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 (breakfast, brunch, dessert??). I added raisins to the filling, but you could easily change that for something else (check out some of my favorite variations below)!
These are not overly sweet, and they're dairy-free, and I promise you won't even miss it! I do use butter, but you could use a dairy-free butter substitute if you like.
If you don't have sourdough discard, you can still make this recipe! There are a few tweaks you'll need to make, and I've listed those in the post below.
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!
You likely have everything you need in your pantry, ready 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. You could also use water, but I find the milk adds a nice flavor (and a little more fat content). Heat the milk in the microwave until warm but not boiling.
- Dairy-free yogurt: I love to use yogurt in baking. It adds moisture, but also a bit of that yogurt tang. Plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt works best, and you could use regular yogurt (not dairy-free), if that works for you! Make sure the yogurt is room temperature before you get started.
- Active yeast: you only need a little bit, but this will work with the sourdough discard to provide the lift to make these rolls fluffy.
- Egg: you will want the egg to be room temperature as well.
- Sourdough discard: you will need 1 cup of sourdough discard, unfed and at room temperature. This recipe is designed for sourdough discard with a 1:1 ratio (1 part flour, 1 part water).
- Bread flour: bread flour helps give these rolls a bit of an outer crust. You could use all-purpose flour in a pinch, which will give you a softer roll.
- 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, but I think they add a nice pop to the recipe. See the variations section below for a few other add-in ideas!
- Cinnamon: for this recipe, we add cinnamon to the dough, but also to the layer in between the rolls.
- Confectioner's sugar: this is the base for the icing on top. I like to sift the sugar so it's extra smooth, but it's not essential!
See full recipe below for detailed directions.
Letting the dough rise for enough time is the key to success with this recipe. There are a few steps you'll need to follow to create the best Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls possible!
Mix the dough ingredients, then place in a large, greased bowl and let rise for 60-90 minutes until doubled in size.
Roll the dough into a roughly 9x14inch rectangle on a floured surface.
Spread the dough with the softened butter, then sprinkle with cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins.
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 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. Cover with a towel and let rise 30-45 minutes.
After the second rise, the rolls will fill the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to let cool.
Once cooled, spread the rolls with the icing and serve.
Hint: If you add the icing before the rolls are cooled, they will still be delicious. The icing 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. First, you want to make sure the rolls are equal in size 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 size.
There are two ways to cut the 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.
- Use a sharp knife: You can also use a large, sharp knife to cut the rolls. Again, you want them to be equal size, 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).
I like to first cut the log in half, then cut each of those halves in half again. That will give you 8 equal-sized rolls!
What is Sourdough Discard?
Sourdough discard 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 for baking recipes (like these Sourdough Discard Pretzels or Sourdough Discard Naan)!
There are a few easy substations you can make with this recipe, if needed:
- Use 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 dairy-free butter - I use regular butter in this recipe (that works for me personally, but I realize it won't work for everyone). If needed, you can use a dairy-free butter substitute.
Feel free to use substitutes as are needed for you!
This is a very flexible recipe and there are several variations that would be delicious to make. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Sourdough Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls - Add 1 tablespoon lemon zest to the dough as it's mixing, and omit the raisins during the rolling step. Add ½ cup to ¾ cup fresh blueberries before you roll the dough!
- Sourdough Almond Cinnamon Rolls - Omit the raisins and add ½ cup coarsely chopped almonds before you roll the dough.
- Sourdough Coconut Cinnamon Rolls - Omit the raisings and add ½ cup to ¾ cup shredded coconut before you roll the dough.
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 icing on the rolls before serving.
A key tip to storage is trying to reserve a bit of the icing for when the rolls are reheated. This way you can add more icing on top once they're reheated. 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. Top them with some of the reserved icing before serving.
Letting the dough rise for enough time is key to getting those big, fluffy cinnamon rolls we all love. The rise time will vary depending on the temperature of your room. If your room is cold (like it might be in the winter), rising will take longer. If the room is warm (like a warm, sunny day), the rising will take a shorter amount of time. Keep an eye on the dough and look for it to double in size, then it's ready!
When certain ingredients (like milk, yogurt, eggs, etc.) are cold, it will impact the rise of the dough, and potentially 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.
This recipe is designed to be made with sourdough discard. Without it, you would need to make adjustments to several of the ingredients.
No! The raisins are optional. You can leave them out entirely, or use something else (like almonds or shredded coconut), if you like. There are a few other ideas in the "variations" section above.
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.
Try to find a pan that is close to this size. If your pan is slightly larger or smaller, it will be ok, but you don't want to use a pan that is a drastically different size.
Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls
For the Rolls
- ¾ cup dairy-free milk warmed
- 1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg room temperature
- 1 cup sourdough discard unfed, at room temperature
- ¼ cup dairy-free plain or vanilla yogurt room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 3 ¼ cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
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
- 1 ½ cups confectioner's sugar sifted
- 1-2 Tablespoons dairy-free milk
- Warm the milk (should not be boiling) and add to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. 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, egg, sourdough discard, dairy-free yogurt and melted butter and stir to combine. Add flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and salt. Stir until a smooth dough forms, then transfer to a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 60-90 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- After the first rise, transfer the dough to a floured surface. Roll the dough into a 9x14-inch rectangle. Spread with softened butter and sprinkle with brown sugar, 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 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 dish, cut-side facing up. There should be some room for the rolls to expand in the dish. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise 30-45 minutes, until they have expanded to fill the dish.
- 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, then with the mixer on low, slowly add the confectioner's sugar. Add dairy-free milk, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. Smooth the frosting on the rolls and serve.