Recipes Breakfast Brunch

Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Cinnamon sweet sticky buns, with melted brown sugar and pecans.

Cinnamon buns with pecans.
Lori Rice

"Elise, I absolutely forbid you from making these again," exclaimed my father in exasperation after his fifth sticky bun from this batch.

"That good, eh? I'm glad you like them," I answered smiling. We finally had to freeze the few remaining, lest we completely destroy our appetites for the entire day.

The problem with these sticky buns, loaded with melted brown sugar and pecans, is that they are irresistible. And, once you have one, you must have another.

The recipe is adapted from a recipe in Oprah Magazine.

What’s the Difference Between Sticky Buns and Cinnamon Rolls?

Both will fill your home with the wonderful aroma of cinnamon and baking and both require rolling the dough into pinwheels, but there is a difference. Sticky buns contain nuts (usually pecans) while cinnamon rolls traditionally don't. The nuts and the gooey topping make the sticky buns a little denser. Cinnamon rolls, on the other hand, are glazed with a cream cheese icing.

If you're feeling less like a nut, try our Homemade Cinnamon Roll recipe.

Using Orange Zest in Cinnamon Sticky Buns

The orange zest in our sticky bun recipe adds a little extra flavor note to the bun. The citrus works well with the nuttiness of the pecans. You can always substitute lemon zest or leave it out, if you prefer.

Working with Yeast

If you're worried about baking with yeast, don't be! Yeast is just another ingredient, it just happens to be alive. When you combine the yeast with water and sugar, it wakes up those dormant microbes so that they can eat the sugar and make carbon dioxide, which makes the dough rise.

Yeast loves warmth, but doesn't want to be too hot. That's why we use warm water to dissolve it. Yeast will start dying at around 135°F. If it's too hot for you to the touch, it's too hot for the yeast, too.

Where Should Dough Rise?

You'll want to leave the dough covered and left to rise in a warm place free of drafts. The top of the stove is good, since the pilot light is just warm enough to keep the yeast happy.

If it's wintertime or you want to speed up the process, you can leave your dough to rise in the oven. Preheat the oven to 150°F then turn it off. Then, put the dough inside with the oven door slightly cracked open. After about 30 minutes, close the oven door and let the dough rise for the remaining time.

Serving Suggestions

Sticky Buns make a great breakfast or brunch recipe. So, consider serving these Cinnamon Sticky Buns with a Parfait with Maple Yogurt, Citrus, and Pomegranate for an easy breakfast or brunch. These Cinnamon Sticky Buns also pair well with a homemade Spinach and Artichoke Quiche or Spinach Frittata and a classic glass of Mimosa.

Swaps and Substitutions

  • Make it Gluten-Free: Can’t Have Gluten? Make this recipe for Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls instead!
  • Types of Sugar: For the filling, dark brown sugar can be used instead of light brown sugar.
  • Topping: Maple syrup or even more brown sugar can be used instead of honey in the topping if they don’t have any honey on hand.
  • Make it Nut-Free: If you have a nut allergy, the pecans can be substituted with sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Or leave out the nuts altogether!

 More Breakfast and Brunch Ideas

Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Rise 10 hrs
Total Time 11 hrs
Servings 15 servings
Yields 15 buns


  • Dough:
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature), plus more for greasing
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
  • Filling:
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Topping:
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans


  1. Make the dough:

    In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

    Add milk, butter, remaining sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, salt and 3 cups flour. Mix on low speed until blended.

    Switch to a dough hook and then, again on low speed, slowly incorporate the remaining 1 cup of flour.

    Increase speed to medium, kneading dough until smooth and slightly sticky (adding a little more flour if too wet), 3 to 5 minutes.

    Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large, buttered bowl. Turn dough over in bowl to coat with the butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour (or 2 hours if not in an entirely warm place).

    After the dough has risen, punch down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and let sit 20 minutes.

    Dough in a bowl for pecan cinnamon rolls.
    Lori Rice
    Risen dough in a bowl to make a sticky buns recipe.
    Lori Rice
  2. Make the filling:

    Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, melt butter and keep separate.

  3. Roll out the dough, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar:

    On a floured surface, roll dough out into a 12" x 18" rectangle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

    Dough rolled out and covered in cinnamon mixture to make a sticky buns recipe.
    Lori Rice
    Roll into a cylinder, make crosswise cuts:

    Starting with the long side, roll dough into a cylinder. Place seam side down and cut crosswise into 15 slices.

    Rolled dough for a cinnamon bun recipe cut into slices.
    Lori Rice
  4. Make the topping:

    In a 1-quart saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, honey and corn syrup over low heat; stir until sugar and butter are melted. Pour mixture into a greased 9" x 13" pan and sprinkle pecans on top.

    A baking pan with pecans on the bottom to make sticky buns.
    Lori Rice
  5. Place dough rounds, flat side down, on top of prepared topping:

    Crowd them so they touch. Cover with plastic wrap, leaving room for the buns to rise, and refrigerate overnight.

    A pan of unbaked sticky buns recipe.
    Lori Rice
  6. Bake:

    Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while the oven pre-heats, about 30 to 60 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake buns until golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

    A baked pan of pecan cinnamon rolls.
    Lori Rice
  7. Remove from oven and invert:

    Remove pan from oven and immediately (and carefully as not to spill hot topping on your toes!) invert onto a serving tray or baking dish. Let buns cool slightly and serve warm.