional Irish Soda Bread, a generous smear of butter, and a cup of strong tea makes almost everything better. Buttermilk and baking soda are the magic ingredients in this fabulous yeast-free bread that needs no time to rise, and gets gobbled up fast.
You’re going to be seriously surprised at how quickly this loaf of Irish soda bread comes together. No yeast to wait on, no punching down, nada. Just an excellent loaf of bread that you can make in about an hour.
Most authentic Irish soda bread recipes don’t call for caraway seeds, orange zest, raisins, or currants, but I’m a firm believer in making something as delicious as possible. That’s why go one step further and add an egg and the smallest amount of butter to make the loaf moist and irresistible from start to finish.
My recipe calls for orange zest and currants, but if another ingredient sounds like it would be incredible in this bread, go ahead and try it. This bread is so good, it will be gone in a day or so, no matter what, and you’ll have to make another loaf tomorrow.
You can try a different mix-in with each loaf you bake, and soon enough you’ll have your own heritage Irish soda bread recipe best suited to hand down to your kids.
Oh, and one more thing! Depending on how closely you intend on adhering to Irish soda bread tradition, I provide all sorts of ways to change it up: variations for Irish brown bread, savory Irish soda bread, sweet Irish soda bread, and even a gluten-free version of Irish soda bread.
Making Traditional Irish Soda Bread to feed an army of ravenous bagpipers? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What are Traditional Irish Soda Bread Ingredients in this recipe?
- Baking soda
- Orange zest and currants (optional)
Some Irish Soda Bread History:
This quick bread was made from the simplest ingredients by poor people from every region of Ireland, as far back as the 1830s when bicarbonate of soda was first introduced to the country. Soured milk helped activate the soda in the bread to give it a dense texture and crusty exterior
The cross that is cut into the top of each loaf before baking was originally done so to ward off evil. Just another way this bread makes everything better.
What can you add to Irish Soda Bread?
Absolutely authentic Irish soda bread usually contains no fancy additives—it’s generally a sparse loaf that is enjoyed as-is with Irish stew.
However, instead of the orange zest and currants, you could add:
- Caraway seeds
- Rye seeds
- Golden raisins
- Lemon zest
- Fresh herbs
- Grated cheese
I feel like I’ve said this a million times, but with a lot of great recipes like this one, there’s no wrong ingredient to add to this bread, as long as it sounds good to you.
Why do they call it soda bread?
It’s because the dough uses baking soda as a leavening agent, instead of yeast. The ingredients of original soda bread are flour, bread soda, salt, and buttermilk. The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide.
How to make Brown Irish soda bread:
- Substitute whole-wheat flour for part, or all, of the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe.
- Add caraway seeds (if you want to).
How to make savory Irish soda bread
- Omit the sugar from the recipe.
- Add caraway seeds (if you want to).
How to make sweet Irish Soda Bread
- Keep the sugar in the recipe.
- Add raisins or currants.
Gluten-free Irish Soda bread
- 3 cups gluten-free flour
- 3/4 cups oat flour (to make oat flour, whirl about a cup of gluten-free rolled oats in the food processor for 30-60 seconds until a coarse powder)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- salt, butter, and buttermilk as written
- 1 egg
Mix dry ingredients together until blended, and follow recipe instructions. Bake as written.
How to make buttermilk and common buttermilk substitutions:
If you’re searching for how to make Traditional Irish Soda Bread without Buttermilk, because you have a dairy allergy or just because you simply forgot to buy it at the store, I got you covered. There are several good things to use instead of buttermilk, and I’ll show you how to make buttermilk, too.
How to make cream of tartar buttermilk: Mix together 1 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1 cup full-fat milk. Let stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes until curdled. Stir.
Don’t have cream of tartar, either? That’s okay!
How to make lemon juice buttermilk: Pour 1 cup full-fat milk into a glass bowl. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar into the milk. Stir to combine. Use in place of buttermilk in the recipe.
How to make non-dairy buttermilk: If you are dairy allergic/intolerant, this recipe turns out well using “clabbered” soymilk or nutmilk as a substitute for the buttermilk. Mix together 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup soy or nut milk. Stir and it will separate a bit and get thick.
Other good substitutes:
Yogurt buttermilk substitute: 2-4 tablespoons of full-fat milk plus enough plain yogurt to equal one cup. Depending on the thickness of the yogurt you have, you’ll have to thin it out with milk a little more.
Sour cream buttermilk substitute: Much like the yogurt substitute above, it’s all about getting a buttermilk-like consistency. 3-4 tablespoons of full-fat milk plus enough sour cream to equal one cup.
Powdered buttermilk substitute: Buttermilk powder is buttermilk that has been pasteurized, concentrated, and then dried to produce a powder that’s easy to store in the pantry. The instructions on most store-bought buttermilk powder tell you to combine 1 cup water with 1/4 cup powder to make 1 cup of fresh buttermilk.
How do you eat Irish Soda Bread?
I love a big slice alongside a bowl of Guinness Stew, one of my favorite beef and beer stews. You can also enjoy this bread sliced and toasted with salted Irish butter. Would it be overkill to eat it with a spoonful of Orange Marmalade? Probably not. However you choose to enjoy Irish soda bread, I hope it brightens your day as much as it does mine.
What are the calories in Irish Soda Bread?
Thought you’d never ask. One slice is 158 calories. See the nutritional information below the recipe for more details.
Traditional Irish Soda Bread Recipe
- 4 cup all-purpose flour plus extra
- 4 tablespoons sugar see notes
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter cold and cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1 3/4 cups buttermilk cold
- 1 extra-large egg lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1 cup dried currants
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add butter and mix on low speed until butter is mixed into the flour.
- With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With mixer on low speed, slowly add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture.
- In a small bowl, mix currants with 1 tablespoon of flour, then mix into the dough. Dough will be very wet.
- Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with serrated knife.
- Bake for 45- 55 minutes, or until a toothpick or wooden skewer comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow "thump" sound. Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.