Are you looking for a way to enjoy your fall bakes in a healthier way? How about giving these Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls a try? Pair these delicious cinnamon rolls with a warm coffee for the ultimate breakfast to get you in the autumn mood.
One of the best things about these, besides the tasty cream cheese frosting, is that they're super easy to throw together. These pumpkin cinnamon rolls use a straight dough mixing method, making it easy for beginners and advanced bakers alike. The dough is ready to start rising in just 15 minutes!
I know some people will hear "whole grain" and panic. You might think it will taste grainy, flavorless, or even dry.
I promise you; this recipe is none of those things!
My pumpkin cinnamon rolls recipe is unique because I use whole wheat and refined flour. Mixing the flour types makes for a moist, delicious cinnamon roll with a hint of whole wheat taste. Paired with savory pumpkin and the sweet aroma of cinnamon, most people won't even know the difference. You'll enjoy some of the nutritional benefits of whole wheat without sacrificing taste.
Why this recipe works
The whole wheat flour adds texture and extra nutrients but is balanced by all-purpose flour, making it an excellent choice for those who want a healthier option but don't love the texture of 100% whole wheat baked goods.
The active prep time is low and since this dough uses the straight dough method, which I explain below, making these pumpkin cinnamon rolls is easier and faster than ever.
This recipe has a high yield that makes a batch large enough to enjoy at home and also for 2-3 additional pans to share with loved ones- it's a win-win!
- All-purpose flour-This will form the base of the rolls. It balances the whole wheat flavors and textures to create a more neutral taste.
- Whole wheat flour- I will give my recommendations below on the best type of wheat flour to use for these rolls. This recipe can be subbed for 100% whole wheat if you prefer, but for everyone else, start with partial.
- Eggs- These add richness and color to the dough. Using room temperature eggs will allow them to mix into the dough more easily.
- Butter or oil- This creates a delicious flaky dough. Softened butter is ideal for this recipe because the air bubbles help the dough become fluffy. Melted butter doesn't contain as much air and will make the dough slightly denser.
- Instant Yeast- Instant yeast does not have to be proofed before being mixed into the dough. It works fast and is the preferred ingredient for this recipe. If you only have active dry yeast, you need to activate it in warm water with a sprinkle of sugar and allow it to bloom before mixing it into the dough.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice- This is a blend of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. This blend of spices is a convenient way to add flavor to the filling. You can buy it in the store, or feel free to make your own pumpkin pie spice blend with what's in your pantry.
- Milk- This adds flavor and creates a creamy dough that will turn golden brown when baked. You can use whole milk, 2%, or plant-based milk like almond milk.
- Pumpkin Puree- you can make your own or buy canned pumpkin puree. Just be sure you're picking up 100% pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling, which has extra sugar and seasonings. While this seems convenient, adding spices yourself to pure pumpkin gives it a better flavor and allows you to control the amount of sugar.
- Granulated Sugar- This adds sweetness to the dough and helps it develop color when baking.
- Salt- Salt is a must-have in baking. It may seem counterintuitive, but it enhances your bake. This is especially true in extra sweet recipes like cinnamon rolls, salt balances out the sweetness and aids in the structure of the dough.
- Brown Sugar-This adds depth of flavor to the cinnamon roll filling. I love the undertones in brown sugar and how well they pair with ground cinnamon in particular. Feel free to use either dark brown sugar or light brown sugar, as they will both work for this recipe.
- Powdered Sugar-Powdered sugar gives bulk to the frosting and makes it sweet and smooth. Powdered sugar, not granulated sugar, is used because it whips smooth, making for a silky cream cheese frosting. If you like very thick frosting, feel free to add a little extra powdered sugar to reach your desired consistency.
- Cream Cheese- This acts as the sturdy base for the frosting. It give it structure and is tasty paired with pumpkin!
- Vanilla Extract- Always vanilla. It's a staple that enhances all your sweet bakes.
Whole Wheat Flour Recommendations
There is a lot of whole wheat flour that will work well with this recipe. However, if you are new to whole wheat baking, I recommend white wheat flour (white winter wheat ground flour).
Another whole wheat flour I love for baking is Spelt Flour. It works so well in bakes and is probably the flour I use most. It is popular in European countries but also gaining in popularity here.
Einkorn flour is another favorite of mine. It is an ancient grain that is highly nutritious. This flour is also really great to use for baking!
Another flour I like with my fall bakes is Rye flour. If you have not tried baking with rye, I recommend it.
In this recipe, I only use about 30% whole wheat flour, but feel free to up it to 50-60% without changing the recipe at all!
How To Bake With Whole Wheat
The biggest complaint people have with whole wheat baked goods is a lot of times; they are dry. So let me share two tips that will help combat this issue.
First, make sure your dough isn't too dry before baking. The cinnamon roll dough should be slightly sticky. It should be workable and not break apart. If it's dry before baking, you can bet it will be dry afterward too.
The second most important thing is to be aware of carry-over cooking.
Carry-over cooking is the baking that occurs after you remove a baked good from the heat source. You may look at your perfectly baked pumpkin cinnamon rolls in the oven and decide it's time to take them out. After they cool, they're dry. Why is that? carry-over cooking! They continued to bake after they were perfect.
So, what can you do to prevent that?
You can see in the photos below what my rolls looked like when I pulled them from the oven. Under baking just slightly, will all the residual heat do its job to finish baking your cinnamon rolls without overbaking?
How To Make Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
The whole process is simple and great for any level of baker. For this recipe, you'll be using the straight dough method. I'll explain what that means first then we will get into the process.
Straight Dough Method
The straight dough method means everything is thrown into your bowl and mixed at once. Personally, I think it is the simplest bread-making method.
Let me suggest a stand mixer for this recipe because of the amount of dough it produces. I will always recommend Bosch as it is my favorite mixer!
Place all the dough ingredients into the mixing bowl. Mix for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth. Now, remember you are using wheat flour, so your dough will not be perfectly smooth like all refined flour.
The dough should be slightly sticky and pull away from the edges of the bowl. That's it!
Assembling the cinnamon rolls
- Place all the dough ingredients into a large bowl for mixing and allow the straight dough method. Let the dough rise and double in size.
- Roll it out and spread with melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
- Tightly roll the dough and cut it into cinnamon rolls.
- Place in your baking pan, cover, and allow it to rise again.
- Bake until the tops are golden brown.
- While the cinnamon rolls are baking, mix your cream cheese icing.
- You can let them cool or ice them hot. That is a personal preference. Cooled cinnamon rolls will keep the frosting thick and silky, whereas frosting them when warm will give you more of a glaze-type icing.
- Now, sit back and enjoy. You deserve it!
Tips and Tricks
How to store cinnamon rolls
This is a good-sized batch, making it perfect for sharing with friends and family. Or maybe you need the teacher's gifts? I promise they will love these! This batch makes at least 30 rolls, or even more, depending on the desired size.
If you don't plan to use them immediately, you can let them cool completely and freeze them individually or in foil pans. To freeze the cinnamon rolls individually, simply wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then in a layer of aluminum foil, and place them into gallon freezer storage bags. Use the same layering method if wrapping a pan. The frosting will be better fresh, so it's best to make that as you need it.
How to reheat
You can reheat these from the fridge by warming them in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. If you're reheating from frozen, allow them to thaw, then pop the pan into the oven at 300 degrees for 7-10 minutes until warm and delicious.
Cream cheese alternatives
If you don't like cream cheese, you can use a recipe that is butter-based instead or a plant-based alternative.
How do you know when cinnamon rolls are done?
You can tell they're done when they're golden brown on the top, and the center does not look overly wet. You can use my step photos for reference on how they should look.
Can you over-knead the dough?
Yes! Follow closely with my directions, and you'll have fluffy soft cinnamon rolls. Over kneading can cause tough, dense dough that doesn't rise properly. The dough should feel soft and pliable without being overly sticky.
Other Whole Wheat Baked Goods
- Honey Oatmeal Bread
- Multigrain Bread
- Dark Chocolate and Cherry Cookies
- Dark Chocolate Rye Cookies
- My favorite partial wheat pie dough
- Cherry Slab Pie
- Chewy Snickerdoodle Cookies
Whole Grain Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
- 2 cups warm milk I like to have it at a temp it is just warm to the touch.
- 1 cup pumpkin puree You can use canned, like I did, or even fresh roasted and pureed
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup oil or butter I used canola oil. If you prefer you can use another neutral flavored oil. If you use butter, either soften it really well, or melt it.
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2 envelopes instant yeast If you are measuring, you can use between 5-6 teaspoons. I used 6, but 5 will work as well.
- 3 cups whole wheat flour I prefer a white whole wheat, but you can also use hard red winter or even a rye.
- 7.5-9 cups all purpose flour This will be a variable. Every climate is different and measuring is different, so start with 7.5 and go from there.
- 12 tablespoons butter, melted This will be when you are rolling the cinnamon rolls, so don't mix into the dough
- 2-3 cups brown sugar I lay my brown sugar on pretty thick, but you might want to go a little lighter. That is what the variable is for.
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon This is a variable. You only need this to dust your brown sugar,so whatever that will take.
Cream Cheese Icing
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 8 ounces butter softened
- 4-6 cups powdered sugar The variable will be based on how sweet you like your icing.
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon this is optional, but really good!
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
- Add milk, pumpkin, granulated sugar, salt, oil, pumpkin pie spice, yeast, flour (remember to only start with 7.5 cups all-purpose), and eggs to a mixing bowl.
- This is a straight dough method, meaning you add all the ingredients at one time. Mix it for about a minute on medium speed to check the status of your dough. You want it to feel SLIGHTLY sticky to the touch, but not too much.
- It should also start pulling away from the side of the bowl a little. If you need to add more, I wound up using about 8 cups, add it slowly about ½ of a cup at a time. Mixing another 30 seconds to 1 minute before adding more. Once the dough feels good, mix on medium for another 5-7 minutes until it is good and smooth.
- Now, it will probably rise much bigger than your bowl. You can either cover it with a dish towel and let it explode in the bowl, or you can switch to a bigger bowl for the rise.
- Allow the dough to double. How quickly it doubles will depend on the temperature of the dough and the temperature in your house. Mine took about 45 minutes, but it could take up to an hour and 15 minutes.
- Now, let's start rolling. This is a big batch, so give yourself plenty of space. The dough is slightly wet, so it will stick a little. To prevent this, you can either dust the countertop lightly with flour or even spray with pan spray. I like to roll mine into a rectangle, about 12 inches by 36 inches. You will want the dough to be between ¼-1/2 inches thick.
- Once the dough is rolled, melt your 12 tablespoons of butter for brushing. Brush it lightly across the surface, leaving about 1 inch at the bottom on the length of the rectangle. You will need this 1 inch without butter so you can pinch your roll closed.
- Sprinkle the buttered portion with your brown sugar. Try and spread this evenly. Then dust the brown sugar with cinnamon.
- Let's start rolling. You will want to roll this fairly tight. Not super tight, but fairly tight. You will want to end with the end that isn't buttered, so start with your opposite buttered end. With a batch this big, the dough will fight you a little bit when you first start rolling. So, roll a few inches at a time, move to the next section, and roll as well, then make your way down the length of the.
- Then keep rolling and come back down the length of your cinnamon rolls. Eventually, it will get easier to roll once you get a little further down. Once you reach the end, pinch the unbuttered inch to pinch the roll closed.
- I cut my roll into about 1- 1 ½ inch sections. Remember, whatever you cut your rolls to, they will at least triple. So, keep that size in mind.
- Prepare your pans for baking. I used a variety of sizes as we were baking for ourselves, but also for friends. I used 1- 9x13, 3-6 inch cake pans, and 2- 8-inch cake pans. I sprayed mine with a pan release. You can see in the photos, I like to place mine pretty close together. I do this because I want them to rise up and not rise out.
- Cover your pans and allow them to double. Towards the end of this second rise, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Uncover your pans and place them in the ovens on the middle shelf. I have a double oven, so I baked all of mine at once. If you don't just move them through as you are able. If you need to place some pans on the middle and bottom shelf, just remember to rotate them halfway through the baking time.
- Baking times on these will vary. It will vary on the thickness of your pan, it will vary based on how thick you cut your cinnamon rolls, and it will vary based on the actual temp of your oven, and the temp of your dough starting out. So, here is what I will tell you. They should take between 15-35 minutes. You can take a temperature on them, you will want to pull them out at about 190 degrees. Or my favorite way of checking is to pull up on a center swirl gently and check for doneness. They should be golden brown.
- Remove from the oven. If you aren't planning on eating them right away, I like to remove them from the pan, as they can get really sticky and difficult to remove as they cool. On to the icing, below.
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing
- Combine the cream cheese, softened butter, 4 cups of powdered sugar, vanilla, and about 2 tablespoons of milk in the mixer. Beat on high for about 30 seconds. Check the icing for flavor and consistency. The variation is that powdered sugar is for personal preferences. I don't like my cream cheese icing really sweet, but I know plenty of people do! Adjust the sweetness and consistency with the milk and powdered sugar. I like to beat it on high for at least 1 minute to get rid of any lumps and smooth consistency.
- Ice generously with icing. I like to do it when the cinnamon rolls have cooled just a little bit. I do this so the icing won't just melt and runoff, but it will hold its shape and stay on top!Now, sit back and enjoy. You certainly deserve it after all that work!!