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These soft and gooey Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls are packed with nutritious ingredients, yet will satisfy any cinnamon roll craving. It's the perfect homemade breakfast recipe for holidays, birthdays, and celebrating the weekend.

Closeup of baked whole wheat cinnamon rolls with homemade frosting slathered on top.

Why From Scratch Cinnamon Rolls Are Worth It

It's no secret that you can head to the grocery store and find a wide array of canned cinnamon rolls that you can bring home and bake in less than 20 minutes. So what's the point in laboring over a from scratch cinnamon rolls recipe?

In 2024, you can still find store-bought cinnamon rolls for $5 or less. In fact, Walmart, one of the cheapest grocery stores in the US sells an 8-count can of cinnamon rolls for just $2.24. But that same can of cinnamon rolls is loaded with not-so-good-for-you ingredients – bleached flour, gums, artificial flavors, corn syrup, preservatives, etc. 

If you want a can of “healthier” store-bought cinnamon rolls, you're going to be forking out upwards of $10 a can! And still, these brands are made with refined sugars, refined flours, and subpar oils. 

This from scratch cinnamon rolls recipe is made with mostly pantry staples like 100% whole wheat flour, medjool dates, and a healthy cashew icing. All for less than $8 a batch. It's a naturally plant-based breakfast that is loaded with nutrition and ingredients I feel good about feeding my family. 

Plus, once you master a homemade cinnamon rolls recipe, your confidence in cooking from scratch will increase. Soon you'll be ready to save your family tons of money every year by making homemade pizza dough, dinner rolls, English muffins, naan, pancakes, homemade tortillas, burger buns, and more.

So without further ado, let's master this homemade whole wheat cinnamon roll recipe!

Ingredient Notes

Overview of the ingredients you will need to make this whole wheat cinnamon rolls recipe and homemade frosting. Ingredients are measured and labeled in small glass bowls.
  • Milk: We are a dairy-free household and always make this recipe with any non-dairy milk we have on hand. If you tolerate dairy, feel free to use a dairy milk here. 
  • Butter: Again, we use non-dairy milk, but dairy butter is great, too. If you are using a salted butter, reduce the salt in the cinnamon roll dough to just 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Yeast: Either instant yeast or active dry yeast work well here.
  • Whole wheat flour: I like to make these cinnamon rolls with 100% unbleached, whole wheat flour. If you want fluffier cinnamon rolls, use 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose flour. 
  • Dates: Medjool dates are the key ingredient in the filling. It creates the perfectly sweet, gooey filling, while being good for you too! If you're out of dates, I include a cinnamon sugar filling option below. 
  • Cashews: Raw cashews are the base of the icing recipe. If you prefer a cream cheese frosting or a more traditional icing, scroll down to the substitutions section.
  • Brown sugar: While mostly sweetened with dates, a small amount of brown sugar sweetens the dough and icing. Coconut sugar also works well for a fully refined-sugar free recipe. 
  • Baking powder: Whole wheat flour is significantly more dense than all-purpose flour. To make these fluffy cinnamon rolls, a bit of baking powder helps give them an extra lift! 

Substitutions

  • Simple cinnamon sugar filling: Are medjool dates out of your budget? No problem! Make a simple cinnamon sugar cinnamon roll filling with 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter (dairy or dairy-free), 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons whole wheat flour.
  • Cream cheese frosting: If you are allergic to cashews or are simply craving a more traditional cinnamon roll, make a cream cheese glaze by whisking together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons cream cheese (dairy or dairy-free), 2 tablespoons softened butter (dairy or dairy-free), 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. 

How to Make Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

4 image collage showing the step by step process of making cinnamon roll dough and homemade cinnamon roll filling.
  1. Activate the yeast. Add the warm milk, melted butter, and brown sugar to a large bowl. Mix together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the yeast and mix together. Set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes to activate the yeast. The mixture should be foamy. If it is not, your yeast is not alive, and you should start over with new yeast.
  2. Add the flour mixture. ​After 10 minutes and the yeast has bloomed, add the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix together using a wooden spoon until combined. 
  3. Rise for 1 hour. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place to let the dough rise for 1 hour. After 1 hour, the dough should be doubled in size. 
  4. Prepare the cinnamon date filling. Add the pitted dates to a medium mixing bowl and cover with boiling water (you can skip this step if your dates are really fresh and soft). Soak the dates for 20 minutes, or until softened. Drain thoroughly, then add the dates to a food processor along with cinnamon and sea salt. Pulse the filling together until smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom as needed. 
  5. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Once the dough has doubled in size, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until smooth, about 5-10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary if the dough is sticky. 
4 image collage showing how to roll out cinnamon roll dough, spread on filling, cut into strips, and place in a baking dish.
  1. Roll until the dough is 1/4″ thick. Flour a rolling pin and roll out the dough into a square that is roughly 1/4″ thick, about 15″x15″.
  2. Spread on the filling. ​Spread the date filling evenly over the surface, leaving a very small border around the edges. 
  3. Cut into 9 strips. ​Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into 9 even strips. Tightly roll each strip up to form a spiral. 
  4. Rise for 1 more hour. Transfer the cinnamon rolls to the prepared baking dish. Cover the cinnamon rolls with a damp tea towel and set aside for a second rise.
  5. Bake. ​Bake the cinnamon rolls for 25-30 minutes. When ready, the cinnamon rolls should be golden brown on top when done. 
Healthy homemade frosting in blender cup.
  1. Prepare the icing. While the cinnamon rolls bake, prepare the icing. Add the cashews to a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 30 minutes. Drain the cashews and add them to a high-speed blender along with the remaining icing ingredients. Start with 1 tablespoon of non-dairy milk, and add more if you want a thinner icing. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the blender as necessary.
  2. Drizzle with icing, then serve. Once the cinnamon rolls are baked, allow them to cool for 20 minutes before icing. Spread or pour on the icing, then serve the cinnamon rolls while warm. Enjoy!
Baked whole wheat cinnamon rolls in a white, square baking dish.

How to Make these Cinnamon Rolls in a Stand Mixer

Yes! If you own a stand mixer, whisk together the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. Instead of kneading the dough by hand, attach the dough hook and knead the dough with the stand mixer for 5-7 minutes at medium speed, or until smooth and sticky. 

Make Ahead Instructions 

​If you're making these cinnamon rolls for a holiday or hosting guests for brunch, prep them in advance for an easy, stress-free day. 

Follow the recipe through rolling the cinnamon rolls (step 6 in the recipe card below). Instead of covering with a damp towel to rise again, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. The homemade cashew icing can also be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight jar until ready to use. 

When ready to bake, remove the cinnamon rolls and frosting from the refrigerator and let warm to room temperature about 1 hour. Preheat and bake as usual. 

9 baked whole wheat cinnamon rolls in a square 8x8 baking dish topped with homemade cinnamon roll frosting.

Storage and Freezing Instructions

Leftover cinnamon rolls will keep for up to 5 days tightly covered in the refrigerator. Microwave for 10 seconds to warm slightly and make soft again. 

Baked rolls can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before enjoying again. 

Helpful Notes

  • Knead the dough properly: ​Whole wheat flour is more dense than white flour and requires more kneading to develop the gluten structure. Kneading the dough for a full 5-10 minutes will help make them as soft and fluffy as possible. 
  • Know that whole wheat doughs can take longer to rise. ​Whole wheat dough may take longer to rise compared to white flour dough. Be patient and allow the dough enough time to double in size during both the first and second rises. This will ensure that your cinnamon rolls are light and airy.
  • Enjoy while as fresh as possible! Whole wheat cinnamon rolls are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven when they are still warm and gooey. The next day they are definitely more dry! Serve them with a hot cup of coffee or tea for a delicious breakfast or snack.
Cinnamon roll topped with frosting on a speckled white plate.
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Healthier Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 55 minutes
Cost: $7.75 per recipe / $0.86 per cinnamon roll
These soft and gooey Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls are packed with nutritious ingredients, yet will satisfy any cinnamon roll craving. It's the perfect homemade breakfast recipe for holidays, birthdays, and celebrating the weekend.

Ingredients
 

Cinnamon Roll Dough:

  • 1 cup milk slightly warm to the touch (dairy or dairy-free) ($0.60)
  • ¼ cup butter melted (dairy or dairy-free) ($0.60)
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar or coconut sugar ($0.06)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast ($0.40)
  • cups (300 grams) whole wheat flour ($0.60)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder ($0.02)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt ($0.02)

Filling:

  • 1 cup (180 grams) medjool dates packed and pitted ($2.00)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon ($0.06)
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt ($0.01)

Cinnamon Roll Icing:

  • 1 cup cashews ($2.84)
  • 3 tablespoon brown sugar or coconut sugar ($0.09)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice ($0.15)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract ($0.12)
  • 2-6 tablespoons non-dairy milk ($0.18)

Instructions

  • Add the lukewarm non-dairy milk (should be roughly 105F-110F), melted butter, and brown sugar to a large bowl. Mix together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the yeast and mix together. Set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes to activate the yeast. The mixture should be foamy. If it is not, your yeast is not alive, and you should start over with new yeast.
  • After 10 minutes, add the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix together with a wooden spoon until everything is combined. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour to rise. After 1 hour, the dough should be roughly doubled in size.
  • While the dough is rising, prepare the cinnamon date filling. Add the pitted dates to a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for 20 minutes to soften. Drain and add to a food processor along with the cinnamon and salt. Pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
  • Once the dough has risen, transfer to a floured work surface. Knead until smooth, adding more flour as necessary if the dough is too sticky. This should take about 5-10 minutes.
  • Flour a rolling pin and roll out the dough into a rectangle roughly ¼” thick. Spread the date filling evenly over the surface. Cut the rectangle vertically into 9 even strips. Tightly roll each strip up to form a spiral. Transfer the rolls to the prepared baking dish.
  • Cover the cinnamon rolls with a damp kitchen towel and set aside for another hour to rise.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8” baking dish and set aside.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes. The cinnamon rolls should be golden brown on top when done.
  • While the cinnamon rolls bake, prepare the icing. Add the cashews to a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 30 minutes.
  • Drain the cashews and add to a high-speed blender along with the remaining icing ingredients. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the blender as necessary. Start with 1 tablespoon of non-dairy milk and add more if you want a thinner icing.
  • Once the cinnamon rolls are done, allow them to cool for 20 minutes before icing. Spread or pour on the icing and serve warm. Enjoy!
  • Simple cinnamon sugar filling: Are medjool dates out of your budget? No problem! Make a simple cinnamon sugar cinnamon roll filling with 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter (dairy or dairy-free), 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons whole wheat flour.
  • Cream cheese frosting: If you are allergic to cashews or are simply craving a more traditional cinnamon roll, make a cream cheese glaze by whisking together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons cream cheese (dairy or dairy-free), 2 tablespoons softened butter (dairy or dairy-free), 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. 

Notes

  • Make Ahead Instructions: Follow the recipe through rolling the cinnamon rolls (step 6 in the recipe card below). Instead of covering with a damp towel to rise again, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. The homemade cashew icing can also be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight jar until ready to use.  When ready to bake, remove the cinnamon rolls and frosting from the refrigerator and let warm to room temperature about 1 hour. Preheat and bake as usual. 
  • Storage: Leftover cinnamon rolls will keep for up to 5 days tightly covered in the refrigerator. Microwave for 10 seconds to warm slightly and make soft again. 
  • Freezing Instructions: Baked rolls can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before enjoying again. 

Nutrition

Calories: 468kcal | Carbohydrates: 80g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 278mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 26g

Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.

Course Breakfast
Cuisine American

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