This brown soda bread is an authentic Irish classic and made with everyday ingredients including flour, oats, eggs, and buttermilk. The molasses is optional. We think of knowing how to make it as sorta like an Irish birthright. It’s authentic and traditional and quick and easy.
There are about as many different recipes for brown soda bread as there are families in Ireland. We fancy this one for its lovely texture, sturdy crust, and nutty taste. Same goes for everyone who’s tried it and its accompanying feeling that this bread is a birthright, no matter your heritage. Because we guarantee you’re going to feel Irish when you try a slice.–David Leite
How do I avoid crumbly soda bread?
The absence of yeast means that this won’t be an elastic dough. Instead, what you’ll end up with is much closer to a batter than a dough. When you’re mixing the dough, it’s gonna be sticky. Really sticky. Just take a deep breath and keeping mixing—and don’t add more flour. An undermixed dough will get you a craggy crust if that’s your thing, but with a little more elbow grease, your loaf will achieve a higher rise and less of a crumbly texture. So our advice is to continue stirring until you have no obvious streaks of ingredients left.
Brown Soda Bread
- 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan or 12-cup muffin tin
- 2 3/4 cups whole-wheat (wholemeal) flour
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- Pinch salt
- 2/3 cup rolled oats plus more for sprinkling
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 2 teaspoons sunflower oil plus more for the pan
- 2 tablespoons molasses (optional)
- 2 cups buttermilk (either low-fat or full-fat), or plain yogurt or milk mixed with the juice of 1 lemon
- Handful seeds or oats for sprinkling
- Butter, honey, preserves, or some other spreadable thing for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC) if making a loaf and 350°F (180°C) if making rolls. Lightly oil a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan or 12-cup muffin tin.
- Toss the flours, baking soda, salt, and oats in a large bowl and mix well.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the oil. If a sweeter, darker bread is desired, add the 2 tablespoons molasses. Gently stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Then gently stir in the buttermilk. The mixture may be sticky.
- If making a single loaf, turn the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with a wet spoon. Sprinkle some seeds or oats across the top, if desired, and then bake for 1 hour. After the hour has elapsed, remove the bread from the pan. If a crustier loaf of bread is desired, transfer the loaf to a baking sheet, return it to the oven, and bake for 20 minutes more. If making multiple rolls, spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 15 to 25 minutes.
- Allow the loaf or rolls to cool on a wire rack before serving. The brown soda bread is best when served with a schmear of butter, honey, preserves, or any combination thereof. It will keep at room temperature for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months. Originally published March 14, 2015.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Okay, I seriously LOVED this brown soda bread recipe. Like, LOVED it. A lot. I’ve made brown soda bread before, and it’s always come out as hard as a rock, so this was a revelation for me. It was soft and lovely and stayed fresh for days, and it’s so easy to make!
I used buttermilk, and yes, the consistency was sloppy when I added in the buttermilk. The bread was not ready to remove from the pan at 1 hour, although on further reflection, this might’ve been because I didn’t oil the pan enough, seeing as it stuck in one corner, and I had to pry it out.
I kept the loaf wrapped tightly in foil for 4 days, and it stayed fresh, but sadly on day 5, it started to get a little mold around the edges. I ate the bread with butter, with butter and jam, with butter and honey, by itself, with cheese, with butter and Vegemite (Hey, I AM Australian!), with tomatoes, and with smashed avocado. I loved it so much that I want to teach my boys’ cooking club how to make this because every kid should know how to make some sort of bread from scratch.
This is a basic brown soda bread recipe with a lovely crumb. We followed the recipe exactly. It took about 15 minutes to collect the ingredients, measure, and mix up the batter.
We used buttermilk and followed the timing recommended for baking to the minute. We ended up with a pretty brown loaf sprinkled with oats. We served the bread with sweet butter and honey, and it was delicious.
We cannot report on whether this bread will keep fresh for days, as the remainder of the loaf surely will be gone in a day. Next time, we will try a version of this brown soda bread recipe with molasses and yogurt, which we almost always have in the house.
This is a quick-to-make brown soda bread recipe that results in a light bread with a nice chewiness. The dough comes together very quickly—from gathering the ingredients to finishing the dough, it took about 10 minutes, including mixing everything by hand. The crust, which is always the best part of a loaf of bread, in my opinion, had a good crunch to it, and the crumb inside was slightly chewy, as it should be.
The bread dough was definitely wet and sticky. I was not able to pour it into the loaf pan, but it was spoonable. After 1 hour baking time, it removed easily from the pan. I noticed my loaf already had a crusty exterior on the bottom but continued baking it out of the pan on the rack for another 20 minutes as instructed. It became a little crustier all around.
I don’t think this last 20 minutes was completely necessary, as the loaf sounded hollow, indicating it was done, when tapped with my knuckles after I removed it from the tin, but the additional crunch of the crust was not unpleasant. The taste was slightly nutty and went very well with a light minestrone for dinner and was delicious the next morning when toasted and buttered for breakfast. The loaf remained moist for the 2 days it was around—it was gone by lunch the next day.
This is a really nice bread that people can’t seem to get enough of. Even a couple of my tasters who have texture issues with whole-wheat or whole-grain breads ate it without complaint. And I have already had several requests for more.
Soda breads are one of those lovely, quick, and satisfying habits that, fortunately, are often made with grainy goodness and therefore require not too much guilt. This brown soda bread was just that much nicer, with the buttermilk and oats lending a moistness that keeps it on the right side of crumbly. The wet, shaggy batter mixes up easily and very quickly, so you could decide to make this in the afternoon and have it done for dinner.
The recipe calls for whole-wheat flour, and I took that directive one step further, using an organic sprouted-wheat flour from Arrowhead Mills. I added 1/4 cup sultanas (golden raisins) for that little note of chewy fruit without making it too sweet overall. I sprinkled more of the thick rolled oats on top. The only issue was in taking it out of the oiled pan after the first hour (it was nice and springy to the touch at that point, as well as evenly browned), as it wanted to stick to the bottom even after gently going around the sides with a thin spatula. I think either using cold butter on the pan or a parchment liner would fix this problem. Oil just has a harder time staying put on the finish of most loaf pans.
I carefully unmolded it, scraped the sticking portion, pressed it firmly to the bottom of the loaf, and put the whole thing back into the oven on a parchment sheet directly on my baking stone since it was already in the oven. Since the stone holds quite a bit of heat, I just gave it 15 minutes. I carefully sliced the bread a couple hours later (remember, this is not a yeast bread with elasticity, so it may be crumbly). I took it with butter and cream cheese to share with folks who had a seen more than a few soda breads in their time (Celtic fiddlers and singers), and they snarfed it all up and declared it good. I agreed.
This brown soda bread recipe couldn’t be easier, and it makes a wonderful Irish soda bread—soft and tender with a thin, crisp crust. I liked the nuttiness and slight crunch from the whole-wheat flour and oats.
I used the optional raisins, which added little nuggets of sweetness to the bread. I also did the roll variation since I was baking on a hot August day and wanted to have the oven on for the shortest amount of time. I found the bread to be best warm from the oven. It was still good later the same day, but it was a little dry the next day.
I used buttermilk in the batter. My batter was very, very thick. The rolls were done after 15 minutes. I added the optional molasses and liked the added sweetness. I probably would add even more next time, maybe up to 1/4 cup. I much preferred them the day I made them. If I had to do it over again, I would have frozen the rolls as soon as they were cool.
Instead of a loaf of brown soda bread, I made 12 rolls. I was worried I was going to miss out on the crusty exterior and the spongy center we were promised, but no! The roll version is just delightful—as well as portion-controlled, which I need when faced with freshly baked bread.
The handful of oats added additional nutty flavor and a nice texture. The bread is mild in flavor, but that allows the eater to slather it with lightly salted butter or preserves or, if desired, just eat it plain.
To make the rolls, I used my trusty ice cream scoop to portion the batter among 12 muffin cups generously slicked with oil. Be sure to lightly press those oats on top of the smoothed batter so they don’t fall off when you tip out the rolls. The rolls baked in 30 minutes, and I cooled them in the tin on a wire rack until I was able to comfortably remove them, which took maybe 20 minutes.
By the way, if you choose to make the roll version of this brown soda bread recipe, you can have everything done in less than an hour, start to finish.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
A super easy and tasty quick bread. Just mix everything together and bake. That’s all!
I followed the recipe as written, added some more sunflower seeds and flax meal to the batter, and it turned out excellent. Heavy and moist with a nice texture. This brown soda bread was perfect toasted with some butter and honey. Will make it again!