Do you dream of waking up to a delicious platter of cinnamon rolls every morning? These Apple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls are incredibly decadent and sweet and will make your weekend brunch (or weekday breakfast!) complete.
Is there anything you could eat every day for the rest of your life and be perfectly happy doing so? I have a few things I could make a variation of each day and never tired of for at least 10 years. Those things include cupcakes, flatbread, and risotto. (And if martinis count, then those, too).
But let's talk cinnamon rolls (buns? I still can't figure out the difference) for a minute because they might be #1 on the list. Really, I'd be happy eating a basic cinnamon roll every morning, but because there are so many different variations of cinnamon rolls, I could actually have a different type every day. And live happily ever after.
I remember the first time I made cinnamon rolls and thought they were such a huge time-consuming undertaking. Now that I've made them many, many times, I can almost do them with my eyes closed (is this a good or a bad thing? I'm not quite sure).
I recently re-made these apple walnut cinnamon rolls that I first made back in 2011. Since I've made cinnamon buns about a thousand times since 2011, I made a few improvements to this recipe and dare I say it... But these apple walnut cinnamon rolls are the very best I've made!
👩🍳 Are cinnamon rolls hard to make?
The good news is.... cinnamon rolls are easy to make! They may seems a little bit intimidating if you've never made a dough-based recipe before, but I promise it's not hard. And homemade cinnamon rolls are SO much more delicious than the kind you buy in a can.
The dough is very easy to make (I have a few tips below!) and it's not tough to roll out, especially since you don't have to be exact with it. Honestly, even if you're cinnamon rolls are a little "rough" looking, by the time you bake them and top with icing, they're going to look and taste wonderful!
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
There's nothing quite as satisfying as making your own cinnamon rolls from scratch. And these ones, packed with apples and walnuts, are extra special.
Whether you're making them to enjoy on a Sunday morning with your family or you're bringing them to a brunch with friends, everyone is going to rave over the fact you made these by yourself.
They're the perfect fall breakfast treat!
The list of ingredients for this recipe may seem a bit extensive, but they're mostly pretty basic ingredients and you likely already have a lot of them in your kitchen!
Here's everything you need for the cinnamon rolls (be sure to view the recipe card at the bottom of this post for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions):
- Whole milk
- Vegetable oil
- Granulated sugar
- Dry active yeast
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Unsalted butter
- Brown sugar: light or dark
- Chopped walnuts
And here's what you need for the icing:
- Confectioners' sugar
- Unsalted butter
- Vanilla extract
🍎 How to make apple walnut cinnamon rolls
Now that you know cinnamon rolls are super easy to make, let's dive into the recipe for this apple walnut variety.
We'll start by baking the dough. Heat milk, vegetable oil, and ½ cup granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Let the mixture get really hot, but remove from heat right before it comes to a boil. Pour milk mixture into a large bowl and let cool to lukewarm.
Once lukewarm, sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let sit for a minute before adding 4 cups of flour to the bowl and stirring until just combined.
Now the dough needs to rise! Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a relatively warm place to rise for an hour. After an hour, the dough should be risen quite a bit.
Now, add add 2 Tbsp cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and remaining ½ cup of flour to the dough and stir thoroughly to combine. Here's where you could cover the bowl and pop in the fridge if you want.
Otherwise, you're ready to roll the dough out. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle, about 30×10 inches. It can be a rough size, don't worry too much about being exact, but try your best to have the dough even in terms of thickness.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and pour 1 Tbsp of it each into two round baking dishes or pie plates (you can also use disposable foil cake pans). Pour the rest over the dough and use a pastry brush (or your fingers) to spread the butter evenly.
Generously sprinkle brown sugar and remaining 2 Tbsp cinnamon over the butter.
And top with diced apples and walnuts. Look at how fully loaded that dough is!
I didn't peel my apples because I liked the flash of red (though it wasn't totally obvious when they were baked). You can peel if you want, but they're diced so small, the skin shouldn't bother you.
Starting at the long end farthest from you, roll the dough tightly toward you using both hands to roll evenly. Pinch the seams together at ends.
Transfer dough to a cutting board and using a sharp knife, cut dough into roughly 1 ½-inch slices. Place rolls into preparing pans, taking care not to over-crowd the pans. Cover with a kitchen towel for about 20 minutes, so they can rise again. While they're rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Or you could always cover them with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Now, bake rolls for 18-22 minutes, until they're turning golden around the edges. Remove from oven and immediately pour icing over them.
The icing is legit just confectioners' sugar, milk, melted butter, and vanilla all whisked together in a bowl.
I say this every time I bake cinnamon buns, but your house/apartment/hut is going to start smelling SO good around minute 10. The neighbors might be jealous, especially if you live in an apartment building like I did when I first started making cinnamon buns.
It was probably a missed opportunity I didn't try to make friends in my apartment building because I'm pretty sure it would have been easy with these baking in my kitchen.
Honestly, I try to stick to making cinnamon rolls for holidays and special occasions, but these apple walnut cinnamon rolls may be too delicious for me to resist. They're an awesome change from the typical plain cinnamon roll and actually taste a lot like an apple turnover or an apple pastry you'd get at a really good bakery.
Almost a little bit classier than a regular cinnamon roll? Can a cinnamon roll be described as classy? I'm not sure, but if they can, I guess adding apples and walnuts will help them get there.
💡 Tips for making cinnamon rolls
In my opinion there are just a few important things you need to make your own cinnamon rolls easily:
- Time: You want to make sure you give your dough enough time to rise and there are no shortcuts around that! Don't try to rush these cinnamon buns and plan to spend about an hour making them, plus 1 hour and 20 minutes for the dough to rise.
- Fresh yeast and good rising conditions: Probably the biggest problem you hear from people making cinnamon rolls is "why didn't my dough rise??" The answer is usually because your yeast isn't fresh (here's a trick for determining the freshness of your yeast).
A few other reasons your dough isn't rising? Your milk mixture was too hot when you added the yeast (make sure it's lukewarm), your kitchen is too cold (yeast likes a warm spot to rise- sometimes I turn on the oven and place the bowl on the back of the stove), or you didn't cover your bowl with a towel (the dough could dry out).
- Space: Having enough counter space to roll the cinnamon roll dough out is key. I recommend rolling the dough to 30"x10" so make sure you have enough space for that. If you don't? You can easily divide the dough into 2 portions and roll one out (15"x5" inches), add half the topping ingredients, roll, and slice and then repeat with the second portion. No problem!
⏲️ Can I make cinnamon rolls ahead of time?
So, you want cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but don't want to get up at the crack of dawn to make the dough, let it rise, roll it out, slice the rolls, bake the rolls, etc. etc.?? I don't blame you! The good news is there are portions of this recipe you can do ahead of time. You even have a couple options!
If you want, you can make the dough in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and stick the bowl in the fridge immediately after step 5 in the recipe below. Then in the morning, you can roll out the dough and bake the rolls.
If you'd rather not deal with any dough rolling in the morning, you can work through step 10 and then cover the pans with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. In the morning, just bring to room temperature and bake as instructed.
Since this recipe makes 2 pans of cinnamon rolls, I often place a pan in the freezer after step 10. Then, whenever I'm in the mood for cinnamon rolls, I just take out of the freezer, bring to room temperature and bake.
Whether you're hosting a brunch party, looking for a dish to bring to a friend's brunch, or simply want a delicious treat of a breakfast on the weekend, these apple walnut cinnamon rolls are the perfect idea.
Plus, if you keep one dish in the freezer, you'll be able to enjoy these any time you get a craving (or when a friend randomly pops over!). Every time I have a dish of them in my freezer, I manage to forget about them and then get so, so excited when I open my freezer and see them waiting for me.
🎉 More cinnamon roll recipes
I promise that after you learn to make cinnamon rolls from scratch, you're going to want to make them all the time! Here are some of my favorite recipes for when you're ready for more:
I also can't wait to make these Nutella Cinnamon Rolls!
OK, if I'm actually going to eat cinnamon rolls every morning for the rest of my life (dare me??), I better start dreaming up some new recipes!
What's your dream cinnamon roll variation?
Apple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2 ¼ tsp (or 1 packet) dry active yeast
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for rolling dough
- ¼ cup cinnamon, divided
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ Tbsp salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter,
- 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
- 2 apples, cored and diced (can peel if you want)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Cinnamon Roll Icing (recipe below)
Cinnamon Roll Icing
- 1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Heat milk, vegetable oil, and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Let the mixture get really hot, but remove from heat right before it comes to a boil. Pour milk mixture into a large bowl and let cool to lukewarm.
- Sprinkle yeast over milk mixture and let sit for about 1 minute.
- Add 4 cups of the flour to the bowl and stir until just combined.
- Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a relatively warm place to rise for an hour.
- Remove towel and add 2 Tbsp cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and remaining ½ cup of flour and stir thoroughly to combine.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle, about 30×10 inches.
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and pour 1 Tbsp of the melted butter into each of two round baking dishes or pie plates (you can also use disposable foil cake pans).
- Pour remaining 6 Tbsp melted butter over the surface of the dough and use a pastry brush (or your fingers) to spread the butter evenly. Generously sprinkle brown sugar and remaining 2 Tbsp cinnamon over the butter and top with diced apples and walnuts.
- Starting at the long end farthest from you, roll the dough tightly toward you using both hands to roll evenly. Pinch the seams together at ends. Transfer dough to a cutting board and using a sharp knife, cut dough into roughly 1 ½-inch slices.
- Place rolls into preparing pans, taking care not to over-crowd the pans. Cover the pans with a kitchen towel for about 20 minutes, so they can rise again. While they're rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Bake rolls for 18-22 minutes, until they're turning golden around the edges. Remove from oven and immediately pour icing over them.
Cinnamon Roll Icing
- In a medium bowl, whisk all the ingredients together until smooth.
- To make cinnamon rolls ahead of time, you can cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in fridge for up to three days after performing step 5 and finish rolling dough and forming rolls when ready. You can also place rolls in fridge overnight or in the freezer for longer after arranging them in the pan (step 10) and covering tightly with plastic wrap. Simply bring to room temperature and bake when ready.
- If you want to save a pan of cinnamon rolls for later, after arranging rolls in pan, wrap tightly in saran wrap and place in refrigerator or freezer until ready to bake. Simply bring to room temperature and bake when ready.