Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

4.96 from 48 votes
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Freshly baked cinnamon rolls drizzled with vanilla glaze. A special breakfast treat that you can make from scratch in less time than you think. Using instant yeast allows you to cut down the rising time dramatically.

Homemade cinnamon rolls with glaze in a baking pan.

This cinnamon rolls recipe creates soft pillowy bread filled with a brown sugar spread. Don’t waste your money on Cinnabon when you can make a homemade version that tastes better. Sometimes working with yeast-leavened baked goods may feel intimidating or look time-consuming, but I’ll show you the science behind the process in the formula below.

The good news is now, with technology on our side, manufacturers have created an instant-rise yeast to save us time in the kitchen. Compressed fresh yeast or active dry yeast requires proofing or multiple fermentation steps. However, with the instant version, you only have to let it rise after shaping it for 30 minutes instead of hours.

Instant dry yeast and flour in a stand mixer bowl.
Step 1. Mix the dry ingredients
Checking the liquid butter and milk temperature with a thermometer.
Step 2. Warm the butter and milk

Use instant dry yeast

I use instant dry yeast for this recipe, also known as rapid-rise yeast. The most important thing to remember is that yeast is alive, just dormant in a dried state. That means it’s susceptible to high heat and can lose its rising power if combined with a too-hot liquid.

Gradually heat the mixture of sugar, butter, water, and milk between 120 to 130°F (49 to 54°C). Yeast dies at temperatures of 138ºF (59ºC) and above. Keep an instant-read thermometer handy to monitor the temperature; this step is critical for a successful rise. Combine this warm liquid with one package of instant dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons), flour, and salt.

Make the dough

Once you incorporate the warm milk mixture with the dry ingredients, it will feel sticky until the starches hydrate. As the dough mixes, gluten formation rapidly occurs with constant kneading, creating an elastic texture. This process makes it easy to roll out and hold its shape.

I prefer to let my stand mixer knead using the dough hook attachment. But you can also use your hands to knead the dough on a floured surface.

Rolling out and shaping

Cover the large bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 10 minutes before rolling. The dough will be warm from the heated liquids, around 90ºF (32ºC), which rapidly starts yeast fermentation and gas formation. This also allows the proteins to relax, so it’s easier to work with. Shape the dough into a square on a well-floured surface. Use a rolling pin to create a rectangle shape about 16 by 19-inch.

The dough should be even in thickness, about ¼-inch. Carefully roll from the longest edge into a tight cigar shape. Trim off the edges, as it’s mostly just dough, and then cut 12 even-sized pieces.

Make the filling

In a large mixing bowl, combine softened butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, and ground cinnamon to create a sweet paste to spread over the dough. You can make this part a few days ahead, but bring it to room temperature before using it. Use a knife or spatula to distribute the filling evenly.

Keep a skinny border, about ¼-inch from the edge with no filling, to make it easier to roll. If you want to add more mix-ins, sprinkle some chopped pecans or walnuts, sauteed apples, caramel, or even chocolate chips on top of the paste.

Slices of butter in a bowl with brown sugar.
Step 4. Make the filling

Allow time to rise

This step is the only long fermentation needed to allow the dough to puff up and increase in size. Evenly space the pieces in a greased baking pan, allowing for some distance between themselves and from the sides of the pan. This placement gives the rolls room to double in size.

Yeast is the most active in producing flavor and gas bubbles when the dough temperature is between 75 to 78ºF (23 to 14ºC). On a sunny day, cover and let rise in a warm area on the kitchen counter. About 30 minutes or longer if needed. I’ve found that covering it with plastic wrap does a better job of keeping the dough from drying out so it stays soft and pliable.

Alternatively, I like to set up a makeshift proofing box in the oven or microwave to create an enclosed, warm, humid environment for the rolls to rise efficiently.

During baking

You might notice that the rolls will continue to increase in size as it bakes. The yeast keeps fermenting and produces carbon dioxide gases until it ultimately deactivates in the hot oven temperatures. So if your rolls don’t seem quite doubled in size before baking, they’ll get an extra boost once in the oven.

Bake the rolls until golden brown. The smell of caramelized sugar and hot bread is heavenly!

Drizzle on the glaze

The glaze is very simple to make. Just whisk together powdered sugar (confectioners sugar), vanilla extract, lemon juice, and warm water. I like to use vanilla bean paste because it gives a nice speckled appearance. You can also scrape in whole beans for a more robust flavor.

Make sure to use warm milk. Otherwise, the consistency will become stiff and hard to drizzle. The glaze will harden as it cools, so wait to mix it until right before adding. If you’re a cream cheese icing fan, it’s a tasty substitute for this glaze. Add warm milk or cream to make the icing thinner for glazing, or keep it thick and spreadable.

FAQ

What’s the difference between cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns?

The main difference is that cinnamon rolls are taken out of the pan and glazed, while cinnamon buns are flipped upside down. This allows any of the cinnamon and sugar syrup that seeps out from the roll to coat the surface. They both can be drizzled with powdered sugar glaze or cream cheese icing.

What is the best cinnamon to use for cinnamon rolls?

Cassia cinnamon is the most common variety sold at the grocery store. It’s the least expensive, with a bolder flavor that mellows out as it cooks. Ceylon is more expensive but has a more mild and delicate taste and is regarded as better quality. Try Saigon cinnamon for a more assertive and sweet spice flavor.

Why are my cinnamon rolls not fluffy?

If too much flour is added, it could cause a dense texture. Always weigh the flour for consistency if possible. Ensure the milk mixture is warm enough to activate the yeast, but don’t kill it! The dough should be warm after mixing to encourage fermentation. The rolls should double in size during the rising step. Otherwise, not enough carbon dioxide bubbles are generated to make the bread soft and fluffy.

Person using a spoon to drizzle vanilla glaze over a baking dish filled with cinnamon rolls.
Step 9. Make the glaze

The advantage of using instant-rise yeast

Instant yeast, also sold as rapid-rise yeast, is a dry product with enzymes and additives that help it ferment faster. It can be mixed right into dry ingredients. Warm water activates the yeast to get it fermenting. The dough then only needs 10 minutes of resting before rolling and shaping—just one rise step, which is about 30 minutes in a warm area before baking.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

These amazing cinnamon rolls are a special breakfast treat swirled together with a brown sugar filling and drizzled with a luscious vanilla bean glaze.
4.96 from 48 votes
Prep Time1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 12 rolls
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

Dough

  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast, or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg

Filling

  • cup dark brown sugar
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to 67 to 70ºF (19 to 21ºC)

Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup whole milk, warmed to 80 to 100ºF (27 to 38ºC)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Instructions 

  • Mix Dry Dough Ingredients – In the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, and salt. Set aside.
  • Warm Butter & Milk – In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the sugar, butter, water, and milk. Microwave on high power in 20-second intervals until it reaches 120 to 130°F (49 to 54°C), about 40 to 60 seconds. Let it cool if it gets too hot. Stir to combine.
  • Knead & Rest Dough – Add 1 large egg to the flour mixture. Use a spatula to gradually stir in the warm liquid mixture until a soft, sticky dough forms.
    Using the dough hook attachment of a stand mixer, mix on low speed (setting 2) until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. If not using a mixer, knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and rest on the counter for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling.
  • Make the Filling – In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add 6 tablespoons of softened butter and mix until smooth and spreadable.
  • Roll Out Dough – On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 16 x 9-inch rectangle.
  • Spread on Filling – Evenly spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1⁄4-inch border on all sides. Tightly roll the dough into a 16-inch long log. Trim off a small piece of dough from each end. Cut the log into 12 even-sized pieces.
  • Let Rolls Rise – Place the rolls in a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish, spaced out about 1⁄2-inch apart, 3 rolls per row. Leave about 1⁄2-inch of space along the edges of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm draft-free area or proofing box (see notes) until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  • Bake – Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Heat to 375°F (191°C). Uncover and bake the rolls until lightly golden brown in color, about 15 to 17 minutes. Slightly cool the rolls for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the glaze.
  • Make the Glaze – In a medium bowl, whisk the powdered sugar, warm milk, vanilla extract, and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle glaze over the warm cinnamon rolls. Serve immediately.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute gluten-free flour for all-purpose flour. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour.
  • Make it Dairy-Free: For the butter, substitute coconut oil, margarine, or shortening. For the milk, use water, coconut milk, almond milk, or cashew milk.
  • Microwave Proofing Box: Heat 1 cup of water on high power in the microwave for 2 minutes. Leave the cup inside and immediately add the covered tray of cinnamon rolls. Close the door until the rolls double in size. Alternatively, make an oven-proofing box.
  • Storing: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerated for up to 7 days, or frozen in a resealable plastic bag for up to 4 months. 
  • Reheating: Cover with foil and heat in the oven at 350ºF (177ºC) for about 10 to 15 minutes until warm. Alternatively, microwave individual rolls in 5 to 10-second increments until warm. 

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 12 rolls
Calories 276kcal (14%)Carbohydrates 45g (15%)Protein 4g (8%)Fat 8g (12%)Saturated Fat 5g (25%)Cholesterol 36mg (12%)Sodium 207mg (9%)Potassium 72mg (2%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 21g (23%)Vitamin A 265IU (5%)Vitamin C 0.2mgCalcium 26mg (3%)Iron 1.6mg (9%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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23 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Trang says

    I love your tips about instant yeast. I’ve always been baking with active dry yeast and I don’t mind the time consuming part but I’m totally gonna try instant yeast next time. I think it would be so helpful for Thanksgiving as we’re always making so many different dishes and the rolls are very time consuming.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I agree! I like the flavor of the double fermentation, and sometimes the rolls are a little softer with a double rise. But if you are in a hurry, instant rise is awesome!

  2. Judy says

    Oh this looks good. So hard to find good ones and I like making my own food anyway. We made the Apple Crisp two days ago and is it ever good. We both liked that it wasn’t overly sweet and we could still taste a tiny bit of apple tartness.

  3. Shana says

    This recipe looks great! Is there any way to do part of the work the night before so that they are quick to bake in the morning?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Shana! I think you could do all the steps before the 30 minute proof. Maybe just roll up the cinnamon roll into a log, then tightly wrap in plastic wrap and foil. Then cut it into pieces, and let it come to room temperature for about 20-30 minutes before you proof it. So It might take an hour to 1 1/2 hour to double in size if you are putting it in a warm and draft free space. Just keep an eye on it 🙂 Let me know hot it goes!

  4. K. L. Romo says

    Loved the cinnamon rolls, Jessica! And they were so easy to make. I won’t shy away from “made-from-scratch” rolls anymore.

  5. Lisa says

    I decided to measure the ingredients plus weigh them in grams to see how exact I was in the amounts. A tsp of kosher salt (Diamond) weighs 3 grams. You say it weighs 6 grams. Are you using a different type of salt? Just curious.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Great question Lisa! Yes, I use Morton’s kosher salt which when manufactured in denser than the hollow and flaky diamond crystal salt.

  6. Natalie D. says

    I fully enjoyed the process and science behind this cinnamon roll recipe. It was a success! This was my first time making homemade cinnamon rolls and found this recipe easy to follow. I have been wanting to make these for weeks now and the cinnamon rolls were wonderfully delicious! I am looking forward to making these again. Thank you for the inspiration Jessica.

  7. El says

    Hi,
    These cinnamon rolls look great! I wanted to make this but wanted to know if I use active dry yeast, will I have to activate it first then pour it into the dry ingredients or will I have to change anything, or does nothing change and should I just go with the recipe?

    When you say 20 seconds intervals, what do you mean by that? how many watts for how many seconds should I warm up the mixture? I would appreciate it a lot if you could tell me how many watts for how many seconds I should heat it up because I also don’t have an instant-read thermometer.
    Thanks in advance

    • Jessica Gavin says

      If you use active dry yeast you need to hydrate it first in some warm water that is between 100 to 110ºF. It should feel like lukewarm water, not hot. I would hydrate it separately in the 1/2 cup of warm water, then mix it together. Then add this to the warmed milk, sugar, and butter that is at 100 to 110ºF. My microwave does not have watts, but power levels (I use high power). If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, just make sure that the liquid mixture feels lukewarm. The most important thing here is to not kill the yeast. If you want to test to see if the yeast is active, you can add 1 teaspoon sugar to the water and yeast mixture, let it sit for 10 minutes, and see if the mixture starts to bubble and double in volume, then it’s active (then add it to the warm milk mixture). You will also need to rise the dough in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 hour before shaping. Once shaped, let the rolls double in size again. about 30 to 60 minutes. If you can, and instant-read thermometer is a great investment, especially if you plan to do more baking with yeast. Let me know how it goes!

  8. El says

    It turned out perfectly! Thank you for all your great tips! I also bought an instant read thermometer on Amazon because I am planning to bake more with yeast during lockdown. My whole family enjoyed it and I am making another batch tomorrow. Thank you for another great recipe!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You’re welcome! Great job, thrilled to hear you picked up a thermometer, it will come in handy! Happy baking!

  9. Sheila Flores says

    I made these cinnamon rolls on Easter morning. They were so fluffy and delicious! They were a big hit with my family. I followed the instructions about proofing (from your video) and they rose beautifully. I always find your written instructions and videos very helpful. So glad to have found a great recipe for cinnamon rolls that’s not time consuming. Thank you!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Great job, Sheila! I’m so happy the tips in the video helped with proofing and you found the recipe to not take up so much time. Happy baking!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      The dough does have a small amount of sugar, so it will have a slight sweetness. But that might be nice, balancing with the savory ingredients you’d like to add.