Irish Soda Bread, made from scratch with currants and buttermilk, is crispy on the outside and perfectly moist on the inside.
It is a super easy recipe to make and has a very distinct taste. This subtly sweet bread is a perfect addition to any St. Patrick's Day celebration.
What is soda bread?
Soda bread is basically a quick bread that uses baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate for all you chemistry fans out there, as a leavening agent instead of yeast.
The ingredients, however, of a traditional soda bread are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The buttermilk is key here because it contains lactic acid which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny carbon dioxide bubbles.
Soda bread is enjoyed throughout the world, but various forms of soda bread are also very popular throughout Ireland.
My recipe is what I would call an Irish-American soda bread because of my personal alterations to the recipe, however it tastes just as good, if not better, than the soda bread I get at my favorite Irish pubs.
Why this recipe works:
- Easy to make: Very similar to a biscuit or a short cake, this recipe involves cutting butter into the dry ingredients and then adding liquid until it forms a dough.
- Distinctive taste: The addition of currants and caraway seed give this Irish Soda Bread a distinctive taste. Currants are similar to raisins in that they are both dried grapes, however currants are smaller and have more of an intense, tangy, sweet taste. The caraway seed is listed as an optional ingredient because it really does have a strong, distinct flavor, however it truly defines the flavor of a good soda bread.
Exact quantities are listed in the recipe card below, but here is a summary.
- Dry ingredients: All purpose flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt
- Wet ingredients: butter, buttermilk, egg
- Flavor: Currants and caraway seed (optional)
How to make Irish Soda Bread:
Detailed step by step instructions are listed in the recipe card below, but here is a summary.
- Mix: Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Then, using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a bowl with a pastry cutter, mix in the softened butter so that the all of the dry ingredients get coated. Next, combine buttermilk and egg and add that mixture to the mixing bowl. Toss the currants in some flour so they won't stick to one another and mix them, along with the caraway seed, into the dough.
- Shape: Line a baking sheet or cast iron skillet with parchment paper and preheat the oven. Shape the dough with your hands and cut an x in the top. Cover the dough with a melted butter and buttermilk mixture and continue to do so during the cooking process to keep the top from getting too brown.
- Bake: Cook soda bread in the preheated oven until golden brown. Then, serve it up warm and enjoy!
If you don't have buttermilk, you can replace it with plain Greek yogurt or stout beer in this recipe. You can also make your own buttermilk by adding 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice to whole milk and allowing it to sit for about an hour prior to using it.
Whether you use buttermilk, yogurt, or stout, the leavening action starts immediately, so you should use the minimum amount of mixing and get your quick bread into the oven as soon as possible.
Ideally, you'll want to make your soda bread and eat it fresh. It absolutely tastes best when fresh.
If you need to store it, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or store it in an airtight container. You can store soda bread at room temperature for a couple of days.
If you need to store it longer than a couple of days, keep it in the freezer and allow it to thaw at room temperature before serving.
If you’ve made this or any other recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section how it turned out. I love hearing from my readers!
Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon (divided)
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 egg (beaten)
- ½ cup currants (can increase amount to 1 cup)
- 2 teaspoons caraway seed (optional)
For the top:
- ¼ cup butter (melted)
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet or cast iron skillet with parchment paper.
- Mix: Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour. Alternatively, the butter can be blended into the flour mixture by hand using a pastry cutter.
- Combine: In a measuring cup, combine buttermilk with egg. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. If mixing by hand, use a wooden spoon or firm spatula to mix. Dough will be very dry.
- Add currants: Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon of flour on top of currants. Shake to disperse the flour and evenly coat. Add the currants and caraway seed (if using) to the dough and fold in. Dough will be very dry, so you may need to use your hands. Try not to over mix.
- Shape: Place the loaf on the prepared pan or skillet, shape into a circle, and cut an X that's about a half-inch deep into the top of the bread with a knife.
- Coat soda bread: Combine melted butter and buttermilk and brush about a third of the mixture over the top of bread to coat. If buttermilk is cold, the melted butter might solidify and you will have to gently warm the mixture so that it can be spread.
- Bake: Place soda bread in preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, brushing the buttermilk butter mixture over the top every 15 minutes or so, until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer from baking dish to cooling rack.
Other favorite St. Patrick's Day recipes:
- Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage - It doesn't get more Irish than corned beef and cabbage, right? This salty and full flavored meal complete with baby potatoes and carrots would go great with a side of soda bread!
- Irish Cheddar Shepherd's Pie - I went as Irish as I could with this recipe and used Kerrygold butter and cheddar! A warm piece of soda bread will make you feel like you're in an Irish pub. Don't forget to serve it with a tall glass of cold Guinness stout!
Or you can check out all of my other fun St. Patrick's Day recipes!
This recipe was originally posted in February 2015 and has been updated with more information and cooking tips. Don't worry - I didn't change the recipe!