Baker Bettie

Make-Ahead Soft Yeast Rolls

These easy soft yeast rolls can be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to bake and serve. This recipe result in tender, fluffy, chewy and buttery rolls easy enough for any day of the week and special enough for holiday gatherings!

Soft Yeast Rolls in a casserole dish after baking

Every time a big holiday meal is about to roll around I have a struggle with the huge life decision of yeast rolls or biscuits? These are the big questions in life. How do we make these kinds of decisions?!

But I realized the other day that I had disproportionate number of biscuit recipes to roll recipes on the site. And since we are still in the middle of the working with yeast series, I thought this would be the perfect time to teach you how to make my favorite soft yeast rolls!

If you remember from the first recipe in the series, we made an easy rustic bread. This rustic bread was a lean bread, requiring only 4 ingredients and no fat. Lean breads are crusty and chewy.

Today we are going to make a rich bread. Rich breads include more liquid and fat, usually from eggs, butter, and/or oil. Rich breads are more tender, but this also means that the dough is a little trickier to handle.

The dough tends to be softer and stickier and this tends to pull people into adding more flour to the dough to make it easier to handle. Try to avoid this! You want a high fat to flour ratio to keep the bread tender and soft.

If you have a stand mixer, this dough can easily be mixed with the dough hook. But I actually prefer to knead bread dough by hand. It is therapeutic for me and I like to get a feel for the dough to know when it is ready.

It is up to you how you want to knead the bread, but really try to avoid adding more flour than necessary.

Soft Yeast Rolls on a cloth

I made another video tutorial for you to show how to make the bread. I hope you guys are liking these! I think it really helps to see the process to understand that it really is pretty simple! But I’m going to walk you through the process below as well.

Step 1: Scald the milk. Heat your milk over medium-low heat until almost simmering. This process denatures the proteins in the milk which helps the bread rise. Remove the milk from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. You want it to be warm but not hot before adding your yeast.

Step 2: Proof the yeast. Add the active dry yeast to the warm milk and stir. Let this sit for a few minutes to allow the yeast to come out of its dormant state. You can tell it is activated when you see some foam and bubbles forming.

Step 3: Stir together all ingredients. While this recipe has a few more ingredients than an easy rustic bread, they are still pretty simple. Sugar, butter, flour, eggs, salt, and the yeast/milk mixture.

Step 4: Knead the dough. Kneading develops the glutens in the dough and also helps develop flavor. As I said before, you can either do this by hand or with a dough hook in a mixer. In the video above I show you the technique how to do this by hand.

Step 5: Let the dough rise. After the dough is kneaded, place it in an oiled bowl and let it ferment. This means that the yeast is feeding on the sugars and producing carbon dioxide. The point of letting the dough ferment is that it creates most of the flavor in the bread and also helps develop the gluten network.

In a warm place (about 80F) this takes about 1 hour. If your kitchen is very cold, this might take a little longer. I like to turn my oven on for about 2 minutes, turn the oven off, then put the bread in the oven to ferment. The warm oven makes this process work a little faster.

Step 6: Shape the dough. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape them into balls. 12 pieces makes pretty big puffy rolls, which are perfect for a hearty dinner. But you can also cut them into smaller pieces. To shape, pull down on the sides of the piece of dough and pinch underneath to seal the seams. Space the rolls out evenly in an oiled 9X13″ pan.

Step 7 (optional): Refrigerate. If you are prepping these rolls ahead, you can cover them tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate them until you are ready to bake. For big meals, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, I definitely like to prep rolls ahead because I don’t want to be dealing with flour all over the counters while cooking other food.

BUT you don’t have to prep them ahead. If you aren’t prepping ahead, skip to step 8. If you do want to prep the dough ahead, you can refrigerate the shaped rolls for up to 18 hours.

Step 8: Proof the rolls. Cover the rolls with a clean towel and let them rise in a warm place until doubled in size. If you refrigerated them, they will likely already have started the proofing process slowly in the refrigerator. Let them sit out at room temperature for about 1 hour to finish proofing and to take the chill off. You want to yeast to be active when it goes into the oven.

Step 9: Brush with an egg wash. Whisk together an egg with 2 TBSP of water. Brush the mixture over the top of the rolls. This gives the rolls that beautiful golden color and shine.

Step 10: Bake. Bake the rolls at 375F for 14-16 minutes.

Step 11: Stuff your face! Seriously. Eat them while hot and eat a lot of them!

Soft Yeast Rolls on a cloth

Soft Yeast Rolls in a casserole dish after baking

Make-Ahead Soft Yeast Rolls

Yield: 12 Rolls
Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 16 minutes
Slow Proofing Time (optional): 12 hours
Total Time: 14 hours 46 minutes

These easy soft yeast rolls can be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to bake and serve. This recipe result in tender, fluffy, chewy and buttery rolls easy enough for any day of the week and special enough for holiday gatherings!


  • 1 cup whole milk (lower fat milk can be substituted)
  • 1 package (0.25 oz or 2 1/2 tsp) active dry (not instant or rapid rise)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/2 TBSP, 2.6oz, 73gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 cups (17oz, 476gr) all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBSP water


  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it just starts to barely bubble. Just under a simmer. Remove the milk from the heat, pour into a bowl, and let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. When the milk is cooled to warm, add the yeast to the milk and stir together. Let sit for 5 minutes to proof.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, butter, eggs, salt, and flour. Add the milk/yeast mixture and stir together until it forms a dough.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes until its smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can knead with a dough hook in a stand mixer.
  5. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  6. Deflate the dough by gently pushing your fist in the center and folding the sides over. On a clean un-floured surface, pat the dough out into a rectangle. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces (or more if you want smaller rolls).
  7. Shape the pieces of dough into balls by pulling down on the sides and pinching the seal underneath. Grease a 9X13" pan (you can use glass or metal or even a baking sheet lined with parchment paper), and space the shaped rolls our evenly in the pan.
  8. If prepping ahead: Lay plastic wrap directly on the rolls and refrigerate for up to 18 hours. Remove from the refrigerator an hour and a half before serving. Let them stand for about 1 hour 15 minutes before moving on to the next step. If you do not want to let them slowly rise in the refrigerator: cover them with plastic wrap and let them rise at room temperature for 1 hour before moving on to the next step.
  9. Make the egg wash by whisking together the egg with the water. Brush the rolls with the egg wash.
  10. Bake on the middle rack in a 375F oven for 14-16 minutes.
  11. Serve hot.


A few notes based on some reader comments that their dough did not rise: Make sure that you are using active dry yeast and not instant yeast. Because this dough goes through a slow rise overnight, instant yeast will not work because it releases it's gasses too quickly. Make sure that the milk is very warm but not too hot to touch, or you may kill your yeast. You can also add a small pinch of sugar in with your milk and yeast to make sure that your yeast is alive. The sugar will jump-start the yeast waking up, so if you do this but still do not see any activity with your yeast then it is very likely that your yeast is not alive.

Nutrition Information:

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0
These easy soft yeast rolls can be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to bake and serve. They result in tender, fluffy, chewy and buttery rolls!

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122 comments on “Make-Ahead Soft Yeast Rolls”

  1. When you refrigerate . Can you leave them in a bowel and rool them out the next day?

    • Hi Melissa! You really need to roll them out before refrigerating them. This will allow them to slow proof (rise) in the refrigerator. If you want to refrigerate the dough and roll them out later you want to refrigerate it before the first rise. Then the next day you can roll them out and let them proof. Because the dough will be cold they will take much longer to proof. Somewhere between 2-3 hours. Watch them until double in size. Hope that helps!

  2. Does it matter if the bowl is plastic or glass, metal or porcelain?

  3. Can a double batch be made just doubling the ingredients or should I make two separate batches? We have a lot of people at our Thanksgiving dinner.

    • Hi Jessica! You can definitely double the recipe for a double batch! Another thing to keep in mind is that if you use this recipe to make 12 rolls as I do here they are quite big! I often divide it up into 16 or even 24 rolls for something like Thanksgiving when there will be a lot of other food. Hope that helps!

  4. I made these tonight and they were delicious! One issue I did have was that the first time I mixed the yeast and milk, the yeast didn’t proof. I even added some sugar to try to get it going and nothing happened. I Scalded more milk but this time I used a thermometer to make sure the milk wasn’t too hot before I added the yeast. It took more than 15 minutes to drop from the scalded temperature to 110 degrees, which is the highest recommended for the active dry yeast. The first time I only waited 5 minutes after pouring the milk into a bowl as the recipe states. Although it just felt warm to my finger,  I’m sure I killed yeast the first time around. Once I’d sorted that out, they came together easily and tasted wonderful. Thanks for a great recipe! 

  5. I made these rolls for thanksgiving dinner. They were a huge hit!  They were requested for our Christmas party, I’ll be making a double batch! I really love that I can prep them the night before! They are wonderful! Thank you for this recipe!

  6. Hi there – does it matter what u bake the rolls I ? Glass pan, cake pan etc. Also, where in the oven should I place my pan when cooking?
    Thank you! 

  7. I made this recipe, but I did alter a few things. I used 1/2 cup of honey instead of sugar, double the yeast, and used way more salt.(not sure how much exactly, but it really needed it) The bake time is about 20-22 minutes for a nice brown top, super worth it though.

    • Hi Pamela! So glad you enjoyed them. Be careful when increasing yeast amounts. The yeast needs enough food to feed on to proof your dough. It can run out of food and you will actually end up with less yeast flavor and less rise than with a smaller amount of yeast. Looks like yours turned out beautiful!

  8. I also used a bit of a different method. I used the warm milk to melt the honey and proof the yeast at the same time. I then added the eggs in once the yeast was ready. I did use a stand mixer, but I hand whisked the eggs in with melted butter. I used a hook and had to use a bit more than 4 cups of flour, but the weather here does effect such things. Once the dough was no longer sticky (making sure to not over mix. I keep it on a low setting until the dough becomes more firm) I place the dough in a buttered bowl for about an hour before rolling it into balls.

  9. I made these rolls and they were very good! I did a double batch for Christmas at my grandmother’s and everyone enjoyed them very much. I made 18 rolls from each batch. They turned out pretty much exactly as expected. They did take a good bit longer than 14 minutes, more like 25 minutes in her oven. One thing I am wondering, mine turned out with a noticeable yeasty taste. I am wondering if that is normal for this recipe, or if it has to do with something I did?


    • Hi Rebecca! Yes, these should taste yeasty. That is common for yeast rolls. The longer proof time also increases that a little bit. If you want to reduce the yeast flavor I would suggest making them following the directions to bake them the same day instead. Hope that helps!

  10. These are the very best yeast rolls I’ve ever made in my 50 years of baking! This is the second time and each time they were excellent. Now I’m ready to wow everyone.

  11. This is a wonderful recipe. I really love the fact, that you put the weight of the flour in your recipe. 

  12. Can these be rolled out and made in to Parker House rolls?

  13. Can these be made with bread flour?

    • Hi Jayne, you technically can, yes. But I don’t typically use bread flour for enriched doughs as I want them to be a bit more tender. I find that unbleached all purpose flour tends to give the best texture. But if you want to use bread flour you can substitute it 1:1.

  14. Can you make these up into rolls and freeze them ?

    • Hi Melissa, Yes you can. I recommend baking them, letting them cool completely, then wrapping each one in plastic wrap and putting them all in a freezer bag to store. Rewarm them at 325 until warmed through!

  15. Can you please suggest any alternative for eggs? Also what is the reason for adding egg?

  16. I know you very clearly say not to use instant yeast 🙂 but it’s all i had so i went for it—and these are FABULOUS. (fyi, i did the overnight fridge rise.) I also made 9 instead of 12 because I wanted them bigger. Currently eating one right now and already dreaming of the next one. Thank you!

  17. I will make it now, but want to know if I can make it without eggs, can you suggest any alternative

    • I do not suggest making this without eggs as I have not tried it. I would search for a recipe that specifically calls for an eggless alternative rather than substituting.

  18. Hi !
    I have been looking for an answer as to why you need to scald the milk first THANK YOU ! Have you par baked these ? Im trying to prep as much as possible for thanksgiving.. 🙂

  19. Be careful how much flour you use.  Four cups was too much for my rolls leading to a huge fail.

    • Hi Kim! sorry to hear your dough had too much flour in it. If you are measuring with a measuring cup, instead of by weight, make sure you fluff up the flour and lightly spoon it into your measuring cups without packing it down at all. Otherwise, you can definitely end up with too much flour in your dough. I have made this recipe literally 100s of times (I use it for all of my bread classes), so the amount is correct. If you don’t already have one, definitely recommend getting a digital scale for more accurate measuring! Also, with any yeast dough, if it feels too dry you can always work in a little more liquid. This video might be helpful as well:

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