Homemade apple cinnamon rolls have warm and gooey centers, golden brown edges, and a generous drizzle of sweet caramel icing on top. Start the day with a treat that’s half apple pie and half homemade cinnamon rolls in one!
This recipe is brought to you in partnership with Red Star Yeast.
Greeting us all at the corner of comfort food and calorie-laden are APPLE CINNAMON ROLLS drowning in caramel icing. Each bite combines our favorite flavors of apple pie with the pure goodness of cinnamon rolls. Move over every other type of cinnamon roll out there… there’s a new boss in town. (We still love you, maple cinnamon rolls.)
There are 3 parts to love about today’s apple cinnamon rolls:
- Rich, homemade cinnamon roll dough
- Cinnamon-spiced brown sugar apple filling
- Sweet caramel icing (!!)
Let’s get down to basics, though. How many of you are nervous when it comes to yeast? Proofing it, working with it, kneading dough. Forget the haunted hay ride this year, yeast is terrifying enough, right?? Well, trust me, I used to fear working with yeast too. But once I started to use it, my fears quickly subsided.
Apple Cinnamon Rolls Ingredients
The dough we use to make apple cinnamon rolls is a rich dough, which means that it’s prepared with fat like milk, butter, and eggs. Rich doughs make soft breads such as Nutella babka, dinner rolls, and glazed doughnuts. It’s soft and supple, rises up beautifully, and has this crazy awesome buttery flavor. Lean doughs, on the other hand, are made without much fat and produce crusty bread such as focaccia, homemade bagels, and pizza dough.
You need 7 ingredients for apple cinnamon roll dough:
- Milk: Liquid activates the yeast. Nondairy or low fat milks are fine, but whole milk produces phenomenal flavor and texture.
- Yeast: You can use active dry yeast or instant yeast. I recommend Platinum Yeast from Red Star, which is an instant yeast blended with natural dough improvers.
- Sugar: Sugar feeds the yeast, increases its activity, and tenderizes the dough.
- Eggs: Eggs provide structure and flavor.
- Butter: Butter promises a flavorful dough.
- Salt: You can’t make flavorful cinnamon rolls without salt!
- Flour: All-purpose flour is the structure of the dough.
And just a few more ingredients for the filling + glaze:
- Filling: Butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and apples
- Glaze: Confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, milk, and salted caramel
How to Make Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Nothing compares to the flavor of homemade and you’ll be surprised how quickly these cinnamon rolls come together. You can even get started on these rolls the night before!
- Prepare the dough: The dough comes together with a mixer. You can also make the dough by hand, but it requires a bit of arm muscle. After the dough comes together in the mixing bowl, it’s time to knead. You can simply continue beating the dough with the mixer for this step or you can knead the dough by hand.
- Let the dough rise: The dough rises in about 1–2 hours.
- Punch down the dough: Punch down the dough to release the air.
- Shape the cinnamon rolls: Roll the dough out into a 12×18-inch rectangle. Spread the butter on top, then evenly sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar mixture. Top with chopped apples. Tightly roll up the dough and cut into 12 equal rolls. Place in a greased 9×13-inch pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
- Let the rolls rise: Allow the rolls to rise in a warm environment for about 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Bake: Bake until the rolls are golden brown. About halfway through the bake time, I like to cover the rolls loosely with aluminum foil so the tops don’t brown too much.
- Drizzle with caramel icing: Whisk all of the icing ingredients together and drizzle over warm rolls. Serve warm!
Here are a few step photos of the process:
The filling = brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and apples. Music to our ears. (By the way, you could also add apples to the filling in these no yeast cinnamon rolls!)
Let the rolls rise once again until they have doubled in size.
You have the option of making them in the morning OR you can get started the night before. Whichever you choose, the rolls bake up into this gorgeous golden-brown color. And just WAIT until you smell them baking.
Icing—You Have Options!
You have a couple options for icing—I’ll let you be the judge. Some of my suggestions:
- Cream cheese icing from big giant cinnamon rolls
- Maple icing from maple cinnamon rolls
- Vanilla icing
- Caramel icing = which is my vanilla icing with 2 spoonfuls of salted caramel stirred in. I highly recommend this version, for obvious reasons.
In short, we’re combating fears of yeast, satisfying our weekend cinnamon roll cravings, and embracing fall—all at the same time! Go ahead… let’s indulge.Print
Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours, 10 minutes
- Yield: 12 large rolls
- Category: Cinnamon Rolls
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Warm and gooey apple cinnamon rolls with delicious caramel icing on top. Fall breakfast has never tasted so good!
- 1 cup (240ml) whole milk*
- 2/3 cup (135g) granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons (14g) Platinum Yeast from Red Star instant yeast (2 standard size packets)*
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 and 1/2 cups (563g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), plus more for dusting/rolling
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 2 cups (250g) peeled chopped apples (about 2 medium apples)
- 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons milk
- 2 Tablespoons warmed salted caramel
- Make the dough: Heat milk to about 95°F (35°C)– use microwave or stovetop. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (OR you can use a handheld mixer OR no mixer, but a stand mixer is ideal). With a whisk, manually whisk in the sugar and yeast. Cover with a towel and let sit until the yeast is foamy, about 5-10 minutes. If the yeast does not dissolve and foam, start over with fresh active yeast. On low speed, beat in the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Next add the eggs, one at a time, and then the salt. The butter won’t really be mixing into the mixture, so don’t be alarmed if it stays in pieces. On low speed, gradually add the flour. Once it is all added, beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 6 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand-mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, a paper towel, or aluminum foil and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours. Here’s what I do: turn the oven on to 200°F (93°C). Once heated to that temperature, turn the oven off. Stick the covered dough inside the oven and allow it to rise in this warm environment.
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 12×18 inch rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick.
- Fill the rolls: Spread the softened butter all over the dough. In a small bowl, toss the brown sugar and cinnamon together until combined and then sprinkle evenly over the dough. Top evenly with chopped apples. Tightly roll up the dough to form an 18-inch-long log. Cut into 12 equal rolls. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan. Cover the rolls very tightly with aluminum foil.
- Allow rolls to rise in a warm environment again for about 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Bake the rolls: Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Bake rolls for about 25 minutes until they are golden brown. About halfway through the bake time, I like to cover the rolls loosely with aluminum foil so the tops don’t brown too much. Remove pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
- Whisk all of the icing ingredients together and drizzle over warm rolls. Serve warm. Cover leftover frosted or unfrosted rolls tightly and store for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
- Make Ahead Instructions – Overnight: To prepare the night before serving, prepare the rolls through step 4. Cover the rolls tightly and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise on the counter for 1-2 hours before continuing with step 6.
- Make Ahead Instructions – Freezing: Baked rolls can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and warm up before enjoying. You can also freeze the unbaked rolls and here’s how: bake the rolls in step 6 for only about 10 minutes at 375°F (191°C). Cool completely, then cover tightly and freeze. To serve, take the rolls out of the freezer and put into the refrigerator a few hours before serving. Then, finish baking them.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Stand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | Rolling Pin | 9×13 Baking Dish
- Milk: Whole milk or even buttermilk is ideal for this dough. You can get away with 2% or 1%, but I do not recommend skim.
- Yeast: If using active dry yeast, the rise times will be slightly longer. I always use an instant yeast.
- Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
Keywords: apple cinnamon rolls
Reader Comments & Reviews
the best cinnamon rolls recipe ever! it was easy and my family loved it
Apple Cinnamon Rolls, Absolutely delicious! I never have great luck dough making but I followed directions as written and success!
As is always the case with your recipes, a winner! For this one, I actually had some leftover apple pie filling from the last time I made your apple hand pies. (I’d made extra on purpose, because it’s so good, I thought I could use it for other things besides pie.) That’s what I used, and I chose your vanilla glaze – sooo good. Thank you for another great recipe, and I hope you’re enjoying your time with the new baby.
Hi Sally! Oh my gosh… they turned out perfect! So fluffy & moist. I added some raisins along with the apples, tastes amazing. However, I always cut back the amount of cinnamon powder as my husband finds it too overpowering . I’ve made these rolls many times before but this time i had to leave a comment. Thank you for the foolproof recipe Sally
Hi Sally, can this dough be made in a bread maker? Thanks in advance.
Hi Karen, I don’t have a bread machine to test it, but I can’t see why not.
Hi, Sally! Can I halve the ingredients in the recipe to make a smaller batch?
Absolutely! The first rise will be a little quicker since you’re working with less dough and it won’t take as long to double in size.
Can I substitute the all-purpose flour for bread flour? I believe the higher protein will make the rolls fluffier but wasn’t sure if to replace 1:1 ratio.
You can, same amount. They will be a bit chewier.
I’ve been searching for the perfect cinnamon roll recipe and I’m happy to say my search has ended here. It is simply everything I want in the perfect roll: soft, fluffy, delicious and so easy t o make. The only thing I did differently was creaming the filling ingredients so it could be spread on the dough. Next time, I might increase the filling. But trust me, these rolls are simply the BEST!
Oh my goodness these are AMAZING! Thank you so much for giving the metric quantities with your recipes, I am European and cannot handle cups as a unit of measure 🙂 I let the dough rise overnight in the fridge as I didn’t have time to do the whole recipe in one day. It rose spectacularly, and the finished rolls are so good I could weep. I’ve never managed to bake cinnamon rolls this fluffy, this is going to be my go-to sweet dough recipe from now on. THANK YOU!
I made these on Saturday and a million times thank you for a recipe that allows a self admitted yeast killer to bake these with success! They came out huge and fluffy! I showed a picture of my Apple Cinnamon Rolls to a friend at work and he said they looked like the ones you get from the bakery, that just makes me giddy with happiness!
I did bake mine for 25 minutes and used a maple cinnamon glaze. I’m on a mission now to continue to make more Cinnamon Rolls from your website, so again thanks for the great recipe !
Those rolls are perfect! The moment you feel the dough you know it will be something special! And the moment you can smell them, you want to eat them! One question I have: Is there any way you can tell, that there done? The rolls looked perfect, when I took them out of the oven. And the ones on the sides were delicious! But unfortunatly the middle ones were not done and I had to bake them again.
I’m so glad you enjoyed them, Nicole! If you are using a glass dish you can always pick it up and look at the dough through the bottom. If the center still looks under-baked you can cover the top of the entire dish with aluminum foil to prevent the top and sides from getting too brown as the center finishes baking.
I am dying to try making these! The caramel idea sounds amazing, but I am a die-hard cream cheese frosting on my cinnamon rolls kinda gal. Do you think there would be any chance of success if I tried incorporating your caramel into the cream cheese frosting? Anything I could try to get that amazing caramel or maple flavor into a cream cheese frosting?
Thank you for the beautiful recipe and post!
Hi Sophia! Definitely. You can use the cream cheese frosting from these overnight cinnamon rolls and add a couple Tbsp of my salted caramel.
Sally, I love your recipes! However I need help with this one. Question …..is “salted caramel”? Is it a liquid flavoring or melted caramels? Thank you in advance.
Hi Mary! Salted caramel is my recipe for homemade salted caramel, a liquid. Follow the link. 🙂
Hello Sally, What is the best apple to use for these rolls? And can I use another brand of yeast I don’t have much success with Red Star and does it have to be rapid rise yeast
Hi Debbie, You an use your favorite variety of apples. I like to use one tart and one sweet (like a granny smith and a fuji) for some variety of flavor – but if you enjoy eating it you will enjoy it here!
You can use another brand of yeast – If using active dry yeast, the rise times will be slightly longer.
De-freakin-licious. I make a double batch my family LOVES these. Great way to use apples.
I’ve wanted to make these since you posted the recipe, but I’ve never got around to it till today. Followed the directions exactly and these are sure soft, perfect amount of sweet (not too much), and so fluffy! For the icing, I used powder sugar, 2% milk, and almond extract (I didn’t have any vanilla!!!). It’s good. Thank you Sally!
I had a hankering for apple cinnamon something and decided to make these cinnamon rolls. They’re so good! I striped the apples so there was a combination of peeled and unpeeled Granny Smith bits. The frosting was delicious as well. Another great recipe!
The.best.ever. These are absolutely amazing! It took all my self control to not eat more than one!
Hi Sally. I have these in the oven and it smells amazing in here, can’t wait to eat it. When freezing baked rolls, do I freeze with or without the icing?
You can freeze the apple cinnamon rolls with or without icing. I prefer without so that the icing can be fresh on top!
I want to make these for Christmas but am looking for make-ahead recipes. Can i freeze these before baking? If so, do i let it rise before or after freezing? Thx
Yes. See the freezing instructions 🙂
Just wanted to report back that I made these with your suggestions and they were amazing!!! They didn’t rise much after an hour on the counter so I used your oven trick and after 30 minutes they had risen perfectly. They’ve been added to my Christmas brunch menu this year and I’m so excited for the family to try these! Thanks for another wonderful recipe and for getting back to me so quickly! Take care!
These are the best cinnamon rolls ever! This dough is so perfectly tender and flavorful! Any filling would be amazing! These apple cinnamon are my new favourite and may have to be made every weekend from now on! ❤❤ Thanks for another keeper recipe! I love that I’m not afraid of dough anymore.
Oh My! I made these with my 8 year old grand daughter Abbey. (She thinks sifted flour is a beautiful thing) They were well worth the wait. The joy she has while we are baking together is so precious. Thanks for sharing your recipes with us.
Honestly, I’ve always really disliked homemade/bakery cinnamon rolls and felt the only good ones are made at Disney. Everything else was dry and lacked flavor. BUT THESE oh my goodness, I made them the other night and the tray barely made it till the next day. They were incredibly moist, had so much flavor, and the apples were great. They were even better reheated the next morning, so gooey and delicious. I’ll definitely be making these again!
reporting back about this amazing apple cinnamon rolls: they were wonderful, soft and fluffy dough, a little caramelized from melted sugar, butter and apple juices at the bottom, almost like sticky buns! Everybody loved them 🙂 I can’t believe I never tried brown sugar in a sweet roll filling before – so good. I added a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and a good half tsp of ground cardamom alongside with the cinnamon, and we chose the maple icing – perfect flavour combination! Thank you for this perfect breakfast treat!
I have made other “rolls” and have had success but these didn’t work for me. The steps looked just like yours into the oven, and they were in for a little longer than yours, and the tops were browned and smelled amazing. But when I took them out of the baking pan, the entire middle was raw. None of the middle dough baked at all. I put it back into the oven but ended up overcooking the peripheral rolls and still don’t know about the middle.
Have you had that problem? How do I counter? I baked in a 9/13 pan with all 12 in there. Should I bake in 3 pans, 2 x 2? Thank you for all the wonderful recipes and support you give.
Try baking on the lower rack and lightly covering with foil to prevent the tops from over-browning too soon. Or you can try baking in a few smaller pans, yes.
What kind of apples do you use and would you recommend using? Tart? Sweet? Granny Smith? or something sweeter?
Any apple you love best. I like these rolls with Granny Smith since the filling and icing are sweet.
Hi Sally, is the dough supposed to be sticky when you first take it out of the stand mixer to knead it? I wasn’t sure what texture I was looking for and I have a feeling I overkneaded it.
Yes, it’s supposed to be soft and supple– a little sticky. Not too sticky that you can’t handle it though. So adding a little more flour helps. How did they turn out?
Made these last night following the overnight instructions. I got a little nervous when I pulled them out the fridge and they had a good bit of liquid all around the dough–assuming from the apples. I ended up having to bake about 15 minutes longer. Could have been the liquid or my oven, irregardless these were AMAZING!!!! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful recipe!
I made these yesterday and they were so good! The last time I tried to make apple cinnamon rolls they were a fail so I’m glad to have a go to recipe. So excited to hear about your addition, and looking forward to details! !!!