For St. Patrick’s Day (or anytime), you need to try this dairy-free Sourdough Irish Soda Bread. Just like the traditional version, this recipe is very easy to make.
Especially if you have a lot of sourdough discard to use on a regular basis. (Not sure what that is? Read this.)
In this post I’ll explain the process, why sourdough discard is used, and other tips.
What is Irish Soda Bread?
Irish soda bread is a very simple bread made without yeast.
The rising agents in traditional Irish soda bread are buttermilk and baking soda.
The acidity in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda in order to create the necessary reaction to rise the bread in the oven.
Irish soda bread was made in Ireland during times of famine for necessity.
It is still enjoyed throughout Ireland with special recipes passed down. You can learn more about the history here.
In other parts of the world, it is enjoyed as a part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Check out this variation: Dairy-free Sourdough Irish Soda Bread Raisin Scone
Why use sourdough in Irish soda bread?
Sourdough makes breads more digestible when the long fermentation time combined with the enzyme reactions of good bacteria break down gluten proteins for better digestion.
As someone who struggles with some sensitivity to gluten, I prefer recipes where the gluten protein has been broken down so it is easier to digest.
You may know what this feels like if you started baking sourdough for the same reasons. You can read my story here.
Also, the acidity and the runny liquid-like texture of sourdough discard makes it a great substitute in this recipe to create a version that is also dairy-free.
How does sourdough work in this recipe?
Sourdough discard is an ideal swap for the traditional buttermilk because it is an acidic ingredient which is necessary for reacting with the baking soda.
It acts as part of the liquid. Sourdough discard can’t be used 1:1 for liquid substitutes due to solids present in it.
Your sourdough discard should be very runny and liquid like for this recipe.
Just make sure you have enough sourdough discard on hand, since this one uses 400g! (200g in a half loaf)
How do I get that much sourdough discard to make it?
If you maintain your sourdough starter like me with minimal waste, you may not have enough sourdough discard on hand.
So you will have to make a special batch of sourdough discard to save in the fridge. This can be done up to two weeks in advance and stored in the fridge.
To make the large batch of sourdough discard, mix 30-50g sourdough with 200g water and 200g white flour.
Leave at room temperature for 18-24 hours until the texture is thin like a salad dressing consistency.
You will have some leftover in case you need it for a future batch.
Can I substitute the flour?
A softer flour like all-purpose works best with the baking soda.
Substituting bread flour is not recommended.
All-purpose flour can be substituted for the whole wheat flour if desired.
In this recipe, you could substitute the all-purpose flour with an all-purpose gluten free flour blend since it is a quick bread style.
Substituting gluten free flours can be problematic in traditional sourdough breads.
How to make Sourdough Irish Soda Bread:
It is SO easy to make!
- Make sure you have enough sourdough discard (and other ingredients)
- Prepare a baking dish
- Mix the dough
- Shape dough into a ball
- Place dough on baking dish and cover
- Leave out at room temperature 6-10 hours (or overnight) to ferment and rise before baking
- Preheat the oven
- Score and bake the bread
How to enjoy it:
This simple bread is delicious with just some butter or honey.
It can also be used to sop up a beef stew or your corned beef and cabbage.
I enjoy making it for my family along with my traditional Irish Stout Beef Stew and Champ recipes.
St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in our family and every year it makes me miss my Grandpa.
Have you ever had someone in your life larger than life? My Grandpa was a towering man with a wide build, twinkling blue eyes, and a red complexion. He was very proud of his Irish heritage.
Every March you would see him decked out in green with decorations around the house and you’d hear his booming voice say, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!” followed by a big hug and a kiss.
This often overlooked holiday that some might think of as just an excuse to drink green beer has become a family touchstone and connection point for our family even 16 years after his death.
The way that we live, the choices we make, the way that we treat people creates a legacy and even ordinary days and occasions can become special memories and traditions forever.
For me, food becomes the background for special memories like a movie soundtrack that would make moments fall flat if absent.
And often food will embody the memory after time.
Need more help?
If you want a super easy way to make and enjoy sourdough bread, you can learn about my Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough online course here.
I also have a Intro. To Sourdough online course if you are ready to gain a solid foundation for sourdough, the traditional way, to learn all the basics, language, techniques, and the process from start to finish to make sourdough bread.
Living Bread Baker posts mentioned
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I hope you enjoy this sourdough version of the Irish classic. A more traditional version made with buttermilk can be found in my book Celebrate with Bread Baking!
If you’re curious about the origins of this holiday, this kids cartoon is fun for sharing with your kids or grandkids.
Irish-inspired Soda Bread with Sourdough Discard (dairy-free)
- Food Scale
- 1 large bowl
- Parchment Paper
- cast-iron skillet or flat baking sheet
- Pastry brush
- 400 grams all-purpose flour 2 2/3 cups
- 100 grams whole wheat flour 2/3 cup
- 8 grams baking soda 1 ½ teaspoons
- 9 grams salt 1 ½ teaspoons
- 30 grams optional: white cane sugar 2 tablespoons
- 400 grams sourdough discard about 4 cups
- 160 grams water (room temperature, see notes) 2/3 cup
- Prepare baking dish: Cut a large piece of parchment and lay inside a large cast iron skillet or on a flat baking sheet.
- Stir dry ingredients: Add flours, baking soda, salt, and sugar (if using) to a large mixing bowl. Stir together with a spoon.
- Add wet ingredients: Pour sourdough discard and water into the dry mixture.
- Mix: Stir until there are no dry patches left and a thick sticky mixture is made. Mixing with hands is helpful for this thick dough.
- Shape: Place dough onto a work surface. Continue to mix and knead with hands for 1-3 minutes to check for dry spots and then use hands to form dough into a round shape. Place the round ball of dough in the center of the parchment. Cover with plastic wrap.
- Ferment: Leave the dough covered at room temperature for 6-10 hours (or overnight) to ferment and rise. It will expand and spread into a large round of dough.
- Preheat: After that time has passed, preheat oven to 425º F.
- Score: Uncover dough. Use a knife to cut an x on the top of the dough across the dough that is about 1/2 inch deep in the center.
- Optional step: Use a pastry brush to brush additional water on the top, in the cut x, and all around the sides of the bread. Sprinkle some additional sugar all over the crust on top of the moistened surface, once baked it will add a nice color and sugary crunch on the crust.
- Bake: Place pan into oven and bake 30 – 35 minutes. The bread should have a golden brown top and a toothpick or knife inserted into the center should come out clean.
- Cool: Allow the bread to cool for about 15-30 minutes.
- Serve: Cut the bread into slices or wedges and serve.
- When adding water, you may need to adjust the water amount you add depending on the thickness of your sourdough discard and the way your flour is absorbing the liquid. After you have mixed the dough by hand and it still feels dry, add 10 grams of water, mix again for a minute. Check consistency. Repeat as needed until there is no dry flour left and the dough is thick and sticky.
- Some people enjoy raisins in their Irish soda bread. To add raisins, add 120 grams raisins and 36 additional grams of water to the full batch. Cut amounts in half to incorporate into the half loaf described below.
- To make a half loaf size (perfect for 4 people at one meal), use the following ingredient amounts and baking timing. All the other steps remain the same.
- 200g All-purpose flour
- 50g whole wheat flour
- 4g (3/4 t.) baking soda
- 4g (3/4 t.) salt
- 15g (1 T.) white cane sugar
- 200g (about 2 c.) sourdough discard
- 80g (about 6 T.) water
- Bake time: 23-28 minutes (25 was perfect for mine)