Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns

These gluten free hot cross buns are the real deal – wonderfully soft, rich and flavourful, generously packed with dried fruit and incredibly easy to make. You definitely don’t need to miss out on this wonderful Easter treat just because you can’t eat gluten! In fact, these are so incredibly delicious, it’s difficult to even guess that they’re gluten free.

Gluten free hot cross buns on a copper wire cooling rack.

These gluten free hot cross buns have been, without a doubt, one of the most frequently requested recipes lately. Growing up in Slovenia, hot cross buns weren’t really a thing – but now, living in the UK, they’re definitely one of the most popular Easter treats… second only to all sorts of chocolate creme eggs, of course.

And really, what’s not to love about soft, rich buns flavoured with cinnamon and generously studded with dried fruit, finished with a glaze of apricot jam?

This gluten free version is just as delicious as the “regular” buns – it’s just as soft, just as rich, and just as flavourful as the hot cross buns made from wheat flour.

A gluten free hot cross bun, sliced in half, on a small white plate. More gluten free hot cross buns are around it.

Seriously, just look at how soft they are!!

A hand pressing on top of a gluten free hot cross bun, showing how soft it is.

On top of that, these gluten free hot cross buns are also incredibly easy to make. I’ve optimised the recipe to require only a single proof, which cuts down on the total time needed to make them, while still delivering the best possible flavour and texture.

The combination of psyllium husk and xanthan gum gives them the perfect balance of brioche-like soft fluffiness and bready chewiness, while also ensuring that the gluten free dough has enough elasticity to expand and capture the gases produced by the yeast action during proofing.

So, without further ado, let’s make gluten free hot cross buns!

(By the way, if you’re after EVEN MORE amazing gluten free bread recipes (and gluten free baking recipes in general), make sure to check out my book Baked to Perfection you can (pre-)order it here or get your very own signed, personalised copy here!)

Gluten free hot cross buns on a large plate with a bunch of daffodils in the background.

Before we get to the bits and bobs of making these wonderful hot cross buns – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!

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Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.

The ingredients for gluten free hot cross buns

The ingredients required to make these amazing gluten free hot cross buns are pretty much just the regular gluten free pantry staples:

  • tapioca starch (you can use arrowroot starch, potato starch or cornstarch/cornflour instead)
  • millet flour (you can use brown rice flour instead)
  • sorghum flour (you can use buckwheat, white teff or gluten free oat flour instead)
  • whole/rough psyllium husk (gives the buns their bready chewiness and elasticity, just make sure that you use “blond” psyllium husk, as other varieties can sometimes colour your bakes)
  • xanthan gum (helps to give the dough elasticity, as well as a brioche-like springy softness)
  • granulated sugar
  • salt
  • yeast (I used instant yeast but you can use a slightly larger quantity of active dried yeast)
  • cinnamon
  • warm water
  • warm full-fat milk
  • melted butter
  • room temperature egg
  • dried fruit (a mix of sultanas or raisins, and mixed candied lemon and orange peel)

The ingredients for gluten free hot cross buns.

Making gluten free hot cross buns: the dough

Making these gluten free hot cross buns truly couldn’t be easier. Here’s how:

  1. Combine the gluten free flours (tapioca starch, millet flour, sorghum flour), xanthan gum, instant yeast, cinnamon, salt and sugar,
  2. and whisk them all together until evenly combined.
  3. Add the warm milk, melted butter,
  4. egg,
  5. and psyllium gel (that is, the mixture of psyllium husk and water).
  6. Using a wooden spoon, mix well until the dough starts coming together.
  7. Then, knead it by hand until you get a homogeneous dough with no dry patches of un-mixed flour. Just squeeze the dough through your fingers, going around the bowl until you’ve incorporated all the flour.
  8. The final dough will be quite soft and sticky, but should come away from the sides of the bowl.
  9. Add the dried fruit – the sultanas or raisins and the mixed candied peel.
  10. Knead the dried fruit into the dough until evenly distributed.
  11. Transfer the dough onto a generously floured surface and give it a knead until it comes together in a ball. Be careful not to incorporate too much extra flour into the dough.
  12. Roll out the dough into a long log and divide it into 8 equal pieces – I recommend using a scale to get the pieces of equal weight.

The first 6 steps of the 12-step process of making the gluten free hot cross bun dough.

The second 6 steps of the 12-step process of making the gluten free hot cross bun dough.

A side note about the sultanas or raisins: as you’ll see in the recipe, I recommend that you soak/rehydrate them in hot water before using them. This makes them extra plump and juicy, which ultimately results in even more delicious hot cross buns.

I actually tend to do this for most recipes that include sultanas or raisins! If you’re typically not a fan of raisins, I definitely recommend that you try soaking them next time you use them in a recipe – the difference is staggering, and I bet you’ll love them!

Shaping gluten free hot cross buns

Now, because there’s no gluten in these hot cross buns, they will inevitably lack the super smooth surface of hot cross buns made from wheat flour. Gluten free dough simply doesn’t achieve the same high surface tension as wheat-based dough.

That said, however, if you shape these gluten free hot cross buns correctly, you can get very close to the wheat-based result. This requires a bit of practice, but after a batch or two, I’m sure you’ll be a pro at shaping them – plus, the step-by-step photos below should help you with that as well.

So, here’s how you shape the gluten free hot cross buns:

  1. On a lightly floured surface, gently pat down one of the eight pieces of dough until it’s about 1/2 inch (1-1.5cm) thick. It doesn’t have to be a very regular shape, try making it approximately circular.
  2. Then, take the edges of the dough and fold them up and towards the middle.
  3. Pinch the ends together,
  4. until you get something like a pouch.
  5. Turn the ball of dough seam-side down and hold your hand like a claw over it. Move your hand in a small circle over the dough to form it into a tighter ball.
  6. Finally, use the heels of your palms to rotate the ball of dough in place – this further seals the seams and also helps to create the even, round shape of the bun. Repeat with the rest of the dough pieces.

The 6-step process of shaping gluten free hot cross buns.

Again, note that because of the high dried fruit content (in addition to the absence of gluten), you definitely won’t get a perfectly smooth surface on the buns. Don’t worry too much about it, the oven spring after the buns enter the oven will help smooth it out a bit.

Egg washing gluten free hot cross buns and piping the crosses

Once the hot cross buns are shaped:

  1. Transfer them to a large lined baking sheet, at least ¾ inch (2cm) apart from each other. Proof them in a warm spot until approximately doubled in volume, for about 1 hour or so.
  2. Once proofed, brush them lightly with egg wash.
  3. Pipe the crosses on top of the buns (that is, pipe the cross mixture in a line along each row of buns, then pipe in the other, perpendicular direction to create crosses).
  4. And bake!

Egg washing hot cross buns and piping the crosses on top.

To make the crosses, I used a mixture of plain gluten free flour blend, xanthan gum, sunflower oil and water. The xanthan gum gives a little bit of viscosity to the mixture so that it’s easier to pipe and the oil makes sure that once baked, the crosses stay nice and soft (without it, they can sometimes be teeth-breaking hard).

You also want to keep the cross mixture relatively runny – again, that helps to keep it nice and soft even once baked. Also, I don’t recommend using milk instead of water in the cross mixture, as using milk promotes browning in the oven. Using water, on the end, keeps the crosses a lovely off-white colour.

A note on spacing the gluten free hot cross buns on the baking sheet

You don’t want the hot cross buns to be positioned too closely together, as they will expand as they proof.

What’s more, with gluten free hot cross buns, you don’t want them to be packed as closely together as is often the case with wheat-based hot cross buns. After baking, you want them at most lightly touching, and definitely not as closely packed/fused together as, for example, cinnamon rolls.

That’s because you need to get a decent degree of moisture evaporation from the gluten free buns as they bake (otherwise the baked buns will be heavy and a bit stodgy), which can be inhibited if they’re positioned too closely to each other. In general, I leave at least ¾ inch (2cm) between them.

Furthermore, if you place them too closely together, they will spread out horizontally rather than rise up vertically as they enter the oven. I prefer my hot cross buns with some height to them – another reason why it’s so important to leave enough space between them.

Baking the gluten free hot cross buns

I’ve optimised the baking method to give good oven spring (that is, nicely rounded hot cross buns), a smooth-ish bun surface (or, at least, as smooth as it gets with gluten free buns), a lovely soft inner texture and a crust that isn’t crisp or hard, but rather softens beautifully on cooling (and especially after it’s coated with apricot jam).

Here’s how you bake these gluten free hot cross buns for best results:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position with a baking tray on the bottom of the oven.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 430ºF (220ºC) – note that this is the temperature for a conventional oven, not for a fan oven. If using a fan oven, reduce all oven temperatures listed in the recipe by 20ºC, though I don’t recommend using the fan setting for gluten free baking in general if you can avoid it.
  3. Once proofed, egg washed and decorated with the crosses, place the buns on the middle rack and pour boiling hot water into the baking tray at the bottom. Close the oven door and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 400ºF (200ºC). The presence of steam and the high oven temperature will maximise oven spring and smooth out the surface/crust of the buns.
  4. After 10 minutes, remove the baking tray with the hot water and continue baking in a steam-free environment for a further 20-25 minutes until deep golden brown. You don’t want to keep the steam source (baking tray with hot water) in the oven for too long, as it can make the buns too heavy.
  5. If the buns start browning too quickly, you can cover them with aluminium foil (shiny side up) and continue baking until done.

Gluten free hot cross buns straight from the oven.

Finishing touches

Once baked, slide the hot cross buns off the baking sheet and off the baking paper onto a wire cooling rack – again, we want to maximise steam evaporation, to get a soft crumb that isn’t too wet, sticky or heavy.

While still hot, brush the gluten free hot cross buns with some apricot jam – this softens the crust further, as well as gives them a lovely shine and extra flavour.

Brushing the baked gluten free hot cross buns with apricot jam.

How long do gluten free hot cross buns last?

These gluten free hot cross buns are definitely at their very best still slightly warm from the oven or on the day of baking.

However, they keep well for 2-3 days in an airtight container at room temperature, you’ll just need to reheat them briefly in the microwave (for about 20 seconds) to soften them up again – once re-heated, they’re just as soft and delicious as they were on the first day.

Possible substitutions

Although all the ingredients in the recipe should be easily accessible either in your local grocery store or online, I still wanted to include a list of substitutions you can make.

  • Instant yeast: You can use active dried yeast, in which case you’ll need to activate it beforehand in the warm milk with a teaspoon or so of sugar. You’ll need a slightly larger quantity of active dried yeast due to the way in which it’s produced and processed, use about 10g.
  • Psyllium husk: YOU CAN’T SUBSTITUTE IT WITH A DIFFERENT INGREDIENT. But if you use psyllium husk powder as opposed to the rough/whole husk form, use only 85% of the weight listed in the recipe.
  • Xanthan gum: Just like with psyllium husk, YOU CAN’T SUBSTITUTE IT WITH A DIFFERENT INGREDIENT.
  • Tapioca starch: You can use cornstarch (also known as cornflour in the UK), potato starch or arrowroot starch instead.
  • Millet flour: You can use brown rice flour instead.
  • Sorghum flour: You can use white teff flour, buckwheat flour or oat flour instead.

NOTE that all substitutions should be made by weight, not by volume!!

A note on measurements (tl;dr: if possible, use a scale)

While I’ve included the volume measurements (cups and spoons) in the recipe card below, if at all possible (and I really cannot overemphasise this): USE METRIC GRAM MEASUREMENTS IF YOU CAN.

They’re much more precise and produce more reliably delicious results. This is true for pretty much all of baking – a kitchen scale will invariably give better results than cups and tablespoons.

Gluten free hot cross buns on a copper wire cooling rack, with a bowl of apricot jam and a pastry brush next to them.

And that’s it – this certainly turned out  to be a much longer post than expected, but I really want you to have all the information you could possibly need to make THE BEST gluten free hot cross buns ever.

I hope you’ll love them as much as I do.

Happy baking!

Signature of the author, Kat.

P.S. If you’re after EVEN MORE amazing gluten free bread recipes (and gluten free baking recipes in general), make sure to check out my book Baked to Perfection you can (pre-)order it here or get your very own signed, personalised copy here!

A gluten free hot cross bun, sliced in half, on a piece of white parchment paper.

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Gluten free hot cross buns on a large plate with a bunch of daffodils in the background.
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Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns

These gluten free hot cross buns are the real deal – wonderfully soft, rich and flavourful, generously packed with dried fruit and incredibly easy to make. You definitely don’t need to miss out on this wonderful Easter treat just because you can’t eat gluten! In fact, these are so incredibly delicious, it’s difficult to even guess that they’re gluten free.

Course Bread, Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine Gluten Free
Prep Time 1 hour
Bake/Cook Time 30 minutes
Proof Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8 buns

Ingredients

For gluten free hot cross buns:

  • 85 g (½ cup) sultanas or raisins
  • 16 g (3 tbsp) whole/rough psyllium husk (If using psyllium husk powder, use only 14g.)
  • 260 g (1 cup + 1 ½ tbsp) warm water
  • 230 g (2 cups) tapioca starch (You can also use an equal weight of arrowroot starch, cornstarch (US) or cornflour (UK), or potato starch.)
  • 160 g (1 cup + 3 tbsp) millet flour, plus extra for flouring the surface (You can also use an equal weight of finely milled brown rice flour.)
  • 70 g (⅓ cup + 3 ½ tbsp) sorghum flour (You can also use an equal weight of buckwheat, white teff or gluten free oat flour.)
  • 50 g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
  • 8 g (1 tbsp) xanthan gum
  • 8 g (1 ¼ tsp) salt
  • 8 g (2 ½ tsp) instant yeast (If using active dried yeast, use 10g.)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 140 g (½ cup + 1 ½ tbsp) whole milk, warmed
  • 30 g (¼ stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 UK medium/US large egg, room temperature
  • 90 g (about ½ cup, 3 oz) mixed candied lemon and orange peel

For egg wash:

  • 1 UK medium/US large egg
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) whole milk

For crosses:

  • 50 g (⅓ cup + 1 tbsp) plain gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour, which doesn't contain xanthan gum.)
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum (Omit if your GF flour blend already contains xanthan gum.)
  • 10 g (2 tsp) sunflower oil
  • 60 g (¼ cup) water

You will also need:

  • 50 g (2 ½ tbsp) apricot jam
  • 8 g (½ tbsp) water

Instructions

For gluten free hot cross buns:

  1. Line a large baking sheet with baking/greaseproof paper.

  2. In a small bowl, pour boiling hot water over the sultanas or raisins until completely covered. Set aside for about 10 minutes, until the sultanas/raisins have plumped up and re-hydrated.

    Drain the water, making sure to squeeze out any excess water from the sultanas/raisins. Set aside until needed.

  3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the psyllium husk and water. After about 15 seconds, a gel will form. Set aside until needed.

  4. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer, if using), whisk together the tapioca starch, millet flour, sorghum flour, sugar, xanthan gum, salt, yeast and cinnamon.

  5. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add the milk, melted butter, egg and psyllium gel into it.

    Tip: If using active dried yeast, activate it first by mixing it with the warm milk and a teaspoon of the granulated sugar. Set aside for about 5-10 minutes, until you see bubbles/foam appearing on the surface – this shows that the yeast is alive and active.

  6. Using a wooden spoon, mix well until the dough starts coming together. You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, making sure that you scrape down the sides of the bowl to remove any dry, un-mixed patches of flour.

  7. Once it starts coming together, knead it by hand until you get a homogeneous dough with no dry patches of un-mixed flour. Just squeeze the dough through your fingers, going around the bowl until you’ve incorporated all the flour. The final dough will be quite soft and sticky, but should come away from the sides of the bowl. (Again, you can also use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook).

  8. Add the re-hydrated sultanas/raisins and the mixed candied peel, and gently knead them into the dough until evenly distributed.

  9. Transfer the dough onto a generously floured surface and give it a knead until it comes together in a ball. Be careful not to incorporate too much extra flour into the dough.

  10. Roll out the dough into a long log and divide it into 8 equal pieces – I recommend using a scale to get the pieces of equal weight and therefore approximately equal size.

  11. Shape each piece into a ball – see the blog post for detailed instructions and step-by-step photos of how to best shape the hot cross buns.

    Tip: Don't worry if the surface of your buns isn't perfectly smooth – that's partially because of the absence of gluten and partially because of the high dried fruit content. As the buns bake, their surface will smooth out slightly due to oven spring.

  12. Once shaped into buns, transfer them onto the lined baking sheet, at least ¾ inch (2cm) apart from each other. I've arranged them in two rows of four (see blog post for photos).

    Tip: Don't pack the gluten free hot cross buns too closely together – if you do, this can inhibit moisture evaporation during baking, which can result in heavy and too wet buns. Additionally, if they fuse too much during baking, this will cause them to spread horizontally rather rise up vertically. If you want particularly tall hot cross buns, space them even further apart, so they don't touch even after proofing.

  13. Lightly cover with cling film and proof them in a warm spot until approximately doubled in volume, for about 1 hour – 1 hour 15 minutes. After proofing, the buns will touch lightly at individual points, but shouldn't be completely fused together (as cinnamon rolls might be).

  14. While the buns are proofing, adjust the oven rack to the middle position, place a baking tray at the bottom of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 430ºF (220ºC).

Assembling the gluten free hot cross buns – egg wash and the crosses:

  1. For the egg wash, whisk the egg and milk together until well combined.

  2. For the crosses, whisk together all the cross mix ingredients (gluten free flour blend, xanthan gum, oil and water) until you get a smooth mixture. It should be runny yet viscous.

    Transfer the cross mixture into a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle.

    Tip: If the cross mixture is too thick, add more water. If it's too runny, add more gluten free flour blend. It's better to err on the side of too runny than too thick, as a mixture that's too thick can bake up to be too hard to be edible.

  3. Once proofed, brush the buns lightly with egg wash all over.

  4. Pipe the cross mixture in a line along each row of buns, then pipe in the other, perpendicular direction to create crosses.

Baking the gluten free hot cross buns:

  1. Place the buns into the oven, pre-heated to 430ºF (220ºC) and pour boiling hot water into the baking tray at the bottom. Close the oven door and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 400ºF (200ºC).

    Tip: The presence of steam and the high oven temperature will maximise oven spring and slightly smooth out the surface/crust of the buns.

  2. After 10 minutes, remove the baking tray with the hot water from the oven and continue baking in a steam-free environment for a further 20-25 minutes until the buns are deep golden brown. If the buns start browning too quickly, you can cover them with aluminium foil (shiny side up) and continue baking until done.

    Tip: You don’t want to keep the steam source (baking tray with hot water) in the oven for too long, as it can make the buns too heavy.

  3. Once baked, slide the hot cross buns off the baking sheet and off the baking paper onto a wire cooling rack – this helps to maximise steam evaporation, to get a soft crumb that isn’t too wet, sticky or heavy.

  4. In a saucepan on the stove or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, heat the apricot jam with water, with occasional stirring, until runny.

    While the buns are still hot, brush them with the runny apricot jam – this softens the crust further, as well as gives them a lovely shine and extra flavour.

  5. Allow to cool until warm or room temperature, and serve.

Storage:

  1. These gluten free hot cross buns are definitely at their very best still slightly warm from the oven or on the day of baking.

    However, they keep well for 2-3 days in an airtight container at room temperature, you’ll just need to reheat them briefly in the microwave (for about 20 seconds) to soften them up again – once re-heated, they’re just as soft and delicious as they were on the first day.

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