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Traditional Brown Irish Soda Bread

Traditional Brown Irish Soda Bread is a classic quick bread that has stood the test of time. It’s simple and quick to make, perfect for Irish stew or Dublin Coddle… or daily baking. Containing only 4 ingredients, it’s a healthy and authentic way to enjoy Irish food.

Sliced Brown Irish Soda Bread on a Round Wood Board

When I mentioned that Brown Irish Soda Bread has stood the test of time. I meant that, literally. The first recorded version of this bread appeared more than 185 years ago.

And it’s a classic bread I never celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without.

While food trends come and go and appetites change, one should always save room for classic traditions. Much like Irish Brown Bread.

“I think for a while Irish people were seduced by the lushness of white yeast breads,” says Emer Fallon, a County Kerry Irish chef, “but there’s been a huge swing back to our own native brown soda bread.”

For after all, in some parts of the world, “long walks end in buttered brown bread and huge mugs of tea.”

And whether you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or simply baking bread for a family meal, a traditional brown Irish soda bread is always a perfect accompaniment.

If you like your soda bread a bit sweeter and softer, you might want to try my Irish Soda Bread with Buttermilk and Raisins. While this authentic recipe is my favorite, I often get requests for the other from the kids, and some grownups at my house.

Origins of Brown Irish Soda Bread

The first recorded recipe of Soda Bread came in November of 1836 from the London Farmer’s Magazine, referencing an article found in County Down’s Newry Telegraph of the same. It read:

“A correspondent of the Newry Telegraph gives the following receipt for making ‘soda bread,’ stating that ‘there is no bread to be had equal to it for invigorating the body, promoting digestion, strengthening the stomach, and improving the state of the bowels’.”

Then he instructs readers on how to make soda bread:

Put a pound and a half of good wheaten meal into a large bowl, mix with it two teaspoonfuls of finely-powdered salt, then take a large teaspoonful of super-carbonate of soda, dissolve it in half a teacupful of cold water, and add it to the meal.

Rub up all intimately together, then pour into the bowl as much very sour buttermilk as will make the whole into soft dough (it should be as soft as could possibly be handled, and the softer the better,).

Form it into a cake of about an inch thickness, and put it into a flat Dutch oven or frying-pan, with some metallic cover, such as an oven-lid or griddle.

Apply a moderate heat underneath for twenty minutes, then lay some clear live coals upon the lid, and keep it so for half an hour longer (the under heat being allowed to fall off gradually for the last fifteen minutes,) taking off the cover occasionally to see that it does not burn.

This is a rustically simple yet authentic recipe for Brown Irish Soda Bread I like to bake in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (affiliate link).

Brown Irish Soda Bread Ingredients

These simple, humble ingredients are authentically similar to the original recipe of 1836. The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Stone-ground whole wheat flour
  • Buttermilk
  • Baking soda
  • Salt

Tips for making Brown Irish Soda Bread

  • The dough should be moist and a little sticky. Add additional buttermilk if needed. Be careful not to overmix the dough. Handle it gently until it just comes together. You do not knead this bread.
  • Buttermilk is necessary in this recipe – don’t skip it! If you need to make your own, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to a measuring cup and add buttermilk to reach 2 cups. Stir and let sit about 5 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.
  • When making the cross in the dough, make the cuts rather deep and gently pull the sides of the cut away from eachother, especially in the center. This will help the bread bake evenly. Plus… it’s pretty too!
  • Serve immediately. This bread is best when it’s warm from the oven. Leftovers are good toasted with butter.

More Irish Recipes You May Also Enjoy

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Closeup view of Brown Irish Soda Bread
Sliced Brown Irish Soda Bread on a Round Wood Board

Traditional Brown Irish Soda Bread

Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Traditional Brown Irish Soda Bread is a classic quick bread that has stood the test of time. It's simple and quick to make, perfect for Irish stew or Dublin Coddle... or daily baking. Containing only 4 ingredients, it's a healthy and authentic way to enjoy Irish food.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine dry ingredients and then add the buttermilk all at once. Stir until just combined. This will be a soft and sticky dough. Flour your hands and shape into a dome-shaped loaf and place in a skillet.
  3. Before slipping the bread into a preheated oven, be sure to cut a cross shape, about 1/2-inch deep, with a sharp knife on the top of the loaf. St. Patrick himself was known to make this bread and while there is differing symbolism attached to the sign of that cross, I choose to believe it symbolic of St. Patrick’s faith.
  4. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the cross has widened and the bread is golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Slice or wrap the loaf in a moist towel until ready to serve. Allow the loaf to completely cool before slicing.

Notes

Serve with quality Irish butter and homemade preserves if you have them!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 190Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 441mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 7g

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12 Comments

  1. Stephanie–
    If I were making multiple loaves, can I bake them at the same time, or should I bake them sequentially?
    –Wendy

    1. Hi Wendy! You should be able to bake multiple loaves at the same time providing they fit easily into the oven. I like to bake them on the same oven shelf and I do watch for even browning. Have fun!!

  2. Hi, recipe looks interesting and easy to make. Which part of the flour can I replace with wholewheat flour or spelt flour?

    1. Hi Judith, I’ve not tried this recipe using spelt flour. Although that is a great idea — and I’ve added it to my list. I like to keep the ratio as the recipe is written otherwise it can be a bit dry. Increasing the buttermilk may help, but I’ve not tested it yet!

  3. Hi Stephanie. Please excuse my dumb question, but is that 1 and 3/4 cups of all purpose flour and buttermilk, or 3/4 cups of each?

    1. Hi Molly! Weirdly, my 10-inch skillet is in use for another recipe so I just baked this bread 5 minutes ago ?. I domed the bread dough and placed it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Baked for 42 minutes in my oven. It’s an easy swap! Yum!

    1. Thanks, Ann for letting us know! I love that one too. In fact, it’s on my baking list once again next week!

  4. Really glad to see that your recipe doesn’t include sugar, which seems to be an ingredient in most American versions of soda bread recipes. No one in Ireland would ever add sugar to brown soda bread.

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