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4 Ingredient Irish Soda Bread + Gluten Free Option

Traditional 4-ingredient Irish Soda Bread is the best, easy recipe to make from scratch. A dense, crusty, hearty bread with a delicious tang. Gluten free option too!

Do you only make a savory soda bread for St. Patrick’s day? I try and find any reason to make bread; and simple, crusty breads slathered with soft Irish butter make me swoon!

We love homemade, from-scratch, delicious whole foods; we love breads, especially quick breads; you might try this Cheddar Bay Biscuit Bread, Beer Bread (similar to soda bread) or these yummy Beer Bread Popovers.

Irish Soda bread on wooden cutting board with wedge cut out and buttered with Irish butter.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe from Ireland

I have mentioned before, I am not sure I have a speck of Irish in me, but I sure can appreciate their delicious traditional foods! And now you can too!

A simple 4 ingredient authentic recipe that I have had in my recipe box for years, and honestly, I re-discovered it recently when I was cleaning out my cookbook cupboard.

Crusty, dense loaf of 4 ingredient Irish soda bread on cutting board with wedge fo bread cut out.

Is Irish Soda Bread really Irish?

While steeped in tradition and history, I have read in several places that while the Irish have made this unleavened, hearty, dense bread famous. It was the Native American’s who originally started baking with pearl ash, a natural form of soda, the Irish later adopted the practice.

Ingredients

While you will see many recipes containing raisins or currents, sugar, eggs and butter; these are actually variations on the original 4 ingredient Irish soda bread.

I wanted a simple, traditional savory soda bread recipe. This no yeast, unleavened, dense and crusty bread gets its beautiful rise from the reaction between the baking soda and the buttermilk.

Ingredient shot for 4 ingredient Irish soda bread, L-R all purpose flour, buttermilk, kosher salt and baking soda
  • ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR | I used organic, unbleached all-purpose flour (also known as plain flour in the UK)
    • Original recipes many times used oat flour and soft wheat flour, you might try experimenting with other flours, see notes below.
  • KOSHER SALT |the flavor of the ages, table salt may be used, but I prefer in recipes like this the flavor of kosher salt.
  • BAKING SODA | Wouldn’t be “soda” bread without the baking soda! Make sure it is fresh! Test if you need to:
    • Place about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in a small bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of plain vinegar. You should see pretty vigorous bubbling. If there are only a few bubbles or no bubbles at all, then it’s time to replace your baking soda.
  • BUTTERMILK | Normally I would tell you if you do not have buttermilk to make your own (see below), but in this instance the thicker, rich, sour, cultured buttermilk is best. I love whole milk buttermilk, but could not find it after three stores!
Facebook image for 4 ingredient Irish soda bread with wedge removed and irish butter on side.

How to Make Savory Soda Bread

All you need is a large bowl, clean hands and 10 minutes of time.

  1. Whisk together dry ingredients (all purpose flour, salt and soda) in a large bowl (glass or ceramic are preferable, they won’t react with the acidity in the dough)
  2. Make a small well in the center and pour in buttermilk.
process shots for 4 ingredient soda bread, whisk dry ingredients, add buttermilk.
  1. Using a sturdy wooden spoon stir until a shaggy dough forms.
  2. With clean hands, gently work the mixture into a sticky dough, incorporating all of the dry ingredients. You might need a little more buttermilk.
Process shots for Irish Soda Bread, wooden spoon mixing in buttermilk, hands mixing into a sticky dough
  1. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper and pat the dough into a round disc, about 1 ½ – 2 inches in thickness.
  2. Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, score the dough in a cross pattern, then puncture each of the quarters with the tip of a knife.
process shots for irish soda bread, patting dough into a disc, scored dough with knife in background.
  1. Melt a couple teaspoons of butter by placing a cast iron skillet (<– my favorite!) in preheated oven for a few minutes, swirl around to coat bottom of pan. OR place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet sprinkled with a little flour.
  2. Place savory soda bread dough into pan and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees F, then TURN THE TEMPERATURE DOWN to 400 degrees F and bake for 25 additional minutes.
process shot of 4 ingredient Irish soda bread dough in cast iron pan.

Maybe this part of an old wives tale, I could not find a “reason” for this step, but in my research, I read about doing this in numerous posts and cookbooks.

  1. After baking for 25 minutes, turn it upside down (carefully) and bake for 5 more minutes. Tapping on the bottom should yield a hollow sound.

How to make Gluten Free Soda Bread

Since I have so many friends, family and readers that are gluten free when possible, I like to give the option to create a gluten free version of the recipe. My suggestions are below:

  • Replace all of the flour with gluten free all purpose (1:1 cup for cup) flour.
  • Or try a combination of GF AP Flour and GF Oat Flour, maybe a 3:1 ratio.

High Altitude Adjustments

Great news! I made no adjustments for high altitude for this traditional Irish soda bread recipe!

Close up shot of butter spreading on wedge of Irish Soda bread with loaf in background.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is there a cross cut on the top of the bread?

Superstitions claim that cutting a cross on the top of your soda bread keeps the evil spirits out. In the 19th century, it was believed that a cross slashed atop your bread let the devil out while the bread baked.

It was also believed that the symbolism can be interpreted as blessing the bread and giving thanks, I like that one better!

A more practical reason is it allow the bread to bake faster and evenly.

Does soda bread need to be kneaded?

No, unlike traditional yeast breads, you want to treat Irish soda bread with kid gloves to so speak, you may need to gently fold a few times to get it to come together, but not a traditional knead.

What if I want a softer crust?

If a softer crust is desired, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes then wrap in a clean tea towel, or brush with melted butter when it comes out of the oven.

What do you eat with Irish Soda bread?

My favorite way, warm and slathered in a good Irish butter, like Kerrygold. It is also delicious with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. And of course used to sop up the juices from hearty soups and stews.

Can I add currents or raisins to traditional soda bread?

You sure can! But then it is actually called Spotted Dog or Spotted Dick bread and no longer a soda bread. Try adding ¼- ½ cup of currents or raisins to the dough.

What to serve with Soda bread!

My favorite part, this bread goes with so many delicious recipes, here are a few that will have you dancing an Irish jig!

But this savory soda bread is not just for St. Patrick’s day, it is delicious anytime of the year!

Sure hope you enjoyed this little walk down a bit of history, if you make this traditional Irish soda bread recipe, please rate and comment below!

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Irish Soda bread on wooden cutting board with wedge cut out and buttered with Irish butter.
Yield: 16 servings

4 Ingredient Irish Soda Bread (Gluten Free option)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Traditional 4 ingredient Irish Soda Bread is the best easy recipe to make from scratch. A dense, crusty, hearty bread recipe from Ireland. Gluten free option too!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour | I used organic unbleached all purpose flour, see notes for Gluten Free
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda | see post for how to make sure it is fresh
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk* | I used low-fat buttermilk, but would have preferred whole buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F, prep a 10 inch or larger cast iron skillet with a little oil or melted butter or place a piece of parchment paper on a bakign sheet.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients (all purpose flour, salt and soda) in a large bowl (glass or ceramic are preferable, they won't react with the acidity in the dough)
    Make a small well in the center and pour in buttermilk.
  3. Using a sturdy wooden spoon stir until a shaggy dough forms.
    With clean hands, gently work the mixture into a sticky dough, incorporating all of the dry ingredients. You might need a little more buttermilk.
  4. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper and pat the dough into a round disc, about 1 ½ - 2 inches in thickness.
    Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, score the dough in a cross pattern, then puncture each of the quarters with the tip of a knife.
  5. Melt a couple teaspoons of butter by placing a cast iron skillet (Place savory soda bread dough into pan and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees F, then TURN THE TEMPERATURE DOWN to 400 degrees F and bake for 25 additional minutes.
  6. Maybe this part of an old wives tale, I could not find a "reason" for this step, but after baking for 25 minutes, turn it upside down (carefully) and bake for 5 more minutes. Tapping on the bottom should yield a hollow sound. Let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing and serve in wedges, slathered with Irish butter!

Notes

BUTTERMILK

Normally if you are out of buttermilk, I tell you to make your own (1 tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup milk, stir and let sit 5-10 minuites) however; it is not quite as sour or as thick as real buttermilk, so I woud suggest for this recipe to use real buttermilk. Plus I like whole milk buttermilk if you can find it, I went to three stores and could only find lowfat.

GLUTEN FREE SODA BREAD

Replace all of the flour with gluten free all purpose (1:1 cup for cup) flour. Or try a combination of GF AP Flour and GF Oat Flour, maybe a 3:1 ratio.

HIGH ALTITUDE INSTRUCTIONS: No adjustments necessary for high altitude.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 123Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 183mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 4g

The nutritional information is estimated and may not be entirely accurate, at times it pulls information for suggestions and options which may increase calories, etc. Nutritional information will change based on used ingredients, quantities used, etc.

Did you make this recipe?

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kathleen

ABOUT KATHLEEN

I enjoy sharing easy recipes that are wholesome and delicious. I am fed by my faith, family, friends & food! Welcome to my kitchen! Read more...

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