Vegan Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

We’re kicking off today’s recipe with a poll: Are the soft, sweet yeasty swirls of cinnamon, brown sugar, vegan butter and pecans (similar to the above pictured), called cinnamon BUNS or cinnamon ROLLS?

I’ve always called them cinnamon buns, but according to my google info, most folks checking out my recipe for Perfect Vegan Cinnamon BUNS got there by searching for “vegan cinnamon rolls”. So what’s the deal, is this a regional/Canadian thing? A personal choice? Are they even the same thing??

This little mashup came to us while William and I were driving around and brainstorming Halloween recipes. First of all, I don’t really like Halloween recipes. I don’t have the stomach for them. Anything bordering on purposeful (edible) grossness is gonna get a hard pass from me. I want nothing to do with witchy fingers, oatmeal masquerading as youknowwhat and coming out of all ends of a jack-o-lantern, SPIDERS, etc. Creepiness and gore is fine for Halloween costumes, Halloween parties, and Halloween decorations, but for the love of everything spooky, just leave my food out of it, okay?

I prefer the classic Halloween treats. Candy corn, caramel apples, fun-sized candy bars, caramel corn, the innocent fun kinda treats. Those are the Halloween goodies I approve of. This year I reeeeally wanted to do vegan caramel apples, but my first attempt was a total bust. William’s vote was for mini baked goods. I wasn’t ready to lay the caramel apple idea to rest just yet and we settled on mini cinnamon rolls with a caramel apple twist.

These rolls aren’t as “mini” as I had in mind but they’re much smaller than our Perfect Vegan Cinnamon Buns. The soft, yeasty dough is loaded with the typical cinnamon roll fare: butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans + chunky bits of chopped apples. In one batch we used Honeycrisp apples and Granny Smith in another. Any apple suitable for apple pie will work beautifully here. We experimented with thinly slicing the apples for one batch and found a couple of issues. They were much harder to roll and the increased surface area made the apples release a ton of moisture before we baked them. While the rolls rose and baked up without issue, the excess moisture of the apples inside made them seem doughy, even though they weren’t. So go with chopped apples, not sliced apples.

For the caramel drizzle I went in a different direction than I had with the failed caramel apples (candy method using coconut cream and vegan butter), and instead went for a dulce de leche using mostly Silk Vanilla Soymilk, a little bit of coconut cream and sugar. This caramel was SO much better, SO much easier, and SO much more forgiving. Silk Vanilla Soymilk’s sweetness and light vanilla flavour makes a great base for this caramel. The dulce de leche method takes about an hour and a half, but since making cinnamon rolls from scratch requires a healthy chunk of time anyways, I think it’s 100% okay.

Back when I was a new vegetarian (almost 15 years ago, holy cow!) I couldn’t imagine being vegan. I figured that these kinds of decadent home-y desserts were exactly the type of thing a vegan COULD NOT EAT. I couldn’t be happier to be proved wrong. There are soo many amazing plant-based swaps to experiment with. Plant-based eating gets cooler every single day. Sticking to the topic of caramel, a confection typically loaded with butter and cream, it can be made vegan in a number of ways! I wanted to go with something simple but still kinda traditional so I made dulce de leche using sugar, coconut cream, Silk Vanilla Soymilk, and vegan butter. You could also use the typical candy method subbing in vegan butter or coconut oil and plant milks. Or you can make a delicious caramel-like mixture with dates! It would be a bit of a stretch to call this recipe healthy (apples though, am I right?) but damn it feels good to be eating something so tasty. This is the kind of food that makes up a healthily balanced lifestyle.

(PS: Never ever feel guilty for eating decadent treats that don’t hurt anyone, okay? Guilt is a serious thing so don’t spend any for eating 1 too many vegan cinnamon rolls. Promise?)

This post is sponsored by Silk. All text and opinions are my own. We love Silk for their amazing dairy-free plant milks and their commitment to a plant-based lifestyle. Sign up for Silk’s Newsletter. Looking for Silk in your area? Use this store locator! #DoPlants


Ingredients :

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp warm Silk Vanilla Soymilk
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 5 tbsp + 1 tbsp vegan butter
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp + 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 small Honeycrisp or Granny Smith apple, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 1/3 cup Silk Vanilla Soymilk
  • 2/3 cup coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp of vegan butter

Instructions :

  1. Combine all dough ingredients in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Knead for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  2. Coat the dough ball in a light amount of canola oil, place in a large bowl and cover with a damp dish towel. Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1 hour.)
  3. Cut dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one half of the dough out into an approx. 8″ X 16″ rectangle. Spread with 2 1/2 tbsp vegan butter, 1 tsp cinnamon, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 chopped apple, and 1/4 cup chopped pecans. Starting from the longest edge closest to you, roll the dough away from you (encasing the filling inside.) Place the rolled dough seam side down and cut into 12 equal pieces. Repeat for the other half of the dough.
  4. Line 2 8″ cast iron skillets or baking pans with parchment paper. Spread parchment with 1/2 tbsp of vegan butter and sprinkle with 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar. In the center, place 3 cinnamon rolls loosely grouped together, and group the remaining buns around the center three. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp tea towel and leave them to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 300F. Bake cinnamon buns for 20-25 minutes. (If needed, cover rolls with a layer of aluminum foil to prevent them from getting too brown.)
  6. Cool and drizzle with dulce de leche.
  7. In a medium thick-bottomed saucepan, combine soymilk, coconut cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the baking soda and turn the heat down to a low simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally (as needed) for 1 1/2 hours. Whisk in 1 tbsp vegan butter and set aside.

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