Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

March 11, 2014

I LOVE IRISH SODA BREAD. It’s fast. It’s easy.  Make it with coarsely-ground whole wheat (or “graham”) flour and a little brown sugar, as I do, and you’ll find it’s magically delicious.

I hope you don’t mind, but a little leprechaun will be assisting us in the kitchen today.

Traditionally, Irish soda bread is baked as a free-form ball, with a cross cut into the top to ward off evil spirits.

Heretic that I am, I bake the dough in a 9×5-inch loaf pan. This way I can easily slice the bread for sandwiches and toast.

Here’s the photographic step-by-step recipe, followed by a photo-free (and therefore printer-friendly) copy-and-paste version:

To start, pour 2 cups graham flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour into a big bowl.

No graham flour in your pantry? Use ordinary whole wheat flour.

Then add 1 teaspoon baking powder…

And 1 teaspoon baking soda…

And 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt…

And whisk them all together.

Then whisk in 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar. You’ll end up with some tiny lumps of sugar in the bread, but that’s a good thing. As any 19th century Irish cook will tell you, the eater who receives such a sugar-clump in his or her slice of bread will be blessed with good luck.*

*I dare you to produce a 19th-century Irish cook who will contradict the above statement.

Next, pour 1 beaten egg into 1 3/4 cup of buttermilk, and whisk them together.

Then grab a spoon that’s as green as the moss in County Kilkenny…

And use it to thoroughly blend the wet ingredients into the dry.

Pour the dough into a generously buttered bread pan, and spread it out with a spatula.

Bake on the lower-middle rack of a preheated 375° oven. Baking is complete when the bread rises about 1 inch above the rim of the pan, and the crust turns a beautiful shade of brown — 45-50 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes, and then unmold onto a wire rack. The bread will slice perfectly once it has cooled completely.

Folks, this bread is delicious as-is.

It’s even better when toasted and topped with butter.

Here’s a copy-and-paste version of the above:

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread
Kevin Lee Jacobs
Ingredients for one 9×5-inch loaf
2 cups graham (or plain whole wheat) flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar (or less, to taste)
1 large, beaten egg
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Special Equipment: A well-buttered, 9×5-inch loaf pan

Set the oven rack at the lower-middle position; preheat the oven to 375°F

1. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Then whisk in the brown sugar. (Don’t worry about small clumps of sugar.) Whisk the beaten egg into the buttermilk.

2. Using a stout spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Then spoon the works into the prepared loaf pan. Use a spatula to distribute the dough evenly in the pan.

3. Bake until the bread rises about 1 inch above the rim of the pan, and its crust sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles — 45-50 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, and then unmold onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing.

Think you’ll give this Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread a try? You can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, I love hearing from you.

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Related Posts:
Snowshoe Naan
Salmon Almondine
Persian Lime Pie


  1. Ilene says:

    Thanks Kevin I’ll be tryin this Friday

  2. Karin says:

    I think my class will make this monday! Sounds reasonably easy. My special ed class is well on their way to enjoying more gourmet type treats.

  3. Brenda Johnson says:

    How happy I was to see you arrive with some of this bread!!! It’s dense, nutty and just the slightest bit sweet- a fine treat as is… toast it and slather with a hefty dose of sweet butter and this bread becomes the most wonderful crunchy on the outside- still moist and chewy on the inside toast ever!!!!! Loaf of bread? What loaf of bread? I didn’t just eat a loaf of bread- the leprechauns must have taken it!!!!!! Thanks for sharing Kevin O’Jacobs!!!!!!

  4. Jay Fischer says:

    Looking forward to making this

  5. Kate says:

    mmm This definitely is something I will enjoy making. What’s not to love? Thank you for sharing!

  6. Mary Armstrong says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I baked the lavender shortbread, and they are YUM. My sister has an organic farm in BC and she sent culinary lavender for Christmas so I finally googled a recipe and chose yours. I really like your website, and I will try the Irish Soda Bread recipe because you included your dog in the photos!!! (Also because it looks delicious!).
    Mary Armstrong, Calgary AB (zone -100, where even if I try to grow something, it hails, or the rabbits or deer eat it~we live in the suburbs, next to a provincial park, where deer and jackrabbits are frequently seen running down the streets!).

  7. Sheryl says:

    Making this right now and it will cool while we are off snowboarding (might as well enjoy this big dump of snow and cold while it’s here!). I have a meeting I’m running at work on Monday and I think the attendees might appreciate a treat for St. Patrick’s Day.

    Thanks for all the great recipes – the photos are all so great in all the posts!

  8. Susan Iseman says:

    Great with raisins & caraway seeds, too!

  9. Jennifer says:

    I too love soda bread. So simple..no kneading..the best. Thank you for the delicious sounding recipe. No I have to go buy some whole wheat flour! and some graham flour! :)

  10. Juanita says:

    I will try today if I have enough whole wheat flower. Thank you.

  11. Ruth Hill says:

    Looks good & fairly authentic, but, in Northern Ireland we use whole meal flour (wheaten), do not add any sugar & it’s called Wheaten Bread!!! Nowadays we do use loaf tins as it is easier for a toaster to cope with the shape. This bread is fab toasted with bananas on top, fresh raspberry jam, or a slab of good Coleraine Cheddar cheese. Love your column, it’s always interesting.

  12. Mary Ann Z. says:

    I will definitely try this recipe, it sounds scrumptious!!! Thank you, Kevin.

    Ruth, thanks for sharing how you use this bread. Great ideas and I will try all of them. I agree, I love Kevin’s column too and I am so glad I found it online. Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

  13. Juanita says:

    I got up immediately after reading and made some. I made it free form, and have already snuck apiece. It is delicious, and if there is any lumps of brown sugar, I am sure I will get one because I will probably eat most of it. Thank you.

  14. Marjie T. says:

    Just made 2 loaves using hard white wheat flour for the whole wheat. Absolutely wonderful. The downside is that I want to eat the entire loaf…the other is for my daughter;)

  15. Helen G says:

    How come no raisins or caraway seeds? The one I make (no low fat) comes from a pure Irish family’s recipe and is one of the best I have every tasted (I never liked soda bread). I will give this a try, but I think I will put raisins in it

  16. Julie says:

    Heading to the kitchen now! Thanks, Kevin!

  17. Carole says:

    I’ll try this. Looks easy and no butter.

  18. COBAYLEY says:

    I made Irish Soda Bread yesterday (Friday) for Monday. Pastor is coming to dinner. I didn’t follow your recipe, but it does sound tasty. I wish I could upload a photo of my bread (it’s got the raisins). I used the recipe from Bryon James Bowers book, Irish Recipes. Mouthwatering Meals direct from the Emerald Isles. It is very, very good. For anyone looking for a “sweeter” version of Soda Bread…I love your blog..I only wish I had time to spend hours with you.

  19. Mary Lou says:

    Like they say.. If you’re lucky enough to be Irish
    You’re lucky enough! I’m not Irish but I was lucky
    enough to find this recipe! Trying it for a St. Patty’s
    Day dinner tomorrow! B’gorra it’ll be a hit ! Thanks
    so much .. I was concerned about what to bring
    and you solved the problem !

  20. CharlotteD says:

    “so magically delicious” you crack me up.

  21. Carla says:

    I made this bread yesterday and it is delicious! (I left out the sugar as we did not want a sweet tasting bread to eat with our meal of bangers and mash.) I have traveled to Ireland several times and this bread is very much like the bread we have with our breakfast at the B&Bs or when we order soup at the pub.

    Thanks for the recipe. I’ll be making this again!

  22. K. Hussey says:

    What is graham flour sounds sweet?

  23. Meg says:

    I just finished a piece slathered with sweet butter with some tea. Wonderful! Perfect with tea and/or breakfast but maybe too sweet for a savory sandwich. Not that it will last long enough to be a concern. Going back for more now. Thanks for the recipe. This might become my go-to.

  24. Kim says:

    I made your Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread today and it was a great hit :0). It was so easy and so delicious!

  25. Kate Ferris says:

    I made this Soda Bread tonight to go with our Irish stew, and it turned out beautifully. It’s going to be regular rotation in my kitchen from now on! Thank you, and Slàinte!

  26. Carla says:

    Kevin, I made the whole wheat soda bread tonight for St. Patrick’s Day. Woooo Hooooo !!
    My crust looked just like your picture ! And it tastes wonderful. I couldn’t find my loaf pan, so I baked mine in my 9 x 9 glass brownie pan. Not a problem, came out of the pan easily. I’ve made a lot of diffferent soda breads with varying results. This is a great recipe, I really like that it uses
    whole wheat flour. It reminds me of the brown bread I’ve had in Irish pubs. It was a hit with my non-Irish husband and with Irish me. This one is a keeper ! Thank you !! Happy St. Patrick’s Day ! :-)

  27. Sherlie Magaret says:

    I made this bread yesterday and it was marvelous. Even my husband liked it. I added another heaping tablespoon of brown sugar and love the little surprise nuggets of sweetness throughout the loaf. My only wish was for more of them. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  28. Terri says:

    Ah, Kevin~ I do so enjoy your comments accompanying each recipe. And todays reference to a 19th century cook did indeed bring a smile as well as a cherished personal reminiscence. Although not a 19th century cook but a 20th, my Nanny often entertained us with tales from the kitchen. She arrived in this country in 1914, a 15 year old from the fields outside Ennis, Clare. Coming through Ellis Island she was to meet and accompany her sister Katherine to ‘a grand house’ in Morristown, NJ, there to serve as an assistant to the head cook. And from those hours spent in service did a lifetime of wonderful meals and equally wonderful tales emerge of Mary (the Kerry -born, lead cook) and Bridget (my Nan). As she would whip the eggs, mix the flour, all the while balancing the large yellow stoneware bowl in the crook pf her arm, Nanny would smile as she exaggerated both their brogues in the retelling of some escapade whether it was the time the kitchen cat jumped head-first into the bowl of freshly whipped cream for the strawbwerry shortcakes, or if was describing the ruckus that followed some snide comments passed by Nellie (one of the housemaids). What was always understood….there was to be no crossing Mary, the kitchen was her domain and all who passed through were to mind her word. Nanny would often comment….”oh, That One , she was all of that she was…” And so Kevin, your brief comment provoked this sweet memory for me……many thanks and do keep them coming!

  29. karin g says:

    Made this with my special ed students (we didn’t have ww flour so used white.) It was super easy and fun and the students loved it and at it all gone. We had to do it on Tuesday though because we had a stupid snow day Monday. And we aren’t allowed to have green beer at the High School. Silly rules. Thanks for the recipe!

  30. vivian says:

    Easy and delicious, thank you.

  31. Sheri says:

    heading to the kitchen to mix it up right now! Perfect for what I have planned for dinner:)

  32. Cheryl says:

    Super easy and delicious! My grand kids loved both helping to make it, and eating the whole thing in two days…..making more today. Thanks for the recipe, it’s a keeper.

  33. Lisa Grandstaff says:

    An interesting Q&A with an Irish chef/baker and cooking instructor, Rory O’Connell about soda bread, and its origins:

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