When I made my matcha glazed cinnamon rolls last month, my mom kept saying they had too much processed sugar, so in an effort to appease her tastes, I made a batch of sticky buns with less processed sugar. So how did I keep the same level of sweetness? With medjool dates! They are inherently sweet and much better for you than processed sugar. These are my Vietnamese cinnamon date sticky buns which are inspired by Sohla El-Waylly’s Cinnamon Date Sticky Buns. And yes mom approved these sticky buns!
Ingredients, Substitutions & Adjustments
- Whole milk – Adds moisture to these sticky buns. I used full fat whole milk for this recipe, but 2% works as well.
- Active dry yeast – This helps the dough rise and gives it its fluffy texture. Make sure to dissolve it in warm water (about 110 degrees F) before using.
- Granulated sugar – Adds sweetness to this recipe. You can also use brown sugar for this recipe, but it will add more moisture to this dough. You might need to add more flour if you use brown sugar.
- Unsalted butter – Make sure to use unsalted butter, so you can control the salt in your dough.
- Egg – Provides richness to the dough.
- Salt – Brings out the flavor of the other ingredients.
- All purpose flour – This is the main dry ingredient in this dough.
The filling is one of my favorite things about this sticky bun recipe. It is filled with a paste made with medjool dates, Vietnamese cinnamon, vegetable oil, and a little bit of salt. I then topped that paste with a little bit of light brown sugar for some extra sweetness. You can substitute any kind of cinnamon for Vietnamese cinnamon. You can also use any kind of neutral oil for this recipe.
The glaze for these sticky buns are a basic vanilla glaze made with powdered sugar, whole milk, and vanilla paste. You can substitute coconut milk for whole milk. You can substitute vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean for vanilla paste.
Making my Vietnamese cinnamon date sticky buns
Making the dough
The first step is to make your dough. Warm up your milk on the stove or in the microwave. Aim for a temperature of 100-110 degrees F. Any higher and you risk killing the yeast. Once warm, combine with active dry yeast and granulated sugar. Mix and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it foams. Pour ingredients into a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter and whisk until the butter is broken down into small pieces. If you’re using a stand mixer, make sure you’re using the dough attachment.
Next add in your egg and salt and mix until combined. At this point, it’s okay if there are small pieces of butter still visible. Slowly add in your flour and whisk until a soft dough forms then knead for 6 minutes. If using a hand mixer, knead with your hands. Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl. Cover and let it rise for 1 hour until double in size.
Making the filling
While the dough is rising, make your filling. Soak medjool dates for 20 minutes. Next, combine medjool dates, vegetable oil, Vietnamese cinnamon, and salt into a food processor. Pulse until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.
Rolling and cutting the sticky buns
After rising, transfer onto a flat surface. Flour the surface if needed. Roll out dough into a 12×12 square. Smear the Vietnamese cinnamon date paste onto the rolled out dough. Top with brown sugar. Next, roll the dough into a tight, 12-inch long log. Trim off the ends and cut into 9 equal pieces. I like to do this by cutting the dough into 3 pieces and then dividing each piece into 3 pieces. This method helps produce even sized sticky buns. Place sticky buns onto an oiled baking dish or cast iron pan. I used a 9×9 baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and let them rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Baking and glazing the sticky buns
While the sticky buns are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake sticky buns covered for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, uncover them and bake for another 10 minutes to get that brown color. If after 10 minutes they are not brown enough for you, leave them in for 1-2 more minutes. You can take them as far as want. While the sticky buns are baking, make your glaze. Mix together all the ingredients for the glaze and set aside. Glaze the sticky buns once they are out of the oven. Serve right away for the best flavor!
Tips on how to make the perfect Vietnamese cinnamon date sticky buns
- Use the correct technique to measure out your flour – One of the biggest mistakes I see when measuring flour is using the measure cup to scoop out the flour. This is a mistake because when you use your measuring cup as your scoop, you are actually compressing the flour into the measuring cup. Compressing the flour means you are using more flour than you intended to. The correct way to measure flour is using a spoon to scoop flour into the measuring cup and then leveling it off with a straight edge. This might sound a little crazy, but trust me it makes a difference. It’s little things like this that take your baking from good to great.
- Try not to use flour when kneading or rolling out your dough – When you first start kneading the dough, it may stick a bit, and it may be tempting to dust a little flour on top but try to resist the urge. As you knead the dough, it will stop sticking. Keeping the dough as moist as possible results in a fluffier cinnamon roll. So try not to use flour, but definitely do it if it’s sticking too much to the surface.
- The key to the perfect swirl – The real key to the perfect swirl is to roll out your dough into a perfect 12×12 square. No you don’t have to be absolutely perfect, but you do want it to be as close as possible.
- Use a sharp cerated knife to cut your sticky buns – The other trick to getting a good swirl is using a nice, sharp cerated knife to cut your sticky buns. Make sure to use nice, long strokes when cutting. The sharp knife and long strokes prevent you from squishing your buns and helps you get that nice swirl.
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Vietnamese Cinnamon Date Sticky Buns
- Warm up the milk on the stove or in the microwave. Aim for 100 - 110 degrees F.
- Combine milk with active dry yeast and sugar. I like to do this in a liquid measuring cup because it’s easier to handle. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it foams.
- Pour ingredients from step 2 into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter. Whisk with a stand mixer or hand mixer until the butter breaks down into small pieces. If using a stand mixer, make sure to use the dough attachment.
- Add the egg and salt. Whisk until incorporated. Don’t worry if the mixture has small lumps of butter still.
- Add the flour a little bit at a time and whisk until a soft dough forms. Knead for 6 minutes. If using a hand mixer, knead with your hands.
- Cover with aluminum foil and let dough rise in an oiled bowl for 1 hour until it doubles in size.
- While the dough is rising, make your filling. Soak medjool dates for 20 minutes. Add the dates, vegetable oil, Vietnamese cinnamon, and salt to a food processor. Pulse until a smooth paste forms. Set aside.
- Once the dough is done rising, roll it out into a 12x12 square. Smear the Vietnamese cinnamon date paste onto the rolled out dough, and top with brown sugar.
- Roll the dough into a tight, 12-inch long log. Trim off the ends and cut into 9 even pieces. I like to do this by dividing the dough into 3 pieces and then dividing each piece into 3 pieces. This helps me get even sized sticky buns.
- Place sticky buns onto an oiled baking dish or cast iron pan. I used a 9x9 baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and let them rise in a warm place for 1 hour until they have doubled in size.
- While the sticky buns are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Bake sticky buns covered for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the cover and bake for another 10 minutes to get that brown color. If after 10 minutes they’re not brown enough for you, you can leave them in for 1-2 more minutes.
- While the sticky buns are baking, make your glaze. Mix together all the ingredients for the glaze and set aside.
- Glaze the sticky buns once they are out of the oven. Serve right away for the best flavor!