Southern Butter Rolls

A truly special Southern sweet.

Southern Butter Rolls
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox
Prep Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 15 mins

In the Pantheon of Southern baked goods, Southern Butter Rolls might rise to the top due to the ingenuity and resourcefulness it probably took to make these: They are one part biscuit and one part cinnamon rolls, and they're baked in a supremely simple sauce that turns beautifully rich and custardy when cooked.

In short, Southern Butter Rolls are probably unlike any other breakfast or brunch breads you've ever had.

And you wouldn't be alone if this is the first time you've been introduced to Southern Butter Rolls. They even stumped us. The origins of the dish are a little hazy, with some people pinpointing it to northern Mississippi and Memphis. It may not even be all that well known outside that particular corner of the South, but we have a feeling once others try this recipe, it'll start showing up on more potlucks and party tables in all the states.

How to Make Southern Butter Rolls

If you love cinnamon rolls or sticky buns but loathe the long wait of a yeast bread rise, you'll love this recipe's little secret: a biscuit-like dough. Indeed, these rolls are made with flour, baking powder, and shortening. Water helps bring everything together, and you can have the dough ready in just 10 minutes if you're good at cutting shortening into flour.

Once the dough is made, it's rolled out, slathered with butter, and sprinkled with a spice blend. Then, the dough is rolled from the long side and cut into a dozen individual rolls. (See what we mean about the connection to cinnamon rolls?) Finally, the rolls are placed in a baking dish and covered with a simple milk-and-sugar sauce.

And while it may be simple, that sauce is going to do dreamy things once in the oven. The rolls will soak up some of it, turning the dough fluffy and rich. The rest of the sauce will caramelize and make a beautiful sauce to coat the bottom of the pan. If everyone fights over that golden brown dream sauce, don't blame us.

When to Serve Butter Rolls

Is "any time" a good answer to this question? They do take a little over an hour to make, so this may not be the dish for a Tuesday morning. But since you don't have to wait on a yeast dough to rise, this would be great on a Saturday or Sunday before ball games or church.

It's also special enough to bring out at Easter, Mother's Day, even Christmas, when you've got to really show off your skills. We know once your friends and family try these unique rolls, they'll be asking for them again and again. Good thing they're so darn easy to make.


For the Dough:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 4 ½ tsp. baking powder

  • ¾ tsp. salt

  • 6 Tbsp. vegetable shortening, at room temperature

  • 1-1.25 cups ice cold water

For the Filling:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 6 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

For the Sauce:

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter or mist a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

  2. Make the Dough: Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Work in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in enough water to pull in the dry ingredients and form stiff dough.

  3. Turn out dough onto a lightly-floured surface. Roll with a pin to a 12-by-15-inch rectangle. Spread butter evenly over the top.

  4. Whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the butter.

  5. Starting with a short end, tightly roll the dough into a log. Use a sharp knife to slice the log crosswise into 12 even rounds. Arrange the rounds, spiral-side up, in a single layer in the prepared pan.

  6. Make the Sauce: Bring the milk, granulated sugar, and vanilla to a simmer over medium heat in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour evenly over the pinwheels. They will be nearly submerged.

  7. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until the rolls are firm and golden brown on top. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving warm.

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