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Use your active sourdough starter for this small batch sourdough cinnamon roll recipe. No yeast, easy instructions, and the perfect way to use your starter that isn’t another loaf of bread.
Tell me, my friend– are you a sweet or savory breakfast eater?
I admit that 8 times out of 10, I am totally in the savory category. Give me this make ahead breakfast casserole, some Eggs Benny, this Mexican-inspired breakfast casserole, this asparagus quiche, or this cheesey vegetable quiche…
The list goes on and on.
But those other two times? Sign me up for some cinnamon streusel coffee cake or a cinnamon roll. I mean, if there are sprinkles on my cinnamon roll and/or breakfast, even better, but these particular sourdough cinnamon rolls lasted a mere 4 hours in our house.
Granted, there were only 6 of them, and we shared one with the neighbors… But, WHAT? No family of 4 (two of them being the equivalent of like, only 1 person) needs to eat 5 cinnamon rolls that quickly.
Unless, of course, they are mouthwateringly delicious, dripping with gooey cinnamon filling, and covered in an irresistible cream cheese frosting.
Pssst… That’s these guys.
These sourdough cinnamon rolls were born in my kitchen just a few days after I made my sourdough English muffins.
I wanted to stick my starter back in the fridge, but I also wanted to take advantage of the 2 ounces of cream cheese that kept falling out of the fridge and having my starter out and ready to rock and roll.
So I whipped these up on a whim which came along with exactly zero regrets.
We have all the standard ingredients we would use for traditional cinnamon rolls, but since we’re making a sourdough version, we don’t need any yeast.
The rest of the ingredients? Totally the same.
SOURDOUGH ROLL DOUGH
We’ll be working with warm milk, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla extract, one egg, all purpose flour, and unsalted butter for the dough ingredients.
CINNAMON SUGAR FILLING
For the filling, we’ll be using the traditional cinnamon roll filling I always go to: butter, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and some salt.
Super basic, super cinnamon-y, and the perfect complement to the tangy sourdough bread base.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
All good cinnamon buns need a perfect cream cheese frosting on top.
This is a simple recipe and one you’ve seen before. You just need softened cream cheese, unsalted butter, powdered sugar, and a bit of salt. Easy!
See? Ingredients are simple. You just won’t be needing any yeast.
And because we aren’t using any yeast, the process of making these easy sourdough cinnamon rolls will take a bit longer. Let’s talk about that.
HOW TO MAKE SOURDOUGH CINNAMON ROLLS
By using your own sourdough starter in place of yeast, we eliminate the quickness of the whole process. While this might seem like a drag, it really does take the same amount of work as traditional cinnamon rolls, but the hands-off time increases.
With traditional yeast, you only need to let your dough rest about 10 minutes before shaping it. It will relax its elasticity, give in to your shaping, and rise beautifully as filled, cut rolls before baking.
Since even active starter works more slowly than traditional yeast, our initial rest (which is actually an initial rise) will take about 3-4 hours instead of just 10 minutes.
MAKE THE DOUGH
Start by mixing 100g of the the active starter and warm milk until the starter has dissipated.
To that mixture, add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and egg. Whisk together to combine.
Since we know the starter is active, we don’t have to wait or “proof” anything like we typically do when working with yeast.
Once all of those ingredients are well-combined, add about 1 and ½ cups of the flour and stir (or use your dough hook attachment in the bowl of a stand mixer).
When this dough has come together, add in the softened butter. Adding it in now as opposed to earlier in the melted form will help create fluffy sourdough cinnamon rolls with lots of layers within the layers of the rolls. I use this method with all of my cinnamon roll recipes, and it’s a winner every time for mega texture!
After the butter has been blended, add the remaining 1 cup of flour and blend until dough comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, then knead for a few minutes until dough is uniform.
THE FIRST RISE
Allow this dough to rise covered in an oiled bowl. This is the bulk fermentation stage and where your sourdough dough will work to create lift, air, and develop gluten.
After this step in traditional yeast bread making, you’d normally punch the dough down to release any extra air. But because we want to keep the air that we’ve gotten in this dough, we will work carefully in the next step.
Keep in mind that after the initial rise/bulk fermentation, while the dough will look larger and rounder, it won’t be nearly as puffed up as you’re used to seeing after the first rise of a traditional yeast bread. This is ok and to be expected. As long as your dough is larger and rounder, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do!
SHAPE THE DOUGH
Once your dough has risen for the first time, carefully turn is out onto your work surface, then use your hands to create a 9″ x 12″ large rectangle. You won’t need a rolling pin here, because the dough will be very moldable.
Once you have your rectangle, spread the cinnamon filling all over, roll the dough up tightly, and then cut into 6 even rounds.
THE SECOND RISE
During their second rise, these rounds of dough will press together (sightly) and then puff up beautifully during their time in the oven. They will need about 1 and ½ hours for their second rise, so if you do some math, we’re already at nearly 6 hours of rising already.
Are you taking notes? This means you’ll need about 8-12 hours for this whole process. Be sure to plan ahead! And check out the notes section of the recipe card if you want to prepare the rolls ahead of time and bake them in the morning of the next day.
BAKE THE ROLLS
Once your rolls have had their second rise, you will see beautifully puffy sourdough cinnamon rolls that are ready for baking.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, after which they will be practically begging for a slathering of some creamy dreamy cream cheese frosting.
It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this, my friends.
HOW DO SOURDOUGH CINNAMON ROLLS COMPARE?
What I noticed about these sourdough cinnamon rolls that I haven’t experienced with my other homemade cinnamon rolls is a much softer interior.
While there is nothing hard, crunchy, or dry about my funfetti cinnamon rolls nor my caramel rolls, these sourdough starter cinnamon rolls were something special.
Extra soft interior and an ever-so-slight tang thanks to the sourdough absolutely made these cinnamon rolls ones to remember.
Also, SMALL BATCH so you aren’t stuck with 12 rolls.
Unless, of course, that’s what you want to do– instructions for how to do that in the notes of the recipe.
CAN I FREEZE SOURDOUGH CINNAMON ROLLS?
Freeze ’em up! They should keep well for up to 3 months, with or without frosting on top.
If you’re still rocking a sourdough starter from 2020, these sourdough cinnamon rolls are where it’s at.
Perfect as an indulgence, perfect for gifting to new neighbors (you’ll be their new favs!), or simply just a way to use your starter that isn’t another loaf of sourdough.
Soft, cinnamony, swirly, scientifically proven to be gone in a few hours… You’ve got to put these on your to-do list!
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
- 100 grams fed sourdough starter about 1/2 a cup
- ½ cup (120g) warm milk
- 2 and ½ Tablespoons (31g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2 and ½ cups (300g) all-purpose flour be sure to measure properly
- 3 Tablespoons (43g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature and cut into 4-6 pieces
- 2 Tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature and cut into 4-6 pieces
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (50g) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 2 ounces (56g) cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 2 Tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- ¾ cup (90g) powdered sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, whisk together the starter and the milk until starter is dissipated. Add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and egg, and stir to combine.
- Gradually stir in flour. If using a stand mixer, use your dough hook. If mixing by hand, continue to use a wooden spoon. Add 1 and ½ cup of flour, allow dough to come together, then add the softened butter and continue to blend. When butter is mostly incorporated, add the remaining 1 cup of flour and blend until dough has completely come together. It should easily pull away from the sides of your bowl and dough hook or spoon.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for just a couple of minutes until dough is uniform. Oil the bowl with non-stick spray and return the dough to the bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow dough to rise for 3-4 hours.
- In a medium size bowl, combine the butter, sugars, and cinnamon. Stir with a spatula until mostly combined– some larger chunks of butter are ok. Set aside.
- Using your hands, press the dough out into a rectangle 9" x 12" in size. Using a spatula, spread the filling evenly over the dough, all the way to the edges of the rectangle on all four sides. If you're having trouble spreading the filling, scrape it off and heat it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften the butter further.
ASSEMBLE AND BAKE THE DOUGH
- Spray a baking dish (I like to use an 8" round or 8" square cake pan) with non-stick spray. Set aside.
- Starting with one of the long sides, roll the dough up into a tight 12" log. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log into 6 even slices. Place the slices cut side down in the prepared pan (one in the center and 5 around it), then cover loosely with foil or a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1 and ½ hours.
- When rolls have risen, preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes or until rolls just start to brown on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes while you prepare the cream cheese frosting.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth.
- Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the powdered sugar and salt. Continue mixing until smooth. Set aside.
- Spread cream cheese frosting onto slightly cooled rolls and serve rolls immediately. Leftover rolls stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days or in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave for 8-10 seconds before serving.
- Make ahead: this dough can be made the ahead of time through step 1 of the “assemble and bake dough” instructions. Cover rolls with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise in a warm environment, about 1 hour. Continue with step 2 in the “assemble and bake dough” instructions.
- To freeze: baked rolls freeze well, up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and warm before enjoying.
- To freeze unbaked rolls: bake the rolls in step 2 in “assemble and bake dough” instructions for 10 minutes at 350°F (177ºC). Allow to cool completely, cover tightly, then freeze. Remove the rolls from the freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Finish baking for the remaining 20 minutes before icing and serving.
- To double this recipe: instead of using an 8″ baking dish, use a 9″ x 13″ or larger, roll dough to 12″ x 18″.
All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.