Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Soft, fluffy cinnamon rolls stuffed with brown sugar & apples, and generously glazed with homemade caramel.

apple cinnamon roll topped with caramel sauce on a white plate

Today I’m bringing you round 2 of my caramel apple cinnamon rolls. You see, round 1 was a complete disaster. Yep, I experience disasters in the kitchen too. It isn’t pretty, so I’ll spare you the photos.

I’ll share with you how to make these rolls perfectly and what I did wrong the first time. I’m not shy to say that the final version are the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had. 🙂

apple cinnamon rolls topped with caramel sauce in a white baking dish

I made these cinnamon rolls last Friday night. And again on Saturday morning. Sometimes recipe disasters make me feel like a failure, but other times it just motivates me to keep trying until I get that perfect result. It took me 11 months and about 15 different tries to get my Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies right. Soft, thick, tasting homemade, but bursting with cake batter flavor. And trust me, they were worth the wait.

And so were these apple cinnamon rolls. The dough is soft, moist, and sweet. The rolls bake up to be puffy and very fluffy. The center is filled with sliced apples and a mix of cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter.The brown sugar and butter caramelize making these rolls extra sticky. I topped the pretty coiled rolls with a homemade (and easy!) caramel sauce. I love apples and caramel together. These would be a perfect breakfast in the fall. Or, well… any time of year. 🙂

There is quite possibly no better aroma than a pan of these big, puffy rolls baking in the oven, fragrant with cinnamon, brown sugar, and sweet apples. I hope you’re ready for these!

apple cinnamon rolls topped with caramel sauce

I used to be so fearful of yeast. Growing up, my mom made us gooey cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning. I swore I’d never be able to recreate the masterpiece rolls on my own because yeast is so intimidating.

What is so scary about yeast though? It’s just another leavening agent. It does all the work for you as you let the dough sit and rise. Baking cinnamon rolls at home actually require less work than a lot of my cupcake recipes. All you do is wait around for the yeast to do its job.

Baking with Yeast Guide

Reference this Baking with Yeast Guide whenever you work with baker’s yeast. I include practical answers to all of your common yeast questions.

apple cinnamon rolls topped with caramel sauce

** If you plan to make these rolls at home, be sure to read the whys and the why nots of this recipe:

Start with a packet of dry instant yeast and 1/2 cup of warm water in a large mixing bowl. I like to use Red Star Platinum yeast. I did not take the water’s temperature – just lukewarm water will do here. To be precise, it will be 105F-115F. Let the yeast dissolve in the warm water for a minute. Give it a quick stir, then add most of the remaining dough ingredients. For the liquid in this dough recipe, I used apple juice. It (obviously) enhanced the apple flavor in the rolls. You could also use apple cider instead. The rest of the ingredients you’ll add in this step are: sugar, salt, 1 large egg, 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons butter, and HALF of the flour called for in the recipe: 1.5 cups.

 Beat the mixture on low, scraping down the sides as needed. I used a hand-held mixer (rather than stand mixer) because I had much more control over the beating process. A mixer is required to make these homemade cinnamon rolls in order to beat everything into the proper consistency.

Add the rest of the flour to the dough and stir with a wooden spoon. (Do NOT use the mixer in this step unless you want dough bits flying all over your counter and face. Been there, done that.) Mix it up and add more flour (little by little) until the dough is easy to handle by hand. The consistency of the dough should be soft and springy – not sticky. Poke it with your finger – if the dough bounced back, it is ready to knead.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for about 5-6 minutes. The dough should be very smooth and elastic – bouncing back as you pull on it. Shape the dough into a ball and place into a clean bowl. I spray the bowl with cooking spray to alleviate any dough sticking to the sides. Works like a charm. Cover the dough with a clean dish towel or aluminum foil and place in a warm spot. I made these rolls on a very cold day, so I preheated the oven to 200F degrees and turned it off. I placed the bowl inside as the oven was still warm. It took about 1.5 hours for the yeast ball to double in size.

Look at that puff ball! ↓

cinnamon roll dough after rising in a green bowl

While the dough was rising in this step, I prepared some of the filling.

Here is where I went wrong the first time I made these cinnamon rolls.  Don’t do this: in a small saucepan, I cooked apples, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon for about 20 minutes. The juices from the apples, the melted butter, and brown sugar all created a heavy liquid – and a lot of it. I let it cool for a few minutes, then poured this  liquid mixture over the rolled out dough and tried to roll it up. Ha! The dough was too fragile to hold all of this liquid and was impossible to roll. Duh Sally. It was a soupy mess! I tried rolling, cutting, reshaping, and baking the rolls anyway and came out with alien-looking rolls. Wow. Lesson learned.

Disheartened, I tried the rolls again the next morning with a completely different way to fill the rolls using the same exact ingredients. Do this: As the ball of dough is rising, peel, core, and thinly slice 2 apples. I went with 1 Granny Smith apple and 1 Gala apple. Cook the apples with 2 Tablespoons of butter over low heat in a small saucepan for about 20 minutes. The apples melt down and become super soft, tender, and juicy. Drain most of the juices from the saucepan and stick the apples into the refrigerator to cool off.

As the apples cool, mix 1 cup of dark brown sugar with 2 hefty Tablespoons of cinnamon. Cinnamon rules the world and there’s quite enough of it in this roll filling! Along with the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture, grab 2 Tablespoons of softened butter, your rolling pin, and a ruler. I am very precise when rolling out breakfast roll recipes. You need to make sure that the rolls are even in size, thick enough, and that you have enough of them to fill the baking pan. For these reasons, it’s important to measure the dough with a ruler as you are rolling it.

cinnamon and brown sugar mixture in a blue bowl with a spoon

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 15×9″ rectangle. It takes some time to get a perfectly sized rectangle. Spread with 2 Tablespoons of softened butter. Sprinkle the buttered rectangle dough with half of your cinnamon/brown sugar. Grab your apples, which have cooled off in the refrigerator, and layer them on top of the cinnamon/brown sugar. Sprinkle them with the rest of the cinnamon/brown sugar.

Tightly (very tightly!) roll the dough up. Using your sharpest knife (or even flavorless dental floss), cut into 15 slices – about 1 inch wide in thickness. Stuff the rolls into a large baking pan lined with parchment paper, 5 lengthwise and 3 across. Leave some space between them (if you can), so they have room to expand. Cover your baking pan and store in a warm place once again for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

After the uncooked rolls have risen and expanded in the baking pan, you may bake them. Prepare to be graced with the most amazing cinnamon roll fragrance. Picture yourself passing Cinnabon in the mall and baking a homemade apple pie at once. I mean, can I bottle that scent please?!

The rolls only take about 25-30 minutes in the oven at 375F degrees. Be sure to cover your rolls with aluminum foil (yes, you may use foil here!) as they bake to prevent the tops from getting too brown.

apple cinnamon rolls topped with caramel sauce on a white plate

As the rolls bake, prepare the caramel sauce. AKA: the best topping for cinnamon rolls in the world.

The caramel sauce you make is the same caramel sauce I use to make my beloved Salted Caramel Frosting. But I do not add salt. However, feel free to add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to this caramel sauce as it cooks in the saucepan to create a salted caramel topping for your apple cinnamon rolls.

How do you make the sauce? Easy peasy. Over low heat, melt 1/4 cup of salted butter (or unsalted butter). Once melted add 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar and 2.5 Tablespoons of heavy cream. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Allow to bubble for about 1 minute. Remove from heat, allow to (very slightly) cool and drizzle all over the cinnamon rolls.

This sauce is heaven.  ↓

2 images of homemade caramel sauce in a saucepan and apple cinnamon rolls topped with caramel sauce in a white baking dish

Drippy, thick, sticky, sweet caramel sauce. You’ll want to pour the caramel sauce onto the cinnamon rolls immediately before serving. The sauce will become quite solid if you let it cool too long or store it in the refrigerator, so be sure to warm the sauce up a bit if it is too thick.

Caramel, cinnamon, and apple flavors unite in each sticky sweet roll. Not only do you have the caramel sauce poured on top, but the brown sugar and butter caramelize inside and underneath the rolls as they bake. You’re getting a double dose of caramel in each soft doughy bite.

The buttery taste, the swirly dough layers, the cinnamon apples, the fluffy texture, the scent, the drippy sauce… oh my goodness. I can’t think of a better breakfast to wake up to in the morning. Just wait until you taste one warm from the oven, dripping with sweet caramel sauce. A comforting breakfast indeed. Life is good with homemade apple cinnamon rolls!

Round two was a sweet swirled success. 🙂

apple cinnamon rolls topped with caramel sauce in a white baking dish

Trust me, even a novice baker could make these. There are a lot of steps, but the directions are very straightforward and easy to follow. There’s a lot of waiting time with these rolls, not so much active time. Just follow my easy directions, wait around a bit for the dough to rise, make some caramel sauce, and dig right in.

What are you waiting for?

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make! 

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apple cinnamon roll topped with caramel sauce on a white plate

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes (or overnight)
  • Yield: 15 rolls
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


Soft, fluffy cinnamon rolls stuffed with brown sugar & apples, and generously glazed with homemade caramel.


For the Dough

  • 1 package active dry yeast (I prefer Red Star Platinum)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup apple juice or apple cider
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 33.5 cups all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)

For the Filling

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, & thinly sliced (about 1.5 cups)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the Caramel Sauce

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons heavy cream (no substitutions)


  1. Make the dough: Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water for about 1 minute. No need to use a thermometer for the water’s temperature, but to be precise: about 105°F (41°C)-115°F (46°C). Stir the yeast/water around. Then add apple juice, sugar, salt, egg, vanilla extract, butter, and 1.5 cups of flour. Beat everything together on low with a handheld mixer, scraping down the sides as needed. (A mixer is definitely needed to break up all the butter and beat everything to the proper consistency.) With a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough easy to handle – about 1.5 – 2 more cups. You are looking for a dough that is not sticky and will spring back when poked with a finger.
  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
  3. Line the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving room on the sides. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 15×9 inch rectangle. I used a ruler for accuracy. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick, even at the corners.
  4. For the filling: As the dough is rising, melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Add the thinly sliced apples and cook down for about 20 minutes until the apples are very soft. Drain the apples from the butter and juices and place into a small bowl. Stick the apples in the refrigerator to cool down. In another small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Spread the dough rectangle with 2 Tablespoons of softened butter and sprinkle with 1/2 of the cinnamon/brown sugar. Line the apples on top of the cinnamon/brown sugar then sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon/brown sugar. Tightly roll up the dough and cut into 15 even rolls (1 inch in width each) with a very sharp knife. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan, cut sides up. Cover the rolls and let them rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes – 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Cover the rolls with aluminum foil and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until they are lightly golden in color. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for about 15 minutes.
  6. Make the caramel sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once melted, add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Allow to bubble for 3-4 full minutes, no more. Remove from heat pour over cinnamon rolls before serving. Caramel sauce will thicken up at room temperature or if cold. You’ll have to warm it back up to pour over rolls. Baked rolls can be frozen up to 1 month (without sauce) and warmed up to enjoy at a later date.


  1. Overnight Instructions: The dough may be made the night before through step 4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and let rise, about 1 hour.
  2. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.

Keywords: caramel apple cinnamon rolls

stack of 2 apple cinnamon rolls topped with caramel sauce


Comments are closed.

  1. Hey Sally, if I don’t have a large enough pan can I just bake them individually on a baking tray?

    1. I fear the rolls wouldn’t stay together. If you have any baking dish, you could prepare them in batches. Or even use a cupcake pan.

  2. These look amazing!! I’m going to the cabin with a group of friends in 3 weeks and I’m wondering how long the dough can sit before baking? I was thinking I could make them Thursday evening and bake them Saturday morning, or is that too long? I guess I could always bake them first and bring them out. Either way I’m gonna make them!

    1. That is much too long for the yeast dough to sit, unfortunately. I would bake them on Friday and let sit overnight at room temperature or Thursday and then freeze.

  3. These look really nice, but I am planning to make these at school and these may take too long. Would I be able to make it up to step two and leave it over night, or do I have to carry on till step four to leave it over night. Thanks

  4. I just made this and they came out perfectly! I’ve eaten 5 so far 🙂 How well do they keep in an air tight container?

    1. They keep well for a couple days – I like to keep them at room temperature for 2 days then put into the fridge for another day or so (if they last that long!).

  5. Hello Sally !

    I’m just curious… your other rolls can be left overnight in the fridge and then allowed to rise for 1-2h but this recipe can be left overnight at room temperature and baked directly? What is the difference between this recipe and the others?

    I’m particularly interested in rolls you can bake directly in the morning. I’m too lazy to wake up early to allow the rolls to rise before baking them. ^^

    1. Elizabeth, this should read overnight in the refrigerator*. Sorry for the confusion!

  6. samaha ali says:

    wow they look so yum,soft and just a heavenly combo of all my favourites:)

  7. Sue Harding says:

    These are absolutely delicious. Thank you for taking the time to work out the right recipe and  for sharing it! My caramel looks nothing like yours though – it is much, much darker. I live in the UK and I have used dark brown sugar as you say, but I wonder if our dark brown sugar is more like your light brown? I don’t expect you to know the answer to that question, but I would have liked a paler caramel as mine is quite a strong flavour. If you do know the answer, that would be great!!

    1. That could very likely be it, Sue. I find there is often a color difference in basic ingredients from country to country. I am glad you love them though!

    2. Yes, her picture of ‘dark brown’ sugar in this recipe is what we in the UK have called light brown, our dark brown is very dark not like the US.. interesting.

  8. do you have gram measuring for these recipe items? here there is no concept of cup measuring. also how much grams is ‘package’ of yeast we do not have RedStar.
    thank you.

  9. Hi Sally! I was hunting for cinnamon roll recipes yesterday and came across these and these cinnamon rolls are awesome! I just made them today. Next time I’m going to add more apples and I LOVE the caramel sauce! This is the only good caramel recipe sauce I have found that has come out right and that tastes great! I’m going to definitely try those cake batter cookies next time. Last week I made the The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and the cookies were so good. You have the BEST baking blog and I have looked at a lot of baking blogs. Keep the yummy recipes coming!

  10. Dear Sally, thanks for this recipe. I just love these rolls. My husband said they are the best thing I have ever baked. The dough is so silky and looks gorgeous when it puffs up. I have a tried dozens of recipes from your blog. My two favourites are these rolls and your soft baked monster cookies. 

  11. My dough is slow rising in the refrigerator now and I will enjoying your recipe tomorrow after with my family. I will be adding roasted pecans with the apples and on top with the carmel. I would like to know if I can freeze it after it has been rolled (before cutting into pieces) and vacuumed sealed with cardboard to maintain its shape. Then defrosted cut, rise etc. Do you think doing it this way the outcome will be fine? Instead of freezing it after it has been baked and not adding the carmel topping.
    Thank you in advance for all your wonderful recipes that I will be making in the future.

    1. I’ve never tried it before, but I don’t think it would be a problem. Enjoy!

  12. Sally! I love your recipes. I have tried some of them!
    They are simple and yummy!!! I do have a problem like you said “unable to resist my sweet tooth”ughh 
    I have a question how to make salted caramel sauce using plain sugar! do you have a recipe for it!
    Thank you for posting the great tempting recipes!

    1. I do, yes! Here is my salted caramel sauce recipe.

      1. Thank you dear! for your prompt reply!

  13. I’d like to adapt your technique for cooking the apples in butter 1st, then draining the juices
    to your apple turnover filling; however I’d like to use Japanese potato starch(Katakuriko) instead
    of the cornstarch called for as this what I use to thicken my apple & banana pie filings for 9 inch deep dish pies as it isn’t finicky like cornstarch, doesn’t require cooking
    I normally mix the katakuriko with the sugar & spices, then fold into the raw fruit, and it does a fantastic job; however I’m not sure how much I would use for the amount of filling called for in your apple turnovers & cherry handpies and also because the fruits in this case require precooking,I’ll probably add the katakuriko, after the fruits have cooked drained & cooled thank you for honestly sharing your baking
    failures as well as successes as I have thoroughly enjoyed taking this baking journey
    with you, I have truly learned so much from the experiences you share.

  14. Hey Sally! I was wondering could i replace the apple juice/cider with milk? or maybe use the lemon rolls dough but add this filling?let me know. Thank-you+love your recipes

    1. Absolutely!

  15. Weird question but…where the heck did you get your set of bowls in these pics? I love the “confetti” look! 😉  Love the blog, keep up the good work! (These rolls are DIVINE!!!) 

    1. Thanks! They’re by ZAK:

  16. Hi Sally,
    The caramel apple cinnamon buns are rising as I write this. I appreciate your candor about failed recipes. We all have them!!
    Love your site and recipes. Thank you for taking the time to share them.

  17. Dianne Benedict says:

    I am going to make thess Cinnamon Apple Caramel Rolls through step 4 tonight and then serve them tomorrow morning for Sunday Brunch for my family. I have already purchased salted caramel sauce for another recipe I saw in Woman’s Day, but like your recipe better. If I choose to use the prepared salted caramel I imagine it will not harden as it cools like the stove top homemade variety…what do you think? Thanks in advance and if I find it doesn’t work so well I will come back and let you know. Dianne

    1. Hi Dianne! I can’t say for sure about the brand of caramel you’re using, but no it shouldn’t harden.

  18. Hello,

    Can this be adapted for instant yeast? Thank you! I can’t wait to try it!

    1. Definitely. Follow the recipe as written but swap active dry yeast out for instant yeast. The rise times will be a little shorter using an instant yeast.

  19. This may sound super weird but how do you think these would come out with pears instead of apples? what adjustments would you make?

    1. These cinnamon rolls are fantastic with pears! I actually baked them with pears this past fall. We loved them.

  20. Michelle Wysopal says:


    I am using Saf instant yeast, which states it does not have to be proofed and should just be mixed in with dry ingredients. Should I still proof it with the warm water or just throw it in with the flour/sugar?

    1. Hi Michelle! I recommend still proofing the yeast for these rolls.

  21. I’ve never really been into bread making; not because it really intimidates me, but because I’ve always preferred creating beautiful cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. But I think these gorgeous apple caramel cinnamon rolls just changed my mind, along with all the other tantalizing bread recipes on your website! Your recipes just have this quality that just begs me to make them, and I can’t often resist. These rolls will be made in the near future, I’m sure!

  22. Cinnamon rolls are still in the oven but from how much the apple cooked down I feel like there won’t be enough in the rolls. Also my caramel turned out grainy and got tossed. Not sure what happened as I did everything the same as your recipe. The flavor wasn’t bad but just too grainy

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally