Healthy Hot Cross Buns

The ultimate Easter bake made healthy – these Healthy Hot Cross Buns are enriched with buttermilk and naturally sweetened with fruit and agave syrup – delicious !

Creme eggs and mini eggs picked up in the UK meant OH was sorted but Easter for me wouldn’t be complete without a Hot Cross Bun and they’re not available locally to us in France. I’ve baked Hot Cross Buns every Easter with the recipe from English Teatime Treats but this year it was time for a change. After experimenting with a healthier version of carrot cake muffins and with Easter just around the corner, my thoughts turned to combining the two. How good would it be if we could tuck into a guilt free Easter treat ? To acknowledge the irony of this question, I mean the sense of ‘calorific guilt’ and not the spiritual redemption at the heart of the Easter message.

These Healthy Hot Cross Buns are possibly the best Hot Cross Buns ever, enriched with buttermilk and naturally sweetened with fruit and agave syrup – easily substituted with maple syrup or honey. The grated eating apple not only adds sweetness but an extra moistness too, whilst the reduced orange juice plumps up the sultanas into bursts of sweet juiciness. I used one third whole wheat flour in the recipe – you could make the proportion higher if you like but I reckon one third is just right to keep these Healthy Hot Cross Buns nice and light. Even though mixed peel is a traditional ingredient, I’ve listed it as an option for the recipe because it contains extra sugar. For me the orange zest was enough to give a citrus hit and I didn’t miss the mixed peel.

These Healthy Hot Cross Buns have no added fat so you can indulge yourself and spread them with a touch of butter, especially as butter is no longer such the big bad wolf of spreads !
This recipe has become a firm favourite here at the Kitchen Shed and I won’t be making Hot Cross Buns any other way from now on. I reckon the Kitchen Shed oven is going to be extra busy over the next few weeks baking even more for friends both French and English.












To get a professional looking finish, apply your hot cross pastry using a piping bag. Pipe all your vertical lines first and then pipe the horizontal lines to form crosses.


5.0 from 8 reviews
Healthy Hot Cross Buns
Prep time
Cook time
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The ultimate Easter bake made healthy. These Healthy Hot Cross Buns are enriched with buttermilk and naturally sweetened with fruit and agave syrup - delicious !
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Home Baking
Serves: 16

  • Zest and juice of an orange
  • 75 g (½ cup) sultanas
  • 25 g (2 tablespoons) mixed peel (optional)
  • 325 ml (1 ⅓ cup) buttermilk (or half yoghurt and half milk)
  • 1 dessert apple - grated
  • 6 tablespoons agave syrup (can substitute with honey or maple syrup)
  • 350 g (2 ½ cups) strong white plain flour
  • 150 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour (I used Elephant Atta Chakki Gold)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (I used Doves Farm)
  • ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

Hot Cross Pastry:
  • 6 tablespoons plain flour
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons water

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons agave or maple syrup
  1. Place the orange juice in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 3 or 4 minutes to reduce by about half. Add the sultanas (and mixed peel if using) and set to one side.
  2. Warm the buttermilk for one minute on high power in the microwave. Stir in the grated apple and agave syrup.
  3. Add the flours, yeast, bicarb and cinnamon into a large bowl along with the buttermilk mixture and mix together to form a rough dough.
  4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. (Alternatively you can use a stand mixer to knead your dough.)
  5. Spread the dough out into a rectangle and sprinkle over the fruit mixture. Bring the dough back together and knead until the fruit is evenly distributed.
  6. Place the dough in a large greased mixing bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 ½ hours until doubled in size.
  7. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and divide into 16 pieces, approx 75 to 80 g each. Shape into balls and place on a baking tray fairly close together and flatten each ball a little. Cover with greased cling film and prove for one hour in a warm place.
  8. While your Hot Cross Buns are proving, make your hot cross 'pastry.' In real terms, it isn't a pastry at all and is much easier than making and rolling out pastry strips.
  9. Sift the flour into a jug, add the water and mix well until you have a smooth paste.
  10. Preheat your oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6
  11. When your hot cross buns are ready for the oven, pipe or use a spoon to form the crosses on your buns.
  12. Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
  13. Brush with agave or maple syrup for a shiny glaze and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Healthy Hot Cross Buns freeze well.


Pin Healthy Hot Cross Buns for later:

The ultimate Easter bake made healthy. These Healthy Hot Cross Buns are enriched with buttermilk and naturally sweetened with fruit and agave syrup - delicious !

I’m entering Healthy Hot Cross Buns to a few food challenges this month:

And linking to:

Fiesta Fridays , Sunday Fitness Food Link Up co hosted by Marathons & Motivation and Ilkas Blog


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64 thoughts on “Healthy Hot Cross Buns”

  • I make your recipe every week in my bread machine. I’m pressed for time so I make it into a loaf and it is glorious. Thank you! I fast once a week on bread and water and your bread has helped me do it joyfully. May God bless you.

  • Pingback: BEST Easter Hot Cross Buns! | Hayeon. Naomi. Lim
  • What beautiful looking buns! I love that they are enriched with buttermilk – I think it adds so much to the flavor and texture of baked goods!

  • Wow, these sounds and look delicious! I totally need to make these for Easter this year. They will be a huge hit!!

  • They look delicious. I never heard of hot cross buns until I came to the UK many, many years ago. Still I have never tried to make them myself yet. I think it is time to change it this year, thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • I love healthier treats, nice job creating this recipe. Do you think the sultanas could be left out or are they an integral part of hot cross buns? I’ve never had hot cross buns but I don’t like raisins, and I’d love to try this out!

  • Using agave syrup to make these Hot Cross Buns is such a great idea. I’m going to make sure these are on our next holiday dinner table.

  • Your Hot Cross Buns look and sound amazing. I just made some dough this morning but haven’t baked them yet. Mine are not as healthy as yours. Next time I’ll try your recipe instead.

  • This reminds of the nursery rhyme “Hot Cross Buns”. I haven’t had them in a while, and yours look so good like always. Thanks for sharing Sarah!

  • These look more delicious than any store bought buns. I love that you made them with buttermilk and fruit. Yummy! I really want to try these.

    • That’s great to hear Simon and thank you. I made my first hot cross buns of the year last week.

    • Thanks Mandy, glad you like the photos, I’m learning how to use my camera but have so much more to learn.

  • Pingback: Easter Treats & #CookBlogShare March 22-28 – Snap Happy Bakes
  • I love your recipe way more then the original recipe! Even that Easter is gone, I will be making them tomorrow for my birthday! x yes! I can’t wait! x

  • Wow, they look very professional (and put mine to shame somewhat!)
    Thanks so much for sharing with Tea Time Treats 🙂
    Janie x

  • These look so perfect and so delicious too. I’ve left it a bit late to bake hot cross buns now, although I really did mean too. Now, I just want one (or two) of yours.

    • Thanks Choclette, they are delicious. I’m happy to swap a couple of my hot cross buns for a slice or two of your delicious simnel cake x

  • These turned out perfect! they look like they are in a bakery! i’ve never used agave syrup as a substitute before but I will have to try it and see if I notice the difference. I love that these are a healthier alternative to the normal ones too! #YumTum

    • So pleased your hot cross buns turned out perfect for you. I’ve only started using agave syrup this year, I usually use honey or maple syrup as an alternative to refined sugar which work equally as well in the buns but I’m giving a neutral tasting agave a try.

  • Oh these are so gorgeous! I’ve been drooling over them on Instagram & Twitter! I am pinning the recipe as I definitely want to try making them. I love the ingredients – orange sounds amazing in them! Thanks so much for sharing with us at #bloggerclubuk x

  • I would love to try this recipe, do you think will be ok if i use some vegan yogurt and vegan milk ? #BloggerClubUK

    • Lovely, I’ve never used vegan yogurt and milk in a bread dough before but in principle it should work. The reason buttermilk or natural yogurt and milk works so well in the Hot Cross Buns is its acidity, so just to be on the safe side you could add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice with the grated apple. Let me know how you get on and I can add the details to the post x

  • These don’t just sound healthier than normal buns but they sound better! I like the idea of the added apple and orange juices to give a fruit hit and make it less bland than shop bought ones.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe with #BloggerClubUK

  • These look absolutely perfect! I would love to give these a try – fingers crossed I manage to find the time. Thanks for linking up to #CookBlogShare

  • Oh they look great – I really should give them a go as my boys love them (I don’t)Like the tip for making them look good too I probably wouldn’t have thought of that #cookblogshare

  • What a fab recipe – I love the idea of healthy hot cross buns. With all the creme egg madness, it’s good to have a few healthier recipes out there too! Now we just need someone to invent the healthy creme egg and we are sorted! Eb x

  • These look wonderful! Thank you for sharing at the Sunday Fitness and Food Link-Up, I pinned the recipe to try over Easter. Have a Great Week 🙂

    • Thanks Angela, a pleasure to link up with Sunday Fitness and Food. Thanks for pinning & I hope you enjoy Healthy Hot Cross Buns as much as we do 🙂

  • These sound lovely Sarah and they look perfect. I’d be happy to leave out the mixed peel as that’s my least favourite bit anyway.

    I’m surprised you can’t buy hot cross buns in France, I had no idea they were such a British only tradition.

    • Thanks Charlotte, mixed peel isn’t my favourite ingredient either. I’m not sure if they’re available elsewhere in France but you certainly can’t get them here in Brittany, our neighbours look forward to a batch of hot cross buns at Easter, they’re quite a novelty.

  • I love the sound of these Sarah with the added apple and soaked sultanas. The glaze really finishes them off a treat too. It’s been a number of years since I last made hotcross buns, your recipe is enticing me to change that situation.
    Angela x

    • Thanks Angela, you can really taste the difference when you make your own, happy hot cross bun baking x

  • You’ve just reminded me of the healthier hot cross buns I made myself last year, I must make some again. Yours look lovely and I love the sound of what you have in there.

    • Thanks Caroline, the flavours work really well together & so far friends & family have been surprised when I tell them they’re a healthier version.

  • I’m not a fan of candied peel. I just love that you made these with healthy ingredients, though I would never guess by looking at them. What marvelous results!

  • Loving these hot cross buns. There’s just so much goodness in each bite I’m sure. I wonder if I could switch the flours around, in other words 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat and 1 cup of white?

    • Thanks Loretta, switching the flours around would work well, they might not be quite as light but that proportion should still give good results. Let me know how you get on.

    • Thanks Julie, they’ve been a popular bake here at the Kitchen Shed this year, I can’t keep up with the requests.

  • Gorgeous buns Sarah! I always make my own every year too and it’s almost time for me to get my piping bag out! Thanks for adding them to Tea Time Treats! Karen

    • Thanks Jhuls, you’re right, you can’t beat homemade hot cross buns. Always a pleasure to link up and thanks for hosting x

  • Wow, these are the best hot cross buns I’ve ever seen, and so healthy too! With all the flavors of orange and apple, I’m sure these are going to be big hit at the Fiesta this weekend. I’m taking a couple of these to feast on already! Thank you for linking up to FF!

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