Baking homemade bread may be the epitome of cozy domesticity (and the hot new activity), but it can also be intimidating when you're dealing with yeast, multiple rises and long resting times -- not to mention trying to conjure your own .
Quick bread, as the name suggests, is much easier, but no less deliciously comforting -- and beer bread is especially hearty and easy to make, no yeast (except what's in the beer already) and no kneading required.
A basic beer bread only requires four ingredients and a bowl. It comes together in a flash, although it does take about an hour to bake, then some more time to cool. As a blank canvas, it's lovely in its own right: It's tender inside and crunchy outside, with a yeasty complexity thanks to the beer.
But you can add in whatever other flavor enhancers you fancy, and you can use different kinds of beer to change the base notes too. Light pilsners are ideal for a mild loaf that works with most anything, but you can try swapping in an IPA or brown ale, stout or porter to take it in a darker direction, or even pumpkin beer in season. Sour beer can work beautifully with fruit:
Ingredients for a basic loaf of beer bread
- 3 cups self-rising flour*
- 12 ounces (1 bottle or can) beer, preferably at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, cooled slightly
- 1 to 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (you can increase this to a quarter or even half a cup if you like things sweeter)
*If you don't have self-rising flour, you can use 3 cups of all-purpose flour and add 1 tablespoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt; whisk these together in the bowl before adding the other ingredients. If you do have self-rising flour, make sure it's not expired, or your bread might be too dense.
How to make beer bread
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (if yours runs hot, you can drop it down to 350). Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter, shortening or cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, beer and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter until just combined. The batter will be thick, sticky and somewhat lumpy. (Using room temperature beer and slightly cooled melted butter lessens the chances of butter bits forming, but don't worry too much about it, and don't overmix.) Pour the batter into the prepared pan, gently smoothing it out with a spatula if need be, and pour or brush the remaining tablespoon of melted butter over the top.
- Bake on a rack in the middle of the oven for anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown. (If the top browns too fast, tent a piece of foil over the pan while it continues baking.)
- Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the loaf, turn it out and cool on the rack for another 30 minutes before slicing. If you try to slice while it's still too hot, it's liable to crumble apart. You can store it at room temperature, well wrapped, for a few days, or freeze it for up a few months.
Add-ins: Mix in whatever add-ins you like -- grated cheese (up to 1 cup), fresh or dried herbs, diced jalapenos and corn, crumbled cooked bacon, various spices. Chunkier additions may increase the cooking time a bit, and you don't want to overload your bread with mix-ins, but use a recipe as a proportion guide and substitute away.
Muffins: Pour the batter into lined muffin tins or cupcake pans if you prefer, filling each cup about 2/3 full; brush the top of each one with a little melted butter; and start checking for doneness after 20 minutes.
Gluten-free: Gluten-free beer breads are generally a bit more complicated (and often contain eggs), so your best bet is to search for specific recipes for them. Still, you can try substituting gluten-free flour (plus 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum if your flour doesn't already include it to help with the structure), 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt for the self-rising flour above -- and a gluten-free beer, of course.
Vegan: Replace the butter with melted Earth Balance or other vegan spread, coconut oil or another plant-based fat of your choice.
Refined Sugar-Free: Simply omit the white sugar entirely, or replace it with honey, agave or liquid stevia.
How to eat beer bread
It may seem obvious, but a few of our favorite ways are:
- Sliced, still warm and spread with butter (salted beer honey butter, perhaps), maybe alongside a bowl of beer chili for good measure
- Cubed and toasted to use as croutons on salads and soups (the creamier the better, like pumpkin beer cheese soup)
- Cooled, thickly sliced and used for sandwiches, especially if they're toasted too (hello, beer bread grilled cheese sandwiches!)
More beer bread recipes
Check out a few riffs on the basic recipe below, including some sweet spins, and follow one as-is, or use it as inspiration for your own creation.
Jalapeno beer cornbread
Chowhound uses pilsner in the batter for this beer cornbread spiked with pickled jalapeños, but you could try a not-too-bitter pale ale or IPA as well. Get the jalapeno beer cornbread recipe. (Or try this loaded jalapeno popper beer bread recipe, which adds cream cheese and bacon to the mix.)
Guinness beer bread
Rosemary cheddar pumpkin beer bread
Pumpkin bread is often sweet (and sweet pumpkin beer bread is a fantastic autumnal treat), but this one skews savory thanks to cheddar cheese, rosemary and pumpkin seeds. The sugar is swapped out for maple syrup for just a touch of sweetness and even more fall flavor, and the pumpkin puree adds color and moisture in addition to an earthy-sweet taste. Get the Rosemary Cheddar Pumpkin Beer Bread recipe.
One bowl chocolate chip beer and peanut butter bread
If you're a fan of beer desserts, this "bread" is really cake (just like banana bread should technically be classed as such), and there's nothing wrong with that. There's also nothing we don't love about this dessert -- it also makes a great snack, or maybe even breakfast. It's made in one bowl, combines chocolate chips and peanut butter and includes roasty stout or porter. Get the one bowl chocolate chip beer and peanut butter bread recipe.
Maui chocolate coconut porter beer bread
Any chocolatey stout or porter would work well in this sweet beer bread, but if you can find Maui Brewing Company's CoCoNut Porter (or any other coconut-enhanced beer), it's especially great with the cocoa powder, dark chocolate chips, Kona coffee and coconut flakes in the decadent batter. Get the Maui Chocolate Coconut Porter beer bread recipe.
Cream ale soda bread
Beer bread is not always made in a loaf pan -- take this round of soda bread for example. The sweet cream ale in the batter complements the vanilla and raisins. Think of it as a big scone (of sorts) and make it for breakfast or afternoon tea. No need to wait for next St. Patrick's Day. Get the cream ale soda bread recipe.
Fluffy beer biscuits
Beer bread can even come in the guise of biscuits. As with beer loaves, you can experiment with different styles of beer and play around with mix-ins -- but if you have Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning on hand, why not sprinkle some on top? Get the fluffy beer biscuits recipe.