If you love cinnamon rolls and you also love apple pie, well guess what I have for you! These apple pie cinnamon rolls recipe is gooey, soft, fluffy, sticky and so delicious! It has a soft dough with a brown sugar apple filling that is very easy to make.
How to make apple pie cinnamon rolls
If you want to make these Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls, here’s a brief summary of the process. First, you will make the dough. The dough is the same as my classic cinnamon rolls, which is a yeasted dough. It’s made really easily by mixing all of the ingredients in a bowl and with minimum kneading. For the filling, you’re going to cook peeled and cut apples with brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch to get a thick mix. Once cooled down, you will spread this on top of the rolled-out dough. Roll the dough into a spiral and cut the individual buns and you have lovely homemade cinnamon rolls with a delicious apple pie filling. If you’re looking to make these overnight (perfect for Christmas Morning), check out the notes on the recipe card.
Cinnamon roll dough
In order to get fluffy apple cinnamon rolls, you need a perfect dough. My yeasted dough for cinnamon rolls is perfect because it yields a really soft result every time. You can peel the layers off without them breaking! Here’s the list of ingredients you will need to make them:
- All purpose flour: To get that soft and fluffy result for our Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls, we need to use all purpose flour instead of bread flour. Bread flour has more gluten in it which means it will result in a dough that has more structure and thus develops a harder crust. Since we want soft and gooey cinnamon rolls, all purpose flour is the way to go.
- Salt: Salt is essential in all baked goods and provides a balance against the sweetness of the apple pie filling.
- Sugar: Sugar adds flavour to the homemade cinnamon roll dough but also provides food for the yeast to generate CO2 and make your bread rise.
- Yeast: I love to use instant yeast / active dry yeast at home. It’s much simpler than using fresh yeast because it lasts longer and you don’t need to activate it either.
- Milk: You can use whole milk, non-fat milk or dairy-free milk. All of these will yield a very similar result. Just make sure that it’s warm milk so that the yeast wakes up and has a higher activity.
- Butter: This dough is an enriched dough. This means that it has fat in it, including milk, melted butter and also an egg. The butter will make for a softer texture, make the dough less dry and add a lovely flavour.
- Egg: We add an egg to the dough to help the dough poof up more as it bakes. It also helps with moisture from the fat of the yolk.
- Vanilla Extract: You can use vanilla extract or vanilla essence interchangeably. The extract is preferred because it is extracted from natural vanilla pods, whereas vanilla essence is just a mix of artificial flavourings. If you want, you can make your own homemade vanilla extract.
Mixing and kneading the dough
To make the dough, we’re going to mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until they are completely incorporated. Then, you’re going to transfer the dough to a clean surface and knead only enough time to bring the dough together. Don’t knead more than that to prevent the gluten from developing. This will guarantee that fluffy texture in our Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls we’re looking for. Alternatively, you can mix and knead the dough using a stand mixer. In that case, you will place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and knead on medium speed using the dough hook attachment. Keep mixing until you have a homogenous dough and then stop. Once you have that sticky dough ready, you will cover it with plastic wrap and let it proof for 1 hour in a warm place.
The apple pie filling
Sure, you could buy a can of apple pie filling. However, I wholeheartedly recommend that you make this easy apple pie filling yourself. The best way is always homemade! It will take a bit longer but I promise it will be worth it. To make it, you will cook all the ingredients in a large saucepan until it thickens and the apples turn soft. Then, you just need it to cool down to room temperature before spreading on the dough and that’s it! From that, you will reserve ¼ to top the rolls at the end, and the rest goes for the filling. Here’s what you need:
- Apples: If it’s apple season where you are I’m sure you can already smell these apples cooking away. My favourite apple for this recipe is Pink Lady, but you can also use Fuji or Royal Gala. Peel them and cut them into small pieces before adding them to the pan.
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar will add that caramel taste to the apples which makes for a great homemade apple pie filling.
- Ground cinnamon: Cinnamon is an essential ingredient in both apple pie and cinnamon rolls. You can also add an apple pie spice mix that could include also ground ginger, allspice, ground cloves or even cardamom. Feel free to play around with them!
- Butter: It’s not a lot of butter but it will help to give this filling that velvety sensation when you eat it.
- Salt: A bit of salt is always important to balance the sweetness of all desserts.
- Cornstarch: To thicken all of this, we need a thickening agent. In this case, I use cornstarch which works like a charm and makes the apple pie filling look nice and shiny.
Apple pie vs. apple cinnamon rolls
Here on the blog, I have another apple cinnamon roll recipe and it’s a much simpler one. In that one, I cook the apples a bit in butter and then spread them on a classic cinnamon roll recipe. In this case, though, these Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls have a proper apple pie filling at the centre. Which do I prefer? Hard to say. I think right now I’m skewed to like these just because I’ve just had them to eat! But if you’re looking for a simpler recipe, check out my recipe for Apple Cinnamon Rolls.
Shaping and baking
Now that you have your dough and filling ready, it’s time to shape and bake these Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls. Roll out the dough on a clean and lightly floured surface using a rolling pin. Roll out a bit and then stop to check if you need more flour. Remember that this dough is very sticky! Once you have a 40×30 centimetre or 12×16 inch rectangle, then you’re ready to spread the room temperature filling on top. Once it’s nice and even, you will roll the dough starting from the long side and being careful to roll it tight. Then, use a sharp knife to cut the individual buns. Mine were 3 fingers thick. Carefully lift them off the table and place them in a square pan or baking dish lined with parchment paper. Once they’re in there, let them have their second rise for 30 minutes. Bake them in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for 30 minutes or until they have a light golden brown colour on them.
Tips for great cinnamon rolls
Making cinnamon rolls is generally very straightforward. However, there are a few key points where you need to pay more attention to get the perfect cinnamon rolls with apple pie filling.
- Don’t over-knead: As we said before, kneading for too long will develop the gluten in the all purpose flour. This will result in a tougher exterior instead of fluffy cinnamon rolls. Therefore, only knead the dough enough to bring it completely together. Once it’s homogeneous, you can stop. This will usually take about 2 minutes.
- Don’t overbake: Overbaking is enemy number one for gooey cinnamon rolls. Bake them for too long and the dough will dry up. Make sure to remove them from the oven as soon as you see a light golden brown colour on top.
- Homemade Apple Filling: The best way to make Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls is with homemade apple pie filling. There’s just no way around it! It has only natural ingredients, you can control the flavour and spices and it’s just so satisfying to make. If it’s apple season, you can make extra and freeze it for up to 3 months.
How to keep apple pie cinnamon rolls
Once you have your Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls, you’re going to want to keep them fresh for as long as you can. To do so, keep them at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Cinnamon rolls also freeze really well! Once they are baked, you can portion them, place them in an airtight container or bag and freeze them for up to three months. To reheat them you can use a low-temperature oven or even an air fryer at low heat.
Frosting vs. ice cream
For me, these Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls don’t need any type of frosting. That’s what that extra apple pie filling is for! However, if you’re adamant about it, you can make my Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting for Cinnamon Rolls. I would spread it on the roll and then place the extra apples on top. However, since these are a hybrid between bread and dessert, you could also serve them with vanilla ice cream.
More apple recipes
Here we’re apple lovers all around. And if you’re like me and it just won’t be enough with these Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls, here are more apple recipes that might inspire you:
Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls
For the dough
- 500 g all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp salt
- 2¼ tsp instant dry yeast
- 120 g sugar
- 240 ml lukewarm milk
- 60 g unsalted melted butter cooled to room temperature
- 1 egg at room temperature
- ½ tsp vanilla extract or essence
For the apple pie filling
- 900 g apples I like to use Pink Lady, Fuji or Royal Gala
- 60 g unsalted butter
- 170 g brown sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp water
For the dough
- Mix the lukewarm milk, eggs, vanilla extract and melted butter.
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and make a hole in the centre and add all the wet ingredients in the center.
- Mix everything until you have a uniform dough. It’s really sticky so don’t worry, that’s just the way this dough is ? That makes them gooey at the end instead of bread-y and hard.
- Let the dough rest to proof for 1 hour covered in cling film or until it doubles in size. If it’s too cold, place it in the oven with the light on and no temperature setting.
For the apple pie filling
- Peel the apples and remove the core. Cut the apples into small cubes.
- Cook the apples with the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan until the apples are soft and the sauce thickens. It should take 10-15 minutes.
- Let the filling cool down completely to room temperature and reserve ¼ of it which we will use once they're baked.
- Dust flour on a clean tabletop and roll the dough. Every couple of rolls make sure it’s not sticking and dust more flour underneath and on top. Roll it out until you have a 40×30 cm/12×16-inch rectangle. Try to keep it as rectangular as you can. At the very end make sure it's not stuck and dust more flour if necessary so you can roll it with ease.
- Spread the apple pie filling onto the dough using a spatula.
- Start rolling: first, do it carefully so it’s nice and tight and once you have the first 2 complete rolls, you can just push it (still very tightly) so it rolls to the end.
- Cut the rolls (I did mine 3 fingers thick) and place them on a baking pan lined with baking paper at the bottom (this will help later so the sugar doesn’t stick, you’ll thank me!) and arrange them nicely. Keep a couple of fingers' distance between them so that they can rise during proofing and after in the oven without becoming square.
- Let them sit for 30min*** (again, it helps if they’re in a warm environment) and then they go in the oven at 180°C/350°F for 20-30min or until they're light golden brown on top.