Honey Wheat Rolls: hey, lose the skepticism – this is NOT your mother’s whole wheat bread.


Imagine if this page were scratch & sniff…

Soft, warm, golden rolls, fresh from the oven, awaiting only a pat of melting butter, your appetite… and your belief in the following statement:

Whole grains CAN taste great.

Now, for those of you grimacing and remembering that one loaf of whole wheat bread you baked in 1976, guess what? It’s time to update your culinary landscape.

Twenty or 30 years ago, whole-grain baking wasn’t so hot, frankly – in more ways than one. It wasn’t a hot trend; not many people did it. And if you DID try baking a loaf of whole-grain bread… it probably wasn’t so hot, was it?

Well, two important things have happened since then.

First, more people are baking with whole grains, which means the whole grains you purchase at the store – chiefly, whole wheat flour – are much more likely to be fresh. Since old age is the chief reason whole wheat can sometimes taste bitter, that’s one big hurdle eliminated.

And second, white whole wheat – which has gradually made its way into the marketplace over the past 20 years or so – is a “sweeter,” milder tasting wheat than traditional red whole wheat.

Our white whole wheat flour is nutritionally identical to red wheat: same amount of fiber, same amount of protein. (If you check our flour bags right now, they won’t show the same information on the nutrition panel; but we’re in the process of fixing that.)

White whole wheat flour isn’t bleached; and it isn’t white flour. It’s simply whole wheat flour whose outer bran layer is missing a certain compound – phenolic acid – that both makes wheat darker in color, and gives it a stronger whole-wheat taste.

So if you bake with white whole wheat, you’re not shortchanging yourself nutritionally; you’re simply using a 100% whole wheat flour that’s much less likely to elicit the dreaded “EWWWWW” reaction from the kids.

Yeast bread is probably the toughest place to “disguise” whole wheat flour, if that’s what you’re trying to do. But these Honey Wheat Rolls, though warm tan rather than creamy white in color, have the light texture and wonderful, buttery sweetness of the quintessential soft white dinner roll.

Are you willing to put aside old prejudices, and give whole wheat a try? Step right up to the (dinner) plate…

Put the following in a mixing bowl (or your bread machine bucket, set on the dough cycle):

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast*
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice**
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat Flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup instant mashed potato flakes or 1/4 cup potato flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk

*Want to use active dry yeast instead of instant? Go for it; use the same amount. Also, there’s no longer any need to “proof” it (dissolve it in warm water) first, unless you’re unsure of its quality and want to see if it’s alive. If you know your active dry yeast is good, you can mix it right in with the rest of the ingredients.

**Don’t bother heating the orange juice to lukewarm; you can use it straight out of the fridge. The orange juice won’t add its own flavor to the rolls, but will mellow any potential bitterness in the whole wheat. Don’t want to use orange juice? Substitute lukewarm water.

Mix everything together to make a rough dough.

Next, knead until you’ve made a smooth dough.

If you’re kneading in a stand mixer, you may notice the dough sticking to the sides and bottom of the bowl; simply take a bowl scraper, scrape it into the center, and continue to knead.

Remember, the less flour you add during kneading, the lighter and softer your rolls will be. If the dough is still sticking a bit to the bowl when you’re done kneading (about 7 minutes of kneading at medium speed in a stand mixer will do it), that’s fine. Again, better a dough that’s a bit sticky than one that’s dry.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, or in an 8-cup measure. I like to use a measuring cup for rising bread dough; it lets me track how it’s doing.

Cover the bowl or cup, and allow the dough to rise, at room temperature, until it’s quite puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes to 2 hours. Rising may take longer, especially if you’ve kneaded by hand. Give it enough time to become quite puffy.

While the dough is rising, lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan, or two 8″ round or 9″ round cake pans.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface; a silicone rolling mat works well here.

Divide the dough into 16 pieces (for the round pans), or 24 pieces (for the 9″ x 13″ pan).

Shape each piece into a rough ball by pulling the dough into a very small knot at the bottom (think of a balloon with its opening knotted). Then roll the balls under the palm of your hand until they’re smooth.

Place eight rolls into each of the round cake pans, spacing them evenly; they won’t touch one another.

If you’re using a 9″ x 13″ pan, make four rows of six, spacing the rolls evenly in the pan.

Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the rolls to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. They’ll become very puffy, and will reach out and touch one another.

While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the rolls for 15 minutes, and tent them loosely with aluminum foil; they’ll be light brown.

Continue to bake until they’re mahogany-brown on top, but lighter colored on the sides, an additional 10 to 13 minutes.

Remove the rolls from the oven, and after 2 or 3 minutes, carefully transfer them to a rack. They’ll be hot and delicate, so be careful. Brush hot-from-the-oven rolls with melted butter, if desired, for a soft, buttery crust.

Remember what I said about scratch & sniff?

How about lick & taste?

Serve rolls warm, or at room temperature.

Now I ask you – does this look like a whole wheat roll?

Your kids will LOVE these… and so will you (notwithstanding any unfortunate previous experiences with whole wheat bread…)

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Honey Wheat Rolls.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...


  1. "Teresa F."

    Fantastic! Another delicious looking roll to try. The instructions says to divide the dough into 16 pieces for both pan sizes. Guess it’s just preference for larger vs smaller rolls?

    Exactly, Teresa – and thanks for the heads-up, I’ve clarified that in the recipe. PJH

  2. "Cheryl in Texas"

    What would happen if I used regular KA whole wheat flour in this recipe? I have that on hand; no white whole wheat.
    Also, can you explain why the potato flakes are necessary? Don’t have those either, really don’t want to go out.

    I’ve actually been baking w/ whole wheat since the early ’70’s, when while living in Boston, I ventured to try the bread recipe on the back of a regular unbleached flour KA bag. Moved on to ww later, and got to like the taste. Is that what I’ll get if I don’t use the potato or the white whole wheat?

    Regular ww is fine, Cheryl, especially since you like the flavor. The potato adds moistness; but you can absolutely leave it out. The flavor won’t change, the rolls will just be a bit less moist/soft. A good substitute for potato flakes or flour is to save any water in which you boil potatoes (or pasta); freeze it in 1-cup increments, and use it for bread baking. The starch in the water is great for creating soft bread. Enjoy – PJH

    1. jangangwer

      Thanks for the question, Cheryl. And thanks for the answer, PJH! Sometimes I haven’t tried a great looking recipe in the KAF cookbooks because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand. Your explanation and hints are appreciated.

  3. wingboy

    PJ, those rolls look fantastic!

    How do they compare with Butter Buns? (BTW, I regularly substitute 1/3 WWW for AP when I make a batch of BB)

    Happy New Year to all!

    They’re very similar to the butter buns, WB – in fact, when I bring rolls to a potluck, I make a recipe of bbs, and a recipe of these. That way the ww crowd (or those with more adventuresome tastes) can have a soft dinner roll along with everyone else… PJH

  4. susanletney

    Yum, these look delicious! My family of 3 can’t eat 16 rolls at one sitting (well, probably we COULD, but we SHOULDN’T), so if I use the cake pan option, where I bake one pan and freeze the other for later, at what point do I stick the second pan in the freezer? Many thanks, PJ!

    Susan, stick the second pan in the freezer before the shaped rolls rise. Wrap well, and freeze up to about 4 weeks. When you’re ready for some rolls, thaw in the fridge overnight, covered; then allow PLENTY of time next day for the rolls to rise. Good luck – PJH

  5. dgstarbuck

    Can these the made ahead and frozen? I so, what’s the best method?
    You can definitely freeze these. To freeze the dough, make the dough as directed adding 1/2 teaspoon more yeast. Allow it to go through the first rise, then punch it down. Form into rolls. Place the rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze. Once frozen, transfer the rolls to a zip top bag. When you’re ready to bake, take out the amount of rolls you need. Allow them to defrost and go through the second rise. Bake as directed. To freeze the already baked rolls, allow them to cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap, then foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Happy Baking! ~Mel

  6. cjh

    Fantastic tasting rolls. Incredible that they are whole wheat. In addition to the rolls, I have used this recipe to make hamburger buns twice. My next goal is to make hot dog rolls. I have found a perfect whole wheat recipe here – healthy and tasty!

  7. jackiebozeman14599

    My husband is on a sodium restricted diet and I notice that most baking recipes call for some amount of salt. Can this be eliminated? Will it affect the final product? He can’t use a salt substitute either.
    unfortunately, the lack of salt will affect the final product. Not only will things taste flat, but a lack of salt in bread can highly affect the behavior of yeast and the ability to brown. ~Amy

  8. mumpy

    well, they certainly LOOK delicious, but when i tried the scratch-and-sniff test, they smelled just like a computer! :)

    Darn, Mumpy – haven’t you downloaded the new scratch & sniff upgrade yet?? :) PJH

  9. gjlewis

    My husband made these honey wheat rolls according to the directions, except did not have potatoe flakes so used potatoe flour instead. They rose beautifully, but when he baked them they flattened out. What would have caused this? Thank you for your help. Geri

    Geri, he may have let them rise a bit too much; the general rule for yeast rolls is, let them rise about 3/4 of the way to what you think they should look like when baked; they’ll rise the last bit in the oven. If they rise too high before baking, they flatten as they bake. Hope you enjoyed them anyway… PJH

  10. emily

    Just made a sourdough version of these rolls using leftover mashed potatoes and they turned out great! How long do these rolls usually keep? And what is the best way to conserve them? Should I refrigerate or put them in a plastic bag at room temperature? Thanks!
    Bread that is made with a potato product of some sort tends to have a longer shelf life. The best way to keep them is in a plastic bag at room temperature. If you are in a humid climate, then you can refrigerate the rolls and reheat in the oven to serve. ~Amy

  11. glpruett

    Oh, my goodness! I baked these yesterday for our “Day-After-New-year’s Day” dinner, and they were wonderful! Very light and fluffy, something I’ve previously not been able to achieve with whole grain roll dough without much more dairy. I used 100 percent freshly ground white whole wheat and I was very pleased with how they rose, even with no egg and I halved the butter amount. Thanks, KAF!

    I am one of the few, I guess, who have been baking with whole grains for forty years, as I started using all whole grains in 1971! I’ve had lots of failures through the years, but even more successes, and I’m happy to add this recipe to my list of go-to roll recipes.

  12. Action_Kate

    I have to say I was rather disappointed with these rolls, all things considered. They certainly came up light and moist, so no complaints there, but they had almost no flavor. I make wheat bread with KAF wheat flour regularly, so I know what wheat is supposed to taste like. These were Honey Wheat Rolls which had neither the sweetness of honey nor the robust grain of wheat.

    Particularly given the amount of time it took to make them — really, four hours to rise? I had to start them before lunch to have them ready for dinner — I was expecting something which was going to knock my socks off. These were no better than (and in fact not as tasty as) the refrigerator biscuits I can get in my grocery’s dairy aisle.

    Oh well, they can’t all be great. Back to my KAF anniversary cookbook. :)

    Alas, we can’t please all the people all the time, eh? Thanks for your feedback, Kate – PJH

  13. brien

    Just made rolls which look and taste great. Used KAF Artisan Flour instead of AP. Followed recipe exactly and the rolls are slightly burned on their bottoms. Next time will only do 5 minutes after the initial 15 minutes.

    Brien, when rolls burn on the bottom, you can try setting the pan atop another pan – that extra insulation will keep the bottoms from burning. Glad they were a success otherwise – PJH

  14. brien

    Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, I only have so many cake pans. Would a sheet pan turned upside doodles do the trick?

    Sorry, Brien, didn’t make myself clear. Set the cake pans on a baking sheet (right side up is fine). Not only does it insulate their bottoms, it makes it easier to move them around and get them in and out of the oven in one fell swoop… PJH

  15. avidbirder

    Any way to make this sans dry milk with Earth Balance as a butter substitute? I love KAF recipes, but in the last year I’ve developed lactose intolerance, and baking with dairy isn’t an option for me anymore. You guys have done amazing things for the GF crowd, any chance of adapting some recipes for us lactards?
    You can omit the dry milk and yes, Earth Balance should work fine in place of the butter. We have quite a few dairy free recipes on our website. What kind of recipes are you seeking? ~Amy

  16. A request

    I just made the switch to bread machine, and this recipe looks like exactly what I’m after: a whole-wheat dinner roll my kids will eat. Any chance you have adapted it for the bread machine?

    Sure, just put all the ingredients into the machine, program for dough, and let it run through its cycle. Take the finished dough out, divide, shape, and bake as directed. Enjoy! PJH

  17. victoriaTab

    This looks so good!!!I tried baking this but my bread is not evenly brown on top.But I made a bigger rolls though,like six in a tray
    I have experienced this before, too. It is usually because they are not fully baked. If I wait just 5-6 more minutes, they become evenly browned. Also, be sure to place your bread on the center rack in the oven. If you used any egg wash, perhaps the wash was coated unevenly onto the rolls. And maybe your oven heats unevenly? Elisabeth

  18. wriegel

    Just a simple question on the baking directions. Are saying bake uncovered for 15 minutes and then loosely cover with foil?
    Yes, you bake for 15 minutes first, to get the browning started, then cover so that they don’t over brown before being done. ~MaryJane

  19. Geneva26

    I am wondering if the few “failures” could be due to substituting something for the dry milk? I read and then confirmed with experience about the need to scald milk before adding to yeasted (or even quick rising items). Even some forms of dry milk evidently have not been heated to correct temps that deactivate something that inhibits yeast. Which is why I’m sure, KAF markets a special baker’s dry milk, huh?
    Substituting milk powder for another substance may not be the culprit. There could be a myriad of reasons as to why a yeast dough ends up not working as you expect. What we do know is the addition of a dairy product, such as fresh milk or a dried milk powder, imparts more tenderness and color, inhibits staling, and boosts nutrition. Warming (not scalding) fresh milk prior to blending with the other ingredients will quicken the rise time, just as warm water versus cold water will do. Further research has proven that scalding fresh milk is not necessary for performance. Elisabeth

  20. erinmalia

    If I use the SAF instant yeast, should I still do two raises? If only one is necessary, I presume it’s the first I omit? Thanks!

    Follow the recipe as written – no need to make any adjustments which means yes, still do the two raises. Enjoy – PJH

  21. mamsis

    These rolls would not rise for me! I really wanted these to work, but I am at a loss as to why they did not. I measure flour just as KAF recommends, I used fresh instant yeast, followed the recipe carefully, and put the dough above my commercial gas stove to rise. After 90 minutes, there was only a slight sponginess, but no real rising. After 2 hours, I thought I’d better form the rolls, since there were many comments answered with “too long of a first rise may be the problem”. Again, not much rising in roll form either, even after 2 hours! I baked them in 2 8″ round pans and they finally expanded enough to touch one another. They had a great flavor but were very dense, not the light – even delicate – rolls I was expecting. Any ideas?
    Sorry that this is giving you trouble. I’d say in this case, give the bakers a call. It will be much easier to talk over the steps than to try and email or comment back and forth. We’re here 8 am to 9 pm EST on weekdays and 9-5 on weekends, so please give us a ring and we’ll be happy to help troubleshoot. ~ MaryJane

  22. Shveta

    Of late I have been trying so many recipes that sometimes I am out of butter(yes, even after buying it in bulk from Costco). I was wondering if I can substitute oil for butter in the bread recipes. I haven’t been able able to mess up with any recipe from your website so far, even with my little substitutions here and there. But I wanted a good answer from you learned bakers, about the oil substitution. Thanks for the great recipes.
    Sure, go right ahead and use oil in place of the butter. No problem at all! ~Amy

  23. Tara

    How can I use real mashed potatoes instead of instant mashed potato flakes or potato flour in this recipe?
    I’m new to bread baking and I only want to give my kids unprocessed whole gain food. So i tried your Honey Whole Wheat sandwich bread recipe in my new bread machine and it came out sweet and perfect!
    So I’m planning to make these dinner rolls for pav bhaji, an Indian favorite.
    Also, can I use all white whole wheat? and can i bake them on a cast iron pan?
    Thanks for your awesome recipes!
    HI Tara,
    It sounds like you want to make quite a few changes. I would suggest giving the baker’s hotline a call to talk about them, and the different effects they will have on the bread. It will be easier to get feedback in real time, than over here in the comments. ~ MJ

  24. Tara

    More questions:

    1. I don’t have any milk powder so can I use 2% milk instead of water and leave out the milk powder?
    2. Can any acidic liquid( vinegar, lemon juice etc.) be used or is there a special need for orange juice?

    Yep, I’d say it’s definitely a good time to chat with the hotline folks. ~ MJ

  25. Martha

    Hi PJ,

    I just got the email with these rolls links. My, my they look yummy.
    Just one question. I apologize if you’ve previously answered it. Can I refrigerate the raw dough and let rise and bake the next day?

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Good question, Martha. I’d make the rolls up to the point where they’re shaped and in the pan the night before. Wrap well (though leaving some airspace at the top, for any possible rise), and refrigerate. Next day, take them out of the fridge in plenty of time for them to come to room temperature before baking, several hours at least. Good luck – PJH

  26. Eileen

    Can I refrigerate these rolls in the pans after the first rise the night before Thanksgiving and bake them on Thanksgiving day?

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Yes, Eileen, that should work just fine. Shape them into rolls, put them in the pan, cover the pan securely, and refrigerate. Next day, give them plenty of time to rise; they may not have risen sufficiently overnight. In other words, don’t leave them in the fridge until an hour before dinner; take them out in the morning and let them come to at least room temperature before baking. Enjoy – PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Leslie, thanks so much for sharing! No disrespect all all; King Arthur is all about good baking and sharing what we know with one another, whatever the source. I actually love the Food52 site – gorgeous photography. And those rolls sound delish… :) PJH

  27. lw

    I would like to know if the potato water is to be used instead of orange juice?
    Also, is there a “printable” version of this recipe?

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Substitute potato water for the regular water, if you like; but do keep the orange juice. I think it helps temper the flavor of the whole wheat just a bit, without adding any orange flavor of its own. And yes, there’s a printable version of the recipe – just go to the recipe and click the “printable version” link located about 2″ below the recipe title. Enjoy – PJH

  28. Jess

    I, too, am having the rising issue. It’s been very dry where I am – I suspect I should have compensated with some additional liquid since the dough seems too dry and dense to rise properly. It is most def not “puffy” by any stretch of the imagination. I’m 20 minutes into my second rise and they don’t seem to have grown at all. I see the post is over a year old, mamsis, but if you are still reading the comments, I’d love to know if you called the hotline and if you figured it out – or if anyone else has solutions? I def fail at whole wheat baking!

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jess, don’t give up; and do call our hotline, 855-371-2253. I suspect, as you do, that the dough is too dry. MUCH better it be too soft than too dry! A dry dough will never rise as strongly as one that’s softer. Add more liquid next time; and let the dough rest for 20 minutes before kneading, to let the flour absorb the liquid more fully. This will help with the stickiness. Best of luck – PJH

  29. bbiswas

    I have made these rolls many times – but I have never pushed the forgiveness of yeast this far as I did today. Replaced 8 oz of water with 8 oz of buttermilk – straight from the fridge – oops! Didn’t bother with AP, used all WWW flour, OJ and ice cold buttermilk, mixed the flour to left it to “soak”. To correct my mistake of cold buttermilk, I placed the mixing bowl in hot water to warm up the dough. Added yeast and other things – replaced EVOO for the butter. Then realized the bowl was too hot! So placed cold sponge around the bowl to get to 110-125F! After all that drama, the dough rewarded me with a beautiful rise. These are the only rolls I make these days since switching over to whole grain baking. I couldn’t tell any difference caused by the buttermilk – what should I expect? I had to use up the buttermilk – hence the doctoring. I realize as I bake more and more with whole grains, I am also getting comfortable with a soft, wet, and sticky dough that doesn’t look like a baby’s bottom. But gives me soft, no crumbs, perfect 100% whole grain rolls/ bread every time!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad you wrote down all your recipe changes so you can duplicate the wonderful results – and thanks for sharing with all of us reading your comments. Buttermilk adds richness and a hint of tangy flavor. It also contributes to an even grained interior or crumb. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  30. Alleen Cater

    My rolls taste great, but had to cook longer to not be too chewy. They rose well enough, but the tops are not smooth at all; they look moon-faced/pocked. Bottoms burned slightly. This was a practice run, leading up to double batch for a club meeting, so no harm done. Question: would they bake better in a shallow pan than in one with higher sides?

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi there,
      It sounds like the dough was a little dry. Try adding a bit more water until the dough is nice and soft and sticky. They will rise better and you won’t need to bake them as long. ~ MJ

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I think this recipe would work fine in an 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, but check early and often the first time you bake it. Barb@KAF

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