I promise these will be the softest 100% whole wheat dinner rolls you’ve ever had – and they are easy to make with this complete step-by-step tutorial (& make-ahead tip). These are so easy and so good – with or without butter!
This is the best dinner roll recipe – truly. Originally published in AOC’s first year, 2009, this incredible all whole wheat dinner roll recipe remains one of the site’s most popular recipes, which it deserves – I’ve actually had a friend tell me she dreamed about these rolls! We made a video showing you all the steps, too, so there are a couple of ways to learn how to make these soft dinner rolls, even if you’ve never made bread before. And you’ll want to – they really are amazing!
My family loves, loves this whole wheat dinner rolls recipe (well, they all tell me that yeast rolls are better than baking powder biscuits, but just between us, I also secretly crave these). Along with my 100% whole wheat sandwich bread, these sweetened-with-honey whole wheat rolls are what finally made me believe that “soft” and “whole wheat” could actually coexist in a bread.
Can you really have fluffy and soft dinner rolls that are 100% whole wheat?
Actually, after tasting these rolls, many people have told me they don’t believe they are 100% whole wheat (and just plain old regular whole wheat at that). They think I’ve added at least some all-purpose flour.
But it’s all true. These soft and fluffy dinner rolls are made with only whole wheat (I’ve also made them with all spelt flour, too, with good results). It’s the eggs, butter, and honey that make these a so-good-you-can’t-eat-just-one type of roll. They are light and fluffy and almost don’t need any butter – but go ahead anyway.
If you bring (or serve) these rolls to any dinner, holiday or otherwise, everyone will be
begging asking you for the recipe. And they’re easy, too, once you get the hang of working with a slightly wetter dough. Don’t believe me? Follow along and I’ll show you all the steps, including what the dough should look like so you can see that it’s all true.
Be like the thousands of other people who’ve made these rolls and been the star of the party!
How to Make Soft 100% Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
Note: this is a picture tutorial – for full printed recipe, click the arrow at the top or bottom of the page. Some links in this article are affiliate links and if you click on them I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
1. The first step is to dissolve the yeast in a 1/2 cup of warm, not hot, water. Just measure out the water in a glass measuring cup using warm tap water, add the yeast and stir it in with a whisk, and set it aside.
2. Add softened butter (no substitutes, please- now is not the time!) into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the honey and cream them together with the paddle attachment.
3. Add the eggs and beat, scraping the butter from the sides. Pour in your warmed buttermilk (or milk) and the yeast mixture.
Note: It will not be smooth, as this picture above shows- it’s OK to see lumps of butter floating around.
4. Mix in 4-1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt (trust me, you don’t want to leave the salt out- I speak from experience), and mix well.
5. Change to the dough hook and knead for only a couple of minutes– we’re just trying to lose the extreme stickiness here, not really to develop gluten. Add a couple more tablespoons of flour, if needed.
Tip: if you keep kneading, the flour will absorb and the dough will stick to the bowl again. You should need just a minute or two, added the bit of flour and scraping the sides.
This was hard to photograph, but a finger touched on the surface should not come away with any dough on it, even though the dough looks sticky. In the photo above, the dough is still sticking to the bowl (good), but not to my finger, so it’s ready to rise.
6. Leave it in the mixing bowl, cover it with a towel and let sit at room temperature for an hour.
This is where the video may really help explain better if you’re wondering what the dough should be like (the #1 problem people have is adding too much flour and coming out with dense, heavy rolls).
This is the dough after the first rise. As you can see, it has risen some, but is not really “doubled.” It’s OK, they will rise more in the pan.
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead with hands a few times, then cover it with a towel and let rest for 3 minutes. TIP: I like to use a clean tea towel for easy clean-up, plus it helps use less flour.
8. While the dough is resting, pull out a 13×9-inch pan and butter it generously on the bottom and sides.
9. Cut the dough into 24 even (or as close as you can get) pieces. Flatten it out into a rectangle shape and use a knife to cut it into 24 pieces. As you can see above, the middle pieces are bigger than the corner ones, so I just cut some off the middle pieces and add them to the corners.
10. Shape the dough pieces. Here’s how I learned to shape dinner rolls when I volunteered at my kid’s summer camp: with your left hand (if you’re right-handed) make a circle shape with the thumb and fingers then take the dough in your right hand and push it up through the circle, pushing up in the middle of the dough to form a rounded top.
Then turn the dough ball over and pinch the ends in together.
11. Place the seam side down in the buttered dish- four balls across and six down. They should be touching in the pan in order to make all the soft sides everyone loves (the center ones are my favorites…).
12. Cover the pan (I shake off the towel I used to shape them, then cover with that), and let rise for another hour. TIP: Set the timer for 45 minutes, though, so you can turn the oven on to 350 degrees to preheat for the last 15 minutes of the rising time.
This is what they will look like after 1 hour of rising. They are not spilling over the pan, but all the sides are touching now.
13. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. I rotate them after 10 minutes for even browning.
14. Brush the tops with softened butter when they come out of the oven (just do it – you’ll be glad you did).
As soon as they are cooled to just warm, pull them out of the pan and pull apart to serve. Look at that texture- no heavy whole wheat rolls here. These are so good, please give them a try!
These make terrific whole wheat sandwich rolls, too – think of all the ‘sliders’ you can make healthier now!
Make ahead tip: you can make these up to a month in advance, let the cool in the pan, remove them as one piece, separate into 2 sections of 12 rolls and place each section of rolls into a gallon sized freezer baggie. Freeze until needed. When ready to serve, take them out in the morning to thaw, then wrap the 12-roll section in tin foil and heat in a 300-350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until warm.
Click the green arrow for the printable whole wheat dinner rolls recipe!
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