Six Seed Soda Bread

Inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's soda bread recipe, this version is made with a blend of spelt flour and all-purpose flour. The dough is littered with seeds - sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds, and fennel seeds. It bakes into a perfect, rustic, crusty loaf of bread with relatively little effort.

Six Seed Soda Bread

I finally had a chance to sit down this morning and sort through the pile of notes, menus, books, and magazines I brought back from a trip to Portland, Oregon. There is a loaf of six-seed soda bread baking in the oven, plus a slab of butter on the counter waiting for it. I always stock up on books when traveling and on this trip I snagged a copy of Edible Portland, a copy of Reza Mahammad's Rice, Spice, and all Things Nice, and a copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day.

close-up photo of seeded soda bread

Soda Bread: Inspiration

The soda bread recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book jumped out at me immediately as I flipped through the pages. I make soda bread quite often (my favorite is a rye version), in part because soda bread comes together in no time, with just a small handful of ingredients. You can have a loaf in the oven in under ten minutes.

With a few tweaks to his recipe, I've been enjoying Hugh's seeded, multi-grain flour version. His soda bread is made with a blend of spelt flour and all-purpose flour, the dough is absolutely littered with seeds - sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds, and fennel seeds. The fennel is a nice wildcard, and the whole loaf takes on a nice crunchy crust with lots of bonus seeds on top.

medley of six different seeds combines in a glass jar

A Few Ways To Enjoy Soda Bread

This bread is fantastic in the morning slathered with bit of farmers cheese drizzled with honey. It is ideal along with a hot, hearty bowl of soup. And, tossed with a bit of olive oil and baked a second time,  leftovers make good croutons.

If you're convinced you can't bake bread, I encourage you to give this a shot. Because it doesn't rely on It's the perfect bread for beginning bakers, At the very least you'll be out a bit of flour, some buttermilk, baking soda and some seeds. The upshot is you'll be able to make fresh bread any time you like!

flours and seeds in mixing bowl to make soda bread

Six Seed Soda Bread: Variations

  • Rolls!: Adriana says,"I made this bread on Saturday, instead of a big loaf I made 8 rolls… today it’s Tuesday, there’s no bread left! They are so great after my morning run or with some butternut squash soup… delicious!”
  • Vegan Rye Version:  Joana helpfully talks though her swaps to make a version without buttermilk,”I’m eating a warm slice of this bread as I type. I did a few tweaks to the recipe that should be worth mentioning: as I didn’t have spelt flour, I substituted rye flour; and because I’m a vegan, I substituted the buttermilk for rice milk mixed with lemon juice (1 tablespoon lemon juice for 3/4 cup of milk). It turned out super yummy!”

soda bread dough on a baking sheet prior to baking

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Six Seed Soda Bread

5 from 5 votes

I've been enjoying this combination of seeds, but feel free to experiment with other combinations if you prefer, based on what you have on hand, or what is available in your area. You can also make this with whole-wheat flour in place of the spelt flour.

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons EACH sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds,
poppy seeds, flax seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 3/4 cup / 9 oz / 250 g spelt flour
  • 2 cups / 9 oz / 250 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 3/4 cup / 14 oz / 400 ml buttermilk
  • a bit of extra buttermilk/milk
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F / 205°C. Place a rack in the center of the oven. In a small bowl combine all the seeds and set aside.

  2. Sift the flours, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the seeds. Make a well in the flour, pour in the buttermilk, and stir until the dough just comes together. If you need to add an extra splash of buttermilk because the dough is too dry, you can.
  3. As Hugh says, "Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly for about a minute, just long enough to pull it together into a loose ball but no longer - you need to get it into the oven while the baking soda is still doing its stuff."
  4. Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and mark it with a deep cross across the top, cutting two-thirds of the way through the loaf with a serrated knife. Brush with buttermilk and sprinkle with the remaining seeds, making sure plenty of seeds make it down into the cracks.
  5. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden crusted on top and bottom (you may want to move the oven rack up for the last 15 minute if you need more color on the top of the loaf). Cool on a wire rack.

Makes a single loaf.

Adapted from River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, published by Bloomsbury.

Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
50 mins
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5 from 5 votes (3 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


I’ve made this a couple times now and love how easy & versatile this bread is. Today I used 2c rye and 1 3/4c all purpose and only had hemp, pumpkin, and fennel seeds on hand – turned out wonderful as always. I used to watch the River Cottage program – he was a bit ahead of his time really.5 stars


I just wanted to write in and say how much I love this bread!

I added caraway seeds to the seed mix, because why not?

This loaf of bread is everything I’d hoped it would be, and more. We ate it first with butter, and then with ricotta. Heavenly! Thank you for this wonderful recipe!


    Thanks for the nice note Diane! So happy you liked it.

    Heidi Swanson

Is it possible to use white whole wheat for all the flour in the recipe? Also grinding the seeds before adding to dough to make them more digestible but leaving the whole seeds for the topping?5 stars

Veronica Nessler

    Yes to both Veronica!

    Heidi Swanson

This bread is terrific! I used caraway seeds, as I did not have fennel or flax seed on hand, nice rye flavor and so good toasted as well. My tile installer smelled it baking and said it was reminiscent of a bread his mom made….I will be baking it for him, since he has two weeks of tile work to do!!! Best way to getting a job well done is to feed them well.
Thanks again Heidi for another great recipe

Lynn Boneberg

I could imagine this with Rye instead. It looks very good. I went out and bought all the ingredients last night and hope to make some tonight, even though I am very busy!

Gluten Free Bread Machine

I loved this soda bread–making it today for the 3rd time! Any chance you could share your favorite soda bread recipe too–the rye version?


Made this last night and thought the two of us would devour the entire loaf in one sitting. It was really delicious! I am looking forward to trying it again with rye flour!


I just made this bread. It’s great. Wasn’t sure about the fennel as I can’t stand Italian sausage and that’s the only thing I know that has Fennel in it. But it is such a small amnt of fennel it worked out fine. I made 2 loaves. Ran out of spelt for the second loaf and just filled in w/ more all purpose flour. Still great. I made it for dinner but am looking forward to leftovers for breakfast toast. thanks again!


I made this for my family tonight and it was delicious. The dough was surprisingly soft (maybe because I used buttermilk powder), but it turned out fine. I could not find fennel seeds, so I left them out. I will definitely make this again. Maybe next time I will shape the loaf like a French bread… Thanks!


I made this bread on saturday, instead of a big loaf I made 8 rolls… today it’s tuesday, there’s no bread left! They are so great after my morning run or with some butternut squash soup… delicious!

Adriana from Baking Powders

I just made this bread. I love Irish soda bread, but with the seeds and fennel, it is so tasty! Thanks for all the wonderful recipes! Yum!


I made this from what I had available, without the fennel, sunflower and poppy seeds, and substituted plain yogurt and milk for the buttermilk ( It was beautiful! I’m definitely going to make it throughout the winter here in Australia.


I made this bread substituting WW flour as some things are impossible to find in Baja. It has a rather dense and chewy crumb, delicious nutty flavor, and I think because of the seeds, retains its moisture and doesn’t turn to cement on Day 2! We’re actually on Day 3 of the loaf and making toast. Delicious with the local honey.
I like this recipe a lot and will give it a go in a loaf pan to see how it responds.
The protein content makes it a great accompaniment to soup and/or salad for us macrobiotic types.
Thank you for a brilliant recipe.


Must say… I am busily making notes on this recipe… addition suggestions and such… I too am crazy for anything seeded and my favorite bread my children have long called moms ‘birdseed’ bread… I look forward to trying this… The pictures are amazing… Lovely to see… almost as lovely as my Nova Scotia… were soda bread is common as our population is largely Scottish in heritage… Thank you for sharing…


For the people who don’t have buttermilk or just don’t have it handy, add one tablespoon of white vinegar to one cup of milk and let it stand a few minutes.
I prefer buttermilk but use this instead of a trip to the store.

Aunt Jane

i tried this using all purpose non-gluten flour and golden raisins instead of one of the seeds and it looked just like yours–beautiful! it was delicious and fast. perfect for when you want home made bread but don’t want to wait all those hours for the rising. we ate it with a cream cheese dip that inluded roasted cumin seeds, peppercorns, a whole head of roasted garlic, cilantro, turkish red pepper flakes and salt. fabulous! thank you!


Hi~ I am an English learner and I am a baking green hand. I like your pictures and smooth words~


I’ve made your Irish Mum’s Bread recipe dozens of time, all with great success. Can’t wait to try this one.

lisa w

Very delicious recipe. I tried it today and my husband loves it. Thanks a lot for sharing this yummy and healthy recipe.

Evan Warner

wow the bread looks really interesting! congratulations on your new book btw! 😀

cathy x

Wow, what a beautiful loaf of bread.


YUM! I have left over spelt from your Olive Oil, Rosemary cake that I loved! So I am going to use some of the spelt flour for this!!!!! Looks awesome


I can’t wait to try this bread. Think it’s okay to use roasted flax seeds that we purchase at health food store? Beautiful pictures!


Wow Heidi your photos of the waterfall are stunning! Thanks for the inspiration!

emma. our kitchen

You have a gift of making everything in your life so delicious! Portland and bread included.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

I’ve been making soda bread for its simplicity and taste … love it! I really like the looks of this and will try this either tonight or tomorrow for sure. Thanks for sharing.

Linda from NJ

Great photography. Brown is such a difficult color for food photography and you’ve captured it beautifully – it looks delicious.


I’m currently working in Cape Verde and you can’t find buttermilk around here so I tried the tip with half yoghurt, half water and it worked well! The bread is delicious.
Also it is very difficult to find seeds, I used what I had on hand, fennel, kardamon and some flax seeds.
Next time I’ll try with some nuts!
Thank you for this great recipe, love it


I just made this bread tonight ( I used flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and poppy seeds and WW flour in place of the spelt. I actually only used 1/2 C AP flour total) and it turned out so delicious. I loved the crunch and extra nutrition that the seeds added. I served it with your broccoli-cheddar soup and everyone loved it. Now I’m looking forward to a slice with lunch!
Thanks for another great recipe Heidi- you are truly an inspiration!


Pamela is right – flax seeds either need to be ground dry / powdered or soaked or used as oil for assimilation into the system….


What a gorgeous loaf. The more seeds the better in my opinion. I am so making this today. I might have to substitute the spelt flour, as I still haven’t found a suitable translation in Bulgarian.

Casey Angelova

I use Hugh’s River Cottage Every day cook book well nearly every day! Your photos are even nicer than the ones in the book. I really wish I was having this for breakfast today.


If you live outside of the U.S. and have a hard time finding buttermilk, but have access to a middle eastern grocery, Leban makes a good substitute (I actually think it IS buttermilk).


I write about the different bread machine models and also share cool recipes I find for bread machines and this one is definitely going to be tested soon.
Thanks for sharing.

Bread Machine Reviews

I have never made soda bread…however I have made a lot of yeast bread. I am really looking forward to trying this recipe! The seeds are what drew me into this recipe for sure! The photo of the bread is gorgeous!


2 words:fennel and buttermilk
(well also love soda bread) 3? and this one looks delicious


mmm We’re supposed to have a thunderstorm tomorrow night. The perfect time to whip this bread up!


Hi Ben, try the local health shops. I am also in SA and you can usually get it at your local hideously expensive organic health food shop. I’d probably use all plain bread flour though – or a mix of white and wholewheat bread flour.


TO BEN: Spelt flour in Dutch is speltbloem, maybe it’s the same in Afrikaans. Hope that helps you find it.


Did I really want to heat my kitchen since I haven’t turned on the air conditioning yet? But I did have buttermilk left over from making coconut cupcakes. Would “quick” bread be a match for the delicious artisan bread I purchase at my local tail gate? But then I did have buttermilk to use up.
I decided to go for a hot kitchen AND to use the buttermilk. AND . . . the bread was delicious, chewy, and had texture that I couldn’t imagine from a soda bread recipe. I toasted slices for breakfast this a.m. and will make croutons to top the fresh local salad greens.
Thanks for encouraging all to try the recipe!


I would try this in a cast iron dutch oven, or a skillet – I know the Irish often do their soda breads in a cast-iron skillet. Turns out great.
Not sure if i would put the lid on…. I think not.
Looks amazing, I’m debating doing it right now!


Hi from Cape Town, We are really lucky to get some really good quality flour groan down here that is natural and organic,.We have the soccer world cup starting next week and lots of friends around, so will definatly be making this to soak up some of the Beer.


This is the first bread I have ever made — and it turned out GREAT! I had to use a fair amount more buttermilk than it called for (closer to a cup) to get it all to bind together.
Very fun — thank you.
Also, Portland is the greatest. Except that its still raining, but I love it none the less.


I am living in Cape Town, South Africa and this bread looks so good I have to try it but what is spelt flour? Don’t know the name!


Beautiful photos, Heidi. Your trip sounds wonderful and so does that bread. I buy the Seeduction bread at Whole Foods as often as I can because I am literally addicted to it. I think I’ll skip the store and just start making this one from now on. It looks hearty and delicious!

Natalie (The City Sisters)

That looks splendid! I’m experimenting with spelt flour and wondering if I can go all spelt instead of using all-purpose. Trial and error in my kitchen these days!

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

Hi Heidi, I’m eating a warm slice of this bread as I type. I did a few tweaks to the recipe that should be worth mentioning: as I didn’t have spelt flour, I substituted rye flour; and because I’m a vegan, I substituted the buttermilk for rice milk mixed with lemon juice (1 tablespoon lemon juice for 3/4 cup of milk). It turned out super yummy! Thank you for sharing such great recipes. Love, Joana
HS: Thanks for reporting back so quickly Joana! It’s really helpful.


Looks delicious, Heidi… and beautiful shots!
@ meg: You could use 1 1/2 cups of brown rice flour and 1/2 cup almond or chickpea flour to make it gluten-free.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

Sounds delicious, Heidi…llove the pictures and this recipe looks perfect…I may try this out with a few chia seeds, as well!

The Healthy Apple

Gorgeous pictures – never been to Portland, but its definitely on the list!
I love soda breads…I often make with homemade yogurt and love how its a bread that you can start and finish in time for breakfast. Love all the seediness.


The seeds make it! And I’ve decided just now that I will be putting these seeds on everything for a little while–everything edible, that is. Thanks!

Enchanted Fig

I’m a big fan of Hugh Fearnsley-Wittingstall (plus I just love saying his name). Glad you had a great trip to Portland. If I didn’t live near Seattle, I’d have to say Portland would be my next choice.
Soup’s on for me as well — Roasted pumpkin!

tom | tall clover

Heidi, you never stop to surprise us with the best recipes ever. I definitely will give a try to this bread, but I will substitute the spelt flour for kamut flour because is the one I can more easily find.
ps. I loved Wayne’s picture.


oh and Limbo for the Wall of herbs, bulk herbs and tea (over 700!)


Fennel seeds taste so wonderful when the bread is toasted. I make a seven grain bread with fennel. The aroma stimulates the appetite!


Yum! This would be such an upgrade next St. Patrick’s Day.

Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks

That bread is positively gorgeous. Total showstopper.

The Nervous Cook

This soda bread recipe is unreal looking. It’s literally perfect, I’m envious of your photos.


This seeded version of soda bread has me salivating. Here’s some interesting foodlore re soda bread: the Irish customarily made the cross in dough before baking to “let the angels out” to help it rise.

Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks

was just about to nod off at my desk when i came accross this image…brightened my day thinking about the smells toasty seedy bread mmm

af @ .the food.

Oh my, that looks amazing!

Simply Life

Love this recipe…just a warning about the sunflower seeds which turn green…a brilliant green as a reaction to the soda….doesn’t affect the taste but it kind of freaks you out the first time you see it…

Kathy Scott

Dear Heidi, Love your pictures and this soda bread looks amazing. Thanks every so much.


As long as you’re chewing the flax seeds to break their outer husks, your body should be able to digest them (; just get to chompin’ ! But you’re right, the stomach can’t digest whole seeds by itself.
I can’t wait to rush home after work and make this, Heidi! Your photographs are beautiful, as always.


I love multi-grain breads! (Though their “healthiness” may be just a little overrated… remember that multigrain doesn’t equal whole grain! Not in this case, though. :D) I love their texture and the big crunch of the seeds on top.
It looks absolutely lovely! 🙂


I recently discovered that our bodies cannot digest whole flax seeds…they go through our systems intact. In order to get the nutritional benefit from flax, the seeds need to be ground before using. The whole seeds in this bread would add character, but no nutrition.
Once again, Heidi, another recipe calling to me to be made!
On another note…I made the “Tasty Asparagus with Brown Rice” last week (came home with two+ lbs of asparagus) and had was savoring the first bites when my teen daughter walked in the front door to pick up something (she was house/pet sitting for her older sister who was on her honeymoon) and as she walked by, she stopped for a taste. Her immediate response was “that’s good” and continuing to chew, “that’s GOOD” with a “THAT’S GOOD!” after swallowing. Went on to get what she stopped for & headed for the door, hesitated, then turned back to the kitchen, took out a container & dished up a portion to take with her, stating “I was wondering what to do for lunch…thanks, Mom!” She gave a final “This is really good” and she was gone.
Thanks, Heidi! It WAS really good!!


This looks so great! I like the idea of adding fennel seeds to soda bread. I add currants to mine when I want to make it special. Thanks for the new spin. 🙂

A Teenage Gourmet

This recipe looks very easy to make. I can’t wait to try it. I love earthy breads! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Cynthia McIntyre

I love soda bread and will be printing this one with the seeds.

shannon abdollmohammadi

Wow. Wow. Wow. And did I mention…wow? Can’t wait to toast some of this and top with avocado. Thanks:)

the French

I can just imagine this with a thick layer of fresh butter on – delicious! One thing: buttermilk isn’t that easy to come by in the UK; as a substitute I use very low fat yoghurt (the kind you get from Indian food shops) mixed half and half with water. Other plain yoghurt would work if it’s not too thick. Much cheaper and easier than seeking out buttermilk!


It looks beautiful – do you think it would veganise ok by subbing non-dairy milk and a splash of vinegar for the buttermilk? Would love to break out of my plain yeasty wholemeal bread rut.


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