• We put six popular hot cross buns to a blind taste test. 
  • Our team of judges were looking for the ultimate mix of fruitiness and spiciness. 
  • The best bun was also the most expensive.  
  • For more stories, go to www.businessinsider.co.za.

South Africa is one of a handful countries around the world which traditionally enjoys hot cross buns over Easter.

The bun, named for the pastry cross at the top, originated in the 1700s in the United Kingdom, where it was only allowed to be sold on Good Friday. 

It marked the end of Lent and each part has a specific meaning. 

The cross, for example, represents the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices signify the fragrant perfumes used to embalm him during burial. 

Today hot cross buns are enjoyed in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, and India. 

The ten testers busy blind testing the six diffren
The ten testers busy blind testing the six diffrent hot cross buns.

According to Food24 editor Tessa Purdon, a good hot cross bun can be recognised by its dough, the spices used, and the fruit. 

“Hot cross bun dough is enriched with milk and butter (a fat) so you want to be able to really taste this richness in the bun,” Purdon said.

“[And the spices] shouldn't overpower the bun but they need to be distinct enough in each mouthful.” 

Also read: We compared the prices of Easter staples – and you can pay 44% too much for a chocolate bunny if you aren't careful

Business Insider South Africa assembled a team of ten people to do a blind taste-test of hot-cross buns, with the same sell-by date, from Shoprite, Woolworths, Food Lover’s, Spar, Checkers, and Pick n Pay.

This is how each fared.

Shoprite hot cross buns: tastes like bread

  • Cost: R14.99 
  • Average rating: 3.1/40

A cheap hot cross bun, but also the worst in the test group. 

Only one of our testers said they’d associate the taste with Easter. 

“Tastes like chalk and boarding school dinner bread and sadness,” one of our tasters commented. 

One tester said: “This was not a hot cross bun, you liar.” 

“Why is this bun happening to me? I am a good person,” another commented. 


Checkers traditional hot cross buns: rich colour deceived

  • Cost: R14.99 
  • Average rating: 14.5/40

At the same price of Shoprite’s buns, Checkers’ buns scored a much higher point. Still, not everyone was a fan.

“Reminds me of a box full of abandoned Ouma rusks,” one taster commented. 

“The dark-brown colour is deceiving – this is so bland,” another person said. 

A commenter said: “It reminds me of brown bread.” 


Food Lover’s traditional hot cross buns: one bland bun 

  • Cost: R15.99 
  • Average rating: 15.1/40

Food Lover’s buns scored below average among our testers, landing itself in the overall fourth position. 

Most tasters commented that the bun was bland, dry, and tend to break apart. 

“Smells like nothing, and breaks and falls apart in my mouth - not in a good way,” one tester commented.

Another tester said that “the raisins make it okay, but it needs a lot of butter to be good.” 


Spar hot cross buns: looks pale 

  • Cost: R17.99
  • Average rating: 18.4/40

Spar’s hot cross bun was named the third best by our testers. 

A number of tasters commented that the bun was dry and lacks spice. 

“So dry, so very dry,” one tester said. Another speculated that the bun had no spice and was “very meh.” 

“So many raisins, too many - is it a fruitcake,” another asked. 

Pick n Pay traditional hot cross buns: just okay 

  • Cost: R17.99
  • Average rating: 22.9/40

Our testers found Pick n Pay’s hot cross buns a bit doughy, but more moist than the competition. 

While most testers said the bun has the traditional "Easter taste", one said there was a weird aftertaste.

“Not sure what it is, but I don’t like it.” 


Winner: Woolworths food traditional hot-cross buns: Good! 

  • Cost: R24.99
  • Average rating: 27.4/40  

Woolworths’ traditional hot cross buns easily placed first in Business Insider South Africa’s blind test, scoring an average of 4.5 points more than its closest competitor. 

But it was also the most expensive bun tasted, costing R7 more than Pick n Pay’s buns, which were in second place. 

One tester said it had a good texture, and was satisfactorily chewy.

“Love the citrus taste - that’s more like it,” another one said. 

One tester said, “Lekker, especially to soak up that pickled fish sauce.” 

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