Healthier Cinnamon Rolls

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Because sometimes you just want a gosh darn cinnamon roll. That’s why you make skinny cinnamon rolls with no butter.

Then you can eat more. {Kidding.}

Heart Healthier Skinny Cinnamon Rolls - all the flavor without the guilt. These rolls have no butter but still have everything you love about cinnamon rolls.

Okay, so I learned something new last week: people like to eat Junior Mints cold. I mean, I’ve heard of frozen Snickers and even chilled M&Ms but I’ve never heard of cold Junior Mints.

What side are you on? Cold Junior Mints? Regular Junior Mints? Or no Junior Mints, because they’re the devil?

I don’t know what side I’m on but I do know that, thanks to this question, I’ve invented my dream refrigerator.

{I know, I make absolutely no sense most of the time. Bear with me.}

Heart Healthier Cinnamon Rolls

Okay, so the original question I asked on my Facebook page was if people liked Junior Mints. Someone replied that they want to fill their ice maker with them. And a lightbulb went off:

What if could put your glass up to the water dispenser on your refrigerator, except instead of water, candy came out. Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever?

Press a button, M&Ms fill your glass. Slide the lever to the left, get Skittles or Junior Mints. The ice maker would give out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Isn’t it genius??!!

Someone needs to invent it for me. And until they do I’ll work hard at dieting and eating healthier because my candy consumption is going to increase 100% once that fridge is developed.

{Edited to note: adding candy to your ice maker is a thing!}

To help me eat healthier until I get my new fridge, I’m going to indulge in cinnamon rolls. Wait.

Heart Healthier Cinnamon Rolls

No, seriously. Even if you’re eating healthier, you can enjoy these skinny cinnamon rolls. They’re much heart healthier than my usual cinnamon rolls.

In case you were wondering, it’s still heart healthier week on the blog. I’m doing this week in honor of my mom, who suffers from heart disease (and my dad too, who suffers from heart problems). Tomorrow, Febraury 6th, is National Go Red for Women Day where I hope we’ll turn the country red to bring awareness to heart disease in women.

Remember, 1 in 3 women die of heart disease every year. Often times, they don’t even know they’re having a heart attack. Attacks in women are sneaky like that.

Anyway, if you’re trying to eat to have a healthier heart, you might be tired of oatmeal and egg whites. Or maybe you’re thinking about hosting brunch next Sunday and you’re tired of watching your kids and your in-laws eating cinnamon rolls while you get wheat toast.

Sometimes you just need a guilty pleasure, like a gooey cinnamon roll. And now, no matter what diet you’re on, you can. These are much skinnier than any other cinnamon roll I’ve ever made. There is NO butter in this entire recipe and there is so much less sugar than a normal roll. I predict you’ll do a happy dance when you make these.

Heart Healthier Cinnamon Rolls

Let’s break down how these are healthier than a traditional cinnamon roll:

There is NO butter in the entire recipe. There isn’t even any oil. I know, right? Instead of using butter, I used my favorite healthier substitute: unsweetened applesauce. It acts as a filler in the dough to make it nice and soft, without all the fat and calories in butter.

But wait, you say. What about the filling? Cinnamon roll filling traditionally uses butter and tons of brown sugar. These rolls? Still no butter. I also used applesauce in the filling! I did use some brown sugar but I reduced it by a tablespoon. The result of using applesauce in the filling? A skinny cinnamon roll. There is a slight apple taste when you eat them, but since these apple cider cinnamon rolls were such a huge hit, that shouldn’t be a problem.

And last, flour. The American Heart Association recommends reducing the white flour in recipes and substituting whole wheat flour. I did one better for these rolls: I used white whole wheat flour. Have you ever used it before? White whole wheat flour is made from an albino wheat. It’s not white flour – it’s 100% wheat flour that just looks white, but it’s milder in flavor than regular whole wheat flour. You can substitute it 1:1 for all-purpose flour. The rolls are more “wheat” looking but they taste like a regular cinnamon roll, I promise!

White Whole Wheat flour isn’t totally mainstream yet, but the two mainstream brands (Gold Medal and King Arthur) do make it. Just check your local grocery store.

If you can’t find the white whole wheat flour or want to use whole wheat flour, you can. I made these both ways and liked them both times. If you’re using regular whole wheat flour, you’ll want to use a combination of it and bread flour. See the notes in the recipe.

Of course, cinnamon roll frosting is hard to make skinny. Instead of using a traditional butter/cream cheese frosting I made a simple glaze with some powdered sugar and nonfat milk. You know what? I didn’t miss the thick gooey frosting! These rolls were perfect with just a touch of glaze.

Don’t be scared off by the Skinny or Healthier when talking about cinnamon rolls. I know that, a lot of times, healthier recipes = yuck. But I wouldn’t share something here I didn’t love…and I really did love these. The batch makes 8 rolls, which is perfect for Sunday brunch.

Heart Healthier Skinny Cinnamon Rolls - all the flavor without the guilt. These rolls have no butter but still have everything you love about cinnamon rolls.

And? Eating these instead of a regular roll will make your heart happier. Make some tomorrow when you’re wearing red!

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Healthier Cinnamon Rolls

These skinny and healthier cinnamon rolls are 100% whole wheat and have no butter at all – and they just taste like cinnamon rolls. Plus, the recipe only makes 8 rolls so you won’t have tons left over staring you in the face!

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 1/2 cup warm water (30 seconds in the microwave; think hot bathwater)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (see note)

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon white whole wheat flour (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Frosting

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon nonfat milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8” or 9” pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place the water, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes. It will be very frothy when your timer rings!
  3. While you wait, make the filling. Stir all ingredients for filling together in a small bowl with a fork. Set aside. It will be wet.
  4. Mix in the salt and applesauce using the paddle attachment. Switch to the dough hook and add 1 1/4 cups flour. Start on “Stir” for a few seconds, until the flour starts to incorporate. Switch to “2” for about 30 seconds and then kick it up to “3” until the dough comes together. You know it’s done when all of the dough will join to form a ball and the sides of the bowl are mostly. If your dough is too wet, add an additional tablespoon or two of flour (up to 1/4 cup, but I only used 1 1/4 cups total).
  5. Roll out dough on a floured cutting board to a rectangle that’s about 9×11” or so. Spread with the filling. The dough is soft!
  6. Roll up the dough into a tight roll. Cut into 8 equal slices with a serrated knife. Place in prepared pan.
  7. Let rest for 5 more minutes.
  8. Bake for about 10-13 minutes, until the tops start to get golden.
  9. Make the frosting: whisk powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, and pour it over rolls before serving.

Note on flour: White Whole Wheat Flour is found the baking section of your grocery store. As far as I can tell the most readily available White Whole Wheat is King Arthur, although Gold Medal does make it as well (according to their website). If you can’t find White Whole Wheat, substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour + 1/4 – 1/2 cup bread flour. Use bread flour for dusting before rolling out the dough or the outside will be too grainy.

All images and text ©. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

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Breakfast Cookies

Banana Breakfast Cookies by www.crazyforcrust.com #breakfast #cookie @crazyforcrust

Sweets from friends:
Skinny Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Pancakes by Inside BruCrew Life
Whole Wheat Greek Yogurt Banana Bread by Aggie’s Kitchen
Strawberry Oatmeal Yogurt Muffins by The Lemon Bowl

All information about baking substitutions and heart healthier recipes come from the American Heart Association. I’m just trying to shed some light on heart disease in women. I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist.

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62 comments

  1. Cannot believe all the tweaks you made…no butter, white whole wheat, applesauce…reading the whole baking science and what you did was almost as good as eating one of these must have been 🙂 The fact that you’ve had this whole week of skinny recipes is also pretty amazing! Oh and with the rolls, I love that it’s a 1.5 c of flour recipe not a 4 cup batch…don’t need that many rolls, all at once 🙂

  2. Those look awesome! Love how healthy they are, applesauce really is a miracle in making lower-fat treats like this 🙂

  3. A cinnamon roll with no butter? You, Dorothy, are brilliant and creative. I love cinnamon rolls, but I only make them once a year because they’re definitely not health-friendly. I love the applesauce idea. I bet this recipe would be awesome if Orchard Picked apples…but I’m impatient and won’t be able to wait until September for fresh-off-the-tree apples. Guess I’ll be going to the store and make some applesauce. 🙂

  4. What awesome rolls and a great tribute to your parents. I love that you use applesauce and white whole wheat flour. Yum!

  5. I love baking with applesauce instead of butter or oil. Great idea to substitute the butter in cinnamon rolls with applesauce too! I bet it would taste wonderfully with some chunks of apples too!

  6. These look incredible! I am a sucker for cinnamon rolls and love that you made them healthier 🙂 The applesauce and white whole wheat flour sound fantastic!

  7. So now I can have cinnamon rolls every morning, right?!?! These look amazing!

  8. Whatever you need to do to keep on enjoying cinnamon rolls! Because deprivation sucks. 

  9. Okay, so I seriously just wrote in my planner for March 31 to fill the ice dispenser with candy (for April fools day). GENIUS!! Another genius idea? These heart healthy cinnamon rolls!!

  10. love that you are going heart healthy this week on the blog for your mom and dad ..  I seriously love this, Dorothy! and love the unsweetened applesauce in these cinnamon rolls! they are gorgeous! Go RED!

  11. Okay so I have never had frozen Junior Mints and having a fridge that would give me pb cups would be super awesome.  Now these cinnamon rolls!!  I can’t believe all the changes and they look fabulous.  No butter even!  They look great, good job!!!

  12. Okay, first of all, I freeze all of my chocolate candy. Yes, even M & Ms. It’s so good frozen, and then it takes longer to eat!
    As for the candy/water dispenser, YES. With PB cups, please!
    These cinnamon rolls are awesome, Dorothy. Way to make them work for people who need healthier alternatives (i.e., all of us!).

  13. Love the fact that you healthified the classic cinnamon roll recipe! I’m always looking for ways to healthify recipes, and it definitely looks like you hit the nail on the head with this one! Good job!

  14. Wow, these look so good – the idea of a healthier cinnamon roll is perfect; you can eat one for breakfast and think “hey, I am eating a decadence breakfast but it is better for me!” The applesauce used in the filling and in the dough is so clever, who would of thought of it!? 

  15. Yes to frozen Junior Mints although my favorite is frozen york peppermint patties. I like frozen peanut butter cups too.

  16. I love to experiment with alternative flours, in fact, I rarely use regular white flour anymore. Some of my favorite grains are ancient, such as white and whole-grain spelt, all-purpose Einkorn, and I also like white whole wheat flour as well. To me, it’s so much fun baking with different flours. I also like oat flour and have made my own a few times to bake with.

  17. Can you do this all by hand if you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook? Would love to try, but I only have a standard mixer – nothing fancy.

  18. Yay, you!  Great idea!  Now I can make cinnamon rolls more often than once a year!

  19. Wow, sounds like a great idea. It’s times like these that I wish we lived closer so that I could be your taste-tester! 🙂 I remember eating frozen Snickers when I was younger; they practically broke your teeth but they were good.
    xoxo

  20. wow that is a yummy recipe makeover! I invite you to share at my blog hop( you can link up through Sat) Hugs!

  21. Those look amazing!  I love that you made cinnamon rolls skinny, that’s awesome!  I can’t wait to try these!

  22. Love that you made cinnamon rolls healthier!  These look so good for being healthy!

  23. I learned this week that many people eat their Girl Scout Cookies frozen. So now I can’t wait to get my Lemonades and try that! Also? Bring a batch of these with you on Sunday?

  24. Ahh! I recently started obsessing over cinnamon rolls and how to make them healthier. Love this version!

  25. mmmmm so creative! These are the healthiest cinnamon rolls I’ve ever seen-love ’em!

  26. Tried these tonight and it was a total dud. I followed the recipe exactly and my rolls came out dense and not at all light and fluffy. They didn’t really rise at all. What did I do wrong? I followed the recipe to a T. Was there supposed to be time for the rolls to rise? Because nothing was mentioned in the recipe. I used active dry yeast… I don’t know why they failed! 

    • I’m so sorry that happened Emily! I have a feeling the culprit was your yeast. Was it new or had it been in your pantry awhile? Possibly the water was too hot or too cold when you proofed it. Did it get foamy when you added it to the hot water? I made this recipe twice before posting, and it’s adapted from my regular cinnamon roll recipe, so I’m not sure why that happened for you!

      The recipe is a “fast” rising cinnamon roll, so it uses more yeast than a traditional roll. It should get frothy within the 15 minute time frame mentioned in the recipe. After that, you don’t let it rise much. Did you use white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour? That could also be the issue. You’ll see in the recipe notes that if you use white whole wheat, you can use the full amount, but if you substitute regular whole wheat flour you need to cut it with bread flour so they aren’t too dense.

      I’d love to troubleshoot with you!

    • I realized they had to rise a bit more before baking, and let them. They turned out ok, but I let them sit for A LOT longer than 15 minutes mentioned (better part of an hour). Maybe it was different yeast, or different temperature of ingredients. 

  27. Thanks for replying, Dorothy! The yeast was new. Looking over the recipe again, I am wondering if I used too much or too little yeast. I just used one packet of active dry yeast, not even really looking to see what the exact measurements of the yeast packet were! That may have been my issue. When I added it to the water, it got nice and foamy and I used white whole wheat flour!

    • That could be the problem! One packet has 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast and the recipe is 1 tablespoon since it is a “quick” rise. With the packet you’d want to let it rise for about 2 hours before doing all the rest, then about an hour before baking. With the 1 tablespoon amount, you can use as directed. 🙂

  28. Well then, that would be my dilemma! Thanks for helping me figure it out. I do confess that this was my first time ever using yeast in any recipe…so totally my mistake for not doing a little more research. Ha! My husband loved the flavor of the cinnamon rolls though — so I will definitely be trying them again…the right way! Thanks again! 

  29. So I tried these today and they didn’t turn out so hot. I used almost 2 cups of flour (1/2 cup whole wheat) and it was still really wet and sticky. The filling was pretty blah too. It tastes really bland and dense. My yeast is great (I make bread all the time). If I make these again, I might try a more traditional bread recipe and cut down on the apple sauce in the filling and add granulated sugar.

    • I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy them Katie! The dough was wetter than my traditional cinnamon roll recipe, most likely from the applesauce in the dough. And yes, the filling has a different flavor too. Cutting down on the applesauce in the filling and using sugar will make them more traditional for sure. You can probably go half and half with the applesauce and butter in the filling to make it a little more normal tasting, but still healthier!

  30. Loved this idea; thank you for such a great post with good pictures and descriptions. I just made them with pumpkin (and a little more spice) instead of apple and can not wait to try them!

  31. Hello!!! First time poster and first time using your recipe last night. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about what these would taste like, especially since I was out of butter and having the use of the applesauce. 

    Aesthetically, my rolls didn’t look like they’d be too good, haha, and I wish I knew why! But surprisingly, they were so delicious! I happened to add in cinnamon applesauce, which is all that I had, and I happened to try and make a caramel glaze instead. 

    My word!!! These rolls were so flavorful! Thank you so much!

  32. Thank you!!  Finally I’ve mastered my cinnamon rolls!  Every Christmas I’ve made homemade cinnamon rolls with wheat flour and never have gotten them moist or soft enough.  This recipe is so easy, does not take near the time it took in the past, and they turned out the BEST and most moist I’ve ever had!  So soft, plenty sweet, and just yummy!  My 13 year old son was amazed at how wonderful they were and the family loves them!  This is definitely a new tradition of tastier, healthy, moist rolls!

  33. I don’t have a stand mixer. Can I make these with a hand mixer or by hand? 

  34. Hi Dorthy,
    Thank you so much for your recipe! Would it be possible to make this dough the night before, let it rest in the fridge (having already cut out the rolls) and then bake in the morning? I would love to make these for my family, but my mornings are extremely busy!

  35. Do you have the nutritional facts on these rolls? They look yummy but I can’t have them without knowing what I’m eating 🙁 thanks!

    • Mine showed up as less than 150 calories (I can’t remember exactly) with the frosting. You can put the recipe into MyFitnessPal, and it’ll calculate for you.

  36. I just made a half batch of these (ala dessertfortwo.com style), and my husband and I loved them! I am sure it will not be the last time they find their way into our kitchen. Thank you for a healthified recipe!

    Rating: 5

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