Irish Soda Bread

As some of you may know, my mom’s parents were from Ireland. Nanny was a wonderful home cook, bringing her Irish food traditions from Belfast to Brooklyn where her Italian, German, and Jewish neighbors influenced her cooking in America.

Irish Soda Bread sliced on cutting boardBut Nanny wasn’t the only one to bring Irish food traditions, my grandfather ruled the kitchen on weekend mornings. According to my mom, Saturday mornings would be met with plenty of hot tea, eggs, bacon (or ham or sausages), potato farls, and soda bread. My grandfather would fry bacon, set it aside, then in the same pan, immediately fry the eggs in the bacon fat.  From there, in went slices of plain soda bread, fried quickly on both sides until lightly brown.  Can you imagine?  Heaven!!!  Unfortunately, my grandfather died before I was born, but I still grew up enjoying his Irish Soda Bread, first made by my mother, and now my dad.

My father has tweaked the recipe over the years, as I’m sure my grandfather had tweaked his own recipe. My Irish Soda Bread in cast iron skilletguess is that if you ask 10 different people how they make Irish soda bread you will get 10 different recipes. What is generally accepted throughout is a combination of flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk.  The baking soda and buttermilk give this quick bread its rise. Another common practice is cutting a cross deep on top. Tradition states that the cross is to let the devil out and ward off evil. Practically speaking, it also helps the heat penetrate the center of the loaf as well as providing the guidelines to break the bread up beautifully when served. My mom recalls my grandfather usually making plain soda bread, and only occasionally making a sweeter version with raisins. This makes sense as years ago the addition of sugar, dried fruits, or eggs would have been a treat and only done on special occasions.

Irish Soda Bread with a cup of tea.The recipe below is my version of my dad’s recipe, slightly sweet and full of raisins. This loaf is perfect for breakfast, snacking, in lunch boxes, and definitely with a cup of tea or two. I do make other soda breads, a hearty Brown Soda Bread (made with whole wheat flour) and plain White Soda Bread that is unsweetened and wonderful with soups and stews- or fried eggs and bacon. Those recipes will show up here, but first I’d like to introduce this lovely raisin studded Irish Soda Bread.

Irish Soda Bread in cast iron skillet

Irish Soda Bread

  • Servings: 1 large loaf
  • Print

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raisins or currants (my dad loads his with raisins and uses up to 2 cups)
1¼ -1¾ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a large bowl use a pastry blender to cut butter into flour.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the raisins or currants and mix well.

Pour in 1¼ cups buttermilk and mix, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be soft, slightly sticky, but not too wet. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead it just enough to completely bring it together. Shape into a round about 1½ -inches deep. Transfer to cast iron skillet or lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper cut a cross on it, deep- but not completely through.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400°F and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes. The bread is done when it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Allow to cool slightly before enjoying!

Irish Soda Bread Ingredients: flour, unsalted butter, sugar, salt, baking soda, raisins, and buttermilk.
This is all you need for Irish Soda Bread: flour, unsalted butter, sugar, salt, baking soda, raisins, and buttermilk.
Using a pastry blender to cut butter into flour.
Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour.
Adding sugar, salt, and baking powder to flour/butter mixture
Add sugar, salt, and baking soda to flour/butter mixture. Still well to combine.
Adding raisins to dry ingredients in bowl.
Add raisins to dry ingredients.
Pouring buttermilk into bowl of dry ingredients.
Pour buttermilk into dry ingredients and mix well.
Irish soda bread dough forming in bowl.
The flour mixture is coming together to form a soft, but not too sticky dough.
Irish soda bread dough in bowl
The dough is soft, not too sticky or wet.
Irish soda bread dough with cross cut into it in cast iron skillet.
Transfer dough to a cast iron skillet or sheet pan. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut a deep cross into the dough- almost completely through, but not all the way. Bake in a 450°F oven for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 400°F and bake for another 30 minutes.
Irish Soda Bread in cast iron skillet
Out of the oven! The bread is done when golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles.


34 thoughts on “Irish Soda Bread

  1. It’s beautiful, I love a good soda bread. I really enjoyed reading about your family, and they were in Brooklyn too, do you know where? Your dishware is gorgeous also. Lovely lovely post. Frying in bacon fat, yes that sounds like heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Soda bread is so delicious! I’m lucky to have grown up with someone making it often. You’re in Brooklyn, right? My mom grew up in the 1940s-1950s on Franklin Avenue near Eastern Parkway, right near the borders of Park Slope and Bed-Stuy. Her parish was St. Teresa of Avila.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very nice indeed. Given that I am Irish and living in Ireland, I can say the following. My Mum used to make this bread when we were growing up. I have fond memories of waiting for it to cool enough to slice and cover with butter. However, we used to call this “Spotted Dog”. Soda bread would be exactly the same recipe but without the fruit. In these things, there are no rights or wrongs (unless the bread fails to rise). It’s interesting to see generations passing on the recipes.

    By the way, Mum is now 85 and makes a brown bread that I wanted to feature on the blog. My problem is that she never uses a weighing scales. She does it all by sight and feel. Her bread comes out perfect every time. Very frustrating for me….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Conor, I can just picture you waiting for the bread to be cool enough to slice because my kids do the same thing! I love the name Spotted Dog- that’s a perfect description of this speckled loaf. It’s interesting that here in the States the only soda bread we see (outside of our house) is with raisins- and even then, it’s only around St. Patrick’s Day. My mom’s dad usually made plain soda- the raisins were only added occasionally. The first time I was in Ireland, I had brown soda bread and absolutely fell in love! I make it here, and it’s lovely, but the flour must be different (or at least that’s what I tell myself!) as it’s never quite the same as what I’ve had in Ireland. I hope you are able to get your mom’s recipe- that would be such a treasure! I regret not getting some of my grandmother’s recipes- she did everything by eye and feel too. I’m still trying to recreate her apple cake.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I would say better than Heaven! I wish I could have had a seat at his table! 🤓
    I have never even heard of this kind of bread! It looks delicious and sounds something I would really enjoy with my cup of coffee. Must absolutely try this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s funny, none of my visits to Ireland involved soda bread (although I had some lovely homemade scones), but I’ve had it back here in the States and loved it! I’ll have to add this to my to-bake list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s delicious, isn’t it? Hopefully, you’ll get back to Ireland and find some soda bread. My favorite is brown soda bread (whole wheat); it’s perfect with cheese, or smoked salmon, or just on it’s own. Thanks so much for stopping by!


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