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Hot cross buns review: Aldi, Coles, Woolworths and more

We taste test supermarket and bakery hot cross buns to find the best for your table this Easter.

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Last updated: 04 March 2020

Christmas mince pies have barely left the supermarket shelves when hot cross buns make their appearance, so clearly Australians have quite an appetite for these spicy, fruity baked goodies – and not just at Easter. 

We taste test 15 hot cross buns – both 'traditional' fruit and choc chip varieties, as well as gluten-free and regular  – from major supermarkets Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, bakery chains Bakers Delight and Brumby's, and membership warehouse Costco, to see which buns are best.

Best traditional fruit hot cross buns

Hot cross buns come in every flavour imaginable these days, from apple and cinnamon to bubblegum (ew!). Despite this, our polls consistently show that a traditional fruit hot cross bun is our firm favourite. Which traditional buns are best? The following products scored 70% or more in our taste test.

Bakers Delight Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns

Bakers Delight Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns.

Bakers Delight Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 78%
  • Price: $1.25 per bun ($7.50 per 6-pack)
  • Good to know: Buns are $1.50 each if you buy them individually, but are discounted to $1.25 each if you buy them as a 6-pack.
  • Experts say: "Good size and shape. Thin cross piping. Good glaze and fruit distribution. Nice and soft. Crumb colour is appealing. Lots of spices in dough giving great flavour."
Woolworths Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns

Woolworths Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns.

Woolworths Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 72%
  • Price: $0.58 per bun ($3.50 per 6-pack)
  • Experts say: "Texture is nice and soft. Good colour for baked dough. Good aroma."
Coles Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns

Coles Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns.

Coles Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 71%
  • Price: $0.58 per bun ($3.50 per 6-pack)
  • Good to know: The on-pack country of origin label states that these buns are made from at least 95% Australian ingredients.
  • Experts say: "Good, even colour, evenly proportioned cross to dough. Moist, soft texture. Sultanas evenly distributed and plump. Soft fruit gives a good mouthfeel."
Aldi Bakers Life Fruit Hot Cross Buns

Aldi Bakers Life Fruit Hot Cross Buns.

Aldi Bakers Life Fruit Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 71%
  • Price: $0.50 per bun ($2.99 per 6-pack)
  • Good to know: These are the second-cheapest buns on test (after Costco buns, which come in packs of 24 only and you need to be a member to buy them).
  • Experts say: "Soft fruit. Good aroma. Great cross piping. A good tasting hot cross bun!"

Best choc chip hot cross buns

Bakers Delight Choc Chip

Bakers Delight Choc Chip Hot Cross Buns.

Bakers Delight Choc Chip Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 82%
  • Price: $1.25 per bun ($7.50 per 6-pack)
  • Experts say: "Lots of choc pieces evident, and evenly distributed. Good thin cross, even size and shape. Nice spice aroma. Good moist, soft texture. Good flavour!"
Coles Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Coles Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.

Coles Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 77%
  • Price: $0.58 per bun ($3.50 per 6-pack)
  • Good to know: With 28% choc chips, these are the most chocolate-y of the choc chip products tested.
  • Experts say: "Good cocoa colour in the crumb. Lots of choc pieces. Strong chocolate aroma. Moist texture. Flavour is nice and the crust texture is good."
Woolworths Hot Cross Buns with Cadbury Milk Chocolate Chips

Woolworths Hot Cross Buns with Cadbury Milk Chocolate Chips.

Woolworths Hot Cross Buns with Cadbury Milk Chocolate Chips

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 74%
  • Price: $0.58 per bun ($3.50 per 6-pack)
  • Good to know: The choc chips in these hot cross buns are made by Cadbury.
  • Experts say: "Good cross piping. Very soft, moist texture. Good chocolate flavour in the bun dough, although chocolate pieces mainly on edges and not evenly through mix."

Best gluten-free hot cross buns

Many people need to avoid eating gluten, so this year we included gluten-free traditional fruit and choc chip offerings from Coles and Woolworths in our taste test.

While overall gluten-free buns scored poorly compared with regular versions, the following – both with a CHOICE Score of 56% – are the best tasting options, according to our experts:

  • Traditional fruit: Coles Gluten Free Fruit Hot Cross Buns
  • Choc chip: Woolworths Free From Gluten Choc Hot Cross Buns

Which hot cross buns are vegan?

If you want (or need) to avoid eggs and/or milk, you don't have to miss out.

Of the products we tested, the following hot cross buns are vegan:

  • Aldi Bakers Life Fruit Hot Cross Buns
  • Bakers Delight Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns
  • Brumby's Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns
  • Coles Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns
  • Costco Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns
  • Woolworths Free From Gluten Fruit Hot Cross Buns
  • Woolworths Free From Gluten Choc Hot Cross Buns
  • Woolworths Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns

Meet our expert taste testers

Hot cross buns expert judges

L-R Brooke Stephen, Michele Walsh, Brigid Treloar

Brooke Stephen teaches at Le Cordon Bleu Sydney, lecturing and assessing the next generation of bakers and pastry chefs. She has been in the baking industry for 20 years, working in patisseries, hotels and fine dining restaurants as head baker and pastry chef. Brooke has worked in product development companies for airlines, bakeries and cafes, and has judged the bread range at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.  She has also competed in chocolate and baking competitions nationally and internationally.

Michele Walsh has worked in the baking industry for more than 30 years, starting as an apprentice and now working as a tertiary-educated professional in the vocational education and training sector, where she delivers training to apprentices and non-apprentices in retail baking and patisserie. She has more than 15 years' experience in judging, including the RAS Professional Bakery and WorldSkills trades competitions.

Brigid Treloar has been a freelance food consultant for over 30 years. The author of eight cookbooks, she ran a cake business for 10 years for private, corporate and commercial clients and also contributes to newspapers and magazines, reviews restaurants, and judges cookery and recipe competitions, including the RAS Fine Food Professional Bakery Competition. Brigid has presented specialist cooking classes in Sydney, around Australia and overseas, and often appears on TV and radio. She's an industry assessor for Le Cordon Bleu, advises many of Australia's food companies on product and recipe development, and also provides recipes and cooking information for company websites.

How we test

Hot cross buns taste test 3

Traditional fruit hot cross bun samples

Products

We tested 15 hot cross bun products available in major supermarket chains, bakery chains and membership warehouse Costco. The eight traditional fruit and seven choc chip products were tested separately. Price is based on price paid for a six-pack or closest bought in Sydney stores (not on special) in February 2020.

Hot cross buns taste test 1

Judges scored samples for appearance, aroma, flavour and texture

Tasting

Our experts tasted the hot cross bun samples 'blind' (without knowing the brands) in a randomised order, which was different for each expert.

Scores

Experts independently judged all hot cross bun products. The CHOICE Score is made up of flavour (50%), appearance (20%), aroma (15%) and texture (15%). We recommend products with a CHOICE Score of 70% or more.

Hot cross buns recipe

homemade-hot-cross-buns-recipe

Homemade hot cross buns

Think you can do better than store-bought? Make your own hot cross buns at home following this recipe shared with us by the former national president of the Country Women's Association, Noela MacLeod.

Ingredients

The buns:

  • 1¼ kg flour, sifted 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bread improver
  • 1 dessert spoon dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice 
  • 1 tablespoon powdered milk
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 egg   
  • 2½ cups warm water
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • ½ cup currants
  • ½ cup chopped dried apricots
  • ¼ cup mixed peel

The crosses:

  • 2 tablespoons plain flour 
  • ½ cup cold water (approx.)

The glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon powdered gelatine 
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¾ cup water

Method

  • For the buns, combine sugar, bread improver, yeast, salt, spices, powdered milk, oil and half of the flour in a warm basin.
  • Add egg and warm water, beat with an electric beater for 5½ minutes.
  • Add dried fruit and the remaining sifted flour. Mix well.
  • Turn out onto a floured board and knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place back into the bowl, cover with plastic, and stand in a warm space until dough has doubled in size.
  • Turn mixture out onto a floured surface and knead well.
  • Divide into bun-sized pieces (approximately 60g) and shape into buns.
  • Place on a greased/lined oven tray and leave in a warm place until well risen.
  • Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan-forced).
  • For the crosses, place flour into a small bowl and stir in enough water to make a smooth paste.
  • Use a piping bag to pipe crosses over the risen buns.
  • Place buns into a moderately warm oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. They're ready when they're golden brown on top and sound hollow when you tap them.
  • For the glaze, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, stir without boiling until sugar and gelatine are dissolved. 
  • Brush glaze over cooked buns while they're still warm from the oven.

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