My Apple Cinnamon Rolls recipe features soft, plush buns swirled with apples and spices. An easy-to-make caramel glaze takes these rolls over the top, making them a stellar choice for breakfast or dessert. This recipe can be made with or without a mixer–watch the how-to video below for instructions!
Soft, Spiced, and Just the Right Amount of Sweet
Fall officially started yesterday, and I’m so excited to be sharing my latest apple recipe: apple cinnamon rolls! Unlike other cinnamon roll recipes, my apple cinnamon rolls are sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Each bite balances the subtle tartness of the apples with the warm cinnamon filling, and it all comes together with a decadent caramel glaze. These are so cozy and absolutely perfect for fall!
I know yeast breads can be intimidating, so let me reassure you: this recipe isn’t overly complicated. It can be made with or without a mixer, and the bulk of the time involved is just letting the dough rise, which only requires patience on your part. 😊
My apple cinnamon roll recipe starts out with the same enriched, fluffy dough I use in my sticky buns and sweet bread. You’ll activate your yeast, form your dough, knead it for a few minutes, and then let it rise. From there things are pretty straightforward: roll out your dough, add your filling, roll into a log and slice. You’ll let the rolls rise one more time before baking and topping with the glaze.
Let’s get into it!
What You Need
The key to soft, tender cinnamon rolls is an enriched dough (dough that has a high percentage of fat). We’ll fill that dough with apples, sugar, and spices before baking and drizzling with a super simple caramel glaze.
- Milk. Whole milk is best for this recipe (more fat means a more tender dough), but you can use whatever milk you have on hand.
- Yeast. I prefer active dry yeast, but you can use instant yeast if it’s all you have. I included instructions on for using instant yeast in the notes below.
- Sugar. You’ll need granulated sugar to feed your yeast and enrich the dough..
- Butter. I use unsalted butter everywhere in this recipe, that way I can control the amount of salt. You’ll notice most of my recipes call for this; I have a post covering when to use salted vs. unsalted butter if you’re curious about the why behind this.
- Egg. Use one egg plus an additional egg yolk. That extra yolk provides a more tender cinnamon roll. Room temperature eggs are best as they’ll combine into the dough the most cohesively.
- Salt. To enhance the flavor and round out the sweetness of these apple cinnamon rolls, I add a few teaspoons of salt.
- Flour. All-purpose or bread flour will work well for this recipe, with all-purpose yielding slightly fluffier rolls and bread flour yielding slightly chewier ones. The amount you’ll need will vary depending on many factors, so use as little or as much as you need to get the right consistency.
- Spices. Nutmeg in the dough adds a very subtle depth of flavor, while cinnamon, allspice, and even more nutmeg in the filling beautifully complement the tartness of the apples. It’s going to smell like apple pie in your kitchen!
- Brown Sugar. I like dark brown sugar in the glaze because it gives a darker color and stronger caramel flavor, but light brown sugar can be substituted. If you don’t have brown sugar on hand, don’t worry; I have instructions on how to make brown sugar at home.
- Apples. Pretty much any kind of apple will work here. I avoid the super tart ones for these apple cinnamon rolls, but you can use those if that’s what you like! Make sure to peel, core, and chop your apples into uniform pieces before putting them in your filling. Also, if you prep your apples in advance, make sure you cover them tightly and place them in the fridge to prevent oxidation (turning brown, not that you’ll notice once the rolls are baked!).
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
SAM’S TIP: I highly recommend making my simple and sweet caramel glaze for a caramel apple flavor, but if you prefer a traditional frosting, you can always substitute the caramel glaze with the frosting I use for my 1-hour cinnamon rolls, or just use my cream cheese frosting.
How to Make Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Heat milk and water until 110-120F (43-49C). Pour into a mixing bowl and sprinkle in your yeast. Add a pinch of granulated sugar and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast has formed a foamy cap. If your yeast doesn’t look like mine in the photo above (a distinct foamy cap proving it’s activated) you’ll need to toss it out and start over!
- Add remaining granulated sugar, butter, eggs, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Stir until well-combined, then gradually add flour until the dough clings to itself and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be tacky to the touch, but not too sticky. If you need to add more flour, you can.
- Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 5-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. If using a stand mixer, you will only need to do this for 3-5 minutes. Once the dough is smooth, lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, making sure to turn it so all sides are lightly coated in oil. Cover tightly and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.
- Prepare filling and baking pan while dough rises. Once it’s doubled in size, deflate the dough.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll until you have a 10 by 20 inch rectangle. Spread butter over the dough, leaving a ½” perimeter.
- Combine the apples and the sugar mixture, then immediately sprinkle over the dough.
- Firmly (tightly!) roll the dough into a log, starting on one long end and tightly rolling to the other. Pinch seam together to make a seal.
- Cut the log into 12 slices and place them in your prepared baking dish cut-side down.
SAM’S TIP: Keep the apples and sugar separate until just before you’re ready to spread them over the dough. If you don’t, the mixture will become too liquidy and messy when you try to spread it over the dough.
- Cover your baking dish with a towel and allow the rolls to rise in a warm spot until increased in size at least 50%, about 25-40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F while the rolls rise.
- Remove the towel and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until rolls are cooked through. Prepare the caramel glaze while your rolls cool.
- Combine all glaze ingredients except powdered sugar and vanilla in medium-sized pot over medium heat. Stir often as butter and sugar melt. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Remove glaze from heat, then add powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir until well combined before drizzling over warm rolls. Let glaze set before cutting and serving.
SAM’S TIP: Over-baking the rolls will make them dry and hard, so avoid this! If you have an instant read thermometer, look for a temperature of 190F (88C) in the thickest part of a roll. If you don’t have a thermometer, use a toothpick or sharp knife and pierce the thickest part of a center bun and peek inside; it shouldn’t be doughy/too gooey and should look cooked through. Dark metal pans will bake the buns faster, light-colored metal will be a bit slower, and glass or ceramic will take the longest of all.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can make the dough in advance, but not the filling or glaze. The filling becomes very wet and can compromise the quality of the dough if allowed to sit for too long after assembly.
To prepare the dough in advance, place in a large bowl after kneading and then cover the bowl and refrigerate. Punch down after several hours then allow to continue to rise for up to 24 hours, then proceed with the recipe as written.
Sure! I personally have tried this recipe using chopped walnuts and felt that they overpowered the apple flavor, but if you’d like you can try sprinkling them on top or adding them in the apple filling.
Your dough should be tacky, but if it becomes unmanageable, you can absolutely add more flour. Depending on your kitchen environment, you may need more or less four than I call for in this recipe, which is why I include a range for flour instead of a set amount.
More Recipes You Might Like
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- 1 cup (236 ml) whole milk
- ⅓ cup (78 ml) water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons (7 g) active dry yeast
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 5 Tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter melted
- 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk room temperature preferred
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- ¼ tsp nutmeg optional
- 4-5 cups (500-625 g) all-purpose or bread flour plus additional as needed
- 4 Tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter very soft
- ½ cup (100 g) light or dark brown sugar firmly packed
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice optional but recommended
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg optional but recommended
- ⅛ teaspoon table salt
- 2 ½ cups (280 g) chopped peeled/cored apple
- Combine milk and water in a heatproof container and heat until 110-120F (43-49C). Pour into a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), sprinkle yeast overtop and add a pinch (about 1 teaspoon) of your granulated sugar. Stir and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast has formed a foamy cap (if this does not happen, your yeast may be dead or your liquid was not the right temperature, you will have to start over).1 cup (236 ml) whole milk, ⅓ cup (78 ml) water, 2 ¼ teaspoons (7 g) active dry yeast, ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- Add granulated sugar, butter, egg, egg yolk, salt, nutmeg (if using) and approximately half of the flour and stir until well-combined. While stirring, gradually add additional flour until the dough clings to itself and pulls from the sides of the bowl (you can do this by hand/with a wooden spoon or using the dough hook attachment of a stand mixer). Stir (adding more flour as needed) until dough is still a bit tacky to the touch but not too sticky to be unmanageable.5 Tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, 2 teaspoons table salt, ¼ tsp nutmeg, 4-5 cups (500-625 g) all-purpose or bread flour
- If making by hand, lightly dust a clean surface with flour and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic (add more flour as needed). If using a stand mixer, continue to mix on md/low speed until smooth/elastic, about 3-5 minutes.
- Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and turn so the surface is coated with a thin layer of oil. Cover tightly and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size (about 1-2 hours). While dough is rising you can prepare your filling.
- Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt in a medium-sized bowl and whisk together until well-combined. Peel, core, and chop apples (smaller pieces are easier to roll into the cinnamon buns). If butter is not soft enough to be easily spread, pop it in the microwave for several seconds until it is nice and soft.4 Tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, ½ cup (100 g) light or dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon allspice, ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon table salt, 2 ½ cups (280 g) chopped peeled/cored apple
- Lightly butter a 13×9” (33x23cm) baking dish and set aside.
- Once dough has risen, gently deflate and transfer to a clean, lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll into a 10×20” (25-50cm) rectangle.
- Use a knife to evenly spread butter over the surface of the dough, leaving about ½” (1.25cm) of the perimeter untouched.
- Toss apples and brown sugar mixture together until apples are coated then immediately evenly sprinkle over the butter.
- Starting with one of the longer edges, firmly roll dough into a log, pinching the end together to make a seam.
- Use a sharp knife to immediately cut the dough into 12 even pieces and place cut-side down in prepared baking dish. You may notice a bit of the apple mixture may be oozing out of the bottom of the rolls, this is fine.
- Cover rolls with a towel and place in a warm spot to rise until puffed and increased in size at least 50%, about 25-40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F (175C).
- Uncover risen rolls and transfer to the center rack of preheated oven. Bake 25-30 minutes (if using a metal pan, glass or ceramic may take several minutes longer) until rolls are cooked through. Once rolls have finished baking, prepare caramel glaze.
- Combine brown sugar, butter, milk, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until butter is melted and sugar is beginning to dissolve. Bring to a full boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.¾ cups (150 g) dark brown sugar, ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, ⅓ cup (78 ml) whole milk, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.½ cup (63 g) powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Immediately drizzle or spread glaze over cinnamon buns (even if they are still warm). Allow glaze to set before serving.
YeastI prefer to use active dry yeast for best results but instant yeast may be substituted. To substitute instant yeast, combine instant yeast, sugar, salt, and half the flour and stir, then add warmed milk/water and stir well. Stir in butter and eggs and then remaining flour and proceed with the recipe as written. The dough will not need to rise as long when made this way.
MilkI prefer and recommend whole milk for the most tender rolls possible, but you can substitute any milk you prefer.
Apple choiceUse an apple that you enjoy eating! While any apple will work, I personally feel that Granny Smith are a bit tart here and prefer to use Honeycrisp, Gala, or Fuji apples. Note that the smaller you cut your apple pieces, the easier they will be to roll up in the dough and the more tender they will be after cooking. Conversely, larger pieces of apples will make slightly messier rolls and crisper pieces after baking.
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.