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These homemade pecan rolls pair pillowy soft dough with spirals of buttery cinnamon brown sugar filling, then top it all off with a sticky, nutty glaze. Spoil your family with these butterscotch sticky buns.
There are some from scratch recipes that aren’t worth the effort. But when it comes to bread—and, more specifically, pecan rolls—the answer to whether it’s worth it is an emphatic “YES! OF COURSE!”
We add a layer of brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans to homemade brioche dough—all held in place with a generous smear of butter. Then the rolls are baked with a sticky, syrupy butterscotch pecan glaze.
This recipe has:
- Milk – Warm the milk to 110ºF. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, it should be warm to the touch, not hot.
- Honey or sugar
- Active dry yeast – You can substitute instant yeast if you’d like; the instructions for using that are in the recipe card.
- Eggs – Let these come to room temperature.
- Butter – Unsalted butter is best. Melt it, but then let it cool a bit. (Hot butter could overheat the yeast and cook the eggs.)
- Bread flour – Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour. It will give your pecan rolls a better rise.
- Butter – Soften this enough that it’s spreadable.
- Brown sugar
- Pecans – chopped
Step By Step Instructions
*I’ll walk you through it here with some photos and tips, and you’ll also find a printable recipe card at the bottom of the post with exact measurements, etc. You can also click “jump to recipe” to skip down.
Make the Dough
Whisk the warm milk, honey, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let the mixture sit until it’s foamy and doubled in size.
Add the flour, sugar, eggs, salt, and butter. Use the hook attachment to mix the dough until it forms a solid mass and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Pick up the dough and while holding it in one hand, grease the bowl. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel.
Let the dough sit until it has doubled in size; this should take about an hour, but it depends on the temperature in your kitchen.
Assemble the Pecan Rolls
On a lightly floured work surface, make a ball out of the dough and gently shape it with your hands to form a rectangle.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to make a large rectangle. Spread the softened butter over the dough, leaving a border along the sides. Sprinkle the brown sugar, pecans, and cinnamon over the butter.
Start with the long edge of the dough furthest from you and tightly roll the dough towards you until you have a solid log. Cut the log into 12 rolls using a serrated bread knife.
Grease a deep 9×13 baking dish. Place the pecan rolls into the dish, spacing them evenly. Set in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size. Pro tip: you want a very deep baking dish (like a cake pan) to keep the butterscotch pecan glaze from spilling over into your oven.
Once the rolls have risen, preheat the oven to 350˚F.
While the oven is preheating, warm the butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the brown sugar dissolves.
Bring the mixture to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly so it does not burn. Stir in the vanilla extract and pecans, then cook for 1-2 more minutes.
Pour the pecan mixture over the tops of the rolls. Bake, uncovered, for 28 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden brown.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT
Storing Leftovers: Place any leftover cinnamon pecan rolls in an airtight container and store them at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Reheating Leftovers: Warm up leftover sticky buns in the microwave until the glaze melts a bit.
To Freeze and Bake: I recommend freezing them without the pecan butterscotch glaze. Press a piece of plastic wrap over the rolls after the second rise.
Tightly wrap the pan in foil and freeze the unbaked rolls for up to two months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, cover with pecan butterscotch glaze, and then bake as instructed in the recipe card below.
Frequently Asked Questions
The two main types of yeast you can buy in most stores are active dry or instant (rapid rise) yeast.
If you only have instant yeast, you can skip step 1 of the recipe and just incorporate all the dough ingredients together.
Active dry yeast needs to be “proofed” and mixed with a liquid (warm milk in this case) to get the party started.
If your yeast doesn’t dissolve into the milk and starts to produce some bubble action within 10 minutes, your yeast has passed on.
If you know the yeast is new and worked recently, chances are the milk or butter was too hot when combined with the yeast.
For the dough, I recommend 2%, whole, or buttermilk. Results with 1% or lower are generally poor. I have not tested this recipe with non-dairy milk.
For the pecan glaze, I only recommend heavy cream. Subbing in a lower-fat product will lead to poor results.
RECIPE VARIATIONS & OPTIONAL ADDINS
Pecans are the traditional choice for sticky rolls, but there’s no reason you can’t use walnuts, cashews, or a mixture of nuts. Go wild, or rather, go nuts…!
For some extra decadence, scatter some mini semi-sweet or white chocolate chips over the filling before rolling up the dough.
PRO TIPS/RECIPE NOTES
- Dough is very sensitive to ambient temperature and humidity. If, for example, your kitchen is humid, your dough might be sticky. Add more flour a tablespoon at a time if this happens.
- And on the subject of temperature: in a chilly kitchen, your dough may take longer to rise. You can either roll with it (pun absolutely intended) and wait a little longer, or you can speed things up by using your Instant Pot. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the Instant Pot insert, then add the dough. Cover with a glass lid and press “Yogurt,” then set the timer for 30 minutes. It will take 15-40 minutes to double in size.
- If you run out of brown sugar, did you know you can make your own? Check out our recipe for Homemade Brown Sugar.
- Do not use a shallow baking dish for this recipe. The glaze can and will spill over, creating a mess in your oven. Use a deep pan, and if it gives you extra peace of mind, place a rimmed baking sheet under it while baking.
- If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can mix and knead the dough by hand. This will take about 10 minutes; when you’re done kneading, the dough will be smooth and elastic.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH THIS RECIPE
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Proof the dough
- Whisk together warm milk, honey, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let it sit until foamy and doubled in size. Looks Like: the top of a super creamy root beer! If you have instant yeast, skip this step and combine all the dough ingredients together and follow directions in step 2.1 cup milk, 1/4 cup honey, 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
Make the dough
- Add flour, sugar, eggs, salt, and butter. Using the bread hook attachment on the stand mixer, mix the dough until it is a solid mass and the sides of the bowl are clean (about 2 minutes). If the dough is still super sticky, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it is no longer sticking to the sides.2 eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 4 1/2 cups bread flour, 1/3 cup butter
- Gather the dough in one hand and quickly grease the bowl (I use a drizzle of olive oil). Place the dough back in and cover bowl with a clean damp kitchen towel. Let it sit until the dough has doubled in size (about 1 hour). Looks Like: a puffed up mass of dough with the top sides pulling away from the bowl.
- You can also proof your dough in an Instant Pot using the yogurt setting and a glass lid. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into the instant pot insert and add the dough. Cover with the glass lid and press "yogurt" and set the timer for 30 minutes. Check after 15. It will take 15-40 minutes to double in size.
Assembling the Pecan Rolls
- Sprinkle a bit of flour onto a clean surface. Make a ball out of the dough and gently press it with your hands to create a rectangle.
- Roll out the dough to make a large rectangle (about 18×22 inches).
- Spread softened butter over the dough, leaving a small butter-less perimeter around the outside. Cover with brown sugar, pecans, and top with cinnamon.1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- Starting with the long edge of the dough furthest from you, tightly roll the dough towards you until you have a solid “roll”.
- Cut into 12 (~1.5-2 inches wide) rolls. Pro tip: using a bread knife (aka serrated knife) will create the cleanest cuts.
- Grease a deep 9×13 baking dish. Place the pecan rolls into the dish. Set aside in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size (about 1 hour). Looks Like: the rolls will have "fluffed" up and are likely touching each other in the dish.
- Once the rolls have risen, preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- While the oven is preheating, combine butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the brown sugar dissolves.1/3 cup unsalted butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 2 tsp cinnamon
- Bring to a simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly so the mixture does not burn.
- Stir in vanilla extract and pecans. Cook for 1-2 more minutes.1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 3/4 cups pecans
- Pour the buttered pecan mixture over the tops of the rolls.
- Bake, uncovered, for 28 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden brown.
- Use a DEEP cake pan or baking dish so that the pecan glaze does not overflow in the oven.
- No stand mixer? You can technically mix the dough by hand but be prepared for it to take about 10 minutes.
- Types of milk – I would recommend 2%, whole, or buttermilk. Results with 1% or lower are generally poor. I have not tested this recipe with non-dairy milk.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.