traditional Irish soda bread

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

I love baking when the weather is bad. There is something so enjoyable about being in the warm cocoon of the kitchen with the wonderful baking smells as freezing rain pelts the windows. I've been feeling like making bread for a while, but today I was motivated by the rain and the fact that there was no bread in the house. Of course, yeast breads take a certain amount of time to rise and I wasn't in the mood to wait, so I made Irish soda bread.
If you've never made bread before because you find it daunting, then this is the recipe for you. With just four ingredients and an absolute minimum of kneading, you can have a loaf of bread on your table in under an hour. This recipe is a real traditional Irish soda bread (no raisins, please!), but the one I made used whole wheat flour, rather than white flour, because that's all I had on hand. You can use a mixture of the two, if you like. It is also traditionally baked in a cast iron pot with a tight fitting lid, but that didn't happen in my kitchen, either.
This is a very rustic bread, and not for making elegant little sandwiches. It's perfect with a ploughman's lunch, with some cheese and pickles, or with some homemade jam or jelly.

Prep time: 10 minutes  

Total time: 50 minutes  

Yield: 1 loaf

Traditional Irish Soda Bread


  • 3 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups buttermilk
Cooking directions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Measure flour, salt and soda and mix together in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk. Stir, adding more buttermilk if needed; the dough should be soft, but not wet or sticky.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead just enough to bring the dough together. Turn it over and pat it into a round loaf about 1 1/2 inches high.
  4. Place on a baking sheet and cut a cross into the top of the loaf with a knife. Cut fairly deeply into the bread, being sure to cut all the way to the edges.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or until done. To test, tap the bread on the bottom. It will sound hollow when done.
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