The MOST fluffy, soft, and delicious Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns! Homemade dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and baked in gooey caramel pecan sauce. This recipe includes the option to make them overnight so they’re warm and fresh for breakfast.
Sticky buns and cinnamon rolls can be intimidating to make. Yes, they are time-consuming and require kneading, but they are well worth it. Once you dig into a fresh, warm roll, you’ll agree with me. One thing I love about baking these sticky buns is how accomplished I feel when I pull them out of the oven. It brings a smile to my face. Even more so, I love serving them to my family and friends.
If you’re a coffee drinker, I highly recommend enjoying your sticky bun with a hot cup of coffee with a splash of half & half. For me, it balances out the sweetness of the sticky bun. It’s rare that you catch me eating anything sweet without a hot coffee or a glass of cold milk.
Sticky buns are best enjoyed warm! So if they aren’t completely devoured fresh out of the oven, cover them tightly with plastic wrap, and when it's time to eat another, pop your leftover bun in the microwave to heat it back up before eating.
Now, let’s get into the tips and tricks to ensure your Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns are the best!
Caramel Pecan Sticky Bun Ingredients.
Bread flour. This flour has a higher protein level compared to all-purpose flour. The added protein in bread flour gives these sticky buns a more chewy and fluffy texture. You can substitute in all-purpose flour if you don’t have bread flour, but the texture will be slightly different - but no the end of the world.
Instant Yeast. The instant or quick rise yeast in these sticky buns helps them rise faster. You can use active dry yeast, but the rolls will take longer to rise. If you use active yeast, you will need to proof the yeast first by letting the yeast and warm milk sit together for 10 minutes until it’s bubbly before adding the other ingredients.
Butter. Lots and lots of salted butter. It's a good thing. You need butter for the dough, filling, and caramel sauce. I prefer salted butter because the salt helps balance out the sweetness. You can use unsalted butter if you prefer.
Eggs. This recipe calls for 2 eggs, giving the dough a rich consistency.
Sugar. Both granulated and brown sugar is used in this recipe. Granulated sugar is used in the dough, and dark brown sugar is used in the filling and caramel sauce. I prefer using dark brown sugar for a richer flavor, but you can also use light brown sugar.
Pecans. I like my pecans roughly chopped so that some are whole halves while others are broken into little pieces.
Heavy cream. This is what gives the sauce its caramel consistency and flavor.
Cinnamon. It’s a must.
Salt. It’s always necessary.
Tips and Tricks.
Don’t overheat the milk. I like to heat the milk in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds or until it’s between 105-110 degrees F. If the milk is too hot, it will kill the yeast. If the milk is too cool, the dough won’t rise. But, don’t be intimated. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, simply dip your finger in the milk, it should be like warm bath water, but not hot.
Use room temperature eggs. Using cold eggs could change the temperature of the dough mixture and affect the yeast. To warm your eggs, take them out of the refrigerator an hour prior to baking, or place them in a bowl of warm water and let them sit for 5-10 minutes.
Make your dough with bread flour. Bread flour has more protein than all-purpose flour, giving your sticky buns a more chewy, fluffy texture.
Scoop and level your flour. The key to baking is to scoop and level your flour! People tend to dip their measuring cup into the bag of flour, but this packs the flour into the cup, resulting in too much flour. To prevent this, scoop your flour into a measuring cup using a spoon, and once the measuring cup is full, level it off, scraping the excess flour back into the bag.
If your kitchen is cold and your dough isn’t rising, turn your oven to the lowest temperature (mine is 170 degrees F) for 1-2 minutes, then turn off the oven and place the bowl/baking pan inside.
How to cut rolls that are the same size. Once the dough is rolled into a log, slice the log in half. From there, cut the two halves in half. At this point, you’ll have 4 logs. Cut each of the 4 logs into 3 rolls, resulting in 12 total rolls.
Carefully invert your sticky buns. This part can be a little tricky. Place a baking sheet or serving plate upside down on top of the baking dish. While holding onto the baking dish and the baking sheet, flip your hands so that the baking dish is upside down on top of the baking sheet. Slowly remove the baking dish, ensuring that all the rolls came out. Scrape any excess caramel from the baking dish onto the rolls.
How to make overnight caramel pecan sticky buns. Once the 12 sliced rolls have been placed in the prepared baking dish with the caramel pecan sauce, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. About one hour before you’re ready to bake the sticky buns, remove the baking dish from the refrigerator. Let the rolls come to room temperature and bake as directed.
How to freeze the uncooked caramel pecan sticky buns. Add the pecans and caramel sticky sauce to a freezer-friendly baking dish, and place your 12 sliced rolls on top, and cover well. Place in the freezer for 1-2 months. The night before you’re ready to bake the sticky buns, place the baking dish in the refrigerator to unthaw overnight. One hour before you’re ready to bake, remove the baking dish from the refrigerator. Let the rolls come to room temperature and activate the second rise, it should take about 30-60 minutes. Bake as directed.
You're going to love these caramel pecan sticky buns! I just know it!
P.S. If this is your first time making sticky buns or cinnamon rolls, please don't be intimated. They're easier to make than it sounds. Read my tips and tricks above and you'll be good to go.
More Sweet Breakfast Favorites.
Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns
- 1 cup warm whole or 2% milk (110-115 degrees F.)
- 1 packet instant yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 5 tablespoons salted butter, melted but not hot
- ¾ teaspoons salt
- 3 ½ - 4 cups bread flour, scoop & level
- 2 cups pecan halves, roughly chopped
- 8 tablespoons salted butter
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
Cinnamon sugar filling
- 4 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Make the dough
- Warm the milk to around 110 degrees F. I like to add the milk to a cup and warm in the microwave for 20-30 seconds increments, stirring each time, until it’s like the temperature of warm bath water. Add the milk to a large bowl and sprinkle with yeast. Add sugar, eggs, melted butter, and salt; mix to combine. Stir in 3 ½ cups of flour until the dough starts to form; it will be wet and tacky.
- Using some of the remaining ½ cup of flour, turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, continuously sprinkling the dough with the remaining flour until the dough is elastic and smooth but still tacky. I used about half of the remaining ½ cup of flour, so in total I used about 3 ¾ cups of flour.
- Transfer the dough ball to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size. It may take more or less time depending on the humidity and temperature of your kitchen. If my kitchen is cold, I like to turn on the oven to the lowest temperature (mine is 170 degrees F) for 1-2 minutes, then turn off the oven and place the bowl inside.
Make the caramel sauce
- While the dough rises, make the caramel sauce. Add butter, brown sugar and heavy whipping cream to a medium saucepan, and cook over medium heat, occasionally stirring, until the sauce is combined and bubbly, about 5-8 minutes.
- Sprinkle pecans into the bottom of a 9X13 inch baking dish, and pour the caramel sauce over the pecans.
Make the filling & assemble
- In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, transfer to a well-floured surface, and roll out into a 12X22 inch rectangle; it doesn’t have to be exact. Evenly spread the butter over the dough, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture, and lightly press the mixture into the butter.
- Starting with the long edge, roll the dough into a log, keeping it tight as you roll. Once you’ve finished rolling, use a sharp knife to cut into 12 rolls. Place the rolls into the prepared baking dish and cover with plastic wrap.
- If you’re making overnight sticky buns, place the covered baking dish in the refrigerator at this time (see note section for details on overnight sticky buns). If you would like to finish the sticky buns now, let them rise again for about 30 minutes, or until they start touching.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F while you wait for the sticky buns to rise.
- Remove the plastic wrap and bake the sticky buns uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until they are golden brown on the top and the rolls in the center are puffy and cooked through. If the rolls are browning too quickly, loosely cover with aluminum foil. Once done, let the rolls sit for 5 minutes to slightly cool then invert onto a baking sheet.
- These rolls are always best enjoyed warm! If we have leftover rolls, I like to pop a roll into the microwave to warm it back up before eating.