Quick Brown Bread

An old-fashioned molasses quick bread studded with dried fruit and nuts, easy to cut into thin slices and enjoy bite by barely sweet bite. It's not whole-wheat "brown bread" (though it does call for whole wheat flour) and it's not "Boston brown bread" (although is trademarked by a similar healthy dose of molasses). Instead, it's a minimalist loaf definitely worthy of a spot in a recipe repertoire.

Quick Brown Bread, an old-fashioned molasses bread ♥ KitchenParade.com. No Egg. No Added Fat. No Yeast.

Egg Free. No Added Fat. No Yeast. No Mixer Required. Just One Bowl. Budget Friendly. Fresh & Flexible. Easily Converted to Vegan.

What Is Brown Bread?

The Short Version Sorry, there is no short version. :-) The answer depends on where you're from.

  • CANADA, UK, SOUTH AMERICA & AMERICAN MIDWEST In parts of the world, time was, you ordered a sandwich and the query would be "white or brown?". Answer "white" and your sandwich would be made with slices of white bread (white bread is made with all-purpose flour). Answer "brown" and your sandwich would come with wheat sandwich bread (made with at least some whole-wheat flour). Today's recipe is not that brown bread.
  • BOSTON & NEW ENGLAND AREA "Boston brown bread" contains molasses but instead of being baked in an oven in a pan, the batter is poured into a leftover coffee can and steamed. Today's recipe is not Boston brown bread.
  • CANADIAN MARITIMES "Brown bread" means any bread made with molasses. Today's recipe also includes molasses, in fact, it's a signature ingredient.
  • IRELAND "Irish Brown Bread" is traditional Irish soda bread made with whole-wheat flour and leavened with baking soda instead of yeast. I make it like this, Whole-wheat Soda Bread. Today's recipe is not Irish Brown Bread.
  • Source: Personal knowledge supplemented by Wikipedia

Let's Try Again This recipe for Quick Brown Bread is an old-fashioned molasses quick bread studded with dried fruit and nuts, sturdy and barely sweet. I worked hard on that description, I hope it works for you!

Funny thing is, I love both molasses and dried-fruit and it shows in my recipe collection that dates back to 2002. These recipes are each very different than Quick Brown Bread but might be considered, well, let's say "cousins". Choices!

What's NOT In Quick Brown Bread? Egg. Added Fat. Spices. Yeast.

But let's first take a look at what Brown Bread doesn't call for. The ingredient list is unusual, especially compared to other quick breads like all the household favorites here, Banana Bread, Pumpkin Bread or Zucchini Bread.

It's easy to imagine this bread being made when ingredients were scarce, especially ingredients now considered staples in modern times. It's a minimalist quick bread, for sure.

  • No Egg If you're looking for a quick bread without eggs, Brown Bread is a great choice.
  • No Oil or Butter Nearly all quick breads include a little (down to a tablespoon, say) or a lot (8x as much, a stick of butter, say) of either a vegetable oil or butter or some equivalent. Not Brown Bread! This affects not only calories (in a good way) but also richness and tenderness. In Brown Bread, the richness comes not from fat but from the molasses and the dried fruit. In Brown Bread, tenderness comes from, well, the truth is, Brown Bread is more sturdy than tender.
  • No Spices So many of my recipes load up on spices, I like to say that "spices are my jam". But Brown Bread is simpler, still full of flavor, but without the distraction of spices.
  • No Yeast Brown Bread is a "quick" bread, that means it's leavened with quick-acting baking soda instead of yeast. This recipe only calls for baking soda but do know, baking powder is another quick-acting leavening common in quick breads.
  • Minimal Sugar Most quick breads are sweet cakes in loaf form. Not here. I've cut way back on sugar in my version of Brown Bread. If you're keen for sweets, you might want to push the sugar back up again. But for anyone attracted to "barely sweet" treats, then Brown Bread might just work for you.

What's In Quick Brown Bread? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

Batter for Old-Fashioned Quick Brown Bread ♥ KitchenParade.com.

  • Flour A 2:1 ratio of whole wheat:all-purpose flour, a really healthy proportion. Whole wheat flour is one of two signature ingredients in Brown Bread.
  • Molasses Molasses is the another signature ingredient, it adds a touch of sweetness in its own funky molasses-y way. Regular sweet molasses works, so does the more pungent blackstrap.
  • Dried Fruit Many dried fruits will work but I like to use small bits of fruit that spread further. That's why I always recommend smaller, less-sweet dried currants instead of larger, plumper raisins. That said, if the dried fruit is big, like the wonderful dried apricots, just use a kitchen scissors to snip them into tiny bits. I also try to avoid sugar-sweetened dried fruit (like dried cranberry) but that's just me.
  • I follow my mom’s "chocolate chip theory" when deciding how much fruit (also nuts) to add. Her idea is that a few chocolate chips "delight" when more can seem "rather ordinary". Try it!
  • Nuts Chop the nuts quite small, that way they distribute throughout too, just like for the dried fruit. I specify walnuts and pecans but really, any nut will do. Do make sure you've toasted the nuts first. You can even do this while the oven heats up, just spread the nuts (before chopping) on a baking sheet and toast until they turn golden and aromatic, it takes 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and freshness of the nuts. And do keep a close watch, nuts can go from toasted to, well, toast if you know what I mean, just like that.
  • Buttermilk Please say you keep buttermilk in the fridge! It's inexpensive, keeps for weeks and weeks and if you're a baker (or even love pancakes or salad), buttermilk will pay off big. For this recipe, you use quite a bit so I don't recommend the milk-vinegar hack. That said, do you have unsweetened yogurt? Or sour cream? You could thin either one with milk to mimic the consistency of buttermilk, yeah, that'd work just fine.

What Baking Pan To Use for Brown Bread

Most of us will use a standard 9x5 bread loaf pan for baking.

My very favorite baking pan for quick breads is longer and narrower than a standard 9x5 bread pan but holds the same volume of batter.

The length change makes it easier to cut a dozen substantial-seeming pieces versus a dozen skimpy-seeming pieces. This is a mind game, of course, but like serving meals on smaller plates, it works.

Unfortunately, King Arthur Flour no longer sells its Danish loaf pan. I once even wrote the company a letter begging them to bring back this great baking pan. No such luck ...

I have seen similar pans at IKEA, they're inexpensive and worth a shot.

What Makes This Recipe Special

  • It takes minutes to mix, no mixer required, just one bowl and a wooden spoon
  • If you're short on eggs or baking for someone with an egg allergy, no eggs! This is a real rarity in baked goods so take special note!
  • It's barely sweet, making it perfect not only for a snack but also for a morning bread
  • It's sturdy enough to cut in thin slices to schmear with apple butter or a little cream cheese or marmalade or hold-me-back both
  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!
Quick Brown Bread, an old-fashioned molasses bread ♥ KitchenParade.com. No Egg. No Added Fat. No Yeast.

Just updated! First published way back in 2005.


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time-to-table: 90 minutes
Makes 16 slices
  • Baking spray
  • 2 cups (250g) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/3 cup (66g) brown sugar (reduced from 2/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup (80g) molasses (regular or blackstrap either one)
  • 2 cups (500g) low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup (75g) dried fruit (currants or raisins or snipped dried apricots or cranberries)
  • 1/2 cup (50g) chopped walnuts or pecans (reduced from 3/4 cup)
  • Raw sugar for the top, about 2 tablespoons

Set the oven to 350F/180C and spray a standard-size 9x5 bread loaf pan with baking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, be sure to work out any lumps in the brown sugar by pressing them against the side of the bowl with the back of the spoon.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir together until just combined. The batter will bubble up, that's natural once the baking soda and the liquid ingredients make contact.

Pour or scrape the batter evenly into the bread pan, leveling the top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the raw sugar evenly across the top of the batter.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a slim knife inserted in the middle comes out clean or better yet, until the internal temperature of the dense bread reaches 190F/90C. Remove the bread from the oven and cool for five minutes, then gently upend to remove from the pan. Let cool completely on a baking rack.

ALANNA's TIPS This bread is barely sweet, so to my taste anyway, is perfect as a "morning cake". It's also especially good with an unsweetened apple butter like the wonderful Naturally Sweetened Apple Butter. Soften any brown sugar lumps before adding since they won’t get worked out during the usual butter-sugar creaming process. Unsulphured molasses has a lighter, cleaner sugar cane flavor but can be harder to find so stock up when you do. You're going to wonder about all the buttermilk, a full 2 cups. But it's okay, really. For a vegan version of this already-eggless quick bread, substitute soy milk for buttermilk and add a tablespoon of vinegar. No buttermilk on hand? Just add a tablespoon of vinegar to sweet milk. If there's a Great Harvest bakery in your neighborhood, stop by to purchase just-found whole wheat flour. It's not inexpensive but the freshness can't be matched.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Slice, Assumes 16: 174 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 2mg Cholesterol; 332mg Sodium; 32g Carb; 2g Fiber; 13g Sugar; 5g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 7 & Freestyle 7 & myWW green 7 & blue 7 & purple 7 Believe it or not, this recipe has been "Alanna-sized" by cutting the sugar in half and reducing the fruit and nuts. The changes result in a 20 percent drop in calories and a 33 percent reduction in fat – and with no loss in enjoyment, an absolute requirement.

Hey, Molasses Lovers

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Molasses Cookies Gingerbread Pudding Cake Fresh Cranberry Bars
~ more recipes with molasses ~

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. sti If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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2005, 2007, 2009 & 2020

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Anonymous7/22/2007

    Hi Alanna,
    This bread sounds really good. Similar recipes have caught my eye for years, but I always dismiss them because of all the calories, fat, etc. Thanks for lightening it up! And thanks, too, for the link to your wonderful new bread pan. : )



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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna