These vanilla pudding cinnamon rolls are incredible! Fluffy and soft, the dough is a dream to work with and the frosting is perfection.

This recipe for my tried-and-true vanilla pudding cinnamon rolls is amazing!

The vanilla pudding makes the dough extremely soft and pliable. Once baked, the cinnamon rolls are so softy and fluffy!

Spatula underneath baked cinnamon roll on sheet pan.

Cinnamon Roll Dough with Pudding

This recipe has gained fame and fortune (ok, just fame) because of the secret ingredient:

Vanilla pudding.

Homemade or boxed, store bought pudding can be used.

Boxed pudding: 3.5 ounce box of instant vanilla pudding.

Homemade pudding: about 2 1/4 cups of cooked and mostly cooled vanilla pudding.

Other than the pudding, the dough is really straightforward. The dough is soft and supple and needs to rise until doubled before rolling out into cinnamon rolls.

Making dough for vanilla pudding cinnamon rolls in bosch mixer.

Rolling Out Cinnamon Rolls

Pat the dough into a large rectangle and slather with butter and then an healthy sprinkle of cinnamon and brown sugar.

Roll up the dough into a log. Take care not to pull and stretch the dough while rolling or the rolls can shrink while baking.

Using a super sharp serrated knife or piece of thread or unflavored dental floss, cut the log into 1 or 1 1/2-inch pieces.

Cinnamon roll dough rolled up and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Place the cinnamon rolls on a greased baking sheet and let rise until doubled.

Unbaked cinnamon roll risen on sheet pan.

Bake until puffy and golden. PERFECTION.

Baked cinnamon rolls on sheet pan with frosting.

When to Frost Cinnamon Rolls

There are two schools of thought on when to frost a cinnamon roll. Neither is wrong, so go with your heart!

  1. Let the rolls cool for 5-10 minutes and then frost. RESULT: ooey gooey frosting oozing into every crevice of the cinnamon rolls.
  2. Let the rolls cool completely before frosting. RESULT: fluffy frosting complimenting the pillowy soft cinnamon roll.
Fluffy frosted cinnamon roll on white plate.

Reviews for Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls

These cinnamon rolls have been a tried-and-true favorite for more than a decade. Here are a few rave reviews from many of you who have fallen in love with them over the years:

Cooke F.: I have made these cinnamon rolls for the last 7 Christmas morning breakfasts. My family is addicted. Soooo good.

Kristina: The best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever made!

Gina: I’ve made these lots and they turn out perfect every time. They are the BEST. So decadent. Rave reviews from family, friends and coworkers. Thank you! 🙂

Kathy W.: I thought I had the best cinnamon roll recipe in North America but I was sadly mistaken. I made these this morning and they are to die for! No kidding. I just about made myself sick eating these delicious and gooey cinnamon rolls.

Bite of gooey cinnamon roll on fork on white plate.

How to make these cinnamon rolls ahead of time

This post on making cinnamon rolls ahead of time applies perfectly to any sweet roll! 

baked cinnamon rolls with frosting on sheet pan

Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

4.56 stars (316 ratings)

Ingredients

Rolls:

  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast or 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3.5 ounce package instant vanilla pudding (see note)
  • ½ cup (113 g) butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 to 7 cups (852 to 994 g) all-purpose flour

Filling:

  • 1 cup (227 g) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (424 g) brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon

Frosting:

  • 8 ounces (227 g) cream cheese
  • ½ cup (113 g) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups (342 g) confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl combine water, yeast and sugar. Stir until dissolved. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook), take pudding mix and prepare according to package directions. Add butter, eggs and salt. Mix well. Then add yeast mixture. Blend.
  • Gradually add flour; knead until smooth. Do not overflour the dough! It should be very soft but not sticky. Place in a greased bowl.
  • Cover the dough and let rise until doubled (if using boxed pudding, it may take quite a while to double because of the cold milk – see note below).
  • Roll out the dough on a lightly greased or floured surface to about 34 X 21 inches in size. Take 1 cup soft butter and spread over surface.
  • For the filling: in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the buttered dough. Roll up very tightly. With knife put a notch every 1 1/2 inches. Cut with thread or serrated knife.
  • Place on lightly greased cookie sheet about an inch apart. Cover and let rise until double again.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Remove when they start to turn golden (don’t overbake). Frost warm rolls with cream cheese frosting (combine butter and cream cheese and mix well, then add vanilla and sugar and mix again, then add milk for desired consistency).

Notes

Homemade Pudding: over the years, many of you (including myself!) have had great success using homemade pudding in place of the boxed variety. If using homemade pudding, you’ll want around 2 1/4 cups for the recipe. It can be slightly warm but make sure it isn’t hot (if it’s been cooked recently). Using warm homemade pudding will speed up the rising process which is notoriously slow in this recipe thanks to the cold pudding (if made from a box).
Rising: you can speed up the rising by preheating your oven to 170, immediately turning it off, letting it cool a few minutes and then placing the bowl of dough in there to rise more quickly (just make sure your oven isn’t too hot!).
Flour Amount: as with all yeast doughs, I never use the flour amount called for in the recipe as a hard fast rule (unless a weight measure is given and then I pull out my kitchen scale). Because humidity, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors can impact how much flour you need in your yeast doughs, I always judge when to quit adding flour by the texture and look and feel of the dough rather than how much flour I’ve added compared to the recipe. This tutorial on yeast may help identify how a perfectly floured dough should be.
Freezable Recipe: after shaping the rolls and placing them on the baking sheet, cover with lightly greased saran wrap and a layer of tin foil. Store in the freezer. The night before you want to serve them take out the rolls and put them in the refrigerator. Let them thaw in the refrigerator. Take them out about 8-9 hours after being in the refrigerator and let them rise until doubled. Bake according to the recipe. (If you have less time, you can take the rolls out of the freezer and let them come to room temperature on the counter – about 4 hours, then let rise until doubled).
Make-Ahead: this post details how to make sweet rolls ahead of time.
Serving: 1 Cinnamon Roll, Calories: 438kcal, Carbohydrates: 63g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Cholesterol: 67mg, Sodium: 302mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 37g
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Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Recipe originally posted September 2008; updated August 2022 with new photos, recipe updates, etc.

large frosted cinnamon roll