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Colonial Brown Bread

This Colonial Brown Bread recipe is simple, hearty, and satisfying. It is a perfect bread to serve with an old-fashioned pot roast or stew in the wintertime.

Brown bread baked and sliced close up

It is February and snowing outside, so I am going to bake for dinner a hearty bread to go with a stew I made yesterday. The recipe is super simple, and the results are amazing. There is nothing better than a fresh loaf of bread coming out of the oven.

What is Colonial Brown Bread?

Colonial Brown Bread is a type of bread that was popular in New England during colonial times. It is a dense, quick whole grain bread that is usually made with molasses and a combination of whole wheat and cornmeal flour.

However, there are also many variations of Colonial Brown Bread, and not all recipes include cornmeal flour, whole wheat, or molasses.

Some recipes may use all-purpose flour, rye flour, or a combination of both, as well as honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar instead of molasses.

Versions of this bread may also include raisins or other dried fruits, while others may not.

The use of cornmeal flour and molasses is common in traditional New England recipes for Colonial Brown Bread, but they are not essential ingredients.

The bread was a staple in colonial households, as it was easy to make and had a long shelf life.

It was often baked in a can, giving it its signature cylindrical shape.

Today, colonial brown bread is still enjoyed as a flavorful and nutritious alternative to traditional white bread.

My version is one of the modern recipes for this bread made with whole wheat flour and dark brown sugar. I also used a regular loaf baking pan and not a can.

Brown bread baked and sliced

What kind of ingredients do you use to make this hearty brown bread?

(For the full list of ingredients and instructions, please scroll to the end of the article for a printable recipe card)

  • Whole-Wheat Flour 2 cups
  • All-purpose flour 2/3 cup
  • Brown sugar 1/2 cup packed- it is your choice to use either light brown sugar or dark brown sugar. I like the dark one because of the depth of flavor that molasses brings to the bread.
  • Baking soda 2 teaspoons
  • Salt 1/2 teaspoon
  • Buttermilk 2 cups- read below my notes about this ingredient
  • Spices: 1/4 teaspoon of each: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg (or 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice)
  • Raisins (optional) 3/4 cup- You can also use cranberries for a more festive look or skip the dried fruits entirely.
  • Butter 1 tablespoon or cooking spray to grease the baking pan.
Ingredients for Colonial Brown Bread0

The importance of using buttermilk and baking soda in this colonial bread recipe:

Using buttermilk and baking soda in a brown bread recipe is important for several reasons:

  1. Leavening: When we combine buttermilk and baking soda, a chemical reaction occurs that produces carbon dioxide gas. This gas causes the bread to rise and gives it a light, fluffy texture. Without the buttermilk and baking soda, the bread may be dense and heavy.
  2. Flavor: Buttermilk has a tangy, slightly sour flavor that can add depth and complexity to the bread. It also helps balance the sweetness of the molasses or other sweeteners that are often used in Colonial Brown Bread.
  3. Tenderness: The acidity of the buttermilk helps break down the gluten in the flour, making the bread tender and moist. This is especially important in dense, whole-grain bread like Colonial Brown Bread, which can be tough and chewy without the addition of an acidic ingredient like buttermilk.

Overall, using buttermilk and baking soda in a recipe is important for producing a well-textured, flavorful bread that rises properly.

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use a substitute like whole milk with lemon juice or vinegar to create a similar acidity.

However, it’s important to note that the flavor and texture of the bread may be slightly different without the tanginess and acidity of the buttermilk.

Related: Tasty Sweet and Savory Buttermilk Recipes

How to make this recipe:

What tools are you going to need:

Step 1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C and butter the loaf baking pan. Set it aside.

Greased loaf baking pan

Step 2. Place both types of flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and optional raisins in a large bowl and stir to combine.

Dry ingredients mixed in a bowl0

Step 3. Pour the buttermilk over the dry ingredients.

Pouring buttermilk over the dry ingredients

Stir well until well blended.

Bread dough ready for baking

Step 4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bread batter in the baking pan0

Step 5. Bake for 1 hour, or until it tests done. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Brown bread baked

Step 6. Cut into thick slices while still warm.

Brown bread on a platter

How to store this colonial brown bread:

Room temperature:

Colonial Brown Bread will stay fresh based on the specific recipe and storage conditions. Generally, homemade bread will last for a few days when stored properly.

If the bread is kept in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature, it can last for 2-3 days. However, if you want to extend the shelf life of the bread, you can store it in the refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for up to a week.

Brown bread sliced and buttered0

Can I freeze this bread?

If you want to keep the bread for even longer, you can freeze it. Wrap the bread tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. The bread can be frozen for up to three months.

To defrost, simply remove the bread from the freezer and let it thaw at room temperature.

It’s important to note that the texture and flavor of the bread may change slightly after storage, especially if it has been frozen.

However, Colonial Brown Bread is generally a sturdy bread that can hold up well to storage and reheating, making it a great choice for meal prep or making ahead.

How to serve this bread:

Colonial Brown Bread is a hearty and flavorful bread that can be served with a variety of dishes. Traditionally, it was often served with stews, soups, and other hearty meals, but it can also be paired with a wide range of sweet and savory foods.

Here are some ideas for foods that are suitable to serve with Colonial Brown Bread:

  • Soups and stews: Brown bread is perfect for soaking up the flavorful broth of soups and stews. Try serving it with classic New England dishes like clam chowder or beef stew.
  • Beans: Another classic pairing for brown Bread is cooked beans. The bread’s sweetness and dense texture complement the savory and smoky flavors of the beans.
  • Sandwiches: Brown bread can be sliced and used for sandwiches. Try it with sliced turkey or roast beef, or make a grilled cheese sandwich with it.
  • Cheese and spreads: The bread’s sturdy texture makes it a great choice for serving with cheese and spreads. Try it with cream cheese and smoked salmon or sharp cheddar and apple butter. Or try my chicken salad on a thick slice of this bread. Or this ham salad.
  • Breakfast dishes: This brown bread can be toasted and served with butter and jam for a delicious breakfast. It can also be used as a base for French toast or bread pudding.
Brown bread sliced and buttered on a glass plate0

My recipe for brown bread is not made with buttermilk:

Colonial Brown Bread is not always made with buttermilk. While some traditional recipes call for buttermilk, there are many variations of Colonial Brown Bread that use other types of dairy or non-dairy milk.

For example, whole milk, yogurt, or sour cream can be used instead of buttermilk.

Non-dairy milk, such as almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk, can also be used as a substitute, but the leavening agent might be different.

Ultimately, the choice of milk or milk substitute will depend on personal preference and dietary restrictions.

The important thing is to choose a liquid that will work well with the other ingredients in the recipe and produce a flavorful and well-textured bread.

Brown bread
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More recipes to enjoy:

Irish Brown Soda Bread With Molasses

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

No Yeast Bread (soda bread with 4 ingredients)

Easy Potato And Meat Stew

Check out the web story for this recipe: Easy Colonial Brown Bread

Brown bread square photo

Brown Bread

This Brown Bread recipe is simple, hearty, and satisfying. It is a perfect bread to serve with an old-fashioned pot roast or stew in the wintertime.
5 from 2 votes
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Course: Breads
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy, quick bread, whole-wheat
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Cool time:: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 133kcal


  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup dark-brown sugar packed
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup raisins optional


  • Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Grease a 9 1/2×5 1/2-inch loaf pan and set it aside.
  • In a large bowl, place the dry ingredients together.
  • Add buttermilk over the dry mixture and blend well.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 1 hour, or until it tests done. Remove from the pan and cool on a metal rack.
  • Cut into thick slices while still warm.


Calories: 133kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 244mg | Potassium: 113mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 51IU | Vitamin C: 0.03mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating


Thursday 23rd of February 2023

This looks delicious! I can’t wait to try it with some good quality butter on it.

The Bossy Kitchen

Thursday 23rd of February 2023

Thanks, Gigi! Let me know when you make this bread!