Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

My absolute favourite thing to do in the kitchen is bake. Sweet or savoury, I just get so much satisfaction from baking tasty eats. I think it all started when my mom gave me the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cookbook for Christmas way back in 1993 (I know the year, she wrote in the cover). I quickly turned to the section on cheesecakes, and there was no looking back. It’s no wonder I’m always in charge of desserts at holiday family meals, and why I always jump at the chance to bake something for a gathering or potluck. Perhaps in another life I could have been a pastry chef…who knows?


Last weekend I was invited to a potluck brunch at a coworkers house. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make – all of my favourite breakfast foods don’t really work well for a potluck situation. Then someone suggested cinnamon buns. The idea stuck in my head, since I think I’ve only made them once in my life, and they are the kind of thing you want to share with other people. Because the boyfriend and I do not need an entire pan of cinnamon buns to ourselves, no matter how delicious they might be.


I was rummaging through the cupboard one evening, and came across a can of pumpkin. The light bulb went off – why not make pumpkin cinnamon rolls? To the internet I went, because I was sure I was not the first person to come up with this idea – and I was right. But I wanted some specific things – like using whole wheat flour, no raisins, and no cream cheese icing. None of the recipes I found quite met the criteria, so I combined some ideas, went with what I already had on hand, and a recipe was born.


Cinnamon rolls can be a bit labour intensive as they use a yeast dough, so I made them up the night before, and they were ready to bake in the morning. I knew there would be a ton of food at the brunch, so I made them smaller (in height). If I made them again, I would do a thicker more traditional size roll. But they were rather lovely – the pumpkin gave them a pretty orange hue, with some subtle pumpkin pie flavour from the ginger and nutmeg in the dough. Pecans gave them a bit of texture, and kept my raisin hating boyfriend happy. I made a simple cinnamon vanilla glaze to finish them. The whole wheat flour makes them a little less fluffy, but I like the bit of chew. Plus I can then argue that they are pretty much a complete meal – you have whole grains, protein from nuts, pumpkin for your vegetable servings, and a bit of milk and butter for dairy 😉 Totally legit!

And in case you were wondering – they were a hit at brunch. And the leftovers disappeared pretty fast too. I’d say they were worth the effort.


Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls)

makes 16 – 18 rolls

A seasonal twist on a classic brunch treat! Pumpkin, ginger, and nutmeg amp up the colour and flavour on these decadent cinnamon rolls. Pecans provide a bit of crunchy texture, while a simple cinnamon vanilla glaze dresses them up, making them perfect to serve to guests. If you love all things pumpkin, you need to give these rolls a try!   



  • 1/2 cup milk (dairy or non), warmed (116 degrees F or lower)
  • 1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tsp cinnamon


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt


1. In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm milk and set aside for 5 – 7 minutes. The yeast should get a bit foamy – if not, your yeast may no longer be active.

2. In a stand mixer, combine flours, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and melted butter. Stir to combine. Then add milk/yeast mixture, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Mix on low speed until combined, then switch to the dough hook and continue to mix until dough is elastic but still soft, about 5 minutes.

3. Oil the sides of the bowl, and cover. Let rise in a warm, draft free area for 1 hour. Dough should almost double in size.

4. While dough is rising, grease a 9” X 13” baking dish, and set aside. You can also mix the brown sugar, pecans, and cinnamon for the filling and set aside.

5. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a floured surface, and also spread some flour on the top. Roll out into a 16” X 11” rectangle.

6. Brush the dough with the melted butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar/pecan filling evenly over the top of the dough.

7. Roll the dough starting from the long edge into a tight spiral. It won’t be perfect, you might lose some filling, but that’s okay.

8. Using a sharp serrated knife or unwaxed dental floss, cut dough into 1 inch thick sections. Place in greased pan. Sprinkle any filling that escaped over the top. 

9. If you are going to cook rolls right away, cover, and allow to rise for another 45 minutes. Otherwise, cover and put in the fridge. When you take them out the next day, allow to rise for about 1 hour.

10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F approximately 15 minutes before you plan to bake them. Bake for 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

11. To make the glaze, mix together powered sugar, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Drizzle over the the warm cinnamon rolls, and enjoy!


Note: For a fluffier cinnamon roll, use only all-purpose flour.


What’s your favourite thing to serve for brunch?

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Categories: Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Brunch, Entertaining, Recipe, Seasonal, Vegetarian


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