International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Boston Brown Bread

Boston brown bread with cream cheese

(American steamed wholegrain molasses bread)

Image Creative Commons by jeffreyww

Average: 4 (2 votes)

What goes best with Boston baked beans? Why, Boston brown bread, of course! Lightly sweet, with a deep, rich color, brown bread is a scrumptious, whole-grain treat made from a batter that is steamed, sliced and spread with butter or cream cheese. Most New Englanders are familiar with a version that is sold in cans, but it's so easy to throw together, there's no reason not to make your own.

Brown bread was traditionally steamed in empty 1-pound coffee cans. But as these seem to be a thing of the past, use any large, empty food can you have. Or use a more decorative steamed pudding mold. You can even steam it in small loaf pans if you have a pot large enough to hold them.

1 loaf, or about 4 to 6 servings


  • Cornmeal -- 1/2 cup
  • Whole wheat flour -- 1/2 cup
  • Rye flour - 1/2 cup
  • Baking soda -- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Buttermilk, or sour milk (see notes) -- 1 cup
  • Molasses -- 1/3 cup
  • Raisins (optional) -- 1/4 cup


  1. Grease a 1-quart coffee or vegetable can or a steamed pudding mold. Mix the cornmeal, whole wheat flour, rye flour, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk the buttermilk or sour milk and molasses together in another bowl, and then stir into the dry ingredients until well blended. Stir the raisins into the batter.
  3. Pour the batter into the greased can or mold until it is filled about 2/3 full. Cover tightly with greased aluminum foil for a can or a greased lid for a mold. Place on a rack in a pot large enough to hold the can or mold and add about 1 inch of water.
  4. Bring to a boil over high heat on the stove. Cover the pot tightly with a lid and reduce heat to low. Steam for 2 or 3 hours, adding extra water as needed, until the bread is cooked through and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the pot and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before unmolding. Serve slices of brown bread warm and slathered with butter.

Boston Brown Bread Variations

  • Sour Milk: To make your own sour milk, mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and enough milk to make 1 cup and set aside for 5 minutes.
  • If you don't have rye flour, just use 2 cups of whole wheat flour instead.
  • Substitute maple syrup for the molasses.
  • Add a nice pinch of ground cinnamon, cloves or allspice to the batter for added flavor.

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