A scrumptious quick bread perfect for St. Patrick's Day or any day. This traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe with raisins and buttermilk is easy to make. It's a Reilly/Riley family recipe.
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There's a reason why traditional Irish Soda Bread has been a favorite part of breakfasts and tea time for so long. It's a quick and easy bread to pull together and has just a few ingredients.
Though Irish Soda Bread doesn't have a long shelf life, that won't be a problem because
- a) your hungry fans will eat it up fast, and
- b) it's good any time of day: for breakfast, afternoon snack, or as a side with dinner
This recipe gets a lot of attention in March, specifically for St. Patrick's Day and I love that! My hope is that after you make this yummy Irish Soda Bread, you'll want to bake it year-round.
What is soda bread?
Soda bread is a type of quick bread—because it contains no yeast, it doesn't require the rising time or lengthy kneading of other bread recipes. Baking soda, baking powder, or a combination of the two are what make soda bread rise.
Buttermilk is the traditional liquid used, and its acidity is perfect to active these leaveners.
The history of Irish soda bread
For the working class and poor in Ireland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, soda bread was an inexpensive and nutritious food that households could rely upon to help feed their families. The simplest soda breads contained only flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, and buttermilk.
The type of wheat grown in Ireland at this time, a soft wheat with low protein content, was also a factor in the reliance upon soda bread. Bread made with this type of wheat flour doesn't rise well with yeast, but it does work very well with baking soda as a leavener.
Irish soda bread has a couple of other names, too: When we attended a class at the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland, they made this loaf and called it a Spotted Dog. It's also called white soda bread, American Irish soda bread, or fruit soda bread.
What does soda bread taste like?
Soda bread is a rustic loaf with a soft, dense crumb. It's heavier and a little more crumbly than yeast breads.
Brown soda bread, like my Irish Brown Bread recipe, has a nutty wheat flavor. White soda bread like this one, however, has a simpler flavor—and that's what makes it great to pair with mix-ins like raisins, spices, citrus zest, and even savory ingredients like cheese.
Slices of soda bread are delicious as is or toasted and spread with butter or jam.
Here's why you'll love this recipe
Old-fashioned, seeded soda bread is simple to pull together. Dry ingredients are blended with buttermilk, and the dough gets just a few kneads before baking. This bread is made without eggs, butter, or yeast. It's so easy you could make several loaves a week!
The original recipe from my great-great-Aunt Lizzie Reilly called for only a half cup of raisins—but in my version, there are lots of raisins. I just love how sweet the bread is with this fruit. You can adjust the amount to suit your taste—or try golden raisins or dried currants instead.
The result is a lovely, scented soft bread. The caraway seed gives the bread a distinctive, savory flavor.
🔪How to make Traditional Irish Soda Bread With Raisins
Ingredients for soda bread:
- All-Purpose Flour: My go-to brand is King Arthur's unbleached
- Granulated Sugar: For just a little sweetness
- Baking Powder and Baking Soda: These will leaven the bread and make it light
- Caraway Seed: They lend a mild flavor to the loaf
- Raisins: The sweet fruits add so much sweetness and moisture to the slices
- Buttermilk: This liquid activates the leaveners
Step 1: Mix the dry ingredients
Blend together the flour and spice in a large bowl.
Step 2: Add the raisins
Toss the raisins in and stir them through the dry mixture.
Step 3: Add the buttermilk
Stir the buttermilk through the dry mixture, until you have a soft and sticky dough.
Step 4: Bring the dough together
Knead the dough just a few times to bring the dough together and form it into a round loaf. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross in the top, and poke holes in each corner to let the fairies out.
Step 5: Bake the loaf
Bake the soda bread in a round pan, cast iron pan, Dutch oven, or on a baking sheet for just under an hour. The finished loaf will be browned and sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Let it cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
While one possibility is that cutting a cross into the dough bestows a blessing on the bread as it goes in to bake, there's a practical reason, too. Slashing the dough helps the bread expand and bake through evenly.
Buttermilk is naturally acidic, and it activates the baking soda in the dough to help the bread rise during baking. It also lends a tangy flavor to the bread. Buttermilk is a traditional ingredient in this traditional bread, an ingredient leftover from butter making that was plentiful in Irish households and inexpensive.
It's best to eat your soda bread within three to four days of baking it. Any longer than this and it may start to get dry or spoil.
Once the loaf is cool, seal it inside a plastic bag and keep it on the counter at room temperature, away from heat sources.
You can freeze soda bread for one to two months: Seal it inside a freezer-proof bag with all the air pressed out. However, this bread is so easy to make, it's worth just making a fresh loaf in the morning or the night before.
The slices are delicious simply spread with butter, jam, or marmalade. This bread can be toasted, too. Soda bread can be paired with any meal of the day. You can even bake it without the raisins to make a loaf to serve with savory dishes like soup, meat dishes, or to use for sandwiches.
Use leftover soda bread to make a delicious bread pudding. Cut the bread into pieces and let them dry out, so they can soak up the batter in recipes like Mango Blueberry Bread Pudding or Maple Blueberry French Toast Bake.
- Caraway seeds and raisins are the ingredients in my family recipe. Other options you can consider include cinnamon, citrus zest, or dried currants.
- This bread has a short shelf-life, so it's meant to be enjoyed quickly. Serve this bread with lots of butter or jam, and it's great for toasting, too. It'll be gobbled up by your hungry fans.
My authentic, best-ever Irish Soda Bread recipe is below. If you're looking for Irish dishes to celebrate St. Patrick's Day or enjoy any old time, here are some tasty ones!
💬 Have you made this Irish soda bread? Leave a comment below. Sláinte!
Traditional Irish Soda Bread Recipe
- 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting a work surface
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon caraway seed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup buttermilk
Combine the dry ingredients:
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line an 8-inch round baking pan, cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, or a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, caraway seed, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine.
- Add in the raisins and toss to mix them into the flour mixture.
Add buttermilk to make the dough:
- Start with about ¾ cup of buttermilk and stir it into the dry mixture. If the mixture still seems dry and crumbly, add more buttermilk until it comes together into a soft and sticky dough.
- Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface. With floured hands, knead just a few times until the stickiness is gone and the dough is smooth.
- Shape the dough into a rounded loaf. Place the loaf into the baking pan, cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, or on the baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to slash the top of the dough with a cross shape. And poke a hole into each corner, to let the fairies out.
- If you have any buttermilk left, you can brush some over the top of the bread.
- Bake the loaf for 10 minutes. THEN, then reduce the heat to 350° F.
- Continue to bake the loaf for 35-40 minutes more. The finished loaf will be browned and sound hollow when tapped.
- Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a cooling rack. Let it cool for about 20 minutes before slicing.
- This bread is the most delicious served on the day it is baked. Spread slices with Irish butter or with jam.
- The cooled bread can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for 3-4 additional days.
- Caraway seeds and raisins are traditional ingredients, and part of my family recipe. Other options you can consider include cinnamon, citrus zest, or dried currants.
So easy and so good everyone loved it, I will make this again and again. Thank you Aunt Lizzie!
That's wonderful to hear, I'm so happy you liked Aunt Lizzie's soda bread. Thank you for trying the recipe! Sláinte!
Faye Laterza Ricci
Try it it only comes along once a year
Exactly! Though we really should bring it out more often. It's a tasty little bread ????????
Way to go, never tried it and wouldn't make it because I would eat too much. My hips can't afford it.