The Best Boston Brown Bread Recipe

The Best Boston Brown Bread Recipe

Boston Brown Bread is a traditional New England delicacy that holds a special place in American culinary heritage. Its roots can be traced back to the early 17th century when colonists in the northeastern United States began experimenting with indigenous ingredients. Unlike the typical fluffy loaves, Boston Brown Bread is a dense, dark bread made from a combination of whole grains, including cornmeal, rye, and wheat, sweetened with molasses, and often enriched with raisins for added depth of flavour.

This distinctive bread is known for its hearty texture and slightly sweet taste, making it a versatile accompaniment to a wide range of dishes. It’s traditionally steamed rather than baked, giving it a unique, moist consistency that sets it apart from other bread varieties. Boston Brown Bread has become a cherished symbol of New England cuisine, frequently served with classic accompaniments such as baked beans, butter, or a dollop of creamy cheese.

The preparation of Boston Brown Bread is steeped in tradition and folklore, embodying the resourcefulness and inventiveness of early American settlers. Today, it continues to be a beloved dish, enjoyed not only for its historical significance but also for its rich, wholesome flavour. Whether served as part of a traditional New England feast or incorporated into modern culinary creations, Boston Brown Bread remains a beloved staple in the tapestry of American gastronomy.

How To Make This Recipe


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)


  1. Prepare the Steaming Pot:
    • Fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water. Place a steamer rack or an overturned heatproof bowl at the bottom. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the rack.
  2. Mix Dry Ingredients:
    • In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, whole wheat flour, rye flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Add Wet Ingredients:
    • Pour in the buttermilk and molasses. Mix well until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. If you’re using raisins, fold them into the batter at this stage.
  4. Prepare the Tin:
    • Grease a 1-pound coffee can or a similar-sized metal container. Pour the batter into the greased tin, filling it about two-thirds full.
  5. Cover and Seal:
    • Cover the tin tightly with a double layer of foil. Secure it with a piece of kitchen twine or a rubber band around the rim of the tin.
  6. Steam the Bread:
    • Place the tin on the rack in the prepared pot. Cover the pot with a lid. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.
  7. Steam for Several Hours:
    • Steam the bread on low heat for about 2.5 to 3 hours. Make sure to check the water level periodically and add more if needed.
  8. Check for Doneness:
    • Insert a toothpick into the centre of the bread. If it comes out clean, the bread is done. If not, continue steaming for another 15-30 minutes.
  9. Cool and Serve:
    • Remove the tin from the pot and let it cool for a few minutes. Gently run a knife around the edge of the bread and carefully slide it out.
  10. Slice and Enjoy:
    • Once cooled, slice the Boston Brown Bread and serve it with butter, cream cheese, or alongside dishes like baked beans.

Note: Boston Brown Bread can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature. Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days or refrigerate for up to a week.

Tips Of Recipe

  1. Use Fresh Ingredients: Ensure that your cornmeal, flours, and other ingredients are fresh for the best flavour and texture.
  2. Adjust Sweetness to Taste: If you prefer a sweeter bread, you can increase the amount of molasses slightly. Conversely, if you prefer it less sweet, you can reduce the molasses.
  3. Customize with Add-Ins: Feel free to get creative with add-ins like nuts, seeds, or other dried fruits in addition to or in place of raisins.
  4. Properly Grease the Tin: Make sure to generously grease the tin to prevent the bread from sticking.
  5. Securely Seal with Foil: The foil should be tightly secured around the rim of the tin to prevent water from getting into the bread while steaming.
  6. Maintain Steaming Water Level: Keep an eye on the water level during steaming, adding more as needed to prevent it from running dry.
  7. Test for Doneness: Insert a toothpick into the centre of the bread to check for doneness. It should come out clean when the bread is fully cooked.
  8. Allow Cooling Time: Let the bread cool for a few minutes before attempting to remove it from the tin. This helps prevent it from falling apart.
  9. Slice with a Serrated Knife: Use a sharp serrated knife for clean slices, especially since Boston Brown Bread can be quite dense.
  10. Serve with Complementary Dishes: Boston Brown Bread pairs wonderfully with dishes like baked beans, butter, cream cheese, or even smoked fish.
  11. Store Properly: If there are leftovers, store them in an airtight container to maintain freshness.
  12. Experiment with Presentation: You can serve the bread in slices, rounds, or even cut into cubes for different presentations.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to create a delicious batch of Boston Brown Bread. Enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is Boston Brown Bread? Boston Brown Bread is a traditional New England bread made from a combination of whole grains like cornmeal, rye, and wheat. It is sweetened with molasses and often includes raisins. Unlike typical bread, it is steamed instead of baked, resulting in a dense, moist texture and a slightly sweet flavour.

Q2: Can I substitute any of the flours in the recipe? While the combination of cornmeal, whole wheat flour, and rye flour is traditional, you can experiment with different flours to suit your taste. However, keep in mind that it may alter the texture and flavour of the bread.

Q3: How do I know when the bread is done steaming? Insert a toothpick into the centre of the bread. If it comes out clean, the bread is done. If not, continue steaming for a little longer and retest.

Q4: Can I make Boston Brown Bread without a steamer rack? If you don’t have a steamer rack, you can use an overturned heatproof bowl to elevate the tin above the water. Just make sure it’s stable and won’t tip over.

Q5: How should I store leftover Boston Brown Bread? Store any leftovers in an airtight container. It can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 days, or refrigerated for up to a week.

Q6: Can I freeze Boston Brown Bread? Yes, you can freeze Boston Brown Bread. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then place it in an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag. It can be frozen for up to three months.

Q7: What are some serving suggestions for Boston Brown Bread? Boston Brown Bread goes well with butter, cream cheese, or alongside dishes like baked beans. It can also be a delicious addition to a cheese platter.

Q8: Can I make this bread without raisins? Yes, you can omit the raisins if you prefer a plain Boston Brown Bread. It will still have a wonderful flavour from the combination of grains and molasses.

Q9: Can I make this bread gluten-free? You can try using gluten-free flours and a gluten-free baking soda substitute, but keep in mind that the texture and flavour may differ from the traditional recipe.

Q10: Is Boston Brown Bread vegan-friendly? Yes, Boston Brown Bread can be made vegan by using a non-dairy substitute for buttermilk, such as almond milk or soy milk, and ensuring that all ingredients are plant-based.

These are some common questions about Boston Brown Bread. If you have any more, feel free to ask!

Nutrition Facts

Certainly! Here are the approximate nutrition facts for a typical serving (100 grams) of Boston Brown Bread:

  • Calories: 211 kcal
  • Total Fat: 1.1g
    • Saturated Fat: 0.2g
    • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g
    • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g
  • Cholesterol: 0
  • mg
  • Sodium: 371mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 46g
    • Dietary Fiber: 4.1g
    • Sugars: 13g
  • Protein: 4.3g
  • Vitamin D: 0IU
  • Calcium: 53mg
  • Iron: 1.9mg
  • Potassium: 259mg
  • Thiamin (Vitamin B1): 0.2mg
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 0.1mg
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3): 2.2mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.1mg
  • Folate (Vitamin B9): 26mcg
  • Vitamin B12: 0mcg
  • Magnesium: 48mg

Please note that these values are approximate and can vary based on specific recipes and variations in ingredients used. Always check product labels or consult a nutritionist for precise information, especially if you have specific dietary requirements or restrictions.


  1. Butter and Honey: Spread a generous layer of butter on warm slices of Boston Brown Bread and drizzle with honey for a delightful, sweet and creamy combination.
  2. Cream Cheese and Jam: Slather cream cheese on slices of the bread and top with your favourite jam or fruit preserves for a creamy and fruity treat.
  3. Baked Beans: Serve slices of Boston Brown Bread alongside a hearty portion of baked beans for a classic New England comfort food combination.
  4. Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese: Top toasted slices of Boston Brown Bread with cream cheese and smoked salmon for an elegant and flavourful appetizer.
  5. Cheese Platter: Include slices of Boston Brown Bread on a cheese platter with a selection of cheeses, dried fruits, and nuts for a rustic accompaniment.
  6. Egg Salad Sandwich: Use slices of Boston Brown Bread to make a wholesome egg salad sandwich. The dense texture of the bread complements the creamy egg salad perfectly.
  7. French Toast: Turn leftover slices of Boston Brown Bread into a delicious French toast breakfast by dipping them in a mixture of eggs, milk, and cinnamon before frying.
  8. Peanut Butter and Banana: Spread peanut butter on slices of the bread and add banana slices for a satisfying and energy-boosting snack.
  9. Toasted with Soup: Toast slices of Boston Brown Bread and serve them alongside a bowl of hearty soup for a comforting and filling meal.
  10. Charcuterie Board: Include slices of Boston Brown Bread on a charcuterie board with cured meats, pickles, and condiments for a rustic and substantial addition.
  11. Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Use slices of Boston Brown Bread to make a hearty grilled cheese sandwich. The robust flavour of the bread pairs well with a variety of cheeses.
  12. Dessert Bread Pudding: Use Boston Brown Bread in a bread pudding recipe for a rich and comforting dessert. The sweetness of the bread complements the custard beautifully.

These serving suggestions offer a variety of ways to enjoy Boston Brown Bread, from savoury to sweet, making it a versatile addition to any meal.



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