Whole Wheat Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns)


Kanelbullar has always been something I’ve admired from afar, primarily for its beautiful twist. Aren’t they like the more understated, simple-but-elegant version of its American cinnamon roll cousin? In this recipe, the primary spice is cardamom instead of cinnamon, and it perfumes the dough subtly. It’s glazed twice, once before and once after baking, with a sticky runny spiced-glaze.

Be warned though, these are definitely not like cinnamon rolls in its ooey-gooey sweet goodness. I’d like to imagine these are a lot more breakfast friendly; they’re made with whole wheat flour and a modest amount of butter, they lack frosting, and are less sweet, and so overall it’s no longer a dessert masquerading as breakfast. I like that its primary focus is the spices– there’s no cream cheese frosting or icing that masks the true taste of cardamom or cinnamon, and you just get a very earthy, fragrant experience. Paired with a cuppa chai, and it’s like a warm hug from the inside.



My brother and sister-in-law often come home late at night to the smells of my baking (my favourite time to bake, for some reason, happens to be at night), and it’s cute when they get excited and ask what I’m making. In this particular instance, I tell him cardamom buns, and he jokingly accuses me of making him fat. I try 😉

These were out of the oven around midnight, and I couldn’t resist but take a bite as they were fresh and warm out of the oven (isn’t that the most gratifying part of baking at home, after all?). I was surprised by how light, fluffy and tender they were, with the slightest satisfying chew. Not dense at all, like how some of your cinnamon buns can get. I gave Michael the centre (aka the best part of any cinnamon bun), and he said they tasted healthy, which, you know, I was happy to hear. And they do– it’s not buttery and has a great texture from the whole wheat flour and grains.

They’re usually topped with pearl sugar, which I didn’t have, so I used black sesame seeds instead– flaked almonds would also be lovely. As a last-minute idea, I also shredded an apple, squeezed out its excess juices, and scattered the apple on the dough, before rolling them. This helped keep the bun moist, but since the apple was shredded, you don’t really get a big bite of apple, so it’s more complementary to the spices than the big star. I might try upping the apple content next time, just to see how it turns out.

Give ’em a try, for an extra special weekday treat 🙂


Whole Wheat Kanelbullar

  • Servings: 12 medium buns
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

Recipe from Salt & Wind


  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup unrefined granulated sugar + 1 tbsp sugar for the yeast
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract, divided
  • 3 tsp ground cardamom, divided
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg, divided
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups whole wheat bread flour (all-purpose is also great) plus more for rolling the dough
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 5 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • toasted sesame seeds, sliced almonds or pearl sugar, for garnish
  • 1 apple (preferably a crisp variety)


  1. Heat milk to 110° to 115°F degrees, then combine with the yeast and 1 tbsp of granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, the egg and egg yolk, 2 tsp of the vanilla, 2 tsp of the cardamom, 1 tsp of the cinnamon, 1 tsp of nutmeg and 2 tsp of the salt, then whisk until eggs are broken up and well combined.
  2. Slowly add 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour to the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead until a soft silky dough forms (Only add as much flour as you need). The dough should be tacky, silky, and a slack enough that it slightly falls on itself when you set it down. If the dough is sticking to you hands after 3 1/2 cups, add remaining 1 cup flour in 2 tablespoons intervals until you have the desired consistency.) Mix in 4 tablespoons of the room temperature butter a few pieces at a time until well incorporated. Knead using the mixer for 15 minutes.
  3. Shape dough into ball tucking the ends under so the top surface is smooth.
  4. Lightly spray a clean bowl with nonstick spray and roll dough ball in oil. Cover with plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel, set in a warm place and allow to rise until doubled; about 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. When ready to form the cinnamon rolls, prepare the filling by combining the remaining 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter, 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar, 3 teaspoons of the ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of the ground cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla bean paste, and a pinch of salt. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Grate an apple into medium shreds, and squeeze the excess juices.
  6. Heat oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. On a lightly floured surface use a rolling pin, to roll the dough a 12-inch-by-18-inch rectangle. Spread the butter-sugar mixture over rectangle all the way to the edge. Scatter the shredded apple evenly.
  7. Along the 18-inch side, mark the dough every 6 inches then use those marks as a guide to gently fold the dough in thirds onto itself so it’s like a closed business letter. Turn the dough so the seam is in front of the you and the open ends are to your right and left.
  8. Trim the edge of the dough slightly so the rectangle is even then using a very sharp knife or pastry wheel, slice the dough lengthwise into 2 centimeter long strips (you should have about 16 to 18). To form a knotted roll, loop the two times rope over your first two fingers then fold it under to tie it into a knot.
  9. To see how to shape it, this is a really good video.
  10. Let dough rise for 1 hour at room temperature.
  11. While the buns are rising, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of light brown sugar with 1/4 cup water, the remaining 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom, remaining 1 tsp of ground cinnamon, remaining 1 tsp nutmeg, and remaining 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or a vanilla bean split lengthwise). Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve then sugar then remove from heat.
  12. When the rolls are ready to bake, brush tops of each with the spiced simple syrup then sprinkle with pearl sugar, sesame seeds or sliced almonds. Bake cinnamon rolls in the oven about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and almonds are toasted. Remove from oven, and brush again with the simple syrup; cool slightly before serving.
  13. Enjoy!


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