It’s very nearly Easter and one of the things my family loves at this time of year (apart from the copious amounts of chocolate eggs…) is hot cross buns. Being gluten-free and vegan, these gorgeous spiced buns have sadly been off-limits to me and each year I watch enviously as my family indulge. This year will be different – no more watching from the sidelines for me as I have developed this gloriously gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free recipe so that everyone can now indulge in this delightful Easter tea-time treat.
Why You Will LOVE This Recipe!
- These hot cross buns are soft, bouncy, perfectly spiced and fruity.
- Quite different to shop bought free-from versions which always seem to be super sweet sticky cake-like things. These are the traditional bready kind with just a touch of sweetness.
- Simple to prepare but oh so satisfying. Even my 8 and 10 year old daughters can make these hot cross buns (and it includes division practice when they have to weigh the dough and divide it by 9 buns so it's like a maths lesson at the same time!)
It took endless batches to get this gluten-free and vegan hot cross bun recipe just right. With all this experimentation, I have found a few important rules for making these buns.
- Creaming the yeast (mixing it with a little sugar and water for a few minutes before adding to the other ingredients) is vitally important for a fluffy light texture.
- Leave the flax mixture soaking for 10-15 minutes but only leave the yeast mixture for 5 minutes (no longer!). You need the flax to fully absorb the liquid but you don’t want the yeast to grow too much in the cup so that it doesn’t have enough energy in the main bun mixture to give it the lift it needs.
- Use a muffin tin to cook the buns rather than the traditional square roasting tin. This tip is a complete game changer! I had been trying to make them the normal way all squidged together in a brownie tin but instead of rising up they seemed to just spread out! So, I got flat little buns that tasted nice but were too thin. Making them in a muffin tin ensures that all the yeast’s energy works to make the bun rise UP rather than out!
- Weigh the dough and divide it equally to make the same size buns. This helps to ensure even cooking so that you don’t end up with one little burnt one and one big undercooked one!
- These buns are best eaten on the day of baking as they harden up quickly. If you want to eat them the next day, they are better cut in half and lightly toasted. Alternatively, you could warm them up in the oven or air fryer for a few minutes before eating.
Admittedly, these buns are not as healthy as my regular recipes but it is a once a year treat! They contain a small amount of caster sugar (it is difficult to replicate the lightness with any other sugar) and I use a refined gluten-free flour mix (to ensure everyone following the recipe gets the same result).
Personally, I’d rather have a home-made version that contains natural high-quality ingredients and the amounts of sugar and spice controlled exactly to my liking than gorge on shop-bought super-sweet versions containing questionable ingredients (especially the allergen-friendly ones!).
- Ground Flax Seeds - When mixed with water, these amazing seeds do the job that an egg would normally do. You could substitute with egg replacer instead, if you prefer. Obviously, if you are not vegan or egg-free, you can substitute with 1 ½ eggs instead too!
- Quick Yeast - By this, I mean the dried active yeast that comes as a powder and you mix with water to activate it. I use the Dove's Farm Quick Yeast which is gluten-free and very easy to use.
- Gluten-Free Plain Flour - For ease and consistency, I have used the Dove’s Farm gluten free plain flour blend in this recipe so that it is easy for you to use exactly the same flour and get exactly the same results. All flours give slightly different results so it is hard to get a consistent result from a gluten-free recipe without using exactly the same flour. You could, I'm sure, use something like the Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour blend or something similar but I have not tried this myself. Alternatively, I’m sure you could experiment with your own blend of gluten free flours, like rice, oat, sorghum and tapioca or arrowroot flour if you prefer. Just make sure to work on a ratio of around ⅔ wholegrain flours (like rice, oat, sorghum) and ⅓ starches (like arrowroot, tapioca, cornstarch, potato starch).
- Baking Powder - This helps with the rise. Do make sure not to use a level teaspoon (not heaped) as it can give a soapy taste if you use too much. Also, be careful to ensure that you use gluten-free baking powder as commercial baking powder often contains gluten.
- Vegan Butter - I use the Earth Balance vegan butter which works well in this recipe. If you are not vegan or dairy-free, you could of course use regular butter.
- Mixed Spice - This is essential for the wonderful spiced flavour. You could use your own mixture of spices if you prefer but I would say cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves would be essential!
- Currants and Mixed Peel - I am not a huge fan of raisins, so I prefer the smaller little currants in my hot cross buns. I absolutely love mixed peel though and try to cut it into similar sized pieces as the currants, for consistency. Feel free to change the amounts of these ingredients or to change to other dried fruits that you prefer.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full list of ingredients and their quantities.
How To Make These Hot Cross Buns
Although there are a few steps to making these vegan gluten-free hot cross buns, each step is simple and quick so please don't be put off by the length of the recipe card!
- First, you soak the ground flax seeds in the milk for about 10-15 minutes. While waiting, get a muffin tin and spread a little vegan butter around 9 of the muffin holes.
- Mix the yeast with a teaspoon of caster sugar and a little water and set aside for 5 minutes. This is called "creaming" the yeast and really helps to give the hot cross buns a lighter texture. Make sure you do not leave it longer than 5 minutes though, as it will use up more of its energy and the buns won't get the benefit of it. The longer you leave it, the less effective the yeast will be at giving that lift.
Making the dough in a food processor:
- Mix the flours, salt, baking powder and mixed spice in a food processor. Then add the vegan butter and caster sugar and whizz for around 20 seconds in the food processor until it looks well combined but still like a breadcrumb consistency.
- Add the flax mixture and the yeast mixture and whizz again until just combined. Then transfer the mixture into a bowl and mix in the currants and mixed peel (or mix together on reverse if using a Thermomix).
Making the dough by hand:
- Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together well. Then add the butter and sugar and rub together with your fingertips until it become a breadcrumb consistency (much like making pastry - not like making bread!).
- Stir in the flax mixture and the yeast mixture and then mix in the currants and mixed peel.
Shaping and rising:
- Divide the dough into 9 equal sized balls. I find the best way to do this is to weigh the dough then divide that number by 9 and make each ball that 1/9 weight. That way, you know that each bun is exactly the same size and will cook at the same rate.
- Shape each ball with your hands and place in one of the buttered holes on the muffin tray. Press each ball down lightly to lay flat on the base of the muffin tray.
- Once you have shaped all 9 of the buns, lay a damp tea towel over the top (or a bigger roasting tin) and leave it to rise for about 45-60 minutes depending on how hot or cold your kitchen is. Sometimes, if your kitchen is very cold, it's best to pop it in the oven with just the oven light turned on which creates a nice warm environment. Be very careful to make sure no-one turns the oven on while they're in there though!
Making the cross and baking:
- When the buns have risen by about 50%, pre-heat the oven to 220C (or 200C / 400F in a fan oven). If your buns are rising in the oven, make sure you remove them before you turn the oven on!
- Mix together the cross ingredients in a little jug or cup. It needs to be slightly runnier than toothpaste consistency but not too runny as you need to be able to pipe thin lines of it onto the buns. Add enough water to get to the right consistency. Spoon the paste into a piping bags and pipe crosses over each of the buns. You can try doing this directly from the jug but it is quite tricky so I always end up using a piping bag in the end!
- Pop the buns in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 200C/400F (or 180C/350F in a fan oven).
- Bake for 10 minutes then take them out of the oven and brush the tops with a little warmed apricot jam. (I just warm a little jam in the microwave for 30 seconds). Then return to the oven for another 5-8 minutes until browned.
- Once baked, transfer each bun onto a wire rack to cool.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full instructions.
Hot cross buns are best served hot with lashings of vegan butter. If fresh, you can just serve them straight away but they are also delicious sliced in half and toasted!
These hot cross buns are best served on the day of baking. Unfortunately they go dry out rather quickly so I would only keep them in an airtight container for up to 2 days but they are dryer and harder with each passing day. If eating any time other than straight from the oven, you will need to warm them for a few minutes first either in the oven or the air fryer, or slice in half and toast them just as you would a piece of bread. The flavour remains delicious!
Of course you can change the amount you are making but the amount of sugar and plant-based water for creaming the yeast remains the same so it is the overall liquid content and total caster sugar content that needs to change.
Of course! You can swap to substitute each tablespoon of flax seeds for 1 egg and substitute the vegan butter for butter in exactly the same quantity.
Yes! If you don't have a problem with gluten, you can just swap the gluten-free flour for regular plain flour and it will work in the same way.
Traditionally, the cross on top of hot cross buns is made with this mixture of plain flour, water, oil and a pinch of baking powder. This gives a more bread-like bun with only a little sweetness. Nowadays, there are many recipes with icing crosses instead but I prefer this traditional version.
I hope you like these little hot cross buns as much as we do. This Easter I will really enjoy being able to make hot cross buns that the whole family can enjoy and I will be eating mine toasted with a big dollop of vegan butter. Yum!
📖 Recipe 📖
Hot Cross Buns (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan)
- 1.5 tablespoon ground flax seeds
- 170 ml plant-based milk
- 2 teaspoon quick yeast (Dove’s Farm Quick Yeast)
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 360 g gluten-free plain flour (Dove’s Farm Gluten-free Flour Blend)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon mixed spice
- 100 g vegan butter (Earth Balance)
- 2 tablespoon caster sugar
- 60 g currants
- 20 g mixed peel cut into small pieces
Cross paste ingredients:
- 4 tablespoon gluten-free plain flour
- 2 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon oil
- a tiny pinch of baking powder
- 1 tablespoon apricot jam
- Mix the ground flax seeds with the milk in a small jug, then leave for 15 minutes so that the flax can absorb the liquid. While you wait, get the ingredients ready and prepare a muffin tin by spreading butter or vegan butter around 9 muffin holes. Set aside for later.1.5 tablespoon ground flax seeds, 170 ml plant-based milk
- Mix the yeast in a cup with 1 teaspoon caster sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Set aside for 5 minutes.2 teaspoon quick yeast, 1 teaspoon caster sugar, 1 tablespoon water
- In the bowl of a food processor, measure out the flour, salt, baking powder and mixed spice and pulse a few times to ensure even mixture of the ingredients and no lumps in the flour (or sieve the ingredients into a bowl and mix with a spoon). (Thermomix: 5 secs. / sp. 5)360 g gluten-free plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon mixed spice
- Then add the butter / vegan butter and caster sugar and whizz for 20 seconds or so until it is well combined and looks like small breadcrumbs (Thermomix: 20 secs. / sp. 4). Stop whizzing before it clumps together too much. If making by hand, you will need to rub the butter and sugar in with your fingertips as if you are making pastry.100 g vegan butter, 2 tablespoon caster sugar
- Add the flax mixture and the yeast mixture and whizz again for a few seconds until combined. (Thermomix: 10 secs. / sp. 4 then scrape down with a spatula and stir) (or stir in and mix by hand). Then empty the mixture into a bowl and mix in the currants and mixed peel by hand, with slightly oiled hands to make sure the dough doesn’t stick to you. (Thermomix: 20 secs. / REV sp. 4)60 g currants, 20 g mixed peel
- Divide the dough into 9 equal sized amounts (around 87g each) and shape each into a little ball with your hands and place each one into the buttered muffin tin holes. Press each bun down lightly so that it fills the base of the hole. Then cover with a damp tea towel or a bigger roasting tin. Leave until it has risen by about 50% (about 45-60 minutes).
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan oven).
- When the oven is hot and the buns have risen, mix together the cross ingredients. It should be slightly runnier than toothpaste consistency so add a touch more water if necessary. Spoon the paste into a piping bag and pipe crosses over the buns. Put the buns in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 200°C (180°C fan oven).4 tablespoon gluten-free plain flour, 2 tablespoon water, 1 teaspoon oil, a tiny pinch of baking powder
- Bake for 10 minutes then take them out of the oven and brush the tops with apricot jam. Put them back in the oven for another 5-8 minutes until browned.1 tablespoon apricot jam
- Remove from the oven and pop them out of the tin onto a wire rack to cool.
- Once cooked and cooled, the buns will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two but will go harder each day so they’re best consumed on the day of baking and only toasted if any later.
- Making the buns in a muffin tin is a game changer for gluten-free hot cross buns that lack the structural support of gluten versions. You can make these buns in a normal square brownie tin instead but you will find they spread out rather than rise up. They still taste delicious but they are flatter than the ones made in individual muffin moulds.
- If you change the quantity of this recipe, you will still need to cream the yeast in a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of water, even if the quantity is smaller.
Please click here to see the hot cross buns web story for this recipe.
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