Best Ever Sourdough Sticky Buns

By Amanda Paa – Updated April 23, 2021
4.97 from 30 votes
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These homemade sourdough sticky buns are as good as it gets! Made with active sourdough starter, the brioche dough makes the rolls incredibly soft and full of flavor from the butter. After a convenient overnight bulk fermentation, they’re nestled into an easy caramel sauce and baked, then served warm.

sourdough sticky buns with pecans that have been removed from their pan.
Woman is holding sourdough sticky bun in her hands, tearing some of the dough off. Blue plate is below her hands.

It takes a lot for me to say that something is “the best”.

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But after taking my first bites of these warm sourdough sticky buns, with rich caramel and toasted pecans, I looked at Brian and said, “This is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my 36 years of living.” And I meant it.

Why They’re The Best Sourdough Sticky Buns (a.ka. Sourdough Caramel Rolls)

  1. These sticky buns are NOT cloyingly, over the top sweet. Instead, you’ll taste the buttery dough, cinnamon swirls, brown sugar notes of the caramel, and the nuttiness of the pecans. ALL THE GOOD THINGS.
  2. You don’t need a thermometer or corn syrup to make the homemade caramel. It’s an easy stovetop technique!
  3. The dough is pillowy soft, yet stands up to the creamy caramel. The finished buns shred apart like cotton candy.
  4. The bulk fermentation takes place overnight so you can bake these later in the morning for an epic brunch treat.
sourdough cinnamon buns that have been baked, but are unfrosted.

Main Ingredients for Sourdough Sticky Buns

  • active sourdough starter
  • all purpose flour & whole wheat flour
  • milk
  • egg
  • butter
  • granulated sugar & brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • heavy cream
  • pecans

How To Make Sourdough Sticky Buns

This recipe starts with a brioche dough (meaning it contains butter, egg, and milk) that’s nearly identical to my Dreamy Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, but with less sugar because of the caramel that enrobes the baked rolls.

You’ll need a stand mixer to knead the dough. Because it’s enriched, the stand mixer is essential to properly strengthen the dough. It does all the work for you!

Adding the softened butter in cubes comes last in the mixing process, and then the dough is ready to rest through its long bulk fermentation.

Sticky buns sitting in an aluminum pan on bed of caramel and pecans, ready to proof.
STICKY BUNS BEFORE THEIR FINAL PROOF
sourdough pecan buns after they are proofed, sitting in their caramel mixture.
THIS IS WHAT THE STICKY BUNS SHOULD LOOK LIKE WHEN FINAL PROOF IS FINISHED, HAVE GROWN IN SIZE, EXPANDED, AND ARE TOUCHING.

Bakers Schedule:

  • Around 3pm, feed your starter.
  • Around 9pm: Mix the dough, and let bulk ferment on the counter overnight, covered.
  • The next morning between 7-8am: Check your dough and ensure it is puffy and has grown double.
  • Put dough onto a liberally floured countertop, and let rest while you make the caramel, which gets poured into the pan you’ll bake the rolls in.
  • Let caramel cool in refrigerator on a hot pad.
  • Roll dough out to 1/4-1/2 inch thick, large rectangle roughly 17″x 12″.
  • Mix filling ingredients in a bowl then spread over the rectangle of dough keeping about a 1/2 inch away from all the edges.
  • Roll into a log and cut individual rolls. You’ll really want to have a bench scraper for rolling up the log, and cutting. It’s a game changer.
  • Around 9am: Nestle rolls into caramel in the baking pan.
  • They’ll rise for 3ish hours in a warm spot, until they’ve risen about double. Then BAKE!
close up photo of sourdough sticky buns right after they've finished baking, still in pan.
close-up photo of sourdough caramel rolls.
Sourdough sticky buns are baked and sitting on parchment paper, caramel is surrounding them.

Variations and Tips:

Nuts: If you don’t have or don’t prefer pecans, you could use cashews or walnuts instead.

How to know when the caramel rolls are done: Using a thermometer is most helpful for knowing when the buns are cooked all the way through. You’re shooting for a temperature of 200 degrees F.

Pan: This recipe can be made in a 9×13 or 7×11 baking pan.

How to Store Leftover Sticky Buns: These will keep covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. I personally like to wrap them in plastic wrap. Be sure to rewarm in the microwave for 15-20 seconds to return their texture to fresh baked!

More Sourdough Recipes:

woman holding a plate with sourdough sticky bun and pecans on the plate. plate is light blue.
sourdough sticky buns with pecans that have been removed from their pan.

Best Ever Sourdough Sticky Buns

Homemade sourdough sticky buns, also known as caramel rolls, that are soft, gooey, and absolutely incredible. Using active sourdough starter, these sticky buns go through an overnight bulk fermentation to make things easy.
4.97 from 30 votes
Prep Time :40 minutes
Cook Time :35 minutes
Additional Time :15 hours
Total Time :16 hours 15 minutes
Yield: 8 buns
Author: Amanda Paa

SCALE:

Ingredients

Sticky Bun Dough

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 60 grams brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • pinch of fine sea salt

Caramel

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 120 grams brown sugar
  • 115 grams (1/2 cup) heavy cream
  • 50 grams honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup raw pecans

Instructions 

  • Add flours to bowl of a stand mixer. Stir together.
  • Whisk egg, milk, and starter together in separate bowl until starter is no longer lumpy. 
  • Attach hook to mixer, and turn on on speed 2 of your Kitchenaid, and gradually add liquid ingredients, until all dry bits are gone. When most of the flour is absorbed turn the mixer up one level to knead for 30 seconds. Mixture will not look smooth, just shaggy. Let sit for 15 minutes. 
  • Turn mixer onto speed 2 (using Kitchenaid Stand Mixer) add sugar, salt, and one chunk of butter at a time to the dough, only adding another chunk once the previous is incorporated into the dough. Keep doing this until all the butter is added to the dough.
  • Once all the butter is in the dough, turn KitchenAid up to speed 4 and continue kneading for 8 minutes, until dough is smooth, and cleaning the sides of the bowl. It will be sticky to the touch. 
  • Overnight rise: Once kneading is done, place the dough in a bowl and put bowl inside plastic shopping or garbage bag, or alternatively cover with a very damp cloth. Leave overnight on counter at room temp to rise until double and puffy, about 10 hours if your home is at 68-70 degrees F. It will take longer if your home is cooler, less time if your home is warmer so plan accordingly.
  • In the morning, check your dough. It should have doubled and be domed on top. Turn it out onto a heavily floured counter. Gently pat it into a rectangle shape and let rest with a linen over the top, while you make the caramel.
  • To make caramel, melt butter in a saucepan. Add remaining ingredients except pecans, and bring to a boil, whisking to help dissolve the brown sugar. Once it is at a boil, turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes, until caramel is nice and brown, glossy, and smells butterscotchy. Pour into a 9×13 pan, and sprinkle with 3/4 cup pecans. Set in refrigerator to cool for 15-20 minutes, propped on a cooling rack.
  • Using a floured rolling pin, roll your dough it into a large rectangle roughly 16″x 12. Brush the butter onto the dough, keeping 1/2" away from edges. Mix the remaining fillings ingredient together, then sprinkle evenly on top of the butter, keeping 1/2" away from edges.
  • After spreading the filling, use your bench scraper to help your hands begin tightly rolling up the dough into a log, starting with the long edge closest to you. Use a little extra flour on the bench scraper each time to help pick the dough up from the surface. Don’t worry if it sticks a little, just use a little more flour dust. Roll it to the top and pinch the bottom edge of the dough log to seal it.
  • You should have a long log of dough roughly 16-18″ long. Now cut the dough log with your bench scraper, at about 2 1/2 inch pieces” and set pieces into the pan with the caramel swirl side up, making sure the caramel has had 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • Place the pan inside a clean garbage bag and fold the opening over so that no air gets inside. Leave on counter, preferably a warm spot, to proof for 3ish hours so that the buns expand, puff up, and are touching each other. You can see photo of what they should look like above in post.  
  • When the rolls are done proofing, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 35 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown at the edges and set in the middles. You can use a thermometer to test their interior, which should be at 205 degrees F.
  • Remove pan from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Then take parchment paper that is larger than your pan, and set on top of rolls. Place a large baking sheet on top of that. Then, using oven mittens slide your hands underneath the pan, and holding the top of the baking sheet and bottom of the baking pan, flip over so that the baking pan is now upside down. Using oven mitts, lift the baking pan off the rolls, jiggly it and patting top if needed, and your sticky buns will emerge! Scrape out all extra caramel in the pan and place on top of all rolls. Enjoy warm.
  • Caramel rolls will stay good in the refrigerator enclosed in a container, for 3 days. Reheat in microwave for 15 seconds.

Notes

*Bakers Schedule is listed above in post.
*Caramel recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Did you make this?

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December 30, 2020

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57 comments

  1. hmason

    Can these rolls be frozen before the caramel addition, then brought out, thawed and added to the caramel sauce made at that point?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hello! Yes, you can freeze after they’ve been baked, before sauced. I would rewarm them wrapped in foil in the oven when bringing them out after freezing. Then sauce them.

  2. Stephanie

    5 stars
    These turned out great! I didn’t have heavy cream, so I used whole milk in the caramel sauce and it turned out just fine ;)

    • Amanda Paa

      Great to hear!

  3. Monique

    Okay, this may be crazy but I saw a yeast recipe where they let the second rise happen then wrapped in plastic wrap and froze. Then when ready to bake, popped into the oven frozen. It was done by Americas Test Kitchen. Do you think sourdough would react the same as regular yeast dough. I’d like these for Xmas morning so don’t want to have to get up hours early to make it happen. Thank you for this recipe. It looks beyond fabulous.

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Monique! Unfortunately wild yeast does not like the freezer and this conventional yeast method will not work. They will come out much denser and not rise well after the dough has been frozen. I do have to say, they are well worth the time in the morning. :)

      • Monique Mustard

        5 stars
        Hi Amanda. I did try the second rise, freeze then bake method as I really wanted these ready for Christmas morning. They didn’t turn out quite as beautiful as yours look but all in all they were a success, even though I’m pretty sure I overproofed them on the first proof. I suspect this because the dough was very stringy. They didn’t experience the oven bounce my loaves usually get so were a bit denser. I’m going to try them again soon following your instructions to a T. ❤️

        • Amanda Paa

          thanks for the notes, monique! yes, that sounds like the first proof was a bit overproofed. but i’m so glad they were still enjoyed. look forward to hearing about the next time you try them!

  4. Max Carter

    Would it work to put them in the fridge overnight at the end of final rise so they could be pulled out and baked first thing in the morning?
    My DIL loves sticky buns, so I usually make them for her Christmas morning but getting up at 3 am isn’t so much fun anymore.

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Max, if you were to try this, I would recommend putting in the fridge short of the final rise otherwise they will overproof. Reason being you’ll need to let them come to room temperature before baking, so they will rise a bit during this time. If you try this method, let me know how it goes!

  5. hMason

    5 stars
    Phenomenal!! I did do 1.5 times of the caramel and pecans – wow!! Also added extra tablespoon of cinnamon in the filling.

    • Amanda Paa

      Can never go wrong with more caramel and pecans! Thanks for making the recipe!

  6. Michelle MJ

    5 stars
    oh my GOODNESS! This is the best recipe for cinnamon rolls (the dough is PERFECT) and the caramel topping just takes it over the top! I made a batch for my Bible study girls and they devoured these. Best to eat them warm as she suggests and I’m betting a cup of coffee would go PERFECT with these. I’ll be making them again soon this holiday season!!

    • Amanda Paa

      Yay, I’m so glad they were enjoyed by your group!

  7. Sadie

    5 stars
    These are phenomenal! They’re like little caramel pecan pillows! I’ve tried several dozen similar recipes using both yeast and sourdough starter as leaveners, and this is the best one so far. The buns are light and airy and incredibly soft. I tweaked both the filling and caramel for a bigger yield, and used dark brown sugar in both. I started the bulk fermentation at room temperature but once the dough had risen about 60% I put it in the fridge until it had doubled and domed. I find cold dough is easier to roll into a log and slice. I was able to slice the log into 10 portions after trimming the ends. The buns are very generous in size. Thanks for a fantastic recipe!

    • Amanda Paa

      I’m so glad you liked the recipe! And thank you for your notes, love to hear how you used the fridge here!

  8. Steve Zag

    5 stars
    Thank you so much! These were amazing!
    Of course, I tripled the cinnamon, on the theory that anything with cinnamon is improved by more cinnamon. But other than that, I stuck with the recipe and I was thrilled. Next time, however, I’m going to quadruple the cinnamon — it was still just shy of the perfect amount.

    • Amanda Paa

      yay, so glad you enjoyed them Steve! thanks for making the recipe.

  9. Ana

    5 stars
    Made these for Easter brunch two years in a row. Flawless!

    • Amanda Paa

      Yay, glad they have had a place on your table!

  10. Kathryn

    5 stars
    What a fab recipe!!! So yummy and was a hit for my whole fam! It is a rather involved recipe, but I think next time I do it it’ll be even easier and quicker to go through. Next time I think I’ll also not use honey in the caramel, as I do like that true brown sugar taste. But man, just a solid, delicious sticky bun!!

    • Amanda Paa

      So glad you enjoyed these, Kathryn!

  11. Rob

    5 stars
    OK I just ate one! You get an 11 out of 10 for this recipe. Outstanding.

    • Amanda Paa

      Wonderful, Rob! So glad you are enjoying the sourdough caramel rolls.

  12. Miranda

    5 stars
    Thanks! I have made them twice now and they turn out beautifully!

    • Amanda Paa

      Yay, glad to hear that!

  13. Miranda

    5 stars
    These were so easy to make, just a bit time consuming…but turned out perfect. I used Walnuts rather than pecans, as I had some chopped up! Recipe was easy to follow. Next attempt will be a loaf of bread! Can’t wait!

    • Amanda Paa

      the photo you sent me on instagram of the rolls was beautiful!

  14. Caitlynn

    5 stars
    This was so easy and fun to make! Great for breakfast/brunch. By far one of my favorite sourdough recipes I’ve tried! Wish I could share a picture of my finished result

    • Amanda Paa

      Yay, so glad you liked them! If you’re on instagram, send me a photo @heartbeetkitchen, would love to see!

  15. Ann Timbrell

    Hi, just wonder is there egg free version available as we are egg allergy family. Many thanks Ann

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Ann! The egg is essential to this recipe in order to get the dough to be soft as it should be for sticky buns.

  16. Patty

    5 stars
    I have tried several recipes for sourdough cinnamon rolls and buns, and NONE of them even come close to this one. The use of active starter helps, and everything about this recipe came out perfectly. My biggest challenge was keeping my 40 yo kitchen aid from leaping off the counter.

    • Amanda Paa

      so glad to hear you liked these! also, 40 years is so impressive for a Kitchen aid mixer!

  17. Ari

    5 stars
    Super easy to follow and crazy delicious!

    • Amanda Paa

      love to hear it, Ari! the photo you shared on instagram of the rolls was beautiful.

  18. Leah Clevenger

    Could I somehow do this without a stand mixer ? Like knead it for a certain amount of time ?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Leah! I haven’t tested these without a stand mixer. I don’t think the result would be the same without it (not soft and fluffy), as you really need to build the gluten with the power of the mixer.

  19. K

    Can I substitute whole milk for almond?

    • Amanda Paa

      hi! you’ll want to use whole milk. this recipe has not been tested with almond milk.

  20. CJ B.

    5 stars
    I am a year into my sourdough journey and I recently branched out to more than just breads/cakes/muffins. Since expanding, my favorite recipe – hands down – is a cinnamon roll that I tweaked to get to (my) perfection. I honestly didn’t think I would find a roll that even came close to that and yet….. dang!!!!! Amanda – your sourdough caramel rolls are INSANELY AMAZING!!! When I use a new recipe I always follow it to a T. I know the amount of time and work bakers/creators put into their content and I want to give that it’s due respect. It’s because of recipes like this one, that are 10/10 as written, I don’t regret keeping my tweaks to myself the first time around. Thank you, Amanda!!!

    *I will disclaim that right before baking I poured a 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream over the risen rolls. This is something my late grams taught me and I never miss this step with any type of roll, sourdough or otherwise.

    • Amanda Paa

      love hearing this! so glad you liked the sourdough sticky buns. and appreciate your kind words about the work that bakers/creators do when developing the recipes. and can’t wait to try your grams secret with the heavy cream!

  21. Liv

    Hi! These look so tasty! Can i use just all purpose flour instead of whole wheat? Just trying to make things with stuff I already have! Merry Christmas!!!

    • Amanda Paa

      That will work just fine! Just replace the whole wheat with equal parts all-purpose.

  22. Matanya

    5 stars
    Amazing and easy to follow recipe! Turned out delicious!

    • Amanda Paa

      so glad you liked these sourdough caramel rolls!!

  23. Catherine

    I plan on making these. I have KA sourdough starter, 100% hydration. I feed equal parts flour and water by weight, grams. I always make KA sourdough cinnamon buns but want to change it up. I didn’t see your hydration ratio for the starter, I probably missed it. Will my starter work with this recipe? Thanks a bunch, the rolls look amazing!

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Catherine! Yes, I use 100% hydration starter in this recipe (and all of my sourdough recipes) so you are good to go!

  24. BT

    Have you ever assembled the rolls and put them in the fridge overnight to decrease the rise time? Just trying to think of a way to eat them earlier than 1 pm?!

    • Amanda Paa

      hello! if you want to put them in the fridge overnight and bake in the morning, you will want them to be 80% fully proofed of final rise before putting them into fridge. and then take them out and let warm up for 90 minutes before baking.

  25. Betsy Berger

    Hello! I plan to make one batch of your caramel rolls and one batch of your cinnamon rolls. Do you recommend that I double one of the dough recipes? If so, which one to you think would be best to use? Or do you recommend that I make the dough recipes separate? Thank you!

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Betsy! You can definitely double either recipes. I would personally double the cinnamon roll dough to make both kinds of rolls!

      • Betsy Berger

        Wonderful. Thank you!

  26. Cindy Mays

    I made these in a double batch. Made two pans of yummy grandkid pleasure🤤 can I freeze the two that are left in freezer cling wrap and then a freezer bag?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Cindy! I haven’t tried freezing these yet, but if you go for it, let me know if it works okay. So glad you and the family liked the caramel rolls!

  27. Darlene Smith

    I made these yesterday morning and you are right, they are great! The roll itself is very light. They take a little work but the next time I make them will be quicker. I did give them a little nudge during the last hour of the three hour rise with a bowl of hot water under the pan as I didn’t think they were rising as much as needed, Likely my house temp. Thanks for sharing another great recipe (I bought your starter less than a month ago and it has been a lot of fun…and a lot of great bread.) Darlene Smith, Cushing, WI

    • Amanda Paa

      Oh, so fun to hear this Darlene! Love that my starter is in your kitchen and you’re baking yummy things with it.
      These rolls do love warm temps to rise in, so great idea to put the pan of hot water underneath to enhance that.