Boston Brown Bread is a classic New England bread enjoyed for generations. This simple quick bread is nutty, sweet, and loaded with raisins. It’s great for breakfast or a snack. And it’s perfect for Easter or any holiday.
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Boston Brown Bread Baked in a Can
Have you ever heard of or tried Boston brown bread? It’s a classic New England staple that doesn’t seem to have caught on in other regions, but really everyone should know about it.
Boston brown bread has a satisfying flavor that’s a little sweet and nutty. It’s a sweetened brown bread that’s moist and chock full of raisins.
What’s different about this bread though is how you bake it. You could easily make it in a regular loaf pan, but traditionally this New England bread is steamed or baked in a can.
While originally made in baked bean cans, any clean can will do.
A Brief History of Boston Brown Bread
Boston brown bread, known simply as brown bread in New England, made its appearance on New England tables in the early 1800s. It was initially made with cheaper coarse flours and sweetened with molasses, making it affordable for everyone.
Traditionally, this rustic bread was steamed on the stovetop, usually in cans. This way, even home cooks who had no wood-burning ovens could make this bread.
Nowadays, one of the most popular varieties of brown bread is B&M Boston Brown Bread, made by B&M in Portland, Maine, and it’s sold in a can.
Why This is the Best Boston Brown Bread Recipe
Of course, you can buy ready-made B&M Boston Brown Bread, but everything tastes better when it’s homemade, and this bread is no exception. This is a wonderful quick and easy recipe for old-fashioned Boston brown bread. You will love how moist and chewy this bread is.
Since this is a quick bread, there’s no yeast necessary, no rising or proofing time, no kneading, and no mixer to haul out onto the countertop. The entire loaf comes together in about 10 minutes, with just one bowl to wash at the end.
You and your family will be in love with this bread! The rustic look and old-fashioned flavor of this hearty Boston brown bread will take you back to earlier times.
Your kids will have fun helping to put the batter in the cans, and you can enjoy giving them a little history lesson.
- All-purpose flour
- Baking soda
- Ground cinnamon
- Vanilla extract
For gluten-free bread, use a gluten-free all-purpose flour substitute.
If you want to make vegan brown bread, check out this vegan Boston brown bread recipe.
How to Make Boston Brown Bread in a Can
- Mix together the raisins, butter, baking soda, and boiling water in a large bowl and let sit overnight to plump up the raisins.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix to make a very thick batter.
- Fill greased tin cans 3/4 full with the batter.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.
- Allow it to cool completely before removing the bread from the cans.
Note: The cans function as Boston brown bread molds. See the equipment list below for alternative ideas for molds.
- Use dates, dried cranberries, or currants instead of raisins
- Substitute walnuts for the pecans.
- Add a little rum.
- Don’t overmix the batter. The key to keeping a quick bread moist is not over-mixing.
- Grease the cans really well so that the bread pops right out.
- To make it easier to get the baked bread out, place a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom of each can.
- Use the clean toothpick method to test for doneness.
Boston brown bread molds. This recipe utilizes 6 tin cans the size of Campbell’s large chunky soup (coffee cans can also work).
Note that you can also buy baking can molds although they tend to be expensive. Take a look at a cylindrical vertical baking pan or an aluminum bread mold.
How to Serve Boston Brown Bread
Serve it for breakfast, topped with butter or cream cheese. It’s also good drizzled with maple syrup or honey or topped with a dollop of orange marmalade.
CopyKat Tip: Warm the bread up a little at first, so your topping of choice melts into the bread a bit.
This bread is also perfect for making little tea sandwiches to serve at a party. Here are a few flavor fillings to get you started:
- Mix Dijon mustard and cranberry butter and add smoked turkey.
- Cream cheese and fresh dill finished off with smoked salmon.
- Cream cheese thinned slightly with milk and mixed with crushed or diced pineapple.
- Cream cheese mixed with apricot preserves and topped with ham.
How to Store Boston Brown Bread
Wrap your leftover bread in plastic wrap or foil to prevent it from drying out. The bread will stay fresh at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To Freeze: When completely cool, wrap the bread tightly, and freeze for up to 3 months.
What Goes With New England Brown Bread?
Boston brown bread is perfect served the traditional way alongside baked beans and/or hot dogs. A warming dinner for a cold winter’s night.
Also for dinner, the bread goes well with any of these meals:
Favorite Quick Bread Recipes
- Apple Bread
- Banana Nut Bread
- Cracker Barrel Biscuits
- Red Lobster Biscuits
- Rhubarb Bread
- Sour Cream Cornbread
- Starbucks Banana Bread
- Starbucks Pumpkin Bread
- Zucchini Bread
Check out more of my easy bread recipes and family favorite recipes here on CopyKat!
Many thanks to Sue A. Mertens Minick, a family member from Hazelwood, MO, for this recipe.
Boston Brown Bread
- 16 ounces raisins
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cup boiling water
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a heatproof bowl, combine the raisins, butter, baking soda, and boiling water. Let it sit overnight to plump up the raisins.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the raisin mixture, and mix well. The batter will be very thick.
- Transfer the batter into tin cans (Campbell’s chunky soup size) that have been greased with shortening, until they are 3/4 full. This should yield about 6 cans.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until done.
- Remove from oven and let cool for a while before taking the cakes out of the cans.
I always thought brown bread was made with molasses? I’ve been eating it for years and could have sworn it had molasses…..
Some recipes may have molasses in them, this is my family’s recipe, and they didn’t use it.
There are lots of food bloggers like this but the best food blog “Boston Brown Bread” is yours. I will try to make it like you.
can this be made in a bread machine???
You could, the texture may be different.
This recipe is nearly identical to my maternal grandmothers recipe, except she used dates instead of raisins. A Christmas tradition for our family 😋
I am in love with this bread!
My Kids Loved This Recipe. Thank You…!
Loved how moist this bread was.
thank you for this wonderful recipe, really great work done here.
Hi Stephanie! Any ideas as to what to use for molds now that cans aren’t cans anymore? Lona Bremer
I have bread pans that are tubular with caps on each end! How much should I put into the can? Thanks!
Could you use loaf pans instead of the soup cans?
can you use loaf pans instead of soup cans?
A nice one indeed. Cooking is an art and your recipes are truly the best. Love cooking with your recipes.
Thank you very much.
A nice one there. Indeed. Thanks for all the efforts you put in for these recipes. 🙂