Apple cinnamon rolls are soft and fluffy homemade cinnamon rolls stuffed with cinnamon sugar and spiced apple pie filling. They have warm and gooey centers with all of the flavors of apple pie in cinnamon roll form!
Without a doubt, I have perfected fluffy cinnamon rolls (big thanks to pastry school). You'll love this twist on a classic- every bite combines your favorite flavors of apple pie like spiced apples, with the sweet cinnamon swirls of a cinnamon roll.
Apple cinnamon rolls are perfect for a fall breakfast or dessert, but can easily be made year-round! If you love cinnamon rolls, my cinnamon roll cake is a must-bake!
Why We Love These Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Part apple pie part cinnamon rolls!
- Every bite is full of warm autumn flavors like in my cinnamon and apple cake and apple pie stuffed cookies.
- For the best apple flavor, fresh juicy apples, and apple butter are used.
- They are topped with a delicious apple butter cream cheese icing.
- Perfect for apple season, Christmas morning, Thanksgiving morning, or any other occasion!
Best Apples for Cinnamon Rolls
There are so many apple varieties out there but I found these are the best for these apple cinnamon rolls:
- Sweet red apples- like Gala, Honeycrisp, or Envy.
- For a more tart filling, granny smith or pink lady apples can be used.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
These ingredients work together to create the most flavorful and fluffy apple cinnamon rolls. While some of them can be substituted without problem, I highly recommend making the recipe as is for the best results!
Fresh apples: Use Gala apples for a sweet, moist apple pie filling that enhances the cinnamon roll flavor! Opt for granny smith apples for a tangier twist.
Whole milk: Whole milk is a key liquid component in cinnamon roll dough. The fat in whole milk contributes to a dough that is rich and tender, resulting in soft and moist cinnamon rolls. This is the secret to my peach rolls, too!!
Yeast: Instant yeast is essential for leavening the dough and creating a fluffy texture and flavor. Substitute with active dry yeast following the packet instructions.
Brown sugar: The main sweetener for the filling. It adds a caramel-like sweetness to the cinnamon rolls that enhances the apple and cinnamon flavor. Use dark brown sugar for a more intense flavor.
Find the full ingredient measurements and instructions in the recipe card below!
Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
Step 1: Make the apple filling. Cook the diced apples with apple butter, cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla until soft. Mash for a jam-like texture. Add the cornstarch slurry then transfer to a bowl to cool (Image 1 below).
Step 2: Make the tangzhong. Cook the whisked flour and water over medium-low heat until it has a mashed potato consistency. Set aside (Image 2 below).
Step 3: Mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients. In a stand mixing bowl with the dough hook attachment combine the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, milk, egg, vanilla extract, and tangzhong until a rough dough ball forms (Image 3 below).
Step 4: Knead the dough. With the mixer on low speed, knead in the softened butter one tablespoon at a time until completely combined. Continue kneading for 10-11 minutes until a smooth dough ball forms (Image 4 above).
Step 5: First rise. Form the dough into a smooth round ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to double in size, for about 1 hour (Image 5 below).
Step 6: Roll out the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll the cinnamon roll dough into a large rectangle (18x12 inches), with the longest side closest to you (Image 6 below).
Step 7: Spread the cinnamon sugar mixture. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread the cinnamon sugar mixture across the dough, leaving a 1-inch border at the top clean (Image 7 above).
Step 8: Cover with the apple pie filling. The evenly spread the cooked apple pie filling on top of the cinnamon sugar (Image 8 above).
Step 9: Cut the dough into rolls. Tightly roll the cinnamon roll away from you, pinching the clean edge to the roll to seal in the filling. Score 1 ½ inch sections, then use a piece of unflavored dental floss to cut the rolls (Image 9 below).
Step 10: Second rise. Place the cut apple rolls into the prepared baking pan and cover the top with plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise in a warm spot until doubled in size (Image 10 above). Then bake in the preheated oven until the tops are golden brown.
Step 11: Make the apple butter cream cheese icing. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together. Then mix in the powdered sugar, apple butter, and heavy cream, whisking until smooth (Image 11 above).
Step 12: Frost the tops of the cinnamon rolls. Cool the apple cinnamon rolls on a wire rack, then spoon the cream cheese frosting on top (Image 12 above). Topping additions: caramel sauce, more apple pie filling, or toasted nuts.
Expert Tips for Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls
Use a kitchen scale. Baking with a scale is much more accurate than cup measurements. To convert this recipe, click the "metric" button on the recipe card. If you do not have a scale, use a spoon to fluff the flour first, then spoon it into your measuring cup.
Don't omit the apple butter – it's essential for the perfect apple pie cinnamon rolls! Using just apples won't deliver that rich apple flavor you're looking for.
Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. This helps develop gluten, giving the rolls a nice texture.
Allow the cinnamon roll dough to rise properly for that classic yeasty flavor and a light, fluffy texture. Avoid rushing this step with warmth, sun, or other shortcuts.
Roll out the dough evenly- into a rectangle with even thickness to ensure consistent baking. Use a ruler to cut the rolls for a consistent size that will bake evenly.
For clean, even cuts, use unflavored dental floss to slice the rolls.
Practice makes perfect. If your first batch isn't flawless, don't be discouraged. Like with my maple rolls or Oreo rolls, practice will lead to delicious cinnamon rolls. Watch the how-to video in the recipe card for guidance.
To keep these cinnamon rolls fresh, soft, and gooey- store them in an airtight container in the fridge instead of room temperature, for 4-5 days.
Yes! Pop them into the microwave or in the oven at 350 F/180 C for 10-12 minutes, or until warmed through.
While you can, I found when testing this recipe that the cinnamon rolls had a more subtle apple flavor and the filling was much harder to roll into the dough.
Definitely! It packs more of a spice punch in comparison to the cinnamon if that's what you are looking for.
Look for the middle of the swirls to be golden brown.
Once the cinnamon rolls are cut and placed into a baking pan (step 9), cover the pan with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge overnight. The next day, let the pan sit at room temperature until the rolls double in size before baking.
Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Apple Pie Filling
- 1 ⅔ cups diced Gala apple
- ¼ cup apple butter
- 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons water
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Cinnamon Roll Dough
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour *See notes below for measuring*
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ cup whole milk room temperature
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Tangzhong from recipe above
- 5 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter softened
Cinnamon Sugar Filling
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ½ cup light brown or dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoon apple butter
- Make the Apple Pie Filling. In a pot, cook diced apples, apple butter, sugar, water, lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt over medium heat. After 12-13 minutes, mash the mixture to create a jammy consistency (with some apple chunks remaining). Combine water and cornstarch, stir it in, and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer the filling to a bowl and let it cool.1 ⅔ cups diced Gala apple, ¼ cup apple butter, 2 tablespoon granulated sugar, 2 tablespoon water, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt, 2 teaspoons water, 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Make the Tangzhong. In a small pot, whisk the water and all-purpose flour together. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is thick and paste-like. Scrape it into a bowl and set it aside.¾ cup water, ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- Make the Dough. In a stand mixing bowl, mix together the all-purpose sugar, yeast, and salt until combined. Then add the milk, egg, vanilla, and tangzhong. Knead on low speed until it forms a shaggy dough ball.3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, ⅓ cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons instant yeast, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, ½ cup whole milk, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, Tangzhong
- Knead the dough. Gradually add softened butter, one tablespoon at a time, ensuring each addition is incorporated fully. Knead for 10-11 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, sticking to the bottom of the bowl. Adjust the consistency as needed with small amounts of flour or milk. If it's too wet and sticky, add flour one tablespoon at a time. If it's too dry, add half a tablespoon of milk at a time.5 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- First rise. Using buttered hands, shape the dough into a smooth round ball, ensuring the seams are at the bottom. Place the dough seam side down in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm spot for approximately 1 hour or until it doubles in size.
- Line a metal 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper.
- Make the cinnamon filling. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon until smooth.½ cup unsalted butter, ½ cup light brown or dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Roll the dough. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into an 18x12 rectangle, with the long (18-inch) side closest to you. Spread the brown sugar cinnamon filling across the dough, leaving a ½-inch border clean at the top. Then spread the apple pie filling.
- Cut the rolls. Roll the dough tightly away from you, sealing the clean edge to the log. Cut into twelve 1 ½-inch rolls using a serrated knife or dental floss. Place them in the prepared baking pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 325°F (162°C) during this time.
- Bake! Bake the apple cinnamon rolls for 25-35 minutes, or until the middle of the swirls are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
- Make the cream cheese icing. Mix together the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar with a spoon until smooth. Then whisk in the heavy cream and apple butter. Spoon the glaze over the warm rolls and swirl with more apple butter if desired!4 tablespoon unsalted butter, 2 oz cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoon apple butter, 2 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. They can be reheated in the microwave or oven until warmed through!
The calorie information provided for the recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.