Irish Wheaten Bread {Brown Soda Bread}

I have a thing for accents.  I think I always have.  It’s what draws me to any movie with Gerard Butler, Hugh Jackman, Matthew McConaughey (there’s a Southern twang!), or Harry Potter.  It’s also what caused me to be completely in awe of the new girl in class one year in elementary school.  Not only did this girl have gorgeous red hair that put the Little Mermaid to shame, she was from Ireland.  Which meant she had the coolest accent I’d ever heard.  She had a little brother too, and when a few girls in my class and I got to go help the first graders a few times a week with one-on-one reading, there were nearly fist fights over who got to take the little Irish kid.  I don’t think any of us actually helped him with his reading, we just sat there and stared because it was the most adorable thing ever.  Anyway, as it turns out the little red-headed girl was more than just an accent!  Her name was Laura and we became friends because she was a genuinely sweet girl.   (I swear Laura, I didn’t just like you for your accent!)

You may remember last year around St. Patrick’s day I posted a recipe for a Mexican inspired salad dressing (hey, it was green!)  So this year I wanted to do something genuinely Irish.  I immediately emailed Laura and asked for some direction since I don’t know if half of what we consider to be “Irish” here, is really consumed in Ireland.  She passed along a whole bunch of yummy (and authentic) recipes, and this is one of them.  I’ve seen lots of recipes for Irish Soda Bread, but I loved that this one was whole wheat.  Laura explained that in Northern Ireland, where she’s from, this wheaten bread is more common than the traditional white version.

What I love?  (Besides the fact that it tastes amazing)  There’s no yeast involved! I had to make that big for all of you yeast-o-phobes.  The baking soda and buttermilk react to create the leavening agent, and that means fresh, soft, perfect bread, really fast!  So thank you so much to my friend Laura.  You guys will all love this bread!

Bread flour*, whole wheat flour, oil, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, sugar, and butter.
This recipe calls for bread flour, but according to the all-mighty wikipedia, soda bread works well with cake flour or pastry flour because of their lower gluten levels.  So I bet plain ol’ all purpose flour would work just fine.

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This is so super-duper easy.  Start by whisking your dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.

Cut in the butter.  My butter came straight out of the freezer, so a great tip if you’re  needing to cut in frozen butter is to use a cheese grater.  Quick and easy, plus it creates perfect little sized pieces.  You can even purposely freeze your butter when you need to cut it in, (like for these yummy Buttermilk Cheddar biscuits! Yup, that was just a shameless plug.)
Then make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the oil and the buttermilk.
Stir it all up until all of the flour is incorporated.  You will have a pretty wet dough, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.  Use well floured hands and dump dough onto a floured surface.  Lightly knead a few times and then form into a nice round ball.
Transfer to a greased baking sheet and use a sharp knife to cut a cross in the middle.
Brush with a little buttermilk (if you have extra, if not just use regular milk)
And sprinkle with a little sugar.  Because everything is better with a little sugar 🙂
Bake it up to golden brown perfection and let it cool on a rack before you slice it up.  You can also serve it in wedges, or just let people tear off chunks. Don’t you love how rustic it looks?

Inside it’s moist and flavorful.  The texture is different than a yeast bread; it’s a bit crumbly and almost biscuit like.  It would be perfect with a hearty bowl of stew, or anything that has gravy to soak up!

It’s also SO delicious warm with a pat of butter and a drizzle of honey or jam.  My kids devoured this honey-drizzled wedge.

Stay tuned Wednesday for another Irish-inspired recipe from Kate!


  1. Mmmm… this looks really good! But then again ALL your recipes look/sound great.

    I had a chuckle reading the text at the beginning, though. When I read "Matthew McConaughey", I thought – Why is he on the list? He doesn't have an accent.

    Then I realized that I probably just don't notice it, since I'm from Texas too 🙂

  2. haha Paladin, yes he's a Texas boy! So you must be immune to that sweet sound, lol. It's faint too, as opposed to a heavy drawl. I'll take it any way it comes!

  3. I'm so trying this. I've always wondered if Irish Soda bread was any good and this convinces me. Plus, it's nice to have a no-yeast bread recipe for those nights when I want homemade bread with dinner but it's already 4:30 and I don't want something sweet (like banana bread). So, thanks!

  4. The soda bread looks yummy. I also loved the flat bread from a week or so ago and am looking forward to the gyro recipe!

  5. Hi, I love your blog! I'm trying to calculate Weight Watcher points for this bread. Could you give me a rough estimate of how many slices you could get from this loaf? I realize it depends on how thick you cut them but I was just curious before I make it. Thanks!

  6. Kim, my loaf was about 9" in diameter so you can calculate it that way by deciding how thick you want your slices and how many you could fit in 9 inches. Hope that helps!

  7. Okay – this looks delish! But I have some dietary issues, so questions:

    a. Can you use all all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat? I'm allergic to whole wheat. Or could I substitute in brown rice flour or something like that?

    b. Will milk/vinegar or oj (to make sour milk) create the same effect as the buttermilk? I've used that replacement in recipes before, but never in a recipe that was dependent upon the buttermilk for rising.

    Thanks for yet again another great recipe. Oh and Paladin – I don't hear his accent either and I'm from Ohio. LOL

  8. I love that you posted this today! I've been looking for a soda bread recipe that uses whole wheat flour so this is perfect. I just blogged today with a corned beef recipe so I added a little blurb at the bottom linking to this recipe.

  9. So I meant to post a comment last time you had a recipe that included buttermilk, but, like all mom's of toddlers, "the best laid plans…"!!! Anyway, my dad the engineer geek and his friends at work discovered something one day while they were probably supposed to be working. Homemade buttermilk!!! Its WAY easy. Buy a carton of buttermilk, use it up except for the last couple of tablespoons, pour it into a pint jar (or whatever size you want) add milk to fill the rest of the way. Let stand at room temp for 24hours, and VOILA! buttermilk! You just keep adding milk when needed and let stand. Its even easier than making yogurt!

  10. Good tip on the butter. I NEVER thought of that. And the cheese grater looks so familiar…IKEA???

  11. Just put my bread in the oven. This is the first time i've ever made bread. I hope it turns out right.

  12. SUCCESS!! YAY…i'm so excited. This bread tastes so yummy too. Kid and Husband approved!

  13. Made this bread with broccoli cheese soup (it's green, counts for st. patrick's day right?). And it was fantastic! Loved it. Just polished off three slices for lunch with my left over soup.

  14. Yeast-o-phobes? Are there people who think of yeast in the same category as like high fructose corn syrup or something?

    Anyway looks good, I may try this with my corned beef and cabbage.

  15. mmmmm…I served a mission in Ireland/northern Ireland and this really does look like the real deal. This bread really is more popular than the regular white version. WOULD LOVE TO SEE MORE AUTHENTIC IRISH RECIPES! Thanks for the post!

  16. This looks SO good. I’m glad the whole wheat version is more traditional because I’m a huge sucker for anything whole wheat. It just tastes SO good!
    I do have a question though, I usually just keep the powdered buttermilk on hand since I don’t like to go out and buy the liquid kind every time I need to use it (like all 3 times per year), but do you know if it would react the same in this recipe causing the leavening affect you’re going for?
    Can’t wait to try it! And I ditto the request for more authentic Irish recipes. I’ve never really tasted real Irish food other than corned beef and cabbage. Actually, I don’t even know if that’s authentic either! Ha!

  17. I don’t have buttermilk on hand and I always just do the vinegar/milk trick as a substitute. Does this still react with the baking soda??

  18. I actually didn’t use your recipe (I’m sorry! I forgot you had one on here!) but as soon as I made my soda bread, I freaked out because it looked so dry! I appreciated these wonderful photos. I feel much better about my bread now! 😉 We’ll see how it tastes tomorrow. (Although it’s KILLING ME not to dive into it now!) Love your site! (I’m also making the rainbow cupcakes tomorrow too!)

  19. Made this along with a traditional Irish Stew in honor of St. P yesterday. Easy, Delicious and SOOOO filling. I think I found a new tradition of my own. Can’t wait til next year. If you are interested in trying the Stew let me know. 🙂 Thanks for all your fun recipies!

  20. Just had this for dinner tonight, I know I’m a little late sense St Patty’s past but this was really good. Mine came out a little hard on the bottom, but the rest was yummy and crumbly. We had it with butter and honey and it was yummy. Mine also was kinda big, I’m sure I some how made that happen. A side note, I didn’t have butter milk so I did the milk/vinegar trick and it worked great. Give this a try.

  21. I’ll “third’ that request for more authentic Irish recipes, since I have lots of Irish running through my blood!!!

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