Classic sweet rolls with a spicy twist! Homemade spiced Chai Cinnamon Rolls with chai tea glaze for a sweet start to the day.
Introducing September’s sweet roll: Chai Cinnamon Rolls.
This idea comes from a family friend and I thought it was brilliant. Plus, it was an easy swap to use chai spices in place of cinnamon. If you love chai tea or chai lattes, this cinnamon roll recipe is for you!
What you’ll love about these rolls:
- Soft, fluffy dough that is easy to work with.
- Triple the chai flavor: in the dough, in the filling and in the glaze.
- Easy chai tea glaze.
- Same day or overnight instructions.
What is chai spice?
In India, “chai” means “tea”. We think of chai tea as a sweet milky tea, because that is how most Indians drink tea. There are different types of chai, but most are a heavily spicy and loaded with flavor.
Chai spices are:
- white pepper
That white pepper gives this a kick! You can find our homemade chai spice recipe here. This is the chai spice we used in our chai cinnamon roll recipe.
Please note…don’t use chai tea mix! You don’t want the leaves/crushed spices. You want a powder. If you use a different chai spice blend, your rolls will most likely tastes slightly different so find a mix you like and stick with it.
Note: Many store bought chai spice powder mixes do not have pepper in it. Pepper is what gives these rolls a spicy kick, so we highly recommend using a spice mix that has pepper in it.
Tips for Making Chai Cinnamon Rolls
- Prepare the dough. You can do this 3 different ways: Knead by hand (you’ll get an arm workout), use a stand mixer to knead the dough (fairly easy), use a bread machine on the dough setting (easiest ever!)
- We use instant yeast. You can use active dry or a different type if you’d like, but follow the instructions on the back of the package as far as adding the yeast to your dough. See our yeast guide here.
- Use all purpose flour or bread flour. All purpose flour will lead to slightly softer rolls, but bread flour will give the rolls a great rise and a chewier texture. Both are great and it just depends on your preference.
- If you use bread flour, you may need to use slightly less flour. Only start with 3 3/4 cups of flour if you use bread flour. Then add more a few tablespoons at a time if needed.
- They key to soft cinnamon rolls is to not add too much flour. The dough should be slightly tacky to the touch and not dry. But you should be able to still roll the dough easily.
- Rise time can vary. We find that the first rise takes about 40-50 minutes. The second rise takes less time, about 30 minutes. This all depends on temperature and humidity though.
- Don’t forget the secret ingredient! Pouring heavy cream over the sweet rolls before baking might sound strange, but it is our trick for getting the softest, gooey rolls ever. I recommend trying it even if you are skeptical.
- Cut 12 or 15 rolls. We normally cut 15 rolls and bake them in a large 10×15″ baking pan. You can use a 9×13 pan but the rolls may pop up more in the middle since they won’t have as much room to expand.
- Baking time will vary between about 22-30 minutes, depending on the type of pan you use and size. Ceramic pans will take longer than metal pans. And if you fit your rolls in a 9×13 baking pan it may take longer since they are packed tighter.
- Check your rolls at 20 minutes. If they are starting to get too brown, cover loosely with foil for the remainder of the baking time.
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
We often make the sweet rolls and get them to the point of the second rise (when they are rolled out, cut up and put in the pan). Cover and refrigerate until morning.
The morning you want to bake them, pull them out of the refrigerator. They may have doubled in size in the fridge overnight. If they have, let them sit for 30 minutes to get the chill off, then bake.
If they did not rise in the fridge overnight, allow them to rise at room temperature. Plan about at least an hour for this. Then pour on the cream and let them bake.
Chai Cinnamon Rolls
For the Dough:
- 1 cup warm milk (about 115 degrees F**)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast (I like Red Star Platinum Baking Yeast)
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 1/2 cup salted butter (very soft, almost melted)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon chai spice mix
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour (plus up to 1/2 cup more if needed)
For the Filling:
- 3/4 cup salted butter (melted)
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons chai spice mix
For Topping the Unbaked Rolls:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (for pouring over the risen rolls)
For the Glaze:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3-4 tablespoons strongly brewed chai tea
- **Be sure to plan ahead and make the browned butter in advance so it can be cooled slightly.**
- Pour the warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast overtop.
- Add the eggs, butter, chai spice, salt and sugar.
- Add 4 cups of flour and mix using the beater blade just until the ingredients are barely combined. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes so the flour has time to soak up the liquids.
- Scrape the dough off the beater blade and remove it. Attach the dough hook.
- Beat the dough on medium speed for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth. **The dough will be tacky and will still be sticking to the sides of the bowl slightly. That's ok! If it really looks too wet, add up to 1/2 more cup of flour as you knead the dough. Just add a small amount at a time. Don't be tempted to add too much flour or it will make the rolls dry. The dough should be slightly sticky.
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray.
- Use a rubber spatula to remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it in the greased large bowl.
- Cover the bowl with a towel or wax paper.
- Set the bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until double. I like to turn on the oven to the lowest setting for 1-2 minutes. Then turn off the oven and place the dough to rise in there. It normally takes about 30-60 minutes for the dough to rise but the time can vary based on weather and even altitude. Do not allow the dough to rise too much or your cinnamon rolls will be airy.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the chai spice filling. In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar and chai spice, mixing until well combined. Set aside.
- Sprinkle a pastry mat generously with flour. Turn out the dough onto the pastry mat and sprinkle the top of the dough with a light dusting of additional flour.
- Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough to about a 24×15″ rectangle. (the size of the rectangle can vary…it does not have to be exact!)
- Use a rubber spatula to smooth the chai filling over the whole dough rectangle.
- Starting on the long end, roll the dough up tightly jelly roll style.
- Cut into 15 slices and place in a greased 10×15″ baking pan.*
- Cover the pan and allow the rolls to rise for 30 minutes or until nearly double.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Warm the heavy cream until the chill is off. Don’t make it hot…you just don’t want it cold. It should be warm to the touch.
- Once the rolls have risen, pour the heavy cream over the top of the rolls, allowing it to soak down in and around the rolls.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 27-30 minutes. Check the roll after about 20 minutes of baking. If they look like they are getting too browned, place a piece of foil over the top of the pan for the remainder of the time. **Note…the time will vary based on how big the rolls are, what type of pan, how close the rolls are packed, etc. To see if they are done, lightly pull up on the edge of the cinnamon roll in the center. If it looks cooked and not too doughy, it is done.**
- While the rolls are cooling, prepare the glaze.
- In a small bowl, use a whisk to combine the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of chai tea. Mix with a whisk. Add the last tablespoon of tea if necessary, mixing until the glaze is at the consistency you'd like.
- Drizzle the frosting over the cooled rolls. You can pour or spread it over warmed rolls but the glaze will soak in more.
- Store in an airtight container.