Irish Brown Soda Bread

December 21, 2010
8 Ratings
  • Prep time 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

I realized I hadn't yet shared my favorite quick bread recipe of all: an Irish brown soda bread that my mother has made for years. Now, this is not the slightly sweet, raisin-studded bread you may be expecting. This soda bread is more rustic and hearty, and totally savory. It's made with a combination of white and whole wheat flour and oats, and toasted wheat germ gives the loaf a wonderful nutty depth. Buttermilk keeps the bread from being dry. I like thick slices of it smeared with lots of salted butter. —Merrill Stubbs

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and baking
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 to 1 1/3 cup buttermilk
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425° F. Sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the butter and toss to coat in the flour. Use your fingers or two forks to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (You can also do this in the food processor if you'd like.) Gradually add the buttermilk and stir or pulse just until the dough comes together (you may not need all the buttermilk).
  3. On a floured surface, knead the dough gently for about a minute until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the baking sheet. Pat gently into a 7-inch round and sprinkle the top evenly with about a tablespoon of flour; with your fingertips, gently spread the flour evenly over the top of the round. Using a very sharp knife, cut a shallow "X" in the top of the loaf. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaf is brown, and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before slicing.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • marsiamarsia
  • Hannah Mark
    Hannah Mark
  • Terike
  • amysarah
  • Merrill Stubbs
    Merrill Stubbs

34 Reviews

Jules July 10, 2022
This is a delicious brown bread. The recipe comes from Jeannie Lemlin, who has written several wonderful vegetarian cookbooks. I believe this recipe is from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures. My cookbooks are all packed up for a move, but I wanted to make some brown bread. I highly recommend her cookbooks. It’s important to note the source of recipes when known.
emcsull March 25, 2021
so irish baking soda IS bicarbonate of soda, our baking soda, right ?
allison March 17, 2018
Why the two hour wait/rest time?
marsiamarsia November 16, 2016
What a wonderful bread this is, Merrill! Last night, I followed your recipe to a "T"--no sugar, no molasses, but a new box of baking soda--and it turned out perfectly. Then, after keeping an anxious eye on the clock for two hours, I grabbed the salted butter and had myself a little feast: a glass of pinot grigio and several (thick) slices of your Irish soda bread. Scrumptious! 😊
Hannah M. September 20, 2015
Just made this - delicious. I find the baking soda taste a bit overwhelming though, so I think I'll reduce it next time. Of course, it could be that my baking soda is just old :P
Anyway, on the topic of wheat germ, I substituted in a mixture of sesame seeds, couscous, flax seeds and carraway seeds - unorthodox, but delicious.
Also noticed halfway through preheating the oven that I had nothing but rye flour in the house, so I ended up using that and kneading a little bit longer to develop the gluten.
Will definitely make again (with different/less baking soda!)
lighthouse6 March 18, 2015
Baking powder?? Mine did not raise while baking.
Merrill S. March 18, 2015
Nope! This is a dense, crumbly bread and doesn't rise much.
cindy November 21, 2014
Is the wheat germ necessary? If so, what can I substitute?
Merrill S. November 21, 2014
It's not necessary, but it adds great flavor. You could sub in more oats if you don't have wheat germ.
cindy November 21, 2014
Appreciate it! I am going to bake this bread or your Mediterranean Olive Bread to take on a hike with chunks of cheese etc. Which would you suggest ? Thanks.
Merrill S. November 21, 2014
Tough call -- they're two of my favorites. If you like olives, the olive bread is excellent with cheese. (My preferred way to eat the soda bread is with just a thick coating of salted butter, but it would also be good with sharp cheddar or something like it.) Let me know which you end up making!
Nancy C. February 5, 2021
Ground flax seed works for me.
Julie November 16, 2014
very easy and delicious! baking bread usually intimidates me, but this was so rewarding!! i will definitely be making this again....maybe later this week...
Lisanne March 21, 2014
This bread is fantastic and comes together quickly. I add the 2Tbsp of molasses recommended by another reviewer. I made it today with gluten free flour (Namaste brand from Costco). We could hardly tell the difference in a side by side taste test. Thanks for this great recipe!!
Bebewatson March 16, 2014
Help! Is "raw wheat germ" the same as "toasted wheat germ"? If not, can I still use it in this recipe??
Merrill S. March 16, 2014
They're not the same, no. I wouldn't advise using raw wheat germ, but you could toast it yourself in a 350-degree oven -- keep an eye on it, and when it starts to turn golden brown, take it out of the oven, cool it a little and proceed with the recipe as written.
Ceege March 12, 2014
I saved this in my "bread & roll" file. I love home made breads. Could anyone tell me why there is no yeast in this recipe. I have never made bread without proofing yeast first. Is the tiny bit of baking soda enough to make this bread rise so nicely?
Merrill S. March 12, 2014
This is a quick bread, which typically don't require yeast and are denser than yeasted breads. In some ways, this is more like a savory cake!
Bebewatson March 12, 2014
Can this be made the day before serving?
Merrill S. March 12, 2014
Yes -- it's best the same day, but it will keep for a day or two.
MNinMA January 20, 2013
oops, I meant oats, not oatmeal :)
MNinMA January 20, 2013
wonderful recipe! I toasted the oatmeal with 1 tbsp of butter to add an extra toasty taste to the bread.
Terike January 10, 2013
nakisa July 15, 2012
How to make butter milk or to replace it with other ingredients?( I couldn't fin it in my area)
Merrill S. July 15, 2012
You can use this simple shortcut if you have milk and vinegar or lemon juice handy: http://frugalliving.about.com/od/condimentsandspices/r/Buttermilk_Sub.htm
rrcooks March 25, 2012
Have made this twice now. So easy and so delicious! Thanks, Merrill for sharing this. It's hard to wait the 2 hours before slicing but worth it.
mabcassidy March 19, 2012
Great taste but more like a giant scone. Perhaps I did something wrong.
amysarah February 21, 2012
Great, earthy soda bread - so easy in the processor. Only thing I did differently is I had an almost empty bottle of molasses I wanted to use up, so I added about 2 tablespoons along with the buttermilk - not enough to make it sweet, just rounded the flavor slightly and made it a tiny bit darker.
bottomupfood May 21, 2011
A very fast and very tasty recipe. The food processor works well. Next time I'll make two loaves in a row (can't do two in our food processor). Only complaint with the recipe is that it doesn't make enough!