Buttery vegan brioche hot cross buns that are fluffy and will melt in your mouth. This Easter bread comes together in just one bowl with simple pantry ingredients!
Why these are the best vegan hot cross buns!
These hot cross buns have a brioche base which makes them more rich and buttery than standard hot cross buns.
Brioche normally gets its richness from a high amount of butter and eggs. However, these hot cross buns are based on my popular vegan brioche recipe which achieves an amazing flavor whilst being eggless and having no animal products!
My brioche recipe has over 70 positive reviews and counting, so you're in good hands!
I've simplified the brioche bread process so these hot cross buns are as easy to make as regular hot cross buns! When you make traditional brioche bread, you normally knead the dough, then add softened butter gradually. However, we're adding all the ingredients at the same time for simplicity.
Ingredients to make these hot cross buns
Notes about the ingredients
Flour. I'd recommend bread flour which is high in protein and creates fluffier brioche hot cross buns. However, plain all-purpose flour will still work beautifully!
Vegan butter. I've tested this recipe with block butter and spreadable vegan margarine and they both work fine. Block butter has a higher fat content so creates more tender hot cross buns. Spreadable margarine will make your final dough softer so you may need to add more flour.
Granulated sugar. A little sugar is essential in ALL yeast-based bread as it feeds the yeast which makes the bread rise. If you don't want to use regular sugar, you can use coconut sugar or maple syrup.
Yeast. I used instant yeast as it's the easiest and quickest to use. If you only have dried yeast or any other type of yeast, you will need to bloom it beforehand.
Orange or lemon zest for the classic hot cross bun flavor! Alternatively, you can substitute 2 tablespoons of the milk for fresh or bottled orange juice.
A complete list of ingredients, quantities and instructions are in the gray recipe card at the bottom of this post.
How to make vegan hot cross buns
This dough is easy to make, whether you're new to making bread or are experienced!
First, if you are using a type of yeast other than instant, make sure you stir it with warm milk beforehand. When it starts to foam, you can use the mixture in the recipe.
To make the dough, simply add ALL ingredients to a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer.
If you're kneading by hand, mix all the ingredients in the bowl then knead the dough on a lightly floured surface. If you're using a stand mixer (much easier), knead the dough using the dough hook.
Kneading can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Kneading the dough for 5 minutes (by hand) will result in a denser and rougher hot cross bun. However, kneading the dough for longer strengthens the gluten structure resulting in softer and fluffier vegan hot cross buns.
Depending on your ingredients, you may need to pour in a little more milk or add more flour to achieve a soft and supple dough.
Once your brioche dough is smooth and stretchy, it's ready (image 3 below)!
However, if you would like extra fluffy hot cross buns, the dough is ready when it passes the 'windowpane' test (image 4 below). If you grab a small piece of dough and stretch it between your fingers, it should be 'paper thin' where you can see the gluten membranes.
First rise of the dough
Once you've kneaded your hot cross bun dough, simply place it in a clean (ish) bowl and let it proof in a WARM spot.
The dough is ready when it has doubled in size and becomes puffy! The first proof can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. This hugely depends on what type of yeast you use (instant yeast is quicker), the temperature of your home and the consistency of your dough.
These brioche hot cross buns contain a lot of butter so the butter needs to stay warm (and softened) in order for the dough to rise properly.
My top tips for rising the dough are:
- Keep the bread in a WARM and humid environment. This can be in your oven with the light on or somewhere in your kitchen. King Arthur Baking provides more examples!
- Make sure the dough is already SOFT and hydrated! A dry dough will not rise as quickly.
Alternatively, check out my troubleshooting tips for resting enriched bread in my vegan brioche post.
How to shape hot cross buns
Once your dough is ready, divide it into 12 equal pieces. It's easiest if you cut the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 parts!
My preferred method for shaping buns is to stretch the sides, fold the ends into the center then pinch all the ends together. When you turn the ball upside down, you'll have a bun with a smooth and tight surface.
For a more detailed and visual demonstration, check out the video in this post! Or watch this helpful video by Bake with Jack.
Second rise for the hot cross buns
At this point, you have worked hard and so has your dough. So, you'll need to rest the dough one last time!
Place the vegan hot cross buns in a baking dish and cover them again. I like using a kitchen towel as it's less likely to stick to the buns (and is environmentally friendly). This time, the buns only need to rise by around 50%.
The buns are ready when they're puffy again! If you gently poke one of the buns, it should spring back slowly.
Final steps: cross, baking and glaze
To make the iconic cross for the brioche buns, simply mix together flour and water in a bowl. The paste needs to be thin enough to pipe but thick enough to hold its shape.
I used a piping bag with a round nozzle to pipe the cross on the buns. You may use parchment paper (shaped like a bag) or a plastic bag with a small hole cut out to pipe the cross.
The hot cross buns take around 25 minutes to bake, give or take depending on your oven and dough. They're ready when the surface is golden brown. If you're unsure, I like to insert a toothpick between two of the buns, and grab some of the dough to check for doneness.
When the buns are fresh from the oven, I'd recommend brushing them with a little glaze. The glaze doesn't only make the buns beautiful and shiny but acts as a protective coating to help the buns retain some of their moisture.
Can I make these buns the night before?
Yes! You can either:
- Let the unshaped dough rest in the fridge for the first rise (images 5 and 6) OR
- Let the shaped buns rest in the fridge for the second rise (images 9 and 10) and bake them immediately.
I'd recommend doing the first option! Sometimes the dough sticks to the plastic wrap (or cover) during an overnight proof. We don't always know how much the dough will rise!
You can shape the dough when it's chilled. It might just take longer for it to rise the second time.
Expert tips and ingredient substitutions
I don't recommend using a 1:1 gluten-free flour for this recipe (I tried and it was unpleasant). Gluten-free bread requires a different type of expertise so adapting any bread recipe requires a special blend of ingredients and flours. You will have to do your own experimentation.
Yes. Keep in mind that whenever you make bread with a heavier flour, the dough will not double in size and will take much longer. The final buns will also be denser.
- Add-ins: Instead of sultanas, you can use vegan chocolate chips
- Spices: For spicy hot cross buns, add 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
- Orange: For a stronger orange flavor, substitute 30-60 grams of the dairy-free milk with orange juice.
Yes, you can substitute the butter for ½ cup (125g) of your oil of choice. However, oil-based hot cross buns will be denser than the regular version.
Yes, you can decrease the butter to ⅓ cup (75g) but make sure you also decrease the flour to 3 cups (375g). Decreasing the butter will remove the 'brioche' element from this recipe and make regular hot cross buns. Nothing wrong with that!
More vegan bread recipes for Easter!
Vegan Brioche Hot Cross Buns
Brioche hot cross buns
- 3 ¼ cups (405g) bread flour, or all-purpose plain flour plus more for dusting
- ¾ cup (190g) dairy-free milk, warm
- ⅔ cup (150g) melted vegan butter or margarine
- 1 cup (160g) sultanas, raisins or mixed dried fruit
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar, or coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast, (note 1)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, (note 2)
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon any good quality salt, if using unsalted butter
- 5 tablespoons (40g) all-purpose plain flour, or as needed
- 4 tablespoons (60g) water, or as needed
- 2 tablespoons apricot jam, or any light coloured jam (note 3)
- Dash of water
To make the hot cross buns:
- Add all the ingredients to a large bowl or stand mixer with the dough hook. Knead for at least 5 minutes or until the dough becomes soft and elastic. The dough should be tacky but not stick to your fingers or the side of the bowl. If the dough is a little dry, add a little more milk and knead again. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour and knead again.
- Place the dough in a large clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave it in a warm place to rest for at least 1 hour. The dough is ready when it doubles in size and is puffy (note 4 for troubleshooting tips).
Shaping the hot cross buns:
- Divide the dough into 12 equal parts.
- Roll and shape each piece of dough into a ball making sure the top of each bun is smooth. Arrange the hot cross buns in a lined or greased baking tray. My tray was about 28 x 15 cm (11 x 6 inches) large.
- Cover your tin with a tea towel and leave it in a warm place to rest for at least 1 hour. The buns should increase in size by around 50%.
- When the buns are puffy again, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
Making the crosses and baking:
- Add all ingredients to a small bowl to form a thick but smooth paste. Add more flour or water if needed. Spoon the paste into a piping bag with a small round nozzle. Pipe crosses onto the buns.
- Bake the buns for 22-25 minutes or until the surface is a deep golden brown. If you insert a toothpick between two of the middle buns, there shouldn't be any uncooked dough on it.
Making the glaze:
- Mix the jam and water in a small bowl until combined.
- When the brioche hot cross buns are still hot, brush the surface with the glaze. Allow them to rest in the pan for 20 minutes then turn them on a wire rack and cool.
- Store the buns in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days, in the fridge up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- I used instant yeast that doesn't need to be 'bloomed' beforehand. However, if you use any other type of yeast (such as active dry), combine it with the warm milk from the recipe beforehand. Wait until it bubbles then use it in the recipe.
- Alternatively, you can use 2 ½ teaspoons of mixed spice.
- Alternatively, you can use the same amount of any light-colored liquid sweetener. If you use maple syrup, you don't need to mix it with any water.
- If your dough doesn't increase in size, place it in a warmer spot in your house (see post above for tips)
This recipe and post was originally published in April 2021 and updated in April 2022.
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