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Best Vegan Cinnamon Rolls (Oil-Free)

Deliciously sweet and perfectly frosted, these Vegan Cinnamon Rolls are filled with cinnamon and raisins and are absolutely lip-smacking delicious!

black baking pan with 6 cinnamon rolls with icing

Recently, I set out to come up with a vegan and oil-free version of cinnamon rolls because I haven’t had one in nearly 8 years. Since Christmas is around the corner, it seemed like the perfect time for a recipe like this.

Let me be clear here that I am not saying that cinnamon rolls–even vegan, oil-free, egg-free, dairy-free ones–are a health food to make and eat all the time. But, for the holidays and special occasions like Mother’s Day and even Valentine’s Day, these are a great option for something sweet. Another great option is my Vegan Carrot Cake.

close up of vegan cinnamon roll on wood board with coffee in green mug

I’m not going to kid you. It took me a while to tweak these dairy-free cinnamon buns to get them to where I was happy with them. It began with a recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie and ended with the version here. Since I don’t cook with any oil, it was a bit challenging to come up with a finished product that I was really happy with.

The origin of cinnamon rolls

It was Roman spice traders that introduced cinnamon spice to Europe. Then much later, Sweden is where the first cinnamon rolls (aka buns or swirls) were created back in the 1920s. October 4th is actually a special day there called National Cinnamon Bun Day. How cool is that?

It didn’t take long for the popularity of cinnamon rolls to expand across the globe. However, traditional versions are loaded with butter and oil. That’s why I set out to make an oil-free version for special occasions.

3 vegan cinnamon rolls stacked on white dish with cinnamon sticks

How to make vegan cinnamon rolls

Don’t be afraid of this recipe due to the length of the instructions. I’m trying to be very thorough for those who have never baked before, so I am going to be a little long-winded here to make sure everyone is comfortable with the process. The outcome is so worth the effort, and it’s quite fun I think. If you are really looking for an easy dessert to try for beginners, check out my No-Bake Chocolate Pie.

Though I’m sure other flours such as spelt, regular whole wheat, and other varieties can be used to make this recipe, I decided to go with whole wheat pastry flour to get the lightest consistency possible. I also added another step to help with fluffiness that you’ll see below. There is a link below in the Tips section that can help with making these gluten-free for those that are avoiding it.

Making the dough

Begin by warming 1 cup of your choice of plant milk to approximately 110°F. I used almond milk but other plant milk varieties will work just as well. To do this, place the milk in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for approximately a little over 1-minute–for my microwave it was 1:15 minutes. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature.

After heating, stir in 2 tablespoons of the sweetener of your choice and whisk together well. I use date sugar for mine. I noticed that in a few other recipes, some chefs do not add the sugar at this point, but I learned that the sugar actually feeds the yeast and helps it to rise better.

active yeast in bowl bubbling for dough

Next, sprinkle one packet of the active dry yeast on top of the milk mixture and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. No need to stir it, just sprinkle the top. You’ll notice that it will bubble up a little bit (see the photo above), and this is what you want. If it doesn’t bubble up at all, the milk temperature was likely too hot or too cold. You’ll need to dump it and try again.

While the yeast is being activated, find a large mixing bowl and add the dry ingredients to it–2.5 cups flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1/2 cup sweetener, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons cinnamon–and whisk together well. I sift my flour and baking powder before adding it to the bowl to make sure it is light and fluffy, but this step is optional.

whole wheat flour being sifted into stainless bowl

Once the milk and yeast mixture is ready, add in the vanilla and applesauce and whisk together. Then, pour the wet mixture into the larger bowl with the dry ingredients and stir with a large spoon to form a sticky dough.

At this point, the dough will be very sticky and you’ll likely need to add a couple of tablespoons or more of flour to form it into a dough ball. You will need to use your hands to do this, so make sure to keep flour on them as well.

large stainless mixing bowl with ball of cinnamon roll dough rising

Make sure there is a thin layer of flour on the bottom of your large mixing bowl underneath the dough ball to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Cover the bowl loosely with a dishcloth and allow it to set in a warm dry place to rise. It should take about an hour to double in size.

While it is rising is a good time to mix up the filling that will be layered over the dough before rolling it into buns.

Go ahead and preheat the oven to 325°F and line a 9″x13″ baking dish with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Set it to the side until needed.

After the dough has finished rising, it’s time to knead it. To do this, sprinkle some flour on a flat surface and knead with your hands. If you’ve never kneaded dough before, this short video clip will show you how. Knead the dough for approximately 5 minutes (or 15-20 times) dusting with additional flour as needed.

cinnamon roll dough rolled flat on board with rolling pin

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large, thin rectangle (approximately 1/4″ thick) or as close as you can get to it. If the dough sticks to your rolling pin, dust the top with a little more flour.

Making the filling

I like to make the filling while the dough is rising and just set it to the side until it is needed after kneading the dough.

stainless mixing bowl with cinnamon roll filling and whisk

In a medium-size mixing bowl, add date sugar or another sweetener, cinnamon, applesauce, and raisins, and stir together well.

Rolling the dough and filling

Once the dough has been flattened out into a thin rectangle, spoon the filling mixture into the center of it and begin to spear it around leaving about a 1/2″ edge clear.

cinnamon roll filling being spooned onto dough

Gently begin to roll the dough up. You’ll notice that the filling tries to squish out, so you will need to lift the roll, as it becomes heavier, up and over each rolling motion to keep the filling in it. If it is rolled too tightly, the filling will be squished out, so keep a firm but gentle hand on it.

Use a sharp knife to cut the roll into about 12 buns. Don’t press the knife down into the dough but rather use a gentle light sawing motion back and forth. It’s very important that your knife is sharp so the dough won’t get all mashed up. With each cut that separates a new bun, use the flat side of your knife to lift the bun up and place it on your baking dish that is lined with parchment paper. Once it’s placed in the baking dish, use your fingers to form it into a round shape if necessary. Continue doing this until all of the buns are cut and in the baking dish.

2 pans of vegan cinnamon rolls

Bake at 325°F for approximately 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Be careful not to overbake. Remove from the oven and allow the cinnamon rolls to cool a bit. Drizzle the icing glaze over the top and serve while they are still warm.

Making the icing

While the rolls are baking is the perfect time to make the icing. It’s super easy to make with only 2 ingredients.

Prepare the icing by mixing 1 cup of confectioners sugar with 1 tablespoon plant milk. Whip it together with a whisk or hand mixer until it thickens up into a glaze, making sure to beat out any clumps.

Before anyone freaks out about using powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar), there are a couple of things you should know. First, the icing is completely optional. Don’t make it if you don’t want to. And, second, it’s super easy to make your own Homemade Powdered Sugar using date sugar or other less refined sugar. If you’re looking for a dessert without any sugar, try my Sugar-Free Chocolate Cake.

cinnamon roll on wooden board with fork and coffee

Pro tips & substitutes

  • Flour- I like to use whole wheat pastry flour to make these cinnamon rolls, but other flours such as spelt and regular wheat flour can also be used.
  • Gluten-Free Options- Though I haven’t tried these with any gluten-free flour varieties, Minimalist Baker has a great Gluten-Free Flour Guide that should help with substituting in this recipe.
  • Sifting Flour- I do like to sift my flour when baking pastries because it lightens them up even more. I also have found that adding the baking powder to be sifted with the flour gets out any clumps.
  • Rolling- The rolling up of the dough with the filling is the hardest part because the filling wants to ooze out. Just be gentle and lift up and over when making the next rolling motion to help keep it all in. Any filling that seeps out can be used to top the rolls with before baking.
  • Applesauce- If applesauce isn’t available in your area, it’s pretty simple to make your own.
  • Storing- These will need to be kept in an airtight container to prevent them from drying out. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Want more sweet vegan desserts?

black baking pan with 6 cinnamon rolls with icing

Best Vegan Cinnamon Buns

Yield: 12 buns
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Deliciously sweet and perfectly frosted, these Vegan Cinnamon Rolls are filled with cinnamon and raisins and are absolutely lip-smacking delicious!

Ingredients

Dough

Filling

  • 1/4 cup date sugar (or other sweetener)
  • 1.5 table spoons cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup applesauce
  • 6 tablespoons raisins

Icing Glaze

Instructions

Making the Dough

Don't be afraid of this recipe due to the length of the instructions. I'm trying to be very thorough for those who have never baked before, so I am going to be a little long-winded here to make sure everyone is comfortable with the process. The outcome is so worth the effort, and it's quite fun I think. If you are really looking for an easy dessert to try for beginners, check out my No-Bake Chocolate Pie.

  1. Begin by warming 1 cup of your choice of plant milk to approximately 110°F. I used almond milk but other plant milk varieties will work just as well. To do this, place the milk in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for approximately a little over 1-minute–for my microwave it was 1:15 minutes. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature.
  2. After heating, stir in 2 tablespoons of the sweetener of your choice and whisk together well. I use date sugar for mine. 
  3. Next, sprinkle one packet of the active dry yeast on top of the milk mixture and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. No need to stir it, just sprinkle the top. You’ll notice that it will bubble up a little bit (see the photo above), and this is what you want. If it doesn’t bubble up at all, the milk temperature was likely too hot or too cold. You’ll need to dump it and try again.
  4. While the yeast is being activated, find a large mixing bowl and add the dry ingredients to it–2.5 cups flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1/2 cup sweetener, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons cinnamon–and whisk together well. I sift my flour and baking powder before adding it to the bowl to make sure it is light and fluffy, but this step is optional.
  5. Once the milk and yeast mixture is ready, add the vanilla and applesauce and whisk together. Then, pour the wet mixture into the larger bowl with the dry ingredients and stir with a large spoon to form a sticky dough.
  6. At this point, the dough will be very sticky and you’ll likely need to add a couple of tablespoons or more of flour to form it into a dough ball. You will need to use your hands to do this, so make sure to keep flour on them as well.
  7. Make sure there is a thin layer of flour on the bottom of your large mixing bowl underneath the dough ball to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Cover the bowl loosely with a dishcloth and allow it to set in a warm dry place to rise. It should take about an hour to double in size. While it is rising is a good time to mix up the filling that will be layered over the dough before rolling it into buns.
  8. Go ahead and preheat the oven to 325°F and line a 9"x13" baking dish with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Set it to the side until needed.
  9. After the dough has finished rising, it’s time to knead it. To do this, sprinkle some flour on a flat surface and knead with your hands. If you’ve never kneaded dough before, this short video clip will show you how. Knead the dough for approximately 5 minutes (or 15-20 times) dusting with additional flour as needed.
  10. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large, thin rectangle (approximately 1/4" thick) or as close as you can get to it. If the dough sticks to your rolling pin, dust the top with a little more flour.

The Filling

  1. I like to make the filling while the dough is rising and just set it to the side until it is needed after kneading the dough.
  2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, add date sugar or another sweetener, cinnamon, applesauce, and raisins, and stir together well

Rolling the Dough & Filling Up

  1. Once the dough has been flattened out into a thin rectangle, spoon the filling mixture into the center of it and begin to spear it around leaving about a 1/2″ edge clear.
  2. Gently begin to roll the dough up. You'll notice that the filling tries to squish out, so you will need to lift the roll, as it becomes heavier, up and over each rolling motion to keep the filling in it. If it is rolled too tightly, the filling will be squished out, so keep a firm but gentle hand on it.
  3. Use a sharp knife to cut the roll into about 12 buns. Don't press the knife down into the dough but rather use a gentle light sawing motion back and forth. It's very important that your knife is sharp so the dough won't get all mashed up. With each cut that separates a new bun, use the flat side of your knife to lift the bun up and place it on your baking dish that is lined with parchment paper. Once it's placed in the baking dish, use your fingers to form it into a round shape if necessary. Continue doing this until all of the buns are cut and in the baking dish.
  4. Bake at 325°F for approximately 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Be careful not to overbake. Remove from the oven and allow the cinnamon rolls to cool a bit. Drizzle the icing glaze over the top and serve while they are still warm.

The Icing Glaze

  1. While the rolls are baking is the perfect time to make the icing. It’s super easy to make with only 2 ingredients.
  2. Prepare the icing by mixing 1 cup of confectioners sugar with 1 tablespoon plant milk. Whip it together with a whisk or hand mixer until it thickens up into a glaze, making sure to beat out any clumps.
  3. Before anyone freaks out about using powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar), there are a couple of things you should know. First, the icing is completely optional. Don’t make it if you don’t want to. And, second, it’s super easy to make your own Homemade Powdered Sugar using date sugar or other less refined sugar. If you’re looking for a dessert without any sugar, try my Sugar-Free Chocolate Cake.



Notes

Pro Tips & Variations

  1. Flour- I like to use whole wheat pastry flour to make these cinnamon rolls, but other flours such as spelt and regular wheat flour can also be used.
  2. Gluten-Free Options- Though I haven’t tried these with any gluten-free flour varieties, Minimalist Baker has a great Gluten-Free Flour Guide that should help with substituting in this recipe.
  3. Sifting Flour- I do like to sift my flour when baking pastries because it lightens them up even more. I also have found that adding the baking powder to be sifted with the flour gets out any clumps.
  4. Rolling- The rolling up of the dough with the filling is the hardest part because the filling wants to ooze out. Just be gentle and lift up and over when making the next rolling motion to help keep it all in. Any filling that seeps out can be used to top the rolls with before baking.
  5. Applesauce- If applesauce isn't available in your area, it's pretty simple to make your own.
  6. Storing- These will need to be kept in an airtight container to prevent them from drying out. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 173Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gSodium: 371mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 3gSugar: 20gProtein: 4g

To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.

Did you make this recipe?

Please rate and leave a comment because I love hearing from you. Remember SHARING IS CARING!

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Emma

Saturday 27th of November 2021

So, I made them. They took me at least 3 hours & don’t look as good as yours, but they’re pretty tasty! I used date sugar, which makes them a lot darker than pictured here. Next time I think I’d use date sugar only in the dough, then coarse raw sugar in the filling (for a little crunch) & white powdered sugar for the icing on top. Perhaps actually just dusting with a sprinkle of icing sugar before serving instead of actually icing them, would be a healthier option, and still very pretty. Thanks for this recipe. It was fun, though I don’t think I’ll be becoming a pastry chef 👩‍🍳 any day soon!😂😂

Terri Edwards

Saturday 27th of November 2021

Hi Emma- They look delicious to me (I saw your photos of it on the T. Colin Campbell Facebook group)! 😋The date sugar definitely makes the icing darker in color. I tend to use pure cane sugar because it's lighter. Yours look great to me. I'd say you nailed it for the date sugar version! :)

Debbie

Wednesday 24th of November 2021

Cinnamon rolls on Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings has been a tradition for us. Being WFPB for 5 years m we have missed this. I was so happy to find a recipe that we can feel good about eating for a family favorite.

Terri Edwards

Thursday 25th of November 2021

Debbie- Before this recipe, I hadn't had a cinnamon roll in over 8 years, so I understand what you mean. Hopefully, these little lovelies will bring back your family holiday morning traditions. :)

Alayna

Wednesday 24th of November 2021

Hi! Can I make these ahead of time and refrigerate them until it's time to bake them in the morning? Do you think I should allow them to rise again after being refrigerated? Thanks!

Terri Edwards

Wednesday 24th of November 2021

Hi Alayna- I haven't tried making them ahead, so I can't say for sure. I just took a peek at Chocolate Covered Kate's recipe that inspired this one, and she says you can. The only thing is that she uses oil, so I'm not sure how that might affect it. This is what she says, "If you want hot cinnamon rolls first thing in the morning, just assemble the day before, then cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, simply put the pan into the oven and bake 20 minutes. Frost as desired, and serve hot. Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen to reheat in the microwave or oven any time you’re craving cinnamon rolls!"

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