Table of Contents
  1. What is soda bread?
  2. What makes soda bread rise?
  3. What flavors the bread?
  4. Watch how to make this Irish soda bread:
  5. Orange & Cherry Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Why is it we only make certain recipes for special events? I admit, growing up my family didn’t necessarily celebrate Saint Patrick’s day. But Mom would make Irish soda bread, usually only around March 17. But soda bread is simply too delicious and too easy not to make more often. The recipe should really be considered the ultimate quick bread. To be honest, I think it’s even better than most quick breads since it’s not heavy on sugar, but becomes more of a savory bread.

Unlike my Mom, I make soda bread year-round, changing up the flavors for whatever season or mood I’m in. And it’s time to share it with you! This is my go-to recipe: simple but full of flavor and versatile enough to be used just as a yeast bread would.

What is soda bread?

Soda bread is simply a quick bread. Traditional soda bread does not use yeast as a leavener but instead uses baking soda. This cuts down the time to make bread to perhaps just one hour, start to finish. While the baking soda needs no extra time to work, it still creates a wonderful bread-like texture.

Unlike baking soda, yeast needs to be bloomed to make sure it’s active and then needs to rise, usually two times: once after the dough is mixed up and once after the dough is shaped into the desired shape. The flavor yeast imparts is the reason why we crave bread, but if you’re in a hurry and want delicious bread, soda bread is the answer.

Top down view of slice of Irish soda bread with bits of dried cherry inside sitting on white piece of parchment paper with rest of loaf to the side

What makes soda bread rise?

Let’s go on a bit of a science lesson… and since science wasn’t my favorite subject in school, this will be short. Baking soda is an alkaline ingredient that needs to be combined with an acid. In this recipe, buttermilk is the acid. When the baking soda is mixed with buttermilk, a reaction occurs that creates carbon dioxide. All the small carbon dioxide bubbles are trapped in the bread batter and create the texture of the bread. This just takes a matter of minutes as opposed to hours with traditional yeast.

Close up view of inside of Irish soda bread dotted with pieces of dried cherry and orange zest sitting on white piece of parchment

What flavors the bread?

Oftentimes, yeast bread is flavored by the yeast itself as well as the fermentation that happens as the yeast works with the gluten. Traditionally, soda bread was plainer and used to replace yeasted bread when yeast was more expensive and not for the home cook. Now, we can flavor the bread with anything!

For this recipe, I added dried cherries and orange zest. The cherries have a tart sweetness and the orange wakes up the cherry flavor, making the whole thing sing. The outcome is not sweet, but instead well-balanced and flavorful. I use this for sandwiches, French toast, and all by itself slathered with butter.

If you’re looking for other soda bread recipes, make sure to check out my orange and blueberry Irish soda bread scones! Yeah… they’re delicious!

Top down view of top of Irish soda bread showing the golden texture of bread with peaks and valleys and craggy areas

Watch how to make this Irish soda bread:

YouTube video
Circular brown colored loaf of bread with one side sliced off all sitting on white pieces of parchment on wood board

Orange & Cherry Irish Soda Bread

4.34 from 18 votes
This is probably the easiest bread that could be made… seriously! Mix it all together, throw in some flavorings, and let it bake! Voila!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 16 servings


  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter cut into cubes and kept cold
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp orange zest (about 1 large orange)
  • 1 cup dried cherries slightly chopped if large pieces (no sugar added)


  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix for 30 seconds until evenly combined.
  • Add the cubed butter and mix on medium-low speed until the butter is worked into the flour mixture with pieces the size of a pea or smaller. Add the orange zest and dried cherries to the dry ingredients.
  • In a large measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. With the mixer running on a medium speed, pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined with a few dry crumbs.
  • Knead the dough slightly to make sure all the ingredients are combined. Form into a round boule, shaped on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make a large X slash across the top.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until deep golden brown on the top and bottom, 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 211kcalCarbohydrates: 37.6gProtein: 4.5gFat: 5.1gSaturated Fat: 2.8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1.4gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 23.7mgSodium: 294.1mgPotassium: 149mgFiber: 1.8gSugar: 12.6gVitamin A: 46.5IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 63.9mgIron: 1.6mg
Course Bread
Cuisine Irish
Difficulty Intermediate
Method Baking

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I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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  1. 5 stars
    I made this yesterday. Very pleased. Crust was nice and crunchy and the inside was soft and tender. The smell of the orange zest was amazing. I didn’t have dried cherries so I used dried sweetened cranberries.
    Highly recommend.

  2. Mine seemed like the dough was too wet. It was hard to shape and was very sticky. What do you do in that case?

  3. I just made this bread and it was very sticky in the mixer bowl. I did throw in a couple handfuls of flour but that didn’t help and was afraid to put more in. You say 3-1/2 cups of flour in the recipe but how much more could I have added to get the right texture? It’s baking right now so not sure of taste, etc. By the way, I love your show!!!!!!

  4. 5 stars
    This is very close to a recipe give to me years ago from an old friend from Longford Ireland The difference she used caraway seeds and currants. She also baked it in a cast it on skillet This recipe has great texture and the correct amount of sweetness. the next time I make it I think I would keep the orange peel and go back to caraway and currants or raisens

  5. Very wet dough but cooked it anyway and it was amazing. I used cranberries as that is what I had.

  6. 5 stars
    Tastes amazing, crispy crust, almost like a scone blob! Mine was a little crumbly? Didn’t slice well but tasted great with a slab of butter! Cherries and orange zest was awesome! ❤️❤️❤️

  7. 5 stars
    I’m not sure if what I produced is what it is supposed to be having never had Irish soda bread before…but it tastes amazing! Kind of turned out like a giant, crispy biscuit… I ended up using the zest from an entire large orange. Works great with the cherry flavor. I also added some chopped, roasted walnuts. I can’t stop eating it! All the crispy bits are so good!

  8. 4 stars
    Followed your directions 100%
    Baked 2 loaves on one baking tray.
    I was excited to cut a piece for lunch today only to discover the center 1/3 of my loaf was soggy. I placed it back in the oven at 375 for an additional 25 minutes, it’s cooling now. Hopefully it’s done now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

  9. I have made this before I use cranberries and 2 large oranges because I just love orrange and cranberries together it is always such a hit and left over bread it great with coffee in the mornings.