Healthy Cinnamon Rolls

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These healthy cinnamon rolls with a maple icing are everything you love about a cinnamon roll – gooey, cinnamon filling, sticky sweet glaze, and fluffy yeasted dough. But with less guilt! Made with coconut sugar, whole wheat flour, and almond milk these fluffy cinnamon rolls are a perfect way to start your holiday mornings. Plus easy ways to turn into vegan cinnamon rolls!

three healthy cinnamon rolls on a plate


 

I hope the word healthy didn’t just have you running in the other direction. Because it shouldn’t. 

Not when the word healthy is followed by two words that immediately get me salivating – Cinnamon. Rolls. If you want to indulge in traditional cinnamon rolls, (and you want a few more than just my small batch cinnamon rolls) but feeling a little guilty about doing so then these healthy cinnamon rolls are the answer.

Drooling yet? Should be. These are whole wheat cinnamon rolls made with simple ingredients. These healthy cinnamon buns are perfect for a special occasion like Christmas morning!

What makes these cinnamon rolls healthy?

  • Natural sweetener – I used coconut sugar in the filling and dough. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar so it won’t spike your blood glucose and insulin like white sugar does.
  • 100% Whole Grain – This rolls are made with white whole wheat flour, which is a 100% whole grain but is made from a different variety of wheat than regular whole wheat flour so it’s softer in texture.
  • Almond Milk – I usually use whole milk in my cinnamon rolls, but I swapped it out for organic almond milk. It’s rich in good fats and is a good source of Vitamin E.
  • Healthy Fats – I used much less butter than I normally do. I highly recommend using organic, grass fed butter if you can. But you can also swap it out for coconut oil for a healthier alternative as well. Turn these into vegan cinnamon rolls by swapping out the butter for a vegan butter or coconut oil and you’re all set.

See Also:

  • Move over pumpkin! This butternut squash bread recipe is an easy loaf bread to make in the Fall.
  • For more whole grain goodness, try my whole wheat blueberry muffins. These are the best breakfast treat!
  • Sugar donuts are a fun breakfast treat to make with yeast! Dipped in sugar these donuts are light and fluffy.
  • For a traditional Swedish breakfast treat during the holidays try making these St Lucia buns flavored with saffron!
healthy cinnamon roll on a plate

Ingredients for this cinnamon roll recipe

  • Coconut Sugar – I used coconut sugar to make these a bit healthier but you can also use brown sugar
  • Cinnamon 
  • Kosher Salt – Or you can also use table salt or sea salt
  • Unsalted butter (or coconut oil) – I prefer to use unsalted butter but you can also swap and use salted butter. Or you can also use vegan butter or olive oil.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond milk – Any plant-based milk will work, like coconut milk, soy milk or oat milk.
  • Instant yeast – You can also use active dry yeast but your proof times will be longer
  • White whole wheat flour –  I prefer white whole wheat flour because it’s lighter in texture and 100% whole grain, but you can also use 100% whole wheat flour
  • Baking powder
  • Confectioners sugar – Or powdered sugar. If you don’t have any make your own powdered sugar in a food processor.
  • Maple syrup –  Can also swap and use honey. Be sure to pure maple syrup and not imitation for best flavor.

How to make these cinnamon rolls

For the filling

Combine coconut sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Stir in melted coconut oil (or melted butter) and vanilla until mixture resembles wet sand; set aside.

cinnamon roll filling in a bowl

For the dough

Grease 9-inch round cake pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper and grease parchment.

Whisk warm milk, yeast, and coconut sugar in a bowl and let sit until bubbly about 5 minutes.

yeast mixture in a bowl

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.

flour mixture in a bowl

Stir in yeast mixture and 2 Tbs. melted butter (or coconut oil) until dough forms. Dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to well-floured counter and knead until dough ball forms, about 2 minutes. 

cinnamon roll dough in a stand mixer

Roll dough into 12 by 9 inch rectangle with long side parallel to edge.

cinnamon roll dough rolled out into a rectangle

Brush dough completely with 1 tablespoon melted butter, leaving ½-inch border on far edge.

melted butter brushed onto cinnamon roll dough

Sprinkle filling over butter and press filling firmly into dough. 

cinnamon mixture sprinkled on to cinnamon roll dough

My Secret For Forming Cinnamon Rolls

I used make cinnamon rolls and try to roll up the whole log of dough starting with the long edge and then cut into rolls. I would recommend that you would either get a super sharp serrated knife, throw up a prayer your dough was rolled up tight enough, or go find some thread and floss to cut it with.

Well no more! I’ve seen the light. Cut the dough before you roll it up. Yup cut it then roll it. It’s genius. It’s easy. I’m never going back.

So cut the dough into 8 strips. You’re welcome.cinnamon roll dough cut into 8 strips

Roll each strip into a tight roll. Place each roll spiral side up.

cinnamon roll strip being rolled up

Place buns into prepared pan. I place one in the middle and 7 buns in a circle around the middle one.

eight cinnamon rolls in a round cake pan unrisen

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes, until dough springs back when gently pressed. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. 

risen unbaked cinnamon rolls in a cake pan

Remove plastic wrap and place buns in the oven until edges are well browned – 23 to 25 minutes. Rotating pan halfway through baking.  Loosen buns from sides of pan with paring knife and let cool for 5 minutes. 

Flip buns out of pan and then flip again, right side up, onto platter.  Let cool for 5 minutes.

baked unglazed healthy cinnamon rolls

For the glaze

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all glaze ingredients until smooth. Adjust consistency by adding more milk or more sugar, if needed. Drizzle glaze evenly over buns and serve. 

glazed healthy cinnamon rolls in a round cake pan

Maple Icing

 And of course, half the reason I eat those cinnamon swirled treats is the thick layer of vanilla cream cheese frosting on top. I decided to opt for a (slightly) healthier glaze and make a simple three ingredient maple icing

I combined organic powdered sugar, organic maple syrup, and almond milk. You can always adjust the consistency by adding more sugar, or more almond milk

Ok now you can dive in.

Bet you’re glad you busted out those sweatpants now aren’t you?

fork digging into a cinnamon roll on a plate

Tips for making these healthy cinnamon rolls

  • Test the milk temperature. You want to use a thermometer to test the temperature of your milk before adding to the yeast. Yeast is a living thing, which means if the milk is too hot, it will kill the yeast. If the milk is too cold the yeast will not proof properly. Because this mixture uses Rapid Rise Yeast, it can be at a higher temperature than use for other types of yeast. The mixture can be between 120-130°F. You can read more here from Bob’s Red Mills about what temperature kills yeast. 
  • Measure your flour accuratelyEither measure using this method described in this post, or use a kitchen scale for best accuracy. You will notice a range of flour. Start with the lower end and then sprinkle in a little bit more if it’s too sticky.
  • Use A Stand Mixer. You can use your stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to make kneading this bread easy or make your bread dough in a mixing bowl with a dough whisk, and knead your bread dough by hand.
  • Easy On The Flour. Once the dough is ready to be rolled out, make sure to not add too much flour to the dough. It’s fine to add a little extra if it’s sticky, but add as little as much as possible. Too much flour could result in a tough cinnamon roll.
  • Let Rise In A Warm Place. Your kitchen needs to be on the warmer side, otherwise your rolls may take longer to rise.
  • Cover with aluminum foil – If your rolls are browning too much on top during baking, simply tent with foil. 
half a cinnamon roll on a plate

Recipe Variations

  • Use less sugar – You can reduce the sugar in the filling to 1/2 cup if you want to reduce the sugar in the recipe.
  • Make healthy vegan cinnamon rolls – You can use melted coconut oil, olive oil, or vegan butter in the dough and filling to make this a vegan cinnamon roll recipe.
  •  Make mini cinnamon rolls – Instead of large rolls, roll and cut these into 1-inch rolls and bake for about 15-20 minutes. You can bake in a muffin tin for ease.
  • Make gluten free cinnamon rolls – If you want gluten free whole grain cinnamon rolls try using oat flour!
  • Make a vanilla glaze – For less sugar, skip the maple syrup and add additional milk to the powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • Use all purpose flour or bread flour – If you don’t have any wheat flour, and prefer to not bake with whole grains you can swap and use regular flour. Or swap 1/2 of the wheat flour for white flour.
  • Use a different milk – Instead of almond milk, use whatever milk you have. Regular dairy milk or plant based milk is fine!
healthy cinnamon rolls with maple icing

Recipe FAQ’s

Can I freeze these cinnamon rolls?

Yes! And you should! This is what eases the stresses of holidays. After rolling and cutting you can wrap the pan in plastic wrap (and then a layer of tin foil to ensure no freezer burn). When ready to bake, allow to thaw overnight in the fridge, or at room temperature for 2 hours then continue with the second rise and bake as directed. 
You can also freeze baked cinnamon rolls. After baking, allow to cool completely before wrapping up and freezing.
You can also read my full post on how to freeze bread here.

How do you store cinnamon rolls?

If you have them covered in cream cheese icing, then they will need to be refrigerated (should keep for up to 2-3 days) in airtight container. Just warm them ( I do this in the microwave for a few seconds until warm and gooey again). You can also try warming them in the oven for a few minutes (200oF). If they are unfrosted, then you keep them at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Can I use active dry yeast?

You definitely can use active dry yeast instead, but your rolls may take longer to rise.

What if my cinnamon roll dough is too sticky?

The dough should be somewhat sticky. It should come off the sides of the bowl, but still stick to the bottom of the bowl. If it’s not coming away from the sides of the bowl, then add in a bit more flour. Just add a few tablespoons at a time though, so you don’t end up adding too much (which will make for a tough cinnamon roll in the end).

Can I make these cinnamon rolls ahead of time?

Yes you can make them the night before. Just warm them up gently in an oven or in the microwave for a few seconds (10-15 for each roll.). You can also make the cinnamon rolls and shape them and let them rise overnight in the fridge, covered. Then allow to rise on the counter at room temperature for 1-2 hours until puffy and then bake the next morning.

healthy cinnamon roll

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Healthy Cinnamon Rolls

Healthy cinnamon rolls made with whole wheat flour, and coconut sugar. Topped with a maple icing!
5 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Rising Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 356kcal

Ingredients

For the filling

  • ¾ cup (3 ½ ounces) coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the dough:

  • 1 ¼ cups almond milk (110 degrees)
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 2 ¾ – 3 cups (330- 360g) white whole wheat flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled

For the glaze

  • 1 cup (120 g) confectioners sugar
  • 1-2 Tbs. almond milk
  • 2 Tbs. maple syrup

Instructions

  • For the filling: Combine coconut sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Stir in coconut oil (or butter) and vanilla until mixture resembles wet sand; set aside.
  • For the dough: Grease 9-inch round cake pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paperand grease parchment. Whisk warm milk, yeast, and coconut sugar in a bowl and let sit until bubbly about 5 minutes.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in yeast mixture and 2 Tbs. melted butter (or coconut oil) until dough forms. Dough will be sticky. Transfer dough to well-floured counter and knead until dough ball forms, about 2 minutes.
  • Roll dough into 12 by 9 inch rectangle with long side parallel to edge. Brush dough completely with 1 tablespoon melted butter, leaving ½-inch border on far edge. Sprinkle filling over butter and press filling firmly into dough. Cut dough into 8 strips. Roll each strip into a tight roll. Place each roll spiral side up. Place buns into prepared pan. I place one in the middle and 7 buns in a circle around the middle one. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes, until dough springs back when gently pressed. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Remove plastic wrap and place buns in the oven until edges are well browned – 23 to 25 minutes. Rotating pan halfway through baking. Loosen buns from sides of pan with paring knife and let cool for 5 minutes. Flip buns out of pa and then flip again, right side up, onto platter. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  • For the glaze: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all glaze ingredients until smooth. Adjust consistency by adding more milk or more sugar, if needed. Drizzle glaze evenly over buns and serve.

Video

Notes

  • Freezing instructions: After rolling and cutting you can wrap the pan in plastic wrap (and then a layer of tin foil to ensure no freezer burn). When ready to bake, allow to thaw overnight in the fridge, or at room temperature for 2 hours then continue with the rise and bake as directed. You can also freeze baked cinnamon rolls. After baking, allow to cool completely before wrapping up and freezing.
  • Make ahead: You can also make the cinnamon rolls and shape them and let them rise overnight in the fridge, covered. Then allow to rise on the counter at room temperature for 1-2 hours until puffy and then bake the next morning.
  • Storage: Keep them wrapped at room temperature for up to 2 days. Just warm them ( I do this in the microwave for a few seconds until warm and gooey again). You can also try warming them in the oven for a few minutes (200oF). 
  • Test the milk temperature. You want to use a thermometer to test the temperature of your milk before adding to the yeast. Yeast is a living thing, which means if the milk is too hot, it will kill the yeast. If the milk is too cold the yeast will not proof properly. Because this mixture uses Rapid Rise Yeast, it can be at a higher temperature than use for other types of yeast. The mixture can be between 120-130°F. You can read more here from Bob’s Red Mills about what temperature kills yeast. 
  • Measure your flour accuratelyEither measure using this method described in this post, or use a kitchen scale for best accuracy. You will notice a range of flour. Start with the lower end and then sprinkle in a little bit more if it’s too sticky.
  • Use A Stand Mixer. You can use your stand mixer with a dough hook attachment to make kneading this bread easy or make your bread dough in a mixing bowl with a dough whisk, and knead your bread dough by hand.
  • Easy On The Flour. Once the dough is ready to be rolled out, make sure to not add too much flour to the dough. It’s fine to add a little extra if it’s sticky, but add as little as much as possible. Too much flour could result in a tough cinnamon roll.
  • Let Rise In A Warm Spot. Your kitchen needs to be on the warmer side, otherwise your rolls may take longer to rise. 
  • Active dry yeast: You can swap and use but your rise times will be longer.
  • Vegan cinnamon rolls: Swap out the butter and use vegan butter, melted coconut oil, or olive oil.
  • Milk: I used almond milk but any type of milk will work.
  • Coconut sugar – You can swap and use brown sugar instead.

Nutrition

Calories: 356kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 346mg | Potassium: 240mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 219IU | Calcium: 149mg | Iron: 1mg
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15 Comments

  1. Christine says:

    Would it be possible to use almond flour instead of wheat flour?

    1. Hi Christine, I can’t say for sure. Almond flour contains no gluten so the dough may not come together or be hard to roll out.

    2. Hi Christine I can’t say for sure without testing but you may find the dough is a bit more difficult to work with as almond flour does not contain gluten.

  2. 5 stars
    Wow! This recipe is amazing! I am terrible at baking as I don’t follow recipes well, always adding or substituting things. I followed this one to the best of my ability (used a mix of whole wheat and bread flour and didn’t measure the cinnamon or vanilla). They turned out even better than expected and were too easy! Do not make these unless you are ready and willing to eat the entire pan in one day, they are that good. Thanks for the great recipe!

    1. aww amazing Melanie! I’m so happy you found these as delicious as I did 🙂 – and hey not measuring the cinnamon and vanilla isn’t so bad 😉 – a little extra of those are not a bad thing if you ask me!

  3. These look amazing but I cannot find white whole wheat flour. Can I substitute for whole wheat or use half all purpose flour?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Deidre, yes you can use regular whole wheat flour (they may not be as fluffy as the recipe intended but should still work fine). Or use half all purpose flour yes.

  4. 5 stars
    Wondering if I can let the dough rise overnight and pop in the oven in the morning?

    Made these a few times and they are always perfect!!

    1. If letting rise overnight, I’d suggest proofing in the fridge so they don’t over proof. And then you may need to still let them proof at room temperature for a bit before baking. Glad you loved them!!!

  5. 5 stars
    These are great! My kids and husband loved them! My kids said “Mom, these are better than the regular ones (the ones in the can)!”

    1. oh best compliment ever!!!

  6. I needed to try to cut the fat a little more. For the filling, I used a drizzle of maple syrup and spread it out with a spatula , just enough to allow the filling to stick. It worked.

    The recipe worked great, but they had a rough texture and tasted…wet, like to much yeast or not enough rise time.

    Do you think you could get a second rise out of the dough? Or what do you think I could do to not have it be wet? Thanks for developing this recipe.

    1. Hi KT, I’m wondering if the wetness is due to the extra liquid from the maple syrup. I would try without the maple syrup again and just press the filling down into the dough before rolling it up to see if that changes anything. That could make the dough wetter than intended. Also could be they were underbaked? Every oven is different so I recommend taking an internal temperature and make sure it reads 190oF.

  7. 5 stars
    I used brown rice syrup instead of sugar so the filling oozed out the bottom some but the final
    product still received approval from my household. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Glad you loved these cinnamon rolls B 🙂

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