Traditional British Easter Recipes

Like so many countries and cultures, Britain has its own traditional foods to celebrate the Easter holiday, from hot cross buns to Simnel cake to copious amounts of chocolate eggs. But there is also Spring lamb with mint sauce, a dish of Jersey royal potatoes, and of course plenty of desserts.​

  • 01 of 08

    Traditional Hot Cross Buns

    Hot cross buns (UK)

    Linda Burgess / Getty Images

    This classic British Easter recipe originates with the Saxons, Germanic people who settled in Southern England in the 5th and 6th centuries. They ate hot cross buns to honor their goddess Eostre, the namesake of the festival of Easter. It is thought these buns represented the moon and the cross symbolized the moon's quarters. To Christians, the cross symbolizes the crucifixion, making these yeast rolls perfect for the holiday. Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten warm with butter on Good Friday, but can also be part of the Easter Sunday feast.

    What makes these rolls unique and truly British is that the starter dough is studded with dried fruits and candied peel, and is flavored with mixed spice, a traditional British spice combination often including ingredients such as cinnamon, coriander seed, caraway, and nutmeg. A dough of butter and flour is then rolled into thin strips and placed on the baked buns to form a cross.

  • 02 of 08

    Simnel Cake

    Simple simnel cake

    ​The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

    The Simnel cake signifies the end of Lent, the period of 40 days which comes before Easter. For Christians, Lent is a period of fasting and repentance when certain foods are not eaten. It culminates in a feast of seasonal and symbolic foods. The Simnel cake is rich with fruits, spices, and marzipan, all forbidden during the period of Lent.

    The flavorful cake is layered with marzipan, which is also placed on top and adorned with egg-shaped balls of the almond paste as decoration. Some households add designs or little Easter eggs to the top of the cake.

  • 03 of 08

    Baked Ham for Easter

    Spiral Cut Ham

    Steve@Colorado / Getty Images

    Gammon is a raw, cured bacon leg cut, and only referred to as ham when cooked. A baked ham is always a favorite at Easter for a family lunch, and this gammon with apricot stuffing is an excellent take on the traditional baked ham with its fruity filling.

    Baked, stuffed hams are believed to have originated in the Cotswolds centuries ago; this ham stuffed with apricots is based on an old dish from Oxfordshire, but the American-style glazed crust is infinitely preferable to the original British flour and water crust, as it adds sweetness and flavor to the ham.

  • 04 of 08

    Spring Lamb

    Stuffed leg of lamb

    Thorsten Suedfels / Getty Images

    As Easter falls in the springtime, the favorite meat across England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland is lamb—and the best lamb of all is the early spring lamb.
    A simple, stuffed roast leg of lamb, or a boned leg stuffed with fresh herbs, is always a favorite. What better way to serve it than slow roasted with pungent garlic, parsley, and bacon, along with a good sauce (like a traditional British mint sauce). It is, of course, delicious served hot but this recipe also makes a lovely cold cut for sandwiches and light lunches.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Jersey Royal Potatoes

    About Jersey Royals

    One of the first harbingers of spring in the UK is the Jersey Royal potato. Grown on the island of Jersey, these small potatoes are sweet and need very little to create a delicious side dish. Simply roasted—in British style with goose fat—they become crispy on the outside with a creamy interior. Of course,​ these potatoes also are perfect for mashing or using in a cheesy gratin.

  • 06 of 08

    Chocolate Cupcakes With Bailey's Cream Icing

    Two velvet cupcakes with icing on spotted surface

    Renee Comet / Getty Images

    Baileys Irish Cream is one of the UK's favorite cream liqueurs made from Irish whiskey and velvety Irish cream. Just a drop or two adds a lovely depth of flavor, as it does in this chocolate cupcake recipe. Cupcakes are always delicious but when you add Irish Cream liqueur, they transform into a real grown-up treat.

    The liqueur is only in the frosting, so you can put aside some of the cupcakes for the kids and frost them with regular icing.

  • 07 of 08

    Jam Tarts

    Traditional Jam Tarts
    The Spruce

    With just a quick pastry dough recipe and your favorite fruit jam, these little jam tarts are super easy to make and cute to look at. The tarts came about when sugar was used for making jam and remained popular in the U.K. ever since. You can use one jam flavor or a variety in different colors; you can also fill the mini tart shells with lemon curd if you prefer. 

  • 08 of 08

    Chocolate Easter Eggs

    White chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate easter eggs

    SusanadelCampoPhoto / Getty Images

    Eggs have been associated with Easter celebrations throughout history; in ancient times it was thought the egg represented fertility and new beginnings. For Christians, Christ’s resurrection is symbolic of new beginnings and represented by the giving and receiving of eggs. Many countries, including Britain, enjoy chocolate eggs as part of the Easter celebration, and it is actually not too difficult to make your own. Making chocolate Easter eggs means working with chocolate, but this isn't as hard as you may think. Before you try it, familiarize yourself with working with melted chocolate