Santa Lucia Day Saffron Buns

st-luciaAs many of you probably know by now, I’m part Danish. In Denmark, the rest of Scandinavia, and Italy, Santa Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13th. Young girls dress in white gowns with a red ribbon tied around their waist, and a wreath of candles crowns the head. The song of St. Lucia is sung by candlelight in churches and in homes. In Scandinavia, children bake St. Lucia saffron buns to give to their elders. Maybe you’ve read about this custom in the American Girl Kirsten books? Or maybe you’ve seen it in Rick Steve’s European Christmas special? We watch this every December, and I just found out that you can watch it online.

I wanted to revive these traditions with our girls, so I had to create a gluten-free saffron bun. However, the challenge didn’t stop there :-) Since so many of you and your children are allergic to gluten-free grains and eggs, I wanted to make these buns free of these ingredients too. After a couple tries, and with some suggestions from you, my readers, I am so excited to share this recipe with you!


These gluten-free Santa Lucia saffron buns are phenomenal! The texture is like a bagel or a bun. Every time we make them we are all literally giggling with delight. Oh, my goodness! Guys—please try this recipe! I’m am so over the moon about them!

♥Happy Santa Lucia Day!♥ Kelly

SC-eBook-tabletP.S. This and more holiday recipes (like my my Thumbprint Cookies) can be found in my Real Food eBook.

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Gluten-free Santa Lucia Saffron Buns

(gluten-free, egg-free, casein-free, grain-free)

Dry Ingredients

3 tablespoons golden flax meal OR 1½ tablespoons white chia seed meal
½ cup coconut flour
½ cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon guar gum
⅛ teaspoon ground saffron
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon raisins + more for topping

Wet Ingredients

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons applesauce
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup cashew milk, or other nut milk (See my How to Make Cashew Milk video)
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup melted ghee or coconut oil


  1. Set the oven to 350°F.
  2. Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the wet ingredients directly to the dry ingredients, adding the melted ghee or coconut oil last. Combine with an electric mixer until a mass begins to form.
  4. Form the dough into a ball with your hands, then break the ball into four equal pieces.
  5. Roll each ball in your hands, then lay it down and roll it into a coil about 7 inches long.
  6. Shape each coil into an S shape, and put a raisin into the crevasses of each S-shape.
  7. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 24 minutes.Note: Best not refrigerated.


  1. says

    What a great seasonal recipe ;).
    I’m part German – part French so thank you for reminding me of Santa Lucia!
    I once read a beautiful tale/story written by Selma Lagerlof (from her “Book of Legends” (I translate from the french here))named “The Legend of Santa Lucia”.
    If you can get your hands on that book, I highly recommend it…It’s like a compendium of fairy tales for grown ups (at least that’s how I feel about it) ;).

  2. says

    Oh they look wonderful! We were privileged to attend a Santa Lucia celebration at the House of Sweden. It was an amazing evening. I will have to give your recipe a try.

  3. says

    I am absolutely making these, probably on my daughter’s birthday which apparently falls on Saint Lucia Day. Cool. They look amazing. We are gluten free and dairy free but I have been avoiding baking (cause trying to go lower carb and/or grain free when we bake), so it’s great to see these wonderful grain free recipes!!

  4. says

    I must make these! My boyfriend’s family is Finnish so I might just have to send a batch of these home with him for Yule. I know it’s a tad late, but he won’t be going home until after Santa Lucia’s Day.

    Side note, I went to a Montessori school and in elementary school we had a teacher who was amazing when it came to celebrating multicultural holidays. Every year in December for our Holiday party she would have the eldest girl in the class dress up as Santa Lucia and hand out cookies to all the younger children. We also had a Saint Nicholas (eldest boy) a black Peter…and a Befana. I wasn’t the eldest, but I wanted in on it so in my 6th grade year (the year you could be picked for these) I petitioned the teacher to let me go around telling the story of the Christmas tree. I have never let rules get in my way 😉

  5. says

    That is such a cute picture of your daughter!! I’m always looking for new ideas to add to our Christmas traditions! This may be a new one! I’ve heard of St. Lucia before, but didn’t know a lot about it! Nice post!

  6. says

    These are baking in the oven now :)

    DId you have any trouble with yours breaking? They started separating on the insides… getting hollow or something as I rolled them (weird!) and when I turned the rolls into curves, they would break apart some.

    I did omit the raisins, use brown flaxmeal, yacon syrup instead of honey, cardamom instead of saffron because I had no saffron, and had to sub almost half of the tapioca with potato starch because I ran out of tapioca starch…

    I’ll let you know how they taste.

  7. says

    Yes-I do experience both of those. I think the hollow feeling is because the dough is rising, creating pockets of air. And since there isn’t gluten, they do break as I shape them. It takes a bit of fussing over them to make them look okay 😉 Hope they taste good for you! Can’t wait to hear!

  8. says


    I tried these. Love them! I am definitely going to make them again in a variety of flavors. The saffron is really unique. I love that.

    I doubled this recipe, and I made it a tiny bit more sweet by adding the vanilla cream/creme stevia in addition to the honey. I added several golden raisins in each crevasse.

    The first batch I made (of the double batch) was thicker/larger rolls (about the same size as the ones in your photo, but not as pretty. hehe) and I didn’t like them quite as well as the second batch but they were still quite tasty! The second batch I added a little bit more liquid in the form of the melted ghee and mixed it up again, and then divided the dough into 1/8 instead of 1/4. I liked the texture of the smaller buns better. They were a little less dense and seemed to cook more evenly.

    That’s my two cents. Overall I truly loved the recipe and would recommend it highly. I am looking forward to trying different versions (chocolate anyone? or other spices? or herbs like mentioned in your post.)

    I was also impressed by how easy the recipe actually is.


  9. says

    p.s. the reason why I added additional sweetener is that they served as a sort of ‘cake’ for my daughter’s birthday today. I served them alongside some vanilla bean coconut-based ice cream with dark cherries on top.

  10. says

    Hi Hannah!

    Thanks so much for the feedback! I am smiling huge here =] I love that you experimented and I love the idea of making them sweeter or even chocolate! I’m working on making cinnamon rolls with the dough—turns out to be easier said than done. lol

    XOXO, Kelly

  11. says

    wow, I made these too for st lucia day too, I didn’t realise it was a swedish as well as a danish tradition mine were pretty ‘breaky’ too, if only we’d known we could have had a chat first to avoid re-inventing the wheel! :)

  12. says

    Wow! You are making my day today. I’m opting for more gf in my life and haven’t otherwise had a ton of luck with try to make gluten-free/vegan braided bread. Thanks so much, I can’t wait to try these!

  13. says

    How would you tweak the recipe to make these WITH eggs and WITHOUT xantham gum or applesauce?

    Also, for the first comment about the Selma Lagerlof book containing the Santa Lucia legend, I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Any tips? I can’t find anything by her called “Book of Legends”… is there another title?

    Many thanks.

  14. says

    We celebrate St. Lucia day too! I want to take buns to a friend’s class and one kid doesn’t eat wheat so I hopelessly googled “wheat free st. Lucia buns” and to my shock and surprise, it came up! Much less of a surprise was that it was YOUR blog. I just subscribed to you blog several months ago so I was not privy to this post last year.

    I too am interested in adding eggs and leaving out the xantham gum.

    Thank you so much for experimenting and figuring out this recipe because I certainly have plenty of other things to do this weekend than experiment! Thank you, Thank you!!!

  15. says

    Hi, I am so excited about these buns! I have been trying to make grain free cinnamon rolls but could not find a bread recipe that had enough form. This dough worked perfectly! :)

  16. Jamie says

    We are Waldorf homeschoolers and we celebrate a lot of festivals around saints, Santa Lucia included! We belong to a co-op of some sorts on Fridays. I can’t wait to bring these to share and that my boys can eat a bun alongside their peers during our St Lucia celebration!! Thank you Kelly!

  17. Amy Landry says

    They don’t take long to make and smelling them while baking was so exciting. I love the flavor and texture. They’re just awesome. Thank you so much for reminding me of my childhood love of the saffron buns my Aunt June used to make us!

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