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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: You can count on this Boston Brown Bread Recipe in a Can being amazing, because this delightful baked good has been well-loved by generations of New Englanders, dating back to the Colonial era! This hearty rye and cornmeal bread is cooked by steaming, giving it a uniquely delectable, moist texture. It’s fun and easy to make!
- Boston Brown Bread is leavened with baking soda, so no long rising time is required.
- Rye flour, cornmeal, and molasses give this bread a pleasantly coarse crumb, a note of comforting sweetness, and a rich, dark color.
I love learning about and making traditional breads from countries around the world. In addition to this Brown Bread Recipe in a Can, you’ll love Homemade Matzah, French Baguette, Naan from South Asia, Indian Roti, Finnish Rye, and Irish Soda Bread.
Table of Contents
- What is Boston Brown Bread in a Can?
- Tools You Need
- Key Ingredients and Why
- How to Make Boston Brown Bread in a Can
- Can I Make Boston Brown Bread in a Can in Advance?
- How to Cook Boston Brown Bread in an Instant Pot or a Pressure Cooker?
- How to Store Boston Brown Bread
- Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- More Traditional American Recipes
What is Boston Brown Bread in a Can?
- Boston Brown Bread in a Can is a cylindrically-shaped rye and cornmeal quick bread (a bread leavened with baking soda, and in this case baking powder, too). The bread is steamed in a can, which gives it its trademark shape.
- In New England, Boston Brown Bread is traditionally served for a Saturday supper along with hot dogs and baked beans made with salt pork and molasses.
- The bread was a mainstay in the New England colonies. The ingredients were commonly available, and because cooking equipment was primitive, steaming the bread in a burlap pudding cloth was more accessible than baking it in an oven. The B&M company developed pre-made Boston brown bread sold in a can in the 1920s.
Tools You Need
- One clean, empty, BPA-free 28-oz can, label removed
- Parchment paper
- Steamer insert or trivet
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring jug
- Wooden skewers
Key Ingredients and Why
- All-purpose flour has a protein content of 9-11%, which gives the brown bread structure and a slight chew, while still having a tender crumb.
- Using all-purpose flour in this recipe keeps the bread from being too coarse and tough.
- Rye flour is earthy and tangy, with a slight sweetness and a hearty, robust texture. If you do not have rye flour however do not worry. You can use a fine whole wheat flour.
- Cornmeal makes the bread taste slightly sweet with a nutty note.
- Because it’s made from ground corn kernels, it has a sandy consistency that adds to the texture and gives a subtle crunch.
- Baking powder contributes to the rise of the Boston Brown Bread and helps give the bread its tender texture.
- Did you know it’s easy to make your own baking powder and baking soda?
- Baking soda is a leavening agent that reacts with acid to create air bubbles to make the bread rise and give it lightness.
- In this recipe, baking soda reacts with the acid from molasses and buttermilk.
- The flavor of allspice is similar to a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
- It gives this traditional brown bread warm and sweet notes and a beautiful aroma.
- Buttermilk helps with the bread’s rise and tenderizes the gluten strands, making the crumb softer.
- Buttermilk’s tangy taste adds another flavorful dimension to the bread.
- Molasses gives this bread its signature mellow-sweet taste, pleasantly moist, slightly sticky texture, and deep brown color.
- Out of molasses? You can make your own Molasses Substitute!
How to Make Boston Brown Bread in a Can
- Fill a tall stockpot with two inches of water and put in the steamer insert.
- Butter the inside of the can and place a circle of buttered parchment paper on the bottom.
- Heat the water in the stockpot to a boil. Boil a kettle of water as well.
- Make the bread dough:
- Whisk the all-purpose flour, rye flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, and salt.
- Add the buttermilk and molasses to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
- Steam the bread:
- Spoon the batter into the prepared can and cover with a buttered piece of aluminum foil.
- Make sure the water is at a gentle boil, place the can in the stockpot, and cover it with a lid.
- Steam for two hours. Check the water level every 20 minutes, and add water from the kettle if necessary.
- Check the bread with a skewer when it’s been steaming for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The bread is ready when the skewer comes out clean.
- Cool and serve:
- Remove from heat, take the foil off the can, and let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Finish cooling on a wire rack before turning the bread out of the can.
Can I Make Boston Brown Bread in a Can in Advance?
Yes, you can make Boston Brown Bread in a Can in advance.
- Boston Brown Bread tastes even better after resting for a day.
- Wrap it well, store at room temperature, and when ready to serve, slice and toast it or pan-fry it in butter.
Can I Cook Boston Brown Bread in an Instant Pot or a Pressure Cooker?
Yes, you can steam the Boston Brown Bread in an Instant Pot or a pressure cooker.
- Prepare the batter per this recipe.
- Add 2 cups (480ml) of hot water and a trivet in the insert pot of the 6qt/8qt Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Put the baking dish or the can filled with the bread batter on the trivet.
- Close the lid, cook on HIGH for 45 minutes then quickly release the pressure, or cook on HIGH for 30 minutes and naturally release the pressure.
How to Store Boston Brown Bread
Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.
What kind of can should I use to make this bread?
- Use a 28-ounce can, or steam the bread in two 14.5 or 15-ounce cans (if using the smaller cans, start checking for doneness at 30 minutes).
- Use a clean, non-BPA can (BPA is a type of non-stick coating in the lining of some cans. The label will tell you if the can contains BPA).
- Remove the label from the can before using.
- Butter the can and place a circle of buttered parchment on the bottom before filling. You can also rub cornmeal around the inside of the can as an extra precaution against sticking.
Can I make Boston Brown Bread vegan?
Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- The cornmeal must be finely ground, or the bread’s texture will be a bit too coarse.
- The can will fit better on a steamer insert or trivet rather than a steamer basket.
- Before starting this recipe, make sure that you have a pot large enough to accommodate the can and the steamer insert and that the lid will fit snuggly. The bread won’t steam properly if the lid isn’t firmly in place.
- If you like, you can add a half-cup of raisins or chopped dates to the batter.
- If you don’t want to steam the bread, you can bake it in a water bath in the oven: preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Place the batter in a buttered loaf pan and place the loaf pan in a large roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water, then bake and check the bread for doneness after 1½ hours.
- This bread is absolutely perfect slathered with butter. You can make it either sweet or savory by serving it with either my Blue Cheese Compound Butter or Maple Pecan Compound Butter.
- If your pot is big enough, you can steam multiple cans at once.
More Traditional American Recipes
- One-Bowl Applesauce Cake Recipe
- Simply Divine Butter Pecan Pound Cake
- Classic Chess Pie Recipe
- Best-Ever Pecan Pie
- Homemade Boston Cream Donuts
Watch The Recipe Video!
Boston Brown Bread Recipe in a Can (New England Brown Bread)
- ½ cup (2½ oz/71 g) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (2½ oz/71 g) rye flour
- ½ cup (3 oz/85 g) finely ground cornmeal
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice (optional)
- 1 ¼ cup (10 fl oz/300 ml) buttermilk
- ¼ cup (2½ oz/71 g) molasses
- Fill a tall, lidded stockpot with 2 inches (5 cm) of water, insert the steamer basket and bring to a boil over medium heat. Butter the inside of the can and set aside. Finally, fill a kettle with water and bring to a boil as well.
- In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose, rye flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and allspice (if using).
- To the bowl, add the buttermilk and molasses and stir to combine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared can, then cover the top of the can with buttered aluminum foil. Carefully place it on the steamer basket in the stockpot. Check that the water is at a gentle, steady boil and place a lid on the stockpot.
- Steam the bread for about 1 hour, checking the water level every 20 minutes. If the water is low, replenish it with the hot water from the kettle.
- Begin to check the bread after 45 minutes by inserting a long wooden skewer into the center. When it comes out clean, the bread is done.
- Turn off the heat, remove the lid and foil and let the bread cool for about 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely before turning it out of the can.
- Slice and serve with butter. Store leftovers wrapped well, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.