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Boston Brown Bread

Can you make bread in a tin can? Yes! Try this recipe for Boston Brown Bread from the Epicurious site. It’s a unique rye bread recipe steamed in a tin can such as a coffee container.

Boston Brown Bread baked in a can then sliced on cutting board

Baking with Rye Flour

Rye flour was previously not in my pantry but I learned that I should bake with it more often. Rye is high in fiber, a good source of magnesium as well as a host of other nutrients.

Quick breads

This bread baked in a tin falls under the category of quick breads– bread recipes baked without yeast. Baking soda is the leavening agent in this bread recipe. Enjoy all of my quick bread recipe collection!

What ingredients are in traditional Boston Brown Bread?

  • rye flour
  • wheat flour
  • cornmeal
  • molasses
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • milk
  • raisins (optional)

Steamed Boston Brown Bread Recipe

For a rye bread to share today, I settled on this recipe for Boston Brown Bread from the Epicurious site.  It’s a unique bread steamed in a tin can such as a coffee container. Now I’ve seen episodes of cooking shows where the contestants are given a mystery ingredient of “bread in a can” and then challenged to create a tasty dish. I was concerned that baking bread in a can on purpose might not have a great result but I was happily proved wrong.

Boston Brown Bread History

There were many recipes online and nearly all had the same ratio of one part each of rye flour, whole wheat flour and cornmeal. A quick search for a history lesson taught me that rye and cornmeal were more widely available at one point and so bakers came up with this mixture of flours for their breads. Tins were a readily accessible vessel and steaming the dough was a method that home bakers could master.

One challenge for me was finding a coffee tin (or any other tin!) that was made from metal– so many of our goods are stored in sturdy cardboard containers.

A bit of luck and a tin can appeared when my relatives who were visiting from England brought some treats and one was a tall tin of crackers. Unfortunately, I wrongly assumed this was a metal tin and didn’t realize my error until I had my ingredients mixed and ready to go.

I proceeded anyway and had no major failures but I would suggest to wrap the bottom half of such a cardboard container in tin foil first to provide a barrier between the water and the cardboard. It was fun to have this round, cylindrical bread for a change.

You’ll notice in the comments below that a reader mentioned that she uses a large, wide-mouthed mason jar as a baking vessel. Using a canning jar (and not any old glass jar) sounds like a good idea. Canning jars are already made to withstand high heat and should be fine in the oven’s heat.

Here are other homemade bread recipes you’ll enjoy:

Is this traditional Boston Brown Bread recipe familiar? I’ve love to learn if this is mainly a New England specialty or if its popularity has spread.

Yield: 1 loaf

Boston Brown Bread

Boston Brown bread baked in a can

Try this baking experiment and bake directly in a can to make this round loaf of Boston Brown Bread.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter for greasing
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. You'll need a tin can like a 1-pound coffee can or other similar vessel. Also you will need a deep pan suitable for baking into which you'll put the tin can while it bakes.
  2. Spray the tin can with baking spray. If your can is not made of metal cover the bottom half of it with aluminum foil.
  3. Gently whisk the rye flour, whole wheat flour, and cornmeal, as well as the baking soda and salt. Mix in the molasses and milk then add the raisins.
  4. Pour the batter into the mold. Cover the top with aluminum foil and secure with twine.
  5. Put your filled can into a deep baking dish in the oven, then take boiling water and pour it into the dish a few inches deep. *Note-- it is easier to fill the dish with water while the dish is in the oven RATHER than filling the dish on a counter top and walking with the boiling water filled dish to the oven.
  6. Bake for two hours. The recipe suggests letting the bread sit for an hour then unmolding but I chose to unmold after about ten minutes. If the bread has pulled slightly away from the sides of your container you should be fine to empty it out to cool. I did this since my container was made of cardboard rather than metal and I didn't want the wet cardboard touching the bread as it cooled.


Source: Epicurious

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 138Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 252mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 2gSugar: 13gProtein: 3g

This data is provided by Nutritionix and is an estimate only.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Barbara T

Sunday 17th of February 2019

Instead of tin cans use 1 pint wide mouth canning jars used for canning jams and jellies. They are the same size and shape of a 16 oz tin can. They are non reactive and because they are used in canning are able to withstand the cooking technique used for this recipe. They can be purchased in most hardware stores or on Amazon by the 1 dozen case for about $12.

Holly Baker

Sunday 17th of February 2019

Thanks for this tip! I have not baked with mason jars before but think it is a good idea. I assume the WIDE mouth jars are the key because the bread can still slide out after it is baked? Thanks for pointing that out.

Laura@Baking in Pyjamas

Thursday 15th of January 2015

I'd never heard of Boston brown bread before until this month's challenge, I love the sound of it as I like raisins in my bread. Great unique method of baking it in a tin, it looks fabulous.


Wednesday 14th of January 2015

I loved the form of bread, which most great idea of baking in a tin !!

Holly F

Wednesday 14th of January 2015

Yes! If you have coffee cans, set one aside to bake this bread. Hope you find time to bake this brown bread.

Cindys Recipes and Writings

Tuesday 13th of January 2015

I must try this bread baked in a can. I love the look!

Holly F

Wednesday 14th of January 2015

Finding the right can is the hardest part-- the bread is mixed up quickly and there is very little hands-on time for this recipe.

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