Honey Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

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.

basket of whole wheat dinner 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 dinner time.

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. And unlike “whole wheat rolls” with refined flour hiding in them, this recipe is 100% whole wheat (so is my whole wheat pizza dough).

Today I’m going to walk you through how to make whole wheat dinner rolls. We have lots of carbs to cover today!

stack of whole wheat rolls

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 assume you don’t 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. (And I appreciate that they are 100% whole wheat and call for readily available ingredients!)


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.

yeast and butter

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Yeast: I recommend Red Star Platinum Superior Baking Yeast, which is an instant yeast blended with natural dough improvers.
  3. Honey: This sweetener feeds the yeast, increases its activity, tenderizes the dough, and adds a welcome sweetness.
  4. Eggs: 2 eggs provide structure and richness.
  5. Butter: Butter promises a soft, flavorful roll. Make sure it’s softened to room temperature.
  6. Salt: Salt adds flavor and offsets the sweetness.
  7. 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.

whole wheat dough rising in a glass bowl

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:

whole wheat dough rolled into a rectangle

whole wheat dough rolled into a rectangle and cut into squares

whole wheat dinner rolls in a glass baking dish before baking

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.

whole wheat dinner rolls in a glass baking dish before baking

Two Delicious Extras

We’ll bake the whole wheat rolls until they’re golden on top and finish them with 2 goodies:

  1. Brush of honey butter
  2. 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.

overhead image of whole wheat dinner rolls in a glass baking dish after baking

whole wheat rolls and chicken noodle soup

These whole wheat dinner rolls are soft, but they aren’t particularly fluffy. But that’s 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

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basket of whole wheat dinner rolls

Honey Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 15 rolls
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Soft, hearty, and sweet homemade honey whole wheat dinner rolls.


Ingredients

  • 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

Topping

  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • sea salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.*
  3. 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.
  4. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Set aside.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Top the rolls: Meanwhile, mix the melted butter and honey together. Brush over warm rolls. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serve warm.
  8. Cover any leftover rolls and store at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Pastry Brush, Pizza Cutter, 9×13 Baking Pan or 3-qt Glass Baking Dish
  3. Milk: Lower fat milk can be substituted, but the rolls won’t taste as soft. I strongly suggest whole milk.
  4. 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.
  5. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.

Keywords: whole wheat dinner rolls

123 Comments

  1. Hi Sally do these freeze/thaw and reheat well already baked?

    I have tried several of your other recipes and they have all turned out perfectly for me!! Thank you so much for the easy recipes!!

    1. Sure do! See my instructions.

  2. Loves Healthy Recipes says:

    Made these rolls today for dinner and even with adaptations, they are still the best 100% wholemeal bread I have ever made! My Mum couldn’t believe I hadn’t added white flour (I usually need 1/3 total white flour to achieve the same texture). Thank you so much for creating a practically foolproof recipe! 🙂
    For reference/context, I did 475ml/2 cups of semi skimmed milk (less fat than whole), 2 1/4tsp instant yeast (I proof with milk to be sure), 875g/7 1/4 cups of wholemeal plain flour, 2 3/4tsp salt, 115g/1 stick of unsalted butter, 2 UK large eggs which are slightly larger than US and 100g/1/4 cup of honey (I wanted savoury rolls). I used the same method/timings as Sally.

  3. These turned out beautifully with whole wheat bread for anyone looking for a healthier alternative to white flour.

  4. Today, I made these these rolls for the second time this month! They are delicious! They freeze well and taste fresh when thawed and warmed in the microwave. Thank you for your detailed, easy to follow recipes!

  5. My yeast and milk mixture is not becoming frothy, this is my second try.. any suggestions!?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jessica, Any chance the yeast is expired or has not been stored properly? Also make sure your milk is warmed to about 110°F (43°C) – if it’s too hot it can kill the yeast. You can see our Baking with Yeast guide for more troubleshooting tips!

    2. Ashley Oswald says:

      Mine didn’t froth up either after 2 tries but I went ahead and made the rolls and they turned out great. But I knew my yeast was still good and it was instant yeast in a different brand since I can’t get Red Star where I live.

  6. Delicious whole wheat rolls! Very light and fluffy! This recipe is a keeper! Thank you

  7. This recipe is AMAZING!
    My entire family likes it, and there are three picky eaters in my family. It’s so perfect!
    One thing is, although I’m not sure of Sally mentions it, it is a lot faster to do her oven trick on both rises, I don’t think she said to do that, so just a thought.
    This recipe is great and I strongly suggest you try it!
    (And be prepared to be AMAZED!)

  8. Sandy Simpson says:

    These are great. Was looking for a roll recipe that was more substantial than my usual 60 minute rolls made with all white flour. Your whole wheat rolls are delicious with beef stew. Also made an apple crostata. Can’t stop cooking and baking while staying away from everybody except my husband and dog. Will have to start walking again when winter calms down in the Adirondacks.

  9. I would like to try this recipe. Has anyone halved the recipe? If so, how did they turn out?
    Thanks

  10. Hello – can I use whole wheat pastry flour?

  11. GARY PETERSON says:

    It really does throw a person off when the yeast mix does not bubble – so added a second packet and still no bubbling – went ahead and made it anyway and now it is doubling in half the time less than a hour so that suggests it did take without any bubbling up of the yeast mixture. Wonder if this recipe was even made by the author because this critical detail is wrong. See another poster had the same experience. So far so good with exception of instruction detail of “frothy and foamy after 5 minutes”

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Gary, Thank you for trying this recipe, and I’m sorry that the description gave you trouble. In step one you are looking for a bubbly layer on top of the liquid. How did the bread turn out? You can be sure any recipe published on this site has been tested dozens of times in our kitchen! We do also have a Baking with Yeast Guide if you ever have any questions or need help troubleshooting before we are able to respond to comments here.

  12. Misty Hurley says:

    This is my second whole wheat recipe I’ve made from your site and it didn’t disappoint. I just got a stand mixer for Christmas and these are the first yeast rolls I’ve ever made. Your recipes made living the Mediterranean lifestyle easier with the occasional treat.

  13. Can I use a hand mixer?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jane, If you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook attachment we recommend mixing the dough together with a wooden spoon and knead by hand.

  14. I baked these rolls for Thanksgiving this year and they were wonderful. It was just three of us and my oven is broke so I used half of the dough and baked them in a toaster/convection and froze the rest of the dough without cutting them into rolls. I took the rest of the dough out today and instead of shaping into rolls I let it rise in a bread pan which is now in the convection oven.
    I don’t think I’ve ever left recipe comment on food blog /recipe page but I wanted to thank you as this site has been my go to since I’ve been working from home this year due to pandemic in March. I will never use any pie crust recipe besides yours and I’m proud to say my pie crust game is on point now 🙂
    No doubts these rolls will also turn out to be great bread.

  15. Hi Sally,

    I love all your recipes and have made your White Bread, loving that recipe 🙂 I’d like to venture off into a whole wheat bread. Can I use this recipe and put it in a 9 x 5 bread pan?
    Also can I coat the top of these rolls with oats or seeds prior to the 2nd rise?
    Thank you

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shannon, we haven’t turned this whole wheat roll recipe into a loaf of bread before, so can’t be certain. However the bake temperature would be the same and the bake time would be much longer to guarantee it’s cooked through. Seeds or oats would be a lovely addition on top!

  16. Hello, I’m excited about trying this recipe. I need to use a plant based milk, if that’s possible. Is there one you recommend that may work and taste best?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sam, we haven’t tested it but other bakers have had success using almond milk. The rolls may be slightly less soft.

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