Sweet Potato Cardamom Buns with Pistachio and Orange

updated Jan 21, 2020
Sweet Potato Cardamom Buns with Pistachio and Orange
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(Image credit: Yossy Arefi )

The secret to a stress-free brunch party? Finding a foolproof, big-batch, crowd-pleasing recipe you can count on every time. This is mine (and should be yours, too).

These fluffy buns are sweet enough to please the pastry-lovers but much less sugary than your average cinnamon roll. Round out the table with a big bowl of fresh fruit and a pot of hot coffee, and you’ve got a pretty perfect breakfast spread on your hands.

(Image credit: Yossy Arefi )

Not Your Average Cinnamon Roll

When I was a kid, I loved unraveling the spirals of a cinnamon roll and slowly eating my way to the gooey center — whether it was a Little Debbie Pecan Spinwheel (my favorite after-school snack) or a giant homemade bun from my dad’s bakery.

But now that I’m an adult, I find traditional cinnamon rolls to be much too sweet. So when I made these sweet potato cinnamon buns for the first time, a lightbulb went off: I could still enjoy the pillowy-soft spirals of a cinnamon bun, but with a less-sweet dough and a totally new flavor combination. Adding the flesh of a cooked sweet potato to the yeasted dough gives these buns their gorgeous orange hue, as well as a slightly earthy flavor that offsets the sweetness, and a bit of moisture that ensures these bake up tender and fluffy, and never, ever dry.

From there, I began experimenting with flavor combinations. Orange is a natural pair for sweet potato (you’ll often find orange juice in sweet potato casserole), so I added orange zest to both the dough and the filling, and made a simple powdered sugar glaze with freshly squeezed juice. Warm, slightly-spicy cardamom tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes, making it the perfect spice to swap in for cinnamon. Chopped pistachios add a bit of crunch and a gorgeous pop of green, signaling the start of spring. Lastly, opting to sweeten the buns with dark brown sugar instead of granulated gives them a more complex, molasses-like flavor.

If you’re hosting brunch on the later side, you can wake up and make these the morning of. But if you want to serve warm buns to early risers, see the Recipe Notes below for how to prep the dough in advance.

Sweet Potato Cardamom Buns with Pistachio and Orange

Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours

Cook time 20 minutes to 30 minutes

Makes 12 buns

Nutritional Info


For the dough:

  • 2/3 cup

    whole milk

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing the bowl and baking dish

  • 1/2 cup

    cooked sweet potato flesh (from 1 small roasted and/or microwaved sweet potato)

  • 1

    large egg, beaten

  • 3 to 3 1/4 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

  • 1/4 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet

    active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)

  • 1 tablespoon

    finely grated orange zest

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cardamom

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, at room temperature (should be very soft)

  • 1 tablespoon

    finely grated orange zest

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cardamom

  • 1/3 cup

    salted or unsalted toasted pistachios (1 1/2 ounces), finely chopped

For the buns/glaze:

  • 1

    large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

  • 1 cup

    powdered sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    freshly squeezed orange juice

  • Pinch kosher salt


Make the dough:

  1. Heat the milk and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter melts, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool for about 5 minutes. Add the sweet potato and egg and stir to combine (some lumps are ok).

  2. Place 3 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, orange zest, cardamom, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the warm milk mixture. Knead the dough on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If the dough is too sticky to handle, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour a tablespoon at a time.

  3. Remove the dough from the bowl. Lightly grease the bowl with butter, then return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough has doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Make the filling:

  1. Place the brown sugar, butter, orange zest, salt, and cardamom in a small bowl and mix until combined and spreadable.

  2. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter. Place the dough on a very lightly floured work surface. Roll it into a 10x12-inch rectangle with the longer side facing you. Spread the cardamom butter evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with the pistachios and gently press them into the butter. Tightly roll up the dough and pinch the top seam closed.

  3. Cut the roll crosswise into 12 pieces. Place the buns in the baking dish cut-side up. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the buns have puffed and are nestled closer to each other, 1 hour to 90 minutes.

  4. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Uncover the buns and brush with the beaten egg. Bake until golden-brown and puffed, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Make the glaze:

  1. Place the powdered sugar, orange juice, and salt in a small bowl and stir with a fork until a thick but pourable glaze forms. Drizzle over the still-warm rolls.

Recipe Notes

Untoasted pistachios: If you buy raw pistachios, toast at 325°F until fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Make ahead: If you'd like warm buns for breakfast, follow the recipe through the first rise, then fill and place the buns in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, a few hours before you plan to eat, let the chilled buns come to room temperature and double in size again. Bake according to recipe instructions.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtght container at room temperature up to 3 days.