Best Irish Brown Soda Bread Recipe


One of my recent visits to Ireland brought me to The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore and, oh my, they do good brown bread there. Luckily, I found the recipe in The Cliff House Hotel Cookbook: Granny McGrath’s Brown Irish Soda Bread.

Some of the ingredients were rather hard to find in the UK (they are more readily available in Ireland) but I did succeed and found what I needed.

The recipe is fantastic. There is no doubt, this is the real deal.

Slice of Irish Brown Soda Bread
Look at that. What a beauty!

Brown Irish Soda Bread Recipe

A beautiful recipe for brown Irish wholemeal soda bread.

Ingredients (for 1 loaf)

  • 350g coarse wholemeal flour
  • 150g fine wholemeal flour
  • 100g wheatgerm
  • 100g porridge oats
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 100g bran
  • 1/4 tbsp salt
  • 3/4 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 735g buttermilk
Brown Soda Bread Flour Wheatgerm Bran
Brown Soda Bread Ingredients (from top left clockwise): Fine Wholemeal Flour, Coarse Wholemeal Flour, Wheatgerm, Bran

How to make brown bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C
  2. Grease a large baking tin
  3. Thoroughly combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  4. Add the buttermilk and beaten eggs
  5. Mix (best to use your hands) to quickly combine all the ingredients. The dough will need only the minimum amount of handling. Kneading the dough is unnecessary and would in fact toughen the bread.
  6. Bake for 60 minutes
  7. Remove the bread from the tin and put back in upside down
  8. Bake for a further 10 minutes
  9. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack

Enjoy! I have also got a delicious recipe for a traditional white soda bread if you are looking for a more simplistic soda bread loaf.

Australian Damper Soda Bread Recipe (Rye Flour)


With Australia Day and the Australian Open final at the same weekend, I looked into traditional Australian bread recipes and decided to give the Aussie damper a go.

A modern Aussie damper
A modern Aussie damper

Traditional simplicity

Traditionally, Aussie damper bread was…

  • A staple bread for Australians who were travelling in remote areas of the Australian outback for long periods of time in colonial times
  • Developed out of necessity, a lot of Aussie dampers were made with whatever was available
  • A very simple unleavened bread made with (easily portable) wheat flour, salt and water
  • Baked in the hot coals/ashes of a campfire – buried in a pot or wrapped around a stick – it’s called damper because the campfire is damped to allow the dough to be cooked over the ash-covered hot coals
  • Eaten with dried or cooked meat, sometimes spread with golden syrup – and Billy Tea (

Modern deliciousness

I’ve changed the original recipe considerably moving away from the the original damper’s three-ingredient simplicity and replacing wheat with rye flour. This damper is quick and easy to prepare and can be baked in your oven at home or when out camping. It will taste better (more like ‘the real thing’) if baked in a campfire 🙂

Aussie damper baked in the oven
Aussie damper baked in the oven

The recipe uses milk instead of water, adds butter to add richness and self-raising flour for leavening.


  • 250g light rye flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200g buttermilk (you can also use 100ml milk mixed with 100g yoghurt or 190g milk mixed with 2 tbsp of lemon juice)
  • 1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
  • Some extra flour for dusting
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 50g celeriac, grated
  • 50g mature cheddar, cut into 5mm cubes or grated

For the damper dough

  1. In a large bowl mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt with a balloon whisk.
  2. Add the butter using your fingertips to rub the little cubs into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Slowly add the milk and mix to form a soft, non-sticky dough.
  4. Add the onion, garlic and celeriac mix and cheddar and carefully knead until evenly distributed.
  5. Knead until smooth (this can be done in the bowl or on a clean, lightly floured work surface) – just one or two minutes should be enough.
  6. Shape into a round loaf.
  7. Brush with milk.
  8. Lightly flour the handle of a wooden spoon and make deep indents into the dough top (press the handle almost to the bottom of the dough) to mark 8 wedges on top.

To cook in the oven

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.
    Shape into a round loaf.
  • Brush with milk.
  • Lightly flour the handle of a wooden spoon and make deep indents into the dough top (press the handle almost to the bottom of the dough) to mark 8 wedges on top.
  • Grease and dust a round cake tin.
  • Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until golden.
  • The bottom should sound hollow when tapped.

To bake in the ashes of a campfire (in a pot or layers of foil)

  • Grease and dust a fire-proof cast-iron pan.
  • Add the loaf and cover.
  • Alternatively, place in at least five layers of tin foil. Make sure you get all the air out between dough and foil.
  • Place in the hot coals of your campfire and cover with hot ashes and coals. The fire should have burnt down to just coals, no big flames.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes.

To bake in a campfire (on a stick)

  • Divide into six equal pieces and roll into a 20cm long snake shapes.
  • Wrap the dough snakes around dry, clean sticks (bamboo canes and hazel rods work well) in a spiral. Make sure the dough is safely attached to your stick and leave enough room on one end of the stick to hold on to and not burn your hands.
  • Hold over the embers of the campfire, turning frequently, until evenly cooked, golden brown and crisp, for about 10 minutes.

Tastes great with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salted butter or vegemite.

Irish White Soda Bread Recipe


I found our bread basket empty this Sunday morning. Not good! Traditional Irish white soda bread is the perfect loaf for situations like this. It’s very easy to put together, only five basic ingredients are needed and fresh bread will be on your breakfast table in just over an hour.

White soda bread quarter
White soda bread quarter

Quick White Soda Bread Recipe

This quick white soda bread recipe will reward your taste buds and will also fill your kitchen with the most amazing smell of fresh baking. Great things happen when fragrant flour, tangy buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda come together. Bicarbonate of soda is the raising ingredient used in soda bread recipes. As an alkali, it needs an acid to perform its magic – in this case buttermilk, yoghurt or the lemon-milk mix.

Irish white soda bread
Traditional Irish white soda bread

White soda bread ingredients

  • 400g plain flour
  • 100g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 15g bicarbonate of soda
  • 6g salt
  • 400g buttermilk – Both real or cultured buttermilk work. If you can’t get buttermilk, you can also work with yoghurt or souring milk with lemon juice or white wine vinegar. As always when replacing ingredients, you may need to adjust the dough’s hydration to get the desired texture.

Where can I buy real buttermilk in the UK & Ireland?

Real buttermilk is the thick, acidic by-product of butter churning. Cultured buttermilk, as sold in many supermarkets and shops, is made by adding lactic cultures to ordinary milk.
Buy real buttermilk in the UK from Longley Farm and in Ireland from Cuinneog.

How to make white soda bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (gas mark 6). Don’t ignore this step, it’s important that the oven is fully preheated by the time the dough is ready.
  2. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl and mix well. The sifting is important, particularly for the bicarb of soda, as the lumps do not dissolve in the liquid.
  3. Make sure the dry ingredients are mixed evenly, then add the buttermilk. Mix well but minimally i.e. don’t over-mix. Make sure everything is happening swiftly as the bicarbonate of soda will begin to react with the acid buttermilk as soon as they make contact. Working quickly helps you take advantage of all the carbon dioxide produced to lift the dough.
  4. The soda bread dough will be quite soft but that’s just perfect. Shape into a round loaf and flour lightly.
  5. Place the loaf on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  6. Now make the trademark soda bread cross to divide the loaf into four sections. Cut the dough with a knife to make a deep cross; cut almost fully through the dough (about 80%).
  7. Bake for approx. 45 minutes at 200°C on the top shelf. The loaf is ready when it has a nice brown colour, has risen well and sounds hollow when tapped. Cover with tin foil after 30 minutes if the bread browns too quickly.
  8. Wrap the soda bread loaf in a tea towel while it cools to soften the crust or cool on a wire rack if you like your crust to be crisper.

Best served fresh and eaten on the same day – what a Sunday morning treat!

White soda bread
White soda bread

You can store the soda bread at room temperature for about two to three days. I usually freeze half a loaf and defrost again later in the week. It doesn’t otherwise keep that well. Freshen the defrosted bread by placing it in the oven for a few minutes before serving.

Also try this delicious brown soda bread recipe which is a much more wholesome version of the above basic white soda bread.

Any visit to my husband’s grandmother’s house would see the obligatory cup of Barry’s Tea accompanied by a slice of brown soda bread topped with generous amounts of Kerry Gold butter and raspberry jam. Happy memories!