For a unique morning treat, black sesame rolls are like non traditional cinnamon rolls but with nutty, savory depth from black sesame paste instead of cinnamon. This recipe makes just 9 perfectly plush, pillowy sweet rolls!
After conducting the best cinnamon roll bake off, I’ve adapted my favorite recipe to incorporate one of my favorite flavors in a sweet roll: black sesame.
Black sesame is so nutty, earthy and slightly bitter–to me, it’s the perfect foil to sometimes overly-sweet cinnamon rolls. I originally concepted this recipe for a bake sale that would reflect my Asian-American heritage. I’ve made these rolls more than 9 times and still haven’t tired of them. Everyone who I’ve shared these with loves the unique yet comforting flavors! These are one of my favorite creations so far, and I’m excited to be sharing it with you.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- The softest dough: The enriched dough is SO soft, pliable and extremely tender. It’s the BEST sweet roll dough I’ve ever tried.
- Not too sweet: While these rolls are definitively sweet, the nutty, earthy edge of the black sesame keeps them from being overly sweet to me.
- Black sesame cream cheese frosting: Cream cheese frosting can often be one-dimensionally sweet. The slight bitterness of the black sesame paste perfectly offsets the sweetness of the sugar and tang of the cream cheese for a well-balanced icing to top the sweet rolls!
Ingredients you’ll need to make black sesame rolls
These black sesame sweet rolls are adapted from Sarah Kieffer’s incredible cinnamon rolls. The dough is enriched with honey, whole milk and lots of butter for a really soft and tender texture that you will love!
- Black sesame paste: You can typically find black sesame paste at most Asian markets. Asian black sesame paste is typically unsweetened and made with toasted black sesame seeds (you’re looking for a paste that only contains black sesame). I’ve tested these rolls with both black sesame powder and paste. Back sesame paste was the clear winner with a superior flavor that’s deeper and richer!
- Instant yeast: Although the fine granules of instant yeast don’t require proofing, I always like to do this at the start of yeasted recipes to ensure my yeast is still active. If you only have active dry yeast, you can sub an equal amount for the instant yeast. However, your dough will take longer rise, so plan to add 30 additional minutes to each rise.
- Whole milk: Full-fat milk is preferable for the best results, but you can also use reduced fat milk or an alternative plant-based milk in a pinch.
- Honey: Using honey not only adds a subtle floral flavor to the dough, but it also helps keeps the dough soft and extensible.
What does black sesame taste like?
If you’ve never used black sesame paste before, think of it as a cousin to peanut butter or tahini (white sesame paste). Black sesame typically has a nutty, savory, earthy, slightly bitter flavor. Black sesame paste is typically made from black sesame seeds that have been roasted and ground, which gives it a more complex, toastier flavor.
How to make the rolls: step by step
As part of my adaptation from Sarah’s recipe, I go directly into kneading the dough once it’s mixed instead of folding the dough every 30 minutes per her original directions. This allows you to make the rolls from start to finish in about 3 hours!
Step 1: Proof the yeast and mix the dry ingredients
I always start by proofing the yeast to make sure it’s still active and not expired, even though instant yeast technically don’t need to be proofed in liquid. Warm the milk to between 100-110 F–I usually microwave the milk for 15-25 seconds. Sprinkle the yeast over the top along with a pinch of sugar to help feed the yeast. Set it aside in a warm place to rise for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
Step 2: Mix together the wet and dry ingredients
Whisk in the eggs and honey into the yeast mixture. It’s important that the eggs are room temperature (not cold) so the temperature drop doesn’t inhibit the yeast! Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until a rough dough forms.
Step 3: Add the butter, knead until smooth and let rise
Using a dough hook attachment, knead the dough on low. Gradually add the cubed, softened butter gradually until mostly incorporated into the dough. Turn the mixer to medium low and knead for 8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and sticky. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel and set aside for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
Step 4: Roll out and assemble the black sesame filling
Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10×15″ rectangle. Spread the black sesame paste evenly over the surface, then sprinkle the sugar and salt evenly across.
Step 5: Roll up the sweet rolls, cut into 9 pieces and let rise
Starting with the long side, roll up the dough into a log and use a piece of floss to divide the log into 9 even pieces. Place in a lightly greased 8×8 or 9×9 pan and set aside, covered, to rise for 1-1.5 hours.
Step 6: Bake, frost and enjoy!
Preheat the oven to 350. Uncover the rolls and bake for 24-27 minutes or until browned and puffy. While the rolls are cooling, beat together all the frosting ingredients. Frost rolls while slightly warm, if desired. Enjoy!
Yes! Cold dough is especially pleasant to work with. After mixing and kneading the dough, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and place in the fridge overnight, up to 12-16 hours. This longer rising time may lend a subtle fermented flavor to the dough (similar to a very faint sourdough tang).
Once the rolls are done baking, the tops will be brown and set. If a tester is inserted, the center should be baked through and not at all gooey with an internal temperature of 190-200 degrees F.
While both are made with black sesame seeds, they are not the same. Black sesame paste is typically made with toasted black sesame seeds while tahini typically uses non-toasted seeds. Black tahini may also have a thinner texture.
If you can’t find black sesame paste, black tahini can work in a pinch (but I have not tested this). You can also make your own black sesame paste.
Tips and Tricks
- Place dough in a bowl about double its size: I always have a hard time eyeing when a dough has truly doubled. However, this tip from Erin McDowell (8:41 in the video) changed my life! If you place the dough in a bowl about double its size or in a measuring cup with measurements, you can easily see when the dough has actually doubled.
- Let the dough rise in the greased final pan: Although I usually just throw the dough in a bowl to rise, Baked by Dan has a tip to make rolling out the dough easier. In the greased 8×8 or 9×9 pan that you plan to bake the rolls in, pat the kneaded dough into the bottom of the pan. It’ll rise in the approximate shape of a square, making it easy to roll out the dough into a perfect rectangle.
Storage and Reheating
You can store leftover sweet rolls in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. I highly recommend popping any leftover rolls in the microwave for 30-40 seconds to reheat before eating!
If you tried this Black Sesame Sweet Rolls Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below. Thanks for visiting!
Black Sesame Sweet Rolls
For the dough
- 6 tbsp whole milk, warmed to 100-110 F 85g
- 1 slightly heaped tsp instant yeast
- 2 large eggs, room temperature 100g
- 2 tbsp honey 42g
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 284g
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature 71g
For the filling
- 1/4 cup black sesame paste 60g
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar 99g
- pinch kosher salt
For the frosting
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature 57g
- 4 tbsp full-fat cream cheese, room temperature 57g
- 2 tbsp black sesame paste 30g
- pinch kosher salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar 113g
For the dough
- Sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over the whole milk and let sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy.
- While yeast is activating, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or medium mixing bowl.
- Once yeast has activated, stir in the eggs and honey. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and salt and mix until combined into a shaggy dough.
- Knead on low and add the cubed butter gradually until the butter has been incorporated into the dough. Turn mixer to medium low and knead for 8 minutes or until the dough is soft and slightly sticky. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and set aside for an hour at room temperature, or until nearly doubled.
- Once the dough has doubled, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to approximately a 10×15" rectangle. Spread the black sesame paste evenly across the surface (an offset spatula is helpful here), then evenly sprinkle the sugar and salt over the sesame paste.
- Starting with the long end, roll the dough up into a long log. Using a piece of unflavored dental floss, cut the log into 9 equal pieces. Place the rolls in a greased 8×8 pan and set aside in a warm place, covered loosely with plastic wrap or a towel, to rise for 1-1.5 hours (or until puffed and all the rolls are touching).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the covering and bake for 24-27 minutes, or until the rolls are starting to brown on the tops and centers are no longer gooey when poked with a tester. Set aside to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes.
- While rolls are baking, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the black sesame paste and salt and beat to incorporate. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Top lightly warm rolls with icing and enjoy!