This Sourdough Irish Soda Bread is the perfect side dish for your St. Patrick's Day feast. It's easy to make, requires no special equipment, is only needs 8 simple ingredients. With its crunchy exterior, soft interior, and unique flavor, you'll love this tasty sourdough discard recipe.
Irish soda bread is a simple bread traditionally made with just 4 ingredients - soft wheat flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. It has a distinctive crumbly texture and a slightly tangy flavor.
Today, there are many variations of Irish soda bread that include additional ingredients such as butter, eggs, sugar, and raisins. For this recipe, I added sourdough starter discard to give the bread a hint of sour flavor.
If you're a sourdough baker like me, you're always looking for ways to use up your sourdough starter discard. Adding sourdough discard to traditional Irish soda bread is a great way to reduce food waste, while also enhancing the flavor and texture of the bread.
So, whether you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day this March or just looking for a new sourdough discard recipe to try, this sourdough Irish soda bread is sure to become a family favorite.
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Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses Sourdough Discard- If you do any amount of sourdough baking, you know how wonderful sourdough discard recipes are. Sourdough Irish bread is a fun and unique way to use sourdough discard.
- No Special Equipment- The dough is easy to mix by hand without any special equipment.
- Only 8 Ingredients- Sourdough Irish soda bread is a very simple sourdough quick bread that only requires 8 ingredients, many of which are pantry staples.
- Crusty Exterior, Soft Interior- This Irish soda bread made with sourdough starter is the perfect blend of crusty exterior and soft, tender interior.
- Perfect for St. Patrick's Day- I love making this sourdough Irish soda bread on St. Patrick's Day. It pairs perfectly with this Dutch Oven Corned Beef and Cabbage.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- All-Purpose Flour- Measure by weight in grams for best results.
- Sugar- While not considered sweet bread, a touch of sugar helps balance the flavors.
- Baking Soda- How Irish soda bread got its name. Baking soda acts as a leavening agent in the bread.
- Salt- Enhances and balances flavor.
- Butter- Use cold butter. In this recipe, we cut the butter into the flour to give it a tender crumb.
- Egg- Helps bind the dough together and adds stability as it rises in the oven.
- Buttermilk- An acidic ingredient that reacts with baking soda to produce gases that help the bread rise. Buttermilk also provides a slightly tangy flavor.
- Sourdough Discard- Adds flavor and moisture. Since it's not acting as a leavening agent here, you can use inactive or unfed sourdough starter discard.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is how to make homemade sourdough Irish soda bread.
Step 1: Combine dry ingredients. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Step 2: Cut in butter. Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients. Pinch the butter between your fingertips, combining it with the dry ingredients, until the mixture holds together lightly when squeezed.
Step 3: Mix together wet ingredients. Whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and sourdough starter in a separate small mixing bowl until well combined.
Step 4: Combine wet and dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until most of the flour is moistened. Then, use your hands to lightly knead the mixture until a shaggy, sticky dough forms, taking care not to overwork it. The dough should be cohesive, but it will be pretty sticky. Don't panic, this is what we want.
Step 5: Score and bake. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and form it into a shaggy, rounded loaf. Use a knife to score the top of the dough. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 30-45 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.
Tips for Success
- Substitute the buttermilk. Swap buttermilk for 1 ¼ cups of milk mixed with 4 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice. Alternatively, use ¾ cup of plain Greek yogurt thinned with ½ cup of milk or water.
- Don't overwork the dough. Once the dough comes together into a shaggy, sticky, cohesive dough, you're done mixing. Over-mixing results in tough, chewy bread, which is not what we're looking for from this recipe.
- Add mix-ins. Raisins and dried currants are popular Irish soda bread mix-ins. A few tablespoons of caraway seeds also make for a delicious loaf.
- Score the top. Scoring the top of the dough isn't just for looks. It helps the dough rise evenly and bake properly in the oven.
- Use a skewer to check for doneness. I use a long bamboo skewer to check the center of the dough for doneness as a toothpick is typically too short. Other indicators include a deep, golden brown crust and a hollow sound when knocking on the bottom of the loaf.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can try customizing this sourdough discard Irish soda bread recipe to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- All-Purpose Flour- Replace up to 1 cup of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour or rye flour. For gluten-free Irish soda bread, use all-purpose gluten-free flour.
- Sugar- Swap granulated sugar for brown sugar or honey if preferred.
- Butter- Use dairy-free butter or margarine in place of regular butter.
- Egg- Replace the egg with a "flax egg" by mixing one tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 2 ½ tablespoons of water.
- Buttermilk- Swap buttermilk for 1 ¼ cups of regular milk mixed with 4 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice. Alternatively, use ¾ cup of plain yogurt thinned with ½ cup of milk or water.
- Sourdough Discard- Use either active sourdough starter or inactive sourdough starter in this recipe. If you don't have a sourdough starter, leave it out entirely and add an extra ¼ to ½ cup of buttermilk.
- Gluten-Free- Swap regular flour for gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour. Also, make sure the sourdough starter that you're using is gluten-free as well.
- Dried Fruit- Raisins or currants are often added to Irish soda bread for a little extra sweetness. Add up to 1 cup of dried fruit.
- Nuts and Seeds- Caraway seeds are a common Irish soda bread mix-in. Alternatively, add chopped walnuts or pecans, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds. Add up to 2 tablespoons of nuts and seeds.
- Herbs- Fresh or dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, or parsley can add a subtle, earthy flavor to the bread.
- Cheddar Cheese- Shredded cheddar cheese adds a savory, cheesy flavor.
- Spices- Warm spices like cinnamon or nutmeg can give your sourdough soda bread a cozy, comforting flavor that is perfect for fall and winter.
What to Serve with Sourdough Irish Soda Bread
Commonly, Irish soda bread is served with Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick's Day or alongside Corned Beef Hash the morning after. But, it also pairs well with many other dishes. In particular, Irish soda bread pairs beautifully with rich and hearty comfort food meals like this Ground Turkey Shepherd's Pie, this Braised Beef with Mushroom Gravy or this Dutch Oven Chili.
I also recommend smearing a warm piece of this sourdough Irish soda bread with some butter. And a drizzle of honey or some jam never hurts either.
Here are a few other ideas for what to serve with Irish soda bread:
- Roasted Vegetables
- Soups and Stews
- Braised or Roasted Meats
- Cheese and Charcuterie
- Bacon and Eggs
How to Use Leftover Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread is a hearty, versatile, and relatively plain bread that can be repurposed in a variety of different ways. Here are a few ideas for using up leftover Irish soda bread:
- Bread Pudding
- French Toast or French Toast Casserole
- Grilled Cheese
- Breakfast Sandwiches
Storage and Reheating
How to Store
- Room Temperature- Store leftover sourdough Irish soda bread in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.
- Freezer- For longer storage, you can freeze Irish soda bread quite easily. I recommend cutting it into slices before freezing for easier defrosting. Sourdough Irish soda bread will maintain optimum quality in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Quick Tip: Do not store Irish soda bread in the refrigerator. The cold, dry air of the refrigerator quickly turns bread stale. For best results, store leftover sourdough Irish soda bread in the freezer.
How to Reheat
- Oven- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap slices of leftover Irish soda bread in aluminum foil and warm for 10-15 minutes in the oven.
- Toaster- Use a toaster to crisp up and warm leftover Irish soda bread. I recommend using a setting on the lighter side, but feel free to toast it to your desired doneness.
- Stovetop- Melt butter in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Place a slice of Irish soda bread in the skillet and toast for 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Microwave- Wrap a slice of sourdough Irish soda bread in a damp paper towel. Heat on HIGH in 15-second intervals until warmed through.
- Air Fryer- Preheat the air fryer to 350°F. Place slices of Irish soda bread in the air fryer basket in a single layer and heat for 2-3 minutes.
This sourdough Irish soda bread can be made up to 2 days in advance. Wrap the whole loaf tightly in plastic wrap or place it inside an airtight container and store it at room temperature.
If desired, wrap the bread in aluminum foil and warm it in a 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Traditional soda bread is an easy-to-make quick bread made only with flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. It has a uniquely dense and crumbly texture from the reaction of baking soda and buttermilk
No, Irish soda bread and sourdough bread are not the same. Sourdough bread is made with wild yeast as the primary leavening agent. On the other hand, Irish soda bread is a quick bread that is leavened with baking soda.
While this sourdough Irish soda bread recipe contains sourdough starter discard, the sourdough starter is not acting as a leavening agent. Instead, it provides moisture and flavor.
Irish soda bread is often made with refined flour. So, like any refined flour product, it's best to eat it in moderation as part of a balanced diet. If you want to add a little more nutrition to your Irish soda bread, replace some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.
While Irish soda bread is a dense bread with a crusty exterior, it shouldn't turn out hard. If your bread is hard as a rock, you may have accidentally overworked the dough while mixing.
More Sourdough Recipes
- No-Knead Sourdough Bread
- Homemade Sourdough Hoagie Rolls
- Whole Wheat Sourdough Discard Crackers
- Sourdough Discard Naan Bread
Sourdough Irish Soda Bread
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.4 cups (480 grams) all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt
- Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients. Pinch the butter between your fingertips, combining it with the dry ingredients, until the mixture holds together lightly when squeezed.4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and sourdough starter in a separate small mixing bowl until well combined.1 large egg, 1 ¼ cups buttermilk, 1 cup (200 grams) sourdough starter discard
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until most of the flour is moistened. Then, use your hands to lightly knead the mixture until a shaggy, sticky dough forms, taking care not to overwork it. The dough should be cohesive, but it will be pretty sticky. Don't panic, this is what we want.1 cup raisins or currants
- Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and form it into a shaggy, rounded loaf. Use a knife to score the top of the dough. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 30-45 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.
- Buttermilk Substitution: 1 ¼ cups of regular milk mixed with 4 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice OR ¾ cup of plain yogurt thinned with ½ cup of milk or water.
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Do not refrigerate.
- Make Ahead: Bake a loaf of sourdough Irish soda bread up to 2 days in advance and store in an airtight container. Warm in the oven before serving if desired.