St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (2024)

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Swedish Christmastime favorite, saffron infused S shaped sweet rolls, for St. Lucia Day.


Elise Bauer

St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (1)

Elise Bauer

Elise founded Simply Recipes in 2003 and led the site until 2019. She has an MA in Food Research from Stanford University.

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Updated February 04, 2022

23 Ratings

St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (2)

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December 13, St. Lucia Day, also known as the Festival of Light, is a day of celebration in Sweden, in the spirit of Advent and Christmas. Young girls are dressed in white robes with a red sash, with one girl selected as "Lucia" who wears a crown of lit candles (or battery powered ones), the others carrying a single candle. Processions with singing and revelry abound.

At home, the eldest girl dresses up in robe, sash, and candle crown, and delivers coffee and lussekatter, or S shaped saffron buns to her parents for breakfast.

This was all explained to me the other day by a young Swedish woman named Lisa Persson in college here in Sacramento, a long way from home. She spoke of these saffron buns with such nostalgia, I just had to make some.

St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (4)

The rolls are lightly sweet, buttery, and vibrant yellow from the saffron-infused dough. The raisins in the "eyes" of the rolls give them just a little extra sweetness when you bite into them.

Through my research I've seen many complaints that lussekatter can be dry or dense. The rolls I present to you here are neither; I limit the amount of sugar and fat in the recipe, the overuse of which can contribute to making yeasted breads dense.

Of course the rolls are best freshly baked. I would recommend making the dough the night before, refrigerating it over night, and then baking the rolls in the morning. Otherwise, the rolls do reheat very well with just a few seconds in the microwave. Enjoy! (p.s. this is a delightful video on the tradition of Swedish Lucia)

St. Lucia Saffron Buns

Prep Time2 hrs 30 mins

Cook Time12 mins

Total Time2 hrs 42 mins

Servings12to 14 servings

This recipe makes 12 to 14 good sized buns. You can easily double the recipe. Note the cardamom is optional. I've made these buns with and without a little cardamom and Iprefer them with. I'm guessing it's more traditional without.


  • 3/4 cup milk(175ml)

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup (50g) white granulated sugar

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (check the expiration date on the package to make sure it's still good!)

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups (490g to 570g) all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • The seeds from 3 cardamom pods, ground, optional

  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 56g) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1/4 cup sour cream(or quark if available)

  • 2 large eggs

  • Raisins


  • 1 egg, beaten


  1. Heat milk, saffron, sugar:

    In a small pot, heat the milk, saffron, and 1 teaspoon of sugar together until the milk is steamy. Remove from heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Let cool until about 115°F, or warm to the touch, but not hot.

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (5)

  2. Bloom the yeast:

    Sprinkle the yeast over the warm saffron-infused milk, and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.

  3. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, cardamom:

    In the bowl of a stand-up mixer* whisk together 3 1/2 cups (490g) of the flour, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, salt and ground cardamom (if using).

    *You can make this recipe without a mixer, for me it's just a bit easier with one.

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (7)

  4. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast milk saffron mixture, the eggs, the butter, and the sour cream:

    Mix the ingredients until well incorporated.

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (8)

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (9)

  5. Knead the dough:

    Switch to the dough hook of your mixer (if using, otherwise knead by hand). On low speed start to knead the dough. Slowly add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition. Do this until the dough is still a little sticky to the touch, but does not completely stick to your hands when you handle it.

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (10)

  6. Let dough rise:

    Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. (Note at this point you can make ahead and refrigerate overnight if you wish.)

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (11)

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (12)

    Let sit in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size. (One way to tell that the dough is ready is that you poke your finger in it and it takes quite a bit of time for the indentation left by your finger to go away.)

  7. Form dough into S shapes:

    When the dough has doubled in size, gently press it down and knead it a couple of times. Break off a piece and form it into a ball about 2 inches wide (60 to 70 grams if you are weighing). Roll the ball out into a snake, about 14 inches long.

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (13)

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (14)

    Then Curl the ends in opposite directions, forming an "S" with spirals at each end. Place on a lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

  8. Let sitfor second rise:

    Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough shapes double in size, 30 minutes to an hour.

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (15)

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (16)

  9. Brush with egg wash, place raisins on buns:

    Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Using a pastry brush, brush some beaten egg over the tops and sides of the uncooked buns. Place raisins in the centers of the "S" spirals.

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (17)

    St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (18)

  10. Bake:

    Place in the oven and bake at 400°F (205°C) for about 10 to 11 minutes (turning halfway through cooking to ensure even browning), until the buns are golden brown.

    Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before eating.


Swedish Lucia for Dummies - a tongue in cheek video about Swedish traditions of St. Lucia Day

Swedish Tea Ring or Coffee Bread - here on Simply Recipes

Lussekatter or St. Lucia Rolls - an in-depth explanation of the history surrounding St. Lucia on My Diverse Kitchen

Light in the Dark of Winter - from Foodie Underground

Whole Wheat St. Lucia Saffron Buns - from Texanerin

St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (19)

  • Breakfast
  • Christmas
  • Bread
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
6g Fat
38g Carbs
6g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12to 14
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g7%
Saturated Fat 3g15%
Cholesterol 52mg17%
Sodium 69mg3%
Total Carbohydrate 38g14%
Dietary Fiber 1g5%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 0mg1%
Calcium 34mg3%
Iron 2mg12%
Potassium 111mg2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.

St. Lucia Saffron Buns Recipe, Swedish Lussekatter Rolls (2024)


What is lussekatter made of? ›

The main ingredients are plain flour, butter, yeast, caster sugar, currants and sultanas. Larger versions baked in a loaf tin are known as saffron cake. Similar buns are Swedish lussebulle or lussekatt, Norwegian lussekatt.

Why is it called lussekatter? ›

Why is it called Lussekatter? It is thought that the buns were originally modeled after a sleeping cat (the S-shape being the curled up tail), believed to ward off the devil.

What do you eat on St Lucia Day in Sweden? ›

The Lucia celebrations also include gingerbread biscuits and sweet, saffron-flavoured buns (lussekatter) shaped like curled-up cats and with raisin eyes. You eat them with glögg, Swedish mulled wine, or coffee.

How do you make lussekatter without saffron? ›

If you don't have saffron or simply want to make St Lucia buns without saffron, you can use turmeric instead, to give the lussekatter their classic yellow color. Or some people choose to add turmeric on top of the saffron, to make the buns extra yellow.

What is a Swedish saffron bun called? ›

This sweet, saffron-flavoured bun, known as 'lussekatt' (directly translated as 'Lucia cat'), is typically shaped into the letter 'S' to look like a curled-up cat, with raisins for decoration to resemble the cat's eyes.

When to eat lussekatter? ›

St Lucia buns, or Lussekatter are Swedish buns eaten for breakfast with coffee or as an afternoon treat on the 13th December, or St Lucia Day. The saffron gives a lovely cheerful appearance to the buns, which is just perfect in the depths of the dark winter (and especially so in Sweden!).

Why do Swedes celebrate Lucia? ›

St. Lucia is celebrated throughout the world, and honored by many cultures. In Sweden, Lucia symbolizes the coming end of the long winter nights and the return of light to the world.

What is the Swedish Christmas tradition Lucia? ›

On 13 December, Sweden celebrates Lucia Day. The event symbolizes light in a dark winter. Celebrated annually in December, this historic custom is an atmospheric event involving Christmassy treats and a singing line-up of candle-carrying characters dressed (mostly) in white gowns.

What animal is St. Lucia known for? ›

The nation's best-known species is the gorgeous but endangered Saint Lucia amazon parrot. Other species of conservation concern include the pencil cedar, staghorn coral and Saint Lucia racer. The racer, confined to the nine-hectare island of Maria Major, is thought to be the world's most threatened snake.

What is St. Lucia traditional meal? ›

The signature meal you should have in Saint Lucia is green figs and salt fish, the island's national dish. Locals boil unripe bananas and then add salt-cured boiled or flaked cod.

What are three traditions of St Lucia Day? ›

Families observe St. Lucia's Day in their homes by having one of their daughters (traditionally the eldest) dress in white and serve coffee and baked goods, such as saffron bread (lussekatter) and ginger biscuits, to the other members of the family. These traditional foods are also given to visitors during the day.

What do Italians eat on St Lucia Day? ›

Today, traditional celebrations of Santa Lucia vary according to the region. However, this is still an Italian holiday, so you know that there will be feasting. Families across Italy typically gather together on December 13 for a delicious meal ofcaserecce (literally homemade pasta), roasted meats, and light sweets.

Why do you soak saffron in water? ›

To draw out the colour and to ensure that it's evenly distributed throughout the dish it's to be added to, steep saffron threads in a little warm water, stock, milk or white wine for about 30 mins before using. Then add the liquid to the dish, usually towards the end of cooking.

Should you soak saffron before cooking? ›

We've already said that saffron threads need to be steeped or brewed in liquid to withdraw the incomparable flavor and golden color. This is sometimes called blooming the saffron and it's easier than it sounds. For example, just add a couple of threads to a pot of uncooked rice for a huge flavor boost.

Do you soak saffron in milk or water? ›

“Saffron threads are typically soaked in warm liquid beforehand if they're not being added to a wet dish. Soak your saffron in warm water, stock, wine or milk, depending on what you plan to add it to; this aids in the release of flavour and colour from the fine threads.

What is lussekake? ›

What is a Lussekatt? A Lussekatt is a Swedish saffron bun with raisins that is baked and eaten at the 13th of December as part of the St Lucia tradition. The word lussekatt roughly translates to Lucy cat. The lussekatt is made from a more or less a standard sweet wheat dough which is flavored with saffron.

What is traditional Christmas food in St. Lucia? ›

Food plays a central role in St. Lucia's Christmas celebrations. Families gather to prepare and enjoy traditional dishes such as “green figs and saltfish,” which consists of green bananas and salted codfish, and “black cake,” a rum-soaked fruitcake.

Why is saffron so popular in Sweden? ›

Despite being the world's most expensive spice, saffron is widely used in Swedish food. It features heavily around Christmas time in saffransbullar (saffron buns), but it is also used in a number of other sweet and savoury dishes. It is used both because of its bright yellow colour and its distinctive flavour.

Why are saffron buns Cornish? ›

It's thought that saffron came to Cornwall as early as 4000BC with foreign merchants bringing it with them when they were trading in tin. Ever since the Cornish have been cooking with it and the traditional saffron bun gradually developed.

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