I used to think making cinnamon rolls was incredibly challenging, but as long as you're patient with the rising, it's totally doable! These Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls are a great way to use up some of your sourdough discard and make a delicious treat for breakfast, brunch, or a sweet afternoon treat! I added raisins to the filling, but you could easily change that for something else (check out some of my favorite variations below)!
If you love this recipe, check out my Sourdough Discard Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, too! If you're looking for other sourdough discard recipes, try these Sourdough Discard Bagels, these Sourdough Discard Blueberry Muffins, and these Sourdough Discard Soft Pretzels.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Embrace the irregularity! Rolls that are a little irregularly shaped or sized can be very cute (and it makes it so much easier if we're not aiming for perfection!).
- Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls freeze well so you can make a batch and then freeze to enjoy any time.
- You can adapt this recipe to make these overnight cinnamon rolls so they're ready to bake first thing in the morning. See the variations section below!
- The raisins add a nice flavor punch, but you can also leave them out or substitute them for other things like crushed nuts.
There are only a few ingredients you'll need to make these Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls!
- Dairy-free milk: This will be where your recipe starts! I like to use almond milk, but this would work with any dairy-free milk or regular dairy milk. Heat the milk in the microwave until warm but not boiling, about 30-45 seconds. Make sure your milk is unflavored.
- Active yeast: Since we're working with discard, we still need to use yeast in order to make the rolls rise predictably.
- Egg: You will want the egg to be room temperature before adding to the recipe.
- Sourdough discard: The sourdough discard should be unfed and at room temperature for this recipe. This recipe is designed to be made from a sourdough starter that uses a 1:1:1 ratio (when you feed your starter, it's with 1 part starter, 1 part flour, 1 part water). If your starter uses a different ratio, you may need to adjust some of the ingredients in this recipe.
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar combines with the butter, cinnamon, and raisins to create the filling between the layers of the rolls.
- Raisins: These are optional and you can certainly leave them out (I know there are some strong opinions about raisins!), but I think they add a nice pop to the recipe. See the variations section below for a few other add-in ideas.
- Confectioner's sugar: This is the base for the frosting on top. You can sift the sugar so it's extra smooth in the frosting.
See full recipe below for detailed directions.
Substitutions & Variations
This is a very adaptable recipe and below are a few easy substitutions and variations you can try.
- Use regular dairy products: This recipe uses dairy-free ingredients, but if that's not needed, then you can use regular dairy products (for the milk, yogurt, butter, etc.)
- Use rum- or bourbon-soaked raisins: While your dough is rising, you will soak the raisins in warm water to help them plump. Another option would be to soak the raisins in rum or bourbon. This will help them plump, but also add some of that spirit flavoring!
- Use active sourdough starter: If you'd like to make this recipe with active sourdough starter instead of discard, you can! To do so, omit the yeast and replace the sourdough discard with sourdough starter. You may need to adjust the rise times for the recipe.
- Add crushed nuts: If you don't want to use raisins, you can add crushed nuts such as almonds or pecans.
- Overnight Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls: If you want to make these overnight so they're ready to eat early in the morning, you can! Follow the recipe through slicing the rolls and placing in the baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight for the second rise. In the morning, remove from the fridge and let come to room temperature for about 45-60 minutes, then bake as directed.
- For a fall-flavored version, check out these Sourdough Discard Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, too!
I have not tested this recipe with other variations, but if you do, let us know how it turns out in the comments! I always love to hear how you're adapting these recipes and use those as ideas for future recipes as well!
How to Make Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls
Letting the dough rise for enough time is the key to success with this recipe. There are a few easy steps you'll need to follow to make these Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls!
Mix the dough ingredients, then place in a large, greased bowl and let rise for 60-90 minutes until doubled in size. While the dough rises, soak the raisins in warm water.
Roll the dough into a roughly 12x18-inch rectangle on a floured surface.
Spread the dough with the softened butter, then sprinkle with cinnamon, brown sugar and drained raisins. Be generous with the filling!
From the short end of the rectangle, roll the dough into a log. It shouldn't be loose, but doesn't need to be super tight, either!
Using unflavored dental floss or a sharp knife, cut the rolled log into 8-10 equal-sized pieces.
Place the pieces cut-side up in a greased 8x11-inch baking dish. They may not fill the pan fully, but they will expand with the second rise. Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes.
After the second rise, the rolls should fill the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to let cool.
Once cooled, spread the rolls with the frosting and serve.
Expert Baking Tips
- Make sure the dough is the right consistency. It should be just slightly sticky when it goes into the bowl for the first rise. Every sourdough starter (and therefore, discard) is different, so you may need to add additional flour or milk (1 Tablespoon at a time) to reach your desired consistency.
- Let the dough rise long enough. Rise times will vary based on the temperature of your room. Dough rises quicker in a warm room and slower in a colder room.
- Don't worry about making perfectly-shaped rolls. Embrace the irregularity! Some might be bigger and some might be smaller. What you want to watch is the thickness - rolls should all be the same thickness in order to bake evenly.
- Let the rolls cool before adding the frosting. If you add the frosting before the rolls are cooled, they will still be delicious. The frosting will melt and soak into the rolls a bit (not a bad thing!).
How to Cut Cinnamon Rolls
Cutting the rolls is an important step. You want to make sure the rolls are equal in thickness so they will cook evenly. If they're a little bit off (especially those end pieces), that's ok, but you want to get them as close as possible to the same thickness.
There are two ways to cut cinnamon rolls:
- Use dental floss: This is my preferred method. Use an unflavored dental floss (if it's flavored, you'll taste that in the final rolls!) and wrap it around the log. Cross the ends over the log and pull to pinch-cut the rolls. Dental floss is ideal here as it's very thin and strong and will cut through the dough easily. I do not recommend using kitchen twine, or a thicker string to try to do this, as that will tear the rolls rather than cutting them cleanly.
- Use a sharp knife: You can also use a large, sharp knife to cut the rolls. Again, you want them to be equal in thickness, and try to get a crisp cut rather than a tear. I like to use an 8-inch chef's knife so you can make one clean cut (rather than needing to make a sawing motion with a smaller knife or a serrated knife).
For this recipe, cut the log into 8-10 rolls. 8 pieces will give you very large rolls, and 10 will still be nicely sized cinnamon rolls!
What is Sourdough Discard?
Sourdough discard is what you have left over after you feed a sourdough starter. Let's break that down:
- Sourdough starter is a combination of flour and water that has fermented to create its own yeast culture. Sourdough starter is used to make sourdough bread.
- You can either make your own sourdough starter (be prepared: this takes a few weeks), or you can buy a sourdough starter. You can also get a sourdough starter from someone else that has one (they can give you discard to feed and make your own starter)!
- When you have a sourdough starter, you need to feed it regularly. To do so, you measure out a portion of the starter, then add fresh water and flour, and set it aside to continue fermenting. The portion of the starter that you did not use is now considered sourdough discard. This discard can be either thrown away or composted, or you can use it in sourdough discard recipes so it doesn't go to waste!
Why does this recipe use yeast?
Sourdough discard is not as active as sourdough starter, and needs a leavening agent (in this case, yeast) to help the dough rise in a predictable way. You'll still get the benefit of the sourdough flavor, as well as some additional lift from the discard to make these cinnamon rolls extra fluffy.
You'll need a rolling pin to roll the dough, and either unflavored dental floss or a sharp knife (I like an 8-inch chef's knife) to cut the rolls. Once the rolls are cut, you'll place the rolls in an 8x11-inch baking dish or pan. Then you can use a spoon (or I like to use a GIR Skinny Spoonula) to spread the frosting on the rolls before serving.
Room Temperature Storage: Store the rolls covered or in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. You can reheat the rolls for 15-30 seconds in the microwave to make them warm and soft again.
Freezer Storage: Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls freeze very well. Once the cinnamon rolls are fully cooled, transfer to an airtight container or bag (I like to split them into individual rolls and store each in a plastic bag, which makes it easier to heat up just one roll at a time). Freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, warm the cinnamon rolls in the microwave for 30-60 seconds until soft and warm again.
No. I like to use mine because it's convenient, but you could also use a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon to mix the dough.
If you are not dairy-free, then you do not need to do this. You can use regular dairy products if they're fitting for you.
When certain ingredients (like milk, eggs, etc.) are cold, it will impact the rise of the dough, and can even prevent the rise from happening. To encourage rising, you want to make sure these ingredients are at room temperature, or even warmed, as long as it's in the directions.
Yes. To do so, omit the yeast and use active sourdough starter in place of the sourdough discard. You may need to adjust the rising times, so keep an eye on the dough as it is rising.
No! The raisins are optional. You can leave them out entirely, or use something else (like coarsely chopped almonds), if you like. There are a few other ideas in the Substitutions & Variations section above.
If you want to make these overnight so they're ready to bake early in the morning, you can! Follow the recipe through slicing the rolls and placing in the baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight for the second rise. In the morning, remove from the fridge and let come to room temperature for about 45-60 minutes, then bake as directed.
Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls
For the Rolls
- 1 cup non-dairy milk, such as almond milk or regular dairy milk, warmed
- 1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg lightly beaten, at room temperature
- 200 grams (about ¾ cup) sourdough discard unfed, at room temperature
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled
For the Filling
- ¼ cup unsalted butter softened
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup raisins optional
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the Frosting
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 ½ cups confectioner's sugar sifted
- 1-2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk, such as almond milk or regular dairy milk
- Warm the milk (should not be boiling) and add to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with yeast and let sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy. If the yeast does not foam, it is dead and you'll need to start over with fresh yeast.
- Add granulated sugar, beaten egg, sourdough discard, flour, and salt. Stir on low until combined, adding the melted butter as it mixes. Increase speed to medium for 2 minutes until a smooth dough ball forms. The dough should be slightly sticky (you can knead by hand if you prefer). If needed, add more flour or milk (1 Tablespoon at a time) to reach your desired consistency. Transfer the dough to a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 60-90 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- While the dough rises, soak the raisins in warm water. This will help them plump up before baking.
- After the first rise, transfer the dough to a floured surface. Roll the dough into a 9x14-inch rectangle. Drain the raisins. Spread the dough with softened butter and evenly sprinkle with brown sugar, drained raisins, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.
- From the short end of the rectangle, roll the dough into a log, pressing the seam at the end of the dough to close. Use unflavored dental floss or a sharp knife to cut the log into 8-10 equal-sized pieces. If using dental floss, wrap the floss around the log, then cross the ends over each other and pinch to cut.
- Transfer the cut rolls to a greased 8x11-inch baking pan, face up. There should be some room for the rolls to expand in the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30-45 minutes until they have expanded to fill the dish.
- While the rolls rise, preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the rolls uncovered for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.
- While the rolls cool, make the frosting. In a medium bowl, whip the softened butter until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the confectioner's sugar and 1 Tablespoon milk. Mix until smooth. Add additional milk to reach your desired consistency, if needed. Smooth the frosting on the rolls and serve immediately.