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Easy Yeast Rolls

Just a dozen easy yeast rolls? You got it. No more, no less, and all the easy steps you need to make light, airy rolls anytime you need them. 

brush spreading warm butter over dinner rolls in a muffin tin

This recipe was originally published in March, 2014

Yeast rolls seem like they terrify way too many people. Are you one of them? Or maybe you’ve been searching for the softest, most flavorful easy yeast rolls  that don’t make a blue ton or use 3 pounds of flour to put together.

You just need 12!

No matter what your situation, these easy yeast rolls will do it. This version is made by rolling two balls of dough about 2 inches in diameter and putting them side by side in a muffin tin to rise. That’s how you get the split down the middle. We called these butt rolls growing up. You can see why obviously.

If you don’t want to roll balls, just put them in the muffin tin in one larger ball or place them in a round cake pan barely touching–that’s another easy way to get your easy yeast rolls done with less fuss.

They’ll emerge from the oven so soft, warm and begging for a smear of butter and jam.

a close up of one dinner roll

How to make these easy yeast rolls

  • You’ll have to tackle yeast. Yes, I know. But you can do it. If you need some help, check out my post on how to activate yeast. It takes about 5 minutes. You can handle it. You can also watch me activate yeast on YouTube. 
  • Over the years I’ve tried a lot of flours–and a lot of brands of flours–to find one that works best. I actually find that the cheaper the flour is, the better it works, resulting in a lighter dough. If you want to use just all purpose flour, my favorites are King Arthur, Aldi’s flour or Hogsdon Mills from Walmart. I do not recommend Pillsbury or Gold Medal by any stretch.
  • Bread flour is also excellent here and something that I really just started using in the last year and a half or so. I really like it here–it has more gluten in it and gives your dough more structure as it rises and I think the the yeast rolls are lighter. I like King Arthur for bread flour. You could also do half all purpose and half bread flour if you wanted to go that route.
  • Avoid working too much flour into your dough when you knead it on the counter. A little stickiness won’t hurt anything. Keep your hands floured and avoid dumping it on the dough itself.
  • If you want a stronger yeast flavor in your dough, let it rise in a cooler area for longer–the yeast will develop more fully and give you that signature flavor.

The difference between active dry yeast and instant yeast and how to swap them

There have been tons of questions about the difference is between active dry and instant yeast. This recipe calls for active dry yeast which needs to be activated in warm water before using it. I use active dry yeast because it was the standard type of yeast developed before instant and most time trusted recipes are written for that type–but one isn’t necessarily better or worse than the other.

Instant yeast can be activated in water OR it can be added dry right into the flour or dry ingredients and then added to your recipe. Instant yeast does not rise faster than active dry despite the “fast rise” on the package.

If you only have instant yeast on hand

If you only have instant/rapid rise yeast on hand, add the water (warm) that’s used in the recipe in with the eggs and oil. Then open the package of yeast and add it into the flour before adding it to the recipe and proceed as the recipe instructs.

Remember: Instant yeast can still fail

Just because you don’t have to activate instant yeast doesn’t mean it will just automatically rise. Your water must still be the correct temperature (luke warm) and your other ingredients needs to be room temperature as well. Too cold and the yeast still won’t wake up and leaven your rolls.

Not looking to work with yeast? Try my no-yeast quick rolls  and give either version a big smear of my slow cooker apple butter.

Watch me make these rolls on YouTube

brush spreading warm butter over dinner rolls in a muffin tin

Homemade Yeast Rolls

The perfect recipe for a dozen delicious yeast rolls.
4.93 from 40 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 42 minutes
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 171kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water about 110 degrees or just slightly warmer than lukewarm
  • 1 package active dry yeast *see note 1 for using instant yeast instead
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flavorless oil I prefer avocado but vegetable or canola also works
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3-3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
  • Add the sugar, oil, egg, salt, and half of the flour and mix until just combined.
  • Add one more cup of flour and mix until the flour is combined again.
  • Add between 1/2 of a cup to 1 whole cup of the remaining flour as needed until the dough comes together and is soft but not gooey. (Usually takes about 3/4 of a cup for me, but will depend on weather and humidity)
  • Spray the top with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Allow to rise in a warm place for one hour or until doubled.
  • Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 4 or 5 times until the dough is slightly smooth.
  • Spray muffin tin with cooking spray.
  • Pinch off balls of dough about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place two in each muffin tin side by side.
  • Allow to rise about one hour more until doubled again.
  • Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes and brush melted butter over the tops when you take them out of the oven.

Notes

Note 1: If using instant yeast, add the warm water called for to activate the yeast to the bowl with the sugar, oil, egg and salt. Add the packet of yeast in to the bowl when you add  the first half of the flour and continue with the recipe as written. 

Nutrition

Calories: 171kcal

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Recipe Rating




Brandy Bell

Monday 30th of November 2020

I made these for Thanksgiving this year, my first attempt at yeast rolls! I was super jazzed about how they turned out, almost exactly like my Memaw's! She always put three little balls of dough in the tins, instead of two. I did two. I've discovered through your recipe that bread baking may be my thing. It was so relaxing! Thanks for the recipe! I'm going to try cinnamon rolls next! Happy Holidays! 😁😁

Rachel Ballard

Monday 30th of November 2020

Brandy I'm so glad! Also--use my real cinnamon roll recipe! You'll die they are so good!https://feastandfarm.com/soft-homemade-cinnamon-rolls/

Laurel Roberts

Saturday 28th of November 2020

I made these rolls for Thanksgiving this year and they did not rise. I believe the kneading direction....4 or 5 times, is incorrect. It should probably read 4 or 5 minutes.

Rachel Ballard

Saturday 28th of November 2020

Laurel dough that doesn't rise is a yeast issue. Did you make sure to activate it first?

Nadira

Thursday 26th of November 2020

Could I skip the egg?

Rachel Ballard

Thursday 26th of November 2020

It hasn't been tested eggless Nadira.

Ivie

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

Can you leave the dough out for its initial rise overnight?

Rachel Ballard

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

No not in this case. If you were making a wild yeast sourdough, those breads can sit out for very long rises--especially overnight. However with traditional yeast breads, if you were to leave it out, the yeast would dissolve the gluten structure and he'd wake up to a bowl of goo. Best to just follow the instructions.

Janice Barnes

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

I followed the directions my rolls did not brown and the outside came out hard. Very disappointed

Rachel Ballard

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

I am so sorry to hear that. We have to remember that baking bread is an art and a practiced skill. Whenever I hear someone tell me that they have a really hard crusty pale loaf of bread, it means that the dough was overworked and too much flour was added during the kneading process. Bread just takes a really light hand and it's really easy for beginners to fiddle with it a lot and it just makes the dough really tough. You'll just have to try again! In a few years you'll be a champ. --Rachel