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The Best Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

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Hawaiian sweet rolls are some of my family's favorite. They are great for sandwiches, as a side with dinner, or alone with honey butter.

Overhead view of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls in a baking pan

Hawaiian sweet rolls are my favorite dinner rolls. If we’re having bread with dinner, it’s going to be these rolls.

I got hooked on this sweetly fragrant bread thanks to King’s Hawaiian. That brand is an evil genius.

Because I love the bread so much, I just could not resist making some from scratch. And then I couldn’t resist slathering them with honey butter.

These rolls really are the best and you are sure to agree!

Why this Hawaiian sweet rolls recipe works

  • This recipe yields the perfect texture, the right amount of sweetness, and it comes together easily.
  • Pineapple juice lends that familiar flavor of Hawaiian bread that we all love and gives the bread a subtle sweetness which is then enhanced with a touch of honey.
  • Honey butter offers extra sweetness that really takes the rolls to a new level.
hand holding a Hawaiian Sweet Roll so the fluffy side is visible

Hawaiian sweet rolls ingredients

These rolls use very staple ingredients. Either Instant or rapid rise yeast can be used. I don't recommend using regular active dry yeast, though. I've tested it and it just doesn't work well with this recipe.

  • Pineapple juice: Pineapple juice is what gives the rolls a sweet and slightly tangy flavor.
  • Buttermilk: Also offers a slight tanginess. Be sure to use whole (full fat) buttermilk.
  • Butter: Is added to give the dough some richness.
  • Honey: Use a mild-honey like clover honey.
  • Flour: All-purpose flour is best for Hawaiian rolls.
  • Yeast: Use instant or rapid-rise yeast.
  • Salt: Added to help balance the sweetness.
  • Egg: Is also added for sweetness.
  • Vanilla extract: Adds a little extra flavor to the rolls.

How to Make the best Hawaiian sweet rolls

This homemade Hawaiian sweet roll is made with basic bread ingredients but there are a few extras to give the bread that distinct flavor of Hawaiian bread. I use half buttermilk and half pineapple juice for moisture and flavor. The two combined have a lovely sweet and tangy profile.

The Dough - The bread needs to rise twice. Each rise is about 1 to 1 and ½ hours. So make sure you plan ahead for this.

The first rise happens once the dough is mixed together and kneaded. The second rise is after you've portioned and shaped the dough into individual rolls.

Step 1: Combine the wet ingredients

Mix the pineapple juice, buttermilk, butter, and honey together in a microwave-safe bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Then microwave the mixture in 30-second intervals until it reaches 110°F.

It may appear curdled at this point. That's perfectly normal so don't fret.

pineapple mixture in a measuring cup

Step 2: Make the dough

A stand mixer will be your best friend with this recipe or any yeast bread recipe. It makes the process so much easier!

Fit the stand mixer with the dough hook. Add the flour, yeast, and salt to the bowl. Mix on low speed for a few seconds to get everything combined.

Leave the mixer on low speed and slowly pour in the warm pineapple juice mixture. Then add the egg and vanilla. Let the mixer run on low for about 2 minutes until dough starts to form a ball.

Increase the speed to medium-low and continue to mix for 7 minutes. The dough will stick to the bottom of the bowl but should pull away from the sides.

It's a soft dough that will be slightly tacky. Avoid adding excess flour.

process shots for making Hawaiian sweet rolls dough

Step 3: Let the dough rise

Very lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out. Knead it briefly and shape it into a ball. Place the dough in a bowl that has been lightly greased and cover with plastic wrap.

Set the bowl in a warm place to rise for 1 and ½ hours. I like to have my oven preheating and use the microwave right above it as the warm environment.

If you do not have a microwave above the stove, you can heat your oven on the lowest temperature setting then turn the oven off and set the dough inside with the door slightly cracked open.

process of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls dough rise in bowl

Step 4: Shape the dough and rise again

Once the dough has doubled in volume, gently punch it down to release some of the gas. Turn the tough out onto your work surface and divide it into 15 equal-sized pieces.

Shape each piece into a ball by pulling the edges under so the top of the dough is smooth.

Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan and arrange the dough balls in 5 rows of 3. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again until doubled in size. This can take up to another 1 and ½ hours.

The rolls should be almost as tall as the top of the pan.

unbaked Hawaiian Sweet Rolls process shots for rising

Step 5: Bake

Brush the tops of the rolls with melted honey butter and bake until golden brown. The honey butter will help give the rolls a rich golden color.

Use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the rolls. They are done when they reach 190°F.

Brush the tops with more melted honey butter and let the rolls cool for about 10 minutes. Slide the rolls out of the pan onto a cooling rack and let them cool for another 20 minutes.

The rolls are best served warm on the day they are made.

butter brushed over unbaked rolls
angled view of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls in pan

Homemade honey butter

Homemade honey butter complements the sweet bread perfectly and can easily be whipped up in a matter of minutes.

You don’t even need a recipe for honey butter. Just take some unsalted butter, let it soften to room temperature, beat it with an electric mixer until is smooth and creamy, and slowly beat in some honey. Use as little or as much honey as you prefer.

You can store any leftover honey butter in the refrigerator and use it on toast or English muffins for breakfast!

A bowl of honey butter for Hawaiian sweet rolls.

More delicious yeast bread and rolls to try:

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hand holding a Hawaiian Sweet Roll so the fluffy side is visible

The Best Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

Yield: 15 rolls
Prep Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 50 minutes

These soft, light and fluffy Hawaiian sweet rolls are so easy to make. They don’t require much work because a stand mixer does all the kneading for you. The beauty of these rolls is their fragrant, sweet and tangy flavor which comes from a mix of pineapple juice and buttermilk. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240 ml) pineapple juice
  • ½ cup (120 ml) buttermilk
  • 6 tablespoons (89 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 ½ cups (715 g) all-purpose flour, measured correctly
  • ⅓ cup (113 g) honey
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast, SEE NOTE 1
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons honey butter, SEE NOTE 2

Instructions

  1. Combine the pineapple juice, buttermilk, butter, and honey in a large liquid measuring cup. Microwave in 30 second intervals until the temperature reaches 110°F. The mixture may become curdled, this is normal.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, yeast, and salt on low speed until combined.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour in the pineapple mixture followed by the egg and vanilla.
  4. Mix on low speed dough begins to come together, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until the dough is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl. It may still stick to the bottom.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 and ½ hours.
  6. Punch the dough down to deflate it and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 15 equal size portions. Shape each portion into a smooth ball and arrange them in a lightly oiled 9x13-inch baking pan. 
  7. Cover the pan with plastic and set in a draft-free area to rise until doubled in size, about 1 and ½ hours.
  8. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375°F.
  9. Brush the top of the rolls with melted honey butter. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown, rotating halfway through the baking time. The internal temperature of the rolls should be 190°F.
  10. Brush the rolls with more melted honey butter and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Transfer the rolls to a wire rack and cool for another 20 minutes. Rolls are best when eaten the day they are made.

Notes

  1. Use either instant or rapid rise yeast. Active dry yeast will not be as efficient with this recipe.
  2. Honey butter is made by mixing butter and honey. Start with ¼ to ½ cup of room temperature unsalted butter and mix in 2 tablespoons of honey at a time until you achieve the desired taste. Store leftover honey butter in the refrigerator and use it on toast, muffins, or rolls.

Make ahead tip

  1. Make the recipe through step 6. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Set the rolls out at room temperature for 1 to 1 ½ hours until the rolls have doubled in size. Bake per the recipe instructions.
  2. Or you can freeze the rolls 10 minutes after shaping. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Set the rolls out at room temperature for 1 to 1 ½ hours until the rolls have doubled in size. Bake per the recipe instructions.
  3. Fully baked rolls can also be frozen in an airtight container. Thaw overnight at room temperature then reheat in a 300°F oven for 10 minutes.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 15 Serving Size: 1 roll
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 251Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 355mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 5g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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Recipe adapted from Cooks Country.

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Israel Rodriguez

Tuesday 16th of March 2021

Tried making this today. This was the third recipe I came across in my quest to make a very tasty roll. Followed recipe but didn’t have buttermilk so I used nonfat milk and vinegar. They came out perfect! So happy to see and smell them. The taste was scrumptious. Next up, your cinnamon rolls.

Timmy

Wednesday 30th of December 2020

Made these for Christmas after I used a different recipe last year that I wasn't happy with. These turned out wonderful! Thank you for sharing the weight measurements, those were helpful. I know one of the problems I had in the past was not using room temperature pineapple juice and being sure I shook the can well before using it. I made these the night before like the instructions had and that worked out great.

I serve these with a crushed pineapple, cream cheese, powdered sugar blend that I make.

Thanks for the recipe - adding it to my yearly Christmas menu!

Cassaundra

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

I made these the other day in a practice run. They came out very dense. I noticed while forming the balls that the surface texture was bumpy rather than smooth. Any ideas what I did wrong? I followed exact and weighed everything.

Lyndi

Sunday 24th of January 2021

Timmy, I love your idea of making pineapple, cream cheese and pwdrd sugar to slap on those delicious rolls! ~Lyndi♡

Jen Sobjack

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

Dense, heavy bread often means that the dough didn’t trap enough gas or the yeast didn’t produce enough gas. If you are confident you followed the recipe exactly then the issue is likely the rise time and/or ambient temperature.

Kelly

Tuesday 24th of November 2020

Can you sub the buttermilk for 2% milk? It's what I have in the fridge so 🤞

Jen Sobjack

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

You're going to get the best flavor with buttermilk.

Danny

Friday 20th of November 2020

I just tried this recipe for the first time and I am writing this while waiting for the dough to sit the second time. I followed every step and measurement but the dough turned out very liquid and sticky. It never really stopped sticking to the bowl and was very difficult from my working surface to the next bowl. It doubled in size but was still way to sticky to shape it into little balls. I basically scratched the dough from my hands into the baking pan. I don’t know how they will turn out but I think this isn’t how it is supposed to be, right?

I didn’t want to add any additional flour since you stressed this in previous comments to not do this.

Jen Sobjack

Friday 20th of November 2020

The dough is not supposed to be liquidy. That sounds like a mismeasurement somewhere... It is a soft dough that will be tacky. It will not completely stop sticking to the bowl. It will stick to the bottom of the bowl but pull away from the sides as the dough is mixing. Once you stop mixing the dough will settle into the bottom of the bowl and remain sticky. It's challenging to work with but doughs this soft will yield supremely soft rolls.

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