Bacon Irish Soda Bread

Bacon, yes, Bacon Irish Soda Bread. This recipe is inspired by a recipe 100 years old and it’s delicious. It leaves you fighting for the crispy bacon-y edges and makes a perfect loaf to serve with a pot of Irish Stew or corned beef and cabbage, or my new recipe on this site, Dublin Coddle (another bacon-y sausage-y delight).

I love Irish Soda bread. I love it’s crusty exterior and it’s soft interior. I love it plain, I love it with currants and seeds, and now I love it topped with bacon. I recently picked up a very interesting cookbook called Irish Traditional Cooking: Over 300 Recipes from Ireland’s Heritage. I love learning about Irish cooking, partly because the food is just yummy and partly because I am part Irish myself. In this book I found this idea for a variation of Irish Soda bread that I knew I had to try. Apparently the Irish think that everything is better with bacon too!

(You can see my original recipe here and then this dairy free version here. )

The concept is simple. You crisscross bacon on top of Irish Soda bread and as it cooks, the flavor and fat of that bacon soak into the bread leaving a delightful treat. The idea came from a 70 year old woman who said that her grandmother made it this way. So this idea is over a hundred years old! I call this a traditional recipe then.

I’ve combined below some of the tips I learned from the Irish Traditional Cookbook and what has worked for me in the past. I wouldn’t use the cheapest possible bacon in this recipe as you don’t want to completely saturate the bread with grease. I used Beeler’s bacon which had a nice amount of grease with enough meat to look beautiful on top of the bread.

Bacon Irish Soda Bread (makes one large loaf)
4 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup of rolled oatmeal
1/4 cup of butter, or non-hydronated palm shortening (coconut oil could work as well)
1 ½ cups of buttermilk or 1 ½ cups of warm water with 2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons of unrefined salt.
8 slices of bacon

Bake 450 degrees for 15 minutes, and then 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes more

20 minutes plus ten minutes, plus ten (cover with foil), plus another ten.

1) The night before combine the flour and oatmeal and cut in the butter, shortening or coconut oil. Add the buttermilk or the water and vinegar. Gently mix together. If too dry to form a soft ball, add more water or buttermilk until the consistency is a soft dough. You do not want it to be tough or dry otherwise it will be too hard to work with in the next step. Cover airtight using a lid on a bowl or plastic wrap and leave in a warm place overnight.

2) The next morning, place your dough on the counter and flatten. Sprinkle the salt and baking soda over the dough and gently knead into a ball, until you feel that the salt and baking soda is distributed. Form into a ball and then press out into a round shape about 2 inches high. Cut a cross on the top and then crisscross the bacon over the top. Place on a buttered baking sheet.

3) Put in the oven for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 400 degrees. Cook for another 30 minutes. Cover with foil, if needed and then cook until done (about another 10 to 20 minutes). You will know it’s done when it’s nicely browned and the bottom sounds hollow when knocked.

4) Cool on a cooling rack. This tastes best when warm, not hot. (cool for about 30-45 minutes).Cut into thick slices, and then cut in half for a serving size.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. soulla says

    do you think it is possible to use raw full fat cows milk instead of buttermilk in the recipe? incidently what exactly is buttermilk?

    • Corinne says

      Buttermilk is, traditionally, the fermented byproducts of cultured-butter making. Nowadays it’s made by souring milk – usually a somewhat skimmed milk since traditional buttermilk was, of course, somewhat skim (most of the fat went into the butter). Since it is fermented it is acidic. If you substitute raw milk, the bread will not rise, since baking soda needs an acid to react. You could either add a little lemon juice or vinegar to your milk (~1T/cup milk) to add the acidity, or you could use a soured milk (which will be pretty close to buttermilk anyways). It might make it a little heavier than the original recipe, but still good.

      Incidentally, for those needing a dairy-free option, I have had success making Irish Soda bread substituting apple juice for buttermilk. It doesn’t come out quite so light and fluffy, but still tasty and crumbly, like a nice fresh scone. Irish Soda bread is my backup “oh no I forgot to make bread to go with the soup!” recipe:)

  2. Bonnie says

    Though it makes a smashing picture I can hear my arteries slamming shut.
    I think I might fry the bacon first and drain the fat and either add to the top
    near the end of baking or crumble into the dough to reduce some of the fat.

    • KimiHarris says

      Hi Bonnie,

      I am not convinced that saturated fat is the cause of heart disease. However this recipe is definitely very rich and would still be good without all of the fat. I think if you wanted to have less fat, what I would do is cook the bacon, drain it, and then gently knead it into the dough. 🙂

  3. says

    I made this last night and we really liked it. It was a little heavy/dense for the kids, but the bacon kept them interested. My husband mentioned it almost has a muffin-flavored finish; I agree. Honestly, I couldn’t stop eating it! I really like the crunchiness mixed with the savoriness of the bacon. It was a great complement to our Irish Stew. I’ll be curious to see how it keeps and I may end up freezing it sliced rather than letting it sit on the counter.

    Thanks for the recipe!

    • KimiHarris says


      I imagine this recipe being perfect for a family who was working outside all day, like they probably did 100 years ago. It is a bit heavy and super rich, isn’t it!

  4. Genevieve says

    I have an Irish heritage as well & we like your Irish Soda Breads, especially since we’ve cut out all yeasted breads, and are of course soaking our grains. I’m not eating grains right now, but my family will love this. The Bacon lattice is a neat twist & looks good enough to serve to company. Look forward to trying it. Thanks Kimi.

  5. Melissa says

    I made this for St. Patrick’s Day, and I may still be enjoying it a week later (kept in fridge). Thank you for the healthy, classic version (I love calling something with bacon healthy!).

  6. Lee says

    A friend sent me this link, and I’m trying it today(St. Patrick’s Day). I forgot to start it the night before, but woke up early enough(I hope) to give the dough 10 hours to sit. Hoping that will work.


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