My mom’s easy Caramel Rolls recipe features ultra soft and tender rolls that are stuffed with a sweet and buttery cinnamon swirl, then topped with soft, creamy caramel. These pillowy rolls are our Christmas morning tradition, the best caramel rolls in all the world!
The Best Caramel Rolls Recipe
My mom’s homemade Caramel Rolls are a Christmas morning tradition in our family – they’re pillowy soft and tender, absolutely irresistible. This easy caramel rolls recipe features flavorful yeasted dough rolled up with a buttery cinnamon-sugar filling, plus a delicious caramel that’s soft and creamy. I also share ways to prep and/or bake these rolls ahead of time. ENJOY!!
Why You’ll Love These Caramel Cinnamon Rolls
With rolls this good, we absolutely enjoy these rolls all year long – not just at Christmastime! Here’s why you’ll love this caramel cinnamon rolls recipe:
- Soft & tender. Really. I’m not exaggerating. When it comes to soft and tender caramel rolls, I beg you to find a recipe that beats out Mom’s recipe.
- Simple recipe. There’s something truly special about making homemade sweet rolls, yet so many people think it’s difficult. If you’ve wanted to make caramel rolls from scratch, THIS is your recipe!
- Easy to make ahead. I’ve included different options for preparing these rolls in advance. You can find the details lower down in this post.
- Makes a lot. This recipe gives you two pans of rolls, which works great for so many gatherings. You can also share a batch with neighbors – or tuck some away in the freezer for another time!
“OMG. The process was simple and the rolls are very awesomely delicious, no shortage on the caramel sauce which is a HUGE plus for us. Like others have said this will be my go to recipe from now on. I will be making again and again as we just love love caramel rolls. Thank you, this is a great recipe and you cannot go wrong and I am so glad I found your recipe and your mother should be proud of her recipe and that it is getting rave reviews deservedly so.”Marie
What You’ll Need
Here’s everything you’ll need to make these caramel cinnamon rolls. Scroll down to the printable recipe card at the end of this post for the exact ingredient amounts.
Dough for the rolls
- Yeast – Use packets of active dry yeast for this recipe.
- Water – You’ll need warm water to activate the yeast. Then you’ll need a separate cup of hot water and a cup of cold water
- Shortening – This helps make the rolls super tender. I use Crisco brand.
- Granulated sugar – To sweeten the dough a bit.
- Eggs – Eggs add rich texture and flavor. Beat the eggs, just to combine them well, before adding them to the dough mixture.
- All-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil – Just a little bit, to coat the dough while it’s rising, to keep the dough soft.
Cinnamon Sugar Filling
- Butter – This is melted, then brushed over the rolled-out dough to create the cinnamon-sugar swirl.
- Granulated sugar – This adds the sweetness to the swirl.
- Cinnamon – And this adds the delicious warm spice!
- Brown sugar – This gives the caramel its beautiful sweet flavor.
- Heavy cream – The caramel for these rolls has a lovely creamy texture, and this is why!
- Butter – The best caramel is rich with butter flavor!
- Corn syrup – This gives the caramel a very lightly sticky texture.
- Vanilla extract – Use pure vanilla extract for the very best flavor.
How to Make Caramel Rolls
Follow along with the photos below to help you make these easy caramel rolls with yeast. You’ll find the detailed instructions in the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Activate the yeast. Heat some water and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until it becomes frothy on top and smells “yeasty”.
- Melt the shortening. In a small saucepan, melt the shortening in water.
- Make the dough. In a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix together the shortening/water mixture, sugar, salt, eggs, and yeast mixture. Then add the flour, a cup at a time, until you have a very soft dough.
- Let dough rise. Place the dough in an oil-coated bowl and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
- Make caramel. Heat the brown sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup, and water just until it starts to bubble (do not let it boil), then divide it between two 9×13″ baking pans.
- Assemble. Roll out the dough into two rectangles. Brush the dough with melted butter, then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
- Roll. Starting with the wide side of the dough rectangle, roll the dough up tightly and pinch the seam to seal it.
- Form. Cut each dough roll into 12 equal slices and place them, cut sides up, in the pans with caramel.
- Let the rolls rise. Let the dough rise again in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Bake. Bake at 350° F until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
- Serve. Let the rolls rest for about 30 minutes (if you can wait that long!), then serve them straight from the pan!
Tips for Success + Variations
A few tips to help you make these easy yeasted caramel rolls:
- Don’t kill the yeast. To activate the yeast, take care to use water that’s not overly hot as this will kill the yeast. I use a candy thermometer. Otherwise, aim for a warmth similar to how you’d feed a baby a warm bottle of milk.
- Lightly flour. Dust your working surface and rolling pin, so the dough doesn’t stick when you roll it.
- Serve straight from the pan. We always serve these caramel rolls straight out of the pan (leaving the caramel at the bottom) – so easy!!
- Or flip them! You can also flip the rolls out onto a platter so that the caramel is on top. Let the caramel rolls sit for 15 minutes so the caramel sets a bit. Then VERY CAREFULLY (the caramel is HOT) flip out the rolls: Place a serving platter upside-down on top of the pan of caramel rolls. Then use hot pads to tightly grip both the pan and the serving platter at the same time, and flip everything over together, in one quick, swift motion.
- Make ahead: After Step 4, place the dough in a large airtight container coated with oil. Spray one side of a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick spray and place it directly on top of the dough (this keeps the plastic from sticking to the dough). Put the lid on and refrigerate. When you’re ready to bake the rolls, take out the chilled dough and let it come to room temperature before forming it into rolls. Then prepare the caramel in Step 6, and proceed with the recipe. Note that when the dough is cold, it will take longer to rise in the pan.
- Try different spices. You could use pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice instead of only cinnamon. Or try adding ground cardamom, ginger, or nutmeg along with the cinnamon.
- Add nuts. To make caramel pecan rolls, sprinkle 1 cup of chopped roasted nuts over the caramel in the pan, before adding the rolls to the pan.
Serve freshly baked caramel rolls for breakfast, brunch, or dessert. Here are some suggestions for how to serve these sweet rolls:
- With other breakfast sweets. Make a breakfast sweets buffet with more decadent breakfast pastries! Try my banana bread muffins, apple bread, blueberry tea cake, or sour cream coffee cake recipes.
- Alongside brunch favorites. Serve a warm pan of caramel rolls with a prosciutto-flecked overnight egg bake, my cottage cheese egg bake, or a crab and bacon crustless quiche. Cheesy hashbrown casserole and a fruit-filled breakfast salad are always welcome, too!
- A special coffee. Make a cafe-worthy coffee drink at home to go with these rolls. Try my creamy cortadito, our favorite iced brown sugar oatmilk shaken espresso, or pumpkin cold brew recipes.
- Add a festive cocktail. Go all in on the holiday brunch theme and serve a refreshing limoncello spritz or a beautiful cranberry margarita, or a pitcher of Christmas sangria.
Here’s how to store and rewarm your caramel rolls:
- Counter – Place leftover caramel rolls in an airtight container and store them on the counter for up to 3 days.
- Fridge – Store baked caramel rolls in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Freezer – Place the baked, cooled rolls in an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Remove the rolls from the freezer the night before you want to eat them, and place them in the fridge to thaw.
- To Reheat – Place caramel cinnamon rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and warm them in a 250° F oven for 5-15 minutes before serving. Or use the microwave: first warm for 10-15 seconds, then add 5-second intervals if needed.
More Sweet Breakfast Ideas
FOR THE ROLLS:
- 4½ teaspoons active dry yeast 2 packets @ .25 ounce each
- ½ cup warm water 110° to 115° F, which is nice and warm, but not hot
- 1 cup hot water
- ¾ cup shortening
- 1 cup cold water
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 heaping teaspoon Morton kosher salt
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 7½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
FOR THE CINNAMON SUGAR FILLING
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons cinnamon
FOR THE CARAMEL:
- 2¼ cups light brown sugar
- 2¼ cups heavy cream
- ¾ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons white corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Rolls
- Place the warm water (110° to 115° F) in a small bowl or measuring cup. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and set aside for 5 minutes, or until it becomes frothy on top and smells "yeasty". Very lightly butter the insides of two 9″ x 13″ pans, then set aside – Mom always prefers light-colored aluminum baking pans for this recipe.
- In a small pan over medium heat, melt shortening in 1 cup of hot water. Remove from heat and add 1 cup cold water.
- Add the water and shortening mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer, and then add the ¾ cup sugar, salt, and eggs, followed by the activated yeast mixture. With a dough hook attachment, mix these ingredients just until combined.
- Then add the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing it in almost entirely each time before adding the next cup. When all flour has been incorporated, you will have a very soft dough that is easy to handle. At this point you can either use the dough right away or store the dough in the refrigerator for up to a week to make the rolls at a later time (see Notes section for details).
- Cover the inside of a large bowl with a very light coating of oil. Place dough in the oiled bowl, turning it over to get some oil on all sides, so the top of the dough stays soft. Cover top of bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm place. Let dough rise to about double the original amount. This can take at least an hour, depending on the warmth of your surroundings, etc.
For the Caramel
- While the dough is rising, prepare the caramel. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together brown sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup, and water until melted and combined. When it just starts to bubble (do not let it boil), remove the saucepan from the heat. It will have a cloudy appearance and will stay soft once the rolls are cooked. Divide the caramel between the two 9″ x 13″ pans, then set the pans aside to let the caramel cool while the dough continues to rise.
- Once the dough has doubled, score it in half. With a rolling pin, on a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough half into a large rectangle shape, about 14″ x 8″.
- Using the Cinnamon Sugar Filling ingredients, brush half of the melted butter over one dough rectangle. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle half the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the melted butter on the dough rectangle. Starting with the wide side of the dough rectangle, roll the dough up tightly, and finish by pinching the seam to seal it. Cut the dough roll into 12 equal slices, using a sharp serrated knife or a piece of dental floss or thread. Place dough slices, cut-sides facing up, in one of the 9″ x 13″ pans with caramel in the bottom. Repeat with the other half of the dough, to create a second pan of rolls.
- Cover each pan with a clean kitchen towel and let dough rise again in a warm place, until dough has doubled in size. This can take at least an hour, depending on the warmth of your surroundings.
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Place pans in oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. If you want to turn the rolls out onto a platter, let the rolls rest for 5-10 minutes after removing them from the oven before doing so. We usually just serve the rolls straight from the pan. If the rolls are at room temperature, I highly suggest warming them up just a bit, so they're warm and super tender!
This post was originally published in 2014, then updated in 2023.