Soft Sourdough Orange Rolls

Soft sourdough orange rolls are my favorite. A citrusy cousin of classic sourdough cinnamon rolls, these orange rolls are filled with the vibrant flavors of fresh orange zest and orange juice. Made with 100% natural yeast, soft sourdough orange rolls have the health benefits of fermentation, making them a delicious option for a special morning. I love eating them warm and covered with ooey gooey orange frosting. Enjoy this recipe for the best soft sourdough orange rolls!

Why You’ll Love these Soft Sourdough Orange Rolls

You are going to love this recipe because it’s easy to follow. It tastes delicious and your whole family will be raving about orange rolls the rest of the week. Promise! You’ll also love the sample baking schedule to help you plan your sourdough bake and get the fermentation right every time. So what are you waiting for? You’ve got to try these delicious sourdough orange rolls.

Ingredients in Soft Sourdough Orange Rolls

  • Sourdough Starter: Use an active/ripe sourdough starter (doubled in size/bubbly/mild sour aroma) to mix the levain.
  • Milk: Whole milk makes these rolls decadantly delicious but 2% milk works in a pinch.
  • Unsalted Butter: I always bake with unsalted butter. It allows me to control the flavor in my baked goods — there is no standard for the amount of salt in butter, so you cannot predict how much salt has been added.
  • Oranges: These orange rolls benefit from plenty of orange zest and freshly squeezed juice from an orange. You will need 2-3 oranges for this recipe.
  • Sugar: Granulated sugar brings the perfect sweetness to these orange rolls.
  • Eggs: Eggs add richness to the dough. I always add them in straight from the refrigerator.
  • Bread Flour: I almost always use bread flour for any bread that I am kneading. The higher protein content and properly activating the gluten results in a lighter/springy baked good.

Sample Sourdough Baking Schedule for the Soft Sourdough Orange Rolls

A sample baking schedule helps me when baking with sourdough. Sourdough takes much longer to rise than traditional bread. This schedule helps me plan my bake.

A few notes: This schedule assumes the dough temperature is 78º F throughout the process. If you’d like to make the best soft orange rolls all on the same day, skip the cold bulk fermentation and go straight to shaping the orange rolls (you will still need to make the levain the night before and let it rise overnight).

Day 1Levain
8 PM -8AMMake Stiff Sweet Levain. Let rise overnight.
Day 2Mixing/Bulk Fermentation
8 AMMix Dough
8:15 AMBegin Bulk Fermentation
12:15 PMEnd Bulk Fermentation
Option 1: Refrigerate the dough for 12-24 hours and shape rolls the next morning
Option 2: Shape Rolls and continue with the recipe
12:15 PM – 7:00 AMCold Bulk Fermentation
Day 3Shaping/Baking
7:00 AMShape Sourdough Orange Rolls
10:00 AMRise in a warm (78-80+ degree F) place for 3-4 hours until puffed up and touching. Do not bake unless dough has puffed up and risen.
10:30 AMBake and frost. Serve warm.

How to Make Soft Sourdough Orange Rolls

Make a Stiff Sweet Levain

One of the reasons I advocate for making a levain instead of using straight sourdough starter is in cases like these sourdough orange rolls (or these sourdough cinnamon rolls). Maintaining a sourdough starter at 100% hydration makes it easy for me to create a stiff sweet levain when I need it for an enriched dough. I also use a stiff sweet levain for enriched breads like this cinnamon sugar babka. A stiff levain is a levain that mixes up to a firm consistency and is anywhere from 50%-65% hydration. It adds elasticity to dough and helps temper the acid in the sourdough, which gives all the benefit of sourdough fermentation without the tang. The sugar in the levain helps counteract the acidity and creates a more mild flavor. My sometimes picky kids are especially grateful for this! To make a stiff sweet levain:

  • Use 100% hydration sourdough starter at its peak
  • Add 20 grams of ripe sourdough starter to 100 grams of all purpose flour, 50 grams of water and 20 grams of sugar. Mix together.
  • A stiff starter will be a little more difficult to mix together, because it forms a dough ball instead of a batter. Knead the ball of dough a few times until smooth.
  • Place the stiff sweet levain in a liquid measuring cup and set in a warm (76-78 degree F) spot for 12 hours.
  • Stiff Sweet Levain is ready to use when it has doubled in size and has a rounded top. Using it right when it reaches its peak will help decrease the acidity in the dough.

Mix the Dough

I use a Bosch mixer or KitchenAid mixer to mix this dough. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use your hands, though it will take longer. Add all the dough ingredients to the mixer and fit it with a dough hook. Reserve a little bit of the flour to add toward the end of mixing the dough as needed. Weight measurements are always more accurate than volume, but I always like to reserve a bit of flour (about a half cup) so I don’t over-flour my dough. Varieties of flour and weight of eggs can impact the amount of flour added to dough, so I play it safe. It’s easier to add more flour than to fix over-floured dough. Mix the dough on low speed for about 3-5 minutes. Add the reserved flour as needed. The dough should be tacky, not overly sticky. Continue kneading about 5 more minutes until smooth, elastic and it passes the windowpane test. Place in a container or bowl for bulk fermentation.

Bulk Fermentation

Bulk fermentation is the name for when the dough ferments in one big mass. Put the dough in a container and cover it. The entire bulk fermentation should take about 4 hours at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the temperature of the dough, it should be between 78-80ºFahrenheit. If your dough is significantly colder, bulk fermentation will take longer. If it’s warmer, the bulk fermentation will be a bit shorter, however wild yeast perform best in the 78-80ºF range, so do your best to keep the dough in that range. I use a dough proofer or the inside of my oven with the light turned on (don’t turn the oven on!) to keep my dough warm. Let the dough sit for 4 hours in that warm place. By the end of 4 hours it should have puffed up, be smooth and risen a little.

Cold Bulk Fermentation

After the initial 4 hour bulk fermentation is finished, my favorite way to make these orange rolls is to put the covered container in the refrigerator overnight. This allows me to shape the rolls the following morning and let them rise for a morning brunch. I also think this step improves the flavor of the orange rolls. If you want to make them all in the same day, that works too. Just skip the cold bulk fermentation and proceed with the rest of the recipe (you will still need to make the levain the night before and let it rise overnight). The orange roll dough can stay in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours before using. When you’re ready to shape the rolls, pull the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for a few minutes while you prepare the roll filling and put parchment paper on the baking sheet.

Orange Roll Filling

Soft sourdough orange rolls have the most delicious orange roll filling. This comes from plenty of orange zest that turns the filling orange and gives the most delicious orange flavor. Mix together soft/melty butter in a bowl with white sugar, orange zest and a little bit of flour into the butter. Then I spread the orange-sugar paste over the roll dough. That little bit of extra flour helps keeps the rolls from gaping open when baked. For extra gooey orange rolls you can drizzle some heavy cream over the top of the rolls before baking.

Shaping Soft Sourdough Orange Rolls

This recipe makes 24 small orange rolls. Cut the dough in half. Roll the first half of dough out on a lightly floured pastry mat or counter about 14 inches by 10 inches. Spread on the filling and then roll up, pinching the seam together. To cut out the orange rolls, you can use a sharp knife, bench scraper or even dental floss. Cut the log in half and then cut six equal-sized rolls from each half. Place the rolls on the upper half of a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you have any wispy orange roll ends, go ahead and tuck them under the roll so they don’t come loose during the bake. Repeat with the other section of dough and nestle the rolls on the bottom half of the baking sheet.

Proofing Sourdough Orange Rolls

Soft sourdough orange rolls need more time to rise than rolls using commercial yeast thanks to the sourdough. They also require a warm environment to rise–right around 80-85ºFahrenheit. Make sure that you put your pan of shaped rolls in a warm spot. I often use the oven with the light turned on. Let the rolls rise and get puffed up. Lightly touch the rolls and they will feel soft and airy. If they feel dense–do not bake them yet! Let them rise. This final rise is a very important step in the process. Take a finger and gently press into the side of the roll. If it springs back right away, you need to let the dough rise longer. If it stays indented with just a little bit of spring, they are ready to bake.

Baking Sourdough Orange Rolls

Preheat your oven to 350ºF (make sure you take the risen orange rolls out if you are using your oven as a proofing box). Bake the rolls for about 20-25 minutes. Ovens all bake differently. Some ovens bake hotter in the back and cooler in the front. If you want an even bake on your rolls, rotate your pan 180º after the first ten minutes of baking. This will keep half of your rolls from getting too dark or the other half being too light. Check the center of one of the cinnamon rolls after baking to make sure that the middle isn’t raw. Sometimes you need to let them go a minute or two longer to make sure they are completely baked through.

The Best Orange Roll Frosting

The frosting on these rolls is amazing. There’s no other way to describe it. I’m not a huge fan of overly “cream cheesey” tasting frosting, and the ratios on this icing are just perfection. More butter than cream cheese, when all whipped together the orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice takes this frosting to a whole new level. It is just divine! Whip the frosting until it is thick and creamy. Let the orange rolls cool about 5 minutes before spreading a large dollop on each roll.

Have I convinced you yet? These soft sourdough orange rolls are so so delicious. I may even love them more than the cinnamon roll version. And I don’t even feel guilty about feeding this decadent treat to my family because: sourdough!

Amy’s Recipe Tip

100% sourdough recipes take a long time to rise. If you aren’t noticing a rise, the dough needs to be warmed up. Do NOT bake these rolls if they haven’t risen or they will turn out dense. Make sure the rolls are light, fluffy and airy before baking.

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Soft Sourdough Orange Rolls

Soft sourdough orange rolls are the perfect recipe for spring! The citrusy cousin of class sourdough cinnamon rolls, these orange rolls are made with 100% natural yeast and full of ooey gooey goodness!
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 22 minutes
Fermentation Time 1 day 13 hours
Total Time 1 day 14 hours 22 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 24 rolls


Sweet Stiff Levain (10-12 hours/overnight at 78ºF)

  • 20 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • 20 grams granulated sugar
  • 100 grams all purpose flour
  • 50 grams water

Sourdough Orange Roll Dough

  • 180 grams levain
  • 440 grams warm whole milk  about 1 3/4 cup, see recipe notes
  • 113 grams unsalted butter, melted about 1/2 cup
  • 115 grams granulated sugar about 1/2 cup
  • 2 large eggs about 100 grams total
  • 12 grams salt about 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • 950 grams bread flour about 6-7 cups
  • zest of one orange optional

Orange Roll Filling

  • 113 grams unsalted butter very soft or melted, 1/2 cup
  • 165 grams granulated sugar about 3/4 cup
  • 2-3 Tablespoons orange zest from about 2-3 oranges
  • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour about 10 grams

Orange Roll Frosting

  • 113 grams unsalted butter softened, 1/2 cup
  • 57 grams cream cheese softened, 1/4 cup
  • 250 grams powdered sugar about 2 cups
  • 30 grams orange juice about 2 Tablespoons
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest from one large orange
  • a pinch of salt to taste


Levain (10-12 hours, overnight at 78ºF)

  • Mix together ripe sourdough starter, all purpose flour, granulated sugar and water. Knead the levain until it forms a cohesive ball. Set in a liquid measuring cup and cover for 12 hours until the levain has doubled in size and the top is rounded.

Sourdough Orange Rolls

  • Warm the milk in the microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes full power) or on the stove. It should be around 90-100ºF, no warmer than that. To the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the ripe levain, warmed milk and melted butter.
  • Add the sugar, eggs, salt, orange zest and most of the bread flour. Turn on the dough hook and knead for a few minutes. Add the remainder of the bread flour as needed. The dough should be tacky, not overly sticky and should all cling to one side of the bowl (or away from the edges depending on your mixer). Knead for a total of 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth, soft and can pass the windowpane test.
  • Bulk Fermentation: Put the dough in a container and cover. Set the dough in a warm, 76-78 degree F place for 4 hours. Take the temperature of the dough as needed to keep the dough temperature right around 78 degrees F. This temperature is optimal for fermentation.
  • At the end of about 4 hours, the dough should be puffed up and feel very elastic. If it doesn't feel this way, let it bulk ferment for another half hour and check again.
  • Overnight Option: At this point, after the bulk fermentation has finished, you can cover the dough and put it in the refrigerator. Proceed with the recipe the next day, shaping and proofing the rolls before baking. This allows you to time the orange rolls for breakfast or brunch if desired.
  • Mix up the Filling: Near the end of bulk fermentation, mix up the orange roll filling. To a small bowl, add the melted butter, sugar, orange zest and flour. Mix together. Set aside.
  • Shaping: Line a half sheet pan (18 by 13 inches) with parchment paper. Cut the dough in half and roll one half of the dough out into an approximate 14 by 10 rectangle. Spread the orange filling all over the dough with your fingers or a spatula, making sure to cover up to the edges of the roll dough. Starting with the dough closest to you, roll up the orange rolls and pinch together the seam. Flip the roll over, seam side down. Cut the long log of dough into 12 equal pieces. Place the orange rolls on the parchment paper, snuggling all 12 rolls together on half of the pan. Repeat with the other piece of dough, nestling the other 12 rolls on the other half of the pan. You will have 24 rolls total.
  • Proofing: Cover the pan and let rise in a 80-85ºF place until puffed up and risen, about 3 hours. Do not bake these rolls if they have not risen.
  • Baking: Pre-heat the oven to 350 ºF. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until baked all the way through.
  • Orange Roll Frosting: Using a hand mixer, whip together softened butter and cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar, orange juice (from one orange), orange zest and a pinch of salt. Whip together for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The frosting should be light and fluffy.
  • Spread frosting over the tops of the orange rolls while they are still warm. Enjoy!


Bread Flour: I use bread flour in these soft sourdough orange rolls. Bread flour creates dough with more elasticity thanks to the higher protein content, and I prefer the texture of orange rolls made with bread flour. If you don’t have bread flour, you can use all purpose flour and substitute some vital wheat gluten to increase the protein content of the flour or substitute all-purpose flour. You may need to add a little more all-purpose flour to make up for the lower protein content.
Whole Milk: 2% milk can be substituted
Keyword homemade sourdough orange rolls, naturally leavened orange rolls, orange rolls with sourdough, recipe for sourdough orange rolls, soft and fluffly sourdough orange rolls, soft orange rolls, soft sourdough orange rolls, sourdough breakfast rolls, sourdough orange rolls, sourdough orange rolls recipe
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Recipe Rating


  1. Is it possible to replace cream cheese with something else? I’ve been wanting to make a Cinnabon for a long time, but I don’t know where to get cream cheese in Egypt.

    1. I would just mix up a glaze or buttercream icing to put over the top. Leave the cream cheese out and substitute butter. You may need to adjust a little with the cream or milk in the icing.

    2. 5 stars
      Katya, you could get plain yogurt and put it in cheesecloth and a sieve, over a bowl and let it hang to get rid of the liquid. It would end up with a similar texture and close to the taste. Or you could google how to make homemade cream cheese and make your own. Another alternative is Quark, if they have that where you live.

    1. I like my oven with the rolls covered with plastic wrap and the light turned on. I have to check on them every hour or so and rotate the pan or adjust the light (on or off) so it doesn’t get too hot.

  2. These sound wonderful and would like to make them for Easter morning. Could I shape them, proof for three hours then put in fridge to bake in the morning?

    1. I think that would work well. Just make sure they are almost all the way risen before sticking in the fridge.

  3. 5 stars
    These were the best orange rolls ever!!!! My mom used to make the Pillsbury Orange Rolls for Christmas and Easter and I’ve made them for our kids. My husband and I’ve been avoiding gluten for many years, but have discovered we can eat sourdough, so when I saw this recipe I just had to try it. We were all blown away at how amazing these turned out. I couldn’t believe I actually made them. This will be a life long recipe that I will teach my kids (now all grown) and will be enjoyed for many years to come!

    1. I probably would use a combination of a soft and hard white wheat flour so you have the protein content needed for these rolls to rise. I may also add a little vital wheat gluten (maybe 10-20 grams for this recipe) if using all whole wheat flour.