Which hot cross buns to buy at the supermarket?
Are you unsure which Hot Cross buns to buy for your family this Easter? We have had lots of requests from our Additive Free Kids Community group looking for guidance in which Hot Cross Buns to buy for their family. I have pulled together a Guide to minimising additives in Hot Cross buns this Easter for you!
This guide is NOT an exhaustive list of all Hot Cross Buns on the market.
Did you notice when the Hot Cross Buns first hit the supermarkets? It was straight after Christmas from memory! Each year it gets earlier and earlier! Did you know that traditionally, hot cross buns mark the end of Lent? Each part of the hot cross bun has specific meaning. The cross on the top of the hot cross bun represent the crucifixion of Jesus. The spices within the bun represent the spices used to embalm him at his burial. This all seems forgotten nowadays….almost. The supermarkets will have hot cross buns available as soon as possible. Whereas the traditional bakeries haven’t started making theirs yet.
I was astounded to see how many varieties are on the shelves this year. This hot cross bun review has taken a lot of time and analysis to be able to rank these products. Given the volume of data, I have decided to break the review into two parts:
I am sure there are still lots of other hot cross buns out there that I haven’t reviewed as yet. There are also other ones that I have reviewed that I haven’t received answers to my queries.
If you find some others that you would like included in the review, please feel free to send them to me. All I need is a picture of the front and a clear photo of the ingredients. Email these to me at Francine@additivefreekids.com.au and I will add them in to the review. Alternatively, make sure you join the Additive Free Kids Community group where we will be continuing the discussion about the ingredients in Hot Cross Buns.
I completely underestimated the amount of time it would take me to complete this review.
I have already reviewed over 150 ingredients! 150 ingredients for hot cross buns, that traditionally have not many ingredients!
The most clean hot cross buns average at about 9-12 ingredients. The least clean hot cross buns average at 30 ingredients!
Why such a difference?
Let’s take a quick look at the main ingredients of a hot cross bun.
The most additive free hot cross buns will have beautiful organic flours. These will vary depending on preferences and tolerances. Examples include wheat, spelt, rye and oat. Some will include a lovely sourdough culture. The less hot cross buns will contain starches.
What is the difference between flour and starches?
Flour is a compound made by milling grains. It contains starch but also other parts of the grain seed. Usually flour is a whole food, with all the components of the grain found in the flour. Starches are highly processed and obtained by extracting and processing only the starchy component of the flour. Starches usually have much lower nutritional value in comparison to the wholefood flour.
There are so many different fruits used in hot cross buns today! It used to be just sultanas and currants. Now you will find banana, dates, cranberries, apples, cherries, apricot and even orange. You will want to keep an eye out to ensure that the fruit is preservative free. Manufacturers are required to declare the presence of sulphites.
Fats and oils
Again there is a HUGE range here. The cleanest of your hot cross buns will use butter, olive oil or coconut oil. When these are used there is no need for extra emulsifiers. When you start seeing other oils used such as palm oil, canola oil, palm oil, butter oil (?) then you see a whole range of emulsifiers used. I invite you to think…are they using these cheaper fats, oils and emulsifiers for your benefit? Or are these ingredients for the benefit of the manufacturer?
So many different sweeteners are used in hot cross buns. Depending where you buy them from and how clean they are. Examples of sweeteners used in the hot cross buns I have reviewed include: maple syrup, rapadura sugar, sugar, brown sugar, cater sugar, dextrose, invert sugar, sucrose, glucose, maltodextrin. As you would have read in one of my recent blogs, the less processed the sugar is the better.
The spices in hot cross buns used to be very simple – mixed spice. We now have a large array of spices. Depending on your hot cross bun some spices will be organic others conventional. Examples include: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, clove, star anise, coriander, vanilla. With spices (as long as they are listed on the label) most of these are usually free from additives.
Some manufacturers will list spices under the label natural flavours. We encourage manufacturers to actually list the spices used instead of listing as a natural flavour.
Thankfully there wasn’t too much variation when it comes to eggs. I saw eggs, free range eggs or dried egg used. The appearance of dried egg is an indicator that the product is highly processed.
Not too many variations of yeast from a labelling perspective. I expect that if further questions were asked there would definitely be variances in the quality of the yeasts used.
As mentioned above, if good quality fats are used, emulsifiers aren’t needed as much in the product. In the hot cross buns that I have reviewed, 10 different emulsifiers were used.
For those that have been in the Additive Free Kids Community for some time, you will already have seen the recent studies that show that emulsifiers in our food destroy our gut microbiome. They aren’t necessary in our food.
We need to encourage manufacturers to go back to basics and use higher quality fats and ingredients to reduce the need for these emulsifiers. The only way manufactures will get this message is if we vote with our dollar.
Only the highly processed hot cross buns have these antioxidants / dough conditioners in them. The hot cross buns using real ingredients don’t need these additives.
I have reviewed over 11 different types of thickeners, gums and gelling agents used in the hot cross buns. Unfortunately, you find most of these appearing in gluten free products. Gluten free products are some of THE WORST on the market when it comes to additives.
I have seen some gluten free hot cross buns were the first ingredient was water! The first ingredient is supposed to represent the largest component of the product. Would you be happy paying a premium price for a product when its mostly water? This product was then filled with starches.
On the other hand I saw some beautiful gluten free products with very few additives and using alternative flours instead. There is such a variation. Just because it says gluten free it doesn’t mean that it is healthier for you! You really need to read the ingredients closely.
Acidity regulators / preservatives
Acidity regulators are used to change or maintain pH levels. Common regulators that I saw used across the range of hot cross buns included: acetic acid, sodium acetate, lactic acid, malic acid and citric acid. These usually serve as preservatives. They have the added benefit of improving the taste of a product also. In some of the cleaner hot cross buns, more natural acidity regulators were used such as lemon juice or vinegar.
Many of the hot cross buns reviewed contained preservatives. Either E200, E202 or E220. These preservatives can cause the following symptoms:
– allergic reactions
– behavioural problems
– stomach upsets
Most importantly some of these preservatives are also prohibited in foods for infants. If you see these preservatives in your hot cross bun, you know they are highly processed. They most likely have had to travel a long distance to get to your store. Best to avoid the preservatives.
You will find both natural and artificial flavours in hot cross buns. Highly processed products need flavouring. Usually flavourings are paired with cheap inferior ingredients that lack taste and flavour. The additive free hot cross buns are usually filled with high quality ingredients that are flavoursome and tasty. Nothing tastes better than real food. No additional flavours necessary.
You need to be mindful of flavours. Manufacturers aren’t required to list the ingredients that make up the flavour. There could be 50-100 different ingredients that sit behind that one ingredient ‘flavour’ on your ingredient label. Good quality hot cross buns do not need any flavour enhancement.
So, lets get down to it…which hot cross buns would I buy from a supermarket?
This guide ranks the hot cross buns according to additive impact. These are NOT all additive free.
It is actually quite tricky to find additive free hot cross buns at a supermarket. However, some additives are better than others. I have attempted a ranking for you.
This is very difficult with so many variables. At the end of the day, please remember, this is just my opinion. I have provided my rankings as the community requested it. They also requested to understand the reasons why I have ranked them as I have. Below I have detailed how I have categorised the hot cross buns. On each image I have included the most pertinent info for ranking the hot cross buns too.
I can tell you it was a very interesting exercise to undertake comparing all these hot cross buns and the 150 different ingredients used amongst them! For someone that loves spreadsheets (I was a bean counter / auditor / accountant by profession) the data analysis offered up so many insights! You will see in our “Part 2 blog – Finding additive free hot cross buns at bakeries” these will yield much better results.
These are MY opinions regarding how I would rank the Hot Cross Buns in terms of impacts on additives on children.
Everyone has different constraints, sensitivities and tolerances.
This guide is to assist you to make better decisions for your family.
You will see that the Hot Cross Buns are categorised into four categories: Avoid, OK, Better and Best.
These hot cross buns contain some or all of the following ingredients: flavours, colours, gums, thickeners, emulsifiers, antioxidants, acidity regulators, preservatives.
These hot cross buns contain some or all of the following highly processed ingredients such as starches, oils, sugars, pectins, soy lecithin, some acidity regulators, synthetic vitamins.
These hot cross buns contain wholefood flours (not starches), good quality fats and oils, less processed sugars.
These hot cross buns are the best you will find with organic flours, fruits, spices and the best quality fats and oils.
Hot Cross Buns – Avoid
Hot Cross Buns – OK
Hot Cross Buns – Better
Hot Cross Buns – BEST
In short, keep in mind the following tips when buying Hot Cross Buns:
Keep it simple – the simpler the better!
Look for good quality ingredients. Ingredients that you have at home in your pantry.
There is no right or wrong. There are so many variables and constraints to balance for each family. Ideally I want to provide my children the best additive free options that are available. However, sometimes this has to be weighed up with the kids preferences, dietary preferences and budget constraints,
I hope you have found this Hot Cross Bun guide useful. Let us know in the comments below!
Stay tuned for Part 2 – Which bakeries to visit for hot cross buns. Join the Community below if you would like this delivered straight to your inbox.
If you would like to be kept up to date with the latest news, product reviews and giveaways come and join the Additive Free Kids email list. Receive additive free support direct to your inbox.
There have been a lot of questions from the community asking where they can find Healthy Bake near them. I am finding out stockist info for you and will update the blog as it comes to hand.
Fresh Market, IGA Atherton
Atherton Health Food Centre
Mareeba Essence Wholefoods
Go Vita Smithfield
Go Vita Cairns
Go Vita Earlville (Stockland shopping centre)
Barr Street Discount Drugstore Earlville
Wholehealth Pharmacy and Healthfoods, Pease St, Manoora
Yum Yums, Mossman
Whole + Sum (formerly Goodies and Grains)
Victor Harbour Mega Health
Blackwood Healthy Life
Organic Corner Store
McLaren Vale Healthy Life
Note :If people want Healthybake Hot Cross Buns, they can order them from any health food shop in Adelaide or country SA. Stock is delivered weekly. So, if you order Friday, they will deliver them fresh to the stores on the following Tuesday (Wednesday for country stores) until Easter.
Check your local Health Food Stores, Independent supermarkets and Green Grocers. There are hundreds of locations that stock Healthy Bake.
Pistachios Organic Bakery, Bibra Lake
BG’s Fruit & Veg, Busselton
Organic Feast, East Maitland