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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119 comments on “Make-Ahead Soft Yeast Rolls”

  1. Thank you Ms. Bettie! This has landed in my inbox just as I’m making the final tweaks to the TG menu. How is it a week from today already?! Aaargh! These will be on the menu for sure! My go-to roll is a 30 minute recipe, but that can be tricky to not over-proof when you get distracted doing 15 other menu items. These will be perfect! Thanks again and happy Thanksgiving!

  2. can I 3 times this recipe for dinner rolls

    • Yes you can! You will need a big bowl! These rolls are also very big so you could definitely make smaller rolls if you like too. Even 16 or 18 in a batch instead of 12 would work nicely.

  3. Please, could you give me a gluten-free version??

  4. I am so excited to make these Baker Betty!

    Do you use bread flour in this recipe?

    I read that you can prep these and refrigerate up to 18 hrs, this is good to know! Have you ever froze the prepped rolls?

    I only have a stand mixer and don’t feel confident enough to knead myself. Do I use the dough hook the entire time?


    • Hey Steph!

      I do not use bread flour when I make these, but you definitely can. It will give them more chew.

      I actually have not had great luck at freezing unbaked yeast dough. My baking science knowledge tells me it is not a good idea because the freezing temperatures will burst the yeast cells. BUT I know some people do it and have had luck with pizza dough so it may be worth an experiment. My rule of thumb is to bake first, then freeze. I let the rolls cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap, put in a zip top bag, then freeze. I refresh them in a 300F oven.

      Yes, you want to use your dough hook. I would put all of the ingredients in the bowl of the mixer, stir together with a spoon, then start mixing with the dough hook. You may need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl at the beginning if the dough is pooling in the bottom too much.

  5. Made these tonight under a quick schedule, they we were devoured ,uswd my mixer and dough hook,delish!

  6. Keep trying different recipes for the perfect dinner roll. By George, I think this is it! Thank you, Bettie! My family loves these. I did a trial run today and will make them again for Thanksgiving!

    • That makes me insanely happy Annie!! Thanks for the feedback. So glad your family loves them!

      • I have a jar of yeast of instant yeast . In the video it shows a package of yeast I’m not sure exactly how many ounces that is or how many tables teaspoons or teaspoons to measure how much do I need in spoon size?

      • I have a jar of instant yeast . In the video it shows a package of yeast I’m not sure exactly how many ounces that is or how many tables teaspoons or teaspoons to measure . How much do I need in spoon size?

  7. These turned out killer. I used Insta-sav yeast as I was cooking them the same day. I am assuming you discourage instant yeast if you are refrigerating/proofing overnight? They make nice big roles at about 77 grams each, so I am going to cut them down in size a bit for Thanksgiving. Thanks so much!

    • Hi Eva!

      Thanks so much for the feedback! And yes, you are correct. Instant yeast will not work for these if you are prepping ahead and refrigerating overnight. And yes, they are substatial rolls. I think 16 or 18 per batch would be a good size for Thanksgiving!

  8. Why do I need to refrigerate the dough before I bake it?

    • Hello there!

      You don’t need to refrigerate if you don’t want to prep ahead. If you read the recipe, it states the skip the refrigeration step if you are not prepping ahead. The refrigeration is for people who want to prep the rolls early and then bake when ready. This makes it easier on days like Thanksgiving when a lot of other cooking is being done.

  9. These look fabulous. I need to make 2 batches One exactly like the recipe, but another one gluten free. Do you think gluten free flour would work?

  10. Hello Bettie,
    Thank you these Buns are Family Love’s them so I’m going to Bake these on Sunday’s from now on thats our Family get together with Roast Lamb…
    again I Love making them
    from New Zealand.

  11. Good post, i surely love this site, keep on it

  12. Made these for christmas. They were super moist and amazing. Tasted almost like potato rolls. I have now been told by my family that i need to make these for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas!
    I rate 5 stars

  13. Can”t wait to make these rolls.

  14. A couple things I want to ask about- why use yeast and baking powder or soda in a recipe? And how do butter and shortening compare in a yeast roll recipe? I’ve been making yeast breads and rolls for years, but infrequently and I learned a few things today! Thanks

  15. So, this is my first attempt at making rolls of any sort, and ever using yeast, so I’m no really sure how things are supposed to go… When I mixed the yeast in with the milk, it clumped up, even though i mixed it right away. I tried mixing it for a minute or two, trying to get it to disperse, but it didn’t really do much. Are my rolls going to be junk now…?

    • My yeast did the same thing. I checked the milk temperature before I added the yeast to be sure it wasn’t too hot, I added the yeast when the milk was about 120F. I do not see any bubbling/foaming happening in my milk mixture–worried my yeast is dead. Don’t want to add dead yeast to my flour, otherwise worried my rolls won’t rise. YIKES…may have to run to the grocery store for more yeast.

  16. Just use four cups of gluten free all purpose flour instead. This is what I do with a regular recipe I just use how many cups of gluten free flour instead of the regular flour that it calls for. Pillsbury gluten free flour would be best for this type of recipe.

  17. Can this be done in a bread machine

  18. I tried this tonight and it did not turn out right I followed the steps

  19. Do you use bread flour and or plain flour?

  20. will it work using this dough with BBQ pork filling

  21. Bettie, this dough recipe was both my mother and my MIL’s “go to” roll recipe. Both were good cooks, but my MIL thought her rolls were fantastic until she had my mom’s, probably because they were so pretty. Turns out they both used the same recipe, just prepared the dough in different shapes. LOL! My MIL used to roll her dough out to about 5/8″ thick, cut out pieces of dough with a round cutter, fold them in half, and then stack them (side by side) to rise in a greased glass casserole dish. (This shape of roll is perfect for a big scoop of homemade preserves.) My mother, on the other hand, rolled out half the dough quite flat into a circle, then cut in 8 wedges, buttered the dough, and rolled each wedge up to make crescent rolls. One batch of dough = two rolled-out dough rounds = 16 rolls. The presentation was truly beautiful, and people would beg her to bring “her rolls” to pot-lucks and dinners. My mom would prep the dough ahead of time, and then finalize, so her recipe is titled Refrigerator Crescent Rolls. I don’t think my MIL refrigerated her dough. Hope someone enjoys making the recipe one of these two ways.

  22. This is the first time I’ve visited this site. Looking forward to more.

  23. My dough did not rise. I am so confused I used active dry yeast what could have gone wrong??

  24. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I tried to put it together 3 times, but the dough just turned out thin and gooey…I’m sure it’s something I’m doing incorrectly since is my first attempt at yeast rolls.

  25. if you are making smaller rolls, do you have to change the baking time? really want to try these….I have never made yeast rolls before and will be making them this week.

  26. Yes it did thanks . I am going to make them for Thanksgiving So have a great day! Happy Thanksgiving Dolores Vann

  27. Can’t wait to try these, but I have guests who cannot tolerate dairy. Do you think they will be good if I use soy milk and margarine? Thanks!

  28. What form of butter?
    Cold, , soft or melted.

  29. I made my dough with quick rise yeast (that’s all that I had). I planned on refrigerating the overnight and making them tomorrow for thanksgiving dinner. After reading the comments I see that will not work. I am thinking I will just bake tonight and reheat them tomorrow before dinner. Any other suggestions?

  30. I made these. It was my first time making a yeast bread, and they turned out beautifully. Thank you for the recipe and the video!!

  31. How long can they stay in the fridge?

  32. So.. This recipe is awesome! I just used rough measuring estimates because I was busy chasing around my toddler and new crawling explorer. I used about a cup of milk with a small handful of sugar and instead of butter I threw in a stick of margarine. Whole stick. .no time for dirtying extra dishes yesterday! Not even a butter knife! Mixed in bowl. Kneeded in the air because I didn’t want to clean my counter again and was busy playing hide and seek with the toddler anyway. By the time they had formed, dinner was two hours away so I just left them on the counter that long. The turned out.. They ACTUALLY turned out really good! Made two 8×8 pans and froze one. Thank you for your guide!

  33. Can you add rosemary or other herbs to this recipe? Will it affect the rise? I plan on refrigerating overnight. Thanks Bettie!

  34. Have you ever tried to prepare them 24 – 36 hours ahead? Any issues?

  35. You measure the milk and sugar in “cups”, could you convert that to volume and weight, as you have with the butter and flour, please?
    Thank you.

  36. Baker Bettie can I make and bake the soft yeast rolls in advance and freeze them?

    • Hi Lorraine! 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!

  37. I make these by hand in our coach. 12 is a perfect batch size, and the pan fits in our convection oven. They are devoured by all who have tried them. If any are left they freeze with no problem. Thanks for such a great recipe.

  38. Can I freeze this for use later. thanks

    • You sure can, Linda! Just be sure to use active dry yeast, not instant or rapid rise yeast. To thaw, cover rolls in plastic wrap (to prevent from drying or cracking on top) and allow to come to room temperature before baking. Thawing will likely take about 90 minutes.

  39. Can I triple this recipe?

  40. What should I expect if I refrigerate for more than 18 hours? Is that going to kill my yeast?

    • Your yeast won’t die, but it is possible your rolls will overproof. If the rolls seem very proofed when you pull them from the refrigerator, reduce the amount of time you wait before baking! Hope that helps!

  41. I have these covered in my refrigerator to bake tomorrow for thanksgiving and I realized while I was cleaning up that i grabbed the WRONG flour! I accidentally used self rising four. Any use in still cooking them? Do I need to start over? 

    • Hi Susan,

      I haven’t tried it with self-rising flour but I honestly don’t think they are trash. Why don’t you pull one out and bake it and see how it turns out before you toss them all! They might just be a little saltier and maybe rise more.

  42. Can you substitute honey for the sugar in this recipe and if so how much……
    Thank you

    • Hi Paule,

      I have not personally done it this way, but it should work out fine. You will likely need a little more flour to balance the moisture. I would suggest using about 1/3 cup of honey as a replacement. Let me know how they turn out!

  43. Excellent recipe! Super soft and totally easy!

  44. Foolproof and delicious! I use cold butter and eggs straight from the fridge, throw it all into my KitchenAid with the paddle to mix then the dough hook to knead and they come out perfectly every time!

  45. These rolls are melt in your mouth buttery deliciousness and so easy to make. Thanks Bettie!

  46. I put all the ingredients in my bread machine and went from there. They were better than my 20 year old recipe!

  47. Hi! I just made these rolls today and they were wonderful. The recipe is very forgiving; I accidentally underproofed on the first rise and over on the second, but they still came out delicious, if not as high s they could have been.

    They are very soft, but they don’t have the chewy/pillowy texture I’m looking for. When I’m pulling it appart to butter, the roll kind of falls apart instead of ripping like a good roll. It’s very friable.

    Any idea what could have caused this? The flavor and everything is wonderful, I love these rolls, and I’m definitely making them again once I troubleshoot!

    • Hi Sandy, It sounds like maybe it wasn’t kneaded enough if you say it is falling apart. Did you knead by hand or in a stand mixer? Make sure the dough is really elastic and smooth after they are kneaded. It’s also possibly due to them being over-proofed on the second round. The gluten structure can start to become weaker if proofed too much. I hope that helps!

  48. I am one to say if I did anything wrong but no I did not I pre prepped ingredence was spot on I have made bread and biscuits but I wanted fluffy yeast rolls. well 3 hr. later and so later I have Biscuits well, I will be looking for another recipe….
    Come on I questioned milk and yeast ???? but I low heated and off the stove into a bowl and warm to touch yeast added it was alive and the last to go into all other ingred. I did not knead with extra flour just a little on my fingers . I did not use a mixer which I do have but I to like to make bread by hand it feels like a baby’s butt. Well again i’ll say this is a long biscuit recipe. bummer …. they were good but not at all what I thought. So sad.

    • Hi Jody! So sorry to hear you had issues with these rolls. Since this is a tested recipe, made time and time again with success, I’d love to help you troubleshoot! Proofing yeast in milk is a common yeast bread practice and since you are certain your yeast was alive it sounds like you possibly ended up with too much flour in your dough. Make sure you do not pack the flour down into your measuring cup at all. With flour measured properly, these will turn out so soft and fluffy! I make them so often! Hope that helps.

  49. All I can say is wow. I followed the recipe to the letter with one exception. I was using 1% milk, so I added just a ‘little’ extra butter just for the fat difference. I knew after about the second turn on kneading how nice the dough was, I think I physically smiled. I been doing bread for years with the ‘lean’ doughs and just never got where I wanted with it, always kind of dry. Your explanation of watching extra flour during the knead is really pretty key and mistakes I made years ago kneading with all this flour like a crazy person. Got a decent first rise, punched, shaped and I was like wow will these grow into each other and rise more (another common mistake, people let the thing rise to some sort of sci-fi thing the first rise and its almost spent on second lol). 45 minutes later I had my response, nice large tray of risen rolls all ready for wash and heat. Baked out and man, just what I was looking for. Family reaction? I now am looking at I donno 4 trays of these for Thanksgiving… lol Incidently this is similar to the scaled milk bread recipe my wife learned from her German grandmother. In central Tx where she grew up, its common to see this sort of roll as a morning ‘biscuit’ and I sampled examples in local cafes while there. Thanks for the great recipe and knowledge, I’ve crossed into the dark side with rich dough, next stop, we go a little sweeter, add raisins and cinnamon and brown sugar and go after Cinnabon’ish cinnamon rolls. 😉

  50. Can you use powder milk for this recipe?

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