Vegan Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls

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by Sil Pancho

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03.28.2023


Whether you’re new to Ambitious Kitchen or have been following for years, there’s a good chance you’ve come across (and/or made) my famous cinnamon roll recipe. It just so happens to be the most popular cinnamon roll recipe on the internet, and for good reason! BUT, did you know I have equally delicious vegan cinnamon rolls that are completely dairy free and taste like a cross between a Cinnabon and banana bread? WHO’S READY TO GET THEIR BAKE ON?

When I first shared this recipe I had tested it approximately 5 times to get the perfect fluffy results that will make you better than Betty, almost ask cool as Ina, and definitely as legit as Martha. (Hoping we all get these references.)

These banana bread cinnamon rolls are fluffy, soft, and taste like a cinnamon roll and banana bread had a baby. Fresh bananas are nestled in between each cinnamon sugar roll for the ultimate banana cinnamon roll party. I MEAN COME ON, NOW YOU HAVE TO TRY THEM.

vegan cinnamon rolls in a pan

Ingredients in banana bread cinnamon rolls

We’re using simple pantry staples in these banana cinnamon rolls, plus a few swaps to keep them vegan. Here’s what you’ll need to make them:

  • Bread flour: the trick to keep these vegan cinnamon rolls soft and fluffy is to use bread flour instead of all purpose flour. Basically, bread flour has a higher protein ratio, which means it produces a lighter and softer cinnamon roll instead of one that’s dense. It’s meant to be used in breads and rolls, so do yourself a favor and pick up a bag ASAP.
  • Granulated sugar: this type of sugar is used to sweeten the banana bread cinnamon rolls and to help activate the yeast.
  • Brown sugar: personally, I love using dark brown sugar for a more robust molasses flavor in those swirls, but light brown sugar will work.
  • Quick rise yeast: use quick rise or instant yeast in this recipe to help the cinnamon rolls rise faster. You can also use active dry yeast, but the cinnamon rolls may take slightly longer to rise.
  • Vegan butter: we’re using vegan butter in this recipe. However, if you aren’t vegan or dairy free, feel free to use regular unsalted butter. Or you can try my regular cinnamon roll recipe.
  • Mashed banana: not only does mashed banana help to give the cinnamon rolls that banana bread flavor, but it also helps to keep the recipe vegan. That’s right, no flax eggs needed! The banana also adds a natural sweetness AND softness to the cinnamon roll dough. SO addicting. Just make sure that you measure out the mashed banana to ¾ cup. DO NOT USE MORE. DO NOT USE LESS. Trust me!
  • Milk: I keep these cinnamon rolls dairy free and vegan by using unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Plus, it adds a lovely hint of vanilla. Simply the best. You can use any dairy-free milk you’d like such as oat milk or another nut milk, too.
  • Walnuts: these are optional, but I love adding chopped walnuts to the filling as well!
  • For the frosting: we’re making an easy vegan cream cheese frosting by mixing softened vegan cream cheese, vegan butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.

banana bread cinnamon roll dough laid out on a board

Can I make them gluten free?

Unfortunately, I have not tested these cinnamon rolls using a gluten free flour, so I cannot recommend it.

Types of yeast used for making cinnamon rolls

There are two types of yeast to choose from in baking:

  1. Active dry yeast: this type of yeast must be dissolved in liquid, or also what’s known as being “proofed” before it’s added to the rest of the dough ingredients.
  2. Quick rise yeast: also known as instant yeast (this is the brand I use and love!) and what we are using for this banana bread cinnamon roll recipe. It can be added to the dough without any ‘proofing’ required, so you don’t need to sit and watch the yeast to make sure it bubbles. I do still like to dissolve it in a little bit of milk and sugar to help get it started, which is noted in the recipe instructions.

unbaked vegan banana bread cinnamon rolls sliced

How do you know when yeast is activated?

After adding yeast to warm milk you’ll typically watch and wait to see if the mixture bubbles. Then you’ll know that your yeast is activated. However, in this recipe (as I mentioned above) we’ll be using a quick rise yeast to make these vegan cinnamon rolls, which doesn’t have to be “proofed” before adding in the rest of the ingredients. You’ll simply add the yeast to your warmed milk and sugar (the sugar helps get the yeast started!) and continue on with the recipe. Easy!

Learn how to measure flour correctly

Yes, weighing flour is the gold standard for measuring it, but if you don’t have a scale or are looking for an easier method check out my tutorial for measuring flour here! It works every time.

unbaked banana cinnamon rolls in a pan

Tips for making perfect vegan cinnamon rolls

As always, be sure to follow the ingredients and instructions EXACTLY in this vegan cinnamon roll recipe. Here are a few more tips and tricks to ensure success:

  1. Don’t overheat your milk. It should be between 105-115 degrees F. Anything hotter will kill the yeast, which means the vegan banana cinnamon rolls will not rise. A simple tip is to dip your finger in the almond milk — it should feel warm similar to warm bath water but not HOT. If you warmed it up too much, simply wait a few minutes until it cools down enough to touch.
  2. Use ripe bananas and measure them out. The mashed banana in these vegan cinnamon rolls will help them bake up without the use of eggs, so be sure to measure out the amount after mashing. Ripe bananas will ensure that these vegan cinnamon rolls have a delicious, banana bread flavor!
  3. Use softened, room temperature vegan butter for the filling. Melted butter will likely cause the cinnamon sugar filling to leak out before baking. Room temperature butter is best!
  4. Rub the brown sugar into the vegan butter. After you spread out the softened vegan butter, it’s important to rub the brown sugar into the butter and dough so that it’s well combined.
  5. Add banana slices to the filling. The extra banana slices will really give these vegan cinnamon rolls that banana bread flavor. Yum! I think chopped walnuts or pecans would also be delicious in the middle.
  6. Use bread flour. Bread flour is available at most grocery stores and it makes ALL the difference in achieving soft, fluffy banana bread cinnamon rolls!
  7. Flour your work surface and rolling pin. This is to prevent the vegan cinnamon rolls from sticking to the surface or to the rolling pin.

adding frosting to vegan cinnamon rolls in a pan

How to make overnight cinnamon rolls

After rolling your banana bread cinnamon rolls up, cut them as directed, arrange in pan lined with parchment paper, cover them with plastic wrap then place them in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to bake, bring the vegan cinnamon rolls to room temperature and let them rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour before baking as directed.

Storing tips

Feel free to store your freshly baked vegan cinnamon buns covered at room temp for 1-2 days, then transfer them to the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Simply reheat them in the microwave to get them soft and gooey again!

vegan banana bread cinnamon rolls in a pan and on a plate

Freezer-friendly vegan cinnamon rolls

  • Freeze before baking. The dough should be frozen after the first rise (once they are rolled up with the filling in and cut). Place into a pan and cover well, then place in freezer. When you are ready to bake, let the dough thaw in the fridge — preferably overnight, then put in a warm spot for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking to activate the second rise. Bake the vegan banana bread cinnamon rolls as directed.
  • Freeze after baking. Allow the vegan banana bread cinnamon rolls to come to room temperature after baking, then either freeze the entire pan, making sure they are well wrapped or covered in an airtight container, or freeze individual cinnamon rolls. When you’re ready to eat, defrost the vegan cinnamon rolls at room temperature, then warm them in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes. You can also warm them up individually in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (once defrosted). I prefer to freeze them before they are iced, and then frost them when ready to eat. The vegan cream cheese icing is also freezer-friendly!

Our fav tools for baking cinnamon rolls

  • Stand mixer. You’ll want to use the dough hook on your stand mixer to easily knead the dough before rolling it out. Don’t have a stand mixer? No worries! You can also knead the dough by hand.
  • Wooden spoon. I recommend mixing your dough together with a wooden spoon.
  • Rolling pin. For rolling out that beautiful dough. Pro tip: if you don’t have a rolling pin you can also flour up a wine bottle!
  • Serrated knife. Using a serrated knife will help you cut the cinnamon rolls out after you roll the dough up. You can also use floss.
  • 9×9 inch pan. I recommend using a 9×9 inch baking pan or 9-inch circular pan so that the cinnamon rolls fit well and bake properly.

vegan cinnamon roll on a plate

Your cinnamon roll questions: answered

Be sure to read through the full post for answers to common questions about making these banana cinnamon rolls. A few more common questions that I get:

  1. Can I use all purpose flour? The recipe will still work with all purpose flour (and readers have used it with success) but I highly recommend sticking with bread flour because, as I mentioned, it’s what makes the cinnamon rolls extra fluffy and delicious.
  2. Why did the middles pop out of my cinnamon rolls? This can happen if you roll them a bit too tightly or if your pan is too small. Be sure to cut dough off of the ends of your cinnamon roll log so that the rolls all fit in your pan.
  3. Can I double the recipe? Yep! Just remember to use a larger pan.
  4. What can I do if my dough is too sticky while kneading? Simply add a little more flour, about a tablespoon at a time, until it’s easier to work with.
  5. Can I use a bread maker? I haven’t tested this recipe using a bread maker, but readers in the comments have done so with success!
  6. Can I add mix-ins to the filling? You bet! I think chopped nuts would be delicious rolled up with the banana slices.

More delicious brunch treats to try

Get all of my breakfast & brunch recipes here!

I hope you love these vegan banana bread cinnamon rolls! If you make them, be sure to leave a comment below and rate the recipe so I know how you liked them. I really appreciate it, xo!

Vegan Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls

vegan cinnamon roll on a plate

Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes

Meet the world’s best vegan cinnamon rolls: vegan banana bread cinnamon rolls! These homemade vegan cinnamon rolls are like a cross between a cinnamon roll and banana bread. They’re incredibly fluffy, soft, and make a wonderful brunch or treat!

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 3/4
    cup
    unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or milk of choice), warmed to 115 degrees F
  • 1/4
    cup
    granulated sugar
  • 2 ¼
    teaspoons
    active yeast (1/4-ounce package yeast)
  • 3/4
    cup
    mashed ripe banana (from about 2 medium bananas, but make sure you measure)
  • 1/4
    cup
    melted vegan butter (or regular butter if not vegan)
  • 4
    cups
    bread flour
  • ¾
    teaspoon
    salt
  • For the filling:
  • 2/3
    cup
    dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½
    tablespoons
    ground cinnamon
  • 1/4
    cup
    vegan butter (or regular butter), softened
  • 1
    medium banana, thinly sliced
  • 1/2
    cup
    chopped walnuts, optional but recommened
  • For the vegan cream cheese frosting*:
  • 4
    oz
    vegan cream cheese (or regular cream cheese), softened
  • 2
    tablespoons
    vegan butter (or regular butter), softened
  • 3/4
    cup
    powdered sugar
  • ½
    teaspoon
    vanilla extract
  • ½
    teaspoon
    cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Warm milk to around 110 degrees F. I like to do this by placing milk in a microwave safe bowl and microwaving it for 45 seconds. It should be like warm bath water. Transfer warm milk and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Stir in ¾ cup mashed banana (making sure you measured!) and melted vegan butter (or regular butter). Mix until just combined. Next stir in flour and salt with a wooden spoon until a dough begins to form.

  2. Place dough hook on mixer and knead dough on low speed for 8-10 minutes. Dough should form into a nice ball and be slightly sticky. (If you don’t want to use an electric mixer, you can use your hands to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes on a well-floured surface.)

  3. Transfer dough ball to a large bowl greased with olive oil, then cover with plastic wrap and a warm towel. Allow dough to rise for 1 hour or 1.5 hours or until doubled in size. This may more or less time depending the humidity and temperature in your home.

  4. After dough has doubled in size, transfer dough to a well-floured surface and roll out into a 14×16 inch rectangle. Spread softened butter over dough, leaving a ¼ inch margin at the far side of the dough.

  5. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Use your hands to sprinkle mixture over the buttered dough, then gently rub the sugar into the butter, you really want to combine the sugar into the dough so it sticks. Add banana slices and walnuts on top.

  6. Tightly roll dough up the dough, starting from the 14-inch side (the smaller side) and place seam side down making sure to seal the edges of the dough as best you can. You will probably need to cut off at least an inch off the ends of the dough as the ends won’t be as full of cinnamon sugar as we’d want it to be. Then cut rolled into 1 inch sections with a serrated knife or use floss. You should get 12 rolls. I like to make dents with a knife in the dough before cutting to make 12 even rolls.

  7. Place banana cinnamon rolls in a greased 9×11 inch baking pan. (I recommend lining the pan with parchment paper as well, in case any of the filling ends up leaking out.) Cover with plastic wrap and a warm towel and let rise again for 30-45 minutes or until they puff up and touch each other.

  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and towel and bake the banana cinnamon rolls for 25-35 minutes or until just slightly golden brown on the edges. You want to under bake them a little so they stay soft in the middle, that’s why we want them just slightly golden brown. Allow them to cool for a 5-10 minutes before frosting.

  9. While the cinnamon rolls bake, you can make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a medium bowl, combine softened cream cheese, softened butter, powdered sugar vanilla extract and cinnamon. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Spread or drizzle over cinnamon rolls and serve immediately. Makes 12 cinnamon rolls.

Recipe Notes

*Feel free to use regular butter and cream cheese if you are not vegan or dairy free.

Read the full post for tips, tricks, and even how to make overnight cinnamon rollse.

These vegan cinnamon rolls are freezer-friendly! Check the full post on tips for freezing them.

Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats

Recipe updated on March 30, 2020, post republished on March 26th, 2023.



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