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Dinner Rolls are my favorite food on the dinner table, and these Sweet Molasses Brown Bread Dinner Rolls are so delicious! Lightly sweetened with molasses and honey, these are the kind of dinner rolls you’ll skip dessert for. These whole wheat dinner rolls take just 15 minutes to prep and are perfect for all occasions!

The best way to complete dinner is with bread, and we are huge fans of all things bread and rolls in our house! Our Copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls are completely irresistible when topped with honey and whipped butter, and our Soft Homemade Potato Rolls fluffy, soft, and my favorite way to use up leftover mashed potatoes!

A basket of whole wheat dinner rolls with a striped dishcloth

The Best Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

I’m not the kind of person to cut carbs. I don’t know if there’s a day that goes by where I don’t eat bread! Toast in the morning, sandwiches for lunch, and of course bread goes with all kinds of dinner recipes. Grains are definitely my favorite food group, and soft, fluffy dinner rolls pretty much reign supreme in that category.

My Sweet Molasses Brown Bread is one of the most popular recipes, and rightly so! It is savory with a hint of sweetness and depth from the molasses and cocoa. So why not turn it into roll form? That’s exactly how these babies were born.

These rolls have all of the goodness of my Sweet Molasses Brown Bread but are made in individual portions, making them perfect for sharing at special dinners like the Holidays, Easter, or even Sunday lunch and potlucks.

I love how easily these whole wheat dinner rolls come together. It takes just 15 minutes to prep them (and really, the mixer does all of the hard work – you just add the ingredients), and then I just wait for the dough to rise, shape it into rolls (my favorite part), rise again and bake! Most of the time is spent waiting, like with all good bread recipes. And of course, the extra bonus is at the end: that aroma of freshly baked bread filling your whole house. So cozy!

angle shot of whole wheat dinner rolls in glass dish

Brown Bread Dinner Rolls Ingredients

It’s always amazing to me how just a handful of pantry ingredients can be combined to make something so delicious as a batch of fresh bread or rolls!

  • Yeast: Make sure to use fresh active dry yeast in this recipe as expired yeast won’t give you the rise you need for light and fluffy rolls. If you choose to use instant yeast, you can skip the proofing.
  • Honey & warm water: We have to feed the yeast in order for it to activate, and it loves sweetness and warmth so I added honey and warm water. Honey also adds a little to the flavor of these brown dinner rolls.
  • Molasses: Molasses (also known as treacle in other parts of the world) is a black, sticky tar-like syrup that is loaded with flavor. If you’re wanting to add something more than sweetness to your bread recipes, give molasses a try!
  • Cocoa powder: Yes, there’s cocoa powder in these rolls, but don’t worry, they don’t actually taste like chocolate! Instead it gives a wonderful depth of color and flavor.
  • Flour: Both whole wheat flour and bread flour are added to this whole wheat dinner rolls recipe. The balance is perfect, adding enough gluten structure and protein for a great rise and texture.
  • Butter: Melted butter is just made for dinner rolls, right? You can skip this ingredient if you want to, but personally, I think it is a must!
  • Old-fashioned oats: The oats are more for appearance and texture, but can be left off if desired.

How to Make Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls from Scratch

  1. Proof the yeast. Firstly, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, honey, and yeast. Stir and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to prove until the yeast is foamy.
  2. Start adding the ingredients. Secondly, once the yeast is looking bubbly, add the molasses, cocoa powder, oil, honey, salt, and 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. Mix until combined.
  3. Add more and knead. Next, with the mixer running, gradually add the rest of the flour starting with the whole wheat, then adding the bread flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (you may not need the last cup of flour). Knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough should be soft and slightly tacky. This can all be done by hand, but I find it so much easier to just use my mixer.
  4. Rise. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, then cover with a sheet of plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray, or cover with a light dishtowel. Let rise until doubled in size, usually about 60 to 90 minutes depending on how warm it is inside your house.
  1. Punch, divide, and shape. Punch down the dough and use a bench scraper, pizza cutter, or sharp knife to divide it into 16 evenly sized balls. Pinch the bottom of each roll together to form a nice round roll shape, then place in a lightly greased 9×13-inch baking pan. Repeat with each ball of dough.
  2. Second rise. Lightly cover with plastic wrap or a dishtowel and let rise again until puffy and doubled in size (another 45-60 minutes). Just before baking gently brush the rolls with the melted butter and sprinkle with the oats, if desired.
  3. Bake! Finally, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 18-20 minutes. 

Storage and Freezing Instructions

You can store these Brown Bread Dinner Rolls in an airtight container at room temperature. They’ll last for up to about a week.

This recipe also freezes really well! After the dinner rolls have cooled completely, individually wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them for up to 3 months. Thaw them completely at room temperature before serving! You can even wrap them in foil and toss them in a 350 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes to warm them up.

Are sweet molasses brown bread dinner rolls sweet or savory?

Despite the name, these rolls are primarily savory with just a hint of sweetness. Yes, they do have honey, molasses, and cocoa in them, however, they are not very chocolatey, and wouldn’t pass as a dessert recipe. This whole wheat dinner rolls recipe is very similar to the mini-loaves served at the Outback or Cheesecake Factory restaurants.

What is Molasses?

Molasses is a thick, dark syrup that some claim to be healthier than sugar. It is the by-product that’s leftover after sugar crystals are removed from the sugar cane or sugar beets juice. The liquid is boiled down into a thick syrup, which is molasses. You can easily buy it at health food stores or online, and some supermarkets also sell molasses.

overhead shot of whole wheat dinner rolls in glass dish

What to serve with dinner rolls?

We love these rolls with some cold salted butter spread on them after they are split down the middle. But they would also be delicious with some cinnamon honey butter, raspberry butter, or your favorite jam!

More Bread Recipes Like This

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Brown Bread Dinner Rolls
Yield: 16 rolls

Brown Bread Dinner Rolls

Dinner Rolls are my favorite food on the dinner table, and these Sweet Molasses Brown Bread Dinner Rolls are so delicious! Lightly sweetened with molasses and honey, these are the kind of dinner rolls you'll skip dessert for. These whole wheat dinner rolls take just 15 minutes to prep and are perfect for all occasions!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted (optional)
  • Old-fashioned oats, for sprinkling on top (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, honey, and yeast. Stir and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to proof until the yeast is foamy.
  2. Once the yeast is looking bubbly, add the molasses, cocoa powder, oil, honey, salt, and 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. Mix until combined.
  3. With the mixer running, gradually add the rest of the flour starting with the whole wheat, then adding the bread flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (you may not need the last cup of flour). Knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough should be soft and slightly tacky.
  4. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, then cover with a sheet of plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray, or cover with a light dish towel. Let rise until doubled in size, usually about 60 to 90 minutes depending on how warm it is inside your house.
  5. Punch down the dough and use a bench scraper, pizza cutter, or sharp knife to divide it into 16 evenly sized balls. Pinch the bottom of each roll together for form a nice round roll shape, then place in a lightly greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Repeat with each ball of dough.
  6. Lightly cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel and let rise again until puffy and doubled in size (another 45-60 minutes). Just before baking gently brush the rolls with the melted butter and sprinkle with the oats, if desired.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 18-20 minutes. 

Notes

  • The oats are more for appearance and texture, but can be left off, if desired.
  • Reheating rolls from frozen: Let thaw on counter while preheating oven to 325 degrees F. Wrap rolls in foil and place in oven for 15 minutes until heated through.
  • This recipe is adapted from my Sweet Molasses Brown Bread.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 245Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 196mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 4gSugar: 10gProtein: 7g

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.