These soft and fluffy pumpkin cinnamon rolls have pumpkin in the dough and pumpkin pie spice in the filling! Finished off with a bourbon cream cheese icing, these are the best way to start a cozy fall morning.
Table of contents
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
This recipe is basically just a simple twist on my favorite cinnamon rolls recipe. These pumpkin cinnamon rolls are made with lots of pumpkin purée and pumpkin spice added to the dough, plus a generous pour of bourbon stirred into the cream cheese frosting for some extra fall vibes.
The cinnamon rolls are soft, light, fluffy and there’s just enough pumpkin flavor to notice, but not so much that it overwhelms the inherent beauty of classic cinnamon rolls. They’re totally irresistible! (Did I mention that these pumpkin cinnamon rolls are also egg-free!?)
Ingredients for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
This pumpkin cinnamon rolls recipe doesn’t require a ton of ingredients; here’s what you’ll need:
- Milk: I recommend whole milk, but know that non-dairy milk alternatives, like almond milk, will also work just fine (I’ve tried it numerous times!)
- Instant Yeast: Use instant yeast in this recipe to help the cinnamon rolls rise faster. You can also use active dry yeast, but they’ll take longer to rise.
- Granulated sugar: This is used to help feed the yeast and sweeten the cinnamon rolls just a tad.
- Butter: The one and only. You’ll use it for the dough, the filling, and the icing.
- Pumpkin purée: Make sure it’s pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin puree adds real pumpkin flavor (obviously) and also a lot of moisture which makes for incredibly soft rolls!
- Bread flour: Bread flour consistently lead to the best results with this recipe; but you can substitute it with an equal amount of all-purpose flour if that’s all you have on hand!
- Pumpkin pie spice: If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice on hand, replace with: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger, and ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves; you’ll use 1 teaspoon in the dough, and ½ teaspoon in the filling.
- Brown sugar: I love using dark brown sugar for a more intense flavor, but light brown sugar will also work!
- Cinnamon: These are cinnamon rolls after all…
- Salt: Salt helps to control the yeast, so don’t skip it.
- Cream cheese: For the bourbon cream cheese icing, of course.
- Powdered sugar: Also for the icing!
- Bourbon & milk: Both ingredients are used in the icing; for a kid-friendly version, just replace the bourbon with an equal amount of milk!
How to Make Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
To help ensure your success in making these Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, we are going to walk through the significant steps in the process together! Starting with making the pumpkin brioche dough.
1. The Pumpkin Brioche Dough
This pumpkin dough is a riff on my go-to brioche dough for just about everything. The dough is so incredibly soft and easy to work with. Basically… it’s perfect.
Start by adding the flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice to a large bowl and stir until just combined. Add the milk, pumpkin purée, and melted butter, and knead the dough until a firm, but slightly tacky ball is formed. You should really only need around 2¼ cups (280g) of flour; resist the temptation of adding too much!
If kneading by hand, only add more flour when the dough begins to stick to your surface. It should be smooth and elastic, but still a little tacky. Once the dough is kneaded and smooth, form it into a ball then place it in a lightly greased bowl to rest for about 15 minutes while you make the filling. If using active dry yeast, you’ll let the dough rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
2. The Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Sugar Filling
While the pumpkin brioche dough is resting, you’ll make the brown butter cinnamon sugar filling.
THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO MAKE THE PUMPKIN SPICE CINNAMON SUGAR FILLING:
- Combine all filling ingredients and then spread onto the dough. For this method, add the softened butter, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon to a medium-sized bowl and combine with a fork until the mixture is homogenous and forms a paste. Then spread this mixture on the dough with an offset spatula.
- Melt the butter, brush it on the dough and sprinkle dry ingredients on top. For this method, combine the pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a bowl and mix well. Then, melt the butter and use a pastry brush to brush it on the rolled out dough. Next, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the melted butter and roll it up.
The second method is easier, however, I prefer the first method because I find the filling doesn’t leak out of the pumpkin cinnamon rolls to the bottom of the pan as much.
3. The Bourbon Cream Cheese Icing
Honestly, this icing should come with a warning that’s how good it is. While the pumpkin cinnamon rolls are baking, make your icing. Simply add your softened butter to your softened cream cheese and stir to combine. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little curdled, it will smooth out! Add the powdered sugar, milk, and bourbon and stir until smooth and combined. Then, you’re ready to drown your rolls once they’re out of the oven! If you want a kid-friendly icing, just replace the bourbon with an equal amount of milk!
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls Recipe Troubleshooting & FAQ
PUMPKIN CINNAMON ROLLS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I use active dry yeast instead?
Technically, yes! But you’ll need to add the yeast to the warmed milk and let sit for 5 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. Also, your rolls will require two longer rises instead of just one; one rise will need to be done after kneading the dough and one after slicing the dough log into rolls!
Can I use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour for the dough?
Sure! Just use an equal amount!
Can I make the cinnamon rolls ahead of time?
Absolutely. There are two different routes you could take.
1) REFRIGERATE ASSEMBLED PUMPKIN CINNAMON ROLLS TO BAKE THE NEXT DAY
Tightly wrap the assembled (but not risen) pumpkin cinnamon rolls with plastic wrap and cover with a damp tea towel or the lid to the baking dish. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove the assembled rolls from the refrigerator. Loosen the plastic wrap and let the cinnamon rolls come to room temperature and complete their second rise covered with loose-fitting plastic wrap and a warm, damp tea towel.
Bake the risen rolls according to the recipe!
2) FREEZE PUMPKIN CINNAMON ROLLS TO BAKE AT A LATER DATE
Prepare the pumpkin cinnamon rolls all the way through their rise. Instead of baking the cinnamon rolls for the entire time, just bake them partway (par-baking) for 10 to 15 minutes. The rolls should be raised and set, but not totally browned. Remove from the oven and let the rolls cool completely in the pan. Wrap the pan in two layers of plastic wrap or place them into a large plastic bag and seal. Freeze for 8 hours or up to 6 weeks. The night before you want to serve the rolls, take them out of the freezer and place them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Unwrap the cinnamon rolls the next morning and bake them at 350°F until they are completely done and a light golden brown all over, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Can I leave the bourbon out of the icing?
Totally; just replace it with an equal amount of milk!
PUMPKIN CINNAMON ROLLS: TROUBLESHOOTING
Help! My dough isn’t rising! What’s wrong?
Yeast has a “use by” date. As it moves beyond that time, it loses its oomph. Check the date printed on the package to make sure it’s within its usable life. If your yeast hasn’t expired, then you likely accidentally killed it by adding liquids that were too hot. The ideal temperature of the milk is between 120°F (48°C) and 130°F (54°C); I recommend getting an instant-read thermometer to ensure you don’t waste your ingredients!
Help! My dough is extremely sticky and difficult to knead!
Dough that is too sticky is a very common problem but it is actually really easy to fix! Sticky dough is almost always caused by a dough that is too hydrated. This basically means that you have either added too much milk to your dough or not enough flour. The fix is simply incorporating a little bit more flour (I recommend 1 tablespoon at a time)! The dough should be slightly tacky, but if you touch it with a clean, dry finger, the dough shouldn’t come off onto your finger.
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
For the Pumpkin Brioche Dough:
- 250-280 g bread flour
- 7 g instant dry yeast
- 25 g granulated sugar
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 95 g milk warm
- 125 g pumpkin purée
- 45 g unsalted butter melted
For the Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Sugar Filling:
- 60 g unsalted butter softened
- 110 g dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
For the Bourbon Cream Cheese Icing:
- 28 g cream cheese softened
- 15 g unsalted butter softened
- 60 g powdered sugar
- 7 g milk
- 7 g bourbon
To Make the Pumpkin Brioche Dough:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups (250g) of the flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add the milk, pumpkin puree, and melted butter, and mix until the ingredients are just barely combined and a shaggy dough forms.
- Add the remaining ¼ cup (30g) of flour and, using the hook attachment, beat on low speed until a soft dough forms. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the dough is soft and supple, about 6 minutes longer. *If you do not have a stand mixer with a hook attachment, knead the dough by hand in this step for 8-10 minutes.*
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it with your hands for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. Prepare the filling while the dough rests.
To Make the Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Sugar Filling and Assemble:
- Add the butter, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice to a medium bowl and combine using a fork until a thick paste forms. Set aside until needed.
- Grease the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch baking dish and set it aside. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 12×16-inch rectangle. Make sure the dough is smooth and evenly thick.
- Spread the pumpkin spice cinnamon sugar filling all over the dough. Tightly roll up the dough to form a 12-inch-long log and cut into 9 even rolls. Arrange them in the prepared baking pan. Cover the pan and allow the rolls to rise for 50-60 minutes or until nearly doubled in size.
- While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, until the rolls are nicely browned. While the rolls are baking, make the icing.
To Make the Bourbon Cream Cheese Icing:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and butter until combined. Add the powdered sugar, milk, and bourbon and whisk until smooth and combined. If the icing is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar; if it's too thick, add more milk.
- Drizzle the icing over the warm pumpkin cinnamon rolls once you remove them from the oven. Cover leftover frosted or unfrosted rolls tightly and store them at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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