Vegan cinnamon rolls are my go-to for any family get-togethers – they’re surprisingly easy to make and everyone loves them. I promise that even the most die hard butter lover will like these, and probably won’t even notice they’re plant based.
A lot of cinnamon rolls and other sweet buns and breads call for eggs, for a brioche style dough. I’ve been making bread for a very long time and you can get a truly excellent texture and flavour without eggs. The key is to find the right balance of fat to flour to liquid, and then you don’t need eggs or butter.
If you’ve never made cinnamon rolls before, vegan or not, don’t worry! They are genuinely simple and I’ve added plenty of information, tips, and tricks to this post to make sure you get the best rolls you can. There’s also a video showing the process if you need more visuals.
Yes, there are several other plant based cinnamon roll recipes on OE already – Swedish cardamom buns, chocolate orange buns, pumpkin cinnamon rolls, and a cinnamon bun cake. I really like sweet bread. But there wasn’t a really good basic vegan cinnamon roll recipe, even though I make them all the time, so here we are.
Vegan cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon buns are the best and you can make them at home! Yourself, in your own kitchen! They’re one of the very easiest breads to make, apart from my rye bread, maybe, and so much fun.
If you can make cookies, you can make these. It’s just mix, rise, roll, rise, bake. Time is the only real thing to consider, but if you make it into a weekend project or do the overnight method, it’s perfectly reasonable. I say a weekend project only because they’re a bit much for an average weeknight, but definitely don’t take the whole weekend. We’re not talking croissants here.
I have tried to make this recipe as beginner friendly as I possibly could, with just 8 ingredients total and plenty of process photographs to show exactly what you need to do. I want everyone to feel confident in baking bread at home and these are a good place to start. Even if you mess them up a bit they’re still cinnamon rolls and they’ll taste good.
I use light, aka white, spelt flour for almost every sweet bake. It’s easy to use, tastes great, and has a lower gluten content than all purpose flour. That means that it can be slightly harder to work with, but not noticeably so, and it’s easier for many people to digest.
What’s in them?
I’m not a big fan of vegan butter (margarine, let’s be real) so I usually use grape seed or coconut oil in the dough, and then a bit of coconut oil in the filling. If you’re concerned about a coconut flavour, it’s really not there, but you could use refined coconut oil or margarine, and just look for one that doesn’t include palm oil.
The recipe calls for maple syrup in the dough (or honey, if you’re good with plant based and it doesn’t need to be vegan) and coconut sugar in the filling. The coconut sugar adds a great slightly caramel flavour that’s a bit like brown sugar turned up a notch.
Light spelt flour makes up the base of these cinnamon rolls – see below for substitutions there – plus dairy-free milk, the oil and sweetener, yeast, and, of course, cinnamon!
Some tips and tricks
There are some things to consider when you’re making cinnamon rolls or any other bread. Temperature, humidity, and ingredient changes can all drastically affect the recipe, so please keep these in mind when you’re baking.
Yeast isn’t finicky, necessarily, but it doesn’t like temperature extremes. If you add it to very hot or boiling milk, it’ll die. If it’s been kept in a warm place for too long before using, it’s probably already dead. If you’re not sure how old your yeast is, test a bit of it in warm water before using it – if it doesn’t bloom, or expand, after about 15-20 minutes, you need new yeast.
If you’re not going with the overnight method, you need a fairly warm, draft-free spot for your dough to rise in. An oven with the light on, a shelf above the radiator, or on top of the fridge are all ideal places. It will still rise if it’s in a cool place, it just takes longer.
Humidity is mostly referring to the humidity within the container the dough rises in, though the external humidity can play a role too. Use a damp tea towel or waxed wrap to cover your dough and coat the dough in a bit of oil before it goes to prove (rise) the first time. If the top of the dough dries, it can harden, and constrain the dough from rising as much as it should. (Plastic wrap sucks and you don’t need it.)
Some ingredient changes are fine, and I’ve outlined them in their very own section below. If they are not mentioned, I either haven’t tried them and can’t advise, or they are so outlandish that they definitely won’t work.
If you want to make these the day ahead, you can do a couple of things to slow the rise and bake them the following day. Since the rolls rise twice, either one of them can be done in the refrigerator to extend the process, since they’re much better fresh. I don’t recommend delaying the rise for both steps, just one or the other.
After kneading, the bowl with dough can be very well covered – I usually use beeswax wrap or a damp tea towel and a large plate – and refrigerated for 8-12 hours. After that time, it should be doubled in size the same way it would be after an hour in a warm spot.
Once the dough has risen in the fridge, you simply roll it out and follow the other instructions as written. It will come back to room temperature quickly and rise again once it’s rolled up into buns.
Alternatively, you can refrigerate the rolls in the dish you plan to bake them in, again for 8-12 hours. I like to brush the tops with a little oil or milk to keep them from drying, and then cover very well again with a damp tea towel or beeswax wrap.
They have to be brought back to room temperature before baking, though, which can take up to an hour, though it’s quicker if they’re in a warm place. If you try to bake straight out of the fridge they’ll barely rise in the oven.
Either method works well and can make things a bit easier for you if you want to serve the rolls for breakfast, for example. It also helps to develop the flavour a bit further and makes things taste a bit more interesting.
Step by step:
Kneading by hand vs using a stand mixer
In other words, do you really need to knead dough for ten minutes. You sure do! My editor was really shocked by this the other day but it’s just something that’s needed for yeasted dough (unless it’s an overnight rise, as in this overnight spelt bread). If you’ve ever watched bake off, you’ll see that they knead for ages and ages – think of it as exercise that completely offsets the cinnamon rolls so you can eat as many as you like.
If, however, you have a stand mixer, it’ll do the work for you! I don’t have one anymore, and most people don’t, so the instructions in the recipe are for kneading by hand.
To use a stand mixer, you simply start the dough from the beginning in the mixer and then use the kneading attachment. The instructions are essentially the same, adding flour bit by bit, and kneading until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic. Use a lower setting, one or two, for this.
You can use all-purpose flour in place of the spelt, or a combination of the two. A bit of strong bread flour wouldn’t be amiss here, either, as long as you don’t only bread flour. I don’t recommend whole wheat pastry flour or going with 100% whole wheat or whole spelt unless you don’t mind a shoddy cinnamon roll – but also, it’s cinnamon rolls, go for the lighter flour.
I have not tried to make these gluten-free and probably won’t, but Sarah has a good gluten free cinnamon roll recipe and I can highly recommend her recipes. She doesn’t think that hers can be made vegan and still be structurally sound, but that they could definitely be made dairy free (I asked).
In terms of the dairy-free milk you use, there are a couple of things to consider. Oat and nut milk are always great. Full-fat coconut milk from a can will make them a bit too dense and sort of pastry like, reducing the stretchiness usually found in a yeast dough. Rice milk is too thin; soy probably works but I’ve never tried it.
As I mentioned above, you can use margarine in place of the coconut oil in the filling if you prefer. You can also sub date or brown sugar for the coconut sugar, or use date paste as in my chocolate orange rolls. White sugar makes these a bit boring and bland.
I don’t specify a type of yeast because they’re not differentiated here between instant and normal baking yeast, so we’re going to safe route and dissolving it in liquid beforehand either way. If you have instant yeast you can skip that step as long as you’re certain that your yeast is still active. The recipe specifies amounts for both fresh and dry yeast.
There’s not much else to change, really – I’m going to share a separate recipe for sourdough cinnamon rolls because the method is quite different, and there’s no other substitute for yeast.
If you have any questions that weren’t answered here, please ask in the comments below!
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Vegan Cinnamon Rolls
- 250 ml non-dairy milk*
- 60 grams coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast 1/2 cube fresh
- 400-450 grams light spelt or AP flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons softened coconut oil
- 50 grams coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 batch [vegan labneh]
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- For the Dough
- Add the milk to a small saucepan and heat over low-medium until just simmering. Take off the heat and stir the coconut oil and maple syrup.
- Transfer the milk mixture to a large mixing bowl and check by touch to make sure it’s not too hot. Skin temperature or just warmer is good.
- Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and whisk to mix it in. Let this rest for 15 minutes, until foamy.
- Stir 150 grams / 1 cup of the flour, the cinnamon, and salt into the bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining flour in 1/2 cup increments, until the dough becomes too difficult to stir by hand.
- Generously flour a smooth surface and tip the dough out onto it. Knead, adding flour as needed, until a soft smooth dough forms.
- Place the kneaded dough back into the mixing bowl, brush the top with a little neutral oil (optional), and cover with a large plate or damp tea towel. Set the bowl in a warm, draft free place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen, uncover it and gently punch down to deflate. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and sprinkle more flour over it. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a rough rectangle shape about 2cm (1/2 in.) thick.
- Filling and Rolling
- Line a baking dish with parchment paper. Mine is about 25x15cm (10x6in.) but anywhere in that range will work.
- Spread the softened coconut oil in an even layer over the dough, then cover with the coconut sugar and cinnamon.
- Roll the dough from the short end into a tight spiral, then gently pull any loose edges over to even out as needed. Flip the spiral so that the fold is facing down.
- Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Place the rolls into the prepared baking dish and cover with a damp tea towel. Set into a warm, draft free spot to rise again, about half an hour this time or until almost doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Once the rolls have fully risen, place them into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden. The centre should still be a bit soft when pressed with a finger.
- Cool for at least 15 minutes. Mix the labneh with maple syrup and ice the rolls, or use another icing you like.
- To store the rolls, cool fully and place them into an airtight container. Don’t ice them. They’ll keep for a couple of days at room temperature but are best fresh.