Irish Soda Bread Recipe—Key to Gluten Free Irish Quick Breads

Updated June 28, 2017.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe—Key to Irish Quick Breads

A great Irish Soda Bread recipe is ageless comfort food originating from humble roots; old country cookery made from simple everyday ingredients . . . flour, soda, salt and buttermilk. 

An historic staple in Irish households, it’s hard to believe such an uncomplicated, craggy loaf can be so delicious and yet remain as relevant now as it was way back when.

Baked and served daily, this crusty bread has satisfied hungry families at every meal for generations, and leftovers never went to waste.

Day old bread was sliced, toasted and served again, sometimes the next morning in Ulster Fry.  If the bread was too stale, it was staled some more and turned into crumbs to be used in other recipes, such as filler in Irish Sausage (a.k.a. British Bangers).

Irish emigrants to America changed up the traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe adding an egg, some butter and an occasional sprinkle of sugar.

Starting with an old, old Irish Soda Bread recipe from an ancient family in Ireland, I set out to create a gluten-free version for our St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Developing gluten-free recipes is part troubleshooting, part food science and part creative thinking.

It’s not just about substituting ingredients.

When one ingredient is tweaked, there is a domino effect through the whole recipe, altering the chemical reactions occurring during mixing and cooking.  The outcome of ingredient manipulation and chemical reactions impact taste, texture, crust, mouth-feel, color, cooking times and temperatures, leavening, etc.

Developing a gluten-free Irish Soda Bread recipe is a perfect example of this domino effect.

I substituted my White Gluten Free Flour Blend, cup for cup, for the low gluten wholegrain Irish flour normally used.  

Whole grain wheat flour is a very nutritious food for those who can safely partake of it.  One of its wonderful properties is the natural oils found in whole wheat; something missing in rice based gluten-free flour blends.  These oils not only add nutrition, they help “shorten” tough gluten strands that create structure in baked foods making a tender bite as well as retaining moisture and adding flavor.

So, I added butter to my gluten-free Irish Soda Bread recipe, a good stand-in for naturally occurring oils in most recipes.

To imitate the binding action of gluten which creates structure and “bite”, I added a beaten egg.  

In order to compensate for the extra moisture of the egg, I reduced the amount of buttermilk by ¼ cup.

Buttermilk is a crucial, multi-faceted ingredient in Irish Soda Bread recipes.  It reacts with baking soda to create leavening, which makes the bread rise when heat from the oven is applied.

Reducing the amount of buttermilk means there’s not enough to cause a full chemical reaction with baking soda.  So, I added some homemade Gluten-free Baking Powder to kick up the leavening action.

Buttermilk also reacts with gluten, breaking it down to produce a tender crumb.  It was this tender crumb I was after. Imitating it took some ingenuity.

Soured foods of all kinds, including buttermilk, act as a kind of natural preservative extending freshness and shelf-life of baked goods.  I had to find an ingredient that could make up for the reduced amount of buttermilk.

Then, there’s browning, something rice based gluten-free flour blends don’t do well, and depth of flavor; less buttermilk, less flavor.

My favorite go-to ingredient for creating tender crumb, retaining moistness, preserving freshness, adding depth of flavor and functions as a browning aid is . . . 

. . . wildflower honey.

Taste Testing

When I develop a new gluten-free recipe, I usually have to make several batches, fine-tuning the recipe as I go to achieve what I’m looking for.

Parameters go way beyond taste and appearance.  They include consistent outcomes of the product, flavor notes and depths, mouth feel, texture, crumb, browning, raising, after taste, shelf-life, pleasant aroma and nutrition.

The goal is to develop a recipe that yields a delicious and tantalizing product, wheat eaters can’t tell is gluten-free.

My gluten-free Irish Soda Bread recipe passed the test with flying colors!

Do you need a dairy-free version?

Substitute a soured milk substitute for buttermilk; the dough won’t rise quite as high and a little bit of texture and flavor will be sacrificed, but a great gluten-free product will result, especially if you use almond milk.

What about an egg-free version?

Use Ener-G Foods’ Egg Replacer™; the Irish Soda Bread will be a little drier and crumbly, more like the authentic wheat flour based loaves from old Ireland.

What are you waiting for?

Make two loaves because once you’ve tasted this exceptional mealtime staple, you’ll keep coming back for more!

Make it gourmet by garnishing a loaf with a sprinkle of white granulated sugar before baking.

Splurge on some Irish butter and slather it onto a warm slice of gluten-free Irish Soda Bread or Spotted Dog.   Add a dollop of currant jelly or your favorite jam . . . 

. . . Mm-mm!

It’s so good!

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

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Time:  40 minutes

Servings:  1 loaf


  • 2 cups/500 ml White Gluten Free Flour Blend
  • 2 teaspoons/10 ml Gluten-free Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon/2.5 ml baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon/2.5 ml sea salt
  • ¼ cup/60 ml cold butter (or organic non-hydrogenated shortening)
  • 1 egg (or equivalent Ener-G Egg Replacer)
  • 2 tablespoons/30 ml honey
  • 1/2 cup/125 ml buttermilk (or milk substitute soured with 2 teaspoons, 10 ml apple cider vinegar or lemon juice)


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F, 230°C, Gas Mark 8.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together gluten-free flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Cut in cold butter until mixture looks like meal.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
  6. In a small bowl beat the egg and honey together.
  7. Stir in the buttermilk until liquid ingredients are well blended.
  8. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the well and stir until a sticky dough forms.
  9. Turn dough out onto a floured board and very gently shape into a ball.
  10. Place dough ball on to parchment lined baking sheet.
  11. With a sharp knife, score the top of the bread starting about ½ inch in from the edge and about 1/4 teaspoon, 1.25 cm deep, making a cross shape.
  12. Bake at 450°F, 230°C, Gas Mark 8 for 5 minutes.
  13. Reduce heat to 350°F, 180°C, Gas Mark 4 and bake for 25 minutes, until bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  14. Cool completely before serving.
  15. Slice and serve.



  1. Preheat a cast iron skillet, griddle or frying pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Prepare dough as directed in key recipe.
  3. Turn dough out onto a floured board and very gently shape into a ball.
  4. With a sharp, floured knife cut dough in 4 Farls (quarters).
  5. Dust quarters with flour.
  6. Sprinkle flour onto bottom of hot griddle.
  7. Add dough Farls (quarters).
  8. Cook Farls about 6 to 8 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
  9. Cool completely before serving.

Rustic Irish Soda Bread

  1. To dry ingredients add 1 teaspoon/5 mL caraway seed.
  2. Prepare Whole Grain Irish Soda Bread dough as directed in key recipe.
  3. Bake as directed in key recipe.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe Variation—Spotted Dog

Spotted Dog

  1. Stir together 1/4 teaspoon/1.25 mL cinnamon and 2 teaspoons/10 mL white granulated sugar; set aside.
  2. Prepare dough as directed in key recipe.
  3. Stir in ½ cup/125 mL currants, sultanas (golden raisins) or raisins.
  4. Garnish top with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  5. Bake as directed in key recipe.

Whole Grain Irish Soda Bread

  1. Substitute Whole Grain Gluten Free Flour Blend for the White Gluten Free Flour Blend.
  2. Prepare dough as directed in key recipe.
  3. Bake as directed in key recipe.

More Irish Inspired Recipes You Might Enjoy

Bailey's Irish Cream Custard

Bangers and Mash Recipe

Irish Cabbage

Shamrock Cookies

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