Soft Cinnamon Rolls with Sesame

5 from 4 votes
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Soft cinnamon rolls made with a Japanese milk bread formula to create an airy, fluffy texture with a crispy crust, stuffed with cinnamon sugar and a buttery sesame paste. Using a mixer, they’re easy to put together. And I guarantee you the result is addictively good. Detailed storage and reheating processes are included, but you probably won’t need them since it’s so easy to finish half a dozen of them in one sitting.

Soft cinnamon rolls

I can’t get over these soft cinnamon rolls lately. It’s one of the creations born since I introduced Lilja to the team, and it combines American comfort food with an Asian twist. As I remember, the conversation started with how much I loved Cinnabon, even though it gives me a food coma immediately after I consume one. Then I tossed out the idea that it would taste great if we put some Chinese sesame paste into the filling of a cinnamon bun.

I was inspired by the Chinese sesame steamed bun (Hua Juan). It uses a yeast dough to create cinnamon roll shaped buns, stuffed with sesame paste and sugar. My grandma used to make them all the time and they were a favorite childhood snack of mine. Long story short, Lilja made these soft cinnamon rolls with a Japanese milk bread dough we’ve been working on lately. I was blown away by the result.

The cinnamon rolls are so airy and light, with an amazing soft texture. They’re also beautifully caramelized on top, where there is a crispy sugar crust. The buttery sesame paste adds moisture to the dough and a Cinnabon-style sticky fragrant goop inside. We made a dozen and they were gone the next day. And I wanted more. That’s why I also shared a video of how to make them. Because (1) I couldn’t wait to show you how easy it is to make them so you can enjoy their heavenly taste. (2) I wanted to eat more soft cinnamon rolls so I cooked another batch and shot video of it.

Soft cinnamon rolls close-up

Why this recipe

1. Japanese milk bread dough

The recipe uses milk bread dough that yields super soft results, but it’s just hard enough to hold a lot of filling. Compared to many milk bread dough recipes, this one doesn’t require a starter and it’s easy to put together. Look no further if you want your cinnamon rolls extra soft.

2. Sticky filling made better with sesame

On top of the regular cinnamon sugar, the filling also uses a butter and Chinese sesame paste mixture to give it a nutty taste and moist texture. If you like the taste of sesame, you’ll love this.

3. Easy to make

All you need to do is add ingredients and use a standard kitchen mixer to knead the dough. I know the ingredient list looks quite long, but once you watch the video, you’ll see how easy it is to put together.

Cinnamon rolls in a pan with glaze

Cooking process

1. Prepare the dough – 1st rise

The recipe starts by activating the yeast. Even though you can get away without this step, I feel that it’s quite necessary to make sure your yeast is fresh and will work properly. So you don’t end up wasting a lot of time and ingredients with expired yeast.

Once you put the dough together, let it sit for 20 minutes to let the yeast work.

Then add the rest of the wet ingredients and knead it with a mixer until the dough is smooth.

Rest the dough for about 1 hour.

Prepare dough for homemade cinnamon rolls

2. Make the filling – what is sesame paste and how to adapt it

This recipe uses Chinese sesame paste. It’s similar to tahini, but it’s made from toasted sesame seeds, which give it a darker color and nuttier taste.

If you want a more intense sesame taste, feel free to replace the sesame paste with black sesame paste.

To make the filling, simply whisk the sesame paste together with softened butter.

Making sesame paste mixture for cinnamon roll filling

3. Assemble – 2nd rise

The dough will double in size once rested, as well as become soft and silky. You’ll need to punch the dough to squeeze out the air, so the end result will have an even texture.

Roll out dough for homemade cinnamon rolls

Then roll out the dough into a rectangle, add a layer of sesame paste, then the cinnamon sugar.

Adding filling for cinnamon rolls with sesame

It’s quite a lot of filling, but I feel the dough is actually easier to roll because the sticky sesame paste helps keep the sugar in place.

Once cut, let the cinnamon rolls rest a second time before baking.

Assemble homemade cinnamon rolls

Unbaked cinnamon rolls after the 2nd rise

4. Bake and glaze

The rest is easy. Simply bake the rolls until crispy on the outside and soft inside.

You can whisk the glaze together while the rolls bake. It takes 2 minutes. I added some sesame paste to the glaze, as well, to give it an extra sesame boost.

Mix glaze for cinnamon rolls

Note, this recipe makes a lot of glaze and you might not need it all. I personally like my cinnamon rolls not overly sweet, so I only drizzled a very thin layer of glaze. Feel free to use it all if you have a sweet tooth.

One the cinnamon buns are baked, add the glaze and serve them hot. They taste heavenly when they’re fresh out of the oven (be careful, the sugar filling will be very hot!).

Glaze freshly baked cinnamon rolls

In case you need to store these rolls for a longer time (which is unlikely since they usually disappear very quickly), I’ve also included instructions on how to freeze and reheat them in the recipe below.


Even though I’m quite confident in my photography skills, I feel like these photos don’t do the cinnamon rolls justice. They are THAT good. No further explanation needed. Watch my video and see their texture in real time. Hope you enjoy!

Cinnamon rolls filled with sesame paste

More delicious sweets & dessert

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Soft Cinnamon Rolls with Sesame | Easy homemade cinnamon rolls made with a Japanese milk bread formula to create an airy, fluffy texture with a crispy crust, stuffed with cinnamon sugar and a buttery sesame paste. Using a mixer, they’re easy to put together and the result is better than Cinnabon. Cooking video is included

Soft Cinnamon Rolls with Sesame

5 from 4 votes
Soft cinnamon rolls made with a Japanese milk bread formula to create an airy, fluffy texture with a crispy crust, stuffed with cinnamon sugar and a buttery sesame paste. Using a mixer, they’re easy to put together. And I guarantee you the result is addictively good. Detailed storage and reheating processes are included, but you probably won’t need them since it’s so easy to finish half a dozen of them in one sitting.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: asian american fusion
Keyword: comfort food
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Resting Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 12 rolls



  • 300 g (2 1/3 cup) bread flour
  • 40 g (3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon) sugar
  • 4 g (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 7 g (2 teaspoons / 1 packet) dry active yeast
  • 135 ml (3/4 cup) whole milk
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter , melted & cooled
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame paste


  • 4 tablespoons butter , softened
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame paste
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt



Prepare the dough

  • Warm milk to approximately 100-110°F (38°C), about 30 seconds in the microwave. The milk should be warm, just a bit above body temperature. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and the active dry yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes so the yeast will activate.
  • While the yeast activates, combine the flour, salt, and remaining sugar in the bowl of your mixer.
  • Once the yeast is activated, you should see bubbles on the surface of the mixture. Pour it onto the flour mixture. Add the heavy cream, egg, butter, and sesame paste. Stir with a spatula until everything just comes together (do not over stir). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
  • Install the dough hook on your mixer (I used a KitchenAid). Start at low speed, then gradually increase to setting 6 out of 10. Knead for 10 to 12 minutes, until the dough is very smooth. Test the dough by pulling a piece of it using both of your hands. It should stretch into a very thin and translucent sheet. The dough should be soft, a bit sticky, but not stick to your fingers.
  • Grease a big bowl with a thin layer of oil. Place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until the dough doubles in size, 50 to 70 minutes.

Prepare the filling

  • Prepare the filling while resting the dough. Combine the softened butter with the sesame paste in a small bowl. Stir until it forms a smooth mixture.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon powder, and salt. Stir to mix well.


  • Line a 13” x 9” (33cm x 23 cm) baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Punch the air out of the dough. Transfer it onto a lightly floured working surface. Use your hands to form the dough into a rectangle so it’s easy to roll.
  • Roll the dough with a rolling pin until it forms a 17”x13” (43cm x 33cm) rectangular sheet. Use a dough cutter or a knife to slice off the irregular edges and discard.
  • Add the butter sesame paste mixture onto the dough. Use the back of a spoon to spread it out into a thin, even layer. Make sure to leave a thin gap on the top of the long edge without the paste, so it won't spill when you roll up the dough.
  • Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the sesame paste.
  • Starting at the top of the long side (17” / 43cm), tightly roll the dough towards yourself into a long log. Once fully rolled, make sure the seam is tableside down. Press gently to seal.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the dough. Slice off the irregular part on both edges and discard the dough. Score the roll, once in the center, then in the center of the two halves, then 3 times between each quarter. Slice along the scored lines, making 12 cinnamon rolls. Transfer the cinnamon rolls onto the parchment paper, evenly spaced, in a 4 by 3 array.
  • Cover the baking pan with plastic wrap. Let rise again for 30 minutes.

Bake & garnish

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F (176° C). Bake the cinnamon rolls on the middle rack for 25 minutes. The top of the cinnamon rolls should turn golden brown, and the inside fully cooked.
  • Prepare the glaze while the rolls are baking. Whisk together the confectioners sugar, milk, and sesame paste in a small bowl, until it forms a runny glaze.
  • Once the cinnamon rolls are baked, let rest for 5 minutes. Drizzle the glaze on top of the rolls.

Serve and store

  • I highly recommend serving the cinnamon rolls when they’re fresh out of the oven and still warm. At this point, they’re super soft inside and crispy on the outside.
  • Once cooled completely, you can store them in an airtight container on your kitchen counter for 1 to 2 days. Due to the very soft and moist dough, the cinnamon rolls will have dried out a bit by the second day. I usually microwave a roll for 10 seconds or leave it in a 350° F (176° C) oven to warm up before serving.
  • For longer storage, place the cinnamon rolls in a ziplock bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and store them in the freezer for up to a month. To reheat, bake the cinnamon rolls at 350° F (176° C) without thawing, until warm throughout, 10 minutes or so.



Serving: 12g, Calories: 271kcal, Carbohydrates: 40.3g, Protein: 5.3g, Fat: 11.7g, Saturated Fat: 5.4g, Cholesterol: 37mg, Sodium: 151mg, Potassium: 142mg, Fiber: 8.4g, Sugar: 9.5g, Calcium: 188mg, Iron: 3mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don't forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!
Soft Cinnamon Rolls with Sesame | Easy homemade cinnamon rolls made with a Japanese milk bread formula to create an airy, fluffy texture with a crispy crust, stuffed with cinnamon sugar and a buttery sesame paste. Using a mixer, they’re easy to put together and the result is better than Cinnabon. Cooking video is included

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. a happy cyclist says:

    5 stars
    Very creative using the Chinese sesame paste to make these rolls. Thank you for indulging your readers with the step- by- step photos so we know how to make them perfectly with even cuts. I will definitely give this one a try.

  2. Vivian says:

    I love making breads and any recipe using and working with dough. I made this today and it’s delicious! My husband loves the buns as well. It’s one I’ll definitely make many times over!

  3. Melanie Sparkes says:

    5 stars
    Hi I don’t normally make sweet things and prefer savoury dishes but I thought I’d try these. I don’t have an electric mixer so I kneaded the dough by hand but am really pleased with the result. I had to knead it for a good 15/20 mins! but they were well worth the effort. Thank you and congratulations on creating the recipe.

  4. sara says:

    5 stars
    Incredible!! Great texture. So soft and the sesame was a perfect addition. Our family enjoyed quarantine baking these. So delicious!!

  5. Susan says:

    Hi Maggie. I missed it when you originally posted this recipe, but came across it today, and watched the video and read the recipe, l am so intrigued by this recipe; the milk-dough and its’ soft translucent qualities, and the savory -sweet filling. Believe it or not, even though I adore sesame oil, I have never used sesame paste! But as soon as I have picked some up (a challenge during these COVID-19 days, have only been out of the house once in the last month ), I will be making these rolls. As I was watching you put together the filling on the video, I wondered if 2 – 3 teaspoons of Dutch-process cocoa wouldn’t really enhance the depth of flavor for the filling. Rather than creating a chocolatey flavor, it should simply add richness. Maybe I am way off, but I am guessing it would add to the savory, not-too-sweet maybe-bittersweet flavor. Just a thought! BTW, whenever I read one of your posts, I notice how beautiful you are.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Susan, thanks so much for your kind words! I’ve never tried adding cocoa in the cinnamon buns, so I have no idea. I hope you can get some sesame paste soon so you can test it out 🙂

    • Vy says:

      Trying to make these buns now and for some reason they aren’t rising (doubling in size) at all on the second rise before bake. The rolls seemed to have stayed the same size even though the first rise with just the dough worked just fine. Any ideas?

      • Maggie says:

        The second rise will be less obvious once you fill the buns, but you should be able to the the changes.
        One reason I can think of is, maybe you rolled the dough too much so too much air bubbles were squeeze out, which will affect the rise. Did the roll rise during the baking and taste OK at the end?

  6. Jennifer Wong says:

    I want to make these today but don’t have sesame paste on hand – any substitute recommended?

    • Maggie says:

      Peanut butter or tahini will work!

  7. Sherry says:

    Hi isit salted or unsalted butter? Heavy cream means whipping cream?

    • Maggie says:

      The recipe uses unsalted butter.
      No, heavy cream contains 39% of fat, while whipping cream contains anywhere between 30% and 36% fat. I would recommend heavy cream if you have them since it’s the one I used to make this recipe. But I think whipping cream should work as well.

  8. Marija says:

    5 stars
    I used a hand-held mixer to make these; I also had to add a couple of tablespoons of flour, probably because the flour I have here is slightly different from the all-purpose flour. The dough was lovely, very, very soft, and the end result was spectacular. The rolls were fluffy and delicious, and much easier on the stomach than the cinnamon rolls I usually make. The three of us polished it all off in a matter of hours.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      So happy to hear you made this one and enjoyed it! It is not a “standard” cinnamon roll recipe but I love it so much 🙂 I also have the same trouble, I will eat too much if I cook them!

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