This might be the easiest no-yeast homemade bread you’ll ever make. And so tasty! It’s ready in an hour and you can cut it warm and it won’t get all pasty as regular bread does. Eat it toasted with a slab of butter, with soups, stews, or simply plain, warm from the oven. The original recipe is from my Irish great-grandmother, and it was really a list of ingredients with no definite measurements. So yes, it took several attempts to get to what I wanted. But here it is, and it’s so good!
This is a bread I ate a lot growing up regularly, not just for St. Patrick's Day.
But, similar to the scones recipe my very Irish ascendant also used to make, nobody in the family has her recipe. So, being the nerd that I am, I set myself to recreate it.
Here is the result, a very easy recipe, and the tips to make your soda bread-making a breeze!
Why this recipe works:
- Easy: it’s ridiculous how easy this is if we take into account the result. A snap to prepare, really.
- Texture: for such a quick bread with no yeast the crumb is soft yet rustic at the same time with a nice crust.
- Ready in 1 hour: the longest part is the baking of course, but since it can be cut (and eaten!) while still warm, the time frame is considerably less than with regular yeast bread, like the Semolina Bread recipe for example.
- Flavorings: you can add herbs or spices (caraway seeds are very traditional) or even some grated cheese, depending on what you’ll using it for.
It takes only 4 very simple ingredients to make this recipe and they're all important.
- Baking soda: it’s called soda bread for a reason, which means this ingredient is absolutely essential and necessary to make the bread rise, so make sure it’s active and working. If in doubt put a half teaspoon in a little water. It should foam or bubble immediately. If it doesn't, buy fresh, and don't use the old for baking.
- Buttermilk: together with the baking soda they act as leavening agents. And also, it’s the acid ingredient that will counteract the metal flavor of the baking soda, it's a chemical reaction. If you use whole milk, for example, the bread will rise but the flavor will be more metallic. Trust me, I’ve done it years ago. Don't have buttermilk at home? Don't worry, a recipe for homemade buttermilk can be found in the Notes section of the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Flour: all-purpose or bread flour can be used. Flour compositions vary around the world, so sometimes I like to use some cake flour together with bread flour (about ¼ of the total amount) to give it a spongier texture.
- Salt: don’t forget it unless you actually like salt-free bread. I use kosher salt.
It's very easy to make this bread and you only need a bowl and a wooden spoon.
Have all ingredients measured and ready, and the oven on.
- Dry ingredients: sift the flour with salt and baking soda in a large bowl. It's important to sift the soda as it can be clumpy and won't dissolve during baking.
- Add the buttermilk to the flour mixture above, all at once.
- Mix with a wooden spoon just until it's all moistened. Don't over-mix or beat the mixture.
- Place the shaggy mass on a floured surface and sprinkle with extra flour.
- Fold it onto itself a couple of times until you have a round loaf that holds together but is not smooth or firm. This is important. If you work the dough much or add flour until it's firm, the bread will be hard and not very eatable. Watch the video below for guidance. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured baking sheet.
- Make a cross on top of the bread dough with a very sharp knife. It should not be very superficial but not go almost to the end of the dough. About ¾ of an inch deep is fine. Since the dough is wobbly, the cut will not be perfect and that is fine.
WATCH THE STEP-BY-STEP VIDEO 👇🏻
Baking soda bread
- Oven temperature: make sure the oven is preheated at the specified temperature (high temperature) in the recipe. This is important because it needs that first boost of heat to rise well.
- Color: it will bake to a wonderful golden brown. If the top is browning too quickly, cover it with a piece of aluminum foil and keep baking until it's done.
- When is the bread done? This traditional Irish soda bread needs to be fully baked inside, of course. So don't guide yourself only by the color of the crust, but carefully lift the center with a fork and check that there are no wet parts, similar to what I recommend when making a cobbler with a biscuit topping.
- Organization. Always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
- Baking time. Keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Ingredients. Don't substitute them, as they are all necessary to get the best results.
- Sift the baking soda. It tends to harden when stored and you will probably find clumps when you measure it. Sifting before adding them to the flour will make sure the baking soda is well integrated. This is very important so don't skip it.
- Don't overwork the dough. This is an important part as it doesn't need to be kneaded, simply formed into a loose ball. If you mix it or knead it a lot, it will develop the gluten that exists in the flour and will toughen the baked bread.
- Eat it the day it's baked. I strongly recommend this. This no-yeast bread hardens quickly. If you want to freeze it do so while still barely warm and wrap well in plastic first and then in foil. I highly recommend you slice it first so you can have individual toast any time you want.
- Flour mixture: you can use part whole-wheat flour (make sure it's superfine for best texture), about ⅓ of the total amount. I use all white flour (all-purpose or bread), but I know adding some whole wheat is also traditional with this type of bread.
Frequently asked questions
It uses baking soda and buttermilk (which is acid) as leavening agents, different from breads that use yeast to rise. The result is a rustic yet surprisingly tender crumb.
It's a simple flavor, not too complex, a cross between a biscuit and a country bread, especially with the recipe posted here that only has four ingredients.
Well, it is in the sense that it has been eaten in Ireland tables for centuries, and is a staple in that country. But it didn't originate in Ireland from the information I could gather.
This is a bread meant to be eaten with butter and/or jam at breakfast or in the afternoon, or with soups and stews if eaten during meals. It's better as a complement to other dishes than plain on its own. And warm, freshly baked is always the best way.
It's best eaten the day it's baked, preferably during the first few hours, as it tends to dry out quickly. But you can freeze it for several weeks, well wrapped and sliced (my recommendation), or keep it at room temperature for a few days tightly wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container.
Related recipes you might like:
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- 4 cups (560g) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cups buttermilk (see Notes below for making it at home)
- Preheat the oven at 425°F/220°C.
- Have ready a baking sheet dusted with flour.
- Stir together flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.
- Add the buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon until it's all moistened. This is quick, several strokes and that's it. We don't want to overwork the dough.
- Flour lightly the counter and dump this shaggy mass.
- Sprinkle the top lightly with flour and bring it all together, folding it quickly onto itself, and forming it into a loose, flabby ball. It's sticky and wet but you don't need to knead it. If you add too much flour it will be tougher after it's baked, especially the crust. So don't be tempted to make it into a smooth ball, it's meant to be rustic.
- Place it in the prepared pan (I find it easier with the help of a spatula or dough scraper).
- Slash the top making a cross pattern, cutting it about half-inch deep, and immediately put the pan in the oven. Baking soda starts acting when you add liquid, so you want to start baking the bread as soon as possible.
- Bake for 10 minutes and turn the oven temperature down to 375°F/190°C.
- Continue baking for 35 to 40 more minutes, until it's golden and firm to the touch. You can open it slightly, carefully lifting the top with a fork, and make sure it's completely baked inside because it turns golden after 20-30 minutes but, usually, the crumb inside is still raw, so make sure. You can cover the top with a piece of aluminum paper if it's browning too quickly but you need to bake it longer. Also, turn the bread over and tap with your knuckles, it should make a hollow sound when fully baked.
- Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before slicing.
- Eat warm or at room temperature. It's best eaten the same day it's baked (first few hours preferably).
Homemade buttermilk: put 2 tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and add milk until you reach the 2 cup mark. Let stand a minute or two, until it curdles and thickens, and use it in the recipe.
Ingredients. Don't substitute them, as they are all necessary to get the best results.
Don't overwork the dough. This is an important part as it doesn't need to be kneaded, simply formed into a loose ball.
Eat that day. I strongly recommend eating it the same day it's baked. It hardens quickly. If you want to freeze it do so while still barely warm and wrap well in plastic first and then foil. Sliced is the best way so you can have individual toast any time you want.
you can add herbs or spices, caraway seeds, or even some grated cheese, depending on what you’re using it for.
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 45
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Irish
Keywords: irish soda bread