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Best hot cross buns we tasted: 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: 14 March 2022

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 23 hot cross buns – 'traditional' fruit, apple & cinnamon and chocolate varieties, both gluten free and regular – from major supermarkets Coles, Woolworths, IGA and Aldi, major bakery chain Bakers Delight and membership warehouse Costco, to see which buns are best.

Best traditional fruit hot cross buns

The options when it comes to hot cross bun varieties extends from Cadbury Caramilk to Vegemite and cheese, and seemingly everything in between. Despite this, our polls consistently show that a traditional fruit hot cross bun is our firm favourite.

So for those who'd prefer not to mess with a classic, which traditional buns are best? 

Our panel of professionals taste-tested 23 hot cross bun products, and recommended those that scored 70% or more. You can compare all products in our full hot cross buns review, but the following three products were the best of the dozen 'traditional fruit' buns we tested.

Woolworths Luxurious Fruit Hot Cross Buns 4 Pack

Woolworths Luxurious Richly Fruited Hot Cross Buns.

Woolworths Luxurious Richly Fruited Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 84%
  • Price: $1.13 per bun ($4.50 per 4-pack)
  • Good to know: With 29.5% fruit (sultanas, currants, sunmuscat raisins, cranberries and candied orange peel) these buns live up to their name and have the highest fruit content of all products we tested).
  • Experts say: "Very nice shine and white cross. Spring back is good. Soft, lush texture. Fruit and spice aromatics evident. Good flavour. Lots of plump fruit. Overall the fruit mix and texture is awesome."
Aldi Bakers Life Indulgent Traditional Fruit

Aldi Bakers Life Indulgent Traditional Fruit.

Aldi Bakers Life Indulgent Traditional Fruit

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 73%
  • Price: $0.75 per bun ($2.99 per 4-pack)
  • Good to know: This is the premium tier of traditional fruit hot cross buns from Aldi.
  • Experts say: "A large, dense bun with good volume. Firm but bounces back. Very neat cross and nice shine. Can smell cinnamon. Good colour, light sheen. Moist, soft texture. Mild spice flavour, good amount of fruit."
Woolworths Indulgent Brioche Fruit Hot Cross Buns

Woolworths Indulgent Brioche Fruit Hot Cross Buns.

Woolworths Indulgent Brioche Fruit Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 72%
  • Price: $0.75 per bun ($4.50 per 6-pack)
  • Good to know: 'Brioche' is bread enriched with ingredients such as milk and egg. Of the brioche buns we tested, this one scored best.
  • Experts say: "Slightly yellow hue, like a brioche. Light glaze and thinly piped cross. Aroma lacking spices. Lovely and soft, moist crumb. Looks good visually but lacks spice."

Best chocolate hot cross buns

Why wait for the Easter bunny to bring eggs when you can eat your chocolate in bun form? 

Of the seven chocolate hot cross buns we tested, two made it onto our recommended list by scoring 70% or more in our taste test.

Aldi Bakers Life Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Aldi Bakers Life Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.

Aldi Bakers Life Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 73%
  • Price: $0.50 per bun ($2.99 per 6-pack)
  • Good to know: Along with Aldi Bakers Life Fruit Hot Cross Buns, these were the cheapest buns we tested.
  • Experts say: "Very square looking. Good cross and a slight shine. Good volume, soft crumb, firm with some bounce when pressed. Mild chocolate aroma. Chocolatey dough, pieces evident. Slight chocolate bourbon flavour."
Coles Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Coles Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.

Coles Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 71%
  • Price: $0.58 per bun ($3.50 per 6-pack)
  • Good to know: These buns contain 25% milk chocolate chips with an additional 3% cocoa powder, so they're the most chocolate-y of the buns we tested. Plus the cocoa is Rainforest Alliance Certified.
  • Experts say: "Nice dark, rustic look, very chocolate-dense with big choc pieces. Chocolatey, mudcake aroma. Very light texture based on size. Good flavour, chocolatey with a slight bitter cocoa profile."

Best apple & cinnamon hot cross bun

The biggest bakery and supermarket chains all offer an apple & cinnamon variety of hot cross bun, but just one made into our recommended list with a CHOICE Expert Rating of 72%.

Woolworths Indulgent Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

Woolworths Indulgent Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns.

Woolworths Indulgent Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 72%
  • Price: $0.88 per bun ($3.50 per 4-pack)
  • Good to know: These buns contain 18% apple (Pink Lady), which is more than in the other apple & cinnamon buns we tested.
  • Experts say: "Nice colour, good shape. Volume good for size of bun. Lacks spice aroma, but clean. Soft texture dough, moist. Buttery flavour and nice profile but apple hardly present."
Coles I'm Free From Gluten Wheat Dairy Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Coles I'm Free From Gluten Wheat & Dairy Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.

Best gluten-free hot cross bun

Many people need to avoid eating gluten, so we've included gluten-free traditional fruit and chocolate offerings from Coles and Woolworths in our taste test.

Generally speaking the gluten-free buns scored poorly compared with regular versions, but the best gluten-free bun, with a CHOICE Expert Rating of 51%, was Coles I'm Free From Gluten Wheat & Dairy Chocolate Hot Cross Buns.

Vegan hot cross buns

If you're avoiding animal products, you don't have to miss out.

Of the products we tested, the following five hot cross buns are vegan and contain only plant-based ingredients:

  • Bakers Delight Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns
  • Coles Traditional Fruit Hot Cross Buns
  • Costco Kirkland Signature Hot Cross Buns
  • Woolworths Free From Gluten Choc Hot Cross Buns
  • Woolworths Free From Gluten Fruit Hot Cross Buns

How we test

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A selection of coded hot cross bun samples

Products

We test hot cross bun products available in major supermarket chains, a major bakery chain and membership warehouse Costco. Traditional fruit, apple & cinnamon and chocolate products are tested separately. Price is for the pack sized specified and bought in Sydney stores (not on special).

Tasting

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

Scores

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

Meet our expert taste testers

Hot cross bun taste tester Adam Moore

Adam Moore

Adam Moore is a prolific culinary judge. His credits include judging for Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Fine Food competitions across a range of categories. 

He has formal qualifications in pastry, charcuterie and butchery, sensory evaluation, food styling and food photography. With more than 25 years in the industry, Adam has worked in restaurants, food service, retail, food manufacturing, marketing and sales. He's a certified global executive chef, and culinology director at Culinary Revolutions.

Hot cross bun taste tester Janet Aislabie

Janet Aislabie

Janet Aislabie has been teaching at TAFE NSW for the past 19 years, and is involved in training and mentoring young people for industry competitions at regional, state and national levels.

After originally studying to be a chef in New Zealand, Janet completed pastry cooking qualifications while employed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney. She then moved to London and completed a Culinary Arts Diploma at Thames Valley University and worked in hotels including The Ritz  and The Mandarin Oriental before returning to Australia. She feels privileged to be involved as national and regional judge for various industry competitions.

Hot cross bun taste tester Andre Sandison

Andre Sandison

Andre Sandison has worked, managed and taught as a pastry chef with more than 25 years' industry experience across hotels, restaurants and production patisseries in Japan, Britain, Switzerland, China and throughout Australia. He also holds a diploma in Food Technology that critically underpins his technical capacity. 

Andre has achieved the highest professional accolades competing in global patisserie and gelato competitions with success. As chocolatier at Zokoko, a Sydney-based bean to bar chocolate manufacturer, he develops both cafe and retail solutions addressing classic and emerging food trends. As demonstrated by his ongoing creativity, he loves working with his hands, head and heart.

Recipe: Make hot cross buns at home

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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