This is the best recipe for Homemade Overnight Cinnamon Rolls! Soft, tender, and oozing with cinnamon flavor, no one would guess these healthy cinnamon rolls are made with whole grains and low in fat and calories!
I recommend pairing these Healthy Cinnamon Rolls with Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole and Bellini Cocktails for a simple holiday breakfast to remember.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- The Flavor: From the yeasty homemade dough to the warming spices to the cream cheese glaze, these Healthy Cinnamon Rolls taste incredibly rich and decadent, while secretly being lightened up. In fact, my husband, who is a devoted Cinnabon fan, declared he would happily choose my Homemade Cinnamon Rolls any day over Cinnabon's. Now that is what I call success!
- Better for You: While this recipe uses flour, butter, and sugar, which are not exactly known to be healthy ingredients, it uses significantly less than most recipes. The trick is using just enough to still deliver the classic flavor, minus the excessive fat and calories.
- Easy to Make: These Cinnamon Rolls can be made the night before, so all you have to do in the morning is bake and enjoy! Perfect for the holidays!
Notes on Ingredients
- Flour: To add whole grains to this recipe, I recommend using whole white wheat flour. It is 100% whole grain, yet keeps baked goods light and airy. In place of whole white wheat flour, you can opt to use all-purpose flour, but you will lose out on a bit of fiber and nutrients.
- Yeast: Use dry active yeast, not rapid-rise yeast, for best results.
- Butter: Instead of using several sticks of butter, only a mere 3 tablespoons of butter are needed to make these Cinnamon Rolls. The butter is used in just the right spots so that you still have that rich butter flavor.
- Sugar: You can use coconut sugar, brown sugar, or granulated sugar for the filling of the cinnamon rolls. I love using brown sugar, as the molasses adds a nice rich finish to the cinnamon rolls.
- Spices: A pinch of cloves along with cinnamon, adds just the right amount of warmth to these Cinnamon Rolls.
- Cream Cheese Glaze: Adding a small amount of cream cheese to the glaze, finishes the cinnamon rolls with just the right tanginess which balances out the sweetness in the dish.
How to Prepare Cinnamon Rolls
Next to the flavor, I love the fact that these cinnamon rolls can be made the night before OR several hours in advance, making this recipe perfect for lazy weekends, holiday brunches, or entertaining.
Step One: Prepare Dough
Instead of using a bread dough made with lots of butter and eggs, my recipe for cinnamon roll dough is based on my Italian bread recipe, which is fat-free, yeasty, and simple to make.
- In a glass measuring cup, mix the yeast, honey, and water together and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture is foamy.
- In a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the salt and flour and then add the yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture together until the dough just comes together and the flour is fully moistened.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until the dough forms a smooth ball. Alternatively, use the dough hook on the stand mixer and mix on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth.
- Place the dough into a bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.
Step Two: Assemble the Cinnamon Rolls
Once your dough has doubled in size you are ready to roll it out and assemble your cinnamon rolls. Remember this can be done up to 16 hours in advance if you would like to prepare these Cinnamon Rolls the night before you intend to bake them.
- Generously brush an 8x8 baking dish with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside to use for the filling.
- Punch the dough down and on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 9x13 rectangle.
- Brush the dough evenly with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
- Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the dough, spreading all the way to the edges of the dough. This ensures that every bite is filled with the rich, warming cinnamon sugar mixture.
- Roll the cinnamon roll dough up lengthwise and then cut it into 9 even slices. I find it is easier to ensure that the cinnamon rolls are even in size if I cut the dough into thirds and then cut each third into 3 equal-sized pieces.
- Arrange the cinnamon rolls, evenly spaced apart in the buttered baking dish.
Step Three: Refrigerate Overnight
I love to make these cinnamon rolls the night before I intend to enjoy them, as the overnight preparation keeps the hands-on prep time to a minimum before I have had coffee. It also makes this cinnamon roll recipe perfect for entertaining or Christmas morning.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for up to 16 hours.
Alternatively, you can opt to bake these rolls immediately after they have doubled in size instead of using the method for overnight preparation. To do so, cover the baking dish with a clean towel and let the dough sit in a warm place until doubled in size. This typically takes 45-60 minutes, depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen. Then bake and glaze as directed.
Step Four: Prepare the Glaze
I recommend preparing the cinnamon roll frosting in advance as well, leaving less work and dishes for the morning.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the cream cheese, milk, and lemon juice until smooth.
- Add in the powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, mixing to incorporate.
- Add in additional milk or powdered sugar as needed to reach the right consistency. You want your glaze to be thin enough to drizzle slowly off a spatula.
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate overnight along with the cinnamon rolls.
Step Five: Bake
While there will be little to no hands-on time needed to bake your cinnamon rolls in the morning, you do want to plan for the time your cinnamon rolls will need to come to room temperature and bake before serving.
- In the morning, remove the cream cheese frosting and cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator.
- Let the cinnamon rolls come to room temperature and get nice and puffy. Depending on the temperature of your house this will take between 60 and 90 minutes.
- Once your cinnamon rolls are ready to be baked, remove the plastic wrap, and brush them with an additional tablespoon of melted butter.
- Bake, uncovered, until JUST lightly golden. You don't want to overbake these cinnamon rolls or they will not be as fluffy and light.
Step Six: Ice
- Give the prepared icing a good whisk, adding a teaspoon or two of milk if needed to reach the consistency desired.
- Spread the icing evenly over the warm cinnamon rolls.
- Enjoy warm with a homemade latte or cup of mulled cider.
Storage and Reheating Instructions
If you have leftover cinnamon rolls, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
To reheat the leftover cinnamon rolls so that they do not dry out or become hard, bake them, covered with foil, in a 300-degree F oven for 10-15 minutes until warmed through. Alternatively, place a cinnamon roll on a heat-safe plate, cover it with a damp paper towel, and microwave for 45 seconds.
How to Freeze Cinnamon Rolls
After much trial and error, I have discovered that the best way to freeze cinnamon rolls is to allow them to rise fully and partially bake. Once fully cooled, you can freeze the cinnamon rolls for 1-2 months and then defrost and finish baking. This process of partially baking the cinnamon rolls before freezing ensures they have the best taste and texture.
Directions for Freezing
- Prepare the dough as directed.
- Butter a freezer-safe baking dish or line your baking dish with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
- Assemble the cinnamon rolls and place them into the prepared baking dish. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
- Brush with additional melted butter and PARTIALLY bake the cinnamon rolls for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.
- Allow the cinnamon rolls to cool fully.
- Wrap the freezer-safe baking dish with 2 layers of foil. Alternatively, remove the parchment paper from the baking dish wrap the cinnamon rolls in 2 layers of foil, and place them in a freezer-safe bag.
- Store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- When ready to enjoy, defrost the cinnamon rolls overnight in the refrigerator.
- In the morning. remove the foil and if needed, place the cinnamon rolls into a baking dish and bake for 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cinnamon rolls are just golden.
- Glaze as directed.
- Time-Saving Tip: Replace the homemade cinnamon roll dough with one pound of bread dough. You can often purchase bread dough in the refrigerated or freezer section of most grocery stores.
- Dairy-Free Cinnamon Rolls: This recipe for cinnamon rolls is already egg-free, but to keep it dairy-free as well, use your favorite nondairy butter, such as Earth Balance, in place of the butter. To make the glaze dairy-free, omit the cream cheese, and use dairy-free milk. The glaze will be thinner, but absolutely delicious.
More Overnight Breakfast Recipes
- Overnight French Toast Casserole
- Overnight Ham and Egg Casserole
- Slow Cooker Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal
- Overnight Oats
- Overnight Breakfast Casserole
I would love to hear if you enjoyed these Healthier Cinnamon Rolls as much as my family does. Please leave a comment and review below!
Healthy Cinnamon Rolls
For the Cinnamon Roll Bread Dough
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 to 2 & ½ cups whole white wheat flour or all-purpose flour
For the Filling
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar or granulated or coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
For Assembling Cinnamon Rolls
- 3 tablespoons melted butter divided
For the Cinnamon Roll Frosting
- ½ to 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese softenened
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon milk
For the Dough
- In a glass measuring cup, mix the yeast, honey, and water together and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes until the yeast is a bit foamy.
- In a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the salt and 2 cups of flour together. Add in the yeast mixture and stir together until the dough just comes together, adding up to an additional ½ cup of flour if needed. Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface or with the dough hook on a stand mixer until the dough forms a smooth ball.
- Cover the dough and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place, or until doubled in size.
For the Cinnamon Rolls
- Grease an 8x8 baking dish with 1 tablespoon melted butter, being sure to brush evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Mix together sugar, cinnamon, and cloves together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Roll dough into a 9x12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough up to the edges.
- Roll the dough up lengthwise. Cut dough into thirds, then each section into thirds again, for a total of 9 cinnamon rolls.
- Place rolls evenly spaced apart in a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Place them in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours.
- In the morning, remove the cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator, let them come to room temperature, and rise until puffy. This will take 60-90 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap, brush the rolls with an additional tablespoon of melted butter and bake for 23-27 minutes, or until just lightly golden.
For the Cream Cheese Glaze
- To prepare the cream cheese frosting mix together the cream cheese, lemon juice, and milk in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Add ½ cup powdered sugar and whisk until smooth, adding up to ½ cup more powdered sugar to make your glaze as thick as desired. Cover and refrigerate overnight along with the cinnamon rolls.
- Once the cinnamon rolls are baked, give the prepared icing a good whisk, adding a teaspoon or two of milk if needed to reach the consistency desired. Spread over warm cinnamon rolls and serve warm.
This recipe has been adapted from Giada De Laurentiis Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls.
As mentioned the dough can be used for pizza dough so gives a similar taste. 7/10 for a cinnamon roll. But 8.5/10 for a low fat cinnamon roll. Will be making again.
I am so happy to hear you enjoyed these lighter cinnamon rolls Jessica. Thanks for sharing.
What kind of yeast did you use? Fresh, instant, or dry active?
Dry active yeast 🙂
Hi! I am planning to make these later this morning but realized I do not have any white whole wheat flour - I have all purpose flour and whole wheat flour. Can I substitute and do half and half of those two to achieve the same result? Thank you!
Hi Katrina! I would use all-purpose for best results--the whole wheat flour could make these dense. White wheat is much lighter. Enjoy!