Traditional Irish soda breads

Traditional Irish brown bread, baking at its best.

Irish brown bread is as traditional as our music and dance. We all grew up on it and our mothers and grandmothers all baked.

 We teach it regularly in Kids Cook Cooking Club. Home-baking may have skipped a generation in Ireland, but I think the pandemic has brought it back. Baking and cooking from scratch has had a surge in popularity.

Making bread is one of the most relaxing, comforting activities you can do.

These two breads are so simple, and so tasty, served with warm with butter and jam. A classic!

Brown soda bread, also called Irish brown bread is known world-wide. The Irish hospitality industry gives tourists a taste for it, now you can make it yourself!

The slightly lesser-known Soda bread is a white non-yeast bread. I remember it mostly as what my gran-aunt made all the time. I like it with raisins as hers was, you can make without if you prefer!

Here is the recipe for  Irish brown bread

It is for a 2lb loaf tin and keeps well for a few days (if it lasts that long!)

– 170g plain flour

– 230g wholemeal flour

– 2 tsp of bread soda (bicarb of soda)

– 1 tsp of salt

– 1 tbsp olive oil

– 450mls buttermilk

– Handful sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

  1. Put all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and the milk. Mix everything until completely wet.
  2. Make sure you get all the dry flour at the bottom of the bowl, It will be a sloppy mixture. Don’t overmix or you will toughen up your bread.
  3. Grease your loaf tin with a bit of butter. Add a tablespoon of wholemeal flour into the tin and shake it around until the tin is coated in the flour. Shake out any excess. This will make sure that your bread will not stick to your tin!
  4. Empty the mixture into your tin. Scatter on sesame seeds if you are using them.
  5. Place in the oven for 40 minutes and then check to see if the bread is done. You are looking for a dark golden brown and a dry top.
  6. If you want to be sure, when you take it out of then tin, tap the bottom and if it sounds hollow the bread is ready. If it is not done, put it back into the oven without the tin for about 5 mins. It should be ok then!
  7. When it is finished, leave it sit in the tin for 5 minutes to relax and then turn it out onto a cooling rack.
  8. Leave to cool completely before slicing.

When I was small I used to eat this bread with jam and a slice of cheese on top! Not anymore, I love it with raspberry jam or honey and a cup of tea.

Here is the recipe for Soda Bread

  • 450g plain white flour
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 1 level teaspoon bread soda
  • About 450ml sour milk or butter milk
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 2 big handfuls of raisins (If you make it without these, you get a lovely plain soda bread)

Preheat the oven to 200ᵒ C

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl. Make a well in the centre.

Pour in all the milk at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Do not over stir or your bread will be tough!

The dough should be soft, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured, baking tray. It doesn’t matter if it looks a mess as it will bake well and all the little pointy bits will be crunchy!

Sprinkle over the caster sugar and cut a deep cross on the loaf. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, when it is cooked it will sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.

Tip – Soda breads are best eaten on the day they are made but are still good for a day or so more. Pop a slice in the toaster the next day or two.

I loved this when I was a kid, my gran-aunt always had it for us when we visited. She put raisins in hers, your choice really. Plain is just as good.  It’s funny because my mum made it too but I always associate it with my gran-aunt Annie.

If you are Irish living abroad and want to bring Ireland to your home, you can’t go wrong with either or both of these recipes. They are so simple and can be part of your family’s food memories.

Let me know if you try them and if so, who do they remind you of from your own childhood?

Another traditional Irish recipe is Beef and Guiness stew, for this recipe, click here.

Lisa x


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