Irish Soda Bread

James Beard

Author and Educator

If one food can be considered a staple of Irish cuisine, it is no doubt Irish soda bread. In Ireland you find it on every table; every bakery has its own version. What makes Irish soda bread so appealing, however, is its ease of preparation. A quick bread that uses baking soda as a leavening agent, it doesn’t have to rise first like traditional yeast bread, and can be varied according to taste. Both whole wheat and all-white versions are equally delicious, and the addition of caraway seeds, raisins, or walnuts make it extremely pleasant, though some might quibble that these add-ins make it less than authentic.


  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose white flour (4 cups for a white bread loaf)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 level teaspoon baking soda (3/4 teaspoon for a white bread loaf)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk
  • Butter for the baking pan, softened


Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add buttermilk a little at a time until you have a soft dough. You will just have to sense when you have a good soft dough; it should be similar to a biscuit dough.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 2 or 3 minutes, until it is quite smooth and velvety-looking. Form it into a round cake. Place it in a well-buttered 8-inch cake pan or on a well-buttered cookie sheet. Cut a large cross on the top of the loaf with a very sharp floured knife.

Place it into the oven and bake for 35 to40 minutes, until it has turned a nice brown and sounds hollow when you tap it with your knuckles. The cross on the top will have spread into a sort of deep gash, which is characteristic of Irish soda bread. Let the loaf cool completely before cutting it into paper-thin slices; soda bread must never be cut thickly.


1 loaf