These blood orange sweet rolls are made with coconut sugar and enhanced with the citrusy flavor of blood oranges. Can also use regular oranges instead. Vegan friendly with a refined sugar free option included. Recipe and photos updated February 2020.
Growing up, my mom would make me orange sweet rolls for breakfast every once in a while. It was a treat I always looked forward to. I would unravel each roll, eat the outer edge first and work my way to the center, which was my favorite part. Each time, I would save the soft, doughy middle section for my last bite, which I savored as I did my “happy dance.”
I literally had a happy dance I did, unintentionally, whenever I ate my favorite foods. I would teeter my head from side to side and swinging my feet as they dangled from the kitchen chair to some unknown beat (I seem to have always marched to the beat of a different drummer 😉 ) Since I was little, any foods consisting of bread have always been my weakness, which I partly blame my mom for, since she apparently couldn’t get enough doughy bread while pregnant with me.
This strange bread addiction has also passed to my children, who both have the same obsession for bread as I do. They don’t seem to have inherited a love for any of their father’s favorite foods…but his silly sense of humor, now that’s a different story!
I’ve been working on a recipe to recreate those yummy rolls that I grew up enjoying and used blood oranges, since they’re in season right now, but you can definitely use regular oranges if you can’t find these particular oranges in your area. Blood oranges look like a lot like regular oranges on the outside, but when opened, often have a beautiful red to reddish-purple color flesh. They are sweet with a slight tart flavor, like berries, and usually less acidic than regular oranges.
Since these blood orange sweet rolls themselves use unrefined sugar, I experimented with a couple of different glazes that didn’t rely on powdered sugar. At first I used cream cheese as the base, and although tasty, I felt like the slight tang competed too much with the citrus flavor, which was what I wanted to shine.
Since I’ve had success creating a creamy texture with cashews, like in my Raspberry No-Bake Bars, I tried them in lieu of the cream cheese. I like cashews because when blended the have the creamiest texture and a very mild flavor, which is perfect for incorporating any flavor you’d like.
I’m also including a traditional buttercream, if you want a more classic taste!
Soft, fluffy blood orange sweet rolls with a hint of citrus and a creamy frosting make these rolls hard to beat, especially since they’re made with healthier ingredients! I promise you, your friends and family won’t even notice! Enjoy!
- 3–4¼ cups (405g–570g) unbleached all-purpose flour, just enough to form a soft dough plus a little more for dusting (can use up to half whole-grain flour—spelt, einkorn, or whole wheat, if you'd like)
- 1 tablespoon rapid rise or instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (2–3 oranges)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup (177ml) warm almond milk or other milk of choice (approximately 110º F)
- ½ cup (118ml) regular orange juice or blood orange juice (approximately 110º F)
- ⅓ cup (80ml) avocado oil oil or other oil
- ¼ cup (60ml) maple syrup, cane sugar, or other sweetener of choice
- ½ cup (113g) softened butter (can use dairy-free)
- ¾ cup (110g) coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 1 heaping tablespoon (9g) cinnamon
- Blood Orange-Cashew Glaze or Blood Orange Buttercream (recipes below)
- 1 cup Raw Cashews, (pre-soaked in purified water for at least 2-3 hours)
- 3-4 tablespoons maple syrup/honey, to taste
- zest and juice of 2 blood oranges, more juice may be needed (about 1.5 Tbsp zest and 6-8 Tbsp juice)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar, use more or less to taste
- 1–3 tablespoons blood orange juice
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- Combine milk/water, orange juice, and sweetener into a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl. Heat until mixture is heated to 110-115ºF. Be careful mixture is not too hot or you can kill the yeast. It should feel like warm bath water.
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add 1.5 cup flour, instant yeast, orange zest, and salt. Mix gently to incorporate and then add in the milk/orange mixture. Mix until smooth, about 2-3 minutes (if using a stand mixer, change to the dough hook.) Slowly begin adding flour ½ cup at a time and mix until blended. The precise amount of flour needed will vary depending on the humidity in your kitchen. Continue to add flour just until it forms a soft dough, be careful not to add too much.
- Place dough in a large, lightly greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 15–20 minutes.
- Take the risen dough out of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface (I also like to use a large piece of parchment or plastic wrap to keep it from sticking.) Roll dough into a 10x15-inch rectangle. Brush or rub softened butter all over the top of the dough. Mix together coconut sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the butter. Starting on the longest side, begin rolling dough the dough into a tightly wound log.
- To cut the rolls, I prefer to use plain dental floss instead of a knife. It cuts them easily without squishing the rolls. To do this, cut a piece of floss about 12-16 inches long. Slide floss under the roll and bring the ends up and cross over each other to cut each slice cleanly. Place rolls, cut side up, in greased or parchment lined 9x13-inch pan. Cover and let rise for 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size.
- *TIP: If your home is on the cooler side, turn your oven on to the lowest setting for 2-3 minutes (mine is 170ºF) and then turn the oven back off. Place a small pot of boiling water onto the bottom of the oven. This warm and moist environment should be the perfect place for your covered bowl of dough to rise.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Uncover pan and place into the preheated oven. Bake for 18-22 minutes, just until lightly golden. Do not over-bake. Drizzle with orange glaze or buttercream.
- I gave two options for frosting the sweet rolls. Pick one or the other.
- For the cashew glaze (free of refined sugar)–place rinsed and drained, pre-soaked cashews into a food processor or high powered blender. Add syrup, zest, and half of the juice, vanilla extract, salt and process until creamy, scraping down the sides occasionally. Add more juice as needed just until you get the desired consistency. Drizzle on top of the orange rolls and serve.
- Beat softened butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add powdered sugar a little at a time, beating until smooth. Pour in a little orange juice, then continue to beat buttercream until fluffy. Alternate powdered sugar and orange juice, until buttercream is desired consistency. Add extra powdered sugar, if buttercream is too soft, or extra juice if it's too thick. Mix in the vanilla and optional zest. Spread buttercream over warm rolls.