How to Make Soft and Tender Dinner Rolls

How to Make Soft and Tender Dinner Rolls

Emma Christensen
Apr 9, 2013

What's a dinner party without a basket of warm rolls on the table? The softer and fluffier the better, I say. All the better to sop up those last bits of sauce. Here's how I make my absolute favorite, foolproof dinner rolls, a perfect addition to any table.

These are dinner rolls that you can trust. They are soft and tender, but with enough substance to them that they won't break apart under the butter knife. They have a mild sweetness that goes equally well with a Sunday chicken dinner or a casual potluck brunch.

You can make these rolls from start to finish in the span of a few hours, and they are excellent fresh from the oven. All those recipes that tell you to wait until the bread is cool before eating? Don't listen to them here. For mid-week meals, freeze a batch and warm them up for a few minutes in the oven before serving.

Very astute observers will note that this recipe is nearly identical to our recipe for Hamburger Buns. That's because I love the dough from that recipe so much that I use it any time I want a tender, soft bread to go with our meals. (Heck, the recipe is also pretty close to my favorite Sandwich Bread recipe, too!) For these dinner rolls, I just divide the dough into more pieces to make smaller buns and bake them in a casserole dish to help them reach puffy perfection — and also because the tear-away edges make me nostalgic for my grandmother's rolls.

How to Make Soft & Tender Dinner Rolls

Makes 12 rolls

What You Need


  • 1 tablespoon

    active-dry yeast

  • 1/2 cup

    (4 oz) warm water

  • 1/2 cup

    (4 oz) milk (whole, 2%, or skim)

  • 1

    large egg

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 1 teaspoon


  • 3 cups

    (15 oz) all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon


  • Equipment
  • Standing mixer or a mixing bowl, if making rolls by hand

  • Bench scraper or sharp knife

  • Parchment paper

  • 9x13 baking dish


  1. Combine the ingredients for the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl, if mixing by hand), stir the yeast into the warm water and let it sit until dissolved. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, oil, sugar, and salt. Add this to the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Add all the flour and stir until it forms a shaggy dough.

  2. Knead the dough: Knead at low speed, or by hand against the counter, for 8-10 minutes, until smooth but slightly tacky. It should spring back when poked.

  3. Let the dough rise: Cover the mixing bowl and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

  4. Shape the rolls: Dust your work surface with a little flour and turn the risen dough out on top. Divide the dough into 12 pieces with a bench scraper. To shape into rolls, tuck the edges underneath to form a plump little package, then roll the dough against the counter or between your palms until round.

    → Read more about this technique: How to Shape Dinner Rolls.

  5. Heat the oven and let the rolls rise: Line a 9x13 pan with parchment and spray with nonstick coating. Arrange the rolls inside the pan spaced a little apart. Let the rolls rise until they look pillowy and fill the pan roughly 30-40 minutes.

    While the rolls are rising, pre-heat the oven to 375°F.

  6. Brush the rolls with butter. Melt the butter and brush it over the risen dinner rolls. This helps the tops to brown and keeps the crust soft.

  7. Bake the rolls: Bake the rolls until golden, 15-18 minutes. Lift the rolls from the pan using the parchment and let the rolls cool on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. They are best if eaten within a day or two, but will keep in an airtight container on the counter for up to a week. Rolls can also be frozen for up to 3 months and reheated in a warm oven (See Recipe Note).

Recipe Notes

Whole Wheat Rolls: Substitute 1/2-1 cup of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and prepare the recipe as usual. The texture of the rolls will be a bit more dense, but still very delicious.

Doubling the Recipe: Double all of the ingredients except for the yeast. To make even more rolls, it's best to prepare separate batches as the dough becomes too cumbersome to work with easily.

Baking Rolls on a Sheet Pan: These rolls can also be backed on a sheet pan if you'd prefer not to have the tear-away edges. Line a sheet pan with parchment or non-stick liner and space the rolls a few inches apart.

Freezing Dinner Rolls: Dinner rolls can be made and frozen for up to 3 months. See more about here: How to Freeze & Reheat Dinner Rolls.

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(Images: Emma Christensen)

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