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How to make sweet Irish soda bread

This sweet Irish soda bread recipe is different than traditional soda bread, which is not sweet. It reminds me more of a scone in loaf form and it’s perfect with a thick layer of Irish butter, and a piping hot cup of strong tea.

I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.

You may also be interested in my Irish lamb stew recipe and my Irish cream Bundt cake recipes. For ease of browsing, you can find all of my St. Patrick’s Day recipes in one place.

Overhead photo of sweet Irish soda bread on cooling rack.

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Why you should make this recipe

  • Quick & Easy – This quick bread is done in about an hour and the recipe is easy enough for beginners.
  • Versatile – Use whatever combination of dried fruit you prefer – raisins, golden raisins (sultanas) and/or currants.
  • Feeds a crowd – The recipe makes a large loaf, enough for 16 servings.
Slices of soda bread on wooden board.

Sweet Irish Soda Bread

Soda bread is just as synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day as corned beef and cabbage. This recipe was given to me about 20 years ago by a lovely Irish lass who was in her late 80’s at the time. I have tweaked it slightly, but the heart of this recipe is hers.

This recipe is sweeter than most soda breads and a little cakier. There are many variations of soda bread out there. Most traditionally, it is not sweet and does not have raisins in it.

Sliced bread on wooden board with butter.

I like this version, so it’s what I make and quite honestly, that is an integral part of cooking and baking as far as I’m concerned. 

If you are making something you like, you are more likely to cook or bake and isn’t that the point? Do what makes you happy, friends. And, this bread makes me quite happy.

Made this today, it’s really nice. I have made soda bread many times, but this is something special.

-Reader Ron

Ingredients

Ingredients for sweet Irish soda bread on white marble background.
  • Flour – Regular all-purpose flour is the backbone of this recipe.
  • Sugar – This bread is slightly sweetened with granulated sugar.
  • Baking powder + baking soda – These help our bread to rise.
  • Salt – Baked goods need salt. Please read the note at the end of the recipe card about salt.
  • Unsalted butter – By using unsalted butter, we can control the amount of salt in the bread.
  • Raisins, golden raisins (sultanas) and currants – A mix of dried fruits also gives a little sweetness and texture to this soda bread.
  • Eggs – Provides moisture and structure to the dough.
  • Buttermilk – Provides moisture and a lovely tang.
Best for home use
Escali Digital Food Scale
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This is the scale that I own and use daily. It is easy to use, plus it measures in pounds, ounces and grams.

Measuring ingredients by weight, ESPECIALLY in baking, is much more accurate than cup measurement.

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07/25/2024 02:22 am GMT

How to make

This bread is very easy to make. It is easy enough for beginner bakers, but even seasoned bakers will appreciate its simplicity.

First, cold butter is cut into the flour mixture using a pastry blender. Then, raisins, golden raisins and currants are added.

Next, beat eggs and mix with milk. Then the egg mixture goes in and everything is mixed until it comes together. It is formed into a loaf and bakes for about an hour.

Step by step photo instructions for how to make sweet Irish soda bread.

This is not like baking traditional bread, where there is a rise and then punching it down to rise again. This is a quick bread recipe and as suggested by the name, it comes together very quickly.

It makes a rather large loaf, so you could split the dough in half to make 2 smaller loaves, and reduce the baking time. You can either freeze one for later, or, make someone’s day and share your golden, studded beauty with a friend.

Irish soda bread on brown wooden board with butter and butter knife.

Sweet Irish soda bread FAQ’s

Can I make this ahead?

Because this bread doesn’t have any preservatives, I wouldn’t make it ahead of time. If time is an issue, measure everything out the day before, so the actual preparation goes faster on the day you bake the bread.

How long does this sweet Irish soda bread stay fresh?

This bread is great the first day, good on the second, but by the third day, make toast.

Can I freeze this bread?

Absolutely. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Can I substitute raisins?

Yes. If you aren’t a fan of raisins, use more currants or golden raisins.

Side view of baked baked on wire rack.

Variations and substitutions

If you tend to like barely sweet, you should be able to reduce the amount of sugar to 3/4 cup without any major disasters. 

If you don’t care for raisins you can omit them or stick with all currants, all golden raisins or a mix of the two.

Serving suggestions

While I wouldn’t dream of calling this recipe the BEST, it is the best I’ve ever tasted. I love the sweetness in this bread, which could be served after dinner instead of a dessert.

Serve this sweet Irish soda bread with your corned beef and cabbage, or a hearty stew. It’s also a great afternoon treat with a cup of tea or coffee.

Helpful tools and equipment

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Sweet Irish soda bread on rack.

Sweet Irish soda bread

Cheryl Bennett
A sweet Irish soda bread, perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea.
4.50 from 63 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Bread recipes
Cuisine Irish
Servings 16 servings
Calories 265 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour plus extra for board // 480g
  • 1 c. granulated sugar // 198g
  • 3 tsp. baking powder // 12g
  • 1 tsp. baking soda // 6g
  • 1 tsp. salt I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt – see note
  • 1/2 c. cold butter cut into cubes // 1 stick // 113g
  • 1/2 c. golden raisins sultanas, lightly packed // 80g
  • 1/2 c. raisins lightly packed // 80g
  • 1/2 c. currants lightly packed // 70g
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1 c. buttermilk // 227g

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C / Gas mark 4.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Set aside. 
  • Using a pastry blender or food processor cut butter into flour mixture until you have pieces no larger than a pea. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add raisins and currants into flour and butter mixture. Toss to coat raisins in flour.
  • Add milk and eggs, mix to combine with a spoon or sturdy rubber spatula. (I don't recommend food processor here).  
  • Dough will be sticky. Using floured hands, mold into a round or oblong loaf. (This is a quick bread and is not meant to be kneaded, take care not to overwork the dough.)
  • Place soda bread on baking pan lined with parchment paper in center of oven.
  • Bake for 50 – 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on cooling rack.
  • Brush top of soda bread with butter while hot.
  • Let cool completely before cutting.

Notes

A note on salt – Not all salt is created equal. A teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt weighs about 2.7 grams, Morton's kosher salt weighs a little over 5 grams for a teaspoon and table salt weighs 6 grams for a teaspoon. So, adjust accordingly, depending on what kind of salt you are using.
*Because I lack patience, I sliced mine while it was still warm… It is better to wait until it has cooled completely before you cut into it. Learn from my mistake.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 265kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 5gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 411mgFiber: 2gSugar: 22g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a delicious day 🙂

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Questions? Send me an email, I’m happy to help. I’d love to send you weekly tips and recipes, so you can get updates about what’s happening in the kitchen!

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This post and recipe have been updated from the original publish date of 2/28/13.

13 Comments

  1. ‘Soda bread is just as synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day as corned beef and cabbage.’ Corned beef and cabbage are not synonymous with St Patrick’s Day, at least not in Ireland, or among Irish people.

    1. Yes, in Ireland, most people would likely be eating lamb, or even a fish pie. However, here in the US, if you ask most people what they cook on St. Patrick’s Day, the vast majority would say “corned beef and cabbage”.

  2. I made this for last Sunday’s dinner along with New England boiled dinner…….. it was a big hit!! Delicious!!

  3. Thank you so much for this recipe! My family loves it. I bake it in a 9 inch cast iron skillet for about 45 to 50 minutes.

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback, John! I’m so happy everyone enjoys it. And thank you for the cast iron pan info! That’s very helpful!

  4. Made this today.It’s really nice .I have made soda bread many times, but this is something special.

    1. Thank you so much, Ron. I truly appreciate your kind words. This recipe is special to me, so I’m really happy you feel that way too.

4.50 from 63 votes (62 ratings without comment)

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