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The best hot cross buns for Easter 2022

Whether you’re a chocoholic, spice fan or fruit bun purist – there’s a bake for everyone here

<p>Toasted, buttered or fresh, we were looking for fruit ratio, fluffiness, ease to toast and value  </p>

Toasted, buttered or fresh, we were looking for fruit ratio, fluffiness, ease to toast and value

Whether you prefer to toast your buns and slather them in butter, are a purist who eats them fresh out of the packet, or you delight in making sandwiches out of them, there’s no denying that the hot cross bun is a much-loved baked good.

But if you’ve ever tried to make them yourself, you’ll know how much hard work goes into them, and how they are absolutely not ever worth baking yourself. The little buns can come out too small, too hard, and then the piping is another disaster waiting to happen too. How the bakeries get them so fluffy, we’ll never understand.

They’re one of life’s true delights, and letting someone else do the hard work is absolutely justifiable here. Especially as they’re often so cheap in the build-up to Easter.

Hot cross buns have also had a renaissance when it comes to flavours too. You may have noticed a bit of orange chocolate creeping in, or one of our favourites, bramley apple (£0.99, Aldi.co.uk).

Well, this year, some supermarkets have gone even further into the sweet bun realm with creations such as strawberries and cream (£0.99, Aldi.co.uk). Though, you’ll have to try that one at your own risk, as for us, it may be a step too far.

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How we tested

We’ve toasted, buttered, eaten fresh and shared among family and colleagues to get through the copious amounts of hot cross buns that are available now. To come out on top, we were looking for those with the best flavour overall, not just the wacky, but of course the classics, as well as paid close attention to fruit ratio, fluffiness, ease to toast and value. These are the buns you should add to your basket.

The best hot cross buns for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Aldi specially selected four luxury fruited hot cross buns, pack of four: £0.99, Aldi.co.uk
  • Best Earl Grey flavour – Japan Centre earl grey and matcha green tea hot cross buns, pack of four: £2.99, Japancentre.com
  • Best for a sweet tooth – Waitrose hot cross buns, pack of four: £1.65, Waitrose.com
  • Best range of flavours – M&S hot cross buns, pack of four: £1.75, Ocado.com
  • Best blueberry flavour – Tesco six hot cross buns: £0.89, Tesco.com
  • Best fruit content – Morrisons the best 4 extra fruity hot cross buns: £1, Morrisons.com
  • Best new flavour – Co-Op richly fruited hot cross buns: £1.50, Coop.co.uk

Aldi specially selected four luxury fruited hot cross buns, pack of four

Best: Overall

Rating:  9/10

After much testing, these buns from the budget supermarket’s highly acclaimed specially selected range were the best we tried. Upon opening the packets, the festive spice smell is immediately evident, with hints of orange peel and cinnamon spilling out – something we found didn’t happen with others we tested.

Its classic flavour is generously chock-full of juicy fruit, while still being fluffy too. It’s nicely sticky on the outside and generally feels, tastes and smells a lot more premium than it is, and unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the most affordable on the list too. Aside from the classic, we were shocked to find we also quite liked the chocolate flavour (£0.99, Aldi.co.uk), although we didn’t think it would be for us.

Japan Centre earl grey and matcha green tea hot cross buns, pack of four

Best: Earl grey flavour 

Rating: 8.5/10

Anything earl grey flavoured is certainly speaking our language. So, naturally, we were very intrigued to try the set of early grey and matcha (separate flavours, not combined before anyone gets any truly wild ideas) hot cross buns from Japan Centre – the London design store that celebrates all things Japanese, from food to interiors, and art to technology.

Of course the flavours were sublime, and the little fluffy squat buns are perfectly rounded in shape, which made them look very artisanal. Real earl grey fans will be pleased to know that these were some of the best we tasted. We also really liked that these had little bits of dried cranberry and apricot in them too, which added a little oomph.

Waitrose hot cross buns, pack of four

Best: For a sweet tooth

Rating: 8/10

With more than 10 flavours to munch your way through, from wholemeal (£1.65, Waitrose.com) to chocolate orange (£1.65, Waitrose.com) to St Clements (£1.65, Waitrose.com) or sticky toffee (£1.65, Waitrose.com) – there’s quite literally something to satisfy almost any sweet tooth. However, we stuck to the classic flavour and were impressed with how it tasted and toasted. It smelt nicely spiced and had a healthy fruit content too.

We also tested the brioche (£1.50, Waitrose.com), which we were excited about, but sadly it was a little disappointing and lacked any real flavour. Not to be deterred, we even used them as a bougie breakfast option with lots of smoked rashes of streaky bacon, which obviously elevated it, but it’s mostly the bacon doing the heavy lifting here. And while the lemon and white chocolate (£1.65, Waitrose.com) was too sweet for us, some of our colleagues really liked them.

M&S hot cross buns, pack of four

Best: Range of flavours

Rating: 81/0

This isn’t just any hot cross bun, it’s an M&S hot cross bun… Actually, in reality, there’s not a huge amount that puts the classic flavour apart from other top contenders. Yes there’s a decent amount of fruit inside, but this year, to stand out from the crowd, M&S is offering a whopping 12 flavours as well as savoury options.

Enter the extremely cheesy buns (£1.75, Ocado.com). Instead of fruit, inside is extra mature cheddar and red Leicester. For us, who are huge cheese fans, it didn’t quite work, especially when you add butter on top. But we did love the blueberry flavour (£1.75, Ocado.com), which is surprisingly sweet with a hint of cardamom too.

There’s also some extremely chocolatey buns (£1.75, Ocado.com) which are as they say, full of chocolate and chocolate drops inside that melt once toasted. We personally preferred these ones without butter. And Marmite fans can rejoice too as there’s a Marmite hot cross bun (£1.75, Ocado.com) which also has cheese in them.

Tesco six hot cross buns

Best: Blueberry flavour

Rating: 8/10

Perhaps the stickiest we tried, and you could argue they were actually a touch too sticky, these baked goods were also very fruity and once toasted were pretty great. Away from the classic, the Tesco Finest range blueberry hot cross buns (£1.50, Tesco.com) are a real standout. The entire inside of the baked good has taken on a purple hue and the flavour is undeniable. While the fruit content inside isn’t particularly high, we do like that these ones are topped with rolled oats, which we’ve not seen on any other buns before.

Morrisons the best 4 extra fruity hot cross buns

Best: Fruit content

Rating: 9/10

These hot cross buns are exactly what they say on the packet – full of fruit. So fruity in fact, that every mouthful has numerous sultanas in it. These also tasted like they had a touch more orange peel in them than others, which we also liked. The buns toasted well but were not too dense. To be honest, these are the buns we’d buy time and time again for Easter entertaining. Fancy going a little bit out of the box? The range also includes blondies (£1, Morrisons.com), which are doused with a mixture of white chocolate and caramel, and a lemon drizzle flavour (£1, Morrisons.com).

Co-Op richly fruited hot cross buns

Best: New flavour

Rating: 8/10

Even when buttered, these classic hot cross buns still seemed to be a little dry. How that’s possible we’re not quite sure, but they were certainly lacking a little juiciness. Although without toasting it’s still a decent offering.

Although we’ve seen some really interesting flavours this year, it’s Co-Op that has really gone all out, with its spiced masala and chilli hot cross buns (£1.50, Coop.co.uk). No, we weren’t expecting it either. These were the first buns of its ilk that we tried, and the only one of its kind on the market. With a slight yellow tinge on the inside, there’s the usual sultanas, and then caramelised onions and dried jalapeños, which you’ll get a lovely warming heat from. Certainly interesting, but we don’t think these will be for the purists.

The verdict: Hot cross buns

For us, the winners were Aldi, which is unsurprising considering the amount of taste and food awards Aldi wins across everything from wine to party food. The retailer’s hot cross buns were no exception to the rule – the smell was the best out of all the buns we tested and it tasted delicious too.

We also really rated Japan Centre’s earl grey hot cross buns for their delicate flavour and wonderful texture that give them a very artisan feel.

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