Kanelbullar: Swedish Cinnamon Rolls

Swedish Cinnamon Rolls

 The Spruce

  • 2 hrs 37 mins
  • Prep: 2 hrs 30 mins,
  • Cook: 7 mins
  • Yield: 40 rolls (40 servings)
Ratings (75)

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 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 into pieces, similar to the cinnamon buns here at home.

What You'll Need

  • For the Dough:
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (melted)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom (from about 25 cardamom pods)
  • 2 packages dry active yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 8 to 9 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
  • For the Filling:
  • 1/3 cup butter (melted)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 egg plus 2 tablespoons water (lightly beaten together into an egg wash)
  • Garnish: pearl sugar and/or toasted sliced almonds

How to Make It

Prepare the Dough

  1. Heat milk to a light boil, turning off heat when it reaches the scalding point (when small bubbles appear across the top).
  2. Stir in melted butter, sugar, salt, and ground cardamom. Let mixture cool until “finger-warm” (still quite warm, but just cool enough to touch).
  3. Stir in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Add flour to mixture 1/2 cup at a time until dough is firm and pulls away from the sides of your 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.)
  1. Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a clean towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  2. Punch down the dough following this first rise, remove from the bowl, and knead lightly on a floured surface until smooth and shiny. Divide dough into two halves.
  3. Roll each half of dough into a 12 by 18-inch rectangle. Brush each rectangle well using the 1/3 cup melted butter.

For the Filling

  1. Combine 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.
  2. Using a sharp or serrated knife, cut each cylinder into 20 equal slices.
  3. 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.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 F. 
  5. Brush risen cinnamon rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar and/or almonds.
  6. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 7 minutes, or until golden and firm.

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 as once the seeds are ground, the essential oils lose their flavor.

Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 103
Total Fat 8 g
Saturated Fat 5 g
Unsaturated Fat 2 g
Cholesterol 25 mg
Sodium 103 mg
Carbohydrates 8 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Protein 1 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)