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Not cross buns: Culinary crime or tasty treat?

From pizza-flavoured buns to iconic Aussie biscuit mash-ups, we taste test the Not Cross Buns on the shelves this Easter.

weird hot cross buns coles woolworths
Last updated: 29 February 2024

The bewildering appearance of hot cross buns on supermarket shelves on Boxing Day 2023 was a portent of things to come for Easter 2024: a new generation of Not Cross Buns (NXBs) to tantalise and/or terrorise our tastebuds. 

soraya sarah nxb taste test

CHOICE staff bravely taste these questionable creations so you don't have to.

These Frankenbuns seem to get weirder each year, and have almost become a PR stunt to boost the supermarkets' cred: better to be infamous for your questionable flavour combinations than ignored for playing it safe, right?

It all started with fruit-free and apple and cinnamon buns, but now we're truly through the looking glass: think Vegemite and cheese, Special Burger Sauce, Red Velvet, and other egregious offerings.

These Frankenbuns seem to get weirder each year

We dared intrepid CHOICE bun enthusiasts to taste them, to help you decide what to add to your shopping trolley and which ones to leave on the shelf.

Here's what we put on the tasting table this year:

  • Arnott's Iced Vovo Hot Cross Buns (Coles)
  • Arnott's Pizza Shapes Hot Cross Buns (Coles)
  • Woolworths Indulgent Hot Cross Buns Filled With Biscoff
  • Bakers Delight Sticky Date Hot Cross Buns

If traditional buns are more your style, the results of our official hot cross buns review will be available soon. We'll reveal the best traditional, choc chip and gluten-free varieties from Woolies, Coles, Aldi, Costco and more.

shapes hot cross buns styled

Coles upped the ante in 2024, partnering with Arnott's to release the unlikely combo of Pizza Shapes and hot cross buns. (Image: Coles)

Coles Pizza Shapes Hot Cross Buns

Coles has been a repeat NXB offender: first, the Vegemite and cheese hot cross bun, and then the Special Burger Sauce abomination in 2023.

As expected, the retailer has taken things up a notch in 2024 with a similarly frightening creation: an unholy mashup of Arnott's Pizza Shapes and hot cross buns. 

Honestly, we're already a little nervous about Easter 2025.

These controversial buns will set you back $5 for a pack of four, while a box of Pizza Shapes are $4 at full price. Are you better off sticking with the original, or are your tastebuds up to the challenge?

coles shapes hot cross buns

They taste like Pizza Shapes, but do you actually want that in a hot cross bun?

What the supermarket says:

Coles Arnott's Pizza Shapes Inspired Hot Cross Buns are a savoury sensation, infused with seasonings inspired by Pizza Shapes, featuring parmesan and cheddar cheese and topped with "flavour you can see".

Best eaten fresh, or as an indulgent cheese toastie filled with Pizza Shapes for extra crunch.

[Ed's note: What on earth??] 

What our taste testers said:

  • That is the worst tasting thing ever. 0/10. 
  • I was sceptical that it would work but it isn't too bad. 
  • Very orange. Very salty. Does taste like Shapes though.
  • Tastes like Shapes, but who wants a Shapes hot cross bun? Give me a pack of Pizza Shapes instead!
  • Smells gross, like off cheese.

That is the worst tasting thing ever. 0/10

  • Yummy! Definitely tastes like the pizza biscuits. I wouldn't buy it though – only if I was desperate for savoury snacks.
  • It's going a step too far. I could get a better pizza-flavoured bread elsewhere. 
  • Smells like feet.
  • Doughy, and claggy, and salty. Just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
  • I was expecting it to be bad and it lived up to those expectations. 
  • This is the most horrendous thing invented in history. I'm going back for seconds just to confirm that it's really disgusting. 

Our verdict

We can only conclude that these were created more for publicity than public consumption. 

If you've always wished that Pizza Shapes were soggy and even more artificial-tasting than they already are, then you'll probably enjoy these. Otherwise, stick with actual pizza or a packet of Pizza Shapes biscuits.

We can only conclude that these were created more for publicity than public consumption

iced vovo hot cross buns

Another biscuit/bun hybrid: Coles' Iced VoVo hot cross buns. (Image: Coles.)

Coles Iced Vovo Hot Cross Buns

After its offence against good taste with the Pizza Shapes NXBs, Coles changed tack and appealed to our sense of nostalgia with the Iced Vovo NXB – a bready, Easter-y take on the beloved Australian biscuit. 

Another one from the "but why would you make that?" category, these buns aren't cheap at $5 for a four-pack – especially compared with Coles' traditional hot cross buns, which cost 67 cents each.

Still, it's a small price to pay to experience culinary history, right? (The jury's still out on that one.)

So, the biscuit-to-bun transition: genius, or grossness?

iced vovo nxb

Up close and personal with the alarmingly pink Iced VoVo NXB.

What the supermarket says:

For those with a sweet tooth, Coles Arnott's Iced VoVo Inspired Hot Cross Buns are a tasty treat, inspired by the flavours of the iconic Iced VoVo biscuit, with raspberry fudge, jellies and white chocolate, and finished with a sprinkle of desiccated coconut.

Best eaten fresh, served warm with butter or toasted and filled with ice cream for an epic ice-cream sandwich.

What our taste testers said:

  • Too pink – it's a Peppa Pig hot cross bun! No actual taste, greasy mouthfeel. 0/10.
  • Very artificial, with a strange aftertaste. 
  • Very pink. Really nice actually! 
  • Overwhelming fake strawberry flavour.
  • Colour is off-putting, but it might appeal to kids. Terrible aftertaste. 

It tastes a bit like playdough and jam

  • Only a vague impression of jam and marshmallow. Nothing like a real Iced VoVo. 
  • It's okay but I would rather an actual Iced VoVo biscuit. 
  • I love the fact that it tastes nothing like a hot cross bun.
  • I'm reluctant to put it in my mouth. [After tasting:] It tastes a bit like playdough and jam. 
  • [Spits it out] It's not worth the real estate in my stomach.

Our verdict

Unless you're a fan of Peppa Pig-coloured buns and disappointment, our money's on the OG biscuits

A packet of Iced VoVo biscuits from Coles will set you back around $4 (at time of writing). 

Unless you're a fan of Peppa Pig-coloured buns and disappointment, our money's on the OG biscuits. 

woolworths biscoff hot cross buns

Biscoff buns are so popular they're almost impossible to find in store.

Woolworths Indulgent Hot Cross Buns Filled with Biscoff

In comparison with Coles' bold buns, Woolworths' NXB was quite restrained: a Biscoff-filled hot cross bun. 

Never heard of Biscoff? It began life as a Belgian shortbread-style biscuit, but now it's better known as a spread – kind of like a biscuity, caramelly version of Nutella. 

Everyone's got the Biscoff bug – people are putting it in just about everything – so it was inevitable that it'd end up in a hot cross bun. 

Anything Biscoff is in high demand, and the NXBs are no exception: we had to visit three different Woolworths stores to get our hot (cross) little hands on these elusive buns. Staff told us that they fly off the shelves as soon as they put them out. 

Like Coles, Woolies is charging a premium for its hot cross bun mash-up, with a four-pack costing $5.50 compared to $4 for a six-pack. By comparison, Woolies' traditional hot cross buns are $4 for a pack of six.

inside biscoff hot cross buns

The Biscoff wasn't evenly distributed through the bun, so be careful if anyone asks you to share: you might miss out on the delicious filling!

So how much Biscoff can you get for your buck? Is it worth paying extra?

We did the maths for you: If you bought 12 trad buns ($8.00) and a jar of Biscoff ($7.50) you'd still pay less than for 12 Biscoff buns ($16.50) – and you'd have half a jar of Biscoff left over to boot!

What our taste testers said:

  • This truly tastes like Biscoff and is therefore delicious. 9/10.
  • Inconsistent with filling.
  • Sweet, caramelly, doughy. Can't really taste the Biscoff.
  • The Biscoff is a delight. The one collab I would actually go back for. I want seconds!

So doughy! I'd rather buy some Biscoff and bread separately

  • Very doughy without the Biscoff spread.
  • So doughy! I'd rather buy some Biscoff and bread separately.
  • I wouldn't buy it because I don't have a big sweet tooth. But for a special treat – yum!
  • Good if you're a sugar junkie, which I'm not. It's not worth the calories.

Would you buy them?

  • I'm already off to the store!
  • Hell yeah!
cut up hot cross buns

In the Battle of the Buns, Biscoff was the clear winner. (Left to right: Sticky Date Pudding, Pizza Shapes, Iced VoVo, Biscoff.)

Our verdict

As you can see, the Biscoff buns were far and away the favourite, with very few samples left due to our testers sneaking extras. By comparison, the other NXBs were largely untouched – very few people wanted seconds of these three buns. 

The Biscoff variants were wildly popular with our testers, but they're also wildly popular with the public, so good luck finding any of these on the shelf at your local Woolies. 

Good luck finding any of these on the shelf at your local Woolies

Instead, save yourself some money and grab some trad hot cross buns and a jar of Biscoff instead. That way you can control the Biscoff-to-bun ratio and make them as sweet as you like!

bakers delight hot cross buns

Bakers Delight's buns weren't too far a departure from trad hot cross buns.

Bakers Delight Sticky Date Hot Cross Buns

So we promised you weird and wonderful Frankenbuns and admittedly these ones don't quite fit the brief. 

But they piqued our interest so we decided to throw them into the mix – after all, why should the big supermarkets get all the hot cross bun airtime?

Bakers Delight didn't stray too far from traditional hot cross bun territory with these Sticky Date NXBs, adding dates and caramel fudge pieces in place of raisins and peel. 

In fact, none of the bakery's HXBs are too wild: apple and cinnamon, and mocha are probably the most out-there flavour combos. 

Unlike the other NXBs we tested, the prices weren't inflated: they're $9 for a pack of six – the same price as Bakers Delight's traditional hot cross buns. 

Is it worth making a trip to Bakers Delight to pick these up? Or should you just stick with regular hot cross buns?

What our taste testers said:

  • I like sticky date puddings usually, but the flavour didn't cut through. Tasted like a normal HCB. 
  • Quite dry; nothing special – I'd prefer a trad hot cross bun over this. 
  • Lacks spice, doughy. The most 'hot cross' of all of them, but still not a hot cross bun. 

If you told me this was just a normal hot cross bun I wouldn't question it at all

  • Can't taste the date; it's too subtle. 
  • Would recommend to someone trying to expand their hot cross bun variety without straying too far into the ridiculous realm of Iced VoVos and Pizza Shapes.
  • If you told me this was just a normal hot cross bun I wouldn't question it at all. 
  • Not memorable.

Our verdict

If you want a sticky date hot cross bun, well… these aren't really it

If you want a sticky date pudding, buy a sticky date pudding; if you want a hot cross bun, buy a hot cross bun. 

If you want a sticky date hot cross bun, well… these aren't really it.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.