Sweet, sticky, cinnamony, and SO soft and fluffy you won't believe its vegan, full of fiber, or has zucchini in it!
There was a period of time when I put zucchini in literally everything, from desserts to meals. You could never open my fridge and not find zucchini there.
Then, I stopped for reasons that I'm not sure of. I think I just got so caught up with new ingredients that I fell in love with that I forgot about it.
So one day, I was looking back on my list of recipe ideas and saw zucchini cinnamon rolls. Suddenly, I was filled with memories from back when I made zucchini oatmeal and zucchini banana bread and all that zucchini goodness. So, I immediately got to work with this recipe for zucchini cinnamon rolls.
And, guys, this is seriously the best. I cannot describe in words how much I love this recipe. Both my sister who loves cinnamon rolls and my sister who hates cinnamon rolls fell in love with these.
And in case you're wondering, I did get back to the zucchini-everything, including this vegetarian zucchini lasagna I posted a few weeks ago, and more recipes yet to come!😉
They're soft, fluffy, sticky, sweet, cinnamony and just everything that a cinnamon roll should be with no dairy or eggs and a lot of fiber. Part of me wants to just stop talking so that you can just make the recipe now and the other part of me wants to explain every little detail that makes this recipe different than any other.
I think I'll just explain everything.😏😂
First off is the flour. Warning: you will rarely see me use only one type of flour. It happens sometimes, but not here.🙃
The main flour I used is white whole wheat flour. It's full of fiber and it works pretty much the same as all-purpose flour, except that it's unrefined.
The other flour I used is all-purpose. It's not as healthy as whole wheat, but it's important. If you use only whole wheat, it will taste wheaty and not light like a traditional cinnamon roll. With the right ratio of whole wheat to all purpose, it will be perfectly fluffy but still have plenty of fiber!
As for the third, I'm not sure you would consider it as a flour (probably because it's not😂), but it's definitely a binder! Flax meal is one of my favorite ingredients because it's super healthy and can work in many ways. It's packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats. It also has a super mild taste, so you won't even notice it's there. If you've never tried flax meal, I 100% recommend you get it. I use it in a lot of my recipes, such as healthy chocolate chip oat bites , healthy vegan sugar cookies , and healthy vegan pot pie !
The wet ingredients are fairly simple: dairy free milk, avocado oil, and maple syrup.
Dairy free milk can be basically any kind you want, from almond to oat. If you don't need it to be vegan or dairy free, feel free to use regular milk.
Avocado oil is used instead or butter or vegetable oil/canola oil. Butter is very high in calories and saturated fat, and it's not vegan. Vegetable and canola oil seem healthy, but they are actually highly processed with chemicals and most contain GMOs. Avocado oil has a very similar nutrition profile to olive oil, but without a strong taste. It's comprised of mostly healthy, unsaturated fats and will keep your cinnamon rolls super moist and fluffy.
Maple syrup is used instead of regular sugar. It is natural and unrefined and has a lot of health benefits if eaten in moderation. It contains many minerals and antioxidants such as calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese.
There is also a good amount of zucchini in the dough. The liquid is squeezed out (save it for later!) so you won't taste it at all.😉It's an entire zucchini, minus 2 tablespoons which are reserved for the filling.
The filling is not exactly what you would find in a traditional cinnamon roll. There's applesauce instead of butter, cane sugar instead of refined sugar, flax meal to hold it all together, and more zucchini!
Unsweetened applesauce is a fat-free alternative to butter that works in a similar way, keeping the rolls moist. The difference is, softened butter has more structure from the saturated fats, which keep it from being too liquidy and prevent it from spilling out the sides. Applesauce does not have this, which is why flax meal is so important.
Flax meal, as I said before, works as a binder. It will create a thick filling that is easily spreadable and will not leak out the sides. And don't forget about the extra health benefits!🎉
Pure cane sugar is also an unrefined sweetener, making it a healthier alternative to regular sugar. Maple syrup will not work here as it is a liquid. Contrary to the popular belief, regular brown sugar is hardly better than white sugar. Brown sugar is just white sugar + molasses, which means it is still very much refined. Cane sugar is the way to go here.🙃
The zucchini is just a small bit so you won't even notice it's there.
Finally, the icing. Remember when I told you to reserve the zucchini liquid? Yep, that's what makes the icing! I always preferred a simple thin icing compared to cream cheese frosting. It's lighter and it lets you taste more of the actual cinnamon roll. This icing is super simple with just a few ingredients.
- Powdered cane sugar: This is basically a ground up version of the cane sugar we used in the filling, so it is unrefined but still works the same way a regular confectioner's sugar would.
- Lemon juice: It's a very small amount and you won't taste it. This just helps the icing set better. If you don't have any, feel free to skip.
- Vanilla extract: also a small amount, just there to boost the flavor.
- Zucchini juice! Zucchini juice is the liquid that makes it icing. This liquid has basically no taste so it will taste just like a regular icing. And yes, that means you just used a zucchini in 3 different ways in this recipe! Keep in mind that your icing will turn slightly green. If you don't want this, or you just don't want zucchini in your icing, you can easily sub for nondairy milk.
As amazing as it tastes, this icing is completely optional. The cinnamon rolls themselves are already sweet, so if you're trying to cut back on your sugar intake, you might want to skip this step. Sometimes I skip it just because I'm lazy. 😂
One more thing before I give you the recipe: there is a simple trick for achieving the best spirals. And no, it's not dental floss.😉
Instead of rolling as one and then cutting, cut it when it's flat and then roll. If you roll first, they will squish. It's also so much easier to roll evenly when it's small.
I'm so excited for you to try this recipe. It's seriously one of my favorites. If you decide to make it, be sure to snap a pic and tag me @nutritiousdelights on Instagram because I'd love to see it!❤️
Healthy Vegan Zucchini Cinnamon Rolls
- 1 medium zucchini divided
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
- 2 cups warm non-dairy milk
- 2 ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- ¼ cup flax meal
- 3 ¾ cups white whole wheat flour
- ¾ cup all purpose flour plus about ½ cup (or more) for kneading and rolling
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
- ½ cup pure cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- ¼ cup flax meal
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons powdered cane sugar
- Grate the zucchini and squeeze out the liquid, but don't discard it. Save the liquid in one bowl, 2 tablespoons of zucchini in another, and the rest of the zucchini in another bowl.
- In a large bowl, whisk together avocado oil, maple syrup, and the warm milk. Make sure the milk is not too cold or hot, otherwise it will kill the yeast. Mix in the yeast and leave it to bloom for 5-10 minutes. It should look very foamy. Whisk in the zucchini and flax meal, then slowly incorporate 3 ¼ cups whole wheat flour, ¾ cup all purpose flour, salt, and baking powder. When it becomes too thick to whisk, switch to a spatula. Cover the bowl and set aside to rise for 1 hour.
- Make the filling: In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tablespoons zucchini, cane sugar, applesauce, cinnamon, and flax meal. Set aside.
- Once the dough has about doubled in size, add the remaining whole wheat flour and fold it in. Flour your work space with all purpose flour and transfer your dough there. Keep adding flour until you can roll it around and it doesn't stick to your surface. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
- Put more flour on your surface and on a rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it is ½" thick, turning the dough occasionally so that it does not stick. Trim the edges so that it is in the shape of a rectangle. Spread the filling evenly across the dough.
- Grease 2 9"x11" pans (any similar size works, such as 8" x 8").
- Cut the dough before rolling! This will create a better spiral and it is easier to roll. Cut about 1" thick pieces and roll them to create a roll. Place each roll into the prepared pan. Cover and rest for 30 minutes to rise.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make the icing: Whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and 8 teaspoons of the reserved zucchini juice (you can substitute nondairy milk) until it form an icing consistency.
- Bake for about 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and pour icing on top and enjoy!