What Is a Currant Bun?

Cindy Quarters

A currant bun is a type of sweet bread treat usually made from wheat flower, yeast, sugar and currants. This pastry is made both at home and in bakeries, and has been popular in the United Kingdom since the mid-1800s. Often an important element of a traditional British tea, they may be served alone or with other baked goods. The term "currant bun" is also a slang term referring to the British newspaper, The Sun.

A currant bun can be made with fresh or dried currants.
A currant bun can be made with fresh or dried currants.

A currant is a small fruit that is similar to a grape. These come in different colors including red, black and yellow, and are often dried and used like raisins. Recipes may call for either fresh or dried currants, though either can be used to create a currant bun. A Chelsea bun is a variety of the currant bun that substitutes brown sugar glaze for traditional icing.

Currants were once used to treat the symptoms of colds and influenza.
Currants were once used to treat the symptoms of colds and influenza.

Hundreds of years ago, English currants were thought to have medicinal properties. Many people still take advantage of those purported benefits today, using drinks made from currants to help relieve the symptoms of both colds and influenza. The plants themselves also may have a diuretic effect when steeped in water. Some people feel that health benefits can be realized by baking the fruit into pastries, and then consuming at least one currant bun each day. Many health benefits may be contained in a currant bun, as currants are a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin C.

A currant bun is also a common slang term in some areas. Cockney rhyming slang is a type of slang used in parts of the United Kingdom (UK) where a short word or phrase is used in place of the intended word or phrase. There is some question as to whether this is done intentionally, to allow only those in the know to understand what is being said or if the practice grew accidentally from local customs. One example of this slang is the phrase “currant bun,” which is often used to replace the name of a newspaper in the UK, The Sun, in common speech.

The most common definition of a currant bun remains the literal term for a food item with currants baked into it. It is a staple in many parts of the UK and considered almost a necessity for tea. Currant buns were on the menu of the Titanic, and were served to third class passengers at tea time.

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