Make-Ahead Dinner Rolls

Instant yeast, also packaged as rapid rise yeast, is a slightly different strain of yeast than regular active dried yeast. It is dried and milled into smaller particles than its original cousin and its main advantage is that it does not have to be dissolved in water and “proofed” before using. It can be used interchangeably with active dry yeast.

If using standard dry yeast, soften it first in water according to the package directions.

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Rising time time: 3 to 3 1/2 hours
  • Yield: 16 rolls


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (480 grams), measured into a bowl using the fluff-and-scoop method, plus more for dusting
  • 2/3 cup (40 grams) instant mashed potato flakes, unflavored or natural-flavored
  • 1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (296ml) whole milk
  • 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or olive oil, for the bowl
  • About 3 tablespoons melted butter for brushing the reheated rolls


1 Mix the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed with the paddle attachment, stir 2 cups of the flour, the potato flakes, yeast, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the eggs and milk and beat for 1 minute at medium speed.

Add the butter in tablespoon size pieces on medium speed and beat until it is incorporated. This will take about 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in 1 1/2 cups more flour at low speed. The dough will be thick and smooth.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and switch to the dough hook. Set the mixer on low speed and gradually add 1/2 cup more flour.

2 Knead the dough: Continue kneading the dough on low speed for 10 minutes or until it cleans the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft and slightly tacky, but not so sticky that it will be difficult to shape into rolls.

If it is very sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

3 Let the dough rise: Turn the dough out of the bowl and form into a ball. Drizzle the oil into the bottom of the bowl. Set the ball back in the bowl and turn it to coat it with oil.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size and the dough is firm but fingertips leave an impression in the dough.

Freezer Dinner Rolls let it rise

4 Shape the rolls: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured countertop and, using a rolling pin, roll it into a 12-inch square that is even in thickness. This ensures that your rolls will be approximately all the same size. With a chef’s knife or pizza cutter, cut the square into 16 equal pieces of dough.

For each piece of dough, fold the edges into the center and pinch the loose ends together to form a ball. Turn the dough over so the seam side is down.

Move it to an unfloured part of your work surface (in order to take advantage of the traction of the board to shape the rolls). Cup your hands over the dough and rotate the roll, using your cupped fingers and your palm to make a round, taut roll.

How to Make Dinner Rolls Ahead form the rolls

5 Let the rolls rise: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Set the rolls on the sheet about 1-inch apart and cover with plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise for 1 hour, or until they have risen and look puffy. Toward the end of rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Note: For rolls that “kiss” each other, set 4 in a row on the baking sheet. For separate rolls, spread them slightly farther apart.

Make-Ahead Rolls Recipe let the rolls rise

6 Bake the rolls: Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Lift them off the baking sheet and set them on a rack to cool. If serving immediately, brush with melted butter (optional), or freeze (without the butter) and reheat at your convenience.
Freezer Rolls recipe bake the rolls

7 Freeze the rolls: In packages of 6 or 8, wrap the completely cooled, baked rolls tightly in foil. Slip the foil packages into plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to one month. (The rolls may develop frost and freezer burn after one month.)

Note: A one-gallon freezer bag conveniently holds a 6-pack of rolls, while a two-gallon bag will hold 2 8-packs.

How to Make Dinner Rolls Ahead wrap the rolls Make-Ahead Rolls Recipe put the rolls in freezer bags

8 Reheat the rolls: Remove the foil packages from the freezer bags and open the packages to allow air to circulate. Place them on a baking sheet in their open foil packets and heat in a 300ºF oven for about 10 minutes. If you like, brush with melted butter.

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  • Tess

    So mine turned out really heavy and not super soft. :/ I used standard active dry yeast and not instant, so I proofed the yeast in warm milk for 7 min. Do you think that’s where I went wrong? Also, maybe over kneaded or baked possibly?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Tess! My best guess here is that you didn’t allow the buns to proof quite enough (or they over-proofed), which can result in denser buns. So sorry they didn’t work out for you!

  • Joy

    Can I put this in the fridge rather than the freezer?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Joy! So sorry to miss this one in the mad pre-Thanksgiving rush! How did your rolls turn out? For future reference, if you want to put them in the fridge, I’d make the dough, let it rise, and then put the dough in the fridge for up to three days. When you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge, shape your rolls, and let them sit for about 30 minutes before baking (they won’t rise much, but the rest will help take the chill off). Hope that helps!

  • Carol

    I am so excited because I haven’t made rolls that weren’t a little to heavy. They worked!!!I will keep this recipe for sure. Ready for Thanksgiving.


  • Rachel Knecht

    These were absolutely devoured by everyone! Recipe worked perfectly and I can’t wait to make them again. Will definitely be on my Thanksgiving table. Thank you!


  • Laura

    I’d love to try making these but I don’t have a stand mixer. Can they be made by hand or with a hand mixer?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Laura! You can definitely knead these by hand! Know that the dough will be fairly tacky, so try to avoid adding too much extra flour as you knead. Enjoy!

  • Lana

    These rolls sound wonderful and I do need a recipe to make ahead. I will make the dough on the single rise cycle on my Zojirushi bread maker and it will take no time at all! Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Janet M.

    For the whole milk, can I use Lactaid instead of regular milk?