Irish Brown Soda Bread

Brown Soda BreadHere’s a lovely, simple recipe for Traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread. If you’d prefer a simple white sod bread, try this one: White Soda Bread. But this Irish brown soda bread is healthier and so easy. It’s classed as a quick bread so there is no kneading or proofing or messing with yeast or allowing gluten to develop, it is pretty much mix and bake. You may have come across “Irish soda bread” with dried fruit or mixed peel in it. That’s actually the Irish-American version that, for whatever reason, was tampered with by Irish immigrants in America.

I baked mine in a greased 2 pound baking tin but this can just as easily be baked free-form on a baking tray if you don’t have the tin. Just make sure to flour the tray. You’ll also need to score a deep cross into the surface of the dough. The tradition of this is to “bless” the bread with the cross, unless that was made up by the Irish tourist board to make us look quaint to the Americans. In actuality, the bread will need this cross so it will crack and rise evenly. Traditionally, after scoring the cross on the bread, you prod each corner with a knife to let the fairies out of the bread. It is with more than a little shame that I say this could not have been fabricated by the Irish tourism board as it’s in no ones interest to have tourists think we are mental.

I think what I like most about this bread is the story it tells. It rings back to a time when Irish people were poor. There were no supermarkets and everything had to be made from scratch. Cows were milked by hand for milk and cream. There was no refrigeration so, out of necessity, the cream was preserved by churning it into butter. A by-product of making butter is buttermilk. This was utilised by making this bread. As buttermilk is slightly acidic, bicarbonate of soda is used as a rising agent. If you’re spreading some jam on your Irish brown soda bread, that too came from a time when the seasons might give you an over-abundance of fruit so to preserve it people would boil it with piles of sugar to make jam. So pour yourself a cup of tea and you could be eating exactly what Irish people have been eating for centuries.

Brown Soda Bread


  • 250g wholewheat flour
  • 200g plin flour
  • 1tsp fine sea salt
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 350ml buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • half a tsp honey
  • 1tsp vegetable oil, for greasing
  • 2tbsp pumpkin seeds


  1. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, (the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda.)
  2. In a jug, mix together the wet ingredients, (the buttermilk, egg and honey.)
  3. Add the wet to the dry and mix with a wooden spoon until you have an even dough.
  4. Spread the vegetable oil all over the inside of a standard 2 pound loaf tin, pile the dough into it and flatten it to an even layer.
  5. Sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds and transfer to a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius and bake for 45-50 minutes.
  6. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool.
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