Every autumn, I make a few batches of these healthy-ish vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls. They’re sweet without being cloying, since pumpkin adds most of the sweetness, and the most beautiful warm orange colour. They’re the season in a bun.
Vegan cinnamon buns are an autumn staple in any case, and you know I’m all about (sweet) bread – but adding some pumpkin puree really takes it over the top. You can make them with a spice mix or pure cinnamon, your choice. Just make them before the season is over!
If you’re looking for a nice holiday breakfast idea, or something to add to a holiday brunch table, these are it. As far as homemade bread goes, they’re about as easy as it gets. These are made with spelt flour but can use all-purpose, see below for more.
Why You Should Try This Recipe
Made with spelt flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, and coconut sugar, they’re a less over-sweet version of cinnamon rolls. The rolls are super soft, tender, and just the right amount of sweet.
- They don’t have so much sugar: with only 50 grams of coconut sugar in the whole batch, they’re sweet without being overwhelming. The pumpkin and warm spices carry it.
- The spices are perfect: it’s pumpkin spice, but not quite. With cardamom and fresh ginger, it tastes more vibrant without losing that autumn flavour.
- They last longer: adding pumpkin makes the dough more tender and it goes stale less quickly than normal sweet dough. These will spoil more quickly, though, so it’s a toss up – but you’ll eat them before then.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Spelt flour: as always, all purpose white flour can be subbed in for the light spelt without any problems. You can also mix in some whole grain flour, like whole spelt, whole wheat, einkorn, or kamut to make these a bit higher in fibre. I wouldn’t go over about 1/4 whole grain for this recipe.
- Pumpkin puree: I haven’t tried these with canned pumpkin, but it shouldn’t make any difference. Be sure to use pure pumpkin, and not pumpkin pie filling.
- Coconut sugar: brown sugar can be substituted if preferred.
- Oat milk: any kind of milk can be used in the dough, barring canned coconut milk, which makes the crumb too cake-like.
- Spices: change up the blend based on personal preference. Ground ginger is nice, or cloves, or a pre-made spice blend.
Step by Step
1. Melt the oil: heat the oil and milk over low heat, then whisk in the pumpkin and maple syrup. Add the yeast.
2. Add the flour: whisk in part of the flour and salt, then add the remaining flour and mix.
3. Knead: turn the dough onto a work surface and knead into a soft, smooth ball.
4. Rise: set aside to rise at room temperature, covered well (I use a tea towel with a plate overtop).
5. Mix the filling: whisk the pumpkin, coconut oil, and spices together in a bowl.
6. Roll out the dough: roll out into a large rectangle, then top with the filling and coconut sugar.
7. Roll and cut: roll the dough up into a spiral, then cut the individual rolls and place in a baking dish.
8. Bake: bake until golden, cool, and serve.
It is possible to use a standing mixer for this recipe, but the time specified for kneading will be shorter. I haven’t tested with a standing mixer but generally it takes a little less than half the time compared to kneading by hand.
Mashed roasted sweet potato can be used in place of pumpkin puree. It has a lower liquid content, so you’ll likely use a bit less flour when kneading, but the taste is good.
There was a coconut milk glaze in the recipe card previously, but I have removed it now as different brands of coconut milk have wildly varying results when mixed with lemon juice. I recommend using a vegan cream cheese or something like vegan labneh instead.
How to Store
Storage: while these can be kept out at room temperature for a day or two, the high pumpkin content will cause them to spoil fairly quickly. For any longer storage they should be kept in the refrigerator or frozen.
Freezing: place cooled rolls in an airtight container and freeze for up to three months. Reheat in the oven to thaw.
To make pumpkin cinnamon rolls ahead of time, you have a couple of options.
Option one: make the dough the night before, let it go through the first rise, and form the rolls. Place them into the baking dish and cover well, then let them rise again in the refrigerator overnight. Let the rolls sit on the counter until they come back to room temperature before baking the following day.
Option two: because of the high quantity of pumpkin in these, you can easily bake them a day ahead and they’ll be excellent on day two after baking. Just pop them in the oven for a few minutes, covered, to heat up again before serving.
If you want to make them ahead of time, just be sure not to add any glaze or icing until right before serving, as it has a tendency to sink into the rolls.
- Refrigerate yeast: dry yeast should be stored in the refrigerator after opening for the longest shelf life. Don’t use expired yeast, and if you’re uncertain, test it in some warm water first.
- Don’t over-knead: spelt flour doesn’t require as much kneading time as white flour does. The dough should be soft and smooth, but you won’t achieve the same level of elasticity as with plain flour.
- Cut with floss: this is particularly handy when you don’t want to risk damaging a countertop with a sharp knife. I use unflavoured compostable dental floss and it works really well.
- Check the temperature: since only the milk and oil are heated, then mixed with colder puree and syrup, it should be exactly the right temperature for yeast. To be sure, dip the tip of your finger in the mix; it should be skin temperature or just slightly warmer.
More Great Autumn Desserts
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Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
- 150 grams pumpkin puree
- 50 grams coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger finely grated
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- 50 grams coconut sugar
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk and oil over low heat until the oil has melted.150 ml oat milk, 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- Add the hot milk mixture to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the pumpkin puree and maple syrup. Check the temperature, then stir in the yeast. Let it sit for about ten minutes, or until it looks foamy from the yeast.150 grams pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
- Stir in 150 grams (one cup) of flour and the salt. Add the remaining flour and mix into a shaggy dough.450 grams light spelt flour, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead, sprinkling lightly with flour when needed, until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is no longer sticky. It should be soft and smooth.
- Place the dough back into the mixing bowl and cover well. Set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about an hour.
- After the dough has risen, place the dough onto a lightly floured countertop and roll it out to a large rectangle about 40x30cm (16×12 in.).
- Spread the filling over the whole dough, then roll it from the short end into a log. Cut into ten equal rounds.
- Place the rolls into a greased high-sided baking dish, and let them rise again for about half an hour, or until about doubled in size again.
- While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until lightly golden. The centre should be slightly firm to the touch. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
- Combine the pumpkin puree and coconut oil in a small bowl, using a fork to mix the oil in. If the coconut oil is very hard, heat it slightly until it reaches a spreadable consistency.150 grams pumpkin puree, 50 grams coconut oil, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- Stir in the spices. Spread this onto the rolled out dough, and sprinkle the coconut sugar in an even layer over top.50 grams coconut sugar
This recipe was first published in October 2015. It has been updated with some improvements to the recipe and text as of October 2022.