Easy Irish Soda Bread with Cheddar

This small loaf of Easy Irish Soda Bread with Cheddar is a quick bread recipe that does not require yeast.  Baking soda and buttermilk provide rise and moisture, while Irish cheddar cheese gives the bread another layer of flavor.  And with the perfect exterior crust, the bread is a great pairing with soups, stews, and everything in between!  

Piece of irish bread and butter

Traditional Irish Bread

Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread that does not require yeast to make it rise.  As the name implies, baking soda is a key ingredient in the bread and the yeast alternative for leavening. 

Flour, buttermilk, and salt are the remaining ingredients needed to make Irish Soda Bread.  Buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to create the rise, and salt is the simple ingredient for flavor.  Though, over time, bakers have taken creative baking liberties and added other ingredients to make the bread tender and add flavor.  This recipe, for example, uses butter and cheddar cheese for additional moisture and flavor. 

History of Irish Soda Bread

Many cultures have their own version of soda bread, though the origin of soda bread came from the Native Americans.  Pearl ash, which is a natural form of soda, was used as a leavening agent in bread baking.  It wasn’t until much later that European countries made bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda, a popular leavening ingredient. 

Much like a lot of traditional Irish recipes, Irish Soda Bread is extremely easy to make.  With the financial and food problems the Irish faced, bread was a viable low-cost food staple.

The bread was originally made in large cast iron pots or on griddles set over an open fire.  Which is why you may see some modern recipes bake the bread in a cast iron pan (in an oven, of course!)   Shapes of the bread varied and were either baked in triangular pieces or a loaf with the symbolic cuts along the top of the loaf. 

As for the cut on top, some say the ‘cross’ cut was to ward off evil spirits.  Others say it let the fairies out.  And while I love a good superstition, I believe these cuts serve a practical purpose and allow the bread to be baked all the way through.   

Top of a bread loaf sliced on cutting board

Easy No-Yeast Bread

Today, you may see Irish Soda Bread around St. Patrick’s Day as a way to soak up all of the whiskey and stout.  And while it may be a good hang-over cure, it may be the easiest bread recipe you can make. 

We have covered that you don’t need yeast to make this Easy Irish Soda Bread with Cheddar.  Additionally, you probably have all of the ingredients already in your pantry and refrigerator.  Flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt.

And if you don’t have a half-gallon of buttermilk in the fridge (I never do!), you can make your own.  All you need is milk and either vinegar or lemon juice.  Mix the two ingredients and allow the milk to sit and ‘curdle’ for about 10-15 minutes.

Homemade buttermilk ratio (for this recipe) – 3/4 milk + 2 and 1/4 teaspoons vinegar (or lemon juice).

Smaller Bread Loaf

This is a smaller size loaf of bread that is large enough to feed 2 to 4 people.  And like most homemade breads, this Easy Irish Soda Bread with Cheddar is best enjoyed the day it is baked.  Which makes the smaller size ideal because fewer leftovers mean fewer pieces of hard, stale bread.

What You Need To Make Irish Soda Bread With Cheddar

I have made many varieties of soda bread and I find I need to add a little something, something, to make it more enjoyable.  So, why not a little cheese.  And to keep with my Irish roots and flavors of the Emerald Isle, I used Irish Cheddar for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • All-Purpose Flour – Traditional recipes use a lighter gluten flour like cake flour or pastry flour.  I used AP flour because many are more likely to have it in the pantry.
  • Baking Soda – A must for the bread.
  • Salt 
  • Buttermilk 
  • Butter
  • Irish Cheddar Cheese – Or any hard cheese of preference.

Baking Equipment

  • Baking Sheet – I may update the recipe to include a version baked in a cast iron pan – once I get the proper size!
  • Parchment Paper
  • Mixing Bowl
Slice of soda bread with cheddar

Tips For Making Irish Soda Bread

  • Keep the ingredients cold – Keep the buttermilk, butter, and cheese in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Work fast – Another plug for having all of  your ingredients ready to go.  This bread comes together quickly and you want to be just as quick to shape it and get it in the oven.  Otherwise, we may lose some efficacy of the baking soda + buttermilk raising action.
  • Don’t overwork the dough – Overworking dough can result in a tough and chewy loaf of bread.
  • Cross cut the top of the loaf – This ensures the loaf gets baked all the way through.
  • Enjoy the day it is baked – I would say this is true for any homemade bread.  After about day 2, the bread will dry out.
  • Use flavors – Hard cheese is a great ingredient to add for flavor without imparting too much additional moisture.  You could also get creative with seasons and herbs.  Or make a sweeter loaf with dried fruit and chocolate chips!

And, in Irish tradition, this loaf of bread will be making a repeat appearance in this house.  Who can resist a bread that is ready in about 30 minutes!?  

Sláinte!

More Bread Recipes

Slice of irish soda bread on cutting board
Piece of irish soda bread and butter
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Irish Soda Bread with Cheddar

This small loaf of Easy Irish Soda Bread with Cheddar is a quick bread recipe that does not require yeast.  Baking soda makes the bread rise and buttermilk keeps the bread soft.  For more flavor, we add a little butter and Irish Cheddar cheese, then bake to perfection with the ideal crusty exterior.  
Prep10 mins
Cook30 mins
Total40 mins
Servings: 4 Bread Wedges
Author: Erin | Butter and Bliss

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour - cake or pastry flour work too
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, cold
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, grated and cold
  • 3/4 cup Irish cheddar cheese, grated and cold - or any hard cheese

Instructions

  • If you don't have buttermilk – Add 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Fill the cup with milk to the 3/4 mark. Refrigerate the buttermilk for about 10-15 minutes, until it starts to curdle. Note – I recommend whole milk, but 2% or 1% will also work.
  • Preheat the oven to 400F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon and stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the grated butter and approx. a 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, and stir to coat the pieces. Reserve the remaining cheese to sprinkle over the top of the loaf. Note – I recommend grating the cheese and butter. Grated butter distributes more evenly.
  • Pour the buttermilk over the top of the flour and stir with the wooden spoon – until the flour is dampened and a dough starts to form. The dough will be rough and scrappy.
  • Pour the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and working quickly, shape the dough into approximately a 5-inch ball and gently and ever so slightly flatten the top of the dough ball. Do not overwork, or knead the dough.
  • Transfer the dough loaf to the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Then, using a sharp knife, score the top of the dough in a deep cross (not all the way through). Note – the cheese may bake over the cuts in the top of the loaf, or may not. You will notice in my photos it did, and this is ok!
  • Bake the bread for 27 – 30 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown. Transfer the bread immediately to a wire cooling rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. The bread is best enjoyed the day it is baked. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Grate the Cheese and Butter – When working with cold butter, I find grating it (rather than working it in with a pastry cutter), distributes the butter better without melting it.
  • Use Cold Ingredients – Keep the refrigerated ingredients in the fridge and ready to go when needed.  
  • Work Fast – This is not a dough that can sit on the counter.  It should be mixed quickly and get into the oven immediately.  Otherwise, we run the risk of the baking soda + buttermilk reaction not working to its full potential.  Translation – flat bread.
  • Don’t Overwork – Try not to overmix or overwork the dough.  The result could be a chewy, tough bread.
  • High Altitude Bakers – No recipes adjustments are needed.  Just watch the bake time as the bread may not need the full 30 minutes.
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Irish
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