The traditional Swedish Saffron Buns

Holiday traditions are always paired with good food and often beverages. The traditional Swedish saffron buns, known as St. Lucia’s, are made on December 13th and enjoyed throughout the Christmas holidays. These soft and buttery buns are the perfect match to a cup of coffee and mulled wine.  

Known as the festival of Light, St. Lucia is celebrated with a candlelight procession and remains one of Sweden’s most popular customs.

The buns are known as lussekatter, formed in the “S” shape. Magnus Nilsson mentions in his remarkable book The Nordic Cookbook that the shape is really called the julgalt, or Christmas boar.

But the name does not really matter. The flavors and the aromas of the buns do. Saffron-infused and yeasty, they will also fill not only your kitchen but your entire house with a beautiful and nostalgic smell -that of your childhood during Christmas.

Nothing stops you from making them during the winter months.

Swedish Saffron bun getting shaped
The Swedish saffron bun getting shaped

St. Lucia origins and traditions

St. Lucia’s Day, is known as the festival of lights and is celebrated in Scandinavian countries on December 13 to honor St. Lucia. 

Both girls and boys dressed in white full-length gowns singing songs together holding candles. The atmosphere is special when the lights are dimmed, and the voices of the children vibrate in the space.

The St Lucia’s tradition can be traced back to the martyr Lucia of Syracuse who was killed in 304 CE by the Romans. The legend has it that she used to bring food to Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs, and she was wearing a candle lit wreath on her head to light her way and to be hands-free to carry as much food as possible.

According to this website, the current custom is a blend of old traditions. “In the Agrarian Sweden, young people used to dress up as Lucia figures (lussegubbar) that night and wander from house to house singing songs and scrounging for food and schnapps. The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 1900s, when schools and local associations began promoting it. Stockholm proclaimed its first Lucia in 1927. The custom whereby Lucia serves coffee and buns dates back to the 1880s.”

What is the symbolism of St Lucia’s celebration?

Christians believe that St Lucia is the symbol of the Light of Christ into the world’s darkness. For others, Lucia is described as an ancient mythical figure who becomes the bearer of light in the dark Swedish winters.

Do you want to make Christmas cookies? Try our German Spice Cookies here

Why we love 💕this recipe

  • The buns have a golden yellow color and the raisins look like little eyes
  • The buns smell wonderfully!
  • Even if they are not a part of your traditions, they are a reminder of an innocent and playful childhood
The traditional Swedish saffron buns are ready to serve
The St. Lucia saffron buns are ready to serve

🍭Special ingredients

This recipe does not use special ingredients with the exception of saffron. Saffron is expensive to buy and a few grams will cost you a fortune. But it is worth it. You make these buns once a year so go for it.

Additionally, you will need dry yeast that may not be largely available in all grocery stores. Check also with your local bakery. It may well sell it.

🕐How to make the traditional Swedish Saffron Buns

  • Ideally, start the night before. Grind the saffron into a powder and put it in a small portion of alcohol like cognac, whiskey or vodka. Let it overnight infuse and develop the intense yellow-golden color
  • After making the dough, cover it with a wet towel and let it rise for 30 minutes or until doubles in size.
  • Eggwash the buns for a more impressive yellow outcome
  • The steps are described in detail in the recipe below
Milk with saffron threads blending in a pot
Saffron in a pot with milk
Milk, saffron and sugar in a pot
Milk, saffron and sugar in a pot
The saffron infused dough ready to raise
Saffron infused dough
Saffron buns in small balls
Saffron buns in small balls

The recipe was developed by Romana.

Saffron buns in an "S" shape
“S” shaped saffron buns

Try more holiday recipes here

Eggwashing the saffron buns in the baking sheet
Eggwashing the saffron buns in the baking sheet

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The traditional Swedish saffron buns are ready to serve

St. Lucia Saffron Buns

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Saffron Buns are made on the day of St. Lucia in Sweden and enjoyed throughtout the holiday season. They are known as lussekatter – the Lucia Cats
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Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Sweden
Servings 6
Calories 167 kcal

Equipment

  • baking sheet

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp dry active yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 tsp saffron
  • 3 tbsp butter

Instructions
 

  • Sift the all-purpose flour in a bowl.
  • In a pot, heat the milk over medium heat.
  • Once it comes to a boil, take off the heat.
  • Pound the saffron with 1 tsp of sugar. Add to the milk. Mix well.
  • Add the remaining sugar and mix again. Wait for it to come to 86° F.
  • Now add the yeast and mix. Wait for it to get activated.
  • Then add the flour, salt and butter. Mix into a soft dough.
  • Knead well for 5 minutes and let it rise for 30 minutes. Make sure to cover the top with a lid or a wet kitchen towel.
  • Divide the dough into 6 balls. Roll each into a log.
  • Roll them into a “S” shape. Place them on a greased baking sheet.
  • Brush the top using egg wash. Add raisins on top.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 400° F.
  • Let it cool down for 10 minutes and then serve.

Notes

  • You can grind the saffron with the sugar, using a mortar and pestle. And if you can wait a day, you can  drip a little cognac, whiskey or vodka on top, and let stand overnight. This will give a grown-up taste to your saffron buns
  • Don’t overcook the buns because they will become very dry to eat
  • You can freeze the buns up to 30 days in  plastic bags.

Nutrition

Calories: 167kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 4gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 165mgPotassium: 71mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 237IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 25mgIron: 1mg
Keyword buns, saffron buns;, St. Lucia Saffron Buns;
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