These Vegan Cinnamon Rolls pair a sweet, ethereal dough with swirls of buttery, brown sugar and cinnamon filling for a breakfast worthy of a special occasion. The tangy vegan cream cheese icing is the perfect finishing touch!
Cinnamon rolls are a labor of love, and this is true of vegan cinnamon rolls as well.
Unless you’re making the cinnamon rolls that come in a refrigerated tube, you’re working with yeast dough, which requires some time, patience, and finessing. Your efforts will be rewarded, though, as your whole kitchen is filled with the smell of cinnamon and sweet dough baking in the oven—and when you take that first bite once your cinnamon rolls are done. Based on my vegan dinner rolls, you are in for such a treat with this recipe. It took me months to perfect this but I am finally SO excited to be sharing this recipe with you!
While the cinnamon filling and cream cheese frosting get all the attention when it comes to cinnamon rolls, you can’t underestimate the importance of good dough, and I’ve got an awesome recipe for that. It’s inspired by Japanese milk bread, so it’s sweet, cloud-like, and it even lasts longer than a typical bread (or cinnamon roll) thanks to a tangzhong starter.
What Is Tangzhong?
Tangzhong is a technique used for making yeast bread that involves cooking some of the flour in liquid to pre-gelatinize the starches.
While this sounds very technical, what it means for you is that the flour is better able to retain liquid, resulting in a soft, moist, cloud-like bread (or cinnamon roll) that can be stored longer than a traditional bread.
Many Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean breads are made with tangzhong, but the most popular bread using tangzhong is Japanese milk bread (recipe coming soon!), also known as Hokkaido milk bread.
Notes on Ingredients
Please note that this is important information on the ingredients and instructions and the FULL recipe with amounts and details can be found DOWN BELOW (scroll to it) in the recipe card.
For the tangzhong:
- Bread flour – Bread flour has higher protein than all-purpose flour, resulting in a more elastic dough.
- Soy milk – you can use another plant milk but I like soy milk for its high protein.
For the vegan cinnamon rolls:
- Bread flour
- Brown sugar – I recommend using light brown sugar.
- Instant yeast – Learn more: How to Test Yeast to see if it’s still Good
- Sea salt
- Ground cinnamon
- Soy milk – It should be warm to touch, or between 110°F to 120°F if you have a thermometer. You can use another plant milk but I like soy milk for its high protein.
- Vegan butter – Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop.
For the filling:
- Brown sugar
- Vegan butter – This will also need to be melted.
- Ground cinnamon
For the frosting:
- Vegan cream cheese – Let this come to room temperature.
- Vegan butter
- Vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- Sea salt
- Powdered sugar – Sift the sugar after measuring it to ensure that your icing is free of lumps!
Which Type of Cinnamon Is Best?
There are two categories of cinnamon: cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. Within the cassia cinnamon family, there’s Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon cinnamon.
Saigon cinnamon is considered the most flavourful and aromatic cassia variety, so it’s the best for making cinnamon rolls, but the more widely-available Indonesian cinnamon and the rarer Ceylon variety are also excellent choices. (Chinese cinnamon is primarily used for medicinal purposes.)
How to Make Vegan Cinnamon Rolls
Make sure you have a good block of time set aside to make this recipe. It’s not hard, but there are a lot of steps involved!
Make the tangzhong:
Cook the mixture. In a small pan set over medium-high heat, whisk together the bread flour, soy milk, and water. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens; it will be quite thick, almost like a pudding or a slurry.
Chill. Pour the tangzhong into a small bowl and allow it to chill for about 10 minutes in the fridge.
Make the cinnamon roll dough:
Combine the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the bread flour, sugar, instant yeast, sea salt, and cinnamon.
Add the remaining dough ingredients. Create a well in the centre of the flour. Slowly pour in the warm milk, vegan butter, and Tangzhong mixture. Stir until just incorporated, forming a shaggy dough.
Rest. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
Knead. Use your dough hook to knead the dough for 15 minutes on medium speed (speed 4 for a KitchenAid stand mixer), stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. The dough might be sticky at first, but you can add up to 2 additional tablespoons of flour; you want the dough to be smooth, with slight dimples with a bit of tension formed. Stretch the dough up and onto itself and pull or roll it into a smooth ball.
Let the dough rise. Lightly grease the bowl with oil and place the dough ball back into it. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it sit for at least 1 hour, or up to 90 minutes, on the counter in a warm area or overnight for about 8-12 hours in the fridge. The dough should double in size.
Roll out the dough. Gently punch down the dough, then pull the sides in on each other and fold it a few times. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 12 x 12 inch square.
Fill and assemble:
Make the cinnamon filling. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the brown sugar, melted vegan butter, ground cinnamon, and flour.
Form the dough into a log. Spread the filling over the top of the dough, to the edges. Pat it to help it stick. Working from the right side to the left, roll the dough tightly over and onto itself, forming a log. Use a large spatula and lift the dough onto a baking sheet and place it in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Cut the rolls. Use unflavoured dental floss or a sharp serrated knife to cut the dough into 9 equal pieces.
Let the rolls rise. Place the cut cinnamon rolls into a greased 9-inch square or round pan, spacing them evenly so they have room to expand. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes; start preheating your oven to 350ºF during the last 15 minutes of the rising time.
Bake. Bake the rolls for 25 minutes in the centre of the oven. Cool for 10 minutes before adding the frosting.
Make the frosting:
Beat the butter and cream cheese. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until they’re incorporated, light, and fluffy.
Add the remaining ingredients. Beat in the vanilla, salt, and a cup of powdered sugar and the cornstarch. Mix for about 2 minutes, or until incorporated.
Chill. Refrigerate the frosting for at least 4 hours, or overnight, if you have the time. Otherwise, spread the frosting onto the cinnamon rolls and serve.
What Is a Good Substitute for Cream Cheese Icing?
If you can’t find vegan cream cheese locally or you’re just not a fan of cream cheese icing, you can use a vegan vanilla buttercream or make a simple glaze by combining powdered sugar with a splash of plant milk; stir and keep adding milk a teaspoon at a time until the mixture reaches your desired consistency.
Tips for Success
Here are a few hints and tips to make these vegan cinnamon rolls a little bit easier.
- Making the tangzhong. After cooking the tangzhong, I let it chill while I gather up the rest of the ingredients for the recipe.
- Creating the perfect environment for dough to rise. If your kitchen is too cold or drafty, your dough won’t rise to its full potential. Place the bowl of dough in an oven with the pilot light on, which will provide enough residual heat for it to rise.
- Working with the dough. You can chill the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before rolling it out if your kitchen is warm; this will make it easier to work with.
- Preventing burning. If your cinnamon rolls begin to brown too quickly, tent them with foil in the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking time.
How to Store
With the cream cheese frosting on these cinnamon rolls, you’ll need to keep them in the refrigerator. They’ll last for up to a week in the fridge; let them come to room temperature before you eat them, or warm them up in the microwave for a few seconds—just enough to heat them slightly without completely melting the frosting.
Can I Freeze This Recipe?
You can freeze vegan cinnamon rolls for up to 3 months. Either freeze them without the icing or place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, freeze them uncovered until the icing is frozen solid, and then wrap them in plastic wrap. Let the cinnamon rolls thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
Enjoy friends! If you make this vegan cinnamon roll recipe, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love it if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!
Vegan Cinnamon Rolls
- 2 tablespoons bread flour 15g
- ¼ cup soy milk (or other non dairy milk such as oat milk, cashew milk or other higher protein non dairy milk) 60mL
- 2 tablespoons water 30mL
- 3 cups bread flour 360g – reserve two tablespoons for when kneading
- ¼ cup brown sugar 50g
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast about 1 packet
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ cup soy milk not hot – warm to touch ranging between 110°F to 120°F (or other non dairy milk such as oat milk, cashew milk or other higher protein non dairy milk) 180mL
- ⅓ cup melted vegan butter 69g
- ⅔ cup brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons melted vegan butter
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ tablespoons flour
- 2 ounces vegan cream cheese bring to room temperature
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar 120g, sifted
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch sifted
- In a small pan, whisk together the bread flour, vegan milk and water until mixed together. Add the pan to the stove over medium high and stir until the mixture thickens up which will happen quickly, within 1 minute or 2. It’ll look thick, almost like a pudding or a slurry.
- Remove from heat and pour into a small bowl and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes in the fridge. I like to do this first while I’m assembling the rest of the ingredients.
CINNAMON ROLLS AND FILLING:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the bread flour, sugar, instant yeast, sea salt and cinnamon. Whisk the ingredients together.
- Create a well in the centre of the flour. Slowly add the warm milk, vegan butter and Tangzhong mixture from earlier to the dry ingredients, and then mix together with a spatula until JUST incorporated. The dough should look shaggy.
- Cover with a kitchen towel and let it sit for about 10 minutes to rest and allow the ingredients to absorb together.
- Using your dough hook, knead the dough for 15 full minutes on medium (speed 4 for a Kitchenaid). You can pause halfway for a minute or two to scrape down your bowl.
- The dough might be sticky at first, but you can add up to 2 tablespoons of flour while kneading about 5 minutes in to make it easier to manage. You want the end dough ball to be smooth, with slight dimples with a bit of tension formed. Stretch the dough up and onto itself and pull/roll into a smooth ball.
- Lightly grease the bowl of the dough with some additional oil and place the dough ball back into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it sit for at least 1 hour to 90 minutes max on the counter in a WARM area OR overnight for about 8-12 hours in the fridge (I usually do overnight). If your kitchen is too cold, you can place it in your OFF oven with the pilot light on which will provide enough residual heat for it to rise. The dough should rise and double in size.
- Punch down the dough. Pull the sides in on each other and fold over the dough a few times.
- You may want to refrigerate the dough for about 15 minutes now. I find that working with it cold to roll is so much easier, especially if you live in a warm environment.
- On a floured surface and using your rolling pin, roll out your dough to a 12 inch x 12 inch square. Feel free to use your hand to gently stretch to the square.
- In a bowl, mix together the filling ingredients: the brown sugar, melted vegan butter, ground cinnamon and the flour until one cohesive mix.
- Spread your filling all over the top of the dough – going all the way to the edges. Pat it in.
- Rolling from the right side to the left (I find it easier this way), roll the dough tightly over and onto itself into a tight log. At this point, I use a large spatula and lift the dough onto a baking sheet and place it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Again, cutting the dough into the cinnamon rolls is so much easier cold!
- Remove your dough and you can gently mark off 9 equally shaped pieces on your log. Using unflavoured dental floss or a sharp serrated knife, cut the dough into 9 pieces.
- Place the 9 pieces into a buttered 9” square or round pan. Place the pieces evenly so that they can rise evenly (so try to space them out adequately.
- Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes.
- You can also begin preheating your oven to 350°F/180°C within the last 15 minutes so it’s ready when they’re done rising.
- Bake your rolls for 25 minutes in the middle of the oven. Remove from the oven. If they begin to brown too quickly, cover with foil in the last 5-10 minutes.
- Remove the rolls from the oven and let sit on the counter for 10 minutes. Cover with your frosting, pull, and enjoy!
- In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together for about 2 minutes until fully incorporated.
- Add in the vanilla extract or paste and the pinch of salt.
- Add in a cup of sifted powdered sugar and all of the sifted cornstarch. Mix for about 2 minutes or until incorporated. Place the frosting wrapped or covered into the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight, until being used. You can enjoy it right away, but it will thicken up beautifully in the fridge. I’ve found that either way since it’s going on something warm, applying it right away is fine!