Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls-an Amazing Bread Machine Recipe

Sneak Preview: These Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls (aka Japanese milk bread cinnamon rolls) employ the Tangzhong technique and a bread machine to make a soft and fluffy sweet roll that stays fresh longer than most homemade cinnamon rolls. Mix and knead the dough in your bread machine, shape it by hand, and bake it in your conventional oven.

Stay-Fresh Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls Baked and icedPin

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Cinnamon rolls are like donuts. They taste best the day you bake them. But sometimes, you want or need to make and bake them ahead of time. 

Making Cinnamon Rolls with the Tangzhong technique (aka Japanese milk bread) and a bread machine is the answer to your dilemma.

To be clear. Nothing beats a fresh-out-of-the-oven cinnamon roll. But unless you have ten hungry kids waiting to devour them before the icing sets, these are wonderful for savoring over several days.

No worries if you don’t have a bread machine. See directions in the recipe notes for using a stand mixer or mixing by hand.

Why these milk bread cinnamon rolls are the BEST:

Using the Tangzhong technique extends the shelf-life of these homemade Cinnamon Rolls longer than most homemade rolls.

They are appropriately ooey-gooey with a lighter, flakier, and more buttery texture.  Counterbalance all that sweetness with the spicy but not overpowering flavor of cinnamon with the tiniest pinch of ground cloves.

What’s different about the method of mixing with the Tangzhong technique?

1. Begin by making a paste mixture using half of the milk and 3 tablespoons of flour.

 This variation is called the Tangzhong technique. I use the microwave for cooking the paste because it’s quick. However, if you prefer, heat the milk and flour mixture in a small saucepan using medium heat on the stove.

It’s only one extra step. After you do it once, it won’t add much time beyond what’s required for normal cinnamon rolls

2. The Tangzhong method enables a higher ratio of liquid to flour.

Using the paste mixture made in step #1 results in a dough that needs less flour. In this particular recipe, the liquid (milk, egg, and heavy cream) equals 292 grams. The amount of flour is 360 grams. This works out to 81% hydration.

3. What is the purpose of using the Tangzhong method?

This method produces rolls that are softer, fluffier, and almost flaky. The simple Tangzhong technique also seems to prolong the shelf life or freshness of homemade bread which generally contains no preservatives.

Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls  with a single roll pulled out.Pin

How to mix up cinnamon rolls with a bread machine:

making the flour/milk pastePin

1. Whisk 3 tablespoons of flour into 1/2 cup of milk. Cook in the microwave for 1+ minutes, whisking every 30 seconds until the mixture turns into a thick pudding consistency. Don’t worry if there are a few small lumps. If you accidentally let it overcook into a single mass, it’s best to start over and watch it closer.

adding the pudding to the bread machine.Pin

2. Add the remaining 1/2 cup milk to “pudding” and pour it into your bread machine.

add remaining ingredients and choose "Dough" cycle.Pin

3. Add the rest of the ingredients. Set the machine on the DOUGH cycle and press “Start.” 

The dough should look smooth and shiny like this when the kneading is almost done.Pin

4. About 10-15 minutes into the cycle, take a peek. The dough should stick to the side and pull away cleanly. See pictures and more details about why this is so important here.

The dough should look similar to this picture when the kneading has finished.

Dough is almost ready to remove from the pan with it doubles in volumePin

5. After the dough cycle is finished, check that the dough has risen to nearly double the original size. If not, leave the dough in the machine until it does.

the dough at the end of the DOUGH cycle.Pin

6. When ready to roll out, two fingers poked in the dough will leave an indentation that won’t fill in.

Note to new bread machine users:

Open the lid to your bread machine as it mixes, and take a look at the dough. Check to see if the dough has the right consistency. It should stick to the side, then release cleanly. If you want more information about this process, go here to read the secret to making better bread in a bread machine.

At first, the dough will be lumpy with a rough texture. However, after about 20 minutes of kneading, it should begin to look smoother and more elastic.

If too slack, add additional flour one tablespoon at a time. Likewise, if too dry, add more milk or cream, one tablespoon at a time. Allow the dough to absorb one tablespoon of flour or liquid for a few minutes. Then, look at the dough again to recheck the appearance of your dough.

Checking on the dough is VERY IMPORTANT to your success with bread in general, but especially with a bread machine.

How to roll out cinnamon rolls:

Nothing new here. This method is the traditional way to roll out cinnamon rolls.

lightly-floured work surface using a Silpat mat.Pin

Remove dough from your bread maker pan to a floured surface.

dividing the dough into two portions.Pin

Divide dough into 2 equally-sized dough balls. Roll out one dough ball into a 13 x 10-inch rectangle.

rolling out the Tangzhong dough.Pin

Spread softened butter over the rectangle.

sprinkling cinnamon and sugar on the doughPin

Sprinkle the buttered surface with the brown sugar and ground cinnamon mixture.

rolling up dough with the cinnamon and sugar on itPin

Begin rolling from the long side to make a cylinder as tight as possible.

cutting the dough into portionsPin

Cut rolled cylinder in half. Use a serrated knife or dental floss to cut each half into four evenly-sized slices.

cinnamons rolls before the second risePin

Arrange in a 9-inch round baking pan sprayed with Baker’s Joy or a similar flour-oil aerosol.

Tangzhong rolls covered with a a shower cap after shapingPin

Cover the rolls lightly. Use a cheap shower cap, a tea towel, or loose plastic wrap.

cinnamon rolls after second rise and ready to bakePin

When the dough has almost doubled in size, preheat the oven to 375˚F in preparation for baking. Be careful not to let rolls rise too much, or they will fall when baking.

Baker’s tip for rolling out the dough:

Cleaning after rolling out dough on the counter can be such a mess! Consequently, I use a silicone baking mat. When finished, shake the mat out in the trash or the sink, then throw it in the dishwasher. Yep! That easy.

Just one caveat: If you cut on it as I do, use a light hand, so you don’t slice a hole in the mat. I know, I know. Of course, the manufacturer of these mats would not endorse this practice. But I’ve been doing it for many years, and the process has not harmed a single mat.

FAQ about making cinnamon rolls with a bread machine

What does Tangzhong mean in English?

According to Wikipedia, it literally means “water roux.” Tangzhong is a Chinese term. Yudane is the Japanese name for a similar technique. Japanese milk bread is a common name for bread made with either of these techniques.

Why use a bread machine to make cinnamon rolls?

In my experience, the bread machine is the easiest and most fool-proof way to get the best product. Nothing kneads better than a bread machine. In addition, the DOUGH cycle automates the mixing and kneading so you can walk away and know the machine is kneading the dough to perfection.

No bread machine? See alternate instructions for making these rolls with a stand mixer in the notes of the recipe.

Can I substitute regular yeast for the bread machine or instant yeast? 

Yes. Active dry yeast no longer needs to be dissolved. Use the same amount listed. Be aware that sometimes it can be a little slower in rising. Be patient.

Can I mix these cinnamon rolls the night before and bake them the following day?

Yes. After you make the dough into rolls and have arranged them in the pan, cover and refrigerate. You can also freeze them at this point. Either way, allow extra time for the rolls to come to room temperature and double (almost) in volume before baking them.

Can I use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour for these rolls?

Yes. The texture will be slightly chewier. Use all-purpose flour for the tenderest rolls. Also, the amount of liquid you need may vary if you use bread flour. Be sure to check the moisture of the dough as it’s kneading.

How can I make my cinnamon rolls less dry?

First, weigh the flour instead of using measuring cups. People who don’t measure nearly always add too much flour. Second, check the moisture of the dough while it kneads in the bread machine. It should stick to the sides, then pull away cleanly. Third, use a quick-read thermometer to know for sure when the rolls are done. The internal temperature should reach 190˚F. Be careful not to take the temperature in the gooey filling which will read hotter.

Can I freeze this dough ahead of time?

Yes. Freeze the unshaped dough as soon as the DOUGH cycle ends. Alternatively, freeze the shaped rolls before the final rise. Double wrap and store either in the freezer for up to a month.

When ready to use, let the dough thaw and shape the rolls. Allow a final rise before you bake them. If you froze shaped rolls, allow them to thaw and become puffy before baking them as directed.

Can I freeze the baked rolls?

Yes. Double-wrap them and eat them within a month. The rolls will taste pretty good if you zap them briefly in the microwave and eat them immediately.

Parting thoughts: Are you wondering if these cinnamon rolls are worth the bit of extra trouble? I think so. To me, Tangzhong cinnamon rolls have a better texture and flavor than most cinnamon rolls. However, we all have different tastes, standards, and priorities. So, if you want a more straightforward recipe, try my original cinnamon roll recipe.

If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately for a quick answer: Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! 

iced Tangzhong cinnamon rollsPin

Terrific Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls from Your Bread Machine

Paula Rhodes
These cinnamon rolls are so soft, buttery, and ooey-gooey, they probably won't last more than one day. But if you have leftovers, you'll be surprised at how long they stay fresh.
4.63 from 32 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Rising Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 5 mins
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 16 rolls
Calories 261 kcal




  • 1 cup whole milk - divided (227 gr)
  • 3 cups unbleached flour - divided (360 gr)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter - 57 gr + 4 tablespoons for the filling (57 gr)
  • 1 egg - 50 gr
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream - 15 gr OR 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar - 12 gr
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon salt - 4 gr
  • 2 teaspoons bread-machine or instant yeast - 6 gr


  • ¾ cup brown sugar - 160 gr
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon - 2.6 gr
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • ½ cup chopped - toasted pecans (optional) (57 gr)


  • 2 cups powdered sugar - 227 gr
  • 2 tablespoons coffee - leftover or instant is good enough or milk (28 gr)
  • 1 ounce softened cream cheese - 28 gr



  • Measure out 1 cup of milk (227 g). In a separate small bowl, measure out 3 cups flour (360g).
  • Make a flour paste by whisking 3 tablespoons of the flour you just measured out and half of the milk (1/2 cup) together in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Cook on HIGH in the microwave for 1 minute, whisking every 30 seconds. Cook an additional 15-30 seconds, if necessary until the mixture is as thick as pudding.
  • Whisk the other 1/2 cup of milk into the flour paste mixture until it is fairly smooth.
  • Add 1 egg (50 g), 1 T heavy cream(15 g) or 1 egg yolk, 1 T sugar (12 g), 1¼ t salt (4 g), 4 T of softened butter, the remaining flour, and yeast to the pan and select the DOUGH cycle. Press START.
  • Check the dough at least twice by lifting the lid to take a peek. Do this right after the machine starts to see if the paddles are correctly engaged and the dough is starting to form a ball.
    Recheck the consistency of the dough again 15 minutes into the DOUGH cycle.
    If your dough is too wet, add flour one tablespoon at a time. The dough should stick to the side, then pull away cleanly.
    Conversely, if the dough is too dry, add one tablespoon of liquid at a time until the dough looks just right. Find out more about this surprising secret to success with a bread machine here.
  • When the DOUGH cycle finishes, check to see if the dough has risen to double its original size. If so, remove it to a floured surface. If not, allow the dough to remain in the machine until it is double, then remove and proceed with the next step.

Shaping the rolls:

  • Remove it from the bread pan, push down gently and divide dough in half. On a generously floured surface, roll each half into a rectangle size about 13 x 10 inches.
  • Spread each rectangle with approximately 2 tablespoons of softened butter or heavy cream.


  • Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.
  • Distribute half of this mixture over first rectangle and half over the second. Sprinkle about 1/4 c. chopped, toasted, pecans over the brown-sugar/cinnamon layer.
  • Roll up dough the long way. Slice into 8 equal pieces. Place cut side down into greased 8-inch pan or glass dish.
  • Cover and let rise until almost double in a warm, moist place. Rolls should be touching each other when they have proofed enough.
  • About 15 minutes before rolls will be ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Bake rolls for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.


  • Ice with 2 cups confectioners sugar mixed with 1-ounce cream cheese and 2 tablespoons coffee. You may need more or less liquid depending on how thick you like your icing.


  1. You only need a pinch of cloves. But don’t overdo it because that stuff is potent. (You can leave it out, but then your cinnamon rolls won’t be as special. Promise!)
  2. Substitute milk or cream for coffee in the icing if you don’t have or like coffee. The coffee taste is unidentifiable, but it sure is GOOD! It makes for a nice caramel color, too.
Directions for making bread with a stand mixer or by hand:
  • To make this recipe in a heavy-duty stand mixer:  Add ingredients to the bowl in the same order. Turn on LOW to mix until all ingredients are moistened. Then, using a dough hook, turn the speed to 2 or 3. Continue beating/kneading until dough becomes smooth and elastic (about 5-10 minutes). Cover and allow to rise in a warm place. Deflate dough gently and shape as indicated in the recipe.
  • If making by hand: Combine all ingredients into a shaggy ball in a large bowl. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead with your hands until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Kneading will likely take 10-20 minutes, depending on your experience. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise until double. Deflate the dough gently and shape as indicated in the recipe.
  • Please note: If you only have active dry yeast, use 1/4 teaspoon more than called for in the recipe. It no longer needs to be dissolved first, but you can if you prefer.


Serving: 1roll | Calories: 261kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 228mg | Potassium: 95mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 167IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 1mg
Keyword Tangzhong cinnamon rolls, Japanese milk bread cinnamon rolls, cream cheese icing, Christmas morning cinnamon rolls
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Kathryn Burmeister says:

    5 stars
    So delicious!

  2. Mai Solutions says:

    5 stars
    These look amazing!

  3. Glenda Wade says:

    5 stars
    These rolls taste amazing, very addictive. I made them Monday evening, last one consumed on Thursday morning. (I shared wih family, don’t judge me) They still tasted fresh and homemade. I will definitely make them again.

  4. Glenda Wade says:

    5 stars
    These rolls taste amazing, very addictive. I made them Monday evening, last one consumed on Thursday morning. (I shared wih family, don’t judge me) They still tasted fresh and homemade. I will definitely make them again.

  5. Kathryn Burmeister says:

    5 stars
    So delicious!

  6. Mai Solutions says:

    5 stars
    These look amazing!

  7. Elina Springstead says:

    Hi Paula..Making cinnamon rolls today 🙂 I tried KA recipe yesterday and it didnt work out. I am thinking maybe my yeasts werent good so I am trying your recipe today and new yeasts. I have a question about this dough…when it is kneaded in a bread machine…should it stick to the bottom little bit or just form a smooth not sticky ball? Mine is smooth and doesnt stick to the bottom. It was like that yesterday too and I am thinking maybe too much flour and not enough water? Or it should be like that? Yesterday rolls raised very little. Thank you Paula!

    1. Hi Elina,
      Sounds like your dough ball was about perfect. If it didn’t rise, it was either too cold in the room where you put it to rise, your yeast was old or got killed by other ingredients that were too hot, or you didn’t give the dough enough time to proof. Not enough water affects the texture and moisture of the rolls more than the rise. I hope this helps. Wish I could come to your house and smell those cinnamon rolls baking, and then, help you eat them. ?Write me back if you have any problems. p.s. Are you using instant yeast or bread machine yeast?

      1. Thank you for your reply, Paula! Second time rolls raised a little bit more but still not like on your picture. First time I used instant yeast, second – active yeast. Second time: first rise in bread machine, second rise in turn off oven more then an hour. Dough was nice to work with, not stick, soft and smooth. I still think I am not doing something right…rolls were good and kids enjoyed them but not as soft as I would like them to be…second day they were ok, not really soft. I may try to increase water and see what happens. I dont think yeasts were killed. Water was warm on touch…I remember making milk bread a while ago and it was wonderfully soft. Also maybe cheap walmart flour didnt help as well…that was all I could buy considering present circumstances…

      2. @Elina, did you use salted or unsalted butter?

      3. @Elina,
        Somehow I missed this email. I’m so sorry it has taken me this long to answer. Active yeast usually takes longer to rise. In general, dough with a lot of sugar is slower to rise.

        Cheap flour doesn’t help. But I think there’s something else going on. Unfortunately, I can’t put my finger on it without watching you.

        Have you tried my original cinnamon rolls? They are a bit simpler and really very good. https://saladinajar.com/recipes/my-cinnamon-rolls/

  8. Looking forward to trying this recipe. Was hoping to try it today. How long do I keep the dough to rise after mixing it? And how long do I keep it to rise after shaping it and putting it in pan before I bake it?

    1. Let the dough rise until not-quite-double in both cases. If making in a bread machine, just let the dough cycle run. If making in a mixer, set the dough aside to rise. I would allow at least an hour for the first rise and 35-45 minutes for the second rise. But I don’t know the temperature in your kitchen, so I can’t tell you exactly. I hope the rolls work out for you. Let me know if you have more questions about the instructions.

  9. This is the third recipe I have tried from your blog since I subscribed on 8/18/20. I bought a bread machine at the beginning of April and really wasn’t a fan. I previously had one that I lost in Hurricane Katrina and never replaced it until this year. I had decided that I didn’t like the bread baked in the new machine and started baking it in my oven, but still wasn’t thrilled with the taste.

    Then, I came across your blog, subscribed to your emails and have since become a fan. The brioche is to die for…so delicious, the crusty round bread was a hit and this cinnamon rolls were as well. Can’t wait to try them all. BTW, I wish I would have spent a little more and bought the machine you have. I love the two paddle feature…maybe in the future.

    1. Jane,

      You sure know how to brighten my day. I’m thrilled to hear the recipes were successful for you. Can’t wait to hear about more in the future. If you ever run into trouble, don’t hesitate to write back.

  10. Hi Paula, Nice to chat! I’ve just started using, the cooking by weight method. You said to use 3 cups or 360gr of AP flour. That comes out to 120gr per cup of flour. But I’ve been using the 140gr for a cup of flour. That’s 20gr difference, which would make it 60gr total. That’s a big difference in bread making. Cinnamon rolls are my nemesis. HAH! I can make them, they are good, but not the texture I want. I’ve learned I’m heavy on the flour, weighing has helped tremendously! If you could clear this up for me, that would help bunches! Thanks, Cheryl

    1. I usually go by the numbers King Arthur uses. They say AP flour and bread flour weigh 120 gr per cup. I find that this agrees with what the package says more often than not. However, if you know the person who wrote the recipe uses a different number, you should go with what the recipe creator uses. I will say I’ve never heard of anybody using 140 gr as the standard for one cup of flour. In the end, if you check your dough while it’s kneading you can make it just right on the fly. Here’s the post about that. The Most Important Tip Ever for How To Use a Bread Machine

    2. @Paula, Southern Living, The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, first printing 1999. This could explain my dough issues. As I said, I’m new to measures. I’m going to have to go back and adjust several recipes, see I can still learn at 60. Hah! I went through your list of supplies. You didn’t have a metric measures guide on there, I’d get one! Thank you for your fast response! Have a great week! Cheryl

      1. Great suggestion about the metric guide, Cheryl. Thanks!

  11. Donna Arnold says:

    Can you use fresh ground wheat with the Tangzhong technique? Would the measurements be the same? Would I use white wheat berries?

    1. Hi Donna,
      I have never tried it. But if I did, I would start by using only 1 cup of flour made with fresh ground white wheat berries as a substitute for one cup of the white flour. If that goes OK, increase gradually. Using 100% whole wheat would likely result in dense and compact rolls. If you try it, I would love to know what happens.

  12. Salted or unsalted butter?

    1. Good question, Kit. I will go into that recipe and be more specific to say “unsalted butter.” In reality, either will work. I like a lot of salt in my bread so I often use salted butter and it works great, too. Thanks for writing.

  13. 5 stars
    I made these exactly as directed and they came out perfect. So delicious! Thanks!

  14. Can I freeze half of this recipe unrisen and unbaked?

    1. Hi Nancy,
      Freeze the dough after the DOUGH cycle completes. That means there will be an initial rise in the machine. Do the final rise after the dough thaws, and you have shaped the rolls.