These pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls have all the cozy flavors of fall, and are so much healthier than the traditional. It's higher in fiber, protein, healthy fats and nutrients, and it's dairy free + vegan! These rolls don't compromise on taste or texture either; they're perfectly sweet and incredibly soft!
My first pumpkin recipe of this fall! I get so excited for autumn every year because of all the beautiful foods in season. Right when September hit (okay, fine, it was August 31), I posted this Gluten Free Apple Crisp to start the season. Now it's pumpkin's time to shine!
I think it's important to mention that I have a SERIOUS obsession with cinnamon rolls and I will never stop coming up with cinnamon roll recipes. I started off with these Healthy Vegan Zucchini Cinnamon Rolls, then when I was out of flour and yeast during quarantine, these Healthy Cinnamon Roll Cookies (which are also vegan, gluten free and paleo).
I've even *attempted* a healthy cinnamon roll cake--it'll come eventually, don't worry, I just gotta make a lot of revisions😅 UPDATE: it's live! Here's the recipe 🙂
Anyways, my cinnamon roll obsession is not stopping any time soon, so get ready for more to come! It's a close call between this recipe and my zucchini cinnamon rolls, but I have to say this one is my favorite. Maybe that's because I made it the most recently🤔😂but I do love the pumpkin flavor and how well it pairs with the cinnamon and spices. My sister prefers the zucchini ones since she doesn't like pumpkin very much, so there definitely isn't one clear winner 😉
One thing is for certain, though: these cinnamon rolls are absolutely delicious! Please take note that just because these are healthier does NOT mean it's lacking in taste or texture one little bit. This post has no shortage of tips, tricks and healthy swaps, so get ready to learn🤓
This recipe is dairy free, vegan, and higher in protein, healthy fats, and fiber than the traditional cinnamon roll. There's also 2 options for the filling; one with NO added sugar!
Yeah, I know this intro was kind of long; I probably did a *little* too much ranting. It happens sometimes when I talk about things I'm super passionate about...like these cinnamon rolls!😂Okay but seriously, we are getting to the recipe tips + tricks right now. If you're super hungry and need to make these NOW, you can skip down to the recipe. But if not, I highly recommend reading this post because there is some important stuff you should know.
How to Make the Dough
I think the dough is the best place for us to start, as it's the base. This dough is definitely not what you would usually find in a cinnamon roll recipe for many reasons. We'll start with the wet ingredients.
Wet Ingredients (Dough)
First of all, there's no dairy. No milk, no butter, none of that. Or at least, no dairy milk. We're using oat milk! It's by far my favorite dairy-free milk because it's super creamy, and has a bit of extra protein and fiber since it comes from oats.
And to replace the butter, we're using avocado oil. Avocado oil is a healthy fat, mostly unsaturated and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike most oils like canola or vegetable, avocado oil is NOT chemically processed or genetically modified. It also has a very neutral taste, unlike olive oil, so you won't taste it at all.
If you don't have any, that's okay! You can swap for extra light-tasting olive oil (regular olive oil is too strong), sunflower oil or melted coconut oil. I haven't tried the last 2, but it should work just fine if that's all you have.
You may also notice that there's no water in the dough, as a lot of recipes call for. I found that water doesn't add much at all, and using milk instead will result in a much richer and tastier dough, especially since we're not using butter.
Then we have the pumpkin puree. I always get mine from a can because it's just a lot easier and saves so much time. However, you can get yours from a real pumpkin if you'd like, it just might be a little thicker. The pumpkin replaces some of the milk, adds a ton of moisture, and of course, brings it's iconic flavor. And to save you from weird leftovers (and to give you the most flavor) we're using the entire can.
The last of the wet ingredients is maple syrup. Instead of using refined sugar, maple syrup is used to bring natural sweetness, while also complementing the pumpkin spice flavor. Ok that's a lie, you can't taste it and you won't notice it's there, making it the perfect sugar substitute! But if you want the maple flavor, just add more 😉
Dry Ingredients (Dough)
Equally as important are the dry ingredients. Again, not what you’d usually find in a cinnamon roll recipe, but these swaps make it healthier and tastier.
Most healthy cinnamon roll recipes use whole wheat flour, which we will use too. It provides much more fiber and nutritional value than white flour. However, make sure to use white whole wheat flour. It has the exact same nutritional profile, but with a lighter taste and texture. It’s really just a different variety of wheat than the more common one, but it’s the only one I use in baking.
However, if you only use whole wheat flour, even if it’s the white variety, it still won’t result in the same texture as what you would get from Cinnabon. That’s why we have to use all-purpose flour—there’s no way around it🤷♀️
There is still more whole wheat than white flour in this recipe, but you need a combination of both of you want super soft and fluffy + healthier cinnamon rolls.
Like I mentioned before, the main difference, and why whole wheat is healthier, is because it has more fiber. Sooo if we add more fiber to it, we can actually increase the nutritional value and have more fiber than if we used whole wheat flour alone.
So how can you do that? With flaxseed meal, one of my favorite ingredients for baking! Flaxseed meal is just finely ground up flax seeds, so it’s basically a powder. But flax seeds are incredibly nutrient-dense, and considered a “superfood” by many people.
Flax seeds/flaxseed meal are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and healthy fats + omega-3s, plus a lot of vitamins and nutrients! By adding this superfood (a whole ⅓ cup!), you’re increasing the nutritional value more than if you had used only whole wheat flour.
And the best part? You can’t taste it at all! Unlike flour, it doesn’t dry out your batter because of all the healthy fats it contains. It also has a mild taste and will be completely masked by the pumpkin flavor 😉
Now all that’s left for the dry ingredients is baking powder and salt. The amount of salt in this recipe is more than you would use in most baked goods, but it's so👏important👏. Salt does NOT make you rolls salty! It enhances the flavor so that each ingredient can shine--they just need a little help.
The baking powder, in addition to the yeast (which I'll go over in a second) is what makes these rolls fluffy and soft! If you don't include this, your cinnamon rolls will be denser, which is the opposite of what we want.
Yes, the yeast gets it's own section! This is the ingredient that scares a lot of people from making bread or cinnamon rolls, but it's actually really simple to use! There's just a few things you have to take note of.
First of all, this recipe uses active dry yeast, not instant yeast. Instant yeast will work just fine if that's all you have, but active dry results in the most yeast activation and the fluffiest rolls. I get mine in a jar, so it lasts long, but you can also buy it in packets for a one-time use.
The most important part of activating yeast is the temperature of the liquid--in this case the milk. You want it to be warmer than room temperature, but NOT hot. Both cold water and hot water will kill your yeast, so it's important not to overheat.
Some people use a thermometer to be exact. I personally don't; I've worked with yeast so many times and they've always worked just fine with a simple finger test.
You'll want to mix in maple syrup with the milk, because yeast like sugar and will grow a lot more with it. Let it rest and "bloom" for 5-10 minutes, until bubbly/foamy.
As I mentioned before, there are 2 filling options: one tastes like a regular cinnamon roll filling (but it is healthier), and one that's a lot healthier but tastes healthier. I'll explain both, and you can decide which one fits your needs the most!
The Date Filling
We'll start with the healthier filling option, which is actually made from dates! Are you surprised? If you know me, or you've been following this blog for some time then probably not😂dates are my favorite sugar substitute, and I use them in a LOT of my desserts.
If you decide to make this one, be sure to use medjool dates, not regular dates. They hardly taste like the same fruit; medjool dates are much sweeter and just taste so much better. They also contain a lot of nutrients, vitamins and minerals which are beneficial to your health.
However, you can still taste them (but not too much). This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I personally love the taste of dates. But if they're not your thing, I recommend using the other filling option.
Another downside is that it takes a little longer and you need a food processor to make them smooth. It is pretty simple, but you'll have to wash an extra dish.
But one great thing about this (besides the fact that this option has no added sugar) is that the consistency is as if you used softened butter; it's super creamy and easily spreadable. But make sure you don't spread too much filling because the date flavor can be overpowering.
Just a side note; all the pictures in this post use the date filling 😉
Should I Choose This Filling?
That's up to you, and what's most important to your needs. I'll sum it up with the pros and cons.
- no added sugar
- smooth and spreadable filling
- extra health benefits
- tastes like dates/tastes healthier
- uses a food processor
Now let's move on to the other filling option!
The Coconut Sugar Filling
The other filling option is made from coconut sugar! Coconut sugar is not as healthy as dates and is considered added sugar, but you can't really tell the difference.
Coconut sugar is an unrefined, natural sugar from coconuts. It has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar but works just as well.
If you don't have any, that's not a problem at all! This filling works perfectly with cane sugar, brown sugar, or any granulated sweetener.
This filling doesn't use butter either; it uses unsweetened applesauce to moisten and hold it together. You probably won't notice it's there at all. You can also use avocado oil/coconut oil instead if you prefer.
To hold it all together, use more flaxseed meal! You won't get much nutrients from the coconut sugar, but you will get some from flaxseeds 😉
Should I Choose This Filling?
Like the date filling, there are pros and cons to this one too.
- tastes like a regular filling
- nutrients from flaxseed meal
- easy to prepare
- not as healthy as date filling
- more added sugar
If you ask me, there isn't a clear winner (but there might be one for you!) it's really your choice; you decide which one fits your needs the best.
The final component to this recipe is the icing. It's completely optional, but adds an extra sugar boost, plus it feels more like eating a traditional cinnamon roll.
There's no dairy in this recipe, so we're not making a cream cheese frosting. Instead, we're using cashews to thicken it up and add some more flavor!
Please be aware that I am not saying this tastes like a cream cheese frosting. It doesn't. It's just another alternative that still tastes amazing.
I used powdered cane sugar, but you can use pretty much any powdered sugar. I have not tried powdered coconut sugar and can't say if it will work, so use at your own risk.
We use oat milk (or any milk) to thin it out, plus a little lemon juice to help it set--don't worry, you won't taste it!
I really hope you like this recipe! If you decide to make it, be sure to post a picture/story (or dm me!) and tag me @nutritiousdelights on Instagram--I'd love to see it!💗
More recipes you might love:
Healthy Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls
- 3 ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour divided, plus more for rolling
- 1 cup warm oat milk or other nondairy milk
- 1 ½ cup pumpkin puree or 15 oz can
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup avocado oil or light-tasting olive oil
- 2 ½ teaspoon active dry yeast or 1 packet
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ⅓ cup finely ground flaxseed meal
Filling**see notes for added sugar-free option
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup coconut sugar or any granulated sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ cup finely ground flaxseed meal
- 1 cup powdered cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons oat milk or other nondairy milk
- 3 tablespoons cashew butter
- In a large bowl, heat the milk until it is just warmer than room temperature--be sure it's not too hot. Mix in the maple syrup. Add the yeast and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it "blooms" or activates and becomes bubbly/foamy.
- Whisk in the pumpkin puree, oil, and flaxseed meal. Once fully combined, fold in the salt, baking powder, white whole wheat flour, and ¾ c of the all-purpose flour. Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm place to rise for an hour.
- In the meantime, make the filling. If you are using the option listed in the ingredient section (with coconut sugar), simply whisk together all the filling ingredients. If you are using the date version, follow the directions in the notes section. (the pictured filling is the date version).
- Once the dough is done rising it should be about double in size. Fold in another ¾ c all-purpose flour, then transfer to a floured surface. Use the remaining ½ cup of flour as needed (you may need more or less) to knead. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Do NOT keep adding flour until the dough is dry; only add flour if it is really sticking to the counter/surface.
- Make sure the surface is well-floured so it doesn't stick, then roll the dough (make sure your rolling pin is floured too). Roll until it is about ½" thick. Please take note that the photo shown is only about half the dough; all of it wouldn't have fit in the frame.
- Cut off the edges to make them super clean. You can use the scraps to make more later. This is optional, but it will result in the best-looking rolls. Spread the filling evenly throughout. If you are using the date filling, make the layer fairly thin, otherwise the date flavor can be overpowering; you will probably have some leftover.
- Grease 2 9"x 11" (or any similar size) pans and set aside.
- You can roll and cut the traditional way, but I find this method much easier and has a better-looking result: Cut the dough while it's flat, about 1" thick slices. Roll each slice individually and transfer to the prepared pan. Try not to pack them too closely; they will spread out. If using 9"x 11", you can fit about 6. Cover and let them rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- While the rolls are rising, make the icing (optional, they taste great by themselves). In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar and whisk to remove clumps. add half of the milk and whisk until smooth. Add the cashew butter with the rest of the milk and lemon juice. Whisk until smooth.
- Once the rolls are done rising, bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes (depending on size and how fast your oven cooks). Serve warm with the icing or alone. If you aren't planning to finish them on the first or second day, freeze as soon as it cools, and microwave to reheat.