Sourdough Santa Lucia Buns

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Scrumptious Traditional Santa Lucia Buns - yum!


Looking for a non-sourdough version of these Santa Lucia buns? Make these Santa Lucia Sweet Saffron Buns.


On Friday morning, Swedish daughters everywhere will be rising early to serve their families strong coffee and warm saffron buns.

They'll wear a wreath of candles on their heads and as the family gathers, they'll sing carols together (my favorite part). Through the day, they'll look for opportunities to do small acts of kindness and gather for parties and festivities.

It's Santa Lucia Day, a Swedish celebration of light on one of the darkest days of the year and one my absolutely favorite parts of the Christmas season.

Santa Lucia Day is celebrated every December 13 and you can read more about the traditions surrounding Santa Lucia Day here.

And whether or not you make traditional saffron buns for the celebration or not, or whether you make these particular saffron buns for Santa Lucia Day or not, may you find ample opportunity to live generously and may you enjoy these delicious sweet rolls whenever it suits your fancy.

Oh, and by the way – these buns go very nicely with glรถgg, the Swedish mulled wine that brings cheer and warmth in the depths of winter. Perhaps the pairing would go well on Christmas Day or in a quiet New Year's Eve celebration!


Sourdough Santa Lucia Buns

This produces one of the most gorgeous, soft doughs I've ever worked with, but the buns themselves will dry out quickly if left uncovered. Store leftover buns at room temperature in an air-tight container.

Yes, as usual, I am mixing volume and weight measures! I prefer volume measures, as they are far easier for most home cooks (myself included), but I do include weight measures for the ingredients that can vary greatly when measured by volume. The saffron is given by weight because it's universally sold that way and it's nearly impossible to measure it by volume due to its threads.

(P.S. If you love saffron, feel free to double the amount in this recipe, but just remember that the more saffron there is, the quicker they'll dry out if not stored in an air-tight container.)

Sourdough Santa Lucia Buns

For non-sourdough Santa Lucia buns, make these Santa Lucia Sweet Saffron Buns.
Servings: 36


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 gram saffron
  • 500 grams ~2 cups sourdough starter
  • 225 grams ~1 cup plain yogurt or ricotta
  • ยพ cup honey
  • ยฝ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1.125 kg ~7 cups all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 90 grams ~1 stick butter, at room temperature and cut into 8-9 pieces
  • 2 eggs, beaten (for egg wash)


  • Place the milk and saffron in a small saucepan and heat gently over medium-low heat until steaming. Remove from heat and let cool until still warm but your pinky finger can be held in the mixture comfortably.
  • Meanwhile, combine the sourdough starter, yogurt, honey, and salt in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Stir until loosely mixed.
  • Add the saffron and milk mixture, then with the motor running on "low" (or bit by bit by hand), slowly add the flour. Mix and knead until the dough is very elastic, about 10 minutes.
  • With the motor still running, add in the butter one piece at a time, kneading between each addition to make sure the butter is fully incorporated.
  • Continue to knead, either with the mixer or by hand, until the dough is very elastic and just slightly sticky, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Cover and let rise for 45 minutes, then scrape onto a lightly floured work surface.
  • Divide into 36 pieces, then roll each piece into a 12-inch snake. (Cover the other pieces while you're working to keep them from drying out.)
  • Shape each bun by rolling each end of the snake toward the center, rolling each end in opposite directions. (See photos for a visual.)
  • Place shaped buns on buttered or parchment-lined baking sheets, then cover and let rise 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425F.
  • Brush with the egg wash, then bake for 5-10 minutes. Keep a very close eye on these buns, as they brown (and burn) very quickly.
  • Remove from the baking sheets immediately and let cool on wire cooling racks.


  • To bake these first thing in the morning, you may place the rolled buns into the refrigerator overnight. Let the buns sit at room temperature while the oven preheats and reduce the baking temperature to 400F.


Shaping the buns

How to roll traditional Santa Lucia Buns |


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  1. Oh, these buns are beautiful! I can’t wait to try them. I have a container of saffron in my cupboard, from which I used just a teeny tiny bit about two months ago for a special project, and didn’t know what I would do with the rest – now I know! Thank you so much for this recipe! I suppose I could use greek yogurt, but which do you like to use; yogurt or ricotta?

    1. Yay! It’s always fun to find good uses for spices we don’t use often. ๐Ÿ™‚

      As for yogurt or ricotta, it’s kind of a toss up. In Sweden, they tend to use quark, I’m told, so I’ve made either an option. I suppose I prefer the yogurt, just because it makes the dough just slightly wetter, which is needed in this case, but the ricotta gives them just a slightly richer flavor. But really, it’s kind of grasping at straws, as they really both do well, so I’m absolutely of no help, it appears. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. These buns are beautiful! My only question: how far apart do you place them on the sheet pan before they rise, so the don’t stick together too much? I’m going to make them for Christmas, I know my family will love that the are made with our great-great-great-grandpa sourdough culture. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Oo, nice!

      I think I set them so there was at least 1 inch of space between them. I like them to touch just a little as they rise, but still be easy to pull apart.

      I hope that helps!

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