This gluten free Irish soda bread is a lightly sweet quick bread that tastes best slathered with some extra Irish butter. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, or any day, the way you remember.
What makes this Irish soda bread special?
I first developed this recipe many years ago when my gluten free son, who is now considerably taller than I am (and I’m not short) was in the early years of grammar school. They were “celebrating” St. Patrick’s Day by sharing Irish soda bread.
Since he was already gluten free, and necessity is the mother of invention, I developed this recipe. I’ve been making it ever since—and when my son is feeling generous, he will remember the grammar school times to me.
Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread, not a yeast bread (although frankly I think it would make a fabulous yeast bread). And it’s not your typical quick bread. First off, it isn’t baked in a loaf pan like most quick breads.
So there’s that. But the way I go about things, it’s also made more like a pastry. That means cold ingredients, chunks of butter, and a light touch when handling.
All that leads to a light, tender and almost flaky pastry-like bread. But it slices perfectly, either in wedges or more traditional slices.
Sometimes I make it with fewer raisins, sometimes with more. I honestly can’t decide which I like better. I do know that it’s just not the start of spring without some Irish Soda Bread.
Does Irish soda bread have to have raisins?
This recipe calls for at least 1 1/2 cups (or as much as 2 cups) raisins. I like Thompson raisins, but golden raisins like you see in the photos and video here are lovely, too.
You don’t have to make Irish soda bread with raisins, but you’d need a substitute here. The recipe is developed to include a mix-in.
We also have a recipe for savory gluten free Irish soda bread, which doesn’t even have a single raisin. The savory recipe is more like traditional bread, even though it’s also leavened without yeast.
Tips to making the perfect soda bread
Once you understand that you’re making quick bread, with cold ingredients that are handled lightly, like a pastry, you shouldn’t have too much trouble making a successful loaf. There are a few things to keep in mind, though.
This is a large loaf. The recipe calls for a full 4 cups (560 g) of all purpose gluten free flour.
The smaller the pan you bake it in, the longer you’ll need to bake it. If you bake it in a 10-inch pan or skillet, it should bake completely in 40 minutes.
If your pan or skillet is 9-inches, 45 minutes should do the trick. If you go even smaller, like an 8-inch baking pan, you’ll have to adjust the baking time and temperature.
For an 8-inch pan, bake for 30 minutes at 375°F. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, cover the loaf pan with foil to prevent burning, and bake for about another 30 minutes or until the top doesn’t give noticeably when you press the center.
To make a much smaller loaf, you can split every ingredient in the recipe in half. Bake in a 6-inch pan for about 30 minutes.
Ingredients and substitutions
The butter and buttermilk in this recipe are both dairy. You can try replacing the cold, chopped butter with Melt brand or Miyoko’s Kitchen brand vegan butter.
Spectrum brand non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening would probably also work. Just be careful about chilling it too much, since it becomes very hard when very cold, unlike butter.
In place of buttermilk, if you can have dairy, use half plain dairy yogurt and half whole milk, by volume. If you can’t have dairy, use half plain nondairy yogurt and half unsweetened nondairy milk (I like almond milk best).
There are two eggs in this recipe. You might be able to replace each with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).
Instead, you could try our recipe for savory gluten free Irish soda bread. That recipe doesn’t call for eggs at all.
This is a sweet Irish soda bread recipe. It has 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and is developed to use sugar.
Sugar isn’t only a sweetener. It also adds bulk and tenderizes the bread. You may be able to reduce the sugar a bit, to 1/2 cup (100 grams), but I can’t promise results.
For a savory version that only has a bit of sugar, that’s even optional, please click the link above for the savory bread.
Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread
4 cups (560 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter), plus more for sprinkling
2 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, roughly chopped and chilled
1 1/2 to 2 cups (225 g to 300 g) raisins
2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell)
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups (12 to 14 fluid ounces) buttermilk, chilled
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan or a 10-inch cast iron skillet, and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the chopped and chilled butter, and toss to coat the butter in the dry ingredients. Between your well-floured thumb and forefinger, flatten each chunk of butter and return it to the dry ingredients. Add the raisins (more or less, to taste), and toss to coat the raisins in the dry ingredients.
Place 1 1/2 cups of the chilled buttermilk in a large measuring cup or bowl with a pour spout, add the eggs, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the buttermilk and egg mixture and mix gently to combine. The dough should come together.
With clean hands, knead the dough gently. If there are any spots that are dry and crumbly, add more buttermilk sparingly by the tablespoon as necessary to bring the dough together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle lightly with more flour. Pat the dough into a round that is approximately 9-inches in diameter, piling it higher toward the center and sprinkling lightly with more flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
Place the dough in the prepared baking pan and, with a very sharp knife, slice a large “X” on the top about 1-inch deep (each slash should be about 6-inches long). If the dough seems to have warmed during handling, place the pan in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes or until the butter is once again firm.
Place the baking pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the bread is firm to the touch (about 45 minutes, depending on size). Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the baking pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool further.
Slice and serve warm, with butter. It is also excellent the next day, toasted.
Originally published on the blog in 2015. Recipe unchanged; some images, video, and some text new.