This is an amazing recipe for sweet Irish soda bread with raisins and caraway seeds. Bake delicious bread from start to finish in only 40 minutes.
I remember the first time I baked this sweet Irish soda bread with raisins and caraway seeds. I was so delighted by it; I couldn't stop talking about it for days... I think I was pretty annoying; most people don't get as enthusiastic about a good recipe as I tend to do...
It was love at first bite. Soft and not overly sweet, with those little juicy raisins, and the best of all, the slight caraway flavor, which is just amazing! Please, even if you think you are not much into caraway, don't leave it out; it belongs here!
What is soda bread?
Traditional soda bread is a quick bread made without yeast. Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is used as a leavening agent instead.
The traditional version is only made with four simple ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. But there are countless versions of this easy Irish soda bread, savory ones with cheese, herbs, garlic, or other sweet versions, including chocolate chips, nuts, or other dried fruit.
You can make it with whole wheat flour or white flour, or with both. The wholemeal version is sometimes known as wheaten or brown bread, depending on the region. Try our Irish Guinness Brown Bread Recipe or the Easy Yogurt Soda Bread.
The shape of the bread seems to be region-specific as well. Depending on where you bake it, it could be a loaf; it could be round; it could be a flattened piece, or a triangle.
The taste of a good sweet soda bread is mild, slightly sweet, and biscuit-like.
What is special about this Irish soda bread recipe?
- The unique texture results from the reaction between the acidic buttermilk and baking soda.
- It is delicious and easier to make than any other kind of bread.
- It's 100 % made with pantry ingredients. You can even make the buttermilk yourself by mixing milk with lemon juice or vinegar.
- No yeast bread, and that means no rising time either.
- No-knead bread.
- Stir, shape, and bake.
- Buttermilk is very important as it reacts with the baking soda to provide the bread’s leavening.
- Oranges: zest and some juice (especially the zest) add a wonderful flavor.
- Dried fruit: I used a mixture of raisins and cranberries. I love the tarter cranberry taste, so I often combine them with very sweet raisins. However, cranberries are optional; you can replace them with more raisins if you wish.
- Other ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking soda, sea or Kosher salt, caraway seeds, honey, and oil.
Substitutions or additions
What if I don't have buttermilk?
- As buttermilk is not something you always have in the house and as you need such a small amount, you can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar to 150 ml/ 45 fl. oz/ ⅔ cup milk.
- Leave to stand for 5-10 minutes and use as required.
- Use sugar instead of honey; you will need 5-6 tablespoons of granulated or light brown sugar; you can add more to taste, but the bread should only be slightly sweet.
- Add nuts if you like, for instance, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, etc.
How to make sweet Irish soda bread
All you must do is follow a few simple steps:
- Preheat the oven and prepare the pan. If using a cast-iron skillet, grease it with a bit of butter. If using a baking sheet, line it with parchment paper.
- Mix dry ingredients: first combine flour, salt, and baking soda, then add raisins, cranberries, caraway seeds, and orange zest (1,2).
- Mix wet ingredients: orange juice, buttermilk, honey, and oil in a jug or small mixing bowl and stir until the honey dissolves.
- Combine: pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and mix quickly until just combined. Do not overmix (3,4).
- Shape: Turn the rather sticky dough onto a floured surface and knead a few times to form a round loaf. Again, do not overwork the dough; just bring it into shape.
- Slash: Place the dough on the prepared baking pan and lightly dust with a little flour. Slash a cross on top of the dough with a sharp knife about halfway through the bread (5).
- Bake for about 30 minutes until deeply brown. Let cool on a wire rack (6).
- A digital kitchen scale will give you the most precise measure ensuring the best bake possible (Amazon affiliate link).
- Don't knead the dough too much; just push it together to give the raisin bread its rough shape.
- Slash the shaped dough before putting it into the oven; the slash prevents cracking and helps the center of the bread bake through.
My favorite thing about this loaf is the caraway flavor; I wouldn't leave it out. It is not mandatory for the success of the baking process, but flavor-wise, it is incredible.
If you have a cast-iron skillet, use it, it's perfect for baking this quick bread. Otherwise, a regular baking tray lined with parchment paper is perfect.
Quick breads made without yeast are suitable to being made gluten-free. Substite the regular flour with gluten-free flour, for instance Cup4Cup (Amazon affiliate link).
The baking time might increase by 5-10 minutes, make sure to check that the loaf is cooked through; it should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Room temperature: Wrapped in a clean kitchen towel, it will be fine for 2-3 days.
Refrigerator: It will keep well for 5-6 days.
The sweet Irish soda bread with raisins and caraway seeds is fluffier and softer on the day you bake it, and it gets slightly firmer and chewier during the next days. However, that is not a bad thing: it tastes just as delicious!
Freeze it for up to 3 months. To freeze it, let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap (cling film), place it in a freezer bag or an airtight container, and freeze it. You can also slice it, place it in freezer bags and freeze it. This way, you can only thaw a few slices if you wish.
Let thaw in the fridge overnight or on the counter; it will take a few hours, less if it's already sliced.
- Freshly baked sweet Irish soda bread with a little butter and a cup of tea is more than amazing.
- You can also spread some jam, honey, or nut butter on top for a super indulgent, delicious breakfast (or snack).
- I've read about serving it with corned beef and cabbage, but honestly, I am not very tempted to try it. To me, this is more like breakfast or dessert, not really something to serve with a savory meal. But I might be wrong, so do let me know if you try that!
Interested in a newspaper soda bread recipe from 1836?
"put a pound and a half of good wheaten meal into a large bowl, mix with it two teaspoonfuls of finely-powdered salt, then take a large teaspoonful of super-carbonate of soda, dissolve it in half a teacupful of cold water, and add it to the meal; rub up all intimately together, then pour into the bowl as much very sour buttermilk as will make the whole into a soft dough (it should be as soft as could possibly be handled, and the softer the better,) form it into a cake of about an inch thickness, and put it into a flat Dutch oven or frying-pan, with some metallic cover, such as an oven-lid or griddle, apply a moderate heat underneath for twenty minutes, then lay some clear live coals upon the lid, and keep it so for half an hour longer (the under heat being allowed to fall off gradually for the last fifteen minutes,) taking off the cover occasionally to see that it does not burn."
More easy bread recipes
- Beigli - Traditional Hungarian Nut Rolls - Hungarian pastry roll filled with walnuts, a real treat for Christmas or Easter.
- Yeast Cake - Soft and delicious pull-apart yeast cake with almonds. Also known as Hungarian coffee cake.
- Romanian Cozonac - This is the most traditional sweet thing you will find in every Romanian family at Easter and Christmas.
- Yeast Pastries with Honey - Soft and fluffy Moldavian Yeast Pastries soaked in syrup and topped with honey and walnuts.
- Polish Poppy Seed Roll - Filled with poppy seeds, nuts, and dried fruit, this roll is perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.
Sweet Irish Soda Bread
- 250 g all-purpose flour 8.8 oz/ 2 cups
- pinch of salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda bicarbonate of soda
- 75 g raisins 2.5 oz/ scant ½ cup
- 75 g cranberries 2.5 oz/ scant ½ cup
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- zest 1 orange
- 50 ml orange juice 1.7 fl.oz/ ¼ cup
- 100 ml buttermilk 3.4 fl.oz/ ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons, Note 2
- 3 tablespoons runny honey
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil like rapeseed or sunflower
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Dry ingredients: Mix flour, salt, baking soda. Add the raisins, cranberries, caraway seeds, and orange zest.
- Wet ingredients: Mix the orange juice, buttermilk, honey, and oil in a jug and stir until the honey dissolves. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix quickly until just combined. Do not overmix.
- Knead: Turn the rather sticky dough onto a floured surface and knead a few times to form a round loaf. Again, do not overwork the dough; just bring it into shape.
- Slash: Place the dough on the prepared baking tray and lightly dust with a bit of flour. Slash a cross on top, about halfway through the bread.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until deeply brown. Let cool on a wire rack.
- Use a digital kitchen scale to measure the ingredients when baking; it guarantees for best results.
- As buttermilk is not something you always have in the house and as you need such a small amount, you can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar to 150 ml/ 45 fl. oz/ ⅔ cup milk. Leave to stand for 5-10 minutes and use as required.