The Best Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
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The Best Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls — Super soft, fluffy pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls topped with a cream cheese glaze! Move over, Cinnabon, these are better!!
The last time I made pumpkin cinnamon rolls was Fall 2012 when I was writing Cooking With Pumpkin. Last fall I made Honey Butter Pumpkin Dinner Rolls, but was beyond overdue for pumpkin cinnamon rolls.
And these are the best pumpkin cinnamon rolls I’ve ever made. I prefer these over Cinnabon, and that’s a big statement coming from a former Cinnabon junkie.
They’re soft, light, fluffy and there’s just enough pumpkin flavor to notice, but not so much that it overwhelms the inherent beauty of classic cinnamon rolls. Topped with cream cheese glaze, they’re totally irresistible.
I have a habit of donating most of what I bake after my family has a bite or a piece since we don’t need entire cakes, multiple pans of bars, and dozens of cookies, every week. My daughter asked, “Mom, how many of these pumpkin cinnamon rolls did you make?” And I said an entire pan and she said, “Good, don’t donate any of them!”
She said they’re the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever made and that the center bites are the best because they’re so soft and juicy. I agree.
I used my current favorite yeast roll recipe as the jumping off point and worked in pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and plenty of cinnamon and brown sugar. I love this recipe too but it makes quite a hearty amount and we just don’t need all those rolls.
The dough for this pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe is buttermilk-based, and although I’ve made non-buttermilk sweet rolls, for the softest, lightest, and most tender rolls, I swear by buttermilk. Between the buttermilk, butter, and egg, the dough rises beautifully and it’s my favorite dough base.
The glaze is a simple glaze of cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and a splash of cream. It makes more than the average person may want on their rolls, but it keeps for weeks in the fridge. I’m a dip, glaze, and frosting-aholic, and can never have too much. I keep a little cup on the side of my plate so I can double-dip.
The glaze soaks into the nooks and crannies and adds even more moisture and softness. Total gooey, cinnamon-and-sugary, juicy perfection. Center bites make me absolutely weak in the knees.
Definitely my new favorite cinnamon rolls. Worth every last bit of cardio.
Ingredients for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Homemade cinnamon rolls require fairly few ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need for this pumpkin cinnamon rolls recipe:
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Pumpkin pie spice
- Instant dry yeast
- Unsalted butter
- Pumpkin puree
- Light brown sugar
- Cream cheese
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Half and half (or cream)
How to Make Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
I’ve given very detailed instructions in the recipe card below on how to make these pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls. Here’s a broad overview of the process:
- Make the cinnamon roll dough. See my tips in the recipe card on how to activate the yeast and make the dough.
- Transfer dough to a greased mixing bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours or until it doubles in size.
- Once the dough has risen, roll it out to about 26 by 13 inches.
- Spread softened butter over the dough, then sprinkle with the brown sugar cinnamon mixture.
- Roll and slice the dough, then place in a foil-lined 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Let the dough rise a second time.
- Bake until golden brown.
- Top with cream cheese frosting while still warm.
Can I Prep These in Advance?
Yes! There’s an option to make the pumpkin cinnamon rolls as overnight rolls (I’ve given detailed instructions on how to do so in the recipe card below).
Start the dough at night, roll and shape it, and refrigerate the coiled rolls until you’re ready to bake the next morning.
That way you don’t have to get up at 5am to have these ready with your first cup of coffee.
How to Slice Cinnamon Rolls
To shape cinnamon rolls, you need to roll the dough into a long log. Then, use a knife to make small hash marks about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart.
Hash marks create less guesswork once you start slicing and things get messier and harder to eyeball where to slice — the hash marks are nice place-markers.
Use plain, unwaxed dental floss to slice the rolls. I highly recommend slicing the rolls with floss, not knives. Floss does not squish or compact the log like knives do.
How to Store Cinnamon Rolls
These pumpkin cinnamon rolls are best warm and fresh, but will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 4 days. Reheat them in microwave for about 5 seconds to re-soften or as desired.
I am comfortable keeping glazed rolls at room temp and do not recommend storing them in the fridge because they will dry out.
Rolls can be made and baked to completion, and then frozen for up to 6 months; unthaw and glaze immediately prior to serving. I recommend baking them from start to finish and then freezing, rather than trying to freeze unbaked dough, if you want to make in bulk in advance.
Tips for the Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
To activate the yeast, you need to warm the buttermilk before adding it to the dough mixture. Note that different yeast brands recommend heating the milk to different temperatures.
Red Star Platinum yeast calls for warmer temperatures than most, 120 to 130F; other brands and yeast call for much lower temperatures, about 95 to 105F. Heat the mixture according to manufacturer’s recommendations on the packaging.
Taking the temperature with a digital thermometer is highly recommended, but if you’re not, make sure the milk is warm, not hot. Err on the cooler rather than hotter side so you don’t kill the yeast.
Lastly, the recipe looks long, but I’ve written every last detail so the rolls turn out perfectly for you. Read the recipe at least twice before starting!
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast (one 1/4-ounce packet, I use Red Star Platinum)
- pinch salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 of 1 stick), very soft – let it sit out while dough rises
- 1 to 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 2+ tablespoons cinnamon (I used 3+)
Cream Cheese Glaze
- 4 ounces brick-style cream cheese (lite is okay), softened – let it sit out on the second rise or while rolls bake
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- pinch salt, optional and to taste (helps balance the sweetness)
- about 3 to 4 tablespoons half-and-half or cream, or as needed for consistency
Make the Dough:
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or use a large mixing bowl and wooden spoon and your hands), add 3 1/4 cups flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, yeast, salt; set aside.
- In 2-cup glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl, and the butter and heat to melt, about 1 minute on high power.
- Add buttermilk and pumpkin to melted butter and warm to temperature, about 45 seconds on high power in the microwave. If the milk separates or gets a little funny looking after being warmed, whisk it to smooth it out. ** (see note below)
- Add butter-buttermilk-pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients in mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl, crack and lightly whisk the egg, and add egg to mixing bowl.
- Turn mixer on low speed and allow it to knead dough for about 7 minutes (about 7 to 10 minutes by hand using a wooden spoon and then switching to your hands). 3 1/4 cups of flour and 7 minutes is perfect for me, but if after 5 minutes your dough is very sloppy, wet, and won’t come together, add up to 1/4 cup flour, or as needed until it does come together. However, the more flour added, the denser and heavier the rolls will be; wetter dough is preferred to overly dry. If dough is dry or crumbly, drizzle in buttermilk until it comes together.
- Remove dough from the mixing bowl, spray a large bowl with cooking spray, place the dough in the bowl, and flip it over once so it’s lightly oiled on both top and bottom.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap (spray it with cooking spray in case dough rises high enough to touch it) and place bowl in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or doubled in size. I keep my bowl inside a powered-off oven that I preheated for 1 minute to 400F, then it’s powered off. Do not, repeat do not, keep the oven on. The pre-heated, warm oven creates a nice 85F-ish environment, ideal for yeast. If your rising spot is cold, rising will likely take longer than 2 1/2 hours.
- While dough rises, line a 9×13-inch aluminum pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
Rolling Out the Dough:
- After dough has doubled in size, punch it down.
- Turn dough out onto a Silpat or floured countertop. With a rolling pin, roll it out to about 26-by-13-inches. Use the 13-inch side of the 9-x13 pan to eyeball it, no need use a ruler.
For the Filling:
- Using a knife or spatula, evenly spread butter over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch bare margin.
- Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar and then the cinnamon over the top, and lightly pat it down with your fingertips to help it adhere.
Slicing the Dough:
- Starting with a long edge (the 26-inch side), roll the dough into a tightly wound log, with the seam side down.
- Using a knife, make small hash marks about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart (yields 20 to 24 rolls); or make bigger rolls and yield 12 to 16. Hash marks create less guesswork once you start slicing and things get messier and harder to eyeball where to slice; the hash marks are nice place-markers.
- Use plain, unwaxed dental floss to slice the rolls. I highly recommend slicing the rolls with floss, not knives. Floss does not squish or compact the log like knives do. Visual here.
- Arrange the rolls in the prepared pan (I made 5 rows of 4 or 5 rolls across, and not all rows have same number of rolls; crowding is okay). Cover with plastic wrap.
If Making Straight Through...
- Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the rolls have nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
If Making as Overnight Rolls...
- Don’t let rolls rise after they’ve been sliced and placed in covered pan. Place pan in refrigerator for up to 16 hours.
- Before baking, let the rolls rise at room temperature until they have nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- For either version, bake at 375F for about 15 to 17 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and cooked through (ovens, dough, and climates vary and so will baking duration, but 1 to 2 minutes matters in this recipe). Watch rolls like a hawk and don’t overbake or they won’t taste nearly as good. At 15 1/2 minutes my rolls were barely done and on the doughy side but I prefer this because it reminds me of Cinnabons; if you like less doughy rolls, bake longer.
Make the Cream Cheese Glaze:
- In a medium bowl, add cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, optional salt, 3 tablespoons cream, and whisk or beat with a handheld electric mixer until smooth and combined. Add cream as needed until desired consistency is reached.
- Evenly pour glaze over rolls, lightly spreading with a spatula as necessary.
- Serve immediately.
**Note: Based on the type of yeast used, temperatures will vary. Red Star Platinum yeast calls for warmer temperatures than most, 120 to 130F; other brands and yeast call for much lower temperatures, about 95 to 105F. Heat the mixture according to manufacturer’s recommendations on the packaging. Taking the temperature with a digital thermometer is highly recommended, but if you’re not, make sure the milk is warm, not hot. Err on the cooler rather than hotter side so you don’t kill the yeast.
Storage: Rolls are best warm and fresh, but will keep airtight at room temp for up to 4 days; reheat in micro for about 5 seconds to re-soften or as desired. I am comfortable keeping glazed rolls at room temp and do not recommend storing them in the fridge because they will dry out. Rolls can be made and baked to completion, and then frozen for up to 6 months; unthaw and glaze immediately prior to serving. I recommend baking them from start to finish and then freezing, rather than trying to freeze unbaked dough, if you want to make in bulk in advance.
Recipe adapted from The Best Glazed Orange Sweet Rolls and Overnight Buttermilk Soft and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 306Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 99mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 1gSugar: 23gProtein: 4g
More Cinnamon Roll Recipes:
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The Best Glazed Orange Sweet Rolls — The softest, lightest, and most irresistible rolls ever! Try them and you’ll be a believer, too! I adapted this recipe for today’s rolls.
Overnight Buttermilk Soft and Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls — For soft, fluffy, pillowy, perfect cinnamon rolls when you need a larger batch, it’s my go-to. Readers who’ve tried it write with high praise and success and it’s been pinned over 100k times.
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