Savory, soft, and aromatic, with a delicious dose of the caramelized nutty flavor that comes from browning butter, these flavorful rolls make a wonderful addition to any fall, winter, or holiday dinner. See recipe Notes for make-ahead instructions.
- 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp; 113g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- 3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk or buttermilk, warmed to about 110°F (43°C)
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons Platinum Yeast from Red Star instant yeast* (1 standard packet)
- 3 Tablespoons (64g) honey, divided
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage leaves, plus an extra pinch for topping
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 3 cups (390g) bread flour (spooned & leveled), plus more as needed*
- optional: sea salt, for finishing
- Brown the butter: Set out a medium heatproof bowl because you’ll need it at the end of this step. Place the sliced butter in a light-colored skillet or saucepan. A light-colored interior is crucial for determining when the butter begins to brown. Melt the butter over medium heat and stir or whisk constantly. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam. Continue stirring/whisking, keeping a close eye on it. After about 5–7 minutes, the butter will begin browning and you’ll notice lightly browned specks forming at the bottom of the pan. The butter will have a nutty aroma. The color will gradually deepen, from yellow to golden to golden-brown; once it’s a light caramel-brown color, remove from heat immediately and pour into the bowl, including any brown solids that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Prepare the dough: Whisk the warm milk, yeast, and 1 Tablespoon honey together in the bowl of your stand mixer. Or, if you do not own a stand mixer, a regular large mixing bowl. Loosely cover and allow to sit for 5–10 minutes until foamy and frothy on top.
- Add the remaining honey, the egg, 6 Tablespoons (90ml) of the slightly cooled brown butter (reserve the rest for brushing on top of rolls in step 11), the salt, sage, thyme, and 1 cup bread flour. With a dough hook or paddle attachment, mix/beat on low speed for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, then add the remaining bread flour. Beat on medium speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. If the dough seems too wet to a point where kneading (next step) would be impossible, beat in more flour 1 Tablespoon at a time until you have a workable dough. Dough should be soft and a little sticky, but still manageable to knead with lightly floured hands.
- Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer (and switch to the dough hook if you used the paddle) and beat for an additional 5 full minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 5 full minutes. (If you’re new to bread-baking, my How to Knead Dough video tutorial can help here.) If the dough becomes too sticky during the kneading process, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of flour at a time on the dough or on the work surface/in the bowl to make a soft, slightly tacky dough. Do not add more flour than you need because you do not want a dry dough. After kneading, the dough should still feel a little soft. Poke it with your finger—if it slowly bounces back, your dough is ready to rise. You can also do a “windowpane test” to see if your dough has been kneaded long enough: tear off a small (roughly golfball-size) piece of dough and gently stretch it out until it’s thin enough for light to pass through it. Hold it up to a window or light. Does light pass through the stretched dough without the dough tearing first? If so, your dough has been kneaded long enough and is ready to rise. If not, keep kneading until it passes the windowpane test.
- 1st Rise: Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides in the oil. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 1.5–2 hours or until double in size. (I always let it rise on the counter. Takes about 2 hours. For a tiny reduction in rise time, see my answer to Where Should Dough Rise? in my Baking with Yeast Guide.)
- Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan or two 9-inch square or round baking pans. You can also bake the rolls in a cast iron skillet or on a lined or greased baking sheet. (See recipe Note.)
- Shape the rolls: When the dough is ready, punch it down to release the air. Divide the dough into 14–16 equal pieces. (Just eyeball it—doesn’t need to be perfect!) A bench scraper is always helpful for cutting dough. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Arrange in prepared baking pan or a couple inches apart on a lined baking sheet.
- 2nd Rise: Cover shaped rolls with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until puffy, about 45–60 minutes.
- Adjust oven rack to a lower position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). (It’s best to bake the rolls towards the bottom of the oven so the tops don’t burn.)
- Bake the rolls: Bake for 23–27 minutes or until golden brown on top, rotating the pan halfway through. If you notice the tops browning too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil.
- Remove rolls from the oven. Heat remaining browned butter to melt it since it has likely solidified (you can do this in the microwave for 10–20 seconds) and mix with a pinch of fresh chopped sage. Brush mixture all over warm rolls. If desired, sprinkle tops with coarse sea salt. Cool for a few minutes before serving.
- Cover leftover rolls tightly and store at room temperature for 2–3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Freezing Instructions: Prepare recipe through step 7. Place shaped rolls in a greased baking pan, cover tightly, and freeze for up to 3 months. Once frozen, the dough balls won’t stick together anymore and you can place them in a freezer bag if needed. On the day you serve them, arrange the dough balls in a greased baking pan, cover tightly, then let them thaw and rise for about 4–5 hours. Bake as directed. You can also freeze the baked dinner rolls. Allow them to cool completely, and then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then reheat as desired. If reheating the whole pan, lightly cover and reheat in a 300°F (150°C) oven for about 10 minutes or until warm.
- Overnight Instructions: Prepare the recipe through step 7. Cover the shaped rolls tightly and refrigerate for up to about 15 hours. At least 3 hours before you need them the next day, remove the rolls from the refrigerator, keep covered, and allow to rise on the counter for about 1–2 hours before baking. Alternatively, you can let the dough have its 1st rise in the refrigerator overnight. Cover the dough tightly and place in the refrigerator for up to about 15 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the dough to fully rise for 2 more hours. Continue with step 9.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Light-Colored Skillet or Stainless Steel Skillet | Whisk | Stand Mixer or Large Glass Mixing Bowl | 9×13-inch Glass Baking Pan | Bench Scraper | Pastry Brush
- No Stand Mixer? If you do not own a stand mixer, you can use a large mixing bowl and mix the dough together with a sturdy silicone spatula or wooden spoon. It will take a bit of arm muscle. A hand mixer works, but the sticky dough repeatedly gets stuck in the beaters. Mixing by hand with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula is a better choice.
- Baking Pan: I prefer baking the rolls in a glass 9×13-inch baking pan because I find they brown a little too quickly in a metal pan. But as long as you bake the rolls on a lower oven rack and keep your eye on them, any pan is great. You can also bake these rolls in a large cast iron skillet, or two 9-inch round or square baking pans. Bake time remains the same.
- Milk: Buttermilk or whole milk are ideal for the best, richest flavor and texture. Keeping that in mind, feel free to substitute with a lower-fat or nondairy milk.
- Yeast: Platinum Yeast from Red Star is an instant yeast. You can use Red Star Yeast active dry yeast instead. Rise times will be slightly longer using active dry yeast. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
- Herbs: If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use dried instead. Simply reduce the amount by half, so 1 teaspoon dried sage and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. (Add more if you want extra flavor.)
- Flour: If you don’t have bread flour, you can use all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour is convenient for most, but bread flour produces chewier dinner rolls. The rolls are still soft and fluffy no matter which you use. Either flour is fine and there are no other changes to the recipe if you use one or the other.
Keywords: brown butter sage dinner rolls