Gluten Free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns

Gluten Free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns


St. Lucia (Lucia ~ “light”) Day is a Christian holiday honoring a martyr named Lucia who died in the 3rd century. Her legend holds that she brought food — perhaps gluten free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns — and drink to Christians hiding in catacombs, lighting her way with a a candle-lit wreath she wore on her head, so her hands were free to carry her gifts.

gluten free st. lucia saffron bread

The feast of St. Lucia is always on December 13 (well into Advent, thus signaling the coming of Christmas), but it used to also be the Winter Solstice — the day with the least sunlight. In Scandinavian countries, this dark period would be particularly long. With the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, the date of the solstice was changed, but the tradition of Saint Lucia remained tied to December 13.

Festivals honoring Saint Lucia include the traditional procession of girls dressed as the Saint herself, all in white with a red sash and a wreath of candles on their heads, as they bear cookies and rolls and sing songs. Lussekatter are the iconic S-shaped buns we’re making with our gluten free St. Lucia Saffron Buns.

Oddly enough, I remember taking part in just such a ceremony at my school when I was in 3rd grade. I loved dressing like St. Lucia and learning the songs, but the treats must have left an impression too, as my memories of this activity so many years ago are still quite vivid. (And no, I’m not sharing a picture of my 3rd grade self!)

A friend at church shared a tattered Scandinavian cookbook with me a few years ago, which is where I found the base for what would become my gluten free recipe for St. Lucia Buns. So you can feel quite authentic when you make them!

saffron threads for gluten-free-saint-lucia-saffron-buns
Dried saffron threads.


The saffron in these iconic buns plays a very important part, lending flavor and smell as well as the distinctive yellow hue. Saffron has long been one of the world’s most expensive spices, used throughout history for medicinal/herbal treatments, perfume, flavor and even dyes.

saffron for Gluten Free St. Lucia Saffron Buns

Saffron can be quite pricey, so you’ll usually find it in very small quantities. Oddly enough, I’ve found saffron threads at stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s!

Just grind the dried threads with a mortar and pestle to measure the amount needed. You actually don’t even need a mortar and pestle: as you can see, any bowl and blunt-ended tool will do!

mortar and pestle for grinding saffron threads


The dough for these saffron buns is shaped by twisting into a unique flourish on either end, adding to their distinctiveness as a symbol of this Advent holiday. And while it may not be historically accurate to say that these buns were always gluten free, they’re equally delicious made that way in modern times, so why not?

Tradition holds that if you fully embrace the traditions of Saint Lucia Day, you will survive the long winter days with enough light. It seems to me that the best way to celebrate would be to bake these gluten free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns, don’t you think? Wreath of candles or not, they’ll certainly spread joy and warmth on a cold winter’s night.

Gluten Free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns

Don’t let the fact that this is a yeast dough intimidate you! My gfJules Flour works great in doughs like this because it’s light and there’s no grit, but there is some stretch with my flour, so it’s easy to work with and shape.

Just dissolve the yeast packed in warm milk:

bubbles-show-yeast-is-proofed for gluten-free-saint-lucia-saffron-buns

Once mixed with my gfJules Flour and the remaining ingredients, the dough will be wet enough to roll but not so wet it’s sticky. Then you just have to harken back to your playdough days and form logs of dough, then twist the ends and finish off with a raisin. It’s easy!


I know you’re going to love these gorgeous buns, but if you should have any rolls left over, they make a fantastic overnight gluten free French Toast Casserole!

Gluten Free overnight French Toast Casserole with St. Lucia buns

Happy Saint Lucia Day!

Yield: Approximately 15 buns

Gluten Free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns

Gluten Free Saint Lucia Buns on plaid

History + saffron threads make this iconic bread so meaningful. This gluten free recipe for St. Lucia Buns makes it delicious!

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • 5 Tbs. + 1 cup warm milk, dairy or non-dairy
  • 2 active dry yeast packets (2 1/4 tsp. each) –Fleishmann's® or Red Star®- NOT Platinum
  • ½  tsp. saffron threads (or powdered saffron)
  • ½ Tbs. bourbon, brandy or apple cider
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 egg white (or egg substitute)
  • ½ cup melted butter or non-dairy alternative (Earth Balance®)
  • 4 cups (540 grams) gfJules All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
  • 1 egg, beaten (or milk of choice) for brushing onto bread before baking
  • 1 handful raw almonds, slivered (optional)
  • raisins for decorating (optional)
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling (optional)


To proof the yeast, dissolve the packets in 5 tablespoons warm milk.

Unless dried already, dry saffron threads by spreading on a baking sheet and placing in a warm oven until dry. Pound smooth into a powder. Dissolve in ½ tablespoon bourbon, brandy or apple cider.

In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining 1 cup milk, dissolved saffron, sugar, salt, egg white, butter and gfJules Flour.

Beat in the yeast-milk mixture until integrated. If dough is too dry, add more warm milk, one tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together well in a sticky, but not wet ball.

Divide into 2-inch balls and roll gently in only enough gfJules Flour to keep from sticking to your hands. The dough will become dry if too much flour is used. A bench scraper tool is helpful in sectioning off the dough and moving the buns around, but it’s not essential.

Gently roll into a rope to braid into buns — don’t push down on the dough while rolling or it will become flat; simply roll gently under your palms until a rope is formed. The rope should be 12-13 inches long.

Curl the ends of the rope into “S” shapes. Brush off excess flour, if necessary, with a pastry brush.

Gently transfer each bun to parchment-lined baking sheets, spritz with water to keep from drying out, cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes in a warm location like an oven preheated to 200° F and then turned off.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Once risen, brush with slightly beaten egg or warm milk and sprinkle Demerara sugar and chopped almonds, if using. Place raisins in the spirals.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes, depending on size. Do not over bake.

Yield: ~15 buns

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Gluten Free Saint Lucia Buns

Saint Lucia Gluten Free Saffron Buns for the holiday, or any time you want beautiful rolls for your table! Gluten-Free

Saint Lucia Gluten Free Saffron Buns for the holiday, or any time you want beautiful rolls for your table!

Homemade Gluten Free Saffron Buns



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  1. This dough was lovely to work with and the texture of the finished bun was quite nice. I found it a bit bland and thought it needed some peel or cardamon. That is obviously my bias as my Norwegian grandmother used cardamon in most of her baking. I would make them again with a few tweaks.

    • OOoooh I love the idea of adding cardamom to this dough, Barb!! Thank you for chiming in and making that suggestion! I think I’ll try it your grandmother’s way next time, too!!! 🙂 So glad you found the dough on these gluten free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns lovely to work with though.

  2. I Jule’s, thank you for all your wonderful recipes. I can’t tolerate yeast , and I was wondering if there is a way to make those saint-lucia buns without?

    thank you

    • Hi Danielle, where there’s a will, there’s always a way! 🙂
      While it won’t be exactly the same — yeast provides a distinctive aroma and a somewhat unique rising capabilities — chemical leaveners (baking powder and baking soda) can still do a good job. In this recipe, we use 2 packets of yeast. In place of that, ordinarily I would say to use a 1:1 exchange for baking powder (1 packet of yeast is 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast) but I think in this case that 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder is too much. Why don’t you try adding 1 tablespoon of baking powder in place of the yeast and see how that goes. It won’t be exactly the same, but hopefully it will still allow you to make this recipe and enjoy gluten free Saint Lucia Saffron Buns.

  3. Thank you for this recipe. I’ve been making lussebullar for years now, but this is my first attempt at gf buns (my toddler is gf). Unfortunately, I didn’t have your particular flour mix when I baked these, so I used another all-purpose gf flour. I found that I had to add quite a bit of extra flour to make the dough at all workable (it began liquid as cake batter) and thus they came out rather dry. This may not have been the case with your own flour mix, of course. Next year I will plan better in advance and order your flour, or I will attempt a different recipe.

    • HI Sarah, sorry that didn’t work out as well with the other flour, but that’s not surprising. Gluten Free Flour blends are all quite different, and moisture absorption is one thing that is often a big variable. The dough is very pliable with my gfJules Flour, which adds some stretch to most any kind of recipe where you need to roll it out shape it (pie crusts, braided bread, cut out cookies, etc). Here’s more information on different gluten free flours which I hope will help for future baking. Your toddler has no idea how lucky he or she is to have you looking out for their taste buds! Giving you a mom high-5 for your efforts!

  4. Hello! I have one packet of the pizza dough and I packet of yeast… Is it possible to do this recipe with those items? Please let me know. Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Heather, while you could, the taste would be different because the pizza dough has Italian herbs in it. If you made them with savory in mind, rather than slightly sweet, it could work …. The pizza dough mix also has some other ingredients in it that my flour doesn’t have, so the dough will behave somewhat differently and may need more or less liquid than this recipe calls for – the end product will also be crunchier on the outside, whereas these rolls are soft throughout. None of these features would make the rolls bad, per se, they would just be different. That being said, if you’re up for experimenting, you could give it a try. I wish I could guide you better about how much liquid would be needed, but I’ve never tried the pizza mix in this recipe. I’d recommend only adding enough water to keep the dough together so you could roll it and shape it. Maybe even try milk instead of water. Let me know how they turn out if you try it; if you’re not up for the uncertainty of it, just use the pizza mix to make baguettes! At least you’ll know those will turn out yummy!

  5. THANK YOU FOR THE LOVELY GIVEAWAY YOUR BLOG IS AMZING I WENT GLUTEN FREE CAUSE I had gotten very sick , and had to do something right for my body. Just stopped eating bread and a lot of other things. Thank you fingers crossed

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