Savoury Garlic and Parmesan Soda Bread

I love freshly baked bread, but when you’re in a hurry who has time to wait for the dough to rise. Say hello to this cheese soda bread, no rise time needed. Just mix the ingredients and bake! Perfect!

Whilst plain soda bread is delicious as it is. I wanted to compliment the Italian meal I served it with. This aromatic loaf is flavoured with garlic, parmesan and parsley.

What is Soda Bread?

Soda bread is a type of bread that is made quickly without the need for a rising time, unlike traditional bread.

You can find many variations of Soda bread around the world such as Ireland, Scotland, America and Australia. There are also many different regional varieties of this quick bread using various flours, flavours and methods of cooking.

You can liken this particular recipe to an Irish soda bread.

What makes soda bread different to a normal loaf of bread is that it uses bicarbonate of soda or baking soda, in place of yeast to create the leavening (rising). This creates a quickly made loaf of bread that goes straight in the oven, without the need for a rising time.

Other than bicarbonate of soda, an important ingredient in soda bread is buttermilk. Buttermilk is a tart tasting, creamy substance which is actually the liquid left over when cream is churned into butter. Buttermilk is used in soda bread since it contains lactic acid. Lactic acid reacts with the bicarbonate of soda in the dough mixture and creates lots of tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. These little bubbles are what gives the soda bread its rise.

Sometimes, people confuse soda bread with sourdough. The two are not the same thing. Sourdough is made using a natural yeast which uses the process of fermentation to make the bread. Making sourdough is a longer process than making soda bread, which is almost instantaneous.

The texture of soda bread isn’t quite the same as a normal loaf of bread. You will find soda bread to be more on the crumbly side and a little more like cake.

You can flavour soda bread in many different ways and can be a sweet or savoury loaf, depending on the ingredients you choose to add.

uncooked soda bread dough with a cross cut through it.

Why Does Soda Bread Have a Cross on Top?

In the 19th Century is was a tradition to cut a cross on top of a loaf of soda bread. This was said to “keep the devil out” and protect the household.

However, the cross on top of soda bread isn’t all about superstition, it actually has a practical purpose too. Cutting a cross on top of your soda bread allows the heat to penetrate the quick bread more easily, making for much more efficient cooking all the way through the loaf, so you don’t end up with a doughy, uncooked centre to your soda bread.

Cutting a cross on top of the soda, makes for easier division on the bread. You can easily break your soda bread into quarters this way.

It also allows the bread more room to stretch and rise as it bakes.

whole loaf of baked soda bread with herbs and cheese in the background

How to Serve Garlic and Parmesan Soda Bread

This savoury soda bread is great with soups such as:

Soda bread is great with homemade soup, since it can be ready in roughly the same amount of time. You can serve up a big bowl of homemade soup and warm, crunchy soda bread in 30 minutes. Perfect for a quick mid-week meal that is both filling and nutritious.

Savoury soda bread can also be served with butter to accompany many main dishes. Such as nut roast potato dauphinoise or turkey lasagne.

The ingredients listed make a small loaf which is perfect for one meal for 4 people.

Making Soda Bread without Buttermilk

I understand that buttermilk isn’t always available, especially in smaller supermarkets. But fear not! You can still make homemade soda bread without buttermilk, if you have milk and a lemon. It’s super easy to make your own buttermilk at home with these two ingredients.

The lemon juice will replace the acidic ingredient in your soda bread that was present in the buttermilk. So that the same chemical reaction between the bicarbonate of soda and the acidic element can occur.

To make your own buttermilk, add in 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice to 200ml of whole milk or semi-skimmed. Stir in the lemon juice and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. During this time, the milk will thicken slightly and may curdle a little or have white lumps. At this point it is ready to use in your soda bread.

Homemade buttermilk won’t have exactly the same constitution as shop bought buttermilk. It won’t look as thick, but will still be a perfectly acceptable substitution for this recipe.

This homemade buttermilk method also works great when you want to marinate chicken, like in this buttermilk chicken burger recipe.

Soda Bread FAQ 

Can I freeze Soda Bread?

Yes, once the loaf has cooled you can seal it in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for 2-3 months.

Why should I score my soda bread with a cross?

Traditionally, it used to be said that this was done to ward off the devil and give protection but this actually has a practical purpose; it helps the heat to penetrate through the loaf, making for more efficient cooking all the way through.

Does Soda Bread taste and look the same as regular bread?

No, whilst soda bread is a good, quick alternative to a loaf of bread, the texture of soda bread is more cake like and crumbly. There is also a difference in the taste with soda bread tasting more like a scone.

What do I eat soda bread with?

Depending on the flavourings you use to accent your bread. Soda bread is a great accompaniment to soups or with butter and jam.

Can I use bread flour to make Soda bread?

Bread flour isn’t necessary to make soda bread and I don’t recommend using it for soda bread. Bread flour contains much more gluten than plain or all purpose flour, which doesn’t work well without in recipes without yeast.

garlic and parmesan soda bread with the end of the loaf cut off

Savoury Garlic and Parmesan Soda Bread

Author: Becky
I love freshly baked bread, but when you're in a hurry who has time to wait for the dough to rise. Say hello to this cheese soda bread, no rise time needed. Just mix the ingredients and bake! Perfect!
Whilst plain soda bread is delicious as it is. I wanted to compliment the Italian meal I served it with. This aromatic loaf is flavoured with garlic, parmesan and parsley.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, starter
Cuisine Irish
Servings 4
Calories 336 kcal


  • 125 g Plain White Flour
  • 125 g Plain Wholemeal Flour
  • 0.5 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 0.25 tsp Fine Sea Salt
  • 30 g Butter
  • 200 ml Buttermilk
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Parsley chopped
  • 30 g Parmesan


  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Mix both flours together in a bowl.
  • Add the salt and bicarbonate of soda and mix through.
  • Rub the butter through the flour mix until fully combined.
  • Add the buttermilk and mix through. The dough is quite sticky at this point, that’s ok.
  • Crush the garlic and place in the bowl.
  • Chop the parsley and add.
  • Grate the cheese and combine everything with the dough until it’s mixture through. It’s easiest to use your hands for this part.
  • Once your dough is ready, shape it into a ball and place on a baking tray with some non stick baking paper. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross about two thirds of the way through and dust with flour, the cuts into the dough help it to cook through.
  • Place in the oven for 25-30 mins until golden brown. A good test to see if your loaf is ready is to take it out of the oven and knock on the bottom with your fingers. If it’s cooked, it will sound hollow.

Recipe Notes and Guidance

See Recipe Post for More Details.
  • Cutting a cross on top allows the heat to penetrate the loaf more efficiently. 
  • If you do not have buttermilk, you can make your own with milk and lemon juice, see details in the post on how to do this. 
  • Soda Bread can be frozen once baked.

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 336kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 12gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 458mgPotassium: 232mgFiber: 4gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 416IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 166mgIron: 3mg
Keyword irish soda bread, quick bread, savoury soda bread
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