Easter 2024: Why hot cross buns are eaten on Good Friday

Sweet treat has a long tradition of being enjoyed during Easter

hot cross buns on chopping board with butter
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If there is a food that Easter is synonymous with, chocolate eggs aside, it is hot cross buns.

These spiced sweet treats are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, just before the end of Lent. Served cold or toasted, they can be eaten alone or with spread such as butter, honey and jam. While more unique flavours have been introduced to the classic recipe in recent years – such as chocolate hot cross buns on sale in Spinneys this year – the classic recipe is flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg and contains currants.

Why are hot cross buns eaten during Easter?

Easter is a Christian festival to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The holiday begins with 40 days of fasting, prayer and abstinence, with chocolate and sweet treats being a common pleasure for Christians to abstain from. As the period comes to an end, Easter celebrations begin with Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified.

Being marked with a cross, hot cross buns are a visual representation of this, and the traditional spices used in the bakery goods are used to represent the spices used to embalm his body after his death. Made with cupboard stables of flour, butter, sugar and spice, they are usually eaten to break the fast of Lent, much like the tradition of making pancakes on Shove Tuesday, before Lent begins.

When did hot cross buns become an Easter food?

Hot cross buns have been a key feature of Easter celebrations for hundreds of years, with records documenting eating them on Good Friday in 1733 – with a cup of tea, of course – as featured in Poor Robin’s Almanac, a satirical information series.

By the 19th century, they were commonly sold in the streets on Good Friday. The call of street sellers is a now-popular nursery rhyme of the same name.

However, the link precedes this by at least 400 years. Exact origins are murky and early records are sparse, but in the second millennium the recipe and tradition were linked to monasteries in the UK. One story points to 14th-century monk Brother Thomas Rodcliffe, who was documented as serving a similar recipe to the poor on Good Friday.

Where to buy hot cross buns in the UAE

In the UAE, you can buy hot cross buns at supermarkets including Spinneys, Kibsons, and Waitrose. British retailer Marks & Spencer has got creative with its flavours in recent years, deviating from spices and dried fruits, with chocolate, Bramley apple, blond chocolate and salted caramel, blueberry and even savoury Marmite and cheese flavoured buns.

How to make hot cross buns at home

Sonu Koithara, executive chef at Taj Jumeirah Lakes Towers, shares a recipe to make a 25-strong batch of the fruit buns.

Ingredients for the starter

200g flour

250ml warm milk

35g fresh yeast

Ingredients for the dough

500g flour

10g salt

5g bread improver

3 eggs

150g butter

250g black raisins (soaked water for a few hours beforehand)

5g nutmeg

5g cinnamon

5g Stollen spice (or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in the same quantity)

125g sugar

Ingredients for the icing

50g T55 flour

25g corn oil

56ml water

6g sugar


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the starter and set aside to ferment for 3 hours
  2. After 3 hours, mix the starter, flour, bread improver, egg, butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, stollen spice and sugar in a dough mixer on slow heat for 7 minutes
  3. Add the salt and continue mixing for 4 more minutes, then turn up the speed and mix for another 6 minutes
  4. Add the raisins and mix making sure they are evenly distributed
  5. Set the dough aside and let it rest for 1 hour
  6. Preheat the oven to 170°C
  7. Divide the dough into 25 even pieces (about 40g per piece)
  8. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and arrange on a baking tray lined with baking paper leaving space between each
  9. For the icing, whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until you get a smooth consistency
  10. Lightly brush the buns with olive oil and pipe along each row of the buns and repeat in the other direction, creating the cross marks
  11. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the buns are a golden brown colour