These Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls are a must for the holiday season. Made with whole grain flour, topped with a greek yogurt cream cheese frosting. Dairy-free friendly recipe using non-dairy yogurt and cream cheese! See recommendations in recipe page.
Nothing screams Christmas brunch like good old fashioned CINNAMON ROLLS, right?! And homemade ones at that –doesn’t get much better.
Oh wait, yes it does…
We’re talking gingerbread flavored ones topped with luscious greek yogurt cream cheese frosting. So so good, my friend!
Let’s chat about it!
The ingredients list looks long but it’s mainly fridge and pantry staples, with a few somewhat seasonal ingredients.
- milk of choice – dairy-free or whatever milk you have on hand (I just would stay away from pea protein milk or protein milks in general).
- rapid rise yeast – using rapid rise (or quick rise) is best for this cinnamon roll recipe, or the rise time will be double from what is written in the recipe.
- brown sugar – You can use light or dark brown sugar, just be aware that some store brands have different amounts of molasses added to the brown sugar that changes its flavor in comparison to traditional brands like Domino.
- unsalted butter – butter will give these rolls the best flavor, but you can also use softened coconut oil. If dairy free, use vegan butter, something like Country Crock plant butter sticks or Earth Balance.
- egg – this recipe does require an egg, and I am not sure how a egg replacer would work here. You could potentially sub in the egg for a flaxseed egg, but I haven’t tried that myself
- molasses – a necessary ingredient for gingerbread flavor.
- whole wheat pastry flour – using whole wheat pastry flour will keep these cinnamon rolls whole grain, but you can use all-purpose. You might need a couple of more tablespoons of flour, see more notes on the flour below.
- salt – enhances flavor.
- gingerbread spices – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
- cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, almond or maple extract – for the frosting!
- Stand Mixer, an effortless way to make cinnamon rolls, but they can be made my hand as well.
- Large heat proof bowl, for letting the dough rise in a warm environment.
- Rolling pin, for rolling out the dough into a rectangle.
- Floss or string, the easiest way to slice rolls without crushing them!
How to Make Cinnamon Rolls
So the process for making homemade cinnamon rolls isn’t anything to be afraid of. If you enjoy baking or even if you’re just getting into it, you can make these. I share plenty of steps and little notes in the recipe page so you should have a good idea of how it all comes together.
One of the best tips for making cinnamon rolls is to read through the entire recipe first and gather your ingredients before getting started. That way, by the time you’re ready to start, you’ll be able to move step-by-step and the whole process will feel much easier.
Make the Dough
Proof the yeast – combine the instant yeast with warm milk and sugar. Let this sit for 10 minutes – it should get foamy and that means your yeast is active and you’ll get a good rise in the dough.
If your yeast did not get foamy, your yeast was either old you you may have killed it by using milk that was too hot.
After the yeast has activated, add in the melted butter, egg and molasses, stirring on low speed, then begin to add the salt, spices and finally the flour about 1/2 cup at a time.
Dough should be elastic and start to pull away from edge of bowl when it is ready. At this time, change the attachment to the dough hook, and allow the hook to knead the dough for about 3-4 minutes. Dough should remain soft but not overly sticky – you may need to add another ¼ cup flour here.
Once you have your cinnamon roll dough ready, place in a lightly greased heat-proof bowl (you can use butter or olive oil), cover and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes.
Roll it Out & Add Filling
Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured surface and gently roll out the dough into a rectangle, about 15 x 9 inches. Then spread on softened butter, brown sugar and gingerbread spices.
Roll up and Slice
Using the heels of your hands, gently roll the dough into a log, placing seam side down.
Use floss for the easiest way to slice the rolls, discarding the ends of the log (they don’t hold much filling).
Then continue slicing the rolls into about 1″ thick slices – 9 cinnamon rolls will fit in a 9×9 pan.
Let Rolls Rise
Place rolls evenly spaced out in a 9×9 pan or baking dish.
Leave room for the second rise, so they don’t overcrowd each other.
TIP: Set the oven to 170ºF then turn it off once it reaches temperature, and allow the rolls to rise again, for about 20 minutes.
Now it’s finally time to bake! While the oven preheats, take the rolls out and let them rest on the counter. Once the oven is fully preheated, place the rolls in the oven to bake uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes.
The rolls are down when the tops are golden and spring back when you touch them.
Butter vs. coconut oil. I used butter in Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls for more flavor, but coconut oil can also be used, just make sure it’s softened (not liquid). Or use plant based vegan butter.
Flour. I used a whole wheat pastry flour but if you don’t have that on hand you can use about 1.5 cups all-purpose with 1.5 cups whole wheat flour. Or use about 3 cups of whole wheat white flour. You can also use unbleached all-purpose flour, you just may need closer to 3.5 cups. I did not test this with any gluten-free flours.
Frosting. If you’d like a simple cinnamon roll icing and/or you need dairy free cinnamon rolls, just make a simple confectioners sugar glaze – about 1 cup powdered sugar to 2-3 tablespoons of milk, depending on desired consistency. You could also sub a dairy-free yogurt with dairy free cream cheese.
How to Make Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
Follow recipe directions in the recipe card below, preparing dough through “Step 8” – so you’ll roll out the dough into the rectangle, slice and place in prepared baking pan. At this point cover tightly with wrap and place in fridge overnight.
Remove the pan from the fridge in the morning about an hour before baking, to allow the rolls to rise at room temperature. Or if your house is extra cold, let them rise in a 200ºF preheated oven then turn the oven off.
Once the rolls have puffed up and risen again, place rolls in preheated 350ºF oven to bake for 20-25 minutes (remove rolls from oven while preheating to 350ºF).
Store these gingerbread cinnamon rolls in the fridge and reheat in the toaster oven for about 5-10 minutes.
Best enjoyed fresh but will keep well for up to three days.
Christmas morning never tasted so good.
More Cinnamon Roll Recipes
If you make this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and review below! I love hearing from you and it helps others learn more about the recipe too! Xx Ashley
for the dough
- 1 cup milk of choice (I used cashew)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) rapid rise yeast
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (brown, white, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons butter, ghee or coconut oil, melted
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 3.25 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
for the filling
- 1/4 cup coconut or brown sugar
- 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, softened
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (if you don’t love cloves, omit)
for the frosting
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened (regular or lite)
- 1/4 cup greek yogurt (plain 2% of vanilla recommended)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla, almond or maple extract
Read through the entire recipe before starting and get all ingredients ready. Then read through step-by-step. See notes below about preparing for overnight
- In a microwave safe bowl or glass measuring cup, heat milk for about 20-30 seconds. Allow temperature of mixture to reach 110ºF (or lukewarm). If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast.
- Add yeast and sugar into large mixing bowl of stand mixer and gently add milk. Stir until combined and allow to sit for 10 minutes, until top is foamy.
- Add melted butter, egg and molasses stirring gently or using paddle attachment on low speed until combined.
- Start to add flour and salt, about ½ cup at a time. You will likely need about 3.25 cups. Dough should be elastic and start to pull away from edge of bowl when it is ready. At this time, change the attachment to the dough hook, and allow the hook to need the dough for about 3-4 minutes. Dough should remain soft but not overly sticky – you may need to add another ¼ cup flour here.
- Oil large bowl and shape dough into ball, place dough in bowl and cover with towel and let rise in warm environment until dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes. TIP: set oven to warm or preheated to 200F then turn off. Place bowl in the warmed oven and allow to rise.
- Grease a 9″ pie dish or square baking pan with butter or coconut oil, set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, lightly cover rolling pin and flat surface with flour. Roll out dough into a 15×9 inch rectangle. Be patient, and roll gently. If you’re new to this it could take some practice! Don’t use too much flour or your dough will be stiff.
- Using spatula, spread softened butter on dough, sprinkle on sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Roll up dough into a log shape then place the dough seam side down. Use a large sharp knife and gently cut into 9 rolls, or use floss to lift up from under the dough. Transfer rolls to prepared dish and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free environment. Again, you can use the warm oven tip above.
- Once the rolls have risen again slightly, preheat oven to 350F (take rolls out and wait for oven to get up to 350F). Bake cinnamon rolls for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Then, if necessary, cover top of rolls with foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Covering the rolls for the last 5-10 minutes will prevent them from getting too brown on the top.
- Make the cream cheese frosting: In medium bowl using electric hand mixer (or stand mixer with paddle attachment) beat softened cream cheese until light and fluffy then add yogurt. Add in extract and powdered sugar; mix on low speed until combined. Spread on slightly cooled gingerbread cinnamon rolls. Best served immediately while warm. Enjoy!
Butter vs. coconut oil. I used butter in Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls, but coconut oil was used in this recipe. Which means if you happen to be dairy-free, you should be okay using coconut oil here too. Just make sure whatever you use, it is softened so it is spreadable.
Flour. I used a whole wheat pastry flour but if you don’t have that on hand you can use about 1.5 cups all-purpose + 1.5 cups whole wheat. OR 3ish cups of whole wheat white flour. Or about 3.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour. I didn’t test this with any gluten-free flours.
Frosting. If dairy-free you can use a simple powered sugar glaze: about 1 cup powdered sugar to 2-3 tablespoons milk. Or use dairy-free yogurt and dairy-free cream cheese.
Make Overnight: Follow recipe directions preparing dough through “Step 8” – so you’ll roll out the dough into the rectangle, slice and place in prepared baking pan. At this point cover tightly with wrap and place in fridge overnight. Remove the pan from the fridge in the morning about an hour before baking, to allow the rolls to rise at room temperature. Or if your house is extra cold, let them rise in a 200ºF preheated oven then turn the oven off. Once the rolls have puffed up and risen again, place rolls in preheated 350ºF oven to bake for 20-25 minutes (remove rolls from oven while preheating to 350ºF).
Recipe originally published December 2017. Post updated with more tips December 2021.
- Serving Size: 1/9th
- Calories: 361
- Sugar: 28g
- Sodium: 196mg
- Fat: 14g
- Saturated Fat: 8g
- Unsaturated Fat: 5g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 54g
- Fiber: 4g
- Protein: 7g
- Cholesterol: 57mg
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