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 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.

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 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.

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

While these whole wheat dinner rolls are soft, 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

148 Comments

  1. I cannot wait to try these! Do you think a variation with coconut oil would work?

    1. Hi Sofia! I strongly recommend sticking to butter for this dough.

  2. Kristine Walters says:

    I made this recipe this week and they are AMAZING. I can’t get enough. Normally I make bread in my bread maker but this has changed me. Can’t wait to try other bread recipes of yours (I have only tried your delicious desserts in he past). 

    1. Hi Kristine! Thank you so much for trying my whole wheat rolls. I’m glad you loved them!

  3. Jackie Henderson says:

    Thanks for this recipe! I made them just as your recipe noted. Mine didn’t quite rise in the oven as much as yours show in the pictures, and I had to let mine rise a little more the second time, as they just weren’t getting the height that I wanted/needed.The topping made them super good – I’ll definitely use the honey/butter/salt mix on other rolls too.

    1. I’m so glad you tried the whole wheat rolls! Thanks for reporting back.

  4. Tried these last night with wholemeal flour. They didn’t look quite as pretty as yours did but tasted great nonetheless! Gonna try your easy cinnamon rolls next 🙂 have never gone wrong with one of your recipes!

  5. Hi…..can i make a bread loaf with this??? What will be the baking time???

    1. Hi Kiran! I’m sure that you could, but I haven’t tried it.

  6. I made this recipe last night and the rolls were delicious and soft! I had to add almost a whole extra half cup of flour to get it to a smoother texture. I was afraid it might effect the rise but after an initial 2 hour proving and 1 hour after arranging in my dish they came out so fluffy and HUGE! Thanks for this recipe, Sally! My first time making bread too!

    1. You are welcome, Ambereen! I’m so happy you tried this for your first time making bread!

  7. These were fantastic! My kids loved them (score!). I had one to dip in my soup and then another for dessert- I spread homemade pumpkin butter on it. Delicious!

  8. I’m a newbie baker and I made these today as a personal challenge to try a yeast recipe before Thanksgiving. They came out very well, and I wanted to say thank you for your clear instructions and explanations! I’m so happy to be able to branch into yeast baking now.

    1. Oh I’m so happy to read this Erin! Way to go!!

  9. I’ve just started baking homemade breads and wondering if this could be made as a loaf? I made the basic bread recipe (bread bowls) today as 3 loaves and had success! Thank you for all the detailed information on the website.

    1. Hi Deb! I personally haven’t tried turning this whole wheat dough into a loaf, but you certainly can try. I can’t see why it wouldn’t work properly. Let me know how it turns out.

  10. Hi Caroline! I recommend sticking with whole milk.

  11. Jessica Flory says:

    Wow. These rolls. SO GOOD!!! They were soft, fluffy, and so flavorful. We loved them!! That honey butter sea salt topping is PERFECT 😀

  12. I just made these for the April challenge and they are so good. I usually expect whole wheat baked goods to be more on the dense side, but these were so soft and fluffy!!! Great recipe!

  13. Melissa Schwartz says:

    These were AMAZING! I did exactly what you suggested, including buying the right type of yeast. It takes a while, but not much effort. I’m definitely going to make this instead of buying rolls in the future.

  14. I made these for the April Challenge. They are so yummy. Definitely sprinkle with sea salt at the end, it makes all the difference

  15. Lesle McGuffey says:

    I was able to make these into whole wheat rolls not just squares. I found the dough very user friendly.
    Are we allowed to alter the recipes? I would have liked to have used half ap flour and half whole wheat.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed them! You can certainly try using half of each flour – let me know how they turn out!

  16. Madeline Goodfellow says:

    How would you adjust the bake time and temperature if you wanted to make this recipe into a loaf of bread?

    1. Hi Madeline! I haven’t turned this whole wheat roll recipe into a loaf of bread before, so I 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.

  17. I have made these 2 times and everyone who has tasted them loved them, the only change I made was I added 3 tbs of molasses to the honey, great flavor and so soft.

  18. These are amazing! So flavorful, moist, slightly sweet and chewy. I made those yesterday for a BBQ and they were gone in minutes! The dough was a bit too moist for me, I needed to add more flour and I pur some seeds in. Really easy and tasty!

  19. Can this recipe be made without a mixer?

    1. Yes, if you don’t have a stand mixer, mix the dough together with a wooden spoon and knead by hand.

  20. Hi, do you have an egg-free version or a substitute for the eggs?
    thanks!

    1. Hi Maha, I haven’t tested these rolls with an egg substitute but let me know if you try it!

  21. Wow wow wow! Making the second double batch to take to a big thanksgiving celebration and am IMPRESSED! I will be adding this to my favorite folder for thanksgiving. I added lots of fresh rosemary and sage to pick up the flavors of the season, but that’s it! They are soft but appropriately chewy that a WW rolls should be. I love everything about these! Thank you Sally!

  22. This recipe turned out perfectly. I did all the mixing and kneading by hand, since I don’t have a stand mixer in my college apartment, but it never posed a problem or anything. They came out delicious with a nice color on the top and bottom and a beautifully soft middle. Would totally make them again!

  23. Did you get a decent rise? If not, you may have over or under-proofed your dough. If you used the oven to proof, maybe it was too hot to begin with and killed the protein structures. Or maybe you knocked out some of the air right before you baked it. Hope this helps 🙂

  24. Thanks for publishing this recipe. It turned out fine.

    I don’t like that you suggested mixing the yeast into a cup of warm milk to proof it. I didn’t get the activation level you predicted despite the yeast being fresh.

    I tossed it out and started over, proofing with a small amount of warm milk and a teaspoon of sugar, as usual. This got the normal foam I expected, and then I mixed this into the rest of the warm milk and continued with the recipe.

    For others: 2.25 teaspoons of yeast is one square packet

  25. This was very yummy. They cooked perfectly. Thank you. 🙂

  26. These buns are amazing!! They turn out gorgeously soft with a perfect balance of sweet and salty. Dangerously addicting too…I tried to eat only one last night, and before I knew it I was nibbling on a second. Thankfully I have this awesome recipe in my arsenal now so I can just make more when I run out 🙂

  27. Hi Sally!
    I will be trying these out tomorrow and i would like to ask if these can be made into burger buns, if so, how will the shaping process go?
    Would i use the same method from the white rolls by tucking pieces under it to make a round top and then space them widely apart?

    Im unsure going forward and making them until i can fully understand how the shaping process will be.

    P.S i have tried the white dinner rolls and the fam loved it!
    Thank you so much for every recipe that you put on here, they are fool-proof I tell ya!

    1. Hi Ariffa, To make larger, round rolls from this dough you can shape them in a similar method to my dinner rolls, simply using more dough for each one. Let me know how they turn out!

  28. Jerianne Moore says:

    We are now on a Stay at Home order for the next 2 weeks. Thanks to you, my 9yo and I have a yummy science lesson for today to cheer us up!

  29. Looking forward to making these! Question…since we have to stay home..all I have is 2%, can I use that instead of whole milk? Thanks!

    1. 2% milk works in a pinch, yes!

  30. Any substitute for the honey? With the current grocery store issues I can’t seem to find any. Please help!

    1. Hi Jennifer, you can use regular sugar in the dough and skip the honey in the topping.

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