Traditional Irish soda bread recipe made with wholemeal flour and buttermilk. Easy bread recipe without yeast to make and bake (no kneading).
This traditional Irish soda bread is a great staple recipe to have at hand, when you don’t want to spend the whole day baking or you’ve just run out of bread and need something to go with your dinner or lunch.
This wholemeal soda bread is perfect to eat straightaway, whilst still warm with a bit of butter. Try it with soup, stew or instead of dinner rolls or biscuits.
Why make this recipe?
This version of soda bread is made with wholemeal flour, so it’s much healthier than the traditional white Irish soda bread.
- Easy recipe to bake – no kneading or proving needed
- Make with or without buttermilk (with easy buttermilk substitutions)
- Great bread to serve with soups, stews, cheeses or homemade dips
MORE EASY BREAD RECIPES
My top tip for baking wholemeal soda bread
The secret in making good wholemeal soda bread is to handle the dough as little as you can. Don’t try to smooth the dough and knead it well, in fact, if the dough looks a bit crumbly and not quite combined, that is exactly what you are aiming for.
There is no kneading with this type of soda bread. The quicker you are with your mixing and the more haphazard you are with putting everything together, the better the soda bread will be!
If you’ve tried my Sourdough & Cheese Scones or Sweet Plum Scones Recipe, you’ll know that if you handle the dough for too long or overmix it, you’ll end up with a low risen scones and they will be quite tough too.
The same applies to wholemeal soda bread. Let the baking powder do its own job by throwing everything together and leave it alone!
Notes on ingredients for wholemeal soda bread
You can use 100% wholemeal flour, brown flour or mix of white or wholemeal flour. You’ll see that I’ve used 50% wholemeal and 50% white, but that’s because I quite like the lightness of the white flour.
If you prefer darker, richer flavour go with 100% wholemeal flour. You don’t need to make any changes to the recipe, just bear in mind that wholemeal flour soaks up more water, so you might need extra.
Whilst most traditional bread baking uses strong bread flour, for this recipe, you need to use plain (all-purpose) flour. This is basically the type of flour you’d use for baking your cakes. We are not using yeast with this recipe and not kneading our dough, so we don’t need the extra gluten that strong flour gives us.
If you use strong bread flour in this recipe, you’ll end up with a very, very heavy and tight loaf of bread. The baking powder won’t have the strength to lift the gluten.
Alright, alright, calm down, I hear you! Traditional soda bread is made with baking soda, I know, but hear me out!
Over the years baking my own bread, selling it a farmer’s markets and then teaching people how to bake their own bread I’ve spoken to so many people who told me that they like the traditional soda bread (or scones), but they can always taste the metallic taste of the baking soda. A lot of people are genuinely sensitive to baking soda and they find it quite off putting when eating.
That’s why in this wholemeal Irish soda bread recipe, you’ll find baking powder instead of baking soda. There is still quite a lot of it in this recipe (4 teaspoons), but you won’t be able to taste it. It will just make your soda bread brilliantly fluffy and light.
There, I will just leave it here… and you are welcome!
Buttermilk or other liquid
Buttermilk is the traditional liquid that binds this bread mixture together. If you can’t find buttermilk in your shop (I know it’s not always that easy), make one yourself.
Take a whole milk (or semi-skimmed) and add apple vinegar (or white vinegar). For this recipe, you’ll need about 330 ml and 2 teaspoons of vinegar. Leave it for few minutes, mix it and then use it in the recipe.
You can also use just plain water, thin yoghurt (water + yoghurt), beer or apple juice. Pretty much anything goes!
The liquid will slightly change the flavour of the bread, but that’s the exciting part! The more fat in your milk, the softer the bread is going to be, but even if you use water the bread will be perfectly lovely!
How to bake wholemeal Irish soda bread recipe at home
Preheat the oven to 200 C (Gas Mark 6) or 390 F. This is much lower oven bread baking temperature, than for most other types of breads.
We’ll also keep the oven temperature constant during the baking to make sure our soda bread will stay evenly baked, moist and not crumbly, which is what sometimes happens if you use the oven temperature incorrectly.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Mix in the buttermilk or other liquid to make a dough.
Only add a tiny bit more water if the dough is very dry and the dough really needs it. The wholemeal soda dough should fell and look quite dry and should not stick to your hands when you knead it.
Knead briefly and shape into a round bread shape. Don’t over knead it, it really just needs a minute or so.
Pat to flatten until about 4 cm high; flour the loaf all over or use spare crumbs from the dough and place on a baking tray.
Cut a a cross in the top the loaf with a plastic scraper, almost through to the bottom.
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base, then allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before eating.
This recipe will make one large wholemeal soda bread or two smaller ones. I often bake this recipe split into two smaller-sized soda breads – to eat one now and freeze one for later.
What to serve wholemeal soda bread with
Traditional Irish Soda bread is great to serve with butter (or on it’s own) as a side dish with soups, Irish Guiness Beef Stew, traditional chilli or Healthy Turkey Chilli, curries or gumbos.
The soda bread is also great toasted with butter and served with breakfast Irish Potato Omelette or with butter and homemade Orange & Lime Marmalade, jams or fruit curds.
Soda bread is slightly more dense than white bread loaf, so it’s not completely suitable for making traditional sandwiches, but it’s perfect for making open sandwiches.
Wholemeal open sandwiches are great with homemade herb butter, cottage cheese with chives or meat pates. You can also use soda bread for dips (like a my easy to make 4 ingredient guacamole) or sauces.
Storage & how to keep your wholemeal soda bread
This traditional wholemeal soda bread is best eaten on the same day but will last up to 3-4 days if kept in an airtight container. I usually keep my soda bread in a plastic or paper bag inside the tin bread box.
After 2-3 days the soda bread will go slightly hard, but you can always toast it or make a delicious soda bread sweet pudding or dry the soda bread to make bread crumbs for covering and frying meat, fish or making healthy scotch eggs in the oven.
Can you freeze wholemeal soda bread?
Wholemeal soda bread freezes really well. It’s best to freeze the bread on the same day as you’ve baked it. Make sure that the soda bread is first completely cooled down before wrapping it in freezer suitable plastic bag.
I usually slice the bread before I freeze it, so that I can pull just one bread slice at a time if I don’t want to defrost the whole loaf.
Once frozen, your wholemeal soda bread will be fine for up to 6 months.
To defrost your wholemeal soda bread simply take it out the night before you want to use it and leave to defrost in the room temperature in your kitchen. If you take out just one slice at a time, it should be defrosted within 30-60 minutes depending on the season and how warm your kitchen is.
I also found that defrosting wholemeal soda bread in the microwave works really well. I have special defrost program on my microwave, but if you don’t use low to medium setting on your microwave and leave the soda bread in for 30 seconds at a time.
Check and turn the bread upside down to carry on defrosting if needed. Don’t make the bread too warm, take it out just when it’s cold (but not frozen) to the touch.
This means that the inside of the soda bread is already warm and the rest of the bread will carry on defrosting without extra heat. You can leave the bread in the microwave without any additional heat to finish the process of defrosting.
You can also warm up your bread in the oven for 5-6 minutes on 180 C or 350 F.
Wholemeal Soda Bread
- 250 grams plain flour
- 250 grams wholemeal flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 10 g salt 1 1/2 teaspoon
- 330 ml buttermilk thin yoghurt, milk or water (you might need more if you are using thicker yoghurt)
- Preheat the oven to 200 C (Gas Mark 6, 390 F)
- Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
- Mix in the buttermilk or other liquid to make a dough.
- Only add a tiny bit more water if the dough is very dry (it does needs to be fairly dry)
- Knead briefly and shape into a round bread shape. Don’t over knead it, it really just needs a minute or so.
- Pat to flatten until about 4cm high, flour the loaf all over or use spare crumbs from the dough and place on a baking tray.
- Cut a a cross in the top the loaf with a plastic scraper, almost through to the bottom.
- Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base, then allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before eating.
This blog post was originally written on 10 October 2020 and last updated on 2 December 2022
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