If you're looking for a good baking project -- a nice weekend bake, or for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday -- these pumpkin-shaped dinner rolls are perfect! You could really do this with any dinner rolls recipe, but of course, making them pumpkin rolls in the shape of pumpkins is the most fun!
To be upfront, this is not the easy way to make dinner rolls, and it's a bit time-consuming. But they are supremely cute and very holiday-appropriate, so consider yourself forewarned!
As always, I do include a few affiliate links in this post for products I truly use and love. This just means that if you make a purchase after clicking one of those links, I'll earn a little money (at no cost to you) to keep the kitchen up and running, which I promise to use to create more fun content like this! One of those affiliates is with Amazon, which requires a very clear disclosure: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you have any questions about affiliates, please reach out!
What kitchen equipment you need to get started
There isn't a lot of equipment needed, but a few things you just can't skip:
- Kitchen twine: this is one of the most important parts of making these rolls. You'll need regular kitchen twine, or you can use other twine you might have (sometimes for gift wrapping). A few things to call out: don't use any twine that has plastic in it. If you're using something that you typically use for gifts, it may have a silver or gold thread running through it. That's typically plastic and will melt in the oven! Also, use a thinner rather than thicker twine -- this will help you get the shape you're looking for. I use this Regional Wraps Natural Cooking Twine.
- Baking sheets: a classic, but you'll need 2 good baking sheets. I like these Cuisinart 17-inch Baking Sheets.
- Parchment paper or silpat mats: both will work. I personally really like Silpat mats because they're sturdy and you can wash and reuse them! These are also a really great gift for any bakers you know (especially if you're pairing them with new baking sheets, because they come in a variety of different sizes).
Ingredients for pumpkin-shaped dinner rolls
The star of this show is the pumpkin! You can use canned pumpkin (of course), but if you want to go the extra mile, try making your own pumpkin purée! You can find my recipe for making your own pumpkin purée here.
Other than the pumpkin, you will need:
- Instant yeast: not the same as active dry yeast, so make sure you're using the right one!
- Brown sugar: you could use dark or light brown sugar, or substitute for your sweetener of choice
- Almond milk (or other milk of your choice): I make a dairy-free version so use almond milk, but you can use any milk of your choosing.
- Pumpkin purée: best if you make your own!
- A few pantry staples such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, flour and eggs
Making the pumpkin shape
Once your dough has completed the first rise, you'll divide it into 16 individual rolls. Roll them in your hand or on the countertop to create the roll shape with the crease on the bottom.
For each roll, you'll need four 10-inch pieces of kitchen twine. Soak them in vegetable oil to make them easier to remove from the rolls. Place the four pieces of twine in a star shape, overlapping in the center. Add your sage leaf (if using), face-side down (remember you will turn these rolls over -- you're working from the bottom).
Add your dough ball to the center, with the crease side up (again, remember you're working from the bottom, so the side that is on the countertop will be the top of the roll). Take the opposite ends of each string, and pull tight across the roll, then tie a knot.
I find that pulling until the roll is fairly cinched (you actually want to be squeezing the dough) gives the best look and the most "pumpkin-esque" shape. Also, a little irregularity looks good here, so don't worry about making each perfectly spaced, or perfectly tied.
You can also tie them more loosely just so they're touching the dough without constricting. The dough will continue to rise, and you'll have more of a smooth shape.
Repeat with all strings.
Gather the ends of the strings and cut off the excess. Turn over and you now have your roll! The bottom of the roll with the tied ends doesn't need to be beautiful -- you won't see this side.
Once they're all tied, you'll let them rise again, then brush with eggwash and you're ready to bake!
Pumpkin-Shaped Dinner Rolls FAQ
Can I use any recipe to make these rolls?
Yes, you can use any dinner rolls recipe and tie them in this shape!
What if I don't have any fresh sage?
You can skip the sage, if you like, or use another herb! This would also work well with rosemary or thyme.
Is this a good recipe to make with kids?
Yes, because of the cuteness, but honestly, I find this to be quite time-consuming for kids, and also requires some pretty fine motor skills that might be challenging. If you're looking for a good pumpkin recipe to try with kids, I'd recommend my Pumpkin Sage Soft Pretzels! They're easy, quick to make, and very forgiving!
How do you remove the strings once the rolls are baked?
One baked, use small scissors to cut the strings on the top of the roll. Then flip the roll over, and pull the strings out one at a time. The goal is to pull the strings straight out rather than pulling down the sides / tearing the dough. Remember, the bottom of the rolls don't need to be pretty - you won't see them!
How should you store the rolls?
My favorite way: eat them right away! Of course, homemade rolls are best fresh, but you can also keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. If needed, pop them in the microwave for a few seconds before eating to make them soft again.
I've included my recipe for Pumpkin-Shaped Dinner Rolls below -- I hope you enjoy! And if you try baking them, I'd love to hear how it turns out!
Pumpkin-Shaped Dinner Rolls
For the dough
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup almond milk room temperature
- ¾ cup pumpkin purée
- 2 eggs
- 4 Tablespoons butter softened
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
For the topping and shaping
- vegetable oil for kitchen twine
- fresh sage optional
- 1 egg plus 1 Tablespoon water for eggwash
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter melted
- flaky sea salt
- Combine all dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (and also use a bread machine, hand mixer, or knead by hand). Mix on low until a smooth dough forms. Depending on your pumpkin purée, you may find your dough is too wet. If dough is too wet, add more flour in 2 Tablespoon increments.
- Place the dough in a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 60-75 minutes until nicely puffy.
- Transfer dough to a lightly greased surface and divide into 16 pieces. Form each piece into a roll, crease side down.
- Cut four 10-inch pieces of kitchen twine for each roll; you'll need a total of 64 pieces of twine. Lightly soak in vegetable oil. Lay four pieces of twine in a star shape, overlapping in the middle point. Place a sage leaf at the center of the star, then add the dough ball, crease side up (remember, you're making these upside down).
- Tie the opposite ends of each string together across the roll, squeezing the dough. Once all strings are tied, trim the excess string and flip over so the tied ends are under the roll.
- Place each tied roll on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat mats. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to ruse for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until puffy.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the rolls and brush with egg wash. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, brush with melted butter and add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes (until cool enough to handle), then cut the strings on the top of the roll. Turn over, and pull out the knotted ends of the strings. Keep in mind you will not see the bottom of the rolls! They don't need to be beautiful!
- Once strings are removed, the rolls are ready to enjoy!