The Best Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
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 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 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.
There’s an option to make the rolls as overnight rolls. 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.
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.
The Best Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
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, and the only unique item is in Step 15, unwaxed dental floss. Very helpful for not squishing the rolls and making clean cuts. They’re the best pumpkin cinnamon roll – 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. The dough is buttermilk-based, and for the softest, lightest, and most tender rolls, I swear by buttermilk. There’s an option to make as overnight rolls. Start the dough at night, roll and shape it, and refrigerate the coiled rolls until you’re ready to bake the next morning. The glaze soaks into the nooks and crannies and adds even more moisture and softness. Total gooey, cinnamon-and-sugary, juicy perfection.
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
- 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. (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.) If the milk separates or gets a little funny looking after being warmed, whisk it to smooth it out.
- 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 plasticwrap (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.
- 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.
- Make Straight Through – Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the rolls have nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Or…Make 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.
- Baking –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.
- 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. 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.
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