These soft and gooey pumpkin cinnamon rolls are full of cozy spices and topped with a maple cream cheese frosting. The dough is so extra soft and the pumpkin spice swirled inside makes them the best cinnamon rolls for fall.
- Ingredient Notes
- Instant Yeast Vs. Active Dry Yeast
- How to Make Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
- Prefer to Watch Instead of Read?
- 6 Expert Tips for Perfect Cinnamon Rolls
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Make-Ahead (Overnight) and Freezer Instructions
- Storage Instructions
- More Favorite Pumpkin Recipes for Breakfast
- Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Nothing compares to the smell of pumpkin spice wafting through the house on a crisp fall morning. No need for a holiday candle, because these perfect cinnamon rolls are all you need! The dough is soft and the butter and pumpkin spice filling makes them ultra gooey. Our daughter loves the maple frosting! It's the perfect breakfast for Thanksgiving morning, along with our pecan sticky buns or our brussel sprout hash (for a lighter option). And if you're looking for a gluten-free option, these gluten-free cinnamon rolls are extra soft and fluffy.
Don't be intimidated by this pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe. They're just like a classic cinnamon roll and they're no-fuss when it comes to the yeast (more on that below), and we've got an overnight option so you can wake up and bake them. There are a few steps and wait times, but we're breaking them down into easy steps. Here are the basics of these pumpkin cinnamon rolls.
Make the dough >> rise 1-2 hours >> roll and filling >> rise 1 hour >> bake
Before you get started: give yourself at least 4-5 hours to make this recipe from start to finish. If that's too much, jump down to the make-ahead instructions to prep them the night before, or freeze them!
Here are the key ingredients for pumpkin cinnamon rolls. The base of the recipe, like all cinnamon rolls, is an enriched dough, which means it's made with fat so they're extra soft. We're sharing noots about each ingredient and a few substitutions. Jump down to the recipe card for exact measurements.
- Whole milk: the fat in whole milk enriches the dough, making it extra soft. You can also use 2% or almond milk for a dairy-free option.
- Unsalted butter: grab quality unsalted butter, like Kerrygold, if possible! We also tested these with vegan butter (in the dough, filling and frosting) and they worked well.
- Sugar: this helps sweeten the dough and activate the yeast.
- Instant yeast: we're using Instant yeast, also known as Fast Rising Yeast or Fast Acting Yeast. We used Red Star quick-rise yeast. It can be added to your dough without the need to let it proof (or bloom) and get bubbly. You can use active dry yeast if you have that on hand. Read the section below for more details!
- Pumpkin puree: this is the pure pumpkin, not the pumpkin pie filling, in the can. We have more information and a post about pumpkin puree on our pumpkin desserts post.
- Egg: this helps bring the dough together and adds more fat for a richer texture and flavor.
- Bread flour: the flour is the structure of the dough so we're using more than 4 cups of flour here. Bread flour absorbs more moisture, which makes it great for these pumpkin cinnamon rolls, because of the moisture in the pumpkin puree. However, all-purpose flour, or a mix of both, works well with this recipe.
- Brown sugar: I love using dark brown sugar for an extra gooey sticky texture (thanks to more molasses in the sugar). Light brown sugar or even coconut sugar works well too.
- Spices: We are making our own pumpkin pie spice blend for the best pumpkin flavor, but you can also use pre-made. See the recipe card notes for that option.
- Maple cream cheese frosting: you'll need cream cheese, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and powdered sugar.
Instant Yeast Vs. Active Dry Yeast
What's the difference? Active dry yeast has a moderate rate of rising while Instant yeast rises faster. They can be used interchangeably 1:1 in any recipe, it just may take longer for the active dry yeast to rise.
What this looks like in a recipe: If a recipe calls for active dry and you only have instant yeast, then keep an eye on it so it doesn't rise too much. If it calls for Instant and you only have active, give yourself a little extra rise time or use our trick to proof the dough in the oven.
How to know when yeast is activated: a lot of times recipes will call for proofing the yeast in warm milk to "prove" it's alive and working before starting the recipe. You dissolve the yeast in warm milk and sugar and wait 5-10 minutes to see if it's foamy. If not, it's dead and should be tossed. However, if it's a quality brand and it's not expired, this step isn't really necessary because it's almost always active and alive. We're letting the yeast sit in the warm milk and sugar here to help it get going.
How to Make Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Here are the step-by-step instructions, with photos, to show you how to make homemade cinnamon rolls and what they should look like at each stage in the recipe. Jump down to the recipe card for the full recipe and to watch the video to make them with me.
Make the Dough
- Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the butter, sugar, and yeast and stir to combine using the paddle attachment or dough hook. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the pumpkin, and egg and beat until no yellow streaks remain. Add 1 cup of flour and beat on medium speed to combine.
- Switch to the dough hook, if you haven't already, and slowly add the remaining flour until combined. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and knead for 2-3 more minutes, until the dough is slightly sticky and starts to slap the sides of the bowl.
- Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl and turn the dough over to coat it in the oil. Cover it with plastic wrap or a towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until it doubles in size. See the expert tips section or recipe notes for a quick way to help the dough rise.
Roll and Cut
- Gently punch the dough down with your fist then transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle (12x18 inches), getting it as square at the edges as possible. Spread softened butter on top of the dough to the very edges. We recommend using very soft butter, not melted butter, for this step because melted butter will seep out of the dough and soft butter spread easily on the dough's surface. You can place it in the microwave for 10-15 second increments if needed.
- Mix the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl and sprinkle it over the butter. Rub it in gently with your fingertips.
- Roll the dough on the long edge to create a long log-type roll. Roll it as tightly as possible to get extra swirls! Use a serrated knife or unflavored dental floss to cut the dough into 12 rolls (about 1 ½ inches apart each).
- Place the pumpkin cinnamon rolls in a greased 9x13 inch pan, 1-2 inches apart. Cover again with plastic wrap or a towel and allow them to rise for another 1-2 hours. You can cover the rolls tightly at this point and store them in the fridge overnight for 8-12 hours (no more than 16 hours).
Bake and Serve
- Bake the rolls for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges of each bun are slightly golden in color. I like to bake them to 190°F using an internal thermometer. Start checking them around 15 minutes and tent with foil if they’re starting to get too brown.
- While they're baking, make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese with the vanilla and maple syrup until soft and smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth and soft. Spread the maple cream cheese frosting on the warm rolls and serve right away.
Prefer to Watch Instead of Read?
6 Expert Tips for Perfect Cinnamon Rolls
- Don't heat your milk too much: hot milk will kill the yeast and prevent rising. Use an instant-read thermometer to warm your milk to 110-115°F. We put our cold milk in the microwave for 30-45 seconds to reach this temp.
- Use room temperature ingredients: room temp eggs and butter create an emulsion in baking. This traps the air in the dough, which then expands while baking, to create a fluffy roll. Additionally, cold ingredients don't incorporate as evenly or easily.
- Measure the flour correctly: we're using a lot of flour in this recipe, so it's important to get the measurements right. Spoon the flour into a measuring cup then level it off with a knife.
- Use the oven to proof the dough: pre-heat your oven to 150-170°F then turn it off immediately. Cover the dough and let it rise in the warm oven.
- Let the dough rest: if you're having a hard time rolling the dough out into a large rectangle, cover it and let it rest for 10-15 minutes to relax the gluten and make it easier to stretch.
- Tent with foil: these are very large cinnamon rolls, so help them bake evenly by tenting the rolls with foil during baking. This helps them bake all the way through before the tops get too brown.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cinnamon rolls are baked and covered with frosting, while cinnamon buns are baked with a sticky topping and inverted before serving, like our pecan sticky buns.
The gooey swirled filling in a cinnamon roll is made of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
This is likely a result of too much flour. Be sure to measure the flour correctly. You've added enough flour to the dough when it's slightly sticky to the touch and it slaps the sides of the bowl while kneading.
As a decadent and sweet breakfast dish, cinnamon rolls always go well with a pumpkin spice latte and a savory dish to balance it out, like a breakfast hash.
Yes, you can overwork the dough (and the gluten), resulting in more tough cinnamon rolls. Knead the dough only until it's just soft and smooth.
Make-Ahead (Overnight) and Freezer Instructions
Overnight: prepare the pumpkin cinnamon rolls through step 8 then cover them very tightly with plastic wrap and place them in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Do not exceed 16 hours or they will overproof and collapse due to weakened gluten and excess gas in the dough. When you're ready to bake, remove them from the fridge and allow them to sit in a warm dry place for 1-2 hours before baking.
Freezer: freeze baked cinnamon rolls for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and warm in the oven before frosting. You can also freeze the dough. Follow the steps to make the dough and partially bake the rolls for 10 minutes. Allow them to cool completely then cover tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and continue baking the next day for 20-25 minutes.
Cover baked cinnamon rolls with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to one day. Transfer them to an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 5 days. Follow the instructions above to freeze the dough if needed.
If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!
More Favorite Pumpkin Recipes for Breakfast
- Iced pumpkin spice latte
- Healthy pumpkin pancakes
- Pumpkin overnight oats
- Healthy pumpkin muffins
- Paleo pumpkin coffee cake
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Cinnamon Roll Dough
- 1 cup whole milk
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter almost melted
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 (2 ¼ teaspoons) packet Instant Yeast (Active Dry works too*)
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 ¼ cups bread flour* plus more for dusting
Pumpkin Spice Filling
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter very soft
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar packed
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon EACH: ground nutmeg and ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon EACH: ground ginger and ground cloves
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ¾ cup cups confectioner's sugar
- Stand Mixer with dough hook optional, but ideal
- Large bowl
- 9x13 inch baking dish
- Plastic wrap or towel
- Rolling Pin
- Serrated knife or unflavored dental floss (for cutting the rolls)
Make the dough
- Warm the milk to 105-115°F to help activate the yeast. If it’s too hot it can kill the yeast, so use an instant read thermometer, if you have one. I heated it for 30-45 seconds in the microwave. Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the butter, sugar and yeast and stir to combine. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the pumpkin puree and egg and beat to combine then add 1 cup of the flour and mix on low speed until it’s incorporated. Switch to the dough hook, if you have one, and slowly add the remaining flour and salt until combined.
- Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer and continue to knead for 2-3 more minutes, until it’s smooth and soft. The dough should be slightly sticky to touch and just barely stick to the bottom of the bow. Alternatively, transfer the dough to a well-floured surface and knead by hand for 3-4 minutes.
- Lightly grease a large glass bowl with olive oil or nonstick spray then transfer the dough to the bowl and turn it a few times to cover the dough in oil. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1- 2 hours. See recipe notes for a warm rising options.
Roll and Cut
- Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface and use a rolling pin to roll it into a 12x18 inch rectangle, making sure the dough is even in thickness throughout.
- Spread the softened butter on top using a butter knife or the back of a spoon. Mix the dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, ginger and cloves in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly on the dough.
- Roll the dough into a log lengthwise, pinching its edges to seal. Use a very sharp knife to cut the roll into 12 pieces (about 2 in). Unflavored dental floss is another great option to cut the cinnamon rolls neatly. Cutting them thickly into 2 inch pieces will result in more interior surface area (the soft gooey part).
- Grease a 9x14 inch baking dish with olive oil or nonstick spray and place the rolls in the pan, spaced an inch or so apart. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled and touching (about 1 hour). You can also cover the rolls with plastic wrap and store them in the fridge overnight.
Bake and Serve
- Preheat the oven 350°F while the rolls finish rising. Bake the rolls for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges of each bun are slightly golden in color. The rolls are done when they reach 190°F using an internal thermometer. Start checking them when there's 15 minutes and tent with foil if they’re starting to get too brown.
- Frosting: While the rolls are baking, combine softened cream cheese, vanilla and maple syrup in a bowl and mix on low until combined and the cream cheese is fluffy. Add the confectioner's sugar all at once and beat until fluffy and of drizzling consistency. When rolls are done, cool on wire rack and use a rubber spatula or knife to spread the frosting on the warm rolls.
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