Irish Soda Bread is one of the easiest breads to make at home.
There’s no yeast required, no waiting for the bread to rise and very little kneading involved.
Best of all, it’s a wonderfully comforting and tasty bread.
The history of soda bread
While it was the American Indians who first used soda to leaven bread, it’s the Irish who took this method and made it their own.
Bicarb soda was introduced in Ireland around the 1840s, the time of the potato famine. Using this new ingredient, Irish Soda Bread became an easy and affordable way to put bread on the table and fill empty tummies.
No wonder it took off in popularity!
It’s crunchy crust, rustic appeal and wholesome taste means it’s just as loved today.
Making Irish soda bread
You make soda bread with kitchen staples. Plain flour, also known as all purpose flour, is the main ingredient along with a little butter and buttermilk or sour milk.
If you don’t have sour milk or buttermilk on hand, you can use fresh milk with a little lemon juice or vinegar added to the milk. For this recipe, use 400ml of fresh milk and top up with 20ml of lemon juice or white vinegar.
You’ll also need salt, bicarb soda and cream of tartar.
Precise quantities can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
The method for this bread is so simple. You just sift the dry ingredients, rub in the butter and add the milk to form a firm dough.
You then knead lightly to form a round. By lightly, I mean very, very lightly. The less you handle this dough, the better.
The final touch is marking a cross on the top of your bread with a sharp knife.
The cross has a symbolic meaning, and is meant to ward off evil.
It also has a practical purpose too, allowing the bread to cook in the middle.
Some like to make just a small cross while others practically cut the bread round into quarters before baking. I like to make the cross about an inch deep right across the bread.
Once done, it’s straight into the oven and you’ll have fresh bread within the hour.
No wonder this yeast-free bread is still so popular today!
Enjoying your fresh bread
I love this bread plain, straight from the oven, and generously smothered with butter.
But there are plenty of variations to try and ways to enjoy this bread.
Try adding seeds, oats, cheese or hers for a change. Get creative!
And of course, this bread is also perfect with soups, toasted with your favourite conserves or used to make a big, healthy sandwich.
Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons butter (that's equivalent to 30 grams)
- 420 mls buttermilk (or use 400ml of fresh milk and top up with 20ml of lemon juice or white vinegar)
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius (fan-forced).
- Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
- Chop butter and rub into dry ingredients.
- Add as much of the buttermilk as you need to form a firm dough, stirring the milk in with a bread knife.
- Knead gently on a floured surface and shape into a round about 17cm in diameter.
- Place onto a greased tray and cook for 40 minutes.
- Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.