Mary Harrington’s Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick’s Day is Tuesday 3/17. In my Irish-American family, corned beef and cabbage is a thing but soda bread is probably our strongest food tradition. Friends and family will start asking about the bread a few weeks in advance to make sure that someone is making it.

Irish soda bread is a quick bread, meaning no kneading or rising like a yeasted bread. It comes together much like a scone but this version is baked in a boule (bowl) shape. We have always used a heatproof Pyrex glass bowl. Lightly toasted and buttered, it is HARD to put down.

This recipe comes from my grandmother Mary Ellen Harrington, but my great auntie Mary McElligott’s soda bread ran a close second.

Caraway seeds are important to this bread’s flavor (think rye bread), but some people really hate them, so I’ll reluctantly leave them out for those poor souls.

If you make this recipe, please let us know how it comes out! Tag us on IG or FB!


Prep Time

30 minutes

Cook Time

45 minutes


12 servings


  • 6 cups (600 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2-3 cups (100 to 150 grams) unsweetened coconut chips
  • 3 cups nuts and/or seeds (400 grams, see headnote)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) olive oil
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (480 g)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (50g)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsps caraway seeds (optional, but recommended)
  • 2 cups currants or raisins (or a combo)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small (¼”-½”) cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 cups (12 oz) buttermilk, divided
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • milk/cream and sugar (for brushing on top)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place first 4 ingredients in the food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Then open cover and sprinkle butter pieces onto dry ingredients. Replace cover and pulse about 5-8 times, or just until the butter pieces are no larger than a small pea. (No need to be exact.)

[Alternative Hand Method:  Sift together the first four ingredients, then work in 1/2 cup of butter with your fingers, rubbing pieces of butter between your fingers and thumb as if you are making the gesture for cash money.]


  1. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in caraway seeds and raisins/currants.
  2. Beat the egg with 1/2 cup of buttermilk and baking soda, then add the egg mixture to the dough along with the remaining cup of buttermilk.
  3. Knead lightly on a floured board a few times until the mixture just comes together. The dough will be sticky and wet. (This is what you want! Do not overwork.) Place in a greased bowl (Pyrex/glass*) and slash a cross on the top (edge to edge). Brush with milk and sugar and bake in a 350-degree oven for approximately 1 hour. Start checking the bread for doneness after 45 minutes.
  4. A toothpick in the center should come out fairly clean (possibly a few moist crumbs) and the top crust should be firm and golden brown around the edges. If you lift up the bowl and check the bottom crust, it should be dark golden brown. Don’t overbake.
  5. If the top center looks wet, you may need to bake 10-15 more minutes. You can also split your dough into two or more smaller bowls or tins. Start checking them after 20 minutes to prevent overbaking.
  6. Serve warm (delicious), room temperature or toasted (later, if it lasts).

*Most Pyrex-type bowls are oven safe at 350 degrees, but be careful and check the bottom of your bowl.