Cinnabon’s Healthy Cousins

The first time I attempted whole grain cinnamon rolls, they came out like little brown hockey pucks, only harder. But hey, they were nutritious. Slather on some frosting and bon appetit! Sort of. I happen to like grainy, dense foods. But I and my stomach continued to dream of soft, doughy, healthy Cinnabon-style treats most anyone would enjoy. The kind you instantly crave at the airport. One whif and OH MAN…!!!

Okay, enough confectionary lusting. Several attempts later and I’ve done it, I think. If you try them, please share your thoughts!



3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated or raw sugar
1 packet active dry, rapid-rise yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees, approximately)
1/2 cup warm soy milk
1 tsp salt
1 egg
2 – 3 cups whole wheat flour
1 – 2 cups white or white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup spreadable butter w/canola or olive oil (or soft regular butter)
Fresh or frozen (thawed/drained) blueberries
Frosting of choice


  1. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set it aside for later.
  2. In a small bowl or mug, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in warm water.
  3. In a large bowl (mixer bowl if possible) combine milk,  granulated sugar, canola oil, salt and egg. Add yeast mixture and 2 cups of flour—1 white, 1 whole wheat. Beat until smooth, either with a hand mixer, large spoon or your mixer’s dough hook. Gradually add more of each type of flour until a stiff ball forms. Continue to knead by hand or machine. (If you hand-kneed, about 8 minutes should do it. In a mixer, it’s more like 5 – 6.)
    If it looks like this (EW), add flour.
    It should look more like this—doughy and firm, not sticky or crumbly. Think…elastic.

  4. Place dough into a large greased bowl. Cover with a thin cloth and allow it to rise someplace warm, like under your overhead oven light, until doubled in size—about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Punch down dough and let it rest for 5 minutes. (Okay, most bread recipes say to do this. I never do. Do as you wish. Just please don’t turn me in to the baking police.)
  6. Roll dough out onto a floured surface into a rectangle. (I roll out a large circle and cut a rectangle. You can make fun little blobby things with the leftovers. Up to you.)
  7. Brush the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle on the cinnamon and brown sugar mixture then the blueberries.
  8. Tightly roll up dough and pinch edges together to seal then cut 8 rounds. (Recipes usually suggest slicing round with thread or floss. I use a knife. Karate CHOP!)
  9. Coat the bottom of a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or canola oil. (Whatever size floats your fancy.) Place the rolls close together in the pan.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. Top with frosting, if desired.
    **I frost only the ones we’ll eat right away. Otherwise, the frosting soaks in. Serving the frosting on-the-side gives partakers the option of extra sweet or none at all.

If you’d like some festive music to accompany your baking adventures, check out EVERY DAY IS CHRISTMAS. It’s available for viewing/listening here and for purchase on iTunes. Proceeds benefit the National Center for Adult Literacy.

These rolls have become a holiday staple in my kitchen. What would we find in yours?? What sweet treat do you wish was nutritious? (I just make uptake the challenge… ;))

Leave a comment


  1. This is very exciting – I am going to have to try it.

    And for any of you doubting that they could be any good being healthier…I can NOW say that I have had some of August’s healthy baked goods and they were AWESOME. My two year old and I ate them up with gusto.

  2. Om nom nom nom… the airport. The very first thing I had to eat on American soil after a year and change abroad was a gigantic cinnabon. I was SO. ILL. But it was SO worth it.

    • Must’ve been SOME cinnamon rolls! LOL Thanks so much for stopping by, Kaitlin. I can definitely relate to American food cravings after foreign travel. 🙂

  3. All I can say is, “YUM!”

  4. oh yummy. they sound amazing. Unfortunately, I’m a celiac, so no wheat for me. None at all.

  5. I’ve asked my son several times for his Christmas morning requests so that I am prepared… since he hasn’t come up with any recipe ideas, I may just get this dough ready! I love that it is dairy free and I’m sure my egg substitute would work for my daughter’s allergies. I, like Louise, will be the only one abstaining (but the smell might do me in)!

  6. I read this last night as I was fighting my bowl of ice cream before bed urges. After reading this my cravings switched to cinnamon rolls. I screamed. I will have to try this recipe. Sounds very good and healthy!

  7. LOL That was YOU? THOUGHT I heard something… Glad they sound tasty to you, Tim. Next time I’ll try to warn you about impending decadence. 😉

  8. Those sound delish! But, unfortunately for me I can’t eat wheat. Do you know of any good gluten free cinnamon roll recipes? And someone to bake them for me?

    • See the link in above comment… Hope it helps! Good to know that several of you are G/W-free.

      As for the baker, hmm. I only charge airfare! 😉

  9. OMG! That looks sinfully decadent! Because I’m so impatient I avoid trying out anything with yeast in it(all that waiting kills me LOL 😉 ). My mum’s fruitcake is a favourite at this time of the year. I know fruitcake has a bad reputation for some reason but I quite like it!

    If you could come up with a healthier (but equally tasty) alternative for chocolate brownies, August, I’ll be very, very impressed! 🙂

    • Ha! I hear you, Nisha. For a faster batch use refrigerated or frozen whole grain bread dough. Ready in a snap!

      I actually do make healthy brownies… Will plan to share soon!

  10. These look and sound delish. I’ll definitely give them a try! I love the pics, so helpful to this non-baker. Yum.

  11. That looks awesome! I love that you were able to make it so much more healthy than its counterpart. I can’t wait to try making these!

  12. August, I can smell those cinnamon rolls already. Awe, to be able to eat them without the sugar drop afterwards. You’d have to scrap me off the floor with a spatula girl. But they sure do sound yummy! Eat one for me will you? It would give me great pleasure in knowing someone is enjoying them. 🙂

    • Aw… Laughing, but don’t actually want to see you on the floor! FYI, these ate much lower glycemic than regular rolls, so the drop is less likely. Pair them with milk (or other protein) for even more stability. 😉

  13. That looks very yummy and something that my girls would love to bake:) We will have to try them out over the holidays!

  14. Oh my…these looks DELICIOUS and definitely inline with my 2012 goals. I’ll be giving them a try for sure…delightful treasure. Thanks for going through all the trial and error for your blogging buddies…girl…you are a saint! 🙂

  15. Kourtney Heintz

     /  December 21, 2011

    Healthy and tasty usually don’t coincide. This sounds like a nice possibility though. 🙂 I wish all the Christmas cookies were healthy. Luckily I only eat them one week out of the year.

  16. Great time of the year to share these treats, August!

  17. Hi August. These sound great. I’m not the best of cooks, but I might give them a go … just need to remember switch off the fire alarm first!

    Have a good Christmas.

    Cheers 🙂

  18. These look so fabulous, girl! I need to try making them after the holidays since they are awesome not only for Christmas but anytime.

    Baking and cooking is a bit complicated in my household: my husband is on a very low fat diet, I am on a wheat-free diet, and the kids are picky eaters. I don’t use anything with artificial colors or flavors and try to only cook with organic ingredients, whenever possible.

    This Christmas I baked three kinds of peppermint brownies (fat free, gluten-free and “regular” filled-with-unhealthy-goodness ones) plus sugar cookies with natural coloring.

    We always have a big gathering for Christmas and everyone contributes a lot of food so I got away with baking just a little this year 🙂

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