RECIPE: How to make Swedish saffron buns for Lucia

Swedes love to indulge on traditional Lucia saffron buns (lussekatter) on December 13th. Food writer John Duxbury shares his favourite recipe with The Local.

RECIPE: How to make Swedish saffron buns for Lucia
How to make Swedish saffron buns. Photo: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/


Makes: 12 buns

Time needed: 40 minutes (+ 2-3 hours proving time)


0.4-0.5 g (1 tsp) saffron threads (usually sold in 0.4 or 0.5 g packets)

240 ml (1 cup) whole milk (4%)

75 g (3/4 stick) unsalted (sweet) butter*

500 g (4 cups) strong (bread) flour

50 g (1/4 cup) golden caster (superfine) sugar

1 tsp baking powder

10 g (2 ½ tsp) ‘quick’ or ‘fast action’ dried yeast

1 tsp salt

24 raisins

1 beaten egg, to glaze

*Reduce amount of unsalted sweet butter to 50 g (1/2 stick) if adding Quark cheese


1. Heat the saffron threads and milk until warm. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

2. Melt the butter separately, allow to cool slightly, then stir into the milk mixture.    

3. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the sugar and baking powder and mix.   

4. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Keep apart initially as salt can kill yeast. Mix.

5. Stir in the milk mixture and quark cheese if using. Bring together to form a dough.

6. Knead the dough on a floured surface for five minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with cling film or a kitchen towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place for 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size.

7. Grease two baking trays.

8. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and punch one or twice to knock it back. Divide into 12.

9. Roll out each piece so that it’s about 25 cm long. Shape into tight S shapes. Place on the baking sheets and add a raisin into the centre of each of the two coils. Cover loosely and leave for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.

10. Preheat the oven to 220C.

11. Brush the buns with the beaten egg and bake for 7-10 minutes until golden brown and the undersides sound hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

*Sterilize by washing a bottle and then placing it in an oven at 120C for five minutes.


– The lussekatter are best enjoyed when slightly warm. Don’t be afraid to reheat them in a microwave for a few seconds. Serve with cold milk or glögg.

– Saffron buns can get fairly dry and hard, especially when reheated. For a less authentic version (which is becoming increasingly popular in Sweden) add 100 g of quark cheese as it helps to make the buns softer and lighter. You could also add a tray of boiling water to the bottom of the oven before baking the buns to help keep them moist. Saffron is cheaper in Sweden than some other countries, so why not pick up a few packets if you’re visiting? 

Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, Editor and Founder of Swedish Food

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.