Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls

$1.87 recipe / $0.16 each
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 12 votes
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It’s been a long time since I’ve baked bread, but this week I needed the therapeutic ritual to help slow my mind. I decided to make a variation on basic dinner rolls because turkey day is coming up and it’s just never too early to start testing recipes for the big day (especially if you’re a food blogger). These Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls are going to be my new Thanksgiving classic. Not only are they pretty to look at, but their subtle earthy sweetness pairs so well with fall flavors like roasted squash, mushrooms, and turkey.

Want more Thanksgiving recipes? Check out our Holiday Recipe Archives.

A baking dish with Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls with a few removed

The Subtle Sweetness of Molasses

I hope you won’t be frightened away by the word “sweet” in the title. These rolls are not super sweet, but rather just sweet enough. I’d say they’re slightly less sweet than a store bought Hawaiian roll. The earthiness of the molasses and slight bitterness of cocoa powder help mitigate the sweetness and keep the flavors balanced.

Speaking of cocoa, despite the inclusion of unsweetened cocoa powder in the dough, these rolls DO NOT taste like chocolate. Pinky swear. The cocoa is mainly added for color, but I found that it also added just a touch of depth to the flavor without being chocolatey.

Can I Use Whole Wheat Flour?

I often like to use a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour because it adds flavor and texture while maintaining a light fluffy texture. You can change the ratio of whole wheat to all-purpose flour in this recipe to fit your needs, just know that if you do it will affect the amount of flour you’ll need to add while kneading, and it will also affect the final texture of the roll.

What Type of Molasses Should I Use

Use regular molasses, NOT black strap molasses. Be aware that black strap molasses is less sweet and more bitter than the molasses I used and definitely will affect the outcome of the recipe.

Two Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls on a wooden cutting board, one smeared with butter
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Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls

5 from 12 votes
The earthy flavor and subtle sweetness of molasses makes these Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls the perfect addition to your fall holiday table. 
The earthy flavor and subtle sweetness of molasses makes these Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls the perfect addition to your fall holiday table. BudgetBytes.com
Servings 12
Prep 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook 25 minutes
Total 2 hours 55 minutes


  • 2 tsp Instant or rapid rise yeast ($0.18)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar ($0.01)
  • 1 cup warm water ($0.00)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour ($0.13)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted ($0.13)
  • 1 Tbso unsweetened cocoa powder ($0.10)
  • 1/3 cup molasses ($0.92)
  • 1.5-2 cups all-purpose flour ($0.12)
  • 1 large egg (optional) ($0.27)


  • Combine the yeast, brown sugar, and warm water in a bowl and stir to dissolve the yeast and sugar. Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture becomes frothy on top.
  • While waiting for the yeast to bloom, Add the whole wheat flour, salt, melted butter, cocoa powder, and molasses to a large bowl (no need to stir them together just yet).
  • Once the yeast mixture is frothy, pour it into the bowl with the flour and other ingredients, and stir until a smooth mixture forms.
  • Begin stirring in all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a ball of dough forms and you can no longer stir it with a spoon. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes, slowly adding more flour as you knead to prevent the dough from sticking.
  • After kneading for five minutes, you should have a soft, buoyant ball of dough that no longer sticks to your hands. You should have used between 1.5 and 2 cups of all-purpose flour total. Place the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover loosely with plastic, and allow it to rise for one hour, or until it is double in volume (rise time will depend on the ambient temperature).
  • When the dough has risen, sprinkle a little flour on top to keep your hand from sticking, then punch it down to deflate. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into four equal sized pieces, then cut each of the quarters into three smaller pieces. 
  • Shape each piece of dough into a ball, then place it in a baking dish coated in non-stick spray, oil, or butter. Allow the shaped rolls to rise for another 45 minutes to an hour, or until double in size again.
  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Add the egg to a small bowl along with a splash of water. Whisk the egg until smooth, then carefully brush it over the surface of the rolls (this creates a dark glossy finish to the rolls and is optional). 
  • Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until they are deep brown and sound hollow when tapped. Allow the rolls to cool slightly, then serve. 

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


If serving the rolls for a larger meal, like Thanksgiving Dinner, consider dividing the dough into 16 pieces rather than 12 to make smaller portions.


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 155.28kcalCarbohydrates: 31.14gProtein: 4.03gFat: 1.93gSodium: 115.57mgFiber: 1.92g
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!

A baking dish full of Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls

This white enamel baking dish is made by Crow Canyon.

How to Make Molasses Dinner Rolls – Step by Step Photos

Proofed Yeast in a measuring cup

Combine 1 cup warm water with 2 tsp instant or rapid rise yeast, and 1 tsp brown sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and sugar, then let it sit for about five minutes, or until it becomes foamy on top. (I actually borrowed this photo from another recipe, which is why it looks like less than 8oz/1 cup in the measuring cup.)

Bread Dough Starter Ingredients

While waiting on the yeast, add 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp melted butter, 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/3 cup molasses to a large bowl. No need to stir them together just yet.

Grandma's Molasses

This is the molasses I used, which I think can be found in most major grocery stores. Take note that this is NOT black strap molasses, which is less sweet and more bitter. If you use black strap molasses, your recipe will turn out differently.

Bread Dough Starter

Add the foamy yeast water THEN stir everything together until it’s a smooth mixture. 

unkneaded dough

Begin adding all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you can no longer stir with a spoon and a shaggy ball of dough has formed (this was after about 1 cup of all-purpose flour for me).

Kneaded dough ball

Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface, and knead for five minutes, adding small amounts of flour as you go. After five minutes, the dough should be soft and buoyant (it kind of bounces back if you poke it), and no longer sticky. I ended up adding about 1/2 cup more flour while kneading, or a total of 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour.

Risen molasses dough

Place the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover loosely with plastic, and let it rise until it is double in volume (about one hour, depending on the room temperature).

Shape Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls

Punch the dough down, scrape it out of the bowl, and onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into four equal pieces, then cut each of the quarters into three more pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball and place them in a baking dish coated with no-stick spray, oil, or butter. 

Brush rolls with egg wash

Let the shaped rolls rise until double in size again. Begin preheating the oven to 375ºF. Whisk a large egg in a small bowl with a splash of water. Once the egg is smooth and fluid, carefully brush it onto the risen rolls (mine deflated a bit from the brush, but they puffed back up in the oven).

Baked Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls

When the oven is preheated, bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, or until they are deep brown and sound hollow when you tap them. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving.

Two Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls on a cutting board with butter next to the baking dish full of rolls

While I like to let the Sweet Molasses Dinner Rolls cool a few minutes before serving, I do enjoy them while they are still warm enough to melt the butter! ;)

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  1. This is the closest recipe I have found to the molasses bread I ate in northern MN as a kid. It’s delicious!

  2. These are some of my absolute favorite dinner rolls, and I’ve gotten several of my family members on board too. I was wondering if you had any tips on making these ahead and freezing. I live alone but would love to be able to enjoy one of these rolls with a bowl of soup now and again without having to deal with an entire batch. But I’m not sure what might be best for this recipe – parbaking? Bake completely and then freeze so they just need a quick thaw/reheat? I’d prefer some method that would allow for reheating as quickly as possible from frozen (as I’m a terrible planner, I’d never remember to take out a roll to thaw hours before I actually want one lol.) I appreciate any advice you can give me.

    1. If you want the quickest reheat possible, I would definitely go with baking the rolls first, then cooling and freezing. Bread in general freezes great! Then to reheat you can just pop one in the microwave for about 15-30 seconds and you’ve got a nice hot, steamy roll. :)

  3. Well these were fabulous. The molasses and cocoa powder gave them a complex, nutty flavor. And they were so light and soft! My boyfriend said they were his favorite part of our mini-Thankgiving meal.

  4. Just made these today for my husband’s birthday. They were delicious! But oh what a sticky mess! I added the 2 cups of AP flour and it was still barely workable. Not sure how much I worked in while kneading. After rising it was back to a sticky mess. Very hard to shape. I should have put the in a muffin pan. We had to cut them apart. Not sure what the problem was. Maybe I mismeasured something.

    1. Yes, I’m sure you could, although I haven’t tried it so I don’t know how long it will need to bake.

  5. These are fantastic! Made in a 9×9″ pan which worked out well. A great side for a Thanksgiving meal! Will definitely make again.

  6. These look amazing. I want to make them for Thanksgiving, but I can’t have the fiber content in whole wheat flour. Can I substitute that and use all APF? Thanks!

    1. Yes, you can do all AP flour, but you may need to add slightly more flour than I did, since AP doesn’t absorb quite as much liquid as WW flour. :)

  7. Only have blackstrap molasses on hand. Has any tried the recipe with this type of molasses? How did it turn out?

    1. It’s an enamelware baking dish made by Crow Canyon. The online store where I bought it is actually closed, but I believe that Crow Canyon has a list on their site of places where their products can be purchased. :)

  8. I made those tonight. They are out of this world! I can’t believe how flavorful they are.