Tender, warmly spiced, and studded with bits of melty chocolate, these vegan hot cross buns are a fun and delicious spin on a traditional favorite. Whether you celebrate Easter or not, these buns are a treat enjoyed by everyone!
What are Hot Cross Buns?
Hot cross buns have a long and interesting history, going way back to something like the 5th century and some say even earlier! While the most well known story has roots in Christianity, there is evidence that they were around well before the birth of this religion. No matter what though, it’s this time of year that they are most commonly enjoyed. While it was decreed by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592 that these buns are too special to have but a few occasions per year, I think we can bend the rules, and enjoy them when the craving hits!
Hot cross buns are similar to dinner rolls but are a bit denser in texture. They are also sweeter, and usually lightly flavored with spices such as ground cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cloves, etc. Some contain citrus and other fruit in them. The buns get their name from their decorative cross which is either made from a flour paste prior to baking, or a piped frosting once the buns have baked and cooled. Quite often, the buns will be brushed with a simple sugar glaze after baking which gives them a lovely sheen and some extra sweetness.
A perfect vegan Easter treat, these vegan Chocolate Chip Hot Cross buns make for a relaxing and fun activity to help take our minds off the current pandemic. They are a wonderful addition to breakfast or brunch, but freeze well if you live on your own and don’t need dozen buns. See the notes in the recipe card for freezing instructions.
How to Make Vegan Hot Cross Buns
I prefer a richer hot cross bun, so the dough for this recipe is loosely based on my vegan brioche cinnamon rolls . I like to use refined coconut oil in these buns because it yields a melt-in-your-mouth feel. Refined coconut oil has had the coconut flavor removed so it is neutral tasting. If you don’t have coconut oil, you can use a neutral oil such as canola, sunflower, etc. While these buns are leavened with yeast, I’ve also added baking powder which creates a slightly more tender bun.
While most hot Cross buns have fruit in them like raisins, these ones are made with chocolate. Chocolate chips are amazing in these buns, but if you have some good vegan semi-sweet chocolate bars and love melty pools of chocolate, these are for you! Use whatever you have on hand, just make sure it’s good quality and tastes delicious on it’s own.
Steps for Making Vegan Hot Cross Buns:
- Make the dough.
- Knead the dough for 8 minutes.
- Cover the dough and let it rise for 1-2 hours.
- Punch down the dough, then shape into balls.
- Let the rolls rise for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Pipe the crosses on top.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes.
- Brush with the easy glaze, and enjoy!
Kneading Dough with a Mixer or By Hand
The dough is easily made in a stand-up mixer, but a good old fashioned spoon and bowl work great, too. I really love the texture we create when the dough is kneaded more than just a couple of minutes as in many other recipes. I usually aim for about 8 minutes. Kneading dough is actually pretty relaxing, so put on a timer and get in the zone! Otherwise, if you have a dough hook on a stand-mixer, you can let them do the work for you.
The chocolate may resist staying in the dough, but don’t stress. You can either leave those pieces in the bowl at the end with the dough while it rises or press them in if you’re more patient. We’ll be dealing with them once we form the rolls, anyway.
If you’re kneading by hand, I don’t recommend adding the chocolate until towards the end of kneading.
The pieces of hard chocolate can hurt your hands as you’re kneading. Also, the heat from your hands may cause the chocolate to start melting. Instead, once you’ve finished kneading the dough, roll it out to a rectangle roughly 10″ x 6″. Then, scatter the chocolate over half of the dough and then fold the remaining half over. Roll the dough out again but into a smaller rectangle than before, just until some of the chocolate is poking out. Roll the dough into a tight log along the long end. Spiral the dough around itself to create a rough disc. Play with it and knead it to encourage it to smooth out and become a ball. Some of the chocolate may fall out, but don’t fret, just press it back into the dough.
Let the Dough Rise
Once the dough risen to be roughly one and half times to double in size after about an hour and half, punch it down. Turn it onto a lightly greased work surface. I prefer to use oil to grease my hands and work surface to prevent sticking rather than flour. Flour is messier and, if overdone, can create a tougher dough. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape them into little balls, pinching the bottoms together like little purses. The tops should be smooth and round (except for any chocolate poking out the top.)
Place the dough balls into a parchment lined or well greased 9 x 13” baking pan. Cover the shaped rolls, then let them rise for 1 more hour. Make sure your oven is completely preheated before baking the rolls.
Before baking, prepare the flour paste for the crosses. The crosses are just decoration and can be skipped if you’d prefer to simplify things. Pipe the crosses once the oven is preheated and you’re ready to bake the buns. They take about 25-30 minutes to bake. The buns will rise a bit more in the oven and be golden brown. They sound a bit hollow when you rap your knuckle on the center of a bun.
Like most buns, these Hot Cross buns are pretty amazing the next day cut in half, toasted and slathered with vegan butter!
If you make these Vegan Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns, please give them a rating in the recipe card and leave a comment below! Follow along on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes. I love seeing what you’re cooking! You can also follow me on Pinterest for vegan recipe inspiration and on Facebook. Thank you for reading!
Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns
For the Dough:
- 1/2 cup refined coconut oil*
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened plant-based milk
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 4-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 2 tsp dry active yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 ground nutmeg
- 1 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips or good quality vegan semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (about 6 oz)
For the Crosses:
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 5-6 tbsp water
For the Glaze:
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1-2 tsp unsweetened plant-based milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the buns:
- Line a 9" x 13" baking pan with parchment paper, or grease well.
- In a small pot, melt the coconut oil over low heat. Add the plant-based milk, brown sugar and vanilla. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn off the heat and set aside to coll to 110-115°F. If the temperature is higher than this when combined with the yeast, the yeast will die. Stir in the vanilla.
- In a large bowl with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of a stand-mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix 4 cups of the flour, baking powder, spices, yeast and salt together. Slowly stream in the warm milk mixture. If using a stand-mixer, add the chocolate as soon as the dough starts to come together and run it on a medium-low setting for about 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic with a slight stickiness. If it's too sticky, add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time. If doing it by hand, don't add the chocolate just yet. Instead, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and knead it for about 8 minutes. Keep your hands lightly oiled to prevent the dough from sticking to you.
- If kneading by hand: once the dough has been kneaded enough, roll the dough out to a rectangle roughly 10" x 6". Then, scatter the chocolate over half of the dough and then fold the remaining half over. Roll the dough out again but into a smaller rectangle than before, just until some of the chocolate is poking out. Roll the dough into a tight log along the long end. Spiral the dough around itself to create a rough disc. Play with it and knead it to encourage it to smooth out and become a ball. Some of the chocolate may fall out, but don't fret, just press it back into the dough.
- Rinse out the large bowl and grease well. Place the dough ball into the bowl, cover with a tea towel in a warm place for about 90 minutes or until about 1.5 times its original size.
- Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly oiled surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into balls, pinching the bottom like little purses, and pressing in any chocolate dropping out. Place the buns in the prepared pan, 3 across width-wise and 4 across lengthwise down. Cover again in a warm place and let rise for another 30-60 minutes.
For the Crosses:
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350° F. Whisk together the flour and water in a small bowl for the paste to make the crosses starting with 4 tbsp of water adding more only until the paste is just thick enough to pipe but not so thin that it will spread and not form lines for the crosses. Once no lumps remain, spoon into a small zip-lock bag or piping bag fitted with a very small round tip. If using the bag, snip off a tiny corner (slightly more narrow than you want the lines of the cross to be) and slowly pipe a line down the middle of buns one way, and then the other way.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the buns are light brown and you hear a hollow sound when rapping the center of a bun. Let cool for 15 minutes before glazing.
For the Glaze:
- Mix together the confectioner's sugar, plant-based milk and vanilla in small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the warm buns taking care to avoid any chocolate so it does not smear. Serve immediately.
- Store at room temperature for 2-3 days in an airtight container.
The Nutrition Information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the Nutrition Information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.
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This recipe was first published on Crumbs & Caramel June 08, 2018. The post has been updated with improved educational value and fresh images.