Lemon Sweet Rolls

Fluffy & soft lemon sweet rolls covered in a simple lemon cream cheese frosting. These rolls use my quick sweet roll dough – only 1 rise!

lemon sweet rolls with lemon cream cheese frosting

Is there truly anything better than waking up to the smell of warm cinnamon rolls baking in the oven? No. At least that’s what I thought before I smelled the sunshine-sweet aroma wafting from my kitchen as these fluffy lemon rolls baked.

They’re springtime in a pan. Happiness in a fluffy spiral. Lemon cream cheese frosting, vanilla bean, lemon zest, and soft buttery dough all in one.

Move over Kevin, I think I’m in love with a sweet roll…

lemon sweet rolls with lemon cream cheese frosting on a white plate

After a night out with friends last weekend, I woke up craving something carby. Kevin mentioned he could go for a giant cinnamon roll and… while I can ALWAYS go for a giant cinnamon roll, I had a better idea. Let’s use up all the lemons in the crisper drawer, the cream cheese sitting in the fridge, and my 1 vanilla bean leftover from a recent batch of very vanilla cupcakes.

Thus these Lemon Sweet Rolls + Buttery Lemon Vanilla Bean Filling + Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting were born. Geez, what a mouthful. A tasty mouthful.

If you are a yeast beginner, I have good news for you! These lemon sweet rolls use my quick-method sweet roll dough. You will find that the typical homemade dough recipe requires two rises. My favorite Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls require a first rise of about 1-2 hours. Then a second rise for another two hours. (But one bite of their fluffy dough and juicy middle and you’ll learn that the prep time is worth it!)

However, I have since developed a quicker dough recipe. A dough recipe with all the soft, fluffiness you’re craving but with only 1 quick rise time. Because of this shortcut, my homemade sweet roll dough is perfect for the baker who wants to learn how to work with yeast for the first time. Plus, it’s a perfect starting point for any sort of sweet roll you want to make… like sticky pecan, blueberry, cinnamon, and banana chocolate chip.

When it comes to sweet roll/cinnamon rolls, my secret weapon in the kitchen is Red Star Platinum Yeast. It is the only yeast that I use and I highly recommend it to anyone who asks. Why? Red Star Platinum takes the work out of bread making for you. Its careful formula strengthens your dough and makes working with yeast simple. And simple is always good, right? When it comes to baking – yes!

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.

lemons on a white cutting board with a zester

I ended up making two batches of these sweet rolls. The reason I made two batches was because I made them both differently. Testing and retesting is the only way I can develop the best of the best recipes. With my failed batch, I used my quick-method dough, but the filling is where I messed up. The filling didn’t have softened butter and not nearly enough lemon. It was like biting into a crispy sugar roll. Trust me, it wasn’t good. Batch #2. What a success! You’ll begin with my quick-method dough. Whip it up, roll it out and top with the filling. My lemon sweet roll filling is made from lemon zest, sugar, and vanilla bean. Simply stir them all together until the mixture is sandy. The sugar will help the lemon zest excrete some liquid, so the mixture will be fairly moist. The vanilla bean is purely for flavor; a touch of vanilla extract may be used instead as noted below.

Spread softened butter all over the rolled out dough and top with the lemon sugar filling. Roll the dough up tightly, cut into rolls, arrange into your pan, and let rise for 60-90 minutes until doubled in size. Turn the oven on, sprinkle the rolls with a little more lemon zest and bake until they’re lightly browned. The fresh lemon scent is glorious at this point! Spring has sprung in your kitchen.

lemon sweet rolls in a glass baking dish

Spending a few extra dollars to buy a vanilla bean and using it in the filling is sooo worth it.

Smothering every crevice of these sweet rolls is a light lemon cream cheese frosting. It’s not heavy in the slightest, nor will it take away from the sweet roll itself. I personally cannot imagine a cinnamon roll/sweet roll without some sort of glaze or frosting!

lemon sweet rolls with lemon cream cheese frosting on a blue plate

What I love most about these lemon sweet rolls is that each bite isn’t too tart. You won’t find yourself puckering up your lips from an overpowering sour lemon flavor. Rather, they are just sweet enough and just zingy enough. Finding the perfect balance of sweet and tart is tricky when it comes to lemon baked goods, but you guys – this recipe nails it!

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

More morning sweetness: Homemade Orange Sweet Rolls, Chocolate Chip Cherry Sweet Rolls, Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls, Cake Batter Cinnamon Rolls, Blueberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon Glaze, Banana Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Rolls, Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, S’mores Cinnamon Rolls, Strawberry Rolls with Sweet Lemon Glaze, and Easy Slow Cooker Cinnamon Rolls

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3 images of lemon sweet rolls

Lemon Sweet Rolls

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
  • Yield: 11-12 rolls
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


Fluffy & soft lemon sweet rolls covered in a simple lemon cream cheese frosting. These rolls use my quick sweet roll dough – only 1 rise!



  • 2 and 3/4 cups (344g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3 Tablespoons (45g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package Red Star Platinum yeast or any instant yeast (1 packet = 2 and 1/4 teaspoons)*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk*
  • 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons (40g) unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg


  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 medium lemons*
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 ounces (112g) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
  • juice of two medium lemons*
  • optional: extra lemon zest for garnish


  1. Make the dough: Set aside 1/2 cup of flour. In a large bowl, toss the 2 and 1/4 cups flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast together until evenly dispersed. Set aside.
  2. Heat the water, milk, and butter together in the microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot to touch. About 115°F (46°C). Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture. Add the egg and only enough of the reserved flour to make a soft dough. I only needed 1/3 cup, but you may need the full 1/2 cup. Dough will be ready when it gently pulls away from the side of the bowl and has an elastic consistency.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 3-4 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl (I used non-stick spray) and let rest for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla. Stir it around until the mixture becomes sandy. Some juices may be excreted from the lemon zest; that’s ok.
  5. After the dough has sat for 10 minutes, roll it out into a 14×8 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread the softened butter on top. Sprinkle the lemon sugar filling all over. Roll up the dough tightly. Cut into 11-12 even pieces and place in a lightly greased 9-inch round pan. I used a pie dish, lightly sprayed with nonstick spray. Sprinkle uncooked rolls with additional lemon zest at this point, if desired.
  6. Loosely cover the rolls with aluminum foil and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes. Here is what I do: heat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Turn oven off. Place rolls inside oven and allow to rise.
  7. After the rolls have doubled in size, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. I covered the rolls with aluminum foil after 15 minutes to avoid heavy browning.
  8. Make the frosting: Right before serving, top your sweet rolls with the cream cheese frosting. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and beat on medium-high until creamy. Frost warm rolls and sprinkle with additional lemon zest, if desired.
  9. Rolls are best enjoyed the same day, but stay fresh and soft in a covered container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 5 days. Rolls (with or without frosting) freeze well, up to about 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and heat up however you prefer.


  1. Make Ahead & Overnight Instructions: This dough can be made the night before through step 5. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise at room temperature, about 1 hour.
  2. Yeast: If you replace Red Star Platinum with regular active dry yeast, you rise time may be 50% longer.
  3. Milk: I prefer whole milk in this dough, but lower fat or nondairy milks work in a pinch.
  4. Lemons: 1 medium-size lemon = approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon zest = 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  5. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.

Keywords: lemon sweet rolls


  1. Hey I just bought you book (electronic version) and I’m so exited. I’m so happy for you but I mean your awesome every single recipe that I had made has been successful.
    Thank you and I definitely I will be making this recipe.

    1. Thanks so much, Diana!

  2. Michelle Remkus says:

    Your photos literally make my mouth water. I want to make everything! Definitely buying your cookbook .


    1. Thanks so much Michelle!

  3. Laura (Tutti Dolci) says:

    Gorgeous rolls, I love anything lemon and these would make the perfect breakfast!

  4. Hi Sally! These look great. I made the banana-chocolate chip rolls which were awesome but it was definitely a lot more sweet treats hanging around the house then I would like haha. I was wondering when in the process you typically freeze them?

    1. I freeze them after baking without the frosting and glaze. I have not had luck freezing this dough, so I always freeze leftovers before glazing them. I find they taste OK for up to 2 months. I thaw them in the refrigerator for a few hours and then warm up in the microwave until warm. Or just go straight from the freezer to the microwave.

  5. Mary Frances says:

    I want to dive right in! Putting lemon flavor in these is so smart! Love love love how bright and fresh this is!

  6. Yummy! I always crave carbs in copious amounts after a night out- next time I will certainly make these…even better, I’d love to combine your raspberry and lemon flavors for the most mega awesome sweet rolls ever!

    1. Lemon raspberry sweet rolls – now that sounds incredible Denisse!!

  7. Joanne T Ferguson says:

    G’day! These look AMAZING Sally! Mouth watering indeed! These are now on my list to do!
    Cheers! Joanne
    Sharing at Bloggers Best Homemade today and pinning too!

  8. Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust says:

    Sally!!!!! My mouth is watering. Like, drool dripping everywhere. I’m so in love with lemon, and sweet rolls? So good. And they’re beautiful too!

    1. Thanks Dorothy!

  9. Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie says:

    Yum I once made mini lemon sweet rolls but I would’ve loved to have had a giant one like these!

  10. lemon is so refreshing. these look great!

  11. I tried every day to enter your autographed cookbook giveaway but raffle copter was too slow. Btw these rolls look great 🙂

  12. I’m super curious, seeing as my guy “says” he reads my blog (but rarely even skims through the photos anymore)… Did Kevin actually read your line about being in love with a sweet roll?? Although since he can still sneak into the freezer for leftovers, he probably wouldn’t mind too much if he did! 😉 I really hope your beautiful sunshiny lemon rolls usher in spring soon; it’s been much too cloudy and rainy for me lately!

    1. He “reads” my blog which means he looks at the pictures and asks me to make the particular baked good again. lol

      1. I’m surprised he doesn’t do that with every recipe you post! 🙂

  13. I wanted to make these yesterday but did not have lemons, so I ended up with regular cinnamon rolls. But the dough, it was so simpel and turned out to be the best sweet rolls I ever made. Great work, Sally, can’t wait to actually try these lemon rolls.

  14. Hi Sally, Ever since I discovered your website I’ve been hooked onto it. All your desserts are beautiful to look at and I bet they taste even better than they look. Could you please post some cupcake/cake with saffron as one of the ingredients. Saffron is my favorite spice and I’d love to see it featured in one of your lovely recipes. All the very best to you and your website ! 🙂

  15. Bibs @ Tasteometer says:

    For a few months now I’ve been noshing on cinnamon rolls, a spice I never used to like!

    Would love to try these lemon ones for a nice change, especially as I have free lemons by way of trees on my land, thanks for sharing.

  16. Sheila @ Sweet Baked Life says:

    I love how you incorporated lemon into your sweet rolls! These sound and look spectacular — since I am a huge lemon lover! 🙂

  17. This looks sooo good! Lemons and whipped cream are always one of my favorite combinations!

  18. Yes! A wonderful breakfast for the spring. Thanks Sam!

  19. Thank you Sally! You just made my day! With all the snow and cold weather we’ve had here in the Midwest-these scrumptious looking rolls are like a ray of sunshine!! I will definitely be purchasing your cookbook-and I can’t wait to try these sweet rolls out for tomorrow’s family brunch!

    1. Thanks CD, I hope you enjoy my cookbook!

  20. Marlys Stellingwerf says:

    I made your Lemon Sweet Roll today. I miss read the part where you butter the dough then sprinkle the filling over it. I added the butter and filling together and spread it over the dough. Was worried but it turned out just fine. They are wonderful and my husband loved them! I am so bless to have found your website. I look forward to discovering all you delicious recipes. It brightens my day! Good Luck on the Cookbook. I gotta put in my order!

    1. Mixing the filling all together or spreading the butter THEN the lemon sugar on top – both would lend a great result, I have no doubt about it Marlys! Thanks so much for reporting back. Happy they were enjoyed! Hope you enjoy my cookbook if you order it!

  21. Jess @ WhatJessicaBakedNext... says:

    I love lemon rolls- so sweet and tangy! I made some recently and they all went down a treat with everyone who tried them! Definitely going to give these a go- the cream cheese glaze looks heavenly and the rolls look so light and fluffy. 🙂

    1. Thanks Jess! Let me know when you try my recipe.

  22. These look so great! I love lemon desserts, especially around this time of year.

  23. Holy lemony goodness! Thanks for sharing, I’m obsessed with all things lemon right now.

  24. Never would’ve thought to put lemons in a sweet roll! Can’t wait to try it for a spring tea time. Do you think Meyer lemons would be okay?

    1. Absolutely!

  25. Sally,
    This is so spring! These look divine and I’m Baking this recipe!
    I unwrapped your cookbook for my Birthday! The hubby is so smart he knew just what this girl needed! Thank you for getting me excited about baking again! It reminds me of baking lessons with my grandma and I’ve been hooked on your blog since I stumbled on the fall recipe of the perfect pumpkin cookie!! Many Cheers to you for achieving your publishing goals!!!

    1. So happy you received my cookbook. What a very sweet (pun intended) birthday present. 😉 Let me know what you try first, Sarah! And happy birthday of course.

  26. I love these rolls! I made them with chocolate and it was delicious but I’m sure these lemon rolls are super yummy!!! Thanks for sharing. I’ll try to make them 😀

  27. What a fantastic idea! I never would’ve thought of making lemon sweet rolls! Gorgeous… I do love lemon cream cheese frosting though so I can imagine how perfect these would taste. As always, thanks for adding all of the extra baking notes to make sure that we get the best results possible. Beautiful! Making these, definitely! x

  28. Jess @ On Sugar Mountain says:

    I actually think I’m swooning over these sweet rolls, Sally. It’s 60 degrees here for the first time in months and OMG THEY ARE SPRINGTIME IN A PAN! I wish I could enjoy one outside on my porch right this instant! 😀

    1. It’s warm here today, too Jess! Hope you give these a try.

  29. Ohh yummmm I loooovvee sweet rolls! Too bad the process takes so much time though 🙁 I wish sweet rolls could be as easy and fast like cupcakes haha.. definitely need to take some time off to bake these babies. Once again, they look delicous, sally!

  30. This is my first time using yeast! I don’t know why I’ve been so intimidated by it (I felt this way about deep frying too, until I actually gave it a shot). I am looking forward to a delicious lemony treat tomorrow morning!

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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