Boston Brown Bread is a New England quick bread made with molasses, whole wheat flour, buttermilk and raisins. Baked and steaming options.
There’s nothing that goes better with a hearty stew like rustic, easy homemade Quick Bread. It’s warm and bakes up while your stew simmers. This is an easy, no yeast recipe for old fashioned New England Brown Bread that is perfect for all your favorite Soups, Chili and Stews. For more easy quick breads, try our Beer Bread, Cornbread and Irish Soda Bread too.
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Sabrina’s Boston Brown Bread Recipe
If you’ve never heard of Boston Brown Bread, it’s a classic comfort food dish from New England that’s been around for hundreds of years. It is a dense, dark whole wheat bread with sticky, moist crumbs and chewy raisins, almost like a steamed pudding. Old school recipes are made with blackstrap molasses for a deep flavor of treacle that’s a perfect balance of bitter and sweet, and baked in coffee cans or baked bean cans.
This Boston Brown Bread recipe has the the same rich, moist bread flavors of an original recipe but with half the work. There’s no need to save coffee cans or set up a steamer rack to bake this wholesome bread. You bake this Boston Brown Bread in a loaf pan and it comes out just as delicious and moist!
- Wheat Flour: Boston Brown bread was meant to be a wholesome bread to fill you up, so it was made with whole grains like wheat, rye and cornmeal, depending on what was available. To make it easy and accessible, we are using wheat flour for the whole grain flour, but you can blend all kinds of ancient grain and whole grain flour like graham, dark rye, oatmeal, brown rice and more. Keep at least 1 cup of wheat flour and add up to 1 cup of flour alternatives.
- White Flour: To lighten up this bread recipe, we also added regular flour. The white flour also helps this bread stay moist since we aren’t steaming it.
- Baking Soda: The baking soda is what makes this Boston Bread rise instead of using yeast or eggs. It is very important that your baking soda is fresh so that you get a proper rise.
- Buttermilk: The second key to making this bread rise is the buttermilk. Buttermilk has a higher natural acidity which activates the baking soda. Don’t use plain milk or it won’t rise. If you don’t have buttermilk, see our Frequent Questions for a substitute.
- Molasses: Use dark molasses or light molasses if you want a lightly sweet Boston Bread. Normally we say not to use blackstrap molasses when baking because it can be very bitter, but if you want this to be an extra savory bread, it’s okay to use it!
- Raisins: The raisins add a nice bit of chewy contrast to the moist, rich bread and a little burst of sweetness to balance all the savory, hearty grains.
Kitchen Tools & Equipment
- Loaf Pan: To make this Boston Brown Bread, you are going to use a standard 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
- Large Bowl: This quick bread is hand mixed in one large bowl, no need for a mixer or multiple bowls.
How to Make
- Prep for Baking
Preheat your oven. Generously grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan with baking spray or line it baking paper.
- Mix the Flours
Sift the wheat flour, regular flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
- Combine the Batter
Add the buttermilk and molasses to bowl and whisk everything until well mixed.
- Add the Raisins
Gently the raisins into the bread batter with a spatula.
- Bake the Bread
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean with crumbs.
Can this be made ahead of time?
You can make the Boston Brown Bread batter the night before and store it in the fridge before baking. You can also freeze the baked bread for up to 6 months.
Tips for Baking Boston Brown Bread
- Fool-Proof Bread Recipe
This is supposed to be a very dense, moist bread so you don’t have to worry about overmixing it. There is also no yeast in the bread, so you don’t have to worry about temperatures or letting the yeast activate. It’s truly one of the easiest bread recipes everr.
- Try Steaming this Bread!
If you want to get adventurous in the kitchen, there are stovetop method and oven method instructions for a steamed quick bread. You can also make this steamed pudding Brown Bread in the slow cooker too! Try out the different methods and share in the comments which one you like best!
What to Pair With Boston Brown Bread
Boston Brown Bread is traditionally served with Baked Beans and hot dogs, but you are going to want to add it to your favorite side dishes for Clam Chowder or Beef Stew. Another delicious way to serve it is for breakfast, toasted with a little butter or cream cheese. You could even serve it for dessert with Cream Cheese Frosting!
How to Store
Store: Wrap your leftover Boston Brown Bread in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. You can also cool the bread and wrap tightly with plastic wrap then refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Reheat: This bread is best at room temperature or just slightly warmed in the oven. If you store it in the fridge, let it sit out at room temperature for an hour before serving so it’s nice and soft.
Freeze: Once cooled, slice bread and wrap each slice in plastic wrap. Store slices in a freezer safe bag and freeze up to 6 months. Thaw in fridge or on counter top to serve.
Alternative Cooking Techniques
Stovetop Method for Boston Brown Bread
- Fill a large stockpot with enough water so water will reach ? the way up the side of a 6 inch wide x 4 inch tall coffee can.
- Grease inside of coffee can generously or spray with cooking spray and heat water over medium heat.
- Place a steamer rack inside stockpot.
- Prepare bread batter as usual.
- Pour batter until it fills prepared cans 2/3 way full. Wrap can tightly with aluminum foil.
- Place cans on steamer rack in hot water. Cover pot with lid and turn up to high heat.
- Steam bread for 2-3 hours or until a knife inserted comes out clean with moist crumbs.
Oven Method for Steamed Brown Bread
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil while preparing batter.
- Grease the inside of a 6 inch wide x 4 inch tall coffee can (or 2 small baked bean cans) very well with cooking spray.
- Once batter is prepared, divide batter between small greased cans or into large coffee can 2/3 full.
- Cover cans with aluminum foil and place cans in a deep baking pan with high sides.
- Pour boiling water around cans until it’s about ? way up the sides of the can.
- Steam at 325 degrees for 2-3 hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean with moist crumbs.
Slow Cooker Boston Brown Bread
- Heat a large pot of water to boiling on stovetop.
- Grease 4 pint size glass jars (with lids) and divide batter between each jar until it’s 2/3 full.
- Secure lids on jars and place jars in bottom of slow cooker.
- Add enough boiling water around jars to reach the batter line.
- Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on high for 2-3 hours.
- Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before removing bread. Slice bread into disks to serve.
A traditional recipe for Boston Brown Bread is a wholesome blend of grain flour like rye flour and whole wheat flour plus cornmeal. This lighter yet Hearty Brown Bread recipe is made with a perfect balance of whole wheat and all-purpose flour mixture so it isn’t overpowered with whole grain flavor.
Whole milk or low fat milk can be used with 1 ½ tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice, for a quick buttermilk substitute. Add the vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup, then add enough milk to reach 1 ½ cups. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes then use in the bread recipe.
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2/3 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×5 loaf pan with baking spray.
- In a large bowl sift together whole wheat flour, flour, baking soda and salt.
- Whisk in buttermilk and molasses until well combined then stir in the raisins.
- Pour into loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Dried Fruit: Instead of regular raisins, try golden dried raisins, dried apricots, candied ginger, dried currants, chopped dates, dried figs, or dried cranberries.
Spices: Make this a holiday bread with warm spices like cinnamon, allspice, ground ginger, or spice blends like Chinese 5 spice or Pumpkin Pie Spice.