These Healthy Cinnamon Rolls have gooey filling, fluffy dough and sweet vanilla cream cheese glaze. Delicious, easy and made healthier with whole wheat flour without skimming on flavor!
It is one of our favorite treat-like healthier breakfast recipes!
Table of contents
In our household, cinnamon rolls are a treat or breakfast for Holidays. So naturally, we have high expectations for healthy cinnamon rolls. Especially, older kids, can’t trick them anymore.
We want soft, tall, gooey and fluffy cinnamon rolls that taste like a real deal but just a bit less sweet and lighter. With silky cream cheese icing that soaks right into warm rolls. And that is exactly what this recipe is!
And trust me, when I say it took me a while to perfect these, I mean a few years. Now, we have a batch every major holiday or as soon as it starts raining in Pacific Northwest.
So, trust me, these are the best cinnamon rolls ever!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Easy to make: You have to rise the dough only 1 time, rolls are ready in 2 hours and are made completely by hand.
- More wholesome ingredients: Whole wheat flour, coconut sugar, and less sugar and calories.
- Optional lighter yogurt frosting: It is more runny but is much lighter and still delicious.
- A crowd pleaser: Best Christmas morning breakfast, there is enough for everyone and kids love these!
Ingredients and Notes
Healthy cinnamon roll recipe requires only 12 simple ingredients you most likely have on hand right now. There is full recipe card and nutrition information below.
- Two types of flours: You will need all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. And you have to use 2 kinds of flour because all my tests with only whole grain flour did not produce good results. I believe you can use 100% of white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour.
- Milk: Any dairy milk works and I used 3.25%. Dairy free milk like almond milk, soy milk etc. is OK too. Rolls will be a bit less flavorful but you are probably used to that, if you are asking.
- Eggs: 2 large eggs of room temperature to make sure yeast activates.
- Butter: You can use salted or unsalted butter. Vegan butter or coconut oil will work as well. Will need it at room temperature for the icing.
- Quick rising instant yeast: It allows the cinnamon roll dough to rise within an hour. You can use active dry yeast, the dough will take a bit longer to rise.
- Cane sugar and powdered sugar: Use any light color sugar. Coconut sugar will work too. Stay away from liquid sweeteners as they will offset the consistency. Powdered sugar is for the icing.
- Cream cheese: Make sure it is at room temperature. I recommend to use full-fat but light cream cheese is OK.
- Cinnamon and vanilla extract: For flavors. It’s cinnamon rolls, after all!
How to Make Healthy Cinnamon Rolls
I personally like to make only easy cinnamon rolls when you have to let the dough rise once. And this is the method I am sharing with you today!
- Activate the yeast: Warm up milk in a microwave or on the stove until it is warm to the touch and not exceeding 110 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk melted butter and sugar, then sprinkle instant yeast on top and let it stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Make the dough: Then whisk in the eggs, add white flour and whole wheat flour, and stir with a wooden spoon. There is no way these rolls will turn out yummy only with whole wheat flour.
- Let it rise for 1 hour: Cover mixed dough with a towel and place in warm place until doubled in size. This may take more or less time depending on the humidity and temperature in your home. Then you will add more flour, baking powder and salt and knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for about 3-4 minutes. It’s super easy recipe!
- Roll: Roll out the dough into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle with shorter side closer to you. That’s when you want your ruler or measuring tape out.
- Add the filling: Spread softened butter over dough, then sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top evenly. You want to make sure of two things – to to soften the butter and not melt, and to leave a 1/4 inch margin at the far 12 inch side of the dough.
- Roll and cut: Starting again at the longest side, roll the dough very tightly, pinch the seam and place the seam side down. Cut with a sharp knife or dental floss works very well too because it cuts from the inside to the center. You want to cut the log into 12 pieces by trimming half inch ends first.
- Bake: At some point you want to preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and butter large 9 x 13 baking dish. Arrange the rolls and bake for 20-25 minutes or until just lightly golden brown. You do not want to bake whole wheat cinnamon rolls longer, so they stay soft.
- Frost: Before you frost your cinnamon rolls, make sure to let them cool a bit and only then spread the icing. We are using healthier amount of delicious ingredients like cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla.
If you would like to use maple syrup and no butter in your icing, make this healthy cream cheese frosting.
Tips for Making the Best Cinnamon Rolls
- Make sure yeast isn’t expired: Every package of yeast has Best Before date. If yeast is old, milk mixture won’t foam even after 20 minutes and the dough won’t rise. Use fresh yeast. I always buy fresh just not to risk it.
- Test the temperature of milk: You need it to be 110 degrees F. If your milks is too hot and over 120 degrees F, it will kill yeast and nothing will happen. If milks is too cold, it’s not warm enough to activate the yeast. In either case you have to restart. Good thing you are not that far ahead in the process. You can read here more about what temperature kills yeast.
- Measure flour correctly: To measure flour correctly, spoon it into a measuring cup rather than scooping with it from a bag.
- Don’t add too much flour: If you add too much flour, your dough will be tough and cinnamon buns will not turn out moist and rather dry. Once rolling out the dough, add flour little by little if you dough is sticky. Also don’t overwork your dough.
- If using a knife for cutting: Make sure to use a very sharp knife and saw back and forth instead of cutting and squishing the rolls.
- Don’t use any liquid filling ingredients: It might be tempting to make homemade cinnamon rolls even healthier by adding applesauce or maple syrup to the filling but please don’t do it! It will leak out and you will be disappointed with the results. This is well tested recipe as is, trust me.
Can I Make These Overnight?
Yes. After you roll and cut cinnamon rolls, arrange them in a baking pan as directed. Cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Next day, when ready to bake remove them from the fridge and bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Then bake as per recipe instructions.
Can I Freeze Them Before or After Baking?
How to freeze cinnamon rolls before baking: You should freeze the cinnamon buns after they have been rolled out, cut and assembled in a baking dish. Cover it tightly with a few layers of plastic wrap and aluminum foil on top, then freeze for up to 3 months.
When ready to bake, thaw in the fridge overnight or 3-4 hours on a counter. In either case, make sure to bring the rolls to room temperature before baking as directed.
How to freeze cinnamon rolls after baking: To freeze cooked rolls leftovers, bake, cool and freeze either in entire pan or individual ones tightly wrapped in plastic.
You can also place them in an airtight container to help prevent the freezer burn. The icing is also freezer friendly!
No. This recipe is meant to be used with quick rise yeast. The difference is that it makes dough rise faster.
Because of the cream cheese icing situation, you have to refrigerate the rolls covered for up to 3-4 days.
Reheat in a microwave in 10 second increments. If they were previously frozen, thaw individual ones for an hour and microwave. Or for a big batch, thaw and reheat at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes in the oven.
Yes. Instead of kneading by hand, use a stand mixer like KitchenAid and a dough hook attachment. I personally do not have a stand mixer, so I don’t use one.
Unfortunately not. Gluten free flour acts differently than flour with gluten. It would have to be completely different recipe to test out.
Unfortunately traditional cinnamon rolls are anything but good for you. Cinnabon roll has 900 calories and 60 grams of sugar. Our one bun runs 350 calories and 18 grams of sugar.
Healthy Cinnamon Rolls
For the Dough
- 1 cup milk 3.25% or 2%
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 1/3 cup cane sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon quick rising yeast 1 packet
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour or spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
For the Cinnamon Filling
For Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 oz cream cheese softened
- 3 tablespoon butter softened
- 3/4 cup powder sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Warm up milk to 110 degrees F by placing in a microwave for 40 seconds or on the stove. It should be warm to the touch. Add melted butter and sugar, then whisk. Sprinkle yeast, gently stir and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add eggs and whisk until mixed. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour. Stir with wooden spoon, cover with linen towel and let stand in warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. This may take more or less time depending on the humidity and temperature in your home.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter large 9 x 13 baking dish, set aside. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup flour, baking powder and salt. Stir with spatula until can't stir any further, then knead on a floured surface for about 3-4 minutes.
- Roll out dough into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle with shorter side closer to you. Spread softened butter over dough, leaving a 1/4 inch margin at the far 12 inch side of the dough.
- In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon, mix. Sprinkle all over buttered part. Starting at 12 inch side, roll the dough as tightly as possible, pinch the seam and place the seam side down.
- Using a sharp knife or dental floss (my favorite), cut off 1/2 inch without the filling on each end. Then cut into even about 1 inch pieces and place into previously prepared dish.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just lightly golden brown. You do not want to bake cinnamon rolls longer so they stay soft. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.
- To make the frosting, in a medium bowl, add cream cheese, butter, powder sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Spread over warm cinnamon rolls and enjoy!
- Flours: You can use ALL white whole wheat flour. Substitute spelt flour with whole wheat flour. You can’t use all whole wheat or spelt flour because all my tests didn’t produce tasty results.
- Non-dairy milk: It works but rolls will be less rich.
- Butter: Vegan butter or coconut oil works.
- Eggs: To quickly warm up eggs, place in a bowl with hot water for 5 minutes. You can substitute eggs with 4 tablespoon extra butter or coconut oil.
- Sugar: You can substitute sugar with liquid sweetener only in the dough. Do not make liquidy cinnamon filling, it will run out.
- Healthier frosting: In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Add it not more than an hour before serving.
Hi Olena, i’ve found your recipe and it looks delightful. i don’t have the quick rising yeast, though, so is it possible i could substitute it for something else or just extend rising time? I want to make these soon, it would mean a lot if you could reply!
Unfortunately, this recipe has been tested using only quick rise yeast so we can’t say how it would do with regular yeast.
I’m making the rolls as we speak. Minutes from going in the oven. Will get back with the results.
Is there a way to make this gluten free?
I made your healthy cinnamon rolls recipe for Thanksgiving and they were a huge hit!