Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (2024)

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Irish Brown Bread is as typical as a pint of Guinness in Ireland. It is a close cousin, or stepbrother to my traditional Irish soda bread recipe made with white flour. This hearty sweet bread has a nice crunchy crust that is perfect to have with soups and stews!

Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (1)
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  • Irish Brown Bread Background
  • Ingredients
  • Step by step photos
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe

Irish Brown Bread Background

Today traditional Irish soda bread and brown are equally popular but brown bread was initially more common because white flour was more expensive. People with less resources favored brown bread since it cost less to make. It is quick to make since it is a "quick bread" by using baking soda or sodium bicarbonate as a fast leavening agent combined with the butter milk. There is no need to wait and let the bread rise as you do with yeasted breads. The bread will rise in the oven as the soda and buttermilk react. Artisan bakeries take great pride in turning out delicious loaves of Irish brown bread today.

Traditional Irish brown bread was served and almost every meal on our recent trip to Ireland. Whether at a pub or restaurant, Irish brown bread was always present. "More bread please!" was a constant request.

Irish Brown Bread is delicious by itself, but even more so slathered with delicious Irish butter, and your favorite jam. Mmmmm Irish Butter, made from grass fed cow's milk. It's so creamy, yummm!

Irish Brown Bread is baked with a cross sliced on the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife. By cutting into the bread, the heat will be able to penetrate it and thus allow the center to cook well. On the superstitious side, the cross is to let the devil out!

Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (3)

Irish brown bread is great for dipping into a nice big bowl of Guinness Stew or Dublin Coddle. I could not imagine St. Patrick's Day without fresh bread and a nice soup or stew!

Ingredients

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  • Flour: This is an equal mix of whole wheat flour and white flour. Both are very easy to find.
  • Buttermilk and Baking Soda: The acidity in the milk will react with baking soda to rise in the oven while baking. The buttermilk adds a slight tangy flavor too.
  • Rolled Oats: These will give some texture to the loaf. I would avoid quick oats.
  • Wheat Germ: This adds a bit of a more nutty flavor to the bread. You can swap this for wheat bran or ground flax seeds.
  • Molasses: This gives the loaf its brown color and some sweetness. Some recipes use dark brown sugar but I prefer the molasses.
  • Optional items: Add ½ cup of raisins, dried currants or cranberries for some added flavor.

Step by step photos

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Step 1: Combine the dry ingredients first: all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, salt, wheat germ and baking soda in a large bowl.
Step 2: Mix all the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

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Step 3: Combine the liquid ingredients: Add the molasses to the buttermilk.
Step 4: Whisk to combine the molasses with the buttermilk.

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Step 5: Make a "well" indentation in the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture.
Step 6: Using a fork or spatula draw the dry ingredients into the center and combine.

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Step 7: Coat your hands with flour and gently knead to form a soft dough.
Step 8: Form a ball on a floured surface.

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Step 9: Press down on the ball until it is about 2 inches thick.
Step 10: Cut a deep cross over the top of the dough with a sharp knife. The dough is very dense so you will not need a loaf pan.

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Step 11: Place the loaf on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes at 450°F, reduce to 400°F and bake another 20-25 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer and check if the middle of the loaf has reached 200°F. The baking time can vary so check the loaf a couple times. If you don't have an instant read thermometer use your oven mitts and tap the bottom of the loaf with a wooden spoon. You should hear a hollow sound when it is done. Allow the loaf to rest for 30 minutes on a wire rack before slicing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can I store the Irish brown bread?

You can keep this at room temperature for about 4-5 day. Keep it sealed in a container or zip-top bag to prevent drying.

Can I freeze Irish brown bread?

Yes, I actually like to freeze slices or even the whole loaf. Be sure to freeze in airtight freezer bags and it stores nicely for up to 3 months.

How do I know when the Irish brown is done when baking?

Insert an instant read thermometer and the middle of the loaf should read 200°F. You can also tap on the bottom it should sound hollow. Take it from the oven with mitts and I usually use a wooden spoon because it is hot and it if sounds hollow and not a dense "thud" it is done.

Why did my loaf not fully bake in the middle?

Be sure to flatten the loaf to about 2 inches and the diameter will be about 8 inches around. This helps the middle bake better and it will rise in the oven. Be sure your dough is not too wet to begin with. It should just come together and form a ball.

Can I add other flavors?

Sure, some readers have added 3 tablespoons of ground flax seed or a bit of honey to the dough with good success. I would add the honey to the wet ingredients before blending.

Which oats do I use?

I would use whole rolled oats, not the quick oats that are partially pre-cooked. The rolled oats will have more texture.

What if I don't have buttermilk?

You can quickly and easily make buttermilk from whole milk or 2% milk. Add 1 Tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Let this sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to curdle. This recipe calls for 1 and ¾ cup buttermilk so use 1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp in 1 and ¾ cups of milk.

Why do I have to let the bread rest for 30 minutes before slicing?

I know it is tempting to slice and eat the bread right after it bakes but you need to wait. The moisture in the bread needs time to disperse and if you slice it the middle of the loaf will be gummy. Let it rest and your patience will be rewarded.

If you are looking for more Irish recipes to make for Saint Patrick’s Day or anytime at home here are a few of my favorites to try or bookmark for later.Irish butter cookiesare favorite melt in your mouth shortbread cookie recipe that does call for Irish butter, no substitutes. If you want to make a delicious soup for your family then you have to try Irish potato leek soup. A more unusual dish to try would be Irish pub style salmon tartlets with a nice smoky flavor and creamy texture.

If you are into authentic Irish drinks them you will want to check out the recipe and history ofIrish coffee and another interesting warm hot toddy like libation, theScailtin or Irish whiskey milk punch. Both of these will warm you up on a cold night!

Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (11)

Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe

This traditional moist Irish brown bread is great with breakfast, slathered with butter or a healthy dollop of jam.

4.79 from 14 votes

Print Pin Rate

Course: Bread

Cuisine: Irish

Keyword: homemade bread, Traditional Irish food

Prep Time: 10 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes minutes

Servings: 12 people

Calories: 191kcal

Author: Analida Braeger

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450°F.

  • In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients: both flours, oats, wheat germ, salt and baking soda. Mix thoroughly all the dry ingredients.

  • Whisk buttermilk and molasses. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the buttermilk mixture.

  • Using a fork or spatula, stir gradually until combined. If it is dry, add 1 tbsp buttermilk at a time until it comes together.

  • With floured hands, knead into a ball.

  • Shape the dough into a circle and place on a lined baking sheet. Press flat to about 2 inches thick.It will form a round loaf about 8 inches in diameter.

  • With a sharp knife cut a deep cross on top of the ball.

  • Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes at 450°F. Reduce the heat to 400°F then bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Notes

Optional Flavors:

Add in ½ cup of raisins, dried currants or dried cranberries.

Add 2 tablespoons of honey for a sweeter bread.

Swap the wheat germ for ground flax seeds or wheat bran.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • How long can I store the Irish brown bread? You can keep this at room temperature for about 4-5 days. Keep it sealed in a container or zip-top bag to prevent drying.
  • Can I freeze Irish brown bread? Yes, I actually like to freeze slices or even the whole loaf. Be sure to freeze in airtight freezer bags and it stores nicely for up to 3 months.
  • How do I know when the Irish brown is done when baking? Use an instant read thermometer and check if the middle of the loaf has reached 200°F. The baking time can vary so check the loaf a couple times. If you don't have an instant read thermometer use your oven mitts and tap the bottom of the loaf with a wooden spoon. You should hear a hollow sound when it is done.
  • Why did my loaf not fully bake in the middle? Be sure to flatten the loaf to about 2 inches and the diameter will be about 8 inches around. This helps the middle bake better and it will rise in the oven. Be sure your dough is not too wet to begin with. It should just come together and form a ball.
  • Can I add other flavors? Sure, some readers have added 3 tablespoons of ground flax seed or a bit of honey to the dough with good success. I would add the honey to the wet ingredients before blending.
  • Which oats do I use? I would use whole rolled oats, not the quick oats that are partially pre-cooked. The rolled oats will have more texture.
  • What if I don't have buttermilk? You can quickly and easily make buttermilk from whole milk or 2% milk. Add 1 Tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Let this sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to curdle. This recipe calls for 1 and ¾ cup buttermilk so use 1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp in 1 and ¾ cups of milk.
  • Why do I need to let the bread rest for 30 minutes after baking?
    I know it is tempting to slice and eat the bread right after it bakes but you need to wait. The moisture in the bread needs time to disperse and if you slice it the middle of the loaf will be gummy. Let it rest and your patience will be rewarded.

Nutrition

Calories: 191kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 421mg | Potassium: 211mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 60IU | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 2mg

This recipe was adapted from: The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Christie

    I love bread and this looks so good! Thanks so much for sharing with us at Bloggers Brags! I'm pinning to the Bloggers Brags board on Pinterest. Enjoy the rest of your week!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thanks again Christie!!
      Let me know if you make it.
      Enjoy your week also.

      Reply

  2. Lou Lou Girls

    This looks incredible! I'm drooling right now. Pinned and tweeted. We are so thrilled to have you at our party. Please stop by on Monday at 7, so we can see your amazing projects. Lou Lou Girls

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thanks Lou Lou!
      i will make sure I stop by. It's so much fun.
      Have a great Sunday!

      Reply

  3. Sharon Rowe

    I have never tried this bread! I think I will give it a go! Thanks for sharing on Monday Madness Link Party 🙂

    Reply

    • Analida

      It's easy to make.
      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply

  4. Kim - Liv Life

    My mother adores Irish Brown Bread! However we've never made a homemade version! I must surprise her!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Yes Kim, you must!!!
      🙂

      Reply

      • BParrish

        Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (15)
        I do not recommend a food processor, but a stand mixer. With that much liquid I made a huge mess. Round 2 worked much better in the stand mixer.

        Reply

        • Analida

          That's a great idea too. I could include it in the post. Thanks for the suggestion.

          Reply

  5. Marlene

    Whtat type of oats did you use? I would like to make this for my son-in-law.
    Thanks,.

    Reply

    • Analida

      I just used regular rolled oats.

      Reply

  6. Ashley @ Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen

    Nothing beats a homemade loaf of bread. This looks absolutely delicious!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thanks Ashley! I think so too!

      Reply

  7. Joan Cullen

    Hello! I have made this bread several times now, and each time, it does not cook completely through the center. I make the cross cut in it beforehand. I don't understand why it won't bake through. What are the dimensions of the loaf when you put it in the oven? I'm wondering if I need to flatten my ball a little. I'll give it one more try. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Hi Joan, thanks for your question. I have never actually measured my loaf; I would definitely try flattening it out a bit. I emailed my Irish friend, and she said to flatten it to about 2" in height. I hope this helps. I am going to try her method next time I bake it. Another idea, although I have never done this, is to make two loaves. Please let me know if either of these methods work.

      • Michelle Kracht

        Oh dear you said 1/2” in your directions. My loafs are super flat! Lol. Oh well next time!

        Reply

        • Sharon

          Your recipe said to flatten the ball to 1/2 “. I thought it would rise. It looks like a cookie. I see in another comment you say 2”. I guess I’ll try again tomorrow.

          Reply

          • Analida

            Sorry, it is 2".

  8. Deanna

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (16)
    I’ve been on the hunt for a very authentic Irish brown bread recipe since my significant other is Irish and all the others I’ve tried were not like his “Ma’s“. This one was the one! I don’t use the food processor and I import the stone ground flower, since it’s the only way to get the “gritty” texture that is so authentic. The history of this bread is supposed to be that of the poor, so I use my hands to mix it and supposedly it’s very Irish, or at least that’s what I’m told. Thanks!!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thank you for the lovely comment. I hope you enjoy the bread! Sláinte!

      Reply

    • Becky Marie

      I did the same mixing with my hands. It had a nice texture. I doubled recipe and shaped into rounding oval 2" thickness so would fit on 1/2 sheet pan.

      Reply

  9. Sabine

    Hi Analida, found this recipe and it looks good. Just a question though. You call for 1 3/4 White flour. Would that be teaspoons, tablespoons or cups? The recipe already needs 2 cups of whole wheat flour so I am unsure of how much more white flour is needed. Thanks so much.

    Reply

    • Analida

      Hi Sabine, The white flour is 1 3/4 cups. Thanks for the catch and I updated the recipe.

      Reply

  10. Tommy Wilson

    I love a hearty bread like this! Thanks for sharing this traditional Irish recipe!

    Reply

  11. Marlene

    I was lerry about this recipe because it did not call for eggs or butter. However it was the best Irish brown bread I have ever eaten. I followed the recipe to the letter. Thank you so much for the recipe.

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thanks Marlene! My family loves this recipe too and we try to have this with Guinness beef stew as it is a great bread to dunk.

      Reply

  12. Sasha

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (17)
    This turned out great! I added about 3 tbsp of ground flax seed for extra texture & a drizzle of honey to the dough for a little sweetness. Totally missed the part about flattening it out to about 2", so it was quite a bit thicker but just baked until it had the hollow sound.

    Reply

    • Analida

      I always say a recipe is just a suggestion and it is so wonderful to get creative! I am trying this on my next bake!

      Reply

  13. Sharon McGee

    Could this recipe be baked in two bread tins instead of rounds?

    Reply

    • Analida

      Hi Sharon, Thanks for the question. This recipe makes a very wet dough and it would be better to bake two rounds that are two inches thick.
      I think if you bake in tins the thickness won't allow them to cook all the way through.

      Reply

  14. Treia

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (18)
    Was very hopeful about this recipe as I adore Irish brown bread, but have made it twice and am disappointed. Used King Arthur flours which I have noticed sometimes require a little more liquid than other flour. Although the loaf looked very like yours, it was heavy, felt “gluey” in my mouth and tasted bland. Added a bit more oats, molasses, a touch of honey, and cooked it a bit longer the second time - with more or less the same result. All advice welcome (and I will be looking for real Irish whole meal flour.)

    Reply

    • Analida

      Hi Treia, I am sorry to hear this. You have to bake it until you get that hollow sound and this can vary by flour type, humidity, oven temp etc. It sounds like it was under baked if it was heavy or sticky. I typically use standard wheat wheat flour with a good result and rolled oats, not the "quick" oats. I hope this helps.

      Reply

  15. Stuart G Collier

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (19)
    I am not really a cook. I tease my real cook-wife that I learned to cook one day last week. Anyway, due to the virus we had to cancel our next week's trip to Ireland, so I made this bread. It was simple, actually fun to make, and resulted in a pleasant discussion of Ireland by way of a delicious wedge of wholesome Irish bread--slathered, of course. My real cook wife said it was very good. It was, and 3/4 is left still, to provide more enjoyable Irish moments.

    Reply

    • Analida

      Hi Stuart! I am so glad you enjoyed the bread and I hope get the Ireland soon! Sláinte!

      Reply

  16. Maggie

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (20)
    Irish brown bread is a family favorite in my house. Making it, I didn’t want to disappoint so I read your entire article, followed to a T except, I altered one ingredient. I omitted the oats. I have the oats but chose not to use them, since my experiences with brown bread normally didn’t include oats. I was hoping I was not borrowing trouble with the end result. I also started making the bread and realized I didn’t have buttermilk so I converted skim milk into buttermilk using lemon juice. The bread could not have been more perfect! I am not a huge cook but Irish dinner on St Paddy’s day is an annual mini celebration of ours (like many Americans). I couldn’t have been more pleased with myself! (It was baked completely without being burnt or dried out. A true hazard in my kitchen at times) This recipe was perfect! Your instructions were clear and easy to follow. I wasn’t expecting the bread to be perfectly baked but it was! I had an 8” round dough that was 2” thick, just as the recipe suggests and I chose the lesser of the time range so not to over bake. Thank you for this recipe! It’s forever saved in my recipe box!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thank you so much Maggie! I am so glad you and your family enjoyed the fresh baked Irish brown bread!

      Reply

  17. Mairead

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (21)
    This looks like a great recipe for brown bread. I grew up eating brown bread in Ireland and it's lovely to find recipes that don't depend on an expensive baking mix for success. Thanks for your great recipe and instructions.

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thank you so much Mairead!

      Reply

  18. Caroline

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (22)
    I made this recipe today and it turned out great! Very tasty loaf that leaves the house smelling beautifully of warm bread 😍 . Thank you!

    Reply

    • Analida

      I am so glad you liked the recipe! It is one of those breads you can bake during the covid yeast shortage that needs no yeast! God Bless!

      Reply

  19. Gwynn Galvin

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (23)
    I really enjoyed this bread toasted and slathered with butter! So delicious!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thanks Gwynn! This is one of our favorite quick breads to make!

      Reply

  20. Amy Liu Dong

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (24)
    I have never tried making this kind of bread but it looks so easy and delicious!
    Saving this recipe!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thank Amy! This bread is super and and quick to make. Enjoy!

      Reply

  21. Jamie

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (25)
    I tasted this bread once and it was really delicious. Now, I am going to try making this, I just wish it had the same taste as yours!

    Reply

  22. Melinda

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (26)
    My family loved this loaf and the directions and tips were clear. I can't wait to try more of your recipes. Thank you!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thanks Melinda! This bread is made frequently at our house. I am so glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the rating!

      Reply

  23. Megan

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (27)
    So I’ve made this twice now, once about a year ago and it was delicious, I made it again tonight but I noticed the recipe calls for wheat germ, which I don’t remember using last time.

    I was planning to make the recipe this time using the wheat germ but as I was going through the steps, the wheat germ was not listed and I forgot about it until the bread was already in the oven.

    Is the wheat germ needed? The bread tastes good but I’m not sure how it should taste if the wheat germ is in it to compare. Thinking about making it again tomorrow.

    Reply

    • Analida

      I updated the recipe with wheat germ after doing some experimenting and it adds a slightly nutty flavor to the loaf.
      You would mix it into the dry ingredients.
      You can leave it out if you like. Enjoy!

      Reply

  24. Brenda

    Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe (28)
    This bread is amazing & I always have a loaf sliced up in the freezer so I can warm it up if I don’t have time to bake a loaf. My son & his friend refer to it as “bread crack” because it’s so addictive. It is so delicious and hearty. I love the flavor and texture and it’s the easiest bread you’ll ever make. I substitute ground flax seed for the wheat germ and I use organic sprouted oats from Costco. Thanks so much for posting this recipe!!

    Reply

    • Analida

      Thank you Brenda for your kind words and the variations sound great!!

      Reply

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