Peasant Brown Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day

irish soda brown bread.jpg

I’ve been intrigued by the recipes that have come my way for Irish brown bread leavened with baking soda. I’m thinking those recipes are surfacing because St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner. 

But here’s the deal. I’m not talking about the moist, buttery and fruit studded soda bread I’ve shared in the past. You can find that here on my site. (And yes, it’s a family fave.)

What I’ve been wanting to make this year for St. Patrick’s Day, is a simple, thick crusted, earthy, dense loaf with no discernible sweetness. I found a bunch of recipes and settled on this vintage one. It’s quick to make with a straight forward “wheaty” flavor.

We’ve eaten it warm from the toaster slathered with butter and marmalade. If I can manage to save some, I’ll serve it alongside a simple Irish stew. Otherwise, I’ll just make another batch. It’s that easy. 

Maybe you’ll be inspired to make this simple brown soda bread, too. 

Peasant brown soda bread

The original recipe called for wheat germ. I didn’t have any, so I upped the whole wheat flour to 1-1/2 cups. My dough was really sticky. I’m thinking if you added wheat germ and less whole wheat flour (see recipe) the dough may be less sticky. 


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour OR 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup wheat germ

3/4 cup quick cooking oats

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup room temperature buttermilk (I used whole buttermilk)

3 tablespoons honey

Extra buttermilk or melted butter for brushing on top (optional)


Preheat oven to 425. 

Spray cookie sheet or place parchment on cookie sheet and spray.

In a large bowl, whisk flours, oats, wheat germ if you’re using, baking soda and salt together.

Whisk buttermilk and honey and add to flour mixture.

Stir until soft dough forms. It may be sticky. 

Turn dough out on floured surface. Divide in half. I added a little more flour before I could divide it since my dough was still sticky. 

Shape each half into a round loaf, using a bit more flour if necessary. 

Place 4” apart on cookie sheet and pat down a little – a good inch or so.

Cut a cross into each to “let the devils out”.

If you want, brush with buttermilk or butter. Buttermilk makes a crisper crust and butter a softer one.


Bake on middle shelf 10 minutes.

Turn heat down to 400. Rotate cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes longer or until dough sounds hollow when tapped and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Mine took another 5-7 minutes after to get done. It registered 200 on a thermometer stuck through the center. 

Makes 2 loaves, 5-6” each.

Tip: Is baking soda still active?

Add a little to vinegar or lemon juice. It will fizz right away if it still has leavening power.

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