Irish Soda Bread

We became passionate about freshly baked Irish soda bread after being introduced to it by a lovely lady called Caroline Tod. Her bread has a moist, nutty wheatiness with a dense, slightly sweet crumb and crunchy crust. It is really, really yummy. It has bags more flavor than normal bread and goes perfectly with cheese, soup, marmalade…we could go on. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make and seems to keep for a week without becoming stale or dry. She has very kindly given us her recipe.–Wild at Heart

LC A Schmear Of This, A Schmear Of That Note

It’s sorta hard to ignore when one of our recipe testers says something is “crazy easy to make.” Or that it’s “super simple.” Or even that it’s “lovely on its own”. So we don’t ignore those types of comments, and we certainly don’t think you should, either. Especially regarding this Irish soda bread, which has a subtle sweetness that makes it, yes, lovely on its own but also a darn good platform for a schmear of this, a schmear of that, a schmear of just about anything, actually, whether butter or peanut butter or honey or preserves (mmmmm, marmalade!) or soft cheese or, well, you tell us. Kindly let us know in a comment below.

Irish Soda Bread with Walnuts Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • Mild vegetable oil, for the baking sheet or pan
  • 2 cups (about 7 ounces) walnut halves or pieces
  • Scant 4 cups (1 pound) whole wheat flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 tablespoon demerara or light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups (18 ounces) plain yogurt (do not substitute Greek yogurt), plus more as needed

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and lightly oil either a baking sheet (if you prefer to make a free-form, traditional round loaf) or a loaf pan (if you’d rather a more contemporary rectangular loaf).
  • 2. Blitz half the walnuts in a food processor until you have a coarse powder. Chop the remaining walnuts into largish chunks. Place all the walnuts in a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt, and mix well to ensure the baking soda is evenly dispersed.
  • 3. Stir in 2 cups yogurt and gently combine, mixing first with a whisk or wooden spoon and then switching to your hands, until a soft dough forms. The dough will be a shaggy mess, but bring the ingredients together as best you can, being careful not to knead the dough as this bread benefits from being handled as little as possible. [Editor's Note: Different yogurts have different moisture contents. We found that depending on the yogurt used, you may need to work the dough a little more than you expect or you may even need to add a few tablespoons or even up to 1/2 cup more yogurt. We made this bread with low-fat as well as full-fat yogurt, and each turned out fine. Just don't use Greek yogurt.]
  • 4. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. If you’re going to bake it in a loaf tin, form the bread into a log shape and drop it into the tin. If you’re going to bake it in the traditional round, form it into a ball, place it on the oiled baking sheet, and score a deep cross into the top using a sharp knife.
  • 5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the loaf is well risen and browned. Let the bread cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes—if, that is, you can manage to keep your hands off it for that long.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Elie Nassar

Mar 12, 2014

Everything I love about this recipe is right there in the intro. It's crazy easy to make and delivers "moist, nutty wheatiness with a dense crumb and crunchy crust.” I baked it in the evening and we enjoyed it for breakfast the next morning—and for a couple of days after that. We tried it with butter, peanut butter, honey, and sharp Cheddar. The most surprising aspect of this loaf is how moist it is, considering the fact that it doesn’t have any fat other than the yogurt (I used 2%) and walnuts. The flavor is pure, nutty whole wheat goodness and deep, rich walnuts. I would love to try the recipe again with some chopped prunes mixed in. I halved the recipe and noticed that the dough needed an additional 1/4 cup yogurt to be properly moistened, but this might be due to the type of yogurt I used. Brands vary when it comes to moisture content.

Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

Mar 12, 2014

Yum! I got a delicious, slightly sweet, slightly salty, nutty soda bread. I'll take my hunk straight up with some salty butter. But hold on. We need to back up a minute before we get ahead of ourselves. This bread relies solely on a reaction between an acid (yogurt) and a base (baking soda), so we should double-check that box of baking soda, which may or may not have been in your pantry since last year's two-day holiday baking fandango. Because if that baking soda has lost its oomph, your walnut soda bread will be an unleavened walnut rock. How do I know? My baking soda had lost its bubble power, and my first batch of bread was leaden. Let's check the baking soda: Add 1/4 teaspoon vinegar to 1/2 cup hot water. This is your acid. Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. You've got lots of bubbles right? No? Sorry, hon, then it’s off to the market with you for a fresh box.

Testers Choice
Susan Bingaman

Mar 12, 2014

Wow, is this bread good. And—dare I say it?—it might even be good for you. I love the combination of whole-wheat flour, coarsely ground walnuts, and coarsely chopped walnuts. The result is nutty and, thanks to the yogurt, incredibly moist. I used low-fat yogurt and didn’t notice anything lacking. Please don’t be tempted to add another tablespoon or two of brown sugar. The bread shouldn’t be too sweet. And it’s true—the bread lasts for days without becoming dry or tasting stale. It’s divine plain or slathered with lightly salted butter or homemade jam. And don’t get me started on how great it is toasted. Please, please, please make this bread!

Testers Choice
Elsa M. Jacobson

Mar 12, 2014

Super simple, indeed! What an absolutely lovely twist on the standard white flour soda bread, yielding a more nutritious bread. Also, thanks to the walnuts, this bread has plenty of great flavor and texture. It’s moist, has a nice crumb for a quick bread, and the crust was not only appropriately crunchy but also beautifully golden brown after the 50 minutes of baking time called for by the recipe. It is, however, not the most visually appealing loaf. I chose to make one large free-form loaf, and it baked perfectly through to the center. While the bread was pretty when sliced, it did not make a very attractive loaf. My friend Pam commented that it looked like a brain. However, it was quite tasty, and a day later it was still moist and fresh-tasting. I used European-style whole-milk yogurt and made sure the brown sugar and baking soda were mixed in well. My dough never seemed soft, though, and it took more handling to bring it together than I would have liked. But fear not, the bread came out great and would go perfectly with cheese, soup, and marmalade. I especially think it would pair well with the Breakfast Cheese and the Concord Grape Jam.

Testers Choice
Mackenzie Campbell

Mar 12, 2014

This is a great recipe for soda bread and is definitely something every cook should have in his or her arsenal, as it's almost too easy. I was hoping for a dense, rustic loaf of bread, and this recipe turned out just what I wanted. Not only was it what I was craving, but it also came together very quickly, and I'm sure that I'd have all the ingredients on hand at any given time. I would enjoy eating this bread in the morning with a touch of jam. The recipe is pretty laid-back and undemanding, but beginners might find the following a touch difficult. The measurement for flour is unclear; does it need to be weighed out to 1 pound or will measuring a little under 4 cups suffice? My mixture also required more liquid in order to come together as a workable dough, so I added about another 1/2 cup yogurt (I used low-fat plain yogurt). Next time, I'll try mixing in some dried berries with the walnuts.

Testers Choice
Chiyo Ueyama

Mar 12, 2014

Easy, delicious, and versatile—this humble bread offers so much! It’s ever so slightly sweet but mostly neutral tasting, so as the description says, it goes well with many things: good old butter, jam, cheese (blue cheese with walnut is a no-brainer), salads, etc. It’s nice and dense, too, so a little goes a long way. I used grapeseed oil for the pan (didn’t want to use strongly flavored oil) and whole-milk yogurt. The dough is sticky, and it doesn’t have the smooth “kneaded” appearance, but don’t fret—it bakes just fine. Mine was free-form and baked perfectly in 50 minutes.

Testers Choice
M.K. Morgan

Mar 12, 2014

This is a really quick bread with good flavor and texture. I liked that the flour measurement was given in weight. I used King Arthur white whole-wheat flour, light brown sugar, and fat-free yogurt. I made the bread in the traditional round crossed loaf, and it took just 50 minutes to bake. I actually made it twice, using pecans the second time, and liked that loaf better as I thought it had a mellower flavor, but my husband preferred the walnut version. My only negative comment is that the dryness of the dough made it difficult to bring together, which might frustrate someone not familiar with making soda bread. I might try using honey instead of brown sugar next time. And there will be a next time.

Testers Choice
Shannon Parrish

Mar 12, 2014

I really loved the flavor and texture of the walnuts in this bread and couldn’t stop at just one slice. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about this recipe at first. The dough was still quite dry and crumbly after incorporating the yogurt with the dry ingredients, and it didn’t come together as well as I’d hoped. Nevertheless, I proceeded to form it into a round, slice the top, and bake it in the oven. The smell of toasted walnuts and warm wheat were overwhelming and absolutely irresistible. Once baked, the outside of the loaf still looked too floury and quite crumbly. Much to my surprise, though, when I sliced the loaf, a moist yet dense, nutty, heavenly slice of bread revealed itself! This bread would be great in its simplest form with a slather of butter or jam or accompanying a warm wintry soup. I still feel that it could use a bit more liquid to allow for better incorporation and a more cohesive dough, but otherwise it was fantastic.

Testers Choice
Carrie S.

Mar 12, 2014

This soda bread surprised me in a good way. Based on the ingredients, I expected an overly dense bread that was one-dimensional in flavor. Instead, I got a hearty bread with a cornbread-like texture and great nutty flavor and crunch from the walnuts. The yogurt adds some moisture to the bread, and I think it helps the bread from being too dense. The brown sugar adds a touch of sweetness. The bread worked really well with a creamy, spreadable cheese, and I think it’d also be great with something sweet, like apricot preserves. The bread is good alone too, but the flavors seem to shine when it’s served with something else. A few tips that I'll follow the next time I make this: Use a whisk to mix the dry ingredients. It was much faster than a wooden spoon and better at evenly mixing all of the ingredients. It’s easier to mix in the wet ingredients with your hands than with a spatula or wooden spoon, but be warned: it’s really messy. You end up with a lot of the dough on your hands that you have to scrape off. After I mixed in the yogurt, I noticed that a lot of flour still wasn't incorporated. I let the dough sit for about 5 minutes and then continued mixing, which seemed to help.

Testers Choice
Lydia Brimage

Mar 12, 2014

I used a brand of Irish soda brown bread flour, which is available from a flour mill in Britain. Towards the end of the mixing, I found it necessary to add a little milk to bring the remaining dry flour together into the dough. Instead of baking the bread on an oiled baking sheet, I oiled a baking sheet, pressed a piece of baking parchment down on the oil, and placed the loaf on that. The loaf did not expand significantly. In my opinion, it was a small to medium loaf. I cooked it at 180°C (356°F) for the 50 minutes stated, which gave the crust a golden brown color. After cooling, the crust was crunchy and the interior had a good distribution of walnuts throughout. It tasted pleasantly of walnuts without being overpowering. I would make this bread again and found it easier and tastier than the soda bread I normally make.

Testers Choice
Adrienne Lee

Mar 12, 2014

This bread has really good flavor and it is, indeed, easy to make. It took about 45 minutes to bake. A quick tip: In step 2, you could just add the remaining walnuts to the food processor and pulse to get a few chunks rather than chop the walnuts by hand.

Testers Choice
Ralph Knauth

Mar 12, 2014

This is one yummy bread, and so easy to make. Just throw everything together, mix, and bake. Super easy. The recipe works great as it is written, with baking time was on the dime with 50 minutes. Only thing I changed was I substituted 1/2 cup almond meal for the walnut meal, just because I was low on walnuts. The bread came out perfectly, has a very hearty flavor, and stays fresh for multiple days. Everybody in the family loved it. A keeper, for sure!

Comments
Comments
  1. elenits says:

    Just curious. Writing from Athens Greece where all yoghourt is ‘greek’, why do you specify non-greek yoghourt? What in the States is meant by greek yoghourt? Since I know FAGE sells yoghourt there, would you mean COW yoghourt? Which we avoid here as tasteless :)

    Making this recipe here in Greece, should I use non-live packaged FAGE cow full fat yoghourt from the supermarket?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      elenits, we usually LOVE Greek yogurt for its flavor and consistency, and yes, it’s the only yogurt we’ll eat plain. (I personally still catch myself daydreaming about the yogurt with honey I enjoyed in Santorini more than two decades ago…) But when it comes to using yogurt in this recipe, we simply found Greek yogurt to be too thick for this recipe. I haven’t tried this, so I can’t guarantee that it will work, but perhaps you could stir a splash of milk into some Greek yogurt to achieve the thinner consistency that’s needed? Kindly let us know what you decide to try. Efkaristo.

    • carlottashearson says:

      elenits, in the US, “Greek yogurt” refers to strained cow’s milk yogurt.

  2. pamela says:

    hmmm…having just gotten back from a 12 week cookery course in Ireland, I question the 2 tsp. soda. With my American taste buds, I would never have *gotten* it. But it was pointed out to me right away in Ireland, that the common (American) mistake is too much soda. This causes two things (and more rising is not one): there is a *taste* of soda (a definite no-no), and the interior coloring will have gray-ish striations. Also you need to cook at a very high heat: 450 to begin and then down to 400. After the requisite time, you *tap* it to make sure it is completely hollow … and usually takes turning over the loaf and giving another 5+ minutes in the oven.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Pamela, how lovely, twelve weeks cooking in Ireland! We are curious about your version of soda bread, please let us know.

      • pamela says:

        Hello Beth: I studied with Darina Allen — you can’t get more Irish than that! (I refer to her recipe and her technique.) She is the Julia Child of Ireland! This is her intensive course. 60 students from all over the world come together for this course (offered 4 times a year). Darina helps each student secure employment with her global connections.It was the experience of a lifetime. Thanks for asking!

  3. Aqiyl Aniys says:

    The soda bread looks wonderful. I am curious to taste it with the walnuts. Walnuts are a favorite of mine.

  4. carlottashearson says:

    This sounds great, and I hope to find the time to bake a loaf today. I wanted to point out one thing though, regarding the first tester’s comment that the recipe doesn’t contain “any fat other than the yogurt..and walnuts.” Taken together, 2 c of walnuts and 2 c of whole-milk yogurt contain quite a bit of fat—about as much as 1 1/2 sticks of butter (assuming I’ve done the math correctly).

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      And yet what our tester said remains true. I believe the intention was to draw attention to the fact that the fat in the recipe is healthful fat from whole foods. Not saying it’s a low-fat recipe, simply saying, no added or hydrogenated fats.

  5. ruthie says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever made a whole wheat Irish Soda Bread, but that photo…mmmm. ;) i’d have to cut back on the walnuts or sub something else because walnuts make my mouth blister, but something like pecans or almonds would also give a good, if different, flavor, wouldn’t they?

    Too, I’m wondering if you could add some softened mashed dates, since I dearly love date nut breads. This would be a lot healthier (I would think) than the usual cake-y versions…my grandmother, who made the world’s best date nut bread, is probably frowning at me from the hereafter for such heresy. ;)

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      Hey, ruthie. Absolutely, almonds or pecans would work. Adding softened mashed dates is fine, but it will change the consistency and baking time, so you’d have to keep a close eye on it. If you make it with your suggestions, let me know how it turns out.

  6. Antoinette Almaguer says:

    Unclear recipe. I weighed the walnuts and ounces didn’t equal cups of walnuts. Definitely needed half cup more yogurt, which I didn’t buy.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Antoinette, my profuse apologies! Being a word person and not a numbers person, I made a gaffe in the number of ounces, which I’ve tweaked in the recipe. Rest assured, we test each of our recipes and we have a team of editors on each recipe, so this sorta oops is a rarity. If you (or anyone else) will kindly take a look at it now, you’ll see the amount has been amended. And yes, as noted in the recipe, you may need to add a touch more yogurt to the batter, depending on a lot of things, including the weather, the consistency of your brand of yogurt, the flour you use, and so forth. I hope you’ll give this—and other recipes on the site-another chance.

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