Traditional Irish Soda Bread

Traditional Irish Soda Bread is part of my younger childhood memories. Granny Hyland used to make Irish Soda Bread most days of her life and our annual holiday to Ireland to visit her and Grandad Hyland, in their gatekeepers cottage in the Wicklow countryside, allowed us to enjoy its flavour once again. The taste and smell of food has very powerful associations don’t you think?

Irish Soda Bread was the most popular homemade bread in Ireland in the earlier part of the 20th century. The climate in Ireland produced softer wheat rather than hard wheat with a high gluten content (best suited for using yeast as a raising agent). There were two common types of soda bread, one was ‘cake ‘ (where the loaf is baked as a round shape with a cross cut into the top to allow the bread to expand) and ‘farl’ (more common in Northern Ireland- the dough was flattened to 1/4 inch thick, cut into 4 pieces and cooked on griddle).

It’s the quickest & easiest bread recipe ever, it involves only a very light knead (the less the better) and no waiting for the dough to rise… I always pay a couple of dollars more for an organic non-gmo flour and even then, this loaf is a fraction of the price it would command in your local store..

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

  • 1 lb of wholewheat flour (4 cups)
  • 500 mls (2 cups) of buttermilk (1 teaspoon of vinegar added to fresh milk <<I used almond milk>> makes a good fake buttermilk)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)


  1. Place 2 cups of milk into a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Mix well and set aside for 15 minutes before using in recipe. Buttermilk is a necessary ingredient because it helps activate the baking soda to produce a rise
  2. Meanwhile sieve your flour into a large bowl with the salt and baking soda
  3. After 15 minutes whisk up the buttermilk with a fork to make sure it is mixed well and pour into a well in the centre of the flour
  4. Mix up with a spoon until  formed into a dough
  5. Briefly knead to ensure it is mixed well (knead as little as possible)
  6. Form into a round, very slightly flattened shape, place on baking tray, and with a sharp knife mark with a shallow cross in the middle (this allows for the dough to expand)
  7. Oven should be pre-heated to 200 c (400 F) and the loaf placed in the middle to top half of the oven for around 45 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil if it begins to brown too quickly
  8. Loosely wrap in a clean t-towel once removed and place on a cooling rack (wrapping in a tea-towel ensures a softer crust although you can wrap in cling film after it has fully cooled to achieve a similar result)

I served a chunk of this with vegetable and oatmeal goulash yesterday but it is wonderful with soup, cheese and ‘Branston Pickle’ or just with butter.. (I remember this from my pre-vegan days!)

Each loaf is about 1600 calories

25 thoughts on “Traditional Irish Soda Bread

  1. I just recently made my first Irish soda bread from a recipe in an old Canadian Living cookbook. It was delish and went well with my wartime parsnip soup 🙂

    • Yes- I wrap it once it is cooled down and that ensures its softer for the following day… unfortunately that means I have 3/4’s of a loaf to get through over the next day or so….Ohhh the hardship 🙂

      • Carolyn, don’t try to eat it all at once, just portion it and freeze them for ease of conscience ! If you add some fat (such as lard or butter0 you will find it helps the texture when defrosted. I use grease proof paper and foil as soon as it’s cool enough.

  2. I just made this bread – riciculously easy and totally yummy! I will never buy bread again. This was perfect and I know exactly what’s in it. Thank you so much.

  3. So enjoyed finding this recipe! I’ve been looking for traditional Irish Soda Bread for ages. Most I find here in US have the currents or raisins. I want the traditional, plain table bread. Thank you!

    • On traditional Irish soda bread recipes, I have found that there is often potato added, this loaf is then referred to as Fadge or Stampy.

  4. Could I possibly have the original recipe this was based on (i.e. a wartime cookbook page) for the project I am working on? I would love to make this for it but I need the primary source! :/ any way other recipes on your site could be done this way too?

    • Hi Jessica, here’s an authentic WW2 recipe for Soda Bread from ‘Bakes, Buns and Biscuits’ by Mabel Osborne dated 1940.
      1 lb flour
      1 tsp salt
      1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
      3 oz butter or Trex
      buttermilk or sour milk to mix
      Sift the first 3 ingredients into a large bowl then rub in the fat. Mix with the liquid to make light dough, knead lightly and handle gently. Shape into a mound onto a prepared baking sheet flatten a little then cut a deep cross into the top, but not all the way through. Heat the oven to mark 8, reduce to mark 6 then put the loaf into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes.

      This can be made with fresh milk but double the bicarbonate of soda.
      To make a wholemeal loaf use wholemeal flour and add 3 oz brown sugar.

  5. Pingback: Monday In A Moment #23 | On Vintage Pastimes | Kirsten Ashley Photography

  6. Hi, very new to this, being on a yeast free diet, this looks ideal but do you think it would be makeable with a wheatfree flour? (I’m not a coeliac but have a few intolerances!) Would appreciate any input thank you.

    • Hi Kelly, you will find lots of recipes on how to mix your own gluten free flours online. They all vary but it’s worth experimenting to see what suits your digestion best, good luck.

  7. FYI Kelly
    I am not intolerant to wheat flour but I have a friend who is & this is her information on “home made flour substitute mixtures” to make baking a little easier – hope it helps.
    Wheat free all purpose flour mix (makes 1.2 kg), sift together 400g chick pea flour, 400g maize cornflour, 200g fine potato flour & 200g fine polenta. Sift together several times then store in an airtight container, keep cool & dark.
    Wheat free pastry or bread flour mix (makes 1.2 kg), sift together 400g chick pea flour, 400g maize cornflour, 200g fine rice flour & 200g fine tapioca starch or arrowroot. Sift together several times then store in an airtight container, keep cool & dark.

  8. Here is a recipe for Bannocks, Buttermilk Loaves or Scottish Soda Bread.
    1 lb (2.2kg) plain flour
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp sugar
    1/2 pint (10 fl oz/2 cups) sour milk or butter milk (plain yogurt works well too)
    Sift the first 4 ingredients Then mix in enough liquid to make a firm pliable dough – it is important to handle it lightly at this stage or the texture will toughen. Now either/or :
    For a pull apart loaf cut the dough into eight, shape into balls & arrange into a prepared spring form 8″ cake tin or shape into a round (about 8″) on a baking tray & mark into 8 farls (wedges) cut fairly deeply but not all the way through the dough this helps the loaf to rise evenly. Now to bake your loaf paint the surface with milk & bake at 200c/400F for about 30-40 minutes or till well risen. Leave the loaf on the tray or in the tin, cover with a clean tea towel to allow it to cool slowly without drying out.
    If you bake the loaf in the pull apart way you can wrap each piece in cling film & freeze so that you do not binge eat. The best way to defrost one is to unwrap from the film wrap in a clean tea towel & micro wave in short bursts – this keeps it moist & yummy, enjoy!

  9. Soda Breads (ie no yeast required)
    aka Stampy, Fadge, Milk Fadge, Milk Loaf & Milk Bread
    The Be-Ro cookbooks from my childhood had recipes called Milk Fadge (aka Irish Stampy) in one & Milk Bread in another, same recipe with a different name as each was issued at a different time, both use self-raising flour. The less flour and rising agent you use, the denser and moister the finish. Using more flour, rising agent & moisture in the mixture with milk creates an increasingly light and fluffy breadish finish.
    1 lb self-raising flour
    1 tsp salt
    2 oz lard
    ½ pint sour milk or buttermilk
    Sift flour & salt together, rub in the lard then make a dough with the milk. Handle lightly & form into 2 loaves, either round on a tray or in loaf pans. Bake at 180°c/400°F/Gas 4 for 30 minutes.

    • A PS for the Irish Stampy above. Stampy is made with either all flour replaced with potatoes or proportionally as finances allowed, hence the reference that the lightness of the finish depends on how much flour & rising agents are used. For a more authentic Stampy try beginning with a half’n’half mixture of each. I do hope this makes sense !

  10. Through experimentation I find that any of the family of soda breads & scones rise more evenly and crack less if they are covered during the baking process in the oven. It;s also why scones should be arrranged on a tray with scant spaces between them as the proximity forces them to rise, it’s also why the dough shoudl not be too ‘slack”. I was told by a master baker that this is beacuse (like true French bread) the loaf is steamed in the oven. That’s why crusty breads (like a French baguette) are baked with a tray of water on the bottom shelf of the oven. I’m a trivia gatherer, but I do find it useful.

    A friend sent me this link as she was finding it difficult to find wheat flour in her local store, especially during lockdown, interesting read during lockdown:

    Personall I have tried most of the flours and find them all interesting in their own ways – aside from soya flour, that particular 1kg of flour of flour was baked into several things that ended up being fed to my chickens !!!

    I have tried most from my victual dealer and but small amount of each to experiment with. Chick pea flour (chana ) is good, as is green pea flour, especiay for pooris, naans, chapatis, etc. Coconut flour is surprisingly un coconutty, I used that for a cake. Barley flour and flakes make good soda bread, scones & savoury biscuits. The spelt flour was (as you would expect) wonderful, as was rye. Cornbreads are good with the finer polenta & increasingly chewy as you progress through to the course one.

  11. All wheat in the US is non-GMO. Unfortunately almost all wheat is sprayed with glyphosate (a major ingredient in RoundUp) before harvest. It is used to dry the grain. There are only a couple of reasonably priced flours that are glyphosate-free and they are seeking certification to label their product. One is Wheat Montana which I now use regularly.

    • Wow Allison – glycophosphates on grain; that’s very worrying indeed, as I understand it’s carcinogenic. Glad you found an alternative

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