Vegan Irish soda bread is a simple, dairy-free version of the classic quick bread! It calls for straightforward pantry ingredients and is so easy to make—no kneading or yeast required.
I may be having a hard time with cooking, but I’m not having a hard time with soda bread!
Of course I’m not. Soda bread is famously simple and low-stress. There’s no extensive kneading required, no yeast or rising times, no starter to keep alive. Just flour, baking soda, salt, butter, and vegan “buttermilk.” Plus some raisins or currants for a little sweetness.
Soda bread is also easy to shape. There are more and less comples ways to do this. I usually turn mine into a rustic mound, cut a rough “X” shape in the top, and call it a day.
Once the soda bread has baked, it’s got a soft, dense interior, a crispy brown crust, and a buttery, mildy sweet flavor. It makes a nice, light breakfast for St. Patrick’s Day (especially with some extra vegan buttah) or a lovely teatime snack.
What is soda bread, exactly?
Soda bread is a type of quick bread that uses baking soda for leavening. Because it uses chemical leavening (rather than the biological leavening in yeasted breads), it’s fast and convenient to make.
Soda bread can be cooked on a griddle, like a flatbread, or shaped into a loaf. There are soda bread recipes that call for all different types of flour, different liquids (yogurt, buttermilk, etc.) and different mix-ins.
This is a vegan version of Irish soda bread. It’s a nod to St. Patrick’s Day this week, and Irish soda bread is the soda bread I’m most familiar with. (There are Scotch, Serbian, and Australian versions, too.)
The ingredients for this and most Irish soda bread recipes are simple. Dried fruit (raisins or currants), which I like to add to mine, isn’t necessary. But it does give the bread extra sweetness and texture.
How to make vegan Irish soda bread
Preparing this vegan Irish soda bread is a lot like making biscuits or scones. You cut vegan butter into flour, baking soda, and salt. You moisten everything with vegan “buttermilk”—just a combination of milk and vinegar.
Wet and dry ingredients form a sticky, shaggy dough. You don’t really have to knead it so much as fold it together a few times with your hands until it holds together well.
At that point, you shape the soda bread into a rustic, round loaf. Asymmetrical and a little messy is OK—in fact, that’s how soda bread usually looks! And you bake the loaf until it’s a beautiful, deep golden brown.
Soda bread ingredients
I nearly always have everything I need for vegan Irish soda bread in my fridge and pantry already.
Unbleached, all-purpose flour is my go-to for this soda bread recipe. I’ve also tried it with whole wheat pastry flour, after reading that some soda bread recipes call for lower-gluten flour.
Personally, I think that all purpose flour gives the bread a perfect crumb: buttery and moist. You can certainly try substituting part of the flour for wheat flour, but keep in mind that the bread may become a little more dense or dry.
The recipe calls for only four tablespoons of sugar. The soda bread is meant to be only mildly sweet. Coconut sugar is my go-to substitute for cane sugar, though it tends to darken the color of baked goods!
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is what helps this bread to expand. It doesn’t quite “rise” like a yeasted bread, but it does puff up nicely, thanks to the chemical leavening.
The soda bread should be mildly sweet, but you should taste the salt, too. I use Kosher salt.
You can use whichever vegan butter you prefer for the recipe. I find that a stick form makes cutting the butter easiest. If you don’t have vegan butter at home, you can try using cold/solid coconut oil in its place.
It’s so easy to make a vegan “buttermilk” at home! The hack is to mix vinegar and non-dairy milk and let them sit for a few minutes before adding them to a recipe. I use 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for the vegan Irish soda bread.
Raisins or currants
Optional but very delightful. You can also omit the dried fruit altogether if you want a plain soda bread.
Serving vegan Irish soda bread
Irish soda bread is lovely on its own. If you eat it warm, fresh out of the oven, there’s really no need for a topping or spread. It’s buttery and perfect on its own.
When I eat the leftovers, I usually add some extra vegan butter or a little jam.
Because the soda bread isn’t overly sweet, you can definitely enjoy a slice or two with a savory soup. I really like to eat it with my potato leek soup in the wintertime.
How long will leftovers keep?
Irish soda bread will keep very nicely for up to four days. If you plan to store it longer, you can freeze the bread for up to four weeks.
I keep my soda bread at room temperature, and I prefer to wrap it or put it in an airtight container. You lose a little bit of crispiness in the crust, but keeping the bread sealed like this help the leftovers to remain moist.
- 1 1/2 cups oat, soy, almond, or cashew milk
- 1 tablespoon apple cider or white vinegar
- 4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (480 g)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup cane sugar (48 g)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons vegan butter, cold and cut into cubes (70 g)
- 1 cup raisins or currants
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Pour the milk into a mixing bowl and add the vinegar.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar.
- Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to mix the butter into the flour mixture—just as you would when making pie crust or biscuits. Stop when the butter is in pea-sized pieces.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk + vinegar mixture. Use your hands or a spatula to make a sticky dough. You can shape and fold a few times, but no need for kneading—you don't want to overwork this dough. Fold in the currants or raisins if using.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface. With floured hands, gently form it into a circle, about 8 inches in diameter. Transfer to a piece of parchment. Score the top in an X shape.
- Transfer the parchment and dough to a baking sheet or cast iron skillet. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or the bread is a deep golden brown. Enjoy!
Irish soda bread was the first recipe I shared on Instagram during the quarantine experience last March. St. Patrick’s Day, a year ago now, was right at the start of lockdown.
I remember being glad that I had something to share that was easy, comforting, and which probably wouldn’t send people running out unnecessarily to the grocery store.
One year later, grocery trips are a lot less scary. The fear and uncertainty and sudden isolation has lessened. But my need for comforting, easy food is nearly as strong today as it was a year ago.
So soda bread it is, once again. I hope this recipe puts you in the mood to bake. And I hope that breaking apart fresh, warm pieces of this simple bread will make you as happy and comforted as it makes me.