Sourdough Sticky Pecan Rolls

Ooey, gooey, sourdough sticky pecan rolls may just be my favorite way to eat a cinnamon roll. Move over sourdough cinnamon rolls, we’ve got a new favorite in the house! These sourdough sticky pecan rolls are so decadent, rich and delicious. If you love pecans, you can’t go wrong with this recipe. Real maple syrup replaces the corn syrup called for in traditional sticky bun recipes and gives an even more delicious depth of flavor to these sticky pecan rolls. I made them over Thanksgiving for extended family and they were gobbled up quick. You’re going to love them.

Important Components of Sourdough Sticky Pecan Rolls

  • Sourdough Starter: Use a ripe & active sourdough starter to make a stiff sweet levain. This is what will leaven your sticky pecan rolls.
  • Cinnamon Roll Dough: This caramel apple cinnamon roll dough is based on my favorite sourdough cinnamon rolls. Use bread flour, whole milk, eggs, sugar and a stiff sweet levain.
  • Pecan Topping: This sticky pecan topping is incredible. Many sticky bun recipes call for corn syrup. I use real maple syrup in this recipe instead of corn syrup. It gives a deeper flavor and tastes so delicious. The sticky pecan topping pairs so well with the homemade cinnamon roll base.

Sample Sourdough Schedule for Sourdough Sticky Pecan Rolls

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

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

Day 1Mix Levain
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 AMMix up Topping
Shape Sourdough Sticky Pecan Rolls
10:00 AMRise in a warm (78 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 Enjoy!

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 sticky pecan 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.

Mixing the Dough

I use a Bosch or Ankarsrum stand 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, but not overly sticky. Continue kneading about 5 more minutes until smooth and elastic. 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 (I like using these shower caps as covers). The entire bulk fermentation should take about 4-5 hours at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the temperature of the dough, it should be between 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit. 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 degree F 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 4-5 hours the dough should have puffed up and risen a bit.

Cold Bulk Fermentation

After the initial 4-5 hour bulk fermentation is finished, my favorite way to make these rolls is to put the covered container in the refrigerator overnight. This allows me to shape the rolls the following morning and we can enjoy some of the best sourdough sticky pecan rolls to start the day. 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 dough can stay in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours before using. When you’re ready to shape the sticky pecan rolls, pull the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for a few minutes while you prepare the filling and pecan topping.

Prepare the Sticky Pecan Topping and Mix Up the Filling

Sticky Pecan Topping: Chop the pecans and pour them in the bottom of a 9 by 13 glass baking dish. To a small saucepan over medium heat add the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, heavy cream and salt. Let simmer for about 2 minutes. Then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour this sauce over the pecans in the pan. Let this mixture cool to room temperature before adding the rolls on top.

Cinnamon Sugar Mixture: Mix together soft/melty butter in a bowl with brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and a pinch of salt until you have a soft and spreadable mixture. Set aside.

Shaping the Sourdough Sticky Pecan Rolls

This recipe makes 12 sticky pecan rolls. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured pastry mat, about 18 inches by 12 inches. Spread on the filling and roll up, pinching the seam together. To cut the pecan rolls, you can use a sharp knife, bench cutter or even dental floss. Cut the log in half and then cut six equal-sized rolls from each half. Place the rolls on top of the sticky pecan mixture in a 3 by 4 grid.

Proofing Sourdough Sticky Pecan Rolls

Sourdough stick pecan rolls need more time to rise than commercial yeast rolls, thanks to the sourdough. They also require a warm environment to rise – right around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the rolls and 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 Sticky Pecan Rolls

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (make sure you take the risen rolls out if you are using your oven as a proofing box). Bake the rolls for about 25-30 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 180 degrees 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 pecan rolls after baking to make sure that the middle isn’t raw. Sometimes you need to let them go a few minutes longer to make sure they are completely baked through.

Plating Sourdough Sticky Pecan Rolls

Once the rolls have baked through, pull them out of the oven and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Get a serving platter and put it upside down on top of the baking dish. Using hot pads, quickly flip the baking dish over so the rolls flip out onto the serving platter. Now the pecan mixture is on top of your rolls! Enjoy them warm!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I store leftover sourdough sticky pecan rolls?

After they’ve cooled, stick them in an airtight container in the freezer and re-heat individually as needed. They can be frozen for up to a couple months.

What pan should I use to bake these rolls?

I like using a glass pan for the pecan topping to cook in and get all bubbly and sticky. Usually I bake cinnamon rolls on metal baking sheets, but for this recipe a glass 9 by 13 is my preference.

Can I mix the dough up and shape the rolls, then refrigerate and bake the next morning?

Yes. You will need to allow for extra time for the dough to warm up and fully rise before baking.

I don’t like pecans. Can I make these without pecans?

I have not made these without pecans. I think it would work okay, but the topping may not stick as well without having the pecans there to hold it in place. You could substitute a different nut in its place if desired.

Sourdough Sticky Pecan Rolls

Ooey, gooey, sticky pecan rolls made with 100% natural yeast sourdough. These are incredibly delicious and deserve a place on your breakfast table this year. We love the sticky pecan topping and sweet cinnamon roll. The perfect pairing for a special occasion.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Fermentation Time 1 day 13 hours
Total Time 1 day 14 hours 30 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings 12 rolls


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

  • 10 grams ripe/active sourdough starter
  • 10 grams granulated sugar
  • 50 grams all-purpose flour
  • 25 grams water

Sticky Pecan Roll Dough

  • 90 grams levain all of it
  • 220 grams warm whole milk about 3/4 cup
  • 55 grams unsalted butter, melted about 1/4 cup
  • 60 grams granulated sugar about 1/4 cup
  • 1 large egg about 50 grams
  • 6 grams salt about 3/4 teaspoon
  • 475 grams bread flour about 3-4 cups


  • 55 grams unsalted butter very soft or melted, 1/4 cup
  • 100 grams brown sugar about 1/2 cup
  • 4 grams ground cinnamon about 1/2 Tablespoon
  • 5 grams all-purpose flour about 1/2 Tablespoon

Sticky Pecan Topping

  • 225 grams pecans roughly chopped, about 1.5 cups
  • 113 grams unsalted butter about 1/2 cup
  • 200 grams brown sugar about 1 cup
  • 100 grams real maple syrup about 1/3 cup, see recipe notes
  • 55 grams heavy cream about 1/4 cup
  • 2 grams salt about 1/2 teaspoon
  • 4 grams vanilla extract about 1 teaspoon, reserved


Levain (10-12 hours, overnight)

  • 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 10-12 hours until the levain has doubled in size and the top is rounded.

Sticky Pecan Roll Dough

  • Warm the milk in the microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes full power) or on the stove. It should be around 90-100 degrees F, 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 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.
  • Bulk Fermentation: Put the dough in a container and cover. Set the dough in a warm, 78-80 degree F place for 4 hours. Take the temperature of the dough as needed to make sure the dough temperature stays 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 Refrigeration: At this point, after the bulk fermentation has finished, 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 sticky pecan rolls for breakfast or brunch if desired. If you prefer to shape the rolls and bake them the same day, skip the overnight refrigeration and proceed with the recipe.
  • Mix up the Filling: Near the end of bulk fermentation, mix up the cinnamon roll filling. To a small bowl, add the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix together. Set aside.
  • Prepare the Pan with Sticky Pecan Topping: Pour the chopped pecans (I like to give them a few pulses in the blender) in the bottom of a 9 by 13 glass baking dish. To a small saucepan over medium heat add the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, heavy cream and salt. Let simmer for about 2 minutes. Then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour this sauce over the pecans in the pan.
  • Shaping: Dump the dough on the counter and roll the dough out into an approximate 18 by 12 rectangle. Mix up the cinnamon filling by mixing softened butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour together until it forms a thick paste. Spread the cinnamon filling all over the dough with your fingers, making sure to cover up to the edges of the cinnamon roll. Starting with the dough closest to you, roll up the cinnamon roll and pinch together the seam. Flip the cinnamon roll over, seam side down. Cut the long log of cinnamon roll dough into 12 equal pieces. Place the cinnamon rolls on top of the gooey pecan mixture in a 3 by 4 grid.
  • Proofing: Cover the pan and let rise in a 78 degree F 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 degrees F. Bake risen rolls about 25-30 minutes until baked all the way through. Let the rolls cool for 5 minutes before flipping the pan over onto a serving platter. Place the serving platter upside down on top of the pan. Use hot pads and flip the pan over. This turn the rolls upside down so the sticky pecan topping is now on top! Enjoy!
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  1. My daughter is vegan. Do you think I could substitute vegan egg (Just Egg, or a flax egg) and coconut milk instead of whole milk in this recipe?

  2. Looking forward to making these, but I’m a little nervous. Do you have a video for this recipe?

    1. I don’t have a video for this. I do have some snippets in my Instagram if that helps. But you can definitely make these! It may seem like a lot of steps but it’s fairly straightforward. Just make sure you’re using your starter at its peak height.

  3. I made these yesterday and shared with a friend for dessert. Another showstopper which is actually fairly simple to make.
    I used the dental floss technique to cut my rolls and that was a game changer for a perfect roll.
    I will make these again for sure!