These traditional kanelbullar, or Swedish cinnamon buns, are beautiful, soft buns with a hint of cardamom and a delicate buttery cinnamon filling. They taste incredible any time of day. This recipe is going to become your new favorite!
I haven’t tried many Swedish buns in my life, but the few I have tried left a strong enough impression on my taste buds to make me want to bake them at home from scratch. I finally got the chance to make them today, and the only thing I regret is not tripling the recipe because they turned out so amazing that I could barely save one before they all disappeared from the bowl.
What are kanelbullar?
Unlike American cinnamon buns, Swedish cinnamon buns, or kanelbullar, are twisted and tied into small knots, as you can see in the photos. The dough is made with a touch of cardamom for a warm and unique flavor and filled with a sweet cinnamon filling. Traditionally, they’re topped with pearl sugar for a slight crunch and additional sweetness, instead of the traditional American cinnamon bun glaze. Kanelbullar are sweet, soft, chewy and the perfect breakfast treat!
How to make Swedish cinnamon buns
This recipe makes 16 cinnamon buns.
- Combine dry ingredients. Place flour, sugar, cardamom, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix until combined.
- Pour in wet ingredients. Add warmed milk and melted butter to the flour mixture and mix on low speed until dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Add salt and continue mixing for another 8 minutes on low-medium speed until dough is soft and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- First rise. Place dough in a large bowl brushed with oil, and toss to coat (the fat will keep the dough from drying out). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place or on the counter for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size (Note: The colder the temperature, the slower the dough will rise).
- Make the filling. In a small bowl, combine soft butter, sugar, and cinnamon until you have a smooth paste.
- Shape the dough. On a lightly floured surface or non-stick silicone baking mat, roll dough out into 35x35cm (14×14-inch) square. Spread butter-sugar mixture onto entire surface, making a very thin layer. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, then roll again into a rough 35x20cm (14×8-inch) rectangle.
- Facing the long edge, cut dough into roughly 1/2-inch/2cm wide and 8-inch/20cm long strips. Twist each strip several times, slightly stretching it as you do so. Grab one end of the twisted strip and coil the dough around your hand twice, then over the top. Coil dough again and tuck the loose end in at the bottom.
- Arrange buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (if they’re too crowded, use 2 pans), keeping as much space between them as possible.
- Second rise. Cover and let rest for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Bake. Brush buns with an egg wash, sprinkle with pearl sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Allow buns to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Commonly asked questions
Can I use active yeast instead of instant?
Yes. Use the same amount of active yeast instead of instant. Instead of combining it with the dry ingredients, pour half of the sugar into your mixing bowl with the warmed milk and stir. Then, sprinkle the active yeast over the liquid and allow it to sit for 10 minutes – this is what activates the yeast. You’ll notice the liquid becomes slightly foamy. Then, add the dry ingredients, including the remaining sugar, along with the melted butter and continue with the recipe as is written.
How can I make kanelbullar in advance?
If you want to have the cinnamon buns ready in the morning, you can follow the recipe through the shaping step the day before. Then, place the buns in a sheet pan, covered, in the fridge overnight. Pull them from the fridge and allow to rest at room temperature for about an hour s before baking.
Alternatively, you can shape the rolls and freeze them on a sheet pan, covered with plastic wrap. When you want to bake them, place in the fridge to thaw overnight. Then, allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour before baking.
Do I need to use pearl sugar?
You can certainly leave off the pearl sugar if you don’t have it or simply don’t want to use it. You can also sprinkle with chopped nuts or granulated sugar instead.
I don’t like cardamom – can I leave it out of the dough?
Yes, feel free to reduce the amount of cardamom or simply omit it from the recipe.
Why does the milk need to be heated before adding it to the dough?
This helps activate the yeast so the dough rises quicker. Just be careful not to heat the milk over 120°F/48°C, which can kill the yeast and deactivate it.
More of my favorite breakfast treats
- Cinnamon Rolls: Classic American cinnamon rolls topped with creamy frosting.
- Orange Chocolate Rolls: Warm and toasty buns filled with an amazing chocoalte orange filling.
- Caramel Apple Rolls: The perfect fall morning treat.
- Baked Apple Cider Donuts: Perfectly moist, tender, and coated in cinnamon sugar.
Classic kanelbullar are a soft and tender Swedish cinnamon roll made with cardamom and filled with a buttery cinnamon-sugar mixture. They have amazing texture and flavor!
- 3 cups (400g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (7g) instant yeast
- 1 cup (240 ml) warmed milk, no warmer than 120°F/48°C
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick/56 g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup (2/3 stick/75g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (65g) light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 beaten egg , for egg wash
- Pearl sugar , chopped almonds, or granulated sugar, to sprinkle on top, optional
Place flour, sugar, cardamom, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and mix until combined. Attach dough hook to the mixer. Add milk and melted butter to the flour mixture and mix on low speed until dough comes together, 2-3 minutes. Add salt and continue mixing for another 8 minutes on low-medium speed until dough is soft and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Place dough in a large bowl brushed with oil, and toss to coat (the fat will keep the dough from drying out). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place or on the counter for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size. Keep in mind that rising will be slower in cold weather.
To make the filling: In a small bowl, combine soft butter, sugar, and cinnamon until you have a smooth paste.
Shaping the dough (I followed this visual guide): On a lightly floured surface or non-stick silicone baking mat, roll dough out into 35x35cm (14×14-inch) square. Spread butter-sugar mixture onto entire surface, making a very thin layer. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, then roll again into a rough 35x20cm (14×8-inch) rectangle.
Facing the long edge, cut dough into roughly 1/2-inch/2cm wide and 8-inch/20cm long strips. Twist each strip several times, slightly stretching it as you do so. Grab one end of the twisted strip and coil the dough around your hand twice, then over the top. Coil dough again and tuck the loose end in at the bottom.
Arrange buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (if they’re too crowded, use 2 pans), keeping as much space between them as possible. Cover and let rest for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350°F/180°C.
Brush buns with an egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Allow buns to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Buns are best the same day they are made, but can be frozen for up to 2 months and reheated in the oven before serving.
Hannah Hossack-Lodge (Domestic Gothess)April 22, 2016 at 8:45 am
These look so lovely and perfectly baked, I’ve made cinnamon buns using this shaping technique before, it seems complicated but is actually really easy once you get the hang of it.
ShirleyAugust 7, 2017 at 6:38 pm
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I loved it! My knotting technique could use some work, but they still wowed my family and friends. Pic at https://www.instagram.com/p/BXgm41OhlAX/
EmmacJanuary 26, 2018 at 8:31 pm
To be honest, I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to shape the cinnamon bun dough as fancy as you did ?. So do you think the cinnamon buns will turn out the same if I just did an alternative way of shaping the dough (like the other way of shaping the cinnamon bun dough, cutting it into circles). Sorry if this doesn’t make sense! Could you tell me ASAP because I am making them on Sunday.
ShiranJanuary 27, 2018 at 9:13 am
Yes, this should work too 🙂 The baking time might be different though. I have another recipe for cinnamon rolls, if you prefer. They’re amazing!
Eunice BaeJune 4, 2018 at 11:12 am
I’m not well-versed in yeast, but what was the cup of lukewarm water for? When you say place the yeast in the bowl w/ the other dry ingredients, do you mean after letting it sit in the cup of water to activate? Thanks so much! Can’t wait to give my Swedish friends a taste of home!
ShiranJune 5, 2018 at 3:40 am
Hi Eunice, there’s no water in the recipe, do you mean milk? I’m using instant yeast, not active dry yeast, so there’s no need to activate it first. You just need to mix all the ingredients together.
RainaSeptember 26, 2020 at 11:08 pm
Hi I actually had the same question as her as 1 cup of lukewarm is listed in the ingredients but in the directions it’s not said at all
ShiranOctober 4, 2020 at 2:57 am
There’s not water in the recipe, only milk. Where exactly do you see it listed?
Michaela MackieSeptember 23, 2018 at 2:41 am
Thank you for this beautiful recipe. I made some cinnamon buns today and they turned out really good! Delicious and pretty, thank you!
RosalindSeptember 24, 2018 at 6:32 pm
I have made these twice now after being inspired by a trip to Stockholm! They are amazing but disappear too quickly!
Sandra AmosFebruary 1, 2019 at 9:29 am
Just wondering if it would be ok to use caster sugar as I don’t usually use granulated?
ShiranFebruary 6, 2019 at 5:17 am
Yes it’s ok 🙂
Rachael SherringtonFebruary 16, 2019 at 5:31 am
Thank you! I made these a couple of months ago and they were delicious!
I wondered if they would be ok if refrigerated overnight at the point when they have been filled and shaped for a slower 2nd prove? I’m hoping to make them this evening for tomorrow morning but wondering whether to just cook them and re-heat them tomorrow instead.
ShiranFebruary 21, 2019 at 5:30 am
Hi Rachael , you can always freeze them after they are fully baked. They will taste just as good even after a month.
Emma RasmussenMay 11, 2019 at 7:04 am
Hi there. We’ve been making buns for a couple of years – low quantities. we are now producing 200 at weekends & struggling with consistency & getting the same results. They seem to be tearing after the bake. Any ideas?! Thanks
IsobelJune 2, 2019 at 11:10 am
For the second proof, what do i use to cover it with and should they be left at room temperature or put in the airing cupboard or?
LiatOctober 1, 2019 at 12:19 pm
Thanks Shiran, excellent recipe! I just recently discovered your blog, I resonate with your writing and I already have some other recipes from you that I’d love to try.
The dough was really easy to work with, soft and pliable. I don’t have a mixer but yet it was not a hassle to process it by hand. The buns itself are delicious and not too sweet.
ShiranOctober 4, 2019 at 9:17 am
Perfect! Thank you so much!
NicoleDecember 21, 2019 at 3:42 pm
This complicated shape is by no means traditional in Sweden. I have lived there and eaten my share of kanelbullar. Many of them are formed by rolling the dough up jelly-roll style and slicing off rounds.
VeronicaJanuary 14, 2020 at 2:31 pm
I loved this recipe. Something about the cardamom in the dough! Making it a second time today!
LorraineMarch 22, 2020 at 1:11 pm
Lovely recipe ! Will do it again . Made it to a wreath shape .
Thank you for the recipe . Cardamom gives it extra depth in taste.
CarlaApril 6, 2020 at 12:35 am
Do you have a recommendation for how to sub in active dry yeast, instead of instant yeast?
ShiranApril 8, 2020 at 4:00 am
Hi Carla, here’s a good guide for it.
Tyler StevensonApril 14, 2020 at 1:58 pm
Hi! First off, thank you for this great recipe! I’ve tried these quite a few times and they have turned out perfect every time! I did have a quick question though — do you know how I could go about substituting almond milk instead of milk?
ShiranApril 20, 2020 at 2:56 am
Milk gives a delicious soft texture to the bread. I have no experience with using almond milk in breads, but you can use water instead of the milk. If you’re experimenting with almond milk, use the same amount.
KateJune 22, 2020 at 10:40 am
Good recipe! Very tasty 🙂
AzzahOctober 12, 2020 at 4:52 pm
Thank you for this delicious recipe,
I have a question, I try it and it is delicious but the dough is little bet hard and take longe tome to forme i use the stand mixer the dough is not soft !
GemJanuary 14, 2021 at 8:20 am
Thank you for this beautiful recipe!
I’m having troubles with the filling spewing out when I’m rolling and twisting the buns.
Do you have any tips? 🙂
Thank you so much!
ShiranJanuary 27, 2021 at 10:43 am
I’m so glad you like it 🙂 Spread the filling as even as possible, and make sure that the butter is at room temperature and not too warm. But it’s OK if some of the filling leaks out the sides while twisting the buns.
JenniferSeptember 16, 2021 at 1:50 am
Love it but they never seem to rise much the second time. Any extra tips for that?
Talia @ Pretty. Simple. Sweet.September 16, 2021 at 7:25 am
Hi Jennifer, rising is all about temperature control. Assuming the yeast was measured out correctly, some other factors to consider include:
1) Making sure the milk is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit
2) The space you put the dough to rise should be warm, above 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. You can also slightly warm the oven then turn it off, and put your covered bowl of dough in the oven to rise. This also applies to the final rise after you’ve shaped the dough into individual buns.
Good luck, hope this helps!
jeanie shortApril 30, 2022 at 10:29 pm
April 30 2022
I haven’t made your recipe yet its very similar to my Swedish friend recipe she made for me when she came to Canada in April 2022 .
the only extra thing she did was brush (melted 1 part sugar 2 parts water) over the buns when they come out of the oven. I can’t wait to try your recipe when i do i will send a comment and let you know how they turned out.
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