These easy chocolate hot cross buns are soft, deliciously chocolatey, and indulgent. They are great on their own or toasted with butter, and are perfect for parties and gatherings during the Easter holidays - you can also make them ahead!
Why Make These Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
The photos may speak for themselves, but if you need more persuading why to try this recipe this Easter, here are some of the main reasons why you will want to give these a go:
- Better than storebought – your homemade chocolate hot cross buns will be super fresh, you will know exactly what goes into the dough and can adjust it according to your dietary preferences.
- Only essential pantry and fridge ingredients are included – from milk and flour to dried yeast, cocoa powder, or marmalade, chances are that you already have all of these staples in stock.
- Great for batch baking – with a kitchen scale on hand, this recipe is easy to scale up or down as needed. These hot cross buns are great for spring-themed parties and gatherings and for picnics!
- These chocolate hot cross buns freeze well – which makes them perfect for making ahead.
Key Ingredients For Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
Although the ingredients list seems quite long, they are all basic items that are in most kitchen cupboards, so do not be put off by it 😊
For 15 of these delicious fruitless chocolate hot cross buns, you will need:
- Strong white bread flour is ideal for this recipe, as it allows the dough to be stretchy and in combination with dried yeast and milk also rises well.
- Instant dried yeast (fast-acting yeast) is the raising agent that helps the dough to rise in a relatively short period of time. It’s a great, long-lasting pantry ingredient, and can be used in many other bread and cake recipes, for example in this homemade gyro pita bread.
- Cocoa powder provides these homemade hot cross buns dark brown color and a delicate, chocolate-like aroma.
- Cinnamon and nutmeg are added for a boost of flavour and nutritional value, as they are both beneficial to our health.
- Sugar and salt give the dough more flavour. If you are on a sugar-free diet, use a sweetener instead.
- Orange zest adds this recipe a bit of citrusy aroma and flavour, which goes amazingly well with chocolate tones.
- Whole (full-fat) milk and unsalted butter are sources of moisture for this recipe and are added to ensure the texture of the dough is right – they will be soft and fluffy.
- Free-range egg
- Chocolate chips (chunks)
The white crosses on top are made of plain flour (all-purpose flour) and water, it is basically a roux. Add a pinch of salt to add some flavour to it.
Finally, the sticky glaze is made of orange marmalade, hot water and butter.
Substitutes & Variations
If you are missing some of the ingredients in this recipe, here is a list of recommended swaps:
- Use plain flour instead of strong white bread flour, the recipe will still work, however, the texture will be denser (not as soft).
- Fresh yeast can replace dried yeast, however, you will need twice the amount.
- Swap whole milk for semi-skimmed milk – use the same amount and add some unsalted butter to ensure the buns are moist and rich.
- Add single cream (18%) instead of whole milk and unsalted butter.
- Use baking fat (margarine) instead of butter.
- For no-egg hot cross buns – leave out the egg and add extra whole milk.
- Use vanilla extract instead of orange zest.
- Use warmed-up honey for glazing.
For specific measurements and detailed instructions, please see the recipe card.
This hot cross bun recipe with chocolate is very flexible. Here are some ideas for various flavour adjustments:
- Fruity hot cross buns - dried or candied fruit such as dried cranberries, sultanas, raisins, apricots, apples, candied orange peel, or glace cherries will all work instead of, or in combination with chocolate in this recipe. Just cut them in halves or small dices and they will be a fantastic addition to the chocolatey dough, providing sweet taste, and softish texture.
- For an extra burst of orange flavour, add orange extract or 2 tablespoon of orange juice.
- You can also skip adding the cocoa powder – the buns will be ‘blonde’ but still very flavourful!
How To Make Hot Cross Buns With Chocolate
- Mix all dry ingredients together (except chocolate chips). Mix all wet ingredients.
- Combine the two, and mix until you get a slightly sticky and stretchy dough. Knead it for a couple of minutes.
- Cover and leave it to rest for 1-2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
- Mix the proved dough with chocolate chips, divide it into individual balls (buns), place them in a baking tin, decorate them with roux crosses and bake.
- Glaze (optional) and serve warm with a knob of butter.
For exact measurements and timing, please visit the recipe card.
Here are expert tips on making and baking these chocolate buns like a pro:
- Never add hot liquid to a dough with yeast, this could deactivate the yeast and stop the proving process, resulting in flat and dense bread (buns).
- Add chocolate chips or dried fruit at the very end of making the dough, after it has risen. Otherwise, it may slow down the rising process, as it will prevent the gluten from developing.
- Divide the dough evenly by diving it into 3 parts first, and then divide each of those three parts into 5 same-size portions.
How To Serve Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
Chocolate hot cross buns taste awesome when served warm with butter, which just melts on top of each half. You can also enjoy them with orange marmalade, strawberry, raspberry or blackcurrant jam, syrup or Nutella. If you're on the go, you can also eat them on their own, they'll still be delicious!
These chocolate hot cross buns will stay fresh for up to 4 days. Let them cool down completely, and keep them in an airtight food container at room temperature.
These cocoa hot cross buns can also be kept in the freezer. Place them in an airtight container or a plastic bag and consume them within 3 months from freezing.
You can also cut them in halves, which will allow you to toast them straight from the freezer, without defrosting.
If you prefer to serve these hot cross buns with chocolate whole, just leave them to defrost slowly in the fridge (overnight).
Hot cross buns always taste better warm!
The easiest way to reheat hot cross buns is in a toaster – slice them before.
Alternatively, you can reheat them under a grill for a few minutes (keeping an eye on them so that they do not burn!), or in the oven (at 180C, wrapped in aluminium foil for 5-8 minutes; this is great if you need to reheat a whole batch at once). Slice them before reheating and turn them ‘inside up’.
Many people have hot cross buns associated with spring and Easter. Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) and over the Easter period. The cross on them is a symbol of Jesus’s cross. You can have them for breakfast or as a snack during the day.
Yes, you can eat hot cross buns cold or hot. They taste delicious when warmed up and buttered. But can be enjoyed cold as well – especially with a good a cup of tea.
Yes, hot cross buns freeze well and will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Leave them to defrost slowly in the fridge or reheat them straight from the freezer. For easy and speedy reheating, cut them in half (slice them) before freezing.
Although hot cross buns are traditionally served with butter, you can also top them with jam, honey, maple syrup or Nutella. Some people prefer savoury toppings like bacon or cheese.
More Easter Recipes
- Broccoli and pea soup
- Mayo and egg sandwich spread
- Smoked salmon and broccoli quiche
- Creamed spinach and salmon pasta
- Family-style fish and vegetable pie
- Baked tuna fishcakes
📖 The Recipe
Easy Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
- 475 g strong white bread flour
- 7 g fast-acting dried yeast
- 65 g cocoa powder
- 70 g sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tablespoon orange zest
- 50 g unsalted butter, melted and at room temperature
- 300 ml whole, full-fat milk
- 1 medium free-range egg
- 200 g chocolate chips or chunks, milk, dark or white
- 35 g plain flour, all-purpose flour
- 35 ml cold water
Sticky glaze - optional:
- 1 ½ tablespoon orange marmalade
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- Mix all dry ingredients (except chocolate chips) together in a large mixing bowl. Mix all wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
- Combine the two, using your hands until you get a slightly sticky and stretchy dough (be sure to scrape the insides of the bowl too). On a lightly dusted surface, knead the dough for 1 or 2 minutes.
- Place the dough back into the large mixing bowl, cover with a wet tea towel and leave it to rest in a warm place until the dough doubles in size (this usually takes 1-2 hours).
- Preheat the oven to 220C/180C fan/430F. Line a baking tin with baking paper.
- Add the chocolate chips to the risen dough, knead and knead it one more time (until the chocolate is evenly distributed). Divide the dough with chocolate into 12-15 individual balls (buns), and place them in the pre-lined baking tin.
- To make the white crosses, mix plain flour with cold water until you get a smooth but relatively thick paste (like a toothpaste), transfer this roux paste into a piping bag with a small tip (or a plastic bag with a corner snipped off; 3-4mm is plenty). Decorate the chocolate dough balls on top, creating crosses whilst closely following the curves of the dough (make sure the paste touches it).
- Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Test with a wooden skewer, the buns are done when it comes out clean.
- (Optional) make the glaze by warming up the orange marmalade, butter and water in a saucepan. Stir until smooth and runny. Brush the glaze over the warm baked buns and leave to set.
- Serve warm with a knob of butter.
- Plain flour (1:1 ratio),
- Fresh yeast (14g),
- Semi-skimmed milk and 20g of unsalted butter, OR single cream (18%) instead of whole milk and unsalted butter,
- Baking fat (margarine; 1:1 ratio),
- No-egg hot cross buns – add extra 50 ml whole milk,
- Vanilla extract (1tsp) instead of orange zest,
- Warmed-up honey for glazing.
- Fruity hot cross buns - dried cranberries, sultanas, raisins, apricots, apples, candied orange peel, or glace cherries will all work instead of, or in combination with chocolate. Cut the dried fruit in halves or small dices.
- For an extra burst of orange flavour, add 1 teaspoon orange extract or 2 tablespoon of orange juice.
- Blonde - skip adding the cocoa powder.
- Never add hot butter or milk to a dough with yeast.
- Only add the chocolate chips after the dough has risen.
- Divide the dough evenly to ensure even baking.
- In a toaster (sliced).
- Under a grill (sliced) for a few minutes - don't burn them!
- In the oven (at 180C, wrapped in aluminum foil for 5-8 minutes; great for reheating a batch at once; sliced or whole).