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Best Sourdough Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Spiced, a little bit sweet, and a lot fluffy. These sourdough hot cross buns are a creative use for sourdough starter.

These fluffy sourdough fruit buns are one of my favorite sourdough recipes. They are something I look forward to each year. They can be filled with any dried fruit, though usually raisins are involved.

sourdough hot cross buns on a wire rack

They’re super soft and fluffy and filled with warming spices, and made without commercial yeast. Easter Good Friday is the usual time to make traditional hot cross buns.  However, they are so good, that you might just want to make them all year round.


Find the ingredient amounts for these sourdough hot cross buns in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post. For this sourdough hot cross buns recipe, you will need –

  • Strong all-purpose flour with a protein level of at least 11%
  • An active sourdough starter
  • Whole milk
  • Soft brown sugar
  • A large egg
  • Ground spices – cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg. These spices give the dough so much flavor! Similar to sourdough cinnamon raisin bread.
  • Salt
  • Butter – slightly softened
  • Granulated sugar for the topping glaze.
  • The hot cross bun crosses are made of equal parts water and flour, but you can also use your sourdough discard starter!

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The dough

The dough in these sweet buns is an enriched one with egg and butter. It’s a sticky dough, which when kneaded well and proved correctly becomes super fluffy. It’s spiced with cinnamon, cloves,all-spice, ginger, and nutmeg.

There is also dried fruit and orange peel for texture and more flavor. If you’ve got a spare lemon, a bit of lemon zest is wonderful in there too!

I like using raisins, homemade dried apple pieces, cranberries, or whatever dried fruit I have. If you’re not a fan of fruit in your hot cross buns, try these sourdough chocolate chip hot cross buns instead!

side view of sourdough hot cross buns on a wire rack


These delicious sourdough treats can be made with or without a mixer.

I used to knead the sourdough hot cross bun dough by hand, but this takes a lot of elbow grease. Simply stretching and folding the dough over itself is a much easier way to give it the strength it needs.

Whatever you do, don’t add more flour. After a while, you will feel the gluten develop and become smooth and elastic. It’s pretty cool to feel and see it happen before your eyes.

The flour

For the spiced dough, a strong all-purpose flour is used, one with a protein level of at least 11%. The protein amount in all-purpose flour changes depending on the brand, and so does the name of the flour. I use a strong all-purpose in many of my sourdough bread, like sourdough ciabatta and sourdough fougasse.

A bread flour with protein of around 12% could also be used for a chewier bun. I have not tried this with whole wheat flour.

close up of buns

The starter

This sourdough hot cross buns recipe uses an active sourdough starter.

I feed my sourdough starter at a ratio of 1:3:3 (or even 1:4:4 if it’s going to be a warm night). This means a ratio of 1 part starter, 3 parts flour, and 3 parts water measured in grams.

This feeding amount means it will be ready to use within 8-10 hours, depending on the warmth of the room overnight. If I’m using it sooner, within say 6 hours, I would feed it 1:2:2.

If your starter is fairly young, it will help to keep it in a warm space overnight when feeding it at a higher ratio.

A 1:3:3 feeding example would be 25g starter, 75g flour, and 75g water. This makes approximately 175g starter, of which 150g will be used in the recipe.

sourdough starter in a jar filled two thirds with a rubber band around the bottom third of the jar, the jat is sitting on a white bench.

The method

Next morning

If you have a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, by all means, use that. However, it is possible to work the dough by using a simple method of stretching and folding.


Heat the orange juice in a saucepan and pour it over raisins and orange zest.

Leave to sit for 20-30 minutes while the dough is kneaded.


In a large mixing bowl, add flour, spices, eggs, milk, brown sugar, salt, and starter.

Use a fork to combine it into a shaggy dough first, then switch to using your hands.

Stretches and folds


Add softened butter and the bowl of raisins, orange juice, and zest.

Use your hands to squish everything together until the butter is incorporated.


Once the butter has been mixed in, transfer the sticky dough to a clean and lightly greased bowl.

hot cross bun dough.

Over the next two hours, perform 4-5 sets of stretch and folds. One every 20 minutes or so.

folded dough.

A stretch and fold method stretches one side of the dough and pulls it over itself.

Kneading in a mixer

If using a mixer, add the spices, flour, eggs, milk, sugar, salt, sourdough starter, raisins, and orange juice to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on low speed to incorporate the ingredients, then turn it on to medium.

Mix on medium-high speed, and add a few butter cubes at a time. Mix for 8-10 minutes until it’s smooth and glossy.

When you lift the dough hook up, the entire dough should hold together without tearing, and you will be able to pull it off the hook in one smooth motion.

Bulk fermentation

Then the dough needs to be prooved in a greased bowl and covered bowl, in a warm spot for 4-5 hours, ideally at around 25°C/77°F. After this time the dough should bulk out by around 40-50%.

You can create a warm and humid spot for this bulk rise by placing the bowl in a turned-off oven alongside a large cup of boiled water.

After this, place the dough in the refrigerator in an airtight container.



Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and cut it into 9 or 12 equal pieces.


Dust your hands with flour if needed and form each piece into a ball, tucking the edges underneath to create a bit of surface tension.

Final proof

Place the dough balls into a baking paper-lined baking dish. Let them rise in a warm spot (ideally at 25°C/77°F) for 5-8 hours until doubled.

Alternatively, if your kitchen isn’t too warm you can let them rise overnight for 8-10 hours.

I fit mine in a smaller 23x23cm (9x9inch) square tray because I like them squished together, however you can use a larger tray.

Piping the traditional cross

Mix the flour paste for the crosses until it makes a thick but pipeable paste. You can also use sourdough discard starter as the paste.

Pipe crosses on the buns using a piping bag with a round tip.

risen sourdough hot cross buns


Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Place the buns in the oven and bake them for around 25-28 minutes until they are golden brown. There is no need for egg wash for these buns. They’ll be glazed in sugar syrup after baking.

While they are baking, mix together the sugar glaze ingredients. It’s a simple syrup made of hot water and sugar. When the hot cross buns come out of the oven, brush a pastry brush with the glaze.

Let them cool for 5-10 minutes before removing and cooling further on a wire rack.

sourdough hot cross buns on a wire rack

Serve the sourdough hot cross buns fresh, with a pat of butter.

Leftover sourdough hot cross buns can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to three days.

Alternatively, the baked buns can also be frozen for up to three months.

Related recipes

If you enjoyed these sourdough hot cross buns, you might like these recipes too!

sourdough hot cross bun close up.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Yield: 9
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Proofing Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 1 hour 5 minutes

Sweet and spiced hot cross buns buns leavened with sourdough starter.


Sourdough starter (makes approx 175g starter in total. 150g will be used in the recipe.)

  • 25g sourdough starter
  • 75g all-purpose flour
  • 75g water


  • 100g raisins or other dried fruit.
  • 60g orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange

Hot cross bun dough

  • 450g all-purpose or bread flour (with a protein level of at least 11%)
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 220g milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 150g active sourdough starter
  • 60g butter, room temperature, cubed.


  • 50g all-purpose flour
  • 50g water

Sugar Glaze

  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 45g boiled water


The night before

  1. Combine the starter ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Tip it into a clean jar. Leave it on the bench to rise and cover the jar with a tea towel or loosely balanced lid.

Day 1

  1. Add raisins and orange zest to a small bowl. Heat the orange juice and pour it over it. Leave these to sit and hydrate for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, spices, salt, eggs, milk, and sourdough starter in a large bowl. Use a fork to combine it into a shaggy dough.
  3. Add softened butter, raisins, orange juice, and zest. Use your hands to squish everything together until the butter is incorporated.
  4. Transfer the sticky dough to a clean, lightly greased bowl once the butter has been mixed in.

Stretch and folds*

  1. Perform 4-5 stretches and folds over the next two hours—one every 20 minutes.
  2. A stretch and fold method stretches one side of the dough and pulls it over itself. The bowl is then turned a quarter turn, repeated on the following side. Continue stretching, folding, and turning the bowl until all sides have been folded. You can do a few extra turns if needed. That is 'one set' of stretch and folds. (The dough can also be mixed in a stand mixer with a dough hook for 10 minutes.)
  3. After the dough has been kneaded, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm spot, ideally at around 77°F/25°C, until bulked out by about 50%.
  4. You can create a warm and humid spot for this bulk rise by placing the bowl in a turned-off oven alongside a large cup of boiled water.
  5. After this, place the dough in the refrigerator in an airtight container

Cold Proofing - Two Options

  1. Option 1- The dough can be refrigerated overnight after the bulk rise. The next morning, let the cold dough sit for 10 minutes at room temperature, then the buns can be shaped and rise until doubled, ideally at around 25°C/77°F. This can take between 4- 8 hours, depending on temperature. Bake them once they're doubled in size.
  2. Option 2 - The buns can rise overnight if your kitchen isn't too warm. Let the dough sit in the fridge for the rest of the day, then in the evening, remove it and shape the buns. Cover them with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and let them rise overnight at room temperature for 8-10 hours. They can be baked fresh in the morning.

Shaping The Buns

  1. Pull the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured bench and cut it into 9 or 12 even-sized pieces. Dust your hands with flour if needed and shape the pieces into balls, tucking in the bottom to create a smooth top.
  2. Place the balls, seam side down, into a greased or parchment paper-lined dish, (I use a 23x23cm square, but you can also use a larger tray.) Let them rise until doubled.

Baking the Buns

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F.
  2. Mix the flour with enough water to make a thick paste, then add to a piping bag with a small round tip.  Then pipe crosses over the buns.
  3. Place the buns into the oven and bake for 25-28 minutes until deep golden brown.
  4. While the buns are baking, mix the glaze ingredients until the sugar dissolves. Bush the hot bun tops with the sugar glaze once they come from the oven.
  5. Leave the buns to cool for about 20 minutes before eating.


* I used to hand knead the dough using a slap and fold method. This took around 10-15 minutes of kneading because it was such a sticky dough. Stretches and folds make things a lot easier.

Creating a warm space for rising - Place the bowl of dough in a turned-off oven, with a mug of boiled water next to it. This will create a warm and humid space. Replace the hot water as it cools down.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 9 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 320Total Fat: 6.3gSaturated Fat: 3.5gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 35mgCarbohydrates: 57.2gFiber: 2.3gSugar: 9.4gProtein: 8.1g

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  1. Just pulled the first attempt out of the oven. Amazing! I was a bit worried about working with a sticky dough but I found it fun and much less fickle than sourdough bread dough. Turned out great.

  2. They looked epic when they went into the fridge and they have now flattened. Shall i proove again in a warm place or will they perk up in the oven?

    1. Sounds like they overproofed it they’ve deflated in the fridge. They must have risen a bit too much so definitely don’t let them rise anymore. Just bake them now, they’ll perk up in the oven 😊

  3. Hands down the most delicious hot cross buns I have ever had! Was also the first time attempting to make hot cross from scratch and the recipe was so easy to follow. Can’t wait to make more!

  4. Just did my first batch. Flavour is fantastic and texture but the tops are very crusty, more like a sour dough bread crust. Any. Ideas, oven temp a bit hot? Made your sour dough bread on Friday, sensational, awesome recipe and your instructions are so clear and easy to follow.

    1. Hey yeah that could be the oven being a bit hot for sure! Im stoked you liked the bread 😁😁 thank you!

  5. My first attempt has come out of the oven this morning. The general family opinion is they are fabulous! I made them in a slice tin and had eight fat & fluffy buns; the perfect number for us being four adults. I’m going to try adding a little citrus peel and upping the spice as we love a spicy bun. Thank you for sharing your recipes, they are easy to follow especially with your wonderful photos. Your website has been a source of inspiration during the lockdown in NZ, getting my whole family involved. A real blessing!

  6. I just made these, also adding some citrus peel, and they are delicious. Can I ask about the butter – why do you add it in cold cubes? I have a stand mixer so I actually softened the butter and added it in the mixer then kneaded till the dough was ready. I’m just wondering whether there is a positive reason (like when you make ruff puff pastry) or whether it’s just easier to manage when hand kneading. I’ve had the same thought about your wonderful brioche recipe which I also use a lot.

    1. Hey yup I think that would still work, though you could also just substitute the orange zest for lemon zest and let the raisins soften in some hot water instead of lemon juice.

  7. Thank you! I baked these today and they were a hit! Will be making UNTOLD batches next week 😅😅. Send thanks from Wellington! X

  8. Love this recipe, they are the best hot x buns ever and so therapeutic to make. Have made dozens and am dropping them to family and friends. Thanks for sharing. I used the orange juice the fruit was soaked in for my glaze instead of water. Also reduced the sugar to 50g, still delicious. The kitchen smells devine! Will be checking out your other sourdough recipes after Easter 🐰

  9. These are amazing! I soaked my dried fruit (raisins, currents and cranberries) in spiced apple cider and used the left over liquid to increase the hydration. They taste so good and they are not heavy like some recipes. Thanks

    1. Ooh soaking the fruit in spiced apple cider sounds wonderful! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe 🙂

  10. Just wondering what size the tray is that you use. My dough is proving now and feels beautiful and silky, can’t wait to bake them 😋

  11. Thank you! Out of the oven now and so light and fluffy, might add a little bit more fruit next time but they are the best hot cross buns I’ve ever made. Will definitely be making more.

  12. I made these this morning (started late yesterday)I was worried as the dough was hard and lifeless going into the fridge overnight – I think I could have used a bit more moisture for my flour as I used sifted stone ground red wheat (Im a kiwi living in Canada). Anyway after shaping and proofing for 3 hours this morning there was still little life so I heated my oven to 30 celcius, turned it off and put them in there for a bit. Bingo. They responded and turned out great! I added cardamom in place of some of the cinnamon and used fat, tangy golden raisins and currents. So good. Ill be making these every year – thank you!

  13. I love these!! 2nd Easter making them, I’ve looked forward t them all year! Happy Easter Everyone xx

  14. Thanks for publishing the recipe, they come out so good every time. This time I substituted 150g of the flour for whole meal flour as an experiment . Just out of the oven and they look perfect, now waiting for them to cool before eating. Happy Easter from North Carolina, USA

  15. Made these today and they were sooooooo delicious! Pillow-like and so much easier than other hot x buns I’ve made in the past. My kids loved them. Recipe details were super helpful……especially warming an oven slightly, turning it off and putting the dough in to prove. I’ll definitely be making these again!

  16. Have to say these are AMAZING!! We’ve made them twice this lockdown (Auckland) and we all absolutely LOVE them. They are so easy and to make and pillow like to eat! Thank you for all the details in the recipe. Especially use of the dough hook & mixer …..this made everything so easy!

  17. Made these as our first batch for the season – branching out from an old tried and true recipe to give the sourdough version a go, and I don’t think I will go back to the yeast-based ones. These are great – full of flavour, and I love the use of orange peel and juice for that classic citrus hit. Great recipe, thank you! Another one from your repertoire to make itself a permanent home in mine.

  18. These look great, was looking for a sourdough “hot not crossed bun” recipe. Thanks for sharing. Mine are “not crossed” ‘cos the flour paste thing just doesn’t do it for me. I’m still figuring out a cross though. Am thinking a wire rack of some sort might be the trick – the indentations do the cross on the rise.
    Kiwi in the Arctic

    1. A friend of pine pipes a custard cross on hers! You might like that more than flour and water ☺️

  19. I’ve never been successful with hot cross buns and this year I wanted to try with my sourdough. They came out, I think, perfectly, though my ratio of sourdough may have been a little higher. I had some trouble with the stand mixer – I’m not used to it but also my dough formed only a loose ball but then got sticky again and extremely stringy . So I stopped there and set it to rise, hoping for the best. The dough had got warm so I wondered if the leaven had activated already? Any thoughts about that? Anyway, I’m happy with my test batch and will definitely keep the recipe. thanks!

  20. Hi again,
    Your recipe calls for “allspice”, do you mean this or “mixed spice”? Allspice can have pepper in it.

  21. Great recipe – thanks so muchI used high-grade flour and added a bit of extra milk because my dough wasn’t sticky like it said in the description (probably because I keep my starter stiffer) and they turned out perfect! I also used an extra 50g of raisons than the recipe said and added a little more spice. I proved them overnight in the fridge then took them out and put them in the oven (turned off) with some hot water to rise some more before shaping. They didn’t really seem to rise much while I waited – even though I put them in the oven with hot water again – but when I went to cook them – they rose great and were a good consistency. The neighbours agree. Delish.

  22. Baked my first batch of these this morning and all the family agreed I need to make another two batches tonight. These were pure perfection. Feel like an absolute master baker because they turned out so well. Thank you so much for such a beautiful recipe.

  23. Hi there, I’m making these hot X buns for a family Easter get together which was meant to be tomorrow but is pushed out to Monday now. I’ve made the dough, bulk fermented and it’s in the fridge currently. Can I leave it in the fridge till Monday? Then shape, rise and bake on Monday instead? Thanks

  24. I’ve just made your hot cross buns! They are so delicious – the best hot cross buns you’ll ever eat!!! My family and I thank you!

  25. Better than I expected, soft and fluffy, great recipe. I added more fruit and more spice and did the long ferment on my kitchen bench overnight.

  26. The flavour in these buns was absolutely beautiful, but I couldn’t get my dough to double. It was sticky. When I shaped them they just spread. Maybe it’s too warm here and we have had the swampy on, so it’s humid inside. Maybe it was my butter melting. I was worried about having egg and milk in a mixture that was out of the fridge for hours. The end result was a bit doughy in the middle and my buns still didn’t rise much. Definitely not my starter as it is producing beautifully loaves of bread. I will try this recipe again, as the flavours were very nice.

    1. Hey Carolyn, I think it does sound like the dough got too warm if it became overly sticky and spread. It’s not the butter melting that’s the issue then, it’s over fermentation.
      If your temperatures where you are stay consistently hot you can try reduce the liquid in the dough a bit, to decrease the chance of over fermenting. That being said, you may have just left it too long since you wrote you couldn’t get it to double? The dough in the first rise just needs to bulk out by half the amount, not double in size.

  27. Hi Elien,
    I made these and they are fantastic! I had home dried apples on hand and they worked really well with raisins. Next time I’ll try apples and dried cranberries.
    I used the fridge overnight option. I’d like to use the proofing on the bench option. You say “if your kitchen isn’t too warm “. Could you please quantify what temperature would allow the buns to double in 8 – 10 hours. I’m a Kiwi living in Sydney and at the moment the overnight temperature is over 20 degrees, which I figured would be too warm, but in winter it would be possible.
    I’ve also been using your sourdough bread in a tin recipes with great success. I grew up with Vogels bread which was very similar taste and texture back when I was a kid.
    Many thanks, Shelley.

    1. Hey I’m so happy you love them! For me it’s in later autumn and winter, that I leave them overnight, and then my kitchen is around 10-12 degrees celsius

  28. Just made these hot X buns for the family for Easter. They are amazing!! Soft, light and fluffy. Cold proofed in the fridge overnight and shaped this morning. Left to rise for 5 hours and have just baked. Used cranberries and dried apricots. These will be a hit with the family!!

  29. I’ve only ever once before made Hot Crossed Buns, with yeast – but we didn’t like the yeasty flavour. These are just perfect and so easy to make, even for me as a relative newby to sourdough baking. On baking day over Easter our temps dropped to below 20, so after the cold ferment I put the oven on to 35, turned it off and popped the formed buns in for the final proof for 4-5 hours, then iced the crosses on and baked. They’re perfect. Thank you so much for this recipe. From Warkworth NZ.

    1. Thank you for the lovely feedback, Chrissie!! I’m so pleased you enjoyed the recipe! Happy easter!

  30. The first time I have made hot cross buns and this will be my forever recipe. So easy to do in the stand mixer and bulk ferment overnight on the bench (autumn in Australia so cool conditions). They turned out bakery quality! Thanks so much for a great recipe.

  31. I would like to try a vegan version of these buns to give to a friend – do you know if I could leave out the egg or what i could use as a substitute? I can buy vegan butter and assume soy or almond milk would be ok to substitute for the dairy milk?

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