Kanelbullar: Swedish Cinnamon Rolls

Swedish Cinnamon Rolls

 The Spruce

Prep: 45 mins
Cook: 7 mins
Rising Time: 105 mins
Total: 2 hrs 37 mins
Servings: 40 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1012 Calories
13g Fat
189g Carbs
31g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 40
Amount per serving
Calories 1012
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Cholesterol 28mg 9%
Sodium 134mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 189g 69%
Dietary Fiber 6g 23%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 31g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 64mg 5%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 282mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

You cannot enjoy a cup of coffee in Sweden without a delicious kanelbullar, the country's version of the cinnamon bun. Unlike the supersized, super-sweet American version dripping with icing (and there's nothing wrong with that), kanelbullar are smaller, less gooey, and less sweet, and are topped with pearl sugar and/or sliced almonds. It’s spice rather than vast amounts of sticky sugar that lend distinction to these light and tasty cinnamon rolls. 

Many Swedish coffee breads, rolls, and buns start with a basic cardamom bread dough. Traditionally, the portions of cinnamon roll dough are formed into a unique shape, making them beautiful to look at as well as wonderful to eat. The technique, however, is a little tricky—twisting a long, thin piece of dough and then wrapping it around itself—so this recipe simply has you roll up the dough like a jelly roll and then slice it into pieces, similar to the cinnamon buns here at home.


For the Dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups milk

  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) plus 1/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted, divided

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom, from about 25 cardamom pods

  • 2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) dry active yeast

  • 8 to 9 cups all-purpose flour, or bread flour

For the Filling:

For Finishing the Cinnamon Rolls:

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • Pearl sugar, for garnish

  • Almonds, sliced and toasted, for garnish

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Swedish cinnamon rolls recipe ingredients for the filling
     The Spruce
  2. Heat the milk to a light boil, turning off the heat when it reaches the scalding point (when small bubbles appear across the top).

    Scalded milk in pot
     The Spruce
  3. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the melted butter, the sugar, salt, and ground cardamom. Let the mixture cool until “finger-warm” (still quite warm, but just cool enough to touch).

    Stirring in melted butter with wooden spoon
     The Spruce
  4. Stir in the yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.

    Adding yeast to pot
     The Spruce
  5. Add the flour to the mixture 1/2 cup at a time until the dough is firm and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. (If using a stand mixer, exchange the mixing paddle for the dough hook after you’ve added the first 5 cups of flour. Use the dough hook to mix and knead the dough as you add the remaining 3 to 4 cups of flour.)

    Dough in mixing bowl
    The Spruce
  6. Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a clean towel and let it rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

    Cover dough for proofing
    The Spruce
  7. Punch down the dough following this first rise, remove from the bowl, and knead lightly on a floured surface until smooth and shiny. Divide the dough in half.

    Separated dough on lightly floured board
    The Spruce
  8. Roll each half of the dough into a 12 by 18-inch rectangle. Brush each rectangle well using the remaining 1/3 cup melted butter.

    Rolled-out dough brushed with butter
    The Spruce

Fill and Roll the Kanelbullar

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Swedish cinnamon rolls recipe ingredients for the dough
    The Spruce
  2. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; sprinkle evenly over the 2 rectangles. Starting at one of the long sides, roll each rectangle like a jelly roll to form an 18-inch-long cylinder.

    Cinnamon sugar mixture sprinkled onto dough
    The Spruce
  3. Using a sharp or serrated knife, cut each cylinder into 20 equal slices.

    Cutting dough into rounds
    The Spruce
  4. Place each slice in a paper cupcake wrapper and place wrappers on a baking sheet. Cover with a towel and allow to double in size, about 45 minutes.

    Cinnamon rolls rising in cupcake wrappers
    The Spruce

Bake the Cinnamon Rolls

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Make the egg wash by mixing together the egg with the water in a small bowl.

  2. Brush the risen cinnamon rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar and/or almonds.

    Adding sugar and almonds to rolls
    The Spruce 
  3. Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for 7 minutes, or until golden and firm.

    Baked Swedish cinnamon rolls on plate
    The Spruce
  4. Serve and enjoy.

Overnight Option

You can make the cinnamon rolls and refrigerate them overnight before baking. Slice the dough, place in the cupcake wrappers on a baking sheet, and store in the fridge for 8 to 12 hours. Remove, cover with a towel, and let rise until double in size, which may take longer since the dough is cold (1 to 1 1/2 hours). Then proceed with the steps for baking.

Cardamom in Sweden

You may be familiar with this strong spice as it pertains to Indian or Middle Eastern cooking (think basmati rice), but perhaps not as an ingredient in a Scandinavian baked good. Believe it or not, Sweden actually consumes more cardamom than most other countries and uses the spice in everything from meat dishes to desserts.

Cardamom is a seed that grows inside a pod; each pod contains several seeds and the entire pod can be used whole or ground up, or the seeds can be removed and then ground for use in recipes. Cardamom is a member of the ginger family and has flavors of lemon, mint, and smoke. Its smell is strong, and it definitely doesn't go unnoticed in a dish. To ground cardamom, toast the whole pods in a dry skillet until fragrant. Then, remove the seeds and pulverize with a mortar and pestle or in a clean coffee grinder. You can find ground cardamom in the spice section of some markets, but the taste will not be as intense; once the seeds are ground, the essential oils lose their flavor.