Bread Breakfast

Orange pecan cinnamon rolls

Orange pecan cinnamon rolls | Homesick Texan

When I was young, my mom was a health food nut. We’re talking a full-on carob, wheat germ, no sugar in your cereal kind of health food nut. It was the 1970s, so it wasn’t that unusual, but still it drove me crazy. I wanted white bread, Fruit Loops, and Tang—not the crunchy, wholesome food products we’d pick up at the natural foods store. Sure, she cooked that way because she loved us, but I wanted to be like everyone else.

My mom’s do-it-yourself healthy ethos extended to the bread we ate, and it was the rare occasion when there wasn’t dough rising in a bowl or a loaf baking in the oven. (Whole wheat, of course.) Though I’m not complaining—I was a big fan of her homemade bread. Who can resist a warm slice of bread slathered in creamy butter or dipped in honey?

Now, for my birthday every year she’d make me orange cinnamon rolls. They were a flaky, buttery roll laced with a creamy, citrusy frosting. Our whole family loved them. Of course, there was nothing unusual about my mom making rolls—she baked bread all the time. But here’s the strange thing—these orange cinnamon rolls, loaded with white flour and sugar, were not homemade. Instead, these cinnamon rolls came from a can. It was quite the scandalous treat.

Orange pecan cinnamon rolls | Homesick Texan

When I grew older, I began making my own bread. Yet, despite my having no fear when it came to working with yeast, flour, and water, I continued to buy canned orange cinnamon rolls. For some reason, I was afraid to make my own. But one day, I went to pick up a can and the store was out of the orange flavor. If I wanted orange ones, I’d have to bake them myself. This wasn’t a bad thing, as I soon discovered making cinnamon rolls from scratch isn’t terribly complicated. So if you’ve never baked bread or rolls yourself, I highly recommend it. Don’t be afraid!

First, know that his particular dough, which is infused with orange zest and juice, is a pleasure to work with, and after it rises rolling it out is a cinch. You then cover the dough with butter, cinnamon, sugar, and pecans, roll it up, cut it into rolls, and then let them rise once more before baking. While the rolls bake, you whip together the cream cheese frosting, which you’ll spread onto the rolls while they’re still warm. Besides being patient, I’d say the hardest part of the whole process is trying not to eat the whole batch yourself.

As you can see, with a little planning you too can have fresh baked orange pecan cinnamon rolls on the table for breakfast. And they will not only taste better than what you buy at the store, but your home will be filled with the inviting aroma of orange, butter, and cinnamon. Make these for your family and I guarantee they will be pleased.

Orange pecan cinnamon rolls | Homesick Texan

Since I now know homemade cinnamon rolls are not only easy to make but also taste wonderful, I was curious why my mom—who loved to bake and was so into natural food—had made us canned ones instead. “I bought them because y’all loved them,” she said. “They made you happy.” And like a warm batch of cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven, you can’t ask for a better gift than that.

Orange pecan cinnamon rolls | Homesick Texan
5 from 1 vote

Orange pecan cinnamon rolls

Servings 14 rolls
Author Lisa Fain


Ingredients for the rolls:

  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup chopped roasted pecans

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Mix the yeast with the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Stir in the zest, juice, sugar, salt, egg, butter, and 1 cup of the flour. Mix together until a lumpy batter is formed.

  2. Slowly stir in the remaining flour until a soft, pliable dough is formed. Don’t worry if it’s sticky. Cover and let it rest for 15 minutes. After it’s rested, turn the dough out into a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until it’s smooth. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise until it’s doubled in size, about an hour and a half.

  3. Grease two 9-inch round pans, two cast-iron skillets, as I sometimes use. (You can also use a 9×13 baking pan.) On a floured surface, roll out the risen dough into a large rectangle, about 14×9 inches, with the long side facing you. For the filling, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, and zest. Spread the butter on the dough right up to the edges, and then evenly sprinkle the cinnamon mixture and pecans over the butter.

  4. Starting on one of the long sides, roll up the dough to the end and then pinch the ends to seal. Cut off 1-inch slices from the rolled dough, and then place sliced the rolls in the greased baking dishes. Cover and let them rise for an hour. About 15 minutes before they’re done with the second rise, preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  5. Bake the rolls uncovered until the tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. While the rolls are baking, make the frosting by creaming together the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in the juice, zest, vanilla and salt. Spread the frosting onto the rolls while they are still warm.

  6. Serve immediately. You can store them covered and refrigerated for a few days, though they are best eaten the day they are baked.

  1. Anonymous

    oh my goodness sakes, they look so yummy..Congrats upon the James Beard nomination and award I live in the Pacific Northwest and I am so familiar with James Beard, he was alive when we moved back here in 1978 I had a relative who knew him well..his recipes with crab are to literally die for, so you go girl..I will be making soon!

  2. Anon–Thank you! I'll have to try some of his recipes with crab.

  3. The HEBs closest to me don't sell the Pillsbury orange cinnamon rolls anymore! Luckily I occasionally find the Hill Country Fare brand ones. It's funny– as a kid I'd much prefer my mom's pancakes, waffles, or biscuits & gravy. My brother was more of a canned cinnamon roll fiend and she'd make them as a special treat for him sometimes. Now as an adult, I'd kill to be able to eat half a pan of cinnamon rolls without consequence. I wish I could go back and tell my 9 year old self to just hush up and eat the dang cinnamon rolls! 🙂

  4. Also, I just saw the comment about the James Beard nomination! A hearty congrats! I adore your blog and cookbook with all my heart and wish I could bestow 500 James Beard Awards upon you!

  5. Stacey–Ha! I would love to be able to still eat that way, too! And thank you for the congratulations!

  6. oh my! those are perfect!

  7. Rocky Mountain Woman–Thank you!

  8. I used to LOVE the canned orange cinnamon rolls. I imagine they would taste awful to me now.

    But these are going to be a present to ME this weekend.

    Thank you Lisa and congratulations on the James Beard nomination. I am pulling for you!

  9. Liz–That's the best kind of present! And thank you!

  10. These look wonderful! Is this one of the recipes in your new cookbook? And congratulations on the James Beard nomination! Keep the yummy food coming!

  11. Cindy–Thank you! And actually, this recipe isn't in my new cookbook–it's a blog exclusive.

  12. Oh wow, I really want to try these. At the top of my to do list is making cinnamon scrolls at home but I always get a bit scared of anything with yeast, but yours look so amazing, I think I'll give it a go!

  13. Catherine Osborne

    This made me hungry….And the last line made me cry. Thanks for your food and your love of the family and history from which it all comes. And, of course, congratulations on the James Beard nom! So excited for you!

  14. Jessica–Don't be scared! The hardest thing about these is waiting for the dough to rise. Enjoy!

    Catherine–Thank you, dear friend!

  15. I'm from Australia so I've never heard of canned cinnamon rolls but this homemade version looks grand

  16. These look amazing. Far from homemade, I grew up with a can of the orange rolls from the grocery in the fridge. This was back in the day when the canned ones still had bits of real orange peel in the icing; not just food coloring and flavoring. Next time I'm up for a splurge, these might be just right. YUM – and congrats on the J.B. nom.

  17. I love the flavour combo of these muffins – so yummy!

  18. I think I'll make a batch of these this weekend for the people I love. BTW, I'm so pleased for you that you've been nominated for the James Beard award. I love your blog and am eager for Amazon to deliver The Family Table so I can try some of the recipes and read more family stories.

  19. Always love your recipes and stories. Big congrats on the James Beard nomination. Very inspiring!

  20. Always love your recipes and stories. Big congrats on the James Beard nomination. Very inspiring!

  21. Danielle

    Hi! These look wonderful and I want to make some, but I have a question. What type of yeast did you use? I have Fleischmann's Quick-Rise and Fleischmann's Traditional. Thank you!

  22. I loved the canned rolls (so very long ago, they were called Orange Danish Rolls)! Cannot wait to make these. I use your recipes and I am still a Texan – they just make me a much better one.
    Congratulations on the James Beard nomination.

  23. Hey Lisa — we are spending spring break in Sonoma with the kids and have decided to make this yummy treat. Can I make them tonight and then hold them in the fridge until tomorrow morning? Shannon (from Cy-Fair)

  24. Holy cow these look scrumptious! These are on my to-bake list ASAP. Just saw your new book scheduled out on 4/1… HOORAY! MaryO

  25. Elizabeth–You should make them and introduce them to your Australian friends!

    Rebecca–Nothing beats real orange zest! And thank you!

    Katrina–It's a delicious combination!

    Linda–Thank you so much!

    Unknown–Thank you!

    Jessica–Thank you!

  26. Danielle–I used active dry, traditional yeast.

    Karen–What a sweet thing to say. Thank you!

  27. Shannon–Hey lady! Do you want to hold the dough unbaked overnight in the fridge? You can do that. I'd roll and cut them and then refrigerate them. Or you can also bake them tonight and then just re-heat them in the morning.

  28. Mary–Yes, it's coming out soon! I'm pretty excited!

  29. Anonymous

    The rolls look sweet and delicious, but sweeter still is the story. That is real love and real special.

  30. Being married to a Denton, TX man for almost 25 years, I try my best to read your blog and we enjoy so many of your recipes and tales. My dh is good at the Texas tall tales.
    We now live in Portland, OR. and I am making these pecan orange buns tonight, I used a CaraCara orange and some TX pecans, I am a native NYer, but we haven't lived there for years.
    I love reading your blog.

  31. Anonymous

    I just found your blog and am looking forward to reading and participating. From Hillsboro, Texas

  32. I baked these this morning for some girlfriends who were vising. They were delicious! I didn't have any pecans on hand, so I left them out. They were just like the canned orange version that I remember eating as a kid, but without that weird greasy chemical aftertaste/feel. I mixed up the dough and rolled/cut them yesterday, then let them rise in the refrigerator overnight. It worked great. Thanks for the recipe!

  33. A packet of yeast is 2 1/4 teaspoons. Which quantity is correct? Thanks.

  34. Anon–Stories always make food taste better!

    Alyse–There's nothing like some Texas tall tales! I'm so glad y'all are enjoying the recipes.

    Anon–Happy cooking!

    Kim–You're welcome! I'm so pleased y'all enjoyed them.

    Beccaporter–I've updated the ingredients list.

  35. That "creamy,citrusy" is going to stay with me today….

  36. Oh my God! I absolutely have to try this!

  37. I couldn't wait to get home from a work trip to try these rolls. My husband didn't think he'd like an orange/cinnamon flavor or frosting but guess who is eating them all up! So yummy and easy.
    Since you have so generously shared recipes on your blog, it was high time I bought your first book. Now it is pretty much all Homesick Texan all the time – those Dallas cheese tacos and the pesto green bean made a great supper on yet another cold Wisconsin night.
    Congratulations on the James Beard nomination – so well deserved. You and your recipes have made lots of Homesick Texans very happy.

  38. Lisa, I just saw a preview of your cookbook due out in just a few days!! So excited and glad that my copy is already ordered! The Mexican chocolate cake looks awesome!! Actually, all 3 recipes are some that I will have to try very soon!

  39. Mahalo Lisa for this cinnamon rolls recipe !

    Gave me my own idea to incorporate island flavors into the cream cheese frosting!

    We love all things guava and all things lilikoi (passion fruit) over here!

    Aloha !

    • Lisa Fain

      Aloha Keoki! I love that you’re combining guava and lilikoi with this cinnamon roll base. That sounds so wonderful and reminds me that I’m long overdue another trip to Hawaii!

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