Vietnamese Cinnamon Rolls – The Quest

Every once in a while, I get obsessive. Usually it’s over something sweet, but that may be my sweet jaw whispering in my ear. Right now, cinnamon rolls are calling to me.

Sticky buns.  Diet killer.  Morning munching madness. Perfect. I like sticky fingers, we’re hammering out the Insanity workout 4-5 times a week plus Aikido, and the whole clan is a little insane in the AM.  At least before the morning coffee and the dogs settle into their beds again.

Vietnamese cinnamon bark

Here’s a little taste of the WORC mornings… In the “freezing” So Cal fifty degree mornings our 100 lb dog’s teeth chatter like it’s Siberia even though he’s wearing a fleece jacket. At least until he’s been fed.  Then he’s fine. I think it’s a sympathy ruse to expedite his morning meal service.  Crazy.

So we’ve been getting a little Man of LaMancha on a quest for the perfect cinnamon roll. Well actually not we, me.  See, Diane makes a mean sticky bun, she’s been touting it since we first met almost 15 years ago.  However, I rarely get them as a treat.

Once a year she’ll treat me to a batch, just enough to make sure I stick around to change lightbulbs, take out the trash and  keep the dogs amused. One of these days I’ll get the recipe out of her.

Until then I’ll keep seeking for a ultimate cinnamon roll recipe.  If you’ve got one, help a guy out here and pass on the wealth!

One prerequisite for us is using Vietnamese cinnamon.  It may look like a curly slap of bark, but is it amazing in flavor. Anytime we have a “good eater” guest over, we’ll pull out the hunks of cinnamon and make them get all beaver on it. They’ll give us that “You’re crazy” look, but still nervously take a piece and start chewing.  After a couple seconds the burrowed brows widen in amazement as the bark magically transforms into a red-hot-esque tidbit. Try doing that with regular cinnamon.

Here’s my first attempt in finding the ultimate cinnamon roll.  It comes from the gents writing the Neiman Marcus Taste cookbook.  They transformed their classic Monkey Bread recipe into a rolled delight.  It is quite good, although I’m still irritated with myself for forgetting to add raisins during my pre-coffee stupor when I was making these.  Maybe if I make my teeth chatter every morning Diane will make me a sympathy batch of her rolls.


butter baking dishes & grate Vietnamese cinnamon

starting with fresh dough

roll out the dough

add melted butter & gently spread evenly over dough

add sugars and cinnamon

gently blend butter, sugar, cinnamon & then roll

Roll, cut then allow to rise

Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Yield: 12 rolls



  • 1 c (235ml) Milk
  • 4 t (10g) Active Dry Yeast, 1 1/2 packets
  • 1/4 c (50g) Sugar
  • 1 t (5g) Sea Salt
  • 1/2 c (115g or 1 stick) unsalted Butter, melted
  • 3 1/4 c (400g) all-purpose Flour
  • Cinnamon Filling

  • 1/2 c (115 g or 1 stick) unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1 c (200g) Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 c (50g) granular Sugar
  • 2 1/2 T (5g) ground Cinnamon (or 3 T freshly grated Vietnamese cinnamon if you can get it)
  • Icing

  • 2 oz (55g) Cream Cheese, at room temp.
  • 1 c (115g) Confetioner's Sugar
  • 2 T (30ml) Milk


  1. Gently warm the milk in a saucepan to 110°F (lukewarm bath temp.) Pour milk into a bowl with the yeast, sugar, and sea salt. Stir to combine and dissolve yeast. Stir in the melted butter.
  2. Mix in the flour until a soft dough forms. You may have to add a little extra if dough is too sticky.  Should be slightly tacky but not overly sticky.
  3. Cover bowl and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour or until doubled in volume.
  4. When dough is almost done rising, melt cinnamon filling butter. Combine sugars and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Lightly butter a 9x11 baking dish

  6. Put dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll dough out to approx. 1/4" thick and 18"x14".
  7. Spread Cinnamon Filling's melted butter evenly across the top surface.  Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mix over dough.  Beginning with the longer side facing you, use both hand to roll the dough into a log. Slice the log into 12 even sections, approx. 1 1/2" wide.
  8. Place the rolls cut side up in the buttered baking dish.  Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.
  9. While rolls rise preheat oven to 350°F.

  10. Bake the rolls for approx. 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.
  11. While cinnamon rolls cool, make icing. Combine the cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, and milk in a bowl and mix until smooth. Pour icing over cinnamon rolls and serve.
Recipe Source:

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Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.


{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Alisa

    Totally gonna make these! Can I let them rise in the fridge the night before..will it work?

    1. White on Rice Couple

      That should work fine. Have fun!

  2. Julie

    I found your site by chance when I was looking for recipes that called for Vietnamese cinnamon. I decided to try this recipe and immediately fell in love–the dough texture is wonderful and the Vietnamese cinnamon make these rolls special. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Madeleine

    These are Cheater Sticky Buns but they are the BEST I’ve eaten. I should state for the record though that I prefer caramel sticky buns and I want lots of delicious sticky/toffee caramel. I’ve made them with my own homemade dough and I’ve made them with store bought frozen dough. Obviously store bought is ridiculously easy. I had thought I would prefer my own dough and dolled it up as the standard rolled bun with the cinnamon sugar between the layers but then found in a head to head taste test that I actually preferred the original lazy girl’s buns from the recipe. Somehow they are more delicious as they are a ball of bread goodness that’s coated with caramel.

    3 loaves frozen bread dough thawed
    1 c chopped walnuts and/or raisins (I omitted these items as I hate the interlopers but if you must . . . )
    2 small packages butterscotch pudding NOT INSTANT
    1 stick melted butter
    1 cup brown sugar
    2 Tablespoons milk
    2 teaspoons cinnamon

    Grease full sheet baking (rimmed) pan. Sprinkle raisins. Pull thawed dough into little pieces and make single layer in pan. Heat remaining ingredients and pour over dough. Cover with foil and cool overnight (fridge or garage).
    [I took mine out in the AM and let them have an itintial rise but my lazier friends say that it’s uncessary!]
    Bake uncovered at 350 for 25 – 30 min. When done, hold tray on top, and carefully flip baked rolls onto another full sheet baking pan.
    You can also make this in a 9×13 pan but use only 2 loaves of bread.

  4. Beda

    When you take the buns out of the oven, cover them for about 20 minutes with a clean damp kitchen towel – it makes a world of difference!

    To turn them into caramel rolls – in a sauce pan melt a 1/2 cup of butter, add a cup of dark brown sugar and stir until combined. Add 3/4 cup of real vanilla ice cream – stir until melted. Put this in the bottom of your baking dish (I add pecans right here) and put the rolls on top. Bake as usual, cover with the towel as noted above and then turn them out onto a jelly roll pan. Scrape out all of the caramel. Yummy – sugar coma, but yummy.

  5. june2

    Try making them with croissant dough. That’s how I’ve done it in the past. It makes a drier bun which I prefer, not being a ‘sticky bun’ style person.

  6. Quyen

    Wow – those cinnamon rolls look amazing! You’re right – you just can’t beat Vietnamese cinnamon. Take care and Happy New Year!

  7. Aparna

    I have some sort of cinnamon (I know, I know its not the same but…….) and thos pictures have me craving. I’m off right now to get some rolls baking!

    Oh, and a very happy new year to you both.

  8. lidia

    I tried this recipe with regular cinnamon, but I am now looking forward to
    buying some Vietnamese cinnamon, the cinnamon rolls turned out great!
    The icing is delicious!

  9. Summer Rose

    Oh i lovvveeee Vietnamese cinnamon and recently picked a jar from KAF!
    Which is s agood place to pick them whole?
    Oh the cinnamon rolls are absloutely gorgeous i tell u!
    Perfect! Am so thrilled to find ur blog and looking forward to hear from ya!
    ☆♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.♪♫•*¨*•♫♪ ░M░E░R░R░Y░ (¯”•.¸*♥♥♥* ¸.•”¯) ░C░H░R░I░S░T░M░A░S░(¯”•.¸ *♥♥♥* ¸.•”¯) ! ♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪☆

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Summer- wow, your graphics are so cool. Very Festive.

  10. Thuy

    ooohhh I just got some Vietnamese cinnamon bark for Christmas! This is the perfect way to try it out! One problem I always have with cinnamon buns is that mine never comes out fluffy. Is there any trick to making it soft and fluffy? Thanks!

  11. grace

    bra. vo. the vietnamese cinnamon surely takes a delicious nosh and makes it extraordinary!

  12. Liz

    Love that you mentioned an Insanity workout in a Cinnamon Bun post….hysterical!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Liz- the Insanity workout is just like they call it. Insane. That’s why we treat ourselves to dishes like these, we need it after the workout!

  13. Tania

    I just took a class at King Arthur Flour and we made cinnamon buns with Vietnamese cinnamon. Holy wow! I’ll never go back to the other stuff.

  14. marla {family fresh cooking}

    Even though you forgot the raisins these Cinnamon Rolls still look great. Your dog weighs more than me. Scary. I love the cold, but I shake like him. Good thing we both own fleece 😉

  15. Ivana

    I love cinnamons rolls! this looks amazing!

  16. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Hey, my teeth are chattering — you can hear ’em, cantcha? Cantcha?

    I have to admit to being just a little bit disappointed, because I was hoping to find out how the Vietnamese make cinnamon rolls. But I don’t think their best efforts could improve much on these.

  17. Sues

    These look amazing! I do absolutely love the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls, but now I’m thinking I need to try some variations…

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Sues- Ree has a great recipe. Just add the Viet cinnamon and you’re ready to go!

  18. Thas @ Cooking with Thas

    incredible! who doesn’t love cinnamon rolls made fresh at home.
    have fun in mexico!

  19. Gastronomer

    Hi Todd! These buns look so dang good! My favorite cinnamon roll recipe is from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook: What I like best about it is that it doesn’t call for yeast. I’m not very patient when a cinnamon roll craving hits.

  20. Nicole

    My dad goes cuckoo for cinnamon rolls and I have yet to find the perfect recipe. I’ve purchase Vietnamese cinnamon before, but I’ve never seen the bark. I really want to try some now. I wonder what your dogs would do in Michigan 🙂

    1. White on Rice Couple

      We love the Vietnamese cinnamon bark strips. The scent fills the kitchen when grating it with the microplane.
      I don’t think our pups would get out of bed all winter in Michigan. At least not the big dog. Sierra, the white boxer, has to be around people so she’ll brave anything to stay by our sides.

  21. dario @ foodpixels

    This recipe is a keeper, and the pics are gorgeous! I am craving those rolls right now….

  22. Nan

    Oh yummm! What else can I say?

  23. Sally

    I just made the pseudo-Cinnabon cinnamon roll recipe (found on several websites) with Vietnamese cinnamon. It was way too good. My favorite so far. The dough was easy to work and made a dozen large rolls. And, you don’t even have to wait to slather on the icing–and indulge! I’m thinking of making a batch Christmas Eve, let rest in the frig overnight, and bake Christmas morning.

  24. Carrie

    I noticed in the picture that you are using a chef knife to cut your rolls. I have found that a serrated bread knife works best, and there is no squishing of the layers…especially if your dough is chilled.

    1. Memoria

      Actually, using sewing thread or clean floss is better. Just place the thread underneath the roll, cross them two ends together, and pull until the thread pierces through the roll. Here’s a photo I found randomly of what I mean (×225.jpg).

  25. TripleScoop

    “…get Beaver On it” that is great line!

    Good Luck on the quest..maybe Diane can be bribed with new Gear or a photo safari?

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Photo safari? That would be fantastic. I think I’ll save that bribe for something bigger! 😉

  26. Boulder Locavore

    These are gorgeous. Your photography is simply stunning! I love the breakdown so we can see every step (having not made them before it really helps) but the styling is impeccable. You are so gifted….

  27. susan

    these look delish and i like the idea of the cream cheese glaze. that’s a new one for me. these are the perfect xmas morning treat!

  28. bunkycooks

    Oh, choices…choices…Now I have two recipes I want to make for Cinnamon Rolls on Christmas morning! These look mighty good…I guess this is not a bad problem to have!! I have ground Vietnamese Cinnamon from Penzey’s so I might have to put it to good use! 🙂 Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!

  29. deeba

    I don’t have Vietnamese cinnamon…and I want some now. I’m seriously craving these yummies! YUM!

  30. Michelle

    I am a sucker for a good cinnamon roll. Seriously perfect goodness all rolled up. I have a recipe that has been in the family for years and plan on rolling out a batch for Christmas morning.

    One of my good friends dog is also a large dog who does the teeth chattering – I am freezing – noise when he wants something. I used to drive me nuts, now I laugh every time he does it. Priceless!

  31. Lmirth

    I have been making cinnamon rolls for close to 35 years and have tried many recipes. The best one so far is the Pioneer Woman’s. I am willing to bet the Vietnamese cinnamon would make a great addition.
    I saw your recipe in Sunset magazine, you guys are amazing!!


    I dunno Todd, those look like a pretty mean cinnamon roll . . . but as a female, gotta stick w/my girl Diane – LOL! The Professor made sticky buns this weekend and even wrote a post about them but he took a cheat and used puff pastry – have to admit they were might tasty. Have never tried Vietnamese Cinnamon but am going to buy some just cuz’ you said so – Merry Christmas you guys!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Great minds!! I’m going to have to knock out a batch of The Professor’s rolls. I know they are going to rock.

  33. Simran

    They look delicious! I was on a cinnamon roll lookout for a long time too, but found “the roll” when I made Pioneer Woman’s recipe.

    1. White on Rice Couple

      I had a hunch Ree would have a killer recipe. I was looking for her book, but it seems to by buried and unseen. I’m going to have to start digging!

      1. Ash

        The recipe is on PW’s site!

  34. ConnieC

    I like your more girth friendly recipe, but here’s a richer one that uses eggs and calls for fresh ground Saigon cinnamon, and raisins too. Makes forty two but I’m sure you can scale it down to twenty two:

    Then you don’t have to wait for Diane’s sticky bun recipe.


  35. sara

    Mmmmmmmm, these look soooo amazing! They would be perfect for a special breakfast! 🙂

  36. Cheffresco


  37. Sylvie

    Vietnamese Cinnamon is the best! I have been obsessed with the stuff for years, I put it in everything I can think of. A little goes a long way, it definitely has a kick.

  38. Helene

    There is nothing like a fresh, out of the oven, cinnamon rolls. I tested two recipes. One is from Peter Reinhart and the other one is from Cook’s Illustrated. Both really easy to make. Cook’s Illustrated call them Sticky buns. They are done in two days and they use buttermilk. The dough is quite nice to work with. Peter Reinhart calls them cinnamon buns and can be done in one day. If you need any of these recipes just send me an email. Both were good recipes. I don’t know which one I prefer, I would have to bake both and taste them side by side. 🙂

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