Irish Brown Soda Bread

Golden raisins and fragrant rosemary dress up the traditional Irish loaf
29 Ratings
75% would make again
Irish Soda Bread
Photo: Katie Foster/Tasting Table

Traditional Irish soda bread has four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk. But Americans decided that wasn't enough, so modern versions often contain extras like eggs, caraway seeds and butter.

Our recipe straddles the line between traditional and newfangled: Dark brown sugar sweetens the loaf just slightly, while bits of chopped rosemary add a lingering savory note to offset plump golden raisins. Flour in Ireland is traditionally lower in protein than American flour, so we use cake flour to mimic it and keep the texture light, plus whole wheat flour and wheat germ to maintain brown bread's deep color and token nuttiness.

Make sure you score a cross into the top of the loaf: Irish folklore says this is to let the fairies out, but cooking science has this down as a method to allow heat to escape and the bread to expand.

Serve the bread with more butter than you'd think necessary and a spread of fresh preserves, or use it to sop up hearty beef stew. And don't forget the pint of Guinness.

To learn more, read "Shamrock and Roll."

Irish Brown Soda Bread

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Yield: 1 loaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes


1 cup cake flour

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup wheat germ

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1½ teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

1⅔ cups buttermilk

1 cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons melted butter

Butter and jam, for serving


1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, wheat germ, sugar, baking soda, salt and chopped rosemary.

3. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined, then mix the golden raisins into the dough. Use your hands to lightly knead the dough until a ball shape forms, making sure not to overmix, as this will toughen the bread.

4. Place the ball of dough into the prepared skillet. Use a knife to score the top, cutting about a third of the way through the dough in an X formation. Brush the top of the loaf with the melted butter and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of rosemary on top. Bake the bread until the crust is golden and the loaf is hollow when tapped, about 40 minutes.

5. Allow the bread to cool completely, then slice and serve with butter and jam.

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