pumpkin cinnamon rolls

The problem with the internet is that you don’t get to believe, even for a minute, that you were the first to come up with an idea. First there was sushi bowls, most recently it was eggnog martinis, and last month there were pumpkin cinnamon rolls. I thought I was a genius. Pumpkin and cinnamon! A classic combination! I could just take pumpkin bread dough, roll it out, spike the cinnamon filling mixture with cloves and nutmeg, and top it with a cream cheese glaze. It’s the perfect combination of pumpkin and accents! I deserve accolades! Awards! At the very least, lots of blog hits!

Oops, never mind. Many many people have done this before. Still. I’m convinced that my pumpkin cinnamon rolls are better than theirs. It’s all about balance – cinnamon rolls should be decadent treat worth the splurge, but you might as well save the calorie-dense ingredients for where they’re going to make the most impact.

I’m convinced that a super rich dough for cinnamon rolls isn’t worth the calories. Once the dough is filled with a sugary spiced filling and topped with a creamy glaze, extra fat in the dough just gets lost. If you don’t notice it, why bother with it? On that same note, I used oil in the dough instead of butter. You can use butter if you prefer, but again – the taste of butter will be overpowered by the filling and glaze, but the added tenderness of oil compared to butter will not go unnoticed.

Pumpkin, cinnamon, cream cheese, and sugar – for breakfast! The dough part is light, soft, and orange; the filling is sweet and spice and everything nice; and the glaze, well, it has cream cheese. I told you I was a genius.

One year ago: Twice-Baked Potatoes
Two years ago: White Chocolate Lemon Truffles, Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Vanilla Bean Caramels

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

You can chill the rolls after they’re shaped, rolled, and cut, but before rising. They’ll still need several hours in the morning to finish rising, bake, and cool, although you can speed the rising along by giving them a very warm place to get started.

A riskier method to get cinnamon rolls at a reasonable breakfast hour is to adjust the amount of yeast. I used ½ teaspoon yeast instead of 2 teaspoons. Your first rise will take several hours. Then you can roll, cut, and chill the dough (or freeze it and defrost in the refrigerator). Take the prepared, chilled rolls out of the fridge before you go to bed and they should be perfectly risen and ready to bake when you wake up.

4-4 ½ cups (20 to 21¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of mostly cinnamon with some cloves, nutmeg, and ginger)
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

1. Stand mixer: Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs; whisk in the pumpkin and oil. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the liquid ingredients. Continue mixing on medium-low until the dough is elastic and supple, about 8 minutes. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

By hand: Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs; whisk in the pumpkin and oil. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Stir the mixture until the dough comes together. Transfer it to a floured board or countertop and knead, incorporating as little flour as possible, for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and supple. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

2. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

3. After the dough has doubled in bulk, press it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle, with a long side facing you. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the far edges. Roll the dough, beginning with the long edge closest to you and using both hands to pinch the dough with your fingertips as you roll. Using unflavored dental floss or a serrated knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces and place the rolls cut-side up in the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

4. When the rolls are almost fully risen, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of one reads 185 to 188 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Glaze the rolls and serve.


  1. I just baked my own cinnamon rolls for the first time this week, wish I had seen these before, they sound delicious! I love the addition of the pumpkin pie spice to the filling too 🙂 Happy Holidays!

  2. These look delicious! And I loved your post- so funny and true about someone else always thinking of an idea first!

  3. First or last, these cinnamon rolls look amazing!!! I was planning on making just plain cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning breakfast, but I might just try to make these!

  4. Sigh… the woes of inventors. We experience them rarely, but when we do it hurts. 😛

  5. Jenni says:

    I adore all things pumpkin. So excited to try these.

  6. You know what’s worse? Pulling out an old family recipe and realizing that it’s definitely not your family’s recipe – it’s everywhere and apparently is everyone’s family’s recipe as well. And really, pumpkin + cream cheese + yeasty dough? Always a win, even if it’s not original to you 🙂

  7. These look delicious. I made pumpkin cinnamon rolls years ago as a teenage from a recipe I cut out of a magazine. Those were yummy too. They had a caramel glaze on top which was really good, and insanely rich. Now I am thinking about combining your recipe with that one…:)

  8. Yum! These look delicious. What a brilliant idea. You should definitely take full credit!

  9. You can take all the credit you want! And I can vouch these are awesome!

  10. Teresa says:

    I have never made home made cinnamon rolls, I am a good cook but afraid to cook with yeast OMG I am going to make these and they will be great. Really enjoy your web sight and it will be my new favorite

  11. Oh.My.God. You just put the words PUMPKIN and CINNAMON ROLL together in the same sentence. My knees are weak. I want to try these so bad, but will have to muster up the courage to give ’em a go. It seems like quite the undertaking!

  12. Terrie Wahling (T-Dub) says:

    Okay, ya’ll…I myself…used to be….key words here…used to be…so afraid of yeasty stuff…oh yeah…;petrified. When I first started making bread.. a wheat variety..I well found this really cool book at the Salvation Army store…costs me a dollar…I mean..alot..teehee…and it’s all about baking breads, sweet rolls, breads from other countries… all kinds of breads…I started out…and thought oh cool…this is soooo neat…my first bread was so heavy and small…..but..I didn’t give up…my sweet cowboy ate it anyway and bragged oh did he brag…it’s so good….(he’s so sweet)..anyway…I kept making it …and reading the book…and reading other books…and I discovered…that the key to yeast breads…is (drum roll)….the amount of flour you add…..just past sticky….out of the mixer…just barely sticky…then knead…cause kneading is soooo cool…and good for what ails us gals…we need to knead…you know…so don’t be scared…just watch the flour add it 1/2 cup at a time…..let it get good and mixed before you add more….check you stickyness…with your finger…after every addition…and don’t be scared…cause if you have a dog….they eat all your mistakes…….it’s really early in the am…and cowboy has gone out to feed cows…and I’m making bread…..and pumpkin cinnamon rolls….yeehawwww…..

  13. Candice B says:

    Thank you for the fantastic recipe! A few months ago, I decided that I didn’t like cinnamon buns, and so I was only making them for my husband. But then, I tried this recipe. WOW. I made them for the second time yesterday, and I am back on the cinnamon roll bandwagon!
    I totally agree that a rich dough isn’t worth the calories. I’ve tried so many recipes, and I love that you cut down on the butter/oil and I can’t even tell! Thanks!