Lion House Rolls

Buttery, pillowy Lion House rolls are easy to make and totally delicious. You can even make the dough then freeze them before the final bake! The signature spiral of these dinner rolls makes them pretty enough to adorn any holiday breadbasket.

Four lion house dinner rolls in a basket with blue linens.
Cindy Rahe

Lion House rolls are a regional specialty made famous by Utah’s Lion House restaurant. Like the more well-known Parker House roll, these rolls are soft and rich with butter, except with its signature spiral that unravels into feathery layers. They make the perfect carb-laden pillow for sopping up all sorts of sauces and soups.

What Are Lion House Rolls?

These rolls are made with an enriched dough—meaning in addition to flour, water, and yeast, this dough is enriched with egg, fat, and dairy.

In the case of these rolls, we use dry milk powder which is called for in almost all Lion House roll recipes we found in our research. In addition to the milk powder (aka powdered milk), there’s an egg and LOTS of butter in the dough brushed between the layers and brushed on top warm from the oven.

Adding fat in the form of butter and eggs helps keep the dough tender by preventing some of the gluten formation—the more gluten, the chewier the finished product. This is great for things like pizza or sourdough, but we want fluffy, soft rolls here.

Utah's famous lion house rolls on a baking sheet with a jar of melted butter to the left.
Cindy Rahe

What if I Don’t Have Milk Powder?

Even though milk powder is a common ingredient in Lion House rolls, you can replace both the milk powder and the water with 1 1/2 cups of whole milk. I made a test batch using that version with great success.

How to Know if Your Yeast Is Dead or Alive?

It’s so disappointing to bake a recipe only to discover your rolls didn’t rise and your yeast is dead.

New bakers can accidentally kill yeast by adding it to water or milk that’s too hot. You want the liquid to be between 80°F – 100°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, just keep it a little above room temperature and cool enough for you to comfortably keep your finger submerged in before you add the yeast and you should be OK.

To make sure your yeast is still alive and kicking, you should see the yeast dissolve into the liquid mixture (a few dry granules here and there are okay). After about five minutes the yeast should become foamy and float on top of the milk mixture. If it is just sunken to the bottom and it doesn’t look frothy, then the yeast is probably dead and it’s best to start over.

Four lion house dinner rolls in a basket with blue linens.
Cindy Rahe

How to Make Lion House Rolls Ahead of Time

It’s best to bake Lion House rolls the same day you want to serve them. They are especially good after being out of the oven for about 20 minutes.

You can still prepare the dough and either give it a slow rise the night before or freeze it to get a head start on some of your prep work.

  • To give the dough a slow rise: The dough for these rolls can be made the night before and left in the refrigerator for a slow first rise. This will firm the butter in the dough considerably, and it will be super silky and easy to roll out. (If you’re short on time, you can do a room temperature rise, but the chilled dough is much easier to work with.) The next day bake them off and serve.
  • To freeze the lion house rolls: Make them through the shaping stage, and instead of giving them a second rise, freeze them on a sheet pan. Once completely frozen, pop them into a freezer bag. They will last at least a month in the freezer.
  • To bake from frozen: Place the rolls on a baking sheet as instructed in the recipe, cover with plastic and set in a warm place (in the oven with just the light on is a great place) until doubled in size. (This could take a few hours, depending on how warm the ambient temperature is.) Once risen, bake according to the recipe instructions.
Lion House Roll on a plate with its swirls facing out. A basket of additional rolls is behind the plate.
Cindy Rahe

How to Double This Recipe

If you need to make more rolls than this recipe calls for, it’s best to make multiple single batches. You could technically double this recipe, but it would make very hard work for even the largest capacity home stand mixer, so I don’t recommend it.

More Bread Recipes

Lion House Rolls

Prep Time 60 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 80 mins
Servings 12 rolls

I like to make this dough in the evening and let it have its first rise overnight in the refrigerator. If you can’t find milk powder, you can replace the water and milk powder in this recipe with 1 1/2 cups of whole milk.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup (50g) dry milk powder
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon (8g) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 cups (610g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • To finish the rolls:
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, cooled, and divided
  • Flaky salt for sprinkling (optional)

Method

  1. Prepare your bowl:

    Lightly oil a large bowl. You will add your dough to it once it’s been made.

  2. Bloom the yeast:

    In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, milk powder, one tablespoon of sugar, and yeast. Mix briefly with a spatula just to wet the yeast. Let it sit to foam, about 5 minutes.

    A metal bowl with milk and yeast inside to make lion house rolls.
    Cindy Rahe
  3. Make the dough:

    Once the yeast looks foamy, add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, and egg followed by the flour and salt.

    Fit the mixer with the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed until the dough forms, then turn the mixer up to medium speed and knead with the hook for 6 minutes.

    Scrape the dough from the bowl and knead a few times on the counter before forming into a ball.

  4. First rise:

    Place the dough ball in the oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Place the bowl with the dough in the refrigerator and let it rise slowly overnight.

    A glass bowl with Utah's Famous Lion House Roll dough inside.
    Cindy Rahe
    A glass bowl with lion house dinner roll dough rising inside.
    Cindy Rahe
  5. Roll out the dough:

    In the morning, about 2 hours before baking, roll out the dough into a very long oblong shape. About 40 inches x 10 inches and about 1/8 inch thick.

    Lion house dinner roll dough on a counter.
    Cindy Rahe
    Side view of Utah's Famous Lion House Roll dough rolled out on a countertop.
    Cindy Rahe
  6. Butter, roll, and divide the dough:

    Brush 2/3 of the melted butter over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the edge furthest from you.

    Roll the buttered dough from the longest side closest to you like a very long cinnamon roll. Pinch the seam closed and cut the log in half, so each log is about 20 inches.

    Divide each log into six somewhat equal portions.

    How to make lion house rolls by brushing the rolled out dough with butter.
    Cindy Rahe
    Side view of lion house dinner roll dough cut down the middle with a measuring tape in front of it.
    Cindy Rahe
  7. Second rise:

    Place the buns seam side down, four across on a sheet pan in three rows. Dust the tops with flour so the dough doesn’t stick and cover the rolls with plastic. Rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour. (If you want to freeze the rolls, do that after you’ve divided them but before the second rise.)

    Lion house roll recipe dough rising on a baking sheet.
    Cindy Rahe
    Formed lion house roll recipe set on a baking sheet and rising.
    Cindy Rahe
  8. Bake the Rolls:

    Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the center of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, turning the pan halfway through for even browning, until the buns are golden brown.

  9. Cool and butter the rolls:

    Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool. While the rolls are still hot, brush them with the remaining melted butter. Sprinkle with salt if you like. Cool to room temperature before serving.

    Lion house dinner roll being brushed with melted butter.
    Cindy Rahe
    Utah's Famouse Lion House Rolls on a baking sheet set on a cooling rack.
    Cindy Rahe