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Traditional Irish Soda Bread (Brown Bread)- My Mammies recipe for brown bread. This whole wheat bread is nutritious and fast to make.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread (Brown Bread)

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Hi Bold Bakers!

In Ireland, we are extremely fortunate to have access to some of the best produce in the world, from butter, eggs, oats and much more. I was very lucky to have an incredible Mammy who showed me how to cook. She made everything from scratch every day. For a family of seven that’s pretty incredible. 

My mum says one of the greatest gifts you can give a child is to teach them how to cook. This is one of the main reasons why I’m here today. With my mum’s permission, I’m allowed to share her recipe for Traditional Irish Soda Bread with you. 

Traditional Irish Soda Bread has a particular look, but do you know what it is? The marking on top is a cross. It comes from blessing the bread before baking. Also you poke a hole in each corner of the loaf to release the fairies that can curse your bread if not released. 

A few notes about Buttermilk : Buttermilk is a must in this recipe and can’t be left out. The main reason is the buttermilk chemically reacts with the baking soda to make the bread rise. The buttermilk adds lovely flavor to your bread. Some people worry about tasting the acid buttermilk but once it’s bake you can’t taste it at all. If you can’t buy buttermilk, the next best things is you can make it. You can find my easy Buttermilk Substitute recipe as a great addition to this recipe and many others.

Tips for a perfect loaf of Soda Bread: Start out by mixing your bread dough in a large bowl so you have space to mix your dough, which will reduce the chances of you over-mixing and toughening your bread. 

Always level your teaspoon of baking soda before adding it to your ingredients. There are two very good reasons for this that can make or break your bread: 1): Too much baking soda will tint your bread green! Seriously, it gives your bread a greenish hue on the inside. Worse than that; 2) Too much baking soda can give your bread a very acidic taste which can be quite unpleasant, so remember less is more with the baking soda. 

For the whole wheat flour, I like to keep mine fresh in the freezer because I don’t use it as often as white flour. The oils in the flour can turn rancid over time so just freeze it and use it when you’re in need.

For a beautiful, crispy crust refrain from opening the door while baking. I know how tempting it is but believe me your bread won’t burn. It’s not going anywhere and it will be worth it when you take out a beautiful loaf of bread with a thick crust.

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Traditional Irish Soda Bread is made in homes everyday all over Ireland. It has a beautiful crust, a close crumb and a lovely wheat flavor.

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Irish Soda Bread doesn’t require yeast and no resting so it is incredibly fast to whip up. And the faster you make it the better the bread will be. It is what’s considered a quick bread.

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4.7 from 28 reviews
Traditional Irish Soda Bread (Brown Bread)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 8
  • 1¾ cups (265g/ 9oz) whole wheat flour (fine or coarsely ground)
  • 1¾ cups (265g/9oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons (30g/1oz) butter, cold
  • 1 egg
  • 1⅔ cups (400ml) buttermilk*
  • 1 tablespoons oats
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (215°C).
  2. Mix together the flours, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs.
  3. In a separate jug, whisk the egg and buttermilk together (see note on how to make Buttermilk below)
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid into the flour mixture.
  5. Using an open hand bring the flour and liquid together to a loose dough. The dough should be quite soft, but not too sticky.
  6. Turn onto a floured work surface and gently bring the dough together into a round about 1½ inches (4cm) thick (8 inches by 8 inches) .
  7. Place on a baking sheet dusted well with flour
  8. Score the bread by blessing it with a deep cross on top. Poke a hole in the 4 corners of the bread to release the fairies and stop them from cursing your beautiful bread.
  9. Glaze the bread with the leftover bit of buttermilk in your jug and dust the top with rolled oats.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 400°F (200°C) and bake for 30 minutes more. When done, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.
6 SmarPoints
5 PointsPlus Points

*For every Cup of Buttermilk needed mix 1 cup of regular milk with 2 tablespoons of Lemon juice or white vinegar. Mix and let it stand for a minimum of 30 minutes before using.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 8 servings Calories: 183 Fat: 4g Saturated fat: 2g Unsaturated fat: 0g Trans fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 28g Sugar: 3g Sodium: 583mg Fiber: 2g Protein: 7g Cholesterol: 33mg



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Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I’m passionate about sharing my years of experience to show you how to make game-changing baking recipes with over-the-top results! Join more than 1 Million other Bold Bakers in the community for new video recipes every week!

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  1. Donna Lamerson on March 19, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    came out great !– thank you for a great recipe

    • Gemma Stafford on March 20, 2018 at 2:57 am

      Hi Donna,
      Thank you for letting me know, I am pleased,
      Gemma 🙂

  2. McC_T65 on March 19, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    First time out the gate, amazing! I love this bread and this by far the best one I’ve found! Thanks Gemma!
    I added some pine nuts and raw sunflower seeds in the dough and it was “dough-licious!” Lol.

    • Gemma Stafford on March 20, 2018 at 3:29 am

      Hi there,
      I am really happy to hear this. Thank you for letting me know. I am so impressed by how many first time Bold Bakers made this bread, and so wonderfully well too, you will all be Irish soon!! 😉
      Gemma 🙂

  3. Marina on March 19, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    I very seldom use milk, so I always keep on hand powdered buttermilk and just mix with water for most recipes. So my question is, can I use this powdered form in order to make the soda bread, like maybe mixing it up with water ahead of time and refrigerating it. By the way, I live at high altitude, in Denver. I appreciate your thoughts.
    Thank You

    • Gemma Stafford on March 20, 2018 at 3:39 am

      Hi Marina,
      Yes! Actually powdered milk is a great store cupboard ingredient for lots of things.
      You can indeed make up the quantity required, and sour it, as we so here (
      General rule for about 5,000 ft, altitude: Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon. However, I think for this bread I would leave the raising agent, which is the bicarbonate of soda, combined with the buttermilk, alone. It is little enough.
      Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons.
      Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons, you may need a little more liquid, have a soft dough, not wet, but soft!

      Increase oven temperature by 25 degrees F. 15C or so, keep an eye on it, start it hot and turn it back if it seems to be baking too fast. You are trying to get an oven spring in the dough before it sets in the oven, so a good hot start.
      I hope this is of help, do let us know,
      Gemma 🙂

  4. Jacqua on March 18, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    I baked this yesterday for St. Paddy’s day this is the best I’ve ever made and not dried inside it was the lightest Soda Bread WOW! tell you Mom her bread is a winner. What a treat to go with our Cornbeef & Cabbage and of course Potato of dinner. I have tried many Soda Bread recipes, every year I try a new one but none have been a success they have all had a nasty white flour taste the inside bread was always dry. I credit the Buttermilk & Butter and of course the Wheat flour was a awesome flavor. Oh above all your Mom gets the total credit!!!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 19, 2018 at 9:31 am

      Haha! My mum’s head will be swelling! do not go overboard!
      I am delighted that this worked well for you, and that you had a good Paddy’s day dinner, it sounds like home!
      Gemma 🙂

  5. Gracie Larson on March 18, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Thank you to both you and your mom for sharing this recipe! I just baked two loaves – the house smelled lovely while they were in the oven. I just had a small piece with a tiny bit of butter. It doesn’t need anything more! It’s moist and delicious. This is definitely a new favorite of mine. I’m making some jam for it and will be giving a loaf to my neighbors because it’s so good! Thank you very much. Your YouTube channel is very enjoyable and your joyfulness while baking brightens my day. Thanks for sharing your amazing videos and recipes with the world! 🙂

    • Gemma Stafford on March 19, 2018 at 9:47 am

      Thank you Gracie,
      My mom and I thank you!
      Yes, it really is such a simple bread, imagine in Ireland, in poorer times, when there were large families to be fed, in basic kitchens, how this bread could be made in minutes. The jams too, and a great marriage that is too, well done you,
      Gemma 🙂

  6. Jayne H on March 18, 2018 at 10:31 am

    Hi Gemma,
    Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day! I made 3 Irish Soda Bread loaves yesterday and they came out fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. It will now be my go to recipe for Irish Soda Bread. I also made your vanilla buttercream icing for a St. Patrick’s Day cake and was equally amazing! Am so glad I found you on Facebook and look forward to making more of your recipes!


    • Gemma Stafford on March 18, 2018 at 6:31 pm

      Hi Jayne,

      Thank you so much for the Paddy Days wishes. I had a lovely day.

      I’m really thrilled you like this bread. I hope you try many more of my recipes and please let me know if you need help with anything 🙂


  7. Trish on March 18, 2018 at 9:24 am

    Hi Gemma,
    I failed with my first attempt with your recipe. My dough was very moist and loose. I filled directions exactly. Can you offer any suggestions. I’m so sad! Thank you

    • Gemma Stafford on March 18, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      aw Trish. So I’m going to write a note in the recipe and that is because EVERYONES flour is different it means that your flour will absorb liquid differently then mine. So you might need more liquid or less. This is very common with flour, but especially with whole wheat.

      What you can do if you still have it is put it into a loaf tin and bake it. Or you can always try and add some more white flour to it.

      Hope this helps,
      Gemma. 🙂

  8. Michelle Kott on March 18, 2018 at 1:40 am


    I baked this tonight and am waiting to see how it turns out tomorrow. I wanted to mention that your weights appear to be off. 125g/cup white and 120g/cup wheat are the normal conversions I found. Could you please clarify that? I had to add a fair bit more flour to make it not sticky. thanks!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 18, 2018 at 6:08 pm

      Hi Michelle,

      I’m not sure what recipe you are looking at but my conversions and amount are correct. It sounds like that loaf you saw is very small.

      Hope this clears things up.

      • Michelle Kott on March 18, 2018 at 7:11 pm

        According to King Arthur a cup of AP flour weighs 125 g. So, for 1 and 3/4 cups that should be 218.75. Where did you get 265?

        I added quite a bit more flour to reach a non-sticky consistency. It turned out wonderfully, but I struggled for a bit.

        • Gemma Stafford on March 18, 2018 at 8:53 pm

          I see Michelle. I’ll review the recipe and see.


  9. Julie C. on March 17, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Hi Gemma!

    I was looking online for the Irish Soda Bread I’d made in the past. All of them used things like margarine and only white flour, so not what I remembered from my “Little Irish Cookbook” from the 80s. THIS recipe is exactly what I remember and I’m off to make it right now.

    Thanks so much for this recipe!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 18, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      oh gosh, I have many books like that. I treasure them.

      Really glad you like this recipe 🙂

  10. Natalie on March 15, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Hi Gemma,
    I love watching your recipes. I always pick up interesting tips. Thank you. I want to make soda bread for my family this weekend with our corned beef and cabbage dinner. However, half my family is lactose intolerant. I can get away with the little bit of real butter, but not the buttermilk. Is there an acceptable alternative for the buttermilk?

    • Gemma Stafford on March 16, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Natalie,
      Yes, if you make a buttermilk substitute with Lactose free dairy milk it will be good. ( You could use a nut milk in this way too, but I think the lactose free one first!
      Gemma 🙂

  11. Jeff on March 15, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Hi Gemma,
    Thanks for the recipe. I am making it for St. Pat’s. My grandmother came here from Ireland and my mother makes her recipe of white soda bread with raisins and caraway seeds. I’ll have to let her know she’s a fancy pants with her spotted dog! Can’t wait to share your bread with her.

    • Gemma Stafford on March 15, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      Hi Jeff,
      Yes, she will enjoy that, grannies love their grandsons!
      I have been told about caraway seeds in soda bread, but I never ever saw this in Ireland! isn’t that strange, yet lots of people with Irish family have heard of this!
      Haha she is a fancy pants! This would have been a real treat in poorer times in Ireland. Served warm, with lashings of butter, and for a real treat, strawberry jam.
      I wish you a very happy St Patrick’s day with your family,
      Gemma 🙂

  12. Erika Deco on March 15, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Hi Gemma,

    Would it be OK if I used all all-purpose flour in stead of half whole wheat flour?

    • Gemma Stafford on March 15, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      Hi there,
      Yes! and this is a white soda bread. When you add a little sugar, and a handful of raisins to this, it is ‘spotted dog’ a delicious thing served warm with butter!
      Gemma 🙂

  13. CS Odeen on March 15, 2018 at 7:49 am

    Hi, Gemma! Cheers on your beautiful bread; making several loaves this afternoon for my Da to take to his senior center tomorrow. One question: I don’t remember an egg in my Mum’s recipe…??? Is that traditional? I just remember the brown flour, buttermilk, soda, and a wee bit of salt. Also, I remember her baking it in cast iron skillet or dutch oven; I was just a wee lass, but I remember it being big and too heavy for me! 🙂 I did remember the poking of the holes in the corners; even we don’t mess with the Sidhe! Keep those tricky faeries from their mischief! 🙂

    Do you always use an egg? And, have you ever tried this in cast iron? Just curious!!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      Hi there,
      Yes, and this is a recipe which has changed according to the available ingredients.
      In richer times, such as summer, when eggs were more plentiful, then the egg may be added!
      Remember this is a peasant bread, it was using what was available. People bough as little as possible, and grew as much as possible, so everything was seasonal.
      The cast Iron pot, skillet, was used over the open fire, and later in the AGA. Not so much used in a modern oven, though I do use a Dutch oven occasionally.
      You are right though, traditionally the egg was not a feature, usually, and often it was sour milk. In the days before milk was pasteurized it soured, in a day or so, rather than going bad, as it does now. This was used for the brown bread! All has changed, for better or worse!
      Gemma 😉

  14. Areej on March 15, 2018 at 2:11 am

    Gemma dear can we put the dough in the bread loaf pan and make it like a brown sandwich bread?

    • Gemma Stafford on March 15, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      Hi there,
      Yes, ish!
      This is a dense bread. When we bake this as a loaf we tend to make it a little wetter.
      So, add 1 tablespoon of porridge oats, perhaps 1 tablespoon of treacle or dark brown sugar, and a little more buttermilk, until you have a dropping consistency with your batter.
      This type of bread is dense, it is not usually used for sandwiches, but as open faced sandwiches, with the fillings placed on one slice of bread,
      Gemma 🙂

  15. Claire E on March 9, 2018 at 1:07 am

    I made this bread in less than an hour, baking and all (my mother’s gas oven is hotter than the surface of the sun when you pre-heat it, so it cooks things really quickly). I will be making this bread OFTEN, it’s fantastic, my mother – who is a picky eater because of allergies – really loved it. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us, Gemma, it is simply fantastic!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 9, 2018 at 4:08 am

      Great Claire, I am really happy to hear this!
      This was our ‘daily bread’ growing up, we had this with homemade vegetable soup most days after school in the winter months. Very sustaining too.
      I do not know why yeast breads were not traditional in Ireland, but this one was, best eaten fresh too, freeze in portions if you need to keep it.
      Glad your mother likes this one!
      Gemma 🙂

  16. Stacy Phillips on March 8, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    I just made your Irish Soda Bread tonight, I didn’t think to take a picture and now it’s too late! We love it and devoured it! Thank you so much for sharing your recipes with us!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 9, 2018 at 4:40 am

      Hi Stacy,
      Good! and that is the idea, this is best eaten on the day it is made. If you have some left you can freeze it. It was very much our ‘daily bread’ in Ireland, great with soups, cheese, and a boiled egg! Lovely toasted too.
      Thank you for being in touch,
      Gemma 🙂

  17. Kelly Tillotson on March 7, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Hi Gemma! We are loving your recipes! My boys decided to have a bake sale delivering this bread on St Patrick’s Day—they have 20 loaves ordered so far! LOL! If we made this dough the day before and baked early morning the next day, do you think that would be okay?
    Thanks so much!
    Kelly Tillotson (along without Brigham and Oliver ages 10 and 8) 🍀😍

    • Gemma Stafford on March 9, 2018 at 6:43 am

      Hi Kelly,
      What a lovely idea, well done to you, Brigham and Oliver, young entrepreneurs!
      This is how I started too, making seasonal things for family and friends from about age 10. Good job mom!
      Now for the question! NO, do not mix this the night before. Have your flour and bicarb ready to go, but do not wet until ready to bake. You can do this when the oven is heating, then batch bake. If you weigh the dough you will get even cakes, it is a big mix to handle, you may need to mix in a few batches.
      I hope you have fun with this, make sure your measurements are right when making a big batch, and all will be well,
      Gemma 🙂

  18. Devorah on March 6, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    I just made this soda bread recipe. It is delicious! I soak, sprout, dry and grind all my own whole white wheat flour so i used that for the entire amount of flour called for. I also used raw goat milk with white vinegar in place of the buttermilk called for because thats what i had on hand today. It turned out so well! Even my kids loved it. I prefer not to eat yeast, so this bread is going to be something i will make often! Next time, I plan to make my own buttermilk and butter using organic raw cow’s milk cream from a local farm (I live in Washington state where raw milk can be legally purchased).
    Thank you for sharing this recipe, and please thank your mom for blessing us with this special recipe.
    I’d to post a picture of my bread but can’t see an option to do that.

    • Gemma Stafford on March 7, 2018 at 2:51 am

      Hi there Devorah,
      Wow! You are a busy lady, well done you. Great to have the lovely raw local produce too, really how things were in the past.
      Thank you for telling us about this, it is most interesting. We are getting some brilliant ideas here in this post.
      We would love to see it too, so scroll down to the end of the post and you will find the SUBMIT button there.
      Let us know of your further adventures with the recipes, really interesting,
      Gemma 🙂

  19. Kathleen Hoffman on March 6, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    That was really precious of you making the Traditional Irish Soda Bread, you make all the recipes seem easy to do for a non-trained home based cook. I think the secret is doing it with love, don’t you?
    Question: my coconut oil is white and hard, do I have to buy a different kind of oil when you I see you pour a clear coconut oil in some of your other recipes, like your new one of Twix?? Thank you again and again for teaching us and being so generous with your knowledge. I am still waiting for you to make a cooking line of tea cups to microwave in, Yours are so cute and inspiring like you!!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 6, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      Hi Kathleen,
      Thank you for your kind words, it is good to have you with us.
      I have to melt the coconut oil before I use it. As you know it melts nicely at a low temperature, and it is a great ingredient too.
      The cups nearly got there, and they will come back again too! Mine are a collection of begged, borrowed and stolen (shh! only from home!). I tend to look for these when I travel too, and charity/goodwill stores are a great place to find these. Ask for these as gifts too, I do, shamelessly!
      Gemma 🙂

  20. Carrie on March 6, 2018 at 9:31 am

    Hi Gemma! I grew up in the U.S. eating Irish soda bread made by my Aunt Patsy each St. Paddy’s Day. But I recall it always had raisins and caraway seeds. Is that just an American twist, or do they do it Ireland too? I made your recipe last year and it was great — but I think I’d like to add the raisins and caraway seeds if you think that would work. Thanks!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 6, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      Hi Carrie,
      That Aunt Patsy was a Bold one!
      Haha! she would be seen as ‘getting ahead of herself’ with all that grandeur.
      I applaud her, but it was not traditional. I never heard of caraway seeds in soda bread before, but the odd raisin did make an appearance!
      In white soda bread this was known as ‘spotted dog’.
      I think you should do this exactly as you like it, it will be good, and special for your family too, nothing better!
      Gemma 🙂

    • Rosemary L Martin on March 6, 2018 at 8:00 pm

      Carrie, my Aunt Mae made soda bread with raisins and caraway seeds, as well. Every Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and graduation party that was her contribution. I’ve followed a few different recipesthrough the years but I like it best with both raisins and caraway seeds.

      • Gemma Stafford on March 7, 2018 at 2:30 am

        Hi there,
        That is so interesting!
        I never saw this in Ireland. Usually when fruit was added it was to a white soda bread. This was called spotted dog, for obvious reasons!
        The caraway seeds were often used in a Victoria sponge type cake, and even then were an exotic enough thing, times past!
        I will have to do some deep diving into this!
        Gemma 🙂

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