These soft and hearty whole wheat dinner rolls are made with 100% whole wheat flour and sweetened with honey. They have structure, body, texture, and staying power– and hold their own against any white flour rolls.
Baking a batch of whole wheat rolls that are both SOFT and FLAVORFUL feels like winning the lottery. Or, at the very least, winning dinnertime.
What normally results in hockey pucks can finally grace our dinner tables proudly. These honey whole wheat dinner rolls easily compete with (and beat) the tastiest white flour rolls because they taste nutty, a little sweet, and have a bit more oomph in the texture department. This recipe is 100% whole wheat.
Whole Wheat Flour is Picky
Whole wheat flour is picky and can be difficult to work with. Why? It’s heavy and doesn’t contain the same level of gluten as white flours. This missing gluten poses a problem when it comes to bread making. Many whole wheat bread recipes call for the addition of vital wheat gluten to make up for it, but I don’t keep that in my kitchen and you may not either. Other recipes suggest subbing some whole wheat flour for all-purpose or bread flour– but then the whole wheat rolls won’t be 100% whole wheat. Keeping this in mind (and after a few failed whole wheat dinner roll attempts), I landed on a recipe and method I loved. And I’m confident you’ll be satisfied too.
Admittedly, these whole wheat rolls aren’t as fluffy and tall as their white flour counterpart, but I like their heartier texture. If you crave extra texture in bread, you’ll love my multigrain bread recipe as well. (You can turn that recipe into rolls!)
Behind the Recipe
I adapted this whole wheat roll recipe from my dinner rolls recipe. We use the same exact ingredients, except we’ll swap the flour for whole wheat flour. A few other differences make up for the heavy and dense whole wheat flour:
- Increase the amount of butter. I tested with more butter in batch #2 and even more in test batch #3. 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) produced the best tasting whole wheat rolls.
- Use 2 whole eggs instead of 1 egg. The extra liquid keeps the dough a little more hydrated.
- Add honey for flavor.
For best results, use a superior baking yeast: Red Star Platinum Superior Baking Yeast. This is an instant yeast and my preferred brand. I’m a Red Star Yeast fangirl and use it exclusively in my kitchen because it’s always a guarantee.
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.
Ingredients in Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
Like my regular dinner rolls and even my sandwich bread recipe, this dough comes together easily with 7 basic ingredients. Each has an important job to do, so I don’t recommend substitutions.
- Milk: Liquid activates the yeast. For the softest rolls, use whole milk. Nondairy or low fat milks work too, but whole milk produces phenomenal flavor and texture.
- Yeast: I recommend Red Star Platinum Superior Baking Yeast, which is an instant yeast blended with natural dough improvers.
- Honey: This sweetener feeds the yeast, increases its activity, tenderizes the dough, and adds a welcome sweetness.
- Eggs: 2 eggs provide structure and richness.
- Butter: Butter promises a soft, flavorful roll. Make sure it’s softened to room temperature.
- Salt: Salt adds flavor and offsets the sweetness.
- Whole Wheat Flour: We can’t have whole wheat rolls without whole wheat flour!
I recommend using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (most stand mixers are sold with it), but if you don’t have a stand mixer, mix the dough together with a wooden spoon and knead by hand. Whole wheat dough requires a slightly longer rise time since it’s weighed down with wheat germ and bran.
The Best Shaping Trick
When making dinner rolls, I typically divide the bread dough and roll each piece into individual balls. (Just like with my dinner rolls and honey butter rolls.) It works, but this dough never rolls up perfectly. Maybe it’s because I’m impatient, but some of the rolls end up looking a little scraggly and misshaped. It’s frustrating, especially when I want uniform shaped buns. Ha!
And that brings us to the best shaping trick: Take the risen dough and shape it into a long 9×13 rectangle, the size of our baking pan. Almost as if we were making cinnamon rolls, but we’re not stretching the dough out quite that far. It’s pliable, so just use your hands to shape the dough as best you can.
Then, using your pizza cutter, cut into 15 evenly shaped rolls. No individual rolling:
Then it’s business as usual. Loosely cover and allow the rolls to rest and rise one more time. They’ll get nice and puffy in about 1 hour.
Two Delicious Extras
We’ll bake the whole wheat rolls until they’re golden on top and finish them with 2 goodies:
- Brush of honey butter
- Sprinkle of sea salt
You know I’m a big fan of finishing touches and trust me when I say: the brush of honey butter and sea salt are the best. The honey butter soaks into all the cracks and crevices and the sea salt makes that honey flavor pop.
While these whole wheat dinner rolls are soft, they aren’t particularly fluffy. Remember what we learned when we made whole wheat pizza dough? The reality is that whole wheat yeasted dough just cannot rise to the same level as white flour dough. But that’s honestly one of their best qualities. Unlike rolls made with refined flour, these whole wheat rolls are hearty and a little textured.
What to Serve with Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
- Minestrone Soup
- Walnut Crusted Chicken
- Light Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
- Slow Cooker BBQ Turkey Meatballs
- Lemon Herb Salmon
- Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
Soft, hearty, and sweet homemade honey whole wheat dinner rolls.
- 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, warmed to about 110°F (43°C)
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons Red Star® Platinum yeast
- 1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (cut into 4 pieces)
- 1/3 cup (105g) honey
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) whole wheat flour (spoon & leveled), plus more for kneading/shaping
- 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons honey
- sea salt for sprinkling
- Make the dough: Pour the warm milk over yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Or, if you don’t have a stand mixer, a regular large mixing bowl. Whisk together, cover bowl with a towel, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The mixture will be frothy and foamy after 5 minutes.
- On low speed, beat in the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Then beat in the honey, eggs, and 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 for 6-7 more minutes. The dough should pull away from the edges of the mixing bowl. Poke it with your finger; it should gently bounce back. If the dough is too sticky, add more whole wheat flour 1 Tablespoon at a time until it pulls away from the bowl and you have the right texture. *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, coat your mixing bowl with nonstick spray or olive oil, and place the dough back in and turn it over so all sides of the dough are coated with the oil/spray. Cover the dough/bowl loosely with plastic wrap, a paper towel, or aluminum foil and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 – 2 hours. Here’s what I do: turn the oven on to 150°F (66°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. Set aside.
- Shape the rolls: Punch the dough down to release any air bubbles and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using floured hands, stretch the dough into a 9×13 rectangle (doesn’t need to be exact, it can be a little smaller). Use a pizza cutter and cut into 15 rolls. See photo above for a visual. Round out the edges of the rolls since they stretched a bit as you cut them. Arrange in prepared pan. Loosely cover the rolls and allow to rise in a warm environment again until puffy and double in size, about 1 hour.
- Bake the rolls: Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Bake rolls for about 25 minutes or 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.
- Top the rolls: Meanwhile, mix the melted butter and honey together. Brush over warm rolls. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serve warm.
- Cover any leftover rolls and store at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: After dough has risen two hours in step 3, punch it down inside the mixing bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days, then remove from the refrigerator and continue with step 4. Or freeze the dough for up to 2 months, then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and continue with step 4. You can also freeze the baked dinner rolls. Allow them to cool completely, 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 (149°C) oven for about 10 minutes or until warm.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Pastry Brush, Pizza Cutter, 9×13 Baking Pan or 3-qt Glass Baking Dish
- Milk: Lower fat milk can be substituted, but the rolls won’t taste as soft. I strongly suggest whole milk.
- Honey Butter: Don’t leave off that honey butter/sea salt topping. The rolls will be lacking a little flavor without it. I prefer spreading the honey butter on the rolls after they bake as opposed to before they bake. Brushing butter on top of the delicate, airy unbaked roll weighs them down and encourages them to deflate. Best to spread on the honey butter right after baking.
- Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
Keywords: whole wheat dinner rolls