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Healthy Hot Cross Buns – Lighter with Whole Wheat

Hot Cross Buns are an Easter tradition. These Healthy Hot Cross Buns are a lighter version of the traditional buns, and are made with whole wheat. Just like the original this too is filled with spices and dried fruit. Egg Free

Hot Cross Buns resting on a cooling rack.

It is that time again when you start to wake up to birds singing outside the window. It is definitely spring, whether officially acknowledged or not. Mind you, this is also the season when the eyes are watery and the nose is itchy, but that is not what this post is about.

Our favorite this season is the hot cross buns. We end up baking hot cross buns a few times in March and April. Today’s version is a healthy makeover of the traditional Hot Cross Buns. This one is not as pretty as I wanted it to be, but still just as delicious.

Two buns and a cup of coffee on a white plate.

 What makes these Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns Healthier?

These healthy hot cross buns are made with part whole wheat flour and contain less butter and sugar. So they have more fiber and less fat and processed sugar. Now if you are allergic to eggs, or avoiding eggs for any other reason, this is the recipe for you – these buns are indeed egg-free. 

Hot Cross buns on a cooling rack. Image with caption "Light and healthy hot cross Buns"

Ingredients for Healthy Hot Cross Buns                       

This bread is made with the usual pantry ingredients for bread and some spices and dried fruit.


The dough is made with a mix of whole wheat and white flour. Use unbleached high-protein flours for the spongiest results. When it comes to whole wheat the best results are obtained from white whole wheat or atta (Indian whole wheat flour). Both of these are ground fine and interferes less with the gluten formation.


Sugar and dried fruit makes this bread lightly sweet. Raisins, dried cranberries, currants, cherries, dried apples, plums, apricots, etc can be used. Use one or a mix. The types of fruit you choose will alter the taste and sugar content somewhat. So choose the ones you like


A variety of spices are used in this recipe. The recipe calls for Allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. But you can add cardamom, ginger, cloves etc as well.


I use active dry yeast. Usually, one has to activate this yeast before adding to the flour for the best results. If using instant yeast skip this step and all ingredients to the flour directly.

A collage images detailing the bread making process.

Making the Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns

The dough is a lightly sweetened and more moist version of the soft sandwich loaf. Whole wheat can absorb more moisture than white flour.  The dried fruits mixed into the dough also absorbs some extra moisture. 

Bulk Proof aka First Rise

Add the fruits towards the end of kneading – and knead for only a minute or so, just long enough to distribute the fruits evenly. Form the dough into a ball, cover, and let it rest till doubled. It usually takes a little more than an hour in a warm environment.

Shape and Final Proof

Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and divide it into 12 equal portions. Form each into a ball and arrange in a baking tin about 1 cm apart. Cover and let these rise for about 30 minutes, or until almost doubled in volume.

Adding the Pastry Cross

If planning to place the cross there are a few options. One is a simple pastry cross that you pipe on top of the buns just before baking. The other option is to pipe on an icing sugar cross over the baked buns.

Pastry crosses are simple – mix in flour, water, and some sugar to a thick paste and pipe over the buns. A ratio of 3 to 4 tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water is my usual proportion. Pipe the crosses on just before putting the buns in the oven.

Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns

These buns above have a thin pastry cross. While the one below sport a thicker pastry cross and egg free coating to make the top darker and shinier.

Buns on a parchment paper.

To get the darker shinier crust without eggs, brush the tops of the buns with any nut milk or a little maple syrup.


While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 375°F. Place a small metal tray in the bottom rack of the oven. Place some ice cubes in a metal tray as the buns are placed in the oven. Reduce the heat to 350°F as soon as the buns are in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes till the tops of the buns are lightly browned.

Remove the buns from the oven and lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Two buns and a cup of coffee on a white plate.

Healthy Hot Cross Buns

By Syama
A lighter version of the traditional hot cross buns made with whole wheat flour. These buns are egg free and have less butter nd sugar than the regular versions. It is still loaded with dried fruit and and spices and incredibly flavorful.
No ratings yet
Course Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine British
Calories 270 kcal


  • 3 C Unbleached All Purpose or Bread Flour 350g
  • 1 1/2 C White Whole Wheat or Atta 180g
  • 2 Tbsp Butter 30g
  • 2 Tbsp Honey / Sugar 25g
  • 1 1/2 C Milk 360g
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Fine Sea Salt 9g
  • 2 1/4 Tsp Active Dry Yeast 1 Packet/ 7g
  • 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tsp All Spice
  • 1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 C Mixed Dry Fruits See Notes

Pastry Cross

  • 4 Tbsp AP Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Milk
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar


  • 1/2 C Powdered Sugar
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp Water/Milk

Optional Glaze

  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup/ Nut Milk/ Honey


  • Warm the milk to 110°F or just warm to touch. Mix in 1 Tablespoon of honey/ sugar to 1/4 C milk and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes and the yeast should activate and bubble up.
  • Take the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the spices and mix thoroughly. Make a well in the center of the flour pile and add the yeast mixture. Slowly add the milk little by little while mixing in the flour and milk. All the flour should come together into a slightly sticky mass. Add the butter and knead for about 10 minutes. The dough should become smoother and softer. It should be a little wet and very soft but not sticky. If it is sticky add a few more tablespoons of flour and knead.
  • Add the dried fruits to the dough and knead for a minute to distribute the fruits evenly. Cover and set aside to double in a warm place. About an hour or more.
  • Punch down the dough and divide into 12 equal portions. Form each portion into a ball. The balls may not be very smooth as the fruits tend to stretch the dough in uneven shapes.
  • Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • If looking for darker color brush the tops of the buns with maple syrup, nut milk or honey.
  • If making a pastry cross, mix the ingredients for the cross to a thick paste and place in a piping bag. Just before putting the buns in the oven pipe the crosses on the buns.
  • After placing the buns in the oven turn down the temperature to 350°F (175°C). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the tops are lightly browned.
  • Remove from the oven and brush with butter immediately. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.
  • If making the icing crosses, mix the icing sugar with just enough water or milk to make a thick paste. Pipe the icing over the cooled buns.
  • Freeze or serve the same day.


  • The measurements used as based on 250 ml cup.
  • Use your favorite combination of dried fruits – (Sour Cherry, Blue Berries, Golden Raisins, Cranberries, Apricots , Currants etc.).
  • Honey and  maple syrup  will give the  crust darker color compared to nut milks.  


Serving: 1bun | Calories: 270kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 6.5g | Fat: 2.7g | Saturated Fat: 1.3g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 250mg | Potassium: 259mg | Fiber: 3.6g | Sugar: 17.4g | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 2mg

Important: Nutrition Values are estimates. Actuals vary based on ingredients and serving size.

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Notes  for bread  nerds

The  flour is  used in  2:1   ratio of AP/Bread Flour to  WW by weight.     The   dough hydration is  around 68%. Yeast at 2%  and  salt at 2% by weight.

Feeling more traditional ? Try these recipes.

Hot Cross Buns
Traditional Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Bun Loaf
Hot Cross Buns Loaf

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