Kitchn Love Letters

This $2 Boxed Mix Is My Mom’s Secret Ingredient for Holiday Parties

published Dec 18, 2023
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Credit: Minette Hand/Apartment Therapy

When I recall church potlucks and holiday family gatherings from childhood, the memories aren’t complete without a festive plate of sausage bread. My mom is a fantastic cook; she makes a mean meatloaf and the best pork chops I’ve ever had, but baking was always my territory. Sausage bread is her one unbeatable, tastes-totally-homemade (but isn’t) MVP. 

Her recipe for the meat- and cheese-filled dough actually begins with a box of Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix, an item that too often gets overlooked in the baking aisle.

Credit: Bridget Gutish

What’s So Great About Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix?

I’m known to scoff at boxed baking mixes. Why pay (sometimes more) money for a lower-quality version of something that isn’t really that difficult or time-consuming to make from scratch? My grandmother, who is a cake mix aficionado, recognized this in me on my 12th birthday when she gifted me a copy of Anne Byrne’s The Cake Mix Doctor Returns. To this day, when I find myself using a box of brownie mix, I still face an insatiable urge to add ingredients or tweak components to make it my own (a sprinkle of espresso powder never hurts!). 

Pillsbury’s Hot Roll Mix is the one I’ve never felt the need to mess with. It’s straightforward and, dare I say, foolproof — even for those who are newer to baking.

The mix comes with a flour blend and a separate packet of yeast, with instructions to add hot water, butter, and an egg. The standard recipe on the back of the box yields delightful dinner rolls when followed to a T. The cinnamon roll recipe (detailed on the side), which my mom routinely makes on Christmas morning, is also solid. I cannot in good faith say they’re the greatest cinnamon rolls in the world, but they’re sweet, cinnamon-y, and satisfying. However, where the hot roll mix really shines is in sausage bread. Once baked, this simple yeast dough becomes soft and pillowy, with a slight crunch on the exterior.

Credit: Bridget Gutish

What’s the Best Way to Use Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix?

The beauty of sausage bread lies in its simplicity. As the original recipe card in my mother’s recipe book explains, it all begins with the hot roll mix. I follow the recipe on the box through the first rise. After rolling out the dough into two large rectangles — thin enough to almost tear — I spread two pounds of cooked ground sausage mixed with mozzarella, some dry oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and two eggs. I roll the dough into a log (in a similar fashion to cinnamon rolls), dot with butter, and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. There will appear to be more filling than is reasonable for the amount of dough; hold steady and roll the dough thin, the bread will puff up nicely to hold the filling.

Allow the bread 10 or so minutes to cool to allow the filling to stay put when sliced, and prepare to astonish your guests. Out of all the things I make and bring to potlucks, this one is my most-requested recipe. Sausage bread is a perfect dance of soft and gooey, crunchy and yeasty.

Recently, I even tried making the sausage bread dough totally from scratch. I thought it would be brilliant to not have to seek out the mix at a store. I can find it in exactly two places in my mid-size Midwestern town these days: Walmart and Menards (a fantastic regional home improvement chain, for the uninitiated). But it just wasn’t the same. Sausage bread isn’t sausage bread without the hot roll mix. 

Buy: Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix, $2.44 for 16 ounces at Walmart

What store-bought holiday mixes do you swear by? Tell us about it in the comments below.