Put simply, these vegan dinner rolls are THE BOMB. Soft, fluffy, and total people-pleasers. Read on for the story behind these rolls, along with all the tips you need for perfect yeast rolls every time.
My grandma, or “Gran” as we called her, made the most epic dinner rolls. Soft, fluffy, a little sweet, and a lot buttery … pure heaven. She would bring them to every holiday gathering and we kids would grab at them like they were going out of style. Grown-ups too.
Even better were leftovers. For breakfast next day we’d slice them thin, pop them in the toaster, then generously butter them for the most glorious “toast” ever.
My Gran jotted down her recipe after many requests from family, but try as I might to translate it, I’ve never been able to replicate her rolls – not even close. Until now! Even better, I’ve veganified them (is that a word? It should be!) so that I can enjoy them too.
Gran didn’t usually crowd her dinner rolls in a pan like I’ve done here – she’d space them on a cookie sheet for maximum browning on all sides. Sometimes I like to cook this vegan dinner rolls recipe that way. But today, I’ve got the crowded, store-bought-but-not-perfect-enough-to-be-store-bought-and-that’s-a-good-thing thing going on here.
This recipe swaps in Earth Balance, a vegan butter, for the butter typically found in dinner roll recipes (or, in Gran’s case, margarine – which, incidentally, can often be vegan!)
For the milk, I’ve found unsweetened soy milk has the best taste (I also tried these with almond milk but the almond milk lended a not-so-pleasant taste. Soy it is!)
Many dinner roll recipes call for eggs, but with these being vegan dinner rolls, I’ve left the egg out and added a bit more butter instead. I honestly don’t notice a difference between this dough and the enriched/egg situation, which was a happy and somewhat surprising discovery.
I’ve found there are a few key tricks to churning out perfect yeast rolls:
Trick #1 for the Best Vegan Dinner Rolls: Make sure your yeast is alive and well, and use a thermometer!
- Your yeast packets should be one year old or less.
- Liquids should be between 100 – 110 degrees Fahrenheit before stirring the yeast in. I use a thermometer to determine the temperature of the liquid, because my hands change temperature too much and I can’t tell just by touch how warm (or cool) the liquid is.
- Feed it sugar. When proofing the yeast (proofing = activating, by the way), add sugar, but hold the salt. Yeast feeds on sugar. Salt, on the other hand, can kill it.
- If your yeast is bubbly after about 5 minutes of proofing, you’re on the right track!
Trick #2: Keep your Vegan Dinner Roll dough pretty sticky
I used to put way too much flour in my dinner roll attempts – now I know better! I err on the side of keeping the dough pretty sticky and wet. I use (and recommend) a stand mixer, and once about 3/4 of the dough is balling up on the beater but the rest is sticking to the bottom immediately after adding the flour, I stop adding flour. When I turn it out to place it in a bowl to raise it, a bit is going to stick to my hands. And that’s okay! If that happens I know I’m on the right track.
Trick #3: Find the perfect, warm(ish) place for the rise
There’s a particular spot on my kitchen counter, to the left of the range and where the sun tends stream in the window, where my dough is most likely to rise.
I’ve also found that now that we have newer, colder quartz countertops, my dough isn’t as happy. So I set the bowl on a trivet or potholder.
Trick #4: Butter the tops for that nice golden color
Pretty self-explanatory. Don’t skip this step!
Trick #5: Know when to cut your losses
If your yeast doesn’t bubble or your dough (for this particular recipe) doesn’t double in size within 60 minutes, it’s probably not worth your time to continue with the recipe. I’ve found whenever I power through with a failed proofing or dough, the result is really not worth the effort. Better to toss it and start over.
Gran called her dinner rolls “buns,” the source of much snickering amongst us kids when we were little. So as much as I want to call these “Gran’s Buns” and probably will around home, publicly I’ll be calling them Soft & Fluffy Vegan Dinner Rolls.
Whatever you choose to call these vegan dinner rolls, I hope you love them as much as we do! Especially the leftovers.
Soft & Fluffy Vegan Dinner Rolls
- 6 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons Earth Balance (divided)
- 2 cups unsweetened soy milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet) (not instant)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 5-6 cups all-purpose flour
- 2-3 teaspoons canola oil (for greasing the pans only - not for the dough!)
- Stand mixer
- Add the 6 tablespoons of Earth Balance to a small sauce pan. Set on your stovetop and heat on low just until melted. Add the soy milk and water. Continue heating until the temperature hits about 115 degrees (it will cool off a bit when you add it to the bowl of your stand mixer). Pour warmed butter and milk mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Add the sugar and stir to combine.
- Check the liquid with the thermometer again to make sure the temperature of the liquid is between 100-110 degrees. Most say this feels warm but doesn't sting your hand to the touch. For me, the only way to really tell is to use a thermometer. You can use a meat thermometer or a candy thermometer. The reason temperature is so important is that if the temperature is too low, the yeast won't activate. If it's too warm, it will kill the yeast.
- Once the liquid is between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit, add the yeast and stir to combine. Let sit 5 minutes, until bubbly.
- Stir in the salt.
- With the dough hook on the stand mixer and the mixer on low speed, add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough starts to look shaggy when the flour is added but is still relatively loose and wet. When you have the right amount of flour, the dough will cling to the hook for a moment and then begin to fall back into the bowl. Once you're there, resist adding more flour! It usually takes about 5 1/2 cups for me, but it can really depend on if you ended up adding a bit more or less liquid.
- "Shaggy" dough
- Increase the speed to medium and knead 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will be soft and relatively sticky but you should be able to handle it without getting too much on your hands.
- Rub a little neutral oil (I use canola) in a large bowl and transfer dough to the bowl. A bit will probably stick to your hands but that's okay!
- Let rise until doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Punch down the dough. Prepare a surface by sprinkling a tablespoon or two of flour on it. Turn the dough out onto the surface. It might still be a little sticky but soft and smooth to the touch.
- Using a bench scraper or large knife, cut dough into quarters and then cut each quarter into 5 pieces roughly the same size. Don't worry if they're not exactly equal.
- Grease a large rimmed baking pan, approximately 9" x 13". I like to rub my pan with a teaspoon or so of canola oil. Take each piece of dough, fold the four corners onto the bottom to form a round shape, and place in greased pan. You should have 20 rolls or 5 rows of 4 rolls each.
- Cover with plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise until almost doubled, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Set remaining 2 tablespoons of vegan butter into a small saucepan over low heat to melt.
- Remove plastic wrap from risen rolls and brush the tops gently with the melted vegan butter.
- Bake until golden and a thermometer inserted into the center of the rolls registers at about 195 degrees Fahrenheit, 25 to 35 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool a bit. Enjoy immediately or serve later. Rolls keep at room temperature for about 5 days (I like to keep them in a sealed zipper bag). They also freeze well.