How to Make Boston Brown Bread Recipe

When you learn how to make a Boston Brown Bread recipe you will see it fits into the familiar quick bread classification. This unusual bread, originating in the New England states (named Boston) gets a lot of its unique flavor and some of the sweetness from molasses. Today many of our recipes call for the addition of fruits such as raisins for even more flavor and sweetness.

How to Make Boston Brown Bread RecipesHow to Make Boston Brown Bread Recipes

Most often the flour used in the recipes is of the whole grains (darker meals) or combined with white flour. The darker flours or meals were more plentiful for the average New Englanders to use, reserving the more valuable light flours for the wealthier people.

As you are learning how to make a Boston brown bread recipe the idea of steaming came as a more convenient way of cooking it over the fire in the old time fireplaces. Traditionally it was steamed in cans like our metal coffee cans.

Today we still use the coffee cans (or loaf pans) only steaming them on top of our stoves or in our ovens with containers of water to produce the steam. This way of baking the bread produces a very moist and delicious can of bread; extra great spread with cream cheese.

TIP: When learning how to make a Boston brown bread recipe in cans grease rounds of paper and place in bottoms of cans; this makes the bread easier to remove after steaming.

NOTE: Boston brown bread molds always had lids. If you do not have special molds, it can be cooked in metal cans. Coffee and other products use to come in metal cans. Today, I use cans from vegetables and cover tightly with foil.

CAUTION: about the sharp edges when using these cans. Most recipes for Boston brown bread will instruct you when using cans to remove the bottoms from the cans to remove the bread. Today I find this very difficult to do on most cans. An easier way is to line the bottoms of the cans with wax paper which keeps the bread from sticking.

NOTE: To remove bread from cans, take a long thin knife and keep moving it around the edges of the can to ease the bread out. 


Boston Brown Bread Prepared in a Tin CanPrepared in a Tin Can
  • 2 Cups sour milk (make sour milk by adding 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon to 1 cup sweet milk)
  • ¾ Cup molasses
  • 1 Cup bran
  • 1 Cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Cup corn meal
  • 2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons salt
  • 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Cup raisins

Combine sour milk, molasses and bran. Let stand for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed by the bran. Combine the dry ingredients and raisins. Fold dry ingredients into the bran mixture and stir just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. Do not beat.

Fill greased molds 2/3 full. Recipe will fill 3 one quart molds or 2 1 ½ quarts molds. Cover tightly with greased heavy wax paper. Set mold on a trivet in a heavy pan, pour hot water around mold and steam for 3 hours. Remove mold from water, uncover mold and bake in a slow oven (250F degrees) for about 20 minutes to dry top.

Prepare Tin CansPrepare Tin Cans
Fill with BatterFill with Batter
Fill Batter 2/3 FullFill Batter 2/3 Full
Cover Top with Foil and Tie with StringCover Top with Foil and Tie with String
Place Trivet in Heavy PanPlace Trivet in Heavy Pan
Pour Hot Water In Heavy PanPour Hot Water In Heavy Pan
Place Tin Cans in Heavy PanPlace Tin Cans in Heavy Pan
Cover Heavy Pan and Steam for 3 HoursCover Heavy Pan and Steam for 3 Hours


Boston Broan BreadBoston Brown Bread
Boston Brown Bread Baked in a MoldBaked in a Mold
Sliced Boston Brown BreadSliced Boston Brown Bread
  • 3 Cups graham flour
  • 1 Teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Cup raisins
  • ½ Cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Cups buttermilk
  • 1 Cup white cornmeal
  • 1 Egg
  • ¾ Cup molasses

Grease 1 pound coffee cans.

Combine and mix in a large bowl the flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda and raisins.

Beat egg in a small bowl; add brown sugar, molasses and milk.

Pour brown sugar mixture into dry ingredients and blend quickly.

Pour batter into prepare greased cans ¾ full, cover tightly with lids.

Steam in boiling water 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Brown Bread Filled with Cream Cheese SpreadBrown Bread Filled with Cream Cheese Spread


  • 2 Cups white sifted flour
  • 2 Cups corn meal
  • 2 Cups graham flour
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Cups molasses
  • 2 Cups buttermilk
  • 2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons melted shortening
  • ½ to 1 Cup raisins OPTIONAL

Grease one pound coffee cans with shortening.

Mix baking soda with buttermilk; combine remaining dry ingredients.

Combine the dry ingredients with molasses, melted shortening and buttermilk/soda; stir to blend.

Stir in raisins if desired and fill cans ¾ full; place greased lids on; steam in boiling water 3 ½ to 4 hours.


This recipe adds a distinct flavor from rye meal.

  • 1 Cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 Cup rye meal
  • 1 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup graham flour
  • ¾ Cup molasses
  • 1 ½ Cups buttermilk

Sift corn meal, rye meal, baking soda and salt together; add graham flour and stir in remaining ingredients.

Grease one pound cans and place rounds of greased paper in bottom of cans.

Fill cans 2/3 full and place cans on a rack in a large kettle; add hot water half the height of the cans.

Cover kettle with lid and bring water to a boil; boil gently 3 hours. (May need to add more boiling water).

Remove cans from water and place in hot oven (400F degrees) for a few minutes to dry out the top.

Immediately remove from cans and serve hot.

BOSTON BROWN BREAD RECIPE cooked on stove top

  • 1 Cup molasses
  • 1 Cup sour milk
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup cornmeal
  • 2 Cups graham flour

Combine all ingredients and let stand 30 minutes.

NOTE: I cut a small piece of wax paper or parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the cans (This makes removing easier)

Grease well and flour molds or 3 cans (15 to 16 ounce size); fill cans full with batter and cover with lid or foil.

Use a large Dutch oven; place a trivet on the bottom, add 1 inch cold water and set the cans on the trivet.

Bring water to a boil, cover Dutch oven with a lid, reduce heat a little and steam for 3 hours.

NOTE: Add boiling water if needed

When cans are cool enough to handle, run a knife around the edges to get the bread out.


  • 2 Cups graham flour
  • 2 Cups buttermilk
  • 1 Cup raisins
  • ½ Cup flour (All purpose)
  • ½ Cup molasses
  • 2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon salt

Lightly grease 3 cans (1 pound about 4 ¼ inches high).

Combine all ingredients and mix well; fill cans about 2/3 full; LET STAND 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees; bake about 45 to 50 minutes until pick comes out clean.

Cool enough to handle; remove bottoms of cans and run knife around to loosen.