Healthy Hot Cross Buns Recipe

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If you are looking for a heavenly and easy healthy hot cross buns recipe made with whole grains for a nice Easter surprise, look no further.

These whole wheat healthy hot cross buns are incredibly well-received, sweet, soft, and very tasty.

Four Healthy Hot Cross Buns sit on a baking pan with a bowl of marmalade.

What Are Hot Cross Buns?

Hot cross buns are a type of sweet, spiced bun that is typically made with currants or raisins and marked with a symbolic cross on the top. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday and are well known as a traditional Easter food.

The bun itself is made from a dough that is enriched with milk, butter, sugar, and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Currants or raisins are typically added to the dough, giving the buns a sweet, fruity flavor. The cross on top of the bun is usually made of icing or flour and water paste.

Hot cross buns are often toasted and served with butter and are a popular Easter treat in many countries. They are also sometimes enjoyed throughout the year as a sweet snack or breakfast food.

What Do Healthy Hot Cross Buns Taste Like?

These healthy hot cross buns are soft with juicy raisins and a warm blend of spices. The combination of nutmeg and cinnamon adds a warm, sweet flavor, while the sweetener provides a subtle caramel-like taste. The icing on top gives the buns a sweet and sticky finish.

A cut Healthy Hot Cross Bun sits on a white surface next to two whole buns and a small bowl of marmalade.

History Of Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are a traditional British Easter food with a history that can be traced back several centuries. The exact origin of hot cross buns is uncertain, but they are believed to have been first made by the Saxons, who marked cakes with a cross in honor of the goddess Eostre.

In medieval times, hot cross buns were sold by street vendors in England, who would shout out “hot cross buns” to attract customers. The buns were popular during Lent, as they were made without dairy products or eggs, which were forbidden during this time.

In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I passed a law that restricted the sale of sweet buns to funerals and on Good Friday, Christmas, and Easter. This law helped to solidify the association of hot cross buns with Easter.

Hot cross buns were traditionally made with currants or raisins and flavored with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. The cross on top of the bun was made with a paste of flour and water and was meant to represent the Christian cross.

In more recent times, the recipe for hot cross buns has been adapted to include a variety of different ingredients, including chocolate, orange peel, and cranberries. The buns are still a popular Easter treat in the UK and other parts of the world and are often eaten toasted with butter.

Six hot cross buns sit lined up on a baking pan with raisins sprinkled around them.

Are Hot Cross Buns Healthy?

Generally speaking, they are more like dessert when purchased at the store. Store-bought hot cross buns have become sickeningly sweet here in the states. So if you want something closer to the real thing, you’ll need to make them yourself.

Much of what makes hot cross buns unhealthy is the sugar and fat content. But this recipe reduces the fat content, uses whole grains, and gives you options for different, unprocessed sweeteners you can use. So nutritionally, they are much healthier.

Are Hot Cross Buns Fattening?

They can be, but they don’t have to be. Depending on your dietary focus, these will be just fine in moderation.

An overhead view of hot cross buns on a baking pan with raisins strewn around them and a bowl of jam sits to the side.

Need To Make These Healthy Hot Cross Buns Gluten-Free?

You can use different flours for making these healthy hot cross buns. But the buns will change a bit with each one. Options for gluten-free flour include:

  • Rice flour
  • Almond flour
  • Almond meal
  • Coconut flour
  • Corn flour
  • Potato flour
  • Bean flour (e.g. chickpea flour or fava bean flour)
  • Sorghum flour

The above-mentioned flours can be used to make gluten-free baked goods that are just as delicious and satisfying as traditional baked goods made with wheat flour. But typically, they are used in a combination of several of these. Rarely can you use a single, gluten-free flour and have it work well as a substitute. So if you can’t purchase a gluten-free flour blend, your best bet is to start mixing. That being said, I do not have a recipe yet for a clean, gluten-free flour blend. I may need to try a few out…

Tip For Making Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns

  • If you use a gluten-free blend, make sure to use one that is formulated for baking. Regular gluten-free flour may not produce the desired results.
Healthy Hot Cross Buns sit on a baking pan lined up with one bun cut. The top rests to the side of the bun.

Recipe Additions

  1. If you like, you can add 1 tbsp. orange zest and/or lemon zest.
  2. Add chopped walnuts or pecans.
  3. You can add a quarter teaspoon of allspice for a heavier spice flavor.

About The Ingredients

Milk – Any type of milk can be used for this recipe, such as cow’s milk, or unsweetened non-dairy milk such as unsweetened oat milk or almond milk.

Icing sugar – Also known as powdered sugar or confectioners sugar, it is a finer texture than granulated sugar and is commonly used for making frosting and icing. Because it can be tough to find a clean version of this, I recommend purchasing unprocessed sugar such as Sucanat or coconut sugar and blending it into powdered sugar yourself in a blender or spice grinder. I personally used an Erythritol blend because that’s what works best for my blood sugar. Monk fruit would be another blood sugar-friendly option.

Raisins – You can use either regular raisins or golden raisins. Your choice. And if you don’t like raisins, you can leave them out completely. Or you can substitute with candied lemon or orange peel if you don’t mind the processed sugar.

Yeast – This is a type of fungus that is used as a leavening agent in baking. It helps to make the dough rise and become lighter and airier. Opt for active dry yeast when purchasing.

Butter – You can use dairy or non-dairy butter for this.

Unprocessed sugar – The options for this are Sucanat, coconut sugar, maple sugar, or monk fruit.

Ground cinnamon – Make sure it’s just cinnamon. That there is no added sugar mixed with it.

Eggs – These work best if brought to room temperature before using them.

Salt – Opt for a healthier salt here such as kosher salt, sea salt, or pink Himalayan salt.

How To Make Healthy Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross bun recipe ingredients on a white surface, in individual bowls.

Gather and measure all ingredients.

Dry ingredients sitting in a mixing bowl with a whisk.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, yeast, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until they are well combined.

Adding sweetener to milk in a mixing bowl.
A few pats of butter sitting in a bowl of milk.
Whisked milk mixture in a mixing bowl.

In a microwave-safe cup, combine the milk, sweetener, and butter. Microwave for 1 minute until the butter is melted. Stir the mixture to ensure that everything is well combined.

Adding wet ingredients to dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Raw, hot cross bun batter sitting in a mixing bowl with a whisk.

With a mixing bowl and a whisk… or a stand mixer with a dough hook on low speed, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture.

Hot cross bun batter with an egg sitting on top of the raw batter in a mixing bowl.
An egg and a small pile of raisins sits on raw hot cross bun batter, waiting to be mixed in.
Hot cross bun batter with raisins mixed in.

Add one egg and the raisins. Increase the speed to medium and blend for 2 minutes until the mixture is thick and smooth. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour. This will allow the yeast to activate. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

6 uncooked hot cross buns sitting in a parchment-lined baking pan.

Divide the dough into 6 to 8 equal pieces and shape each piece into a round. Place the buns on the prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, beat the second egg and brush it over the top of each bun. Let the buns rise for an additional 20 minutes.

Just baked hot cross buns cooling in a baking pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Milk and powdered sweetener sit in idividual bowls on a white surface.
A mixing bowl sits with icing and a whisk inside it.

While the buns are baking, make the icing by mixing the icing sugar and 2 teaspoons of milk. Spoon the icing into a small plastic bag and snip off one corner to create a piping bag.

Hot cross buns sit in their baking pan with fresh icing crossed spooned over the top of each bun.

Once the buns are ready, remove them from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Then pipe a glaze cross over each bun.

A female hand picks up a finished hot cross bun off of a baking pan.

Serve the warm buns with melted butter or your favorite spread and enjoy!

Reheating

You can warm these in an oven set to 325 F. until they are warmed through, or you can microwave them for 30 seconds to a minute.

How Long Do Homemade Healthy Hot Cross Buns Last?

These can be left on the counter for up to 2 days.

They will keep in the fridge for up to 5 or 6 days if packed well.

Can Hot Cross Buns Be Frozen?

Yes, they can! Pack them well in an airtight container and store them in the freezer for up to 2 months. They do best if frozen individually.

Recipe Supplies

Baking pan sold on Amazon. (Affiliate link)
Basting brush set sold on Amazon. (Affiliate link)
Cooling rack set sold on Amazon. (Affiliate link)

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Four Healthy Hot Cross Buns sit on a baking pan with a bowl of marmalade.

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Delicious hot cross buns made healthier.
No ratings yet
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: English
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Rise Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 6 buns
Calories: 326kcal
Author: The Gracious Pantry

Equipment

  • 1 baking tray or sheet
  • 1 pastry brush
  • 1 cooling rack (or similar)
  • 1 measuring cups or scale

Ingredients

  • cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¾ cup milk (plus 2 tsp. for icing)
  • ½ cup powdered granular sweetener (see suggestions above)
  • ½ cup raisins (regular or golden)
  • ½ tbsp. yeast
  • 2 tbsp. butter (regular or dairy-free)
  • cup granular sweetener (see suggestions above)
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  •  ¾ tsp. salt

Instructions

  • Gather and measure all ingredients.
    Hot cross bun recipe ingredients on a white surface, in individual bowls.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until they are well combined.
    Dry ingredients sitting in a mixing bowl with a whisk.
  • In a microwave-safe cup, combine the milk, sweetener, and butter. Microwave for 1 minute until the butter is melted. Stir the mixture to ensure that everything is well combined.
    Whisked milk mixture in a mixing bowl.
  • With a mixing bowl and a whisk… or a stand mixer with a dough hook on low speed, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture.
    Adding wet ingredients to dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  • Add one egg and the raisins. Increase the speed to medium and blend for 2 minutes until the mixture is thick and smooth. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour. This will allow the yeast to activate. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    Hot cross bun batter with raisins mixed in.
  • Divide the dough into 6 to 8 equal pieces and shape each piece into a round. Place the buns on the prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, beat the second egg and brush it over the top of each bun. Let the buns rise for an additional 20 minutes.
    6 uncooked hot cross buns sitting in a parchment-lined baking pan.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until they are golden brown.
    Just baked hot cross buns cooling in a baking pan.
  • While the buns are baking, make the icing by mixing the icing sugar and 2 teaspoons of milk. Spoon the icing into a small plastic bag and snip off one corner to create a piping bag.
    A mixing bowl sits with icing and a whisk inside it.
  • Once the buns are ready, remove them from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Then pipe a cross over each bun.
    Hot cross buns sit in their baking pan with fresh icing crossed spooned over the top of each bun.
  • Serve the warm buns with melted butter or your favorite spread and enjoy!
    A female hand picks up a finished hot cross bun off of a baking pan.

Notes

Please note that the nutrition data given here is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible.

Nutrition

Serving: 1bun | Calories: 326kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 361mg | Potassium: 291mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 260IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 2mg

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