Irish Buttermilk Brown Bread: whole wheat and lovin’ it.

I’m Irish. And I love love LOVE potatoes.

Mashed, steamed, (french) fried, saladed, O’Brien’d, even Tater-Totted – potatoes are my BFF (best friend forever, for those of you without regular contact with teenage girls).

Cabbage – pretty good, especially quickly sautéed and served crisp. Or made into coleslaw.

Corned beef? Lukewarm (even when hot in a sandwich).

Irish brown bread?


Until now.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge fan of American-style Irish soda bread, with its sugar and butter and eggs and raisins and caraway.

But a classic Irish soda bread, made with brown (whole wheat) flour, baking soda, and buttermilk?

No thanks; I’ll go for the bowl of Raisin Bran instead.

So it was with great reluctance that I accepted a recent assignment to blog one of our newest recipes, Irish Buttermilk Brown Bread.

“Aw, Mom, do I hafta?!”


First step:

Our Irish-style wholemeal flour, a whole wheat flour flecked with bran. Maybe I won’t have to eat that Raisin Bran after all…

Once I got into it, this was a simple, extremely easy bread to make. And the result?

Tasty. I kid you not. A bit sweet, a tad buttery, moist, and perfect spread with sweet cream butter.

Want to try a 100% whole wheat loaf that the whole family will enjoy? Start here.

First, preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease a 1 1/2 to 2-quart baking dish, or an 8″ or 9″ cast-iron skillet or cake pan that’s at least 1 1/2″ deep.

Whisk together the following:

4 cups (16 ounces) King Arthur Irish-Style Wholemeal Flour or King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat Flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk powder*
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

In a separate bowl, whisk together the following:

1 1/2 cups water*
1 large egg
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil

*Substitute 1 1/2 cups buttermilk in place of the water and buttermilk powder, if desired.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids. Stir together until blended and no dry spots remain; the dough will be soft and sticky. In fact, it’s probably more of a stiff batter than a soft dough.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, mounding it in the center.

Brush the top with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Wait 5 minutes for the liquid to be absorbed by the flour before baking.

Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it tests done.

A cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean. Also, an instant-read thermometer will read just over 200°F in the center.

Angle the thermometer up until its tip is about 1/2″ under the surface; this is the last part of the loaf to bake. You should get a reading of over 195°F.

Remove the bread from the oven, and set it on a rack to cool a bit. This picture-perfect loaf was already cool, in case you’re wondering why it’s not on a rack.

Serve warm, with butter and honey, or butter and jam, or just marmalade. Cinnamon-sugar is always welcome.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Irish Buttermilk Brown Bread.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Joe, you can bake this recipe in a 9″ by 5″ loaf pan at 375 degrees F for about 40-50 minutes. You’ll want to test for doneness by inserting the toothpick into the center of the loaf; it should come out clean when it has finished baking. Tent the loaf with foil it’s browning too quickly. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  1. Donna Liddell

    My husband and I loved this bread, but it’s a lot of bread for the two of us. Do you know if the taste and texture would be compromised by freezing part of it after baking?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You can most definitely freeze it. I would just slice the bred before I put it in the freezer. Then you can take out the numbers of slices you need. JoAnn@KAF

  2. Halvor

    OK, PJ. You’ve talked me into ordering some KA Wholemeal Flour, and reminded me how much I enjoy whole wheat soda bread. I’ll certainly try your tested recipe as is…it looks delicious…but I have a couple of substitution questions.

    One, if I were to add 1/2 rolled oats, would I need to decrease the flour or increase the liquid ingredients?

    Two, how would you substitute honey for the sugar? I’m a new beekeeper and suddenly have LOTS of honey.

    Thanks for your good work


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Hal, if you add 1/2 cup of rolled oats, please remove a scant 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour from the bread. Honey is sweeter than sugar. You might want to try using just 2 Tablespoons of honey in this recipe.~Jaydl@KAF

  3. serena

    This is delicious! I just made it this afternoon to eat with supper, and my husband said I should make it often. I completely agree. The only change I made was to substitute wheat germ for about 1/2 cup of flour, and I used dark brown sugar.

  4. Claire

    I have been searching for a good brown bread recipe for awhile, and this is my favorite so far! Thanks for posting. Here are my edits: 3 cup ww flour, 1 cup ap flour, ~1 tbsp wheat bran.

  5. wingboy

    I made a vat of Gypsy Soup (Moosewood cookbook), and a loaf of the Buttermilk Brown Bread. They were a great match. The bread was nice and moist and since I used WWW, it didn’t have that ‘bran’ flavor. Another KAF winner!

  6. David Cavanaugh

    I have made two loaves already with raves about the flavor. The bread is quite crumbly when it is sliced for toasting. Is there an adjustment that can be made for a little less crumble?

    David, you’d have to add either a couple of tablespoons of vital wheat gluten, or back off the whole wheat a bit, substituting with all-purpose flour. It’s the “challenged” gluten that’s causing the bread to crumble; gluten in whole wheat flour isn’t nearly as strong/elastic as that in AP, due to the sharp bran in the flour slashing it as it tries to develop. PJH

  7. Mary Barrett

    Wonder if there should be an adjustment for the high
    altitude? Most of the Denver area is over 6,ooo and it
    goes way up from the mile high city around the mountains.
    We have a great set of high altitude tips online, very very helpful. Happy baking! ~MaryJane

  8. Audrey

    Hmmm. Whole wheat flecked with bran. I have whole wheat flour and wheat bran – could I improvise some Irish flour?
    Wholemeal flour is a coarse soft red winter wheat grind. You could mix in some cake or pastry flour with your whole wheat flour for this recipe. ~Amy


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