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Irish Soda Bread without Buttermilk

This dairy free Irish soda bread is made without buttermilk. It still has a delicious flavor and a perfect crumb.

loaf of Irish soda bread on a cooling wrack

Irish soda bread is called “soda bread” because it uses baking soda as a leavening agent instead of the traditional yeast.

Buttermilk or sour milk are called for to make soda bread because they contain lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide.

This makes the bread fluffy despite its lack of yeast. This is also why buttermilk is often called for in biscuits to make buttermilk biscuits.

Since this soda bread is made without buttermilk, as part of the instructions you make a dairy free buttermilk substitute to react the same way.

I use a full fat neutral flavored oat milk to make buttermilk, because I find it the most similar to regular milk.

However, you can make your buttermilk with almond milk or even soy milk.

I use this same technique to make my buttermilk biscuits without buttermilk and it works like a charm.

Irish soda bread is often made with raisins, but since no one in my family likes raisins, I leave them out. They are still placed as an option in the recipe, though.

History of Irish Soda Bread

Traditional Irish bread was historically cooked on a griddle as flatbread.

This is because the domestic flour was not able to rise effectively with yeast.

When baking soda was developed in the mid-1800s, it allowed for fluffy alternative, in the form of quick bread.

The name “Soda Bread” actually comes from the fact that it used baking soda as its leavener.

Over time, soda bread’s popularity declined when imported high-gluten flours became available. 

Soda bread eventually regained popularity and modern varieties can be found at Irish cafes and bakeries

However, the traditional sweetened version with raisins, like this one, is rarely seen in Ireland anymore.

In fact, it is probably more popular in America thanks to the Irish who brought this bread with them when they made their new home in places like New York and Boston.


When I think of bread, I think of white bread, dinner rolls, and the like.  You know, traditional yeast breads that have dough and you have to let rise twice.

Then I thought of banana breadsweet potato bread, and pumpkin bread. So, I looked it up, and discovered that these are quick breads.

Quick bread originated in the States and uses baking soda or baking powder, allowing them to rise quickly.  

These were not just breads that were made in a loaf pan though, but also things like biscuits and buttermilk biscuits.

Other surprising examples of these are cakes, muffins, cookies, and pancakes.

The Civil War brought quick breads into high demand because breadmakers were in short supply.

Naturally, quickly made foods became in high demand and it wasn’t long before recipes were being adapted from yeast to baking soda.


When I first started making quick breads, my mother questioned the difference between it and cake.  My conclusion was, cake is fluffier whereas bread is denser. I still think that is a fair analysis of it.

I expect my chocolate cake to be light and fluffy, whereas I expect my banana chocolate chip bread to have weight to it.  Both, however, when done right, should be moist with a good crumb.

The name “cornbread” can be a little confusing to some.  I remember once reading a review left by an English woman on a cooking site who said it came out nothing like bread.  

As far as classic yeast breads go, that is completely true. Instead, it’s a quick bread and more of a cake than a bread.  Still, it is not a dessert but most commonly used as a side dish.

There are a number of different types of cornbread. Among the most popular is sweet cornbread, which is popular in the North, and classic Southern cornbread which is light on sugar.


Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose, which helps with gluten development. This is great for challah and other breads.

Some recipes call for it if an especially chewy texture is desired.  It will also produce a heavier and denser loaf.

All purpose flour has a lower protein content, but can generally be substituted for bread flour.

I almost never use anything other than all purpose flour, including in bread recipes. For quick breads, I only recommend using all purpose flour.


I’ve had a number of comments asking me questions about baking soda and baking powder. 

I’ve also noticed that if the wrong one is used, things don’t come out as they should. 

Using baking soda instead of baking powder can give your recipe a terrible metallic taste, while using baking powder instead of baking soda leaves your baked goods looking flat.


Baking soda is a leavening agent, which means it helps things rise.  

It does this by creating carbon dioxide when it reacts to an acid, such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa, and vinegar. 

When the carbon dioxide is released, it causes the familiar texture and crumb in pancakes, cakes, quick breads, soda bread, and other baked and fried foods.

Baking soda works well with sourdough because sourdough is acidic.  When combined, it makes a lighter product with a less acidic taste, since baking soda is alkaline.

A good rule of thumb is to use around 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of flour.


Baking powder is also a leavening agent and it’s a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch.

Most baking powder sold is double-acting. This means that the leavening occurs in two steps.

The first time it’s activated is when baking powder gets wet, which is why you cannot prepare some batters ahead of time to bake later.

The second time is when the baking powder is exposed to heat.  This happens when the batter is being baked or fried.

Since baking powder already contains an acid, it’s most often used when a recipe does not call for an additional acidic ingredient or too little of one.

A good rule of thumb is to use around 1 teaspoon of baking powder per 1 cup of flour.


Some recipes call for both baking powder and baking soda when the carbon dioxide created from the acid and baking soda is not enough to leaven the volume of batter in the recipe.  

Too much baking soda gives a terrible metallic taste, so baking powder is added to give it more lift.


You may have already guessed the answer since baking soda is used to make baking powder, and you need more baking powder per cup of flour. But I’ll tell you anyway.

Baking soda is four times stronger than baking powder. 

That’s why you will more often than not see recipes that only call for baking soda rather than recipes that only call for baking powder.



Baking soda is good indefinitely past its best by date, although it can lose potency over time.

A rule of thumb is two years for an unopened package and six months for an opened package.   

However, to be honest, I’ve used very old baking soda with good results.


Like baking soda, baking powder is good indefinitely past its best by date, and can lose its potency over time. 

For both opened and unopened, it’s ideal to use it within nine months to a year.

While storing it, make sure to keep it in a dry place and away from humidity.



To test baking powder, pour 3 tablespoons of warm water into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and stir.

If the baking powder is good to use, it should fizz a little.


To test baking soda, pour 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and stir.  

The mixture should rapidly bubble if the soda is fresh.

Irish soda bread with slices on a cutting board


The short answer is “no.”  While a side-by-side comparison shows that baking with eggs at room temperature makes a better crumb, it’s not otherwise noticeable.

What are Eggs used for?

Eggs do three things in most recipes: they help bind the ingredients together, act as a mild leavening agent, and they add moisture.


Eggs can be substituted with 1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce per egg.  This means for recipes calling for 2 eggs, you’d need 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce.

The reason applesauce makes a good binder is that it’s high in pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring starch in fruits and berries that acts as a thickening agent and stabilizer in food.

This happens when combined with sugar and acid (if the fruit or berry isn’t naturally acidic).

Just keep in mind that it may change the flavor slightly.


No, eggs are not dairy.  Dairy is milk and any food products made from milk, including cheese, cream, butter, and yogurt. 

So, while eggs are an animal product, they are not dairy. In fact, eggs fall under the protein food group.

Baking with Humidity

Humidity can have a big impact on how your baked goods come out.

This is because when humidity is extremely high (think 70 percent or more), baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda soak up moisture from the air.

This can negatively impact the outcome of your cakes, cookies, yeast breads, and quick breads.

There are some things you can do to try to save your baking.

Try to counterbalance the additional moisture

To help counterbalance the additional moisture your dry ingredients soak up from the air, try reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe by about one-quarter.

If the batter or dough looks too dry once all the ingredients are mixed together, add an additional liquid tablespoon at a time until you have the desired consistency.

This is not usually possible to do for cookies, but it does work for cakes and breads.

Store Ingredients in the Fridge

If flour and sugar are stored in the refrigerator or freezer rather than in a cupboard or pantry, they are better protected from humidity.

As an added benefit, keeping these ingredients cool also helps keep them fresher longer, in addition to helping them stay bug-free.

For the best results, let them warm to room temperature before using.

Bake for Longer

If you bake your goodies for a few extra minutes, it can help the liquid to cook off.

To avoid overbaking, continue testing for doneness every couple of minutes for breads, quick breads, cakes, cupcakes, and muffins.  Cookies, on the other hand, need to be checked every minute.

Use Air Conditioning

To help lower humidity levels on humid summer days, air condition the room for at least an hour before you start baking.

Cooler air isn’t able to hold as much moisture as warm air.

Store your baked goods in an airtight container

Humidity can also ruin your fresh-baked goods because when they are left out, they can absorb moisture.

To avoid this, store them in an airtight container or resealable bag.


The higher the altitude, the lower the air pressure, and the more difficult it is to bake recipes.

Increase 15 to 25°F. Since leavening and evaporation happen more quickly, the higher temperature helps set the structure of baked goods before they over-expand and dry out.

However, the baking at higher temperatures means products are done sooner, so decrease by 5-8 minutes per 30 minutes of baking time.

Adjustment for 3000 feet

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 teaspoon.
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 1 tablespoon.
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 1 to 2 tablespoons.

Adjustment for 5000 feet

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons.
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons.

Adjustment for 7000+ feet

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 1 to 3 tablespoons.
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 3 to 4 tablespoons.

Is Irish Soda Bread made with dairy?

Yes, Irish soda bread is made with dairy products such as buttermilk, sour milk, and butter.

Why is buttermilk used in soda bread?

Buttermilk or sour milk are used in soda bread because they contain lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. This makes the bread fluffy.

Also, it gives the bread a more complex flavor making it tastier overall.

What is buttermilk?

Originally, buttermilk was the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cultured cream. 

Traditionally, the milk was left to sit to allow the cream and milk to separate.

During this time, naturally occurring lactic acid-producing bacteria in the milk fermented it. This facilitates the butter churning process.

Modern buttermilk is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to milk, which ferments it, making it tangier and thicker than regular milk.

It is often used to make biscuits, pancakes, waffles, muffins, and cakes.

Does Irish soda bread contain dairy?

Yes, Irish soda bread is dairy since it contains buttermilk. However, you can use a buttermilk alternative instead, such as buttermilk with almond milk, buttermilk with soy milk, and buttermilk with oat milk.

Which dairy free milk is best for dairy free buttermilk?

I think full fat neutral flavored oat milk makes the best dairy free buttermilk because it is the most similar to regular milk.

Soda bread vs sourdough bread

Soda bread is a quick, dense bread leavened with baking soda, whereas sourdough bread is naturally leavened through fermentation, giving it a chewy texture and a tangy taste.

Why don’t you knead Irish soda bread?

Kneading causes the dough to become dense and gummy.

Why cut an X in the Center?

Scoring the dough will help the heat reach the center of the loaf while baking.

Yield: 1 loaf

Irish Soda Bread without Buttermilk

loaf of Irish soda bread on a cooling wrack

This dairy free Irish soda bread is made without buttermilk. It still has a delicious flavor and a perfect crumb.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 1 1/4 cup oat milk, almond milk, or soy milk*
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup raisins, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F or 175°C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  2. Place oat milk and vinegar or lemon juice in a bowl and stir slightly to make the dairy free buttermilk substitute. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until the milk curdles slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.
  4. Pour the dairy free buttermilk into the bowl with the dry ingridents. Add eggs, oil, and raisins if you want them.
  5. Mix with a rubber spatula until a dough forms. Depending on the humitidy levels, it may end up a wet sticky dough.
  6. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and with floured hands, shape into a ball. If the dough is too sticky, pat with flour to shape.
  7. Place the dough on the baking sheet and cut an X into the top with a sharp knife.
  8. Place the bread on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.


*I perfer full fat neutral flavored almond milk because it is the most similar to regular milk

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 417mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 2gSugar: 12gProtein: 6g

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