Traditional Irish Wheaten Bread (Brown Soda Bread)

Traditional Irish wheaten bread

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 35 mins
  • Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
310 Calories
5g Fat
59g Carbs
13g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 310
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 9mg 3%
Sodium 391mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 59g 21%
Dietary Fiber 8g 29%
Protein 13g
Calcium 125mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

In Northern Ireland, brown soda bread is made with whole wheat flour and known as wheaten bread; in the South, soda bread tends to be made with white flour. Soda bread—leavened with baking soda instead of yeast—would traditionally be baked on a hot cast-iron griddle over an open peat fire. The griddled bread would be cooked into a round with an indentation marking the quarters; each quarter is called a farl. Today, the bread is baked in the oven with consistent results.

While some recipes for wheaten bread include a couple of teaspoons of sugar and tablespoons of butter, this recipe keeps it as simple as possible. When using baking soda, a recipe must include an acidic element for the soda to release gas and allow the bread to rise. In this recipe, buttermilk provides the acidity. You can't substitute regular milk as it isn't acidic enough, and the bread won't rise.

Enjoy wheaten bread sliced with butter, or make a ploughman's lunch by serving the soda bread on a platter with cheese, fruit, and slices of cured meat. Soda bread is also perfect for afternoon tea.


  • 500 grams (about 4 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 500 milliliters (about 2 1/4 cups) buttermilk

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for traditional Irish wheaten bread
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C or Gas Mark 6).

  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the buttermilk and stir to form a loose dough.

    Mix flour and salt
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  4. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Knead the dough gently a few times until smooth.

    Knead bread
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  5. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten to roughly 2 inches (5 centimeters) thick. Using a sharp knife, lightly slash the surface of the dough in the shape of an X.

    Shape dough
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  6. Place the dough on a greased baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until well risen and light brown in color.

    Irish wheaten bread
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  7. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

    Remove loaf
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack


In Ireland, the measurements in recipes are given in grams and milliliters. It is best to weigh your flour as there can be a variance in volume and weight when using measuring cups. Many kitchen scales (even in the U.S.) will give you the weight in grams as well as ounces. In this recipe, 500 grams of flour equals 1 pound, 2 ounces.

Recipe Variation

To make vegan soda bread, you can substitute non-dairy milk, but you need to include an acid like lemon juice to activate the baking soda. For this recipe, mix 1 3/4 cup nut milk with 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes before adding it to the recipe in place of the buttermilk.