Health financing policies are critical policy instruments to achieve Universal Health Coverage, and they constitute a key area in policy analysis literature for the health policy and systems research (HPSR) field. Previous reviews have shown that analyses of policy change in low- and middle-income countries are under-theorised. This study aims to explore which theories and conceptual frameworks have been used in research on policy processes of health financing policy in sub-Saharan Africa and to identify challenges and lessons learned from their use. We conducted a scoping review of literature published in English and French between 2000 and 2017. We analysed 23 papers selected as studies of health financing policies in sub-Saharan African countries using policy process or health policy-related theory or conceptual framework ex ante. Theories and frameworks used alone were from political science (35%), economics (9%) and HPSR field (17%). Thirty-five per cent of authors adopted a ‘do-it-yourself’ (bricolage) approach combining theories and frameworks from within political science or between political science and HPSR. Kingdon’s multiple streams theory (22%), Grindle and Thomas’ arenas of conflict (26%) and Walt and Gilson’s policy triangle (30%) were the most used. Authors select theories for their empirical relevance, methodological rational (e.g. comparison), availability of examples in literature, accessibility and consensus. Authors cite few operational and analytical challenges in using theory. The hybridisation, diversification and expansion of mid-range policy theories and conceptual frameworks used deductively in health financing policy reform research are issues for HPSR to consider. We make three recommendations for researchers in the HPSR field. Future research on health financing policy change processes in sub-Saharan Africa should include reflection on learning and challenges for using policy theories and frameworks in the context of HPSR.