Gluten and Dairy-free Irish Soda Bread

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Gluten and Dairy free Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick’s Day is a big holiday in our household.

Each year on the 17th of March, we celebrate our Irish heritage with “wearing of the green” and coming together to eat corned beef and cabbage. Nothing goes better with that traditional meal than Irish soda bread.

After my diagnosis of gluten and dairy intolerance in 2007, I thought I couldn’t make traditional Irish soda bread anymore. However, I’m as stubborn as Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man, and I refuse to let my food intolerances keep me from having a good time. I found a recipe for gluten free soda bread on a website and later tweaked it to something I enjoyed even more.

What is Irish soda bread? It’s a quick bread that rises with baking soda instead of yeast—a loaf created for those times when yeast bread would take too long. Soda breads are a lot like cornbread, and my recipe contains cornmeal too. I like gluten free recipes that incorporate cornmeal or corn flour into them. Corn makes gluten free bread a warm golden color. I also added a little bit of teff flour to give this bread more of a wheat-like appearance.

All the ingredients needed for the Irish Soda Bread

A bit about gluten free flours

I like brown rice flour, and I still use it mixed with potato starch and tapioca starch as my basic flour combination, but you might want to read up on arsenic levels in rice and rice flours if you eat a lot of rice products. I rarely use white rice flour for anything because it’s an empty starch, and the gluten free diet can be too full of empty starches anyway.

Open your cornmeal with a Fiskars Orange handled scissors

I like sorghum flour and millet flour, and you could substitute sorghum flour for some of the brown rice flour in this recipe. Play with flours and figure out those you like best. Some gluten free bakers don’t use potato starch in their baked goods because the potato is part of the nightshade family. I like potato starch because it lifts the dough and makes it more supple.

Irish soda bread usually incorporates raisins. I use dried cherries instead. Caraway seeds are also traditional, but I don’t care for them so I left them out.  

Gluten and Dairy-free Irish Soda Bread
1-cup brown rice flour
½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup teff flour for dietary fiber and color
¼ cup potato starch
¼ cup tapioca starch
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
2 T. honey
2 t. xanthan gum
1 ¼ cup almond milk or hemp milk (or buttermilk if you eat dairy) with 1 t. apple cider vinegar added to “sour” the almond milk
2 free-range eggs (I use mine from my chickens)
3 T. coconut oil or other vegetable oil

Optional: 1T caraway seeds and ½ cup of raisins or dried cherries. (Try the cherries. You’ll love them.)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Add cider vinegar to almond milk. Let stand so that it can “sour” and become thicker like buttermilk.

Mix together your dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Dry measurements should be leveled with a knife as shown.

Leveling off flour

Don’t forget the xanthan gum because it’s the magic ingredient that gives elasticity to your dough. I know, gluten free is a whole new way to cook. You can do it though.

Mixing wet ingredients

Gently beat the eggs and add them to the milk, oil and honey. If you used coconut oil, melt it beforehand.

Mixing wet and dry ingredients together

Add dry ingredients to wet. This process is a reverse to normal baking, but it seems to work better with gluten free ingredients. Stir in your caraway seeds (if desired) and dried fruit. Don’t overmix.

Pour dough out into an iron skillet, cookie sheet or round cake pan.  Shape the bread into a loose mound. The dough will be quite sticky so you may want to put some brown rice flour on your hands first.

Score the dough with a knife to make the familiar cross in Irish soda bread. Bake for 30 minutes or until the bread rings hollow when you thump it. Serve with Earth Balance spread (or butter if you can have dairy) and even jam. This bread is great with soup like my Spring Carrot Soup or Spring Pea Soup.

Irish Soda Bread with dairy free butter

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with all of its trimmings. Just because someone in your party needs to eat gluten and dairy free is no reason not to party. A homemade loaf of Irish soda bread will add that something special to your meal. Enjoy!