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Hot Cross Buns with Rye, Raspberry, & Lemon

  • Author: anita | wild thistle kitchen
  • Total Time: 70 minutes plus rising
  • Yield: 12 buns 1x


Definitely not your traditional hot cross bun. These cute little yeasted buns are made with a rye flour blend that is lightly scented with honey, fresh lemon zest, vanilla bean, and flecked with raspberry. Brushed with honey lemon syrup and finished with a cream cheese frosting that echoes the honey, lemon, and vanilla flavors found in the dough.
They are barely sweet, refined sugar free, made a bit healthier and nuttier with the rye flour, and just such a fun, fresh twist on an Easter tradition.



Ingredients (see notes for substitution ideas)

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one standard packet)
  • 1 cup milk, lukewarm
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 cup whole grain rye or whole wheat flour
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1/2 cup freeze-dried raspberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, seeds from one vanilla bean, or vanilla extract

For lemon honey glaze:

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • juice of one lemon

For cream cheese raspberry frosting:

  • 1 block cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, seeds from one vanilla bean, or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup freeze-dried raspberries, crushed


  1. In a standing mixer or large bowl combine warm milk and yeast. Let it sit and activate for 5-10 minutes until frothy.
  2. Meanwhile in a microwave safe medium bowl, melt butter, then add honey and salt and stir to combine.
  3. Lightly whisk in the egg to the butter mixture
  4. Dump everything into the yeast mixture and mix until all the ingredients are combined.
  5. Then add flours, lemon zest and continue mixing with dough hook on medium speed for 6 minutes until dough doesn't stick to the sides or bottom of the bowl when kneading - Adding in a bit more flour if dough appears very sticky.
  6. Add freeze-dried raspberries if using (or raisins, currants, etc) and mix for another minute or so until raspberries are combined.
  7. Cover mixing bowl loosely with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 to 2 hours or until doubled.
  8. Dump dough out onto lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Shape into balls. Place in greased 12-inch skillet, 9x13 baking pan or baking sheet.
  9. Let dough rise for 45 minutes to an hour in a warm place until buns are visibly risen - they won't double, but they should look puffed and when you press them lightly with your finger they should not spring back very quickly but should leave a small indentation.
  10. During last 20 minutes of rising time, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  11. using a very sharp knife or kitchen shears, make a cross on the top of each bun. Be careful not to press down too hard and deflate the dough. these lines will serve as your guide when piping on the frosting.
  12. Bake buns for 25-30 minutes until golden.

For the glaze:

  1. mix ingredients in a small bowl until thoroughly combined

For the frosting:

  1. With a hand mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon, mix ingredients together until smooth and creamy and totally combined.
  2. Transfer to piping bag or large ziploc bag fitted with a piping tip. You can also just snip a small corner off your bag and use that to pipe if you don't have a piping tip.

To assemble:

  1. Once rolls are slightly cooled, brush all over with honey lemon syrup
  2. Pipe frosting in a cross pattern on tops of all rolls




The raspberries are not essential, meaning they won't affect the final texture of the dough. If you don't have them, just leave them out. Or if you love raisins or currants, feel free to add those in place of the raspberries. You can just leave the raspberries out all together and use the lemon zest in both the buns and the frosting for flavor. Orange zest would be really good too.

If you don't have whole wheat or rye flour, just use all purpose for the full amount, but you may need to add up to 1/4 cup more total flour to the recipe since the whole wheat is much more dense than AP.

  • Prep Time: 40 minutes plus 1-2 hours rising
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Yeast Roll
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Easter

Keywords: hot cross buns, healthy hot cross buns, rye hot cross buns, whole wheat hot cross buns, Easter recipe