Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Why go through the trouble to make these yourself? Because this kind of power should be in the hands of the people, not just those working in mall food courts … and you know exactly what I’m talking about. As for the instructions, I know it looks like a lot, but I’ve broken it down into tiny steps for clarity. Read it all over once and it won’t seem so daunting … I promise.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls


  • 4 large egg yolks (room temperature)
  • 1 large whole egg (room temperature)
  • 2 ounces sugar (approximately 1/4 cup)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 teaspoon cold butter for lubricating baking dish
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 15 ounces all-purpose flour divided into 10 ounces (4 ounces and 1 ounce batches)
  • 1 package rapid rise yeast (approximately 1/4 ounce)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt


  • 8 ounces light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (ground)
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)


  • 2 1/2 ounces cream cheese (softened)
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 5 1/2 ounces confectioners' sugar


  1. Combine the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter and buttermilk in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk at medium speed.
  2. As the mixture comes together add 10 ounces of the flour, along with the yeast and salt and continue whisking until combined.
  3. Remove the whisk attachment and replace it with a dough hook. Add another 4 ounces of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. At this point the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. If it is sticky, add a bit more flour (one ounce at a time). Knead on low for another 5 minutes or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; and form dough into a smooth ball. Transfer to a large bowl that has been lightly lubed with the vegetable oil. Rotate the bowl so that the dough ball is evenly covered. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside until the dough doubles in volume, about 3 hours. (Exact times will vary depending on the temperature of the room and the temperature of the ingredients.)


  1. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.


  1. Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish with the cold butter.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently shape into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Then use a rolling pin to shape into 18 by 12-inch rectangle.
  3. Brush the dough with the the melted butter, leaving a 1-inch border along the top edge.
  4. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the dough, also avoiding the top border.
  5. Gently press the filling into the dough. (If you tend to have hot hands, you may want to cover the filling with a layer of plastic wrap first.)
  6. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough away from you into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness.
  7. Using a serrated knife, gently cut the cylinder into 2-inch rolls; yielding 8 pieces.
  8. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight, or up to 16 hours.


  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.
  2. When the oven has reached 200 degrees F, turn it off and place the rolls in the turned-off oven. Let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy, about 30 minutes.
  3. Without taking the rolls out of the oven, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and let the rolls continue to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F. Remove the rolls and let cool while you make the icing.


  1. Whisk the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

In case there are leftovers, arrange them on a plate and cover thoroughly with plastic wrap for up to 3 days. To reheat, move to a small plate (I usually use a paper plate) and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Two rolls can be reheated this way, three may require a few seconds more. Four will … let’s face it, you’re not going to have that many left over and you know it.
To freeze: Individually wrap the rolls in plastic wrap and place them in a zip-top freezer-safe bag. When ready to eat, uncover and defrost on the counter for an hour. Then microwave for 30 seconds.

Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Alton Brown’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls Recipe


Add yours
  1. 2
    robert dorman

    To reheat any left over “sin” rolls I always grill them in butter.. Cut the roll in half and grill the cut side in a little butter till toasty. they are best if cut horizonal making a top and bottom to allow some of the filling to melt into the pan and caramelize. I would do this with fresh ones if I could wait for the extra step.

  2. 3

    these were SO good. I hosted breakfast for my friends and these were so impressive sitting on the table, and especially delicious when served with coffee and strawberries. I put more cream cheese in the icing than the recipe required, just because I like more of a thick, tangy icing for my cinnamon rolls. these were also perfectly sized – approachable, not frightening, like the size you always get served at restaurants that’s legitimately scary-big. for proving in the oven with the pan of water, I recommend boiling the water in a teakettle, then pouring it into a pan that’s already in the oven, so you don’t spill boiling water all over yourself in transit (like I did – do not recommend)

  3. 6
    Janet Kumm

    Am I missing something? I thought they were overnight rolls. Does that mean you stir them together and instead of proofing for 3 hours, you proof them overnight in the fridge?

  4. 7
    Natalie Zigon

    Worked out perfectly! Loved the “2nd proof tip in the oven”… worked like a charm. Tasted great. Beautiful bread dough in general. I doubled it (since mostly weights- worked out fine!) Made several different varieties, one pan as per recipe, another with sticky bottom, and another with sticky nut bottom (flipped to make the tops- 1/4cBrSugar, 1/4melted butter, 1/2cNuts). Great recipe to make with kids- teaching about yeast and the science… lots of fun… and great reward. From a former pastry chef…. this is a perfect recipe- explained well, so you can alter as needed.

  5. 8
    Mel Meister

    The amount of flour in a bread dough recipe is always a starting point. As the dough is coming together you may have to add more flour or more water. You are looking for the dough to be as smooth and round as a baby’s bottom. Always check for this dough consistency and your rolls will always be perfect no matter the “exact” amount of flour in a recipe. For simplicity’s sake I’m not going to get into humidity and how it affects flour.
    Also, you don’t need hot water to proof dough. It may have been in Alton’s original recipe, but it’s an oddball idea of his. Having a warm, draft free spot in the kitchen is the best scenario, with the preheated oven being perfect.
    And, no, the recipe isn’t too sweet. It’s your taste buds that are different. Nothing wrong with that, but stop blaming the recipe.

  6. 10

    Excellent recipe- 8 huge, satisfying cinnamon rolls I tried this for the first time today. I used active dry yeast and not instant yeast because it’s what I had and I’m not a fan of rapid rise yeast. I increased the amount by 25%. I did not proof it, but added it to the warm butter and milk mixture to dissolve it. I did have to use more than 15oz of flour- probably close to 18oz but I slowly added it to the mix until dough was barely sticky, which kept the rolls super soft.

  7. 11

    This is a revised recipe, and it’s a wonderful revision I have been making these rolls for my two
    daughters every Christmas morning for years (we all love them!). In my opinion, this revised version is even better. It’s also a bit less cumbersome (the original recipe called for a Bain Marie under the rolls to wake them from the fridge — this one does not). I find the directions much clearer (even the yeast revision — the “instant” of the past was hard to find.

  8. 12

    An 18 inch cylinder, cut into 2 inch sections, yields NINE rolls. I mean, I’m not complaining on having an “extra.” But in a family of four, this could cause an issue. Please tell me the 18 is a typo?

  9. 13
    D E

    I’ve found an error: On the Food Network video, Alton expressly says he uses Instant Yeast. But on this blog, the recipe calls for Rapid Rise yeast.

  10. 14
    Jean Whittaker

    I just discovered your website!! I do love it!! I am disappointed that their is no Nutritional information listed for any recipe.

  11. 16

    So which recipe is the best? This version or the food Network version with more flour and water in the oven for proofing? Does anyone have a definitive result?!

  12. 17
    Terry C

    One year I had leftover Phyllo dough, so I made cinnamon rolls out of it. Took FOREVER to make, but I topped them with a maple vanilla glaze and they were DANG tasty. A good cinnamon roll is a thing of beauty. These look much easier to make. haha

  13. 20

    Why is there such a difference between this recipe, on this site, and what should be the exact same recipe on the Food network site?
    Different proofing methods, different cooking methods, even a difference of 5 ounces of flour!

  14. 21
    Erin severts

    I was so excited to try this but my hopes soon crushed because these didn’t come out the way I was hoping. I followed it to the T. They came out like a buiscut/cake instead of like a Cinnabon. Any advice?

    • 22

      I think whoever copied over the recipe to this site didn’t do it correctly. I followed the recipe exactly, and they aren’t looking that great.
      Maybe look at the recipe on the Food Network site. I assume it’s supposed to be the same thing (Alton Brown’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls) but there’s 5 ounces more flour, a different kind of yeast, and a different proofing method. I don’t know how different the end result would actually be, but it might be worth a try.

  15. 25

    I’ve always made these with a hand mixer several times. They come out amazing. The frosting is a little sweet so I tend to cut back the sugar a little. I followed the directions to make the dough on this website rather than off of FoodNetwork’s and I realized why my dough was sooo sticky. You have the dough starting with 10oz of flour on this webpage, but 20oz on the other. I kept having to add spoonfuls of flour until the dough was correct. I didn’t read ahead nor did I compare websites recipes. I knew something was wrong when there wasn’t any water going into the oven to proof the dough with in the morning. I’m not sure if I trust not adding the water into the oven to proof with?

    • 26

      Good call! I’ve made these the last 4 years, but has the same experience this time. It just felt off… Wonder why there would be a difference between the two sources. Proofing them now, fingers crossed!

  16. 27
    Lisa Sharon Doget

    We have made these for many years now for Christmas breakfast and serve with fruit and sausage. I looked for years for a perfect cinnamon roll recipe and this is it hands down. We do a plain glaze instead of the cream cheese icing as my kids don’t like the icing. Yummy!!

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