Sticky Buns

Sticky Buns rise in the refrigerator overnight so you can have an indulgent treat just an hour or so after you get out of bed. They’re loaded with brown sugar, cinnamon, caramel and pecans.

beauty shot

When you’re ready for a splurge, Sticky Buns are what you want for breakfast. Oozy, gooey, sweet and crunchy all in one delicious package.

Start the process the day before and all you have to do in the morning is preheat the oven and bake.


ingredients for making sticky buns arranged in bowls.

Ingredient Notes

  • All purpose flour has a medium protein content which is perfect for making this enriched dough. The dough has nice elasticity from the gluten, but is still soft and tender.
  • Instant Yeast – I prefer instant yeast to rapid rise yeast for a slightly slower rise.
  • Milk, Eggs, and butter enrich the dough for a soft and pillowy texture.
  • Maple Syrup – A little syrup keeps the caramel from crystalizing. You can substitute honey or corn syrup.
  • Pecans are traditional for sticky buns, but you can bake the buns without any nuts or substitute walnuts or chopped almonds.

How to make Pecan Sticky Buns

Three bowls with flour and water to make dough.
  • Combine the water and milk with the yeast.
  • Add some of the flour and set the sponge aside for 30-60 minutes. While the sponge rests, the yeast will activate and the flour will absorb the water and begin forming gluten.
  • Add the sugar, eggs and butter to the dough. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining flour.
Dough in a mixer before and after kneading.
  • The dough will be sticky and shaggy after the flour is added.
  • After kneading, the dough should clear the bowl and cling to the dough hook.
A bowl of dough before and after rising.
  • Set the dough aside to rise until doubled in volume. Meanwhile, prepare the sticky topping.
Melted caramel in a pot. Melted Caramel in a baking pan. Pecans on caramel in a baking pan.
  • Melt the butter with the brown sugar and maple syrup.
  • Pour the caramel into a buttered baking pan.
  • Sprinkle chopped pecans over the caramel. Set the pan aside while you prepare the buns.
A rectangle of dough covered with brown sugar. A hand rolling the dough. A hand pinching the seam on a log of dough.
  • Roll the dough to an 18″ x 16″ rectangle. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.
  • Roll the dough from the long end into a tight log.
  • Pinch the seam closed.
A log of dough and a tape measure. A hand holding a bun. Brushing melted butter on an unbaked bun.
  • Mark off 1 1/2″ increments on the log.
  • Slice the buns and place them into the prepared pan.
  • Brush the buns with melted butter.
Buns in a pan before and after rising and after baking.
  • Wrap the pan and set it in the refrigerator overnight. Alternately, you can leave the buns to rise at room temperature and bake the same day.
  • In the morning take the pan out of the refrigerator and let it warm at room temperature while the oven preheats.
  • Bake the buns until those in the middle are set. Rest in the pan for 5 minutes before turning the buns out onto a tray.
a tray of sticky buns.

How to work ahead to make Sticky Buns

This is naturally a work-ahead recipe since it’s left to rise overnight in the refrigerator. The pan can be held in the refrigerator for 1 day.

You can work further ahead if you freeze the uncut log of dough. The dough can be frozen for up to a month. Defrost the log then proceed with the recipe.


What’s the difference between sticky buns and cinnamon buns?

Sticky buns are filled with cinnamon and sugar and baked on top of caramel and nuts. The caramel becomes the topping when the buns are flipped out of the pan.

Cinnamon Buns are filled with cinnamon and sugar and baked in a plain pan. Cinnamon Buns are iced with a sugar glaze or cream cheese frosting.

Can I make Sticky Buns without nuts?

Yes, Pecans are classic for American sticky buns. But you can bake them with just the caramel topping or with a different nut.

Do I have to leave the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator?

You can skip the refrigeration step and just leave the buns to rise at room temperature and bake the same day.

Can I freeze Sticky Buns?

Yes, you can freeze the log of sticky bun dough and defrost and bake later. You can also freeze the baked buns. Store them in individual sandwich bags. Allow them to defrost then rewarm in the microwave or a low oven.

How long do Sticky Buns keep?

Sticky buns are best warm from the oven or within a few hours of baking. After a few hours or the next day they should be rewarmed in a low oven to refresh. Longer than a day they should be frozen.

How do I store Sticky Buns

Keep them at room temperature for a day or freeze for up to a month.

beauty shot
beauty shot

You might want to these other breakfast pastries: Cinnamon Buns, Croissants, Chocolate Croissants, Almond Croissants, Cheese Danish, Apple Danish, Sour Cherry Strudel.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

Print Recipe
4.86 from 7 reviews

Sticky Buns Recipe

A slow overnight rise gives these Sticky Buns an extra special flavor & texture. The warm buns are loaded with caramel and pecans for an indulgent breakfast or brunch treat.
Prep Time2 hours
Bake Time25 minutes
Rising Time8 hours
Total Time10 hours 25 minutes
12 Buns
Save Recipe


For the Dough

  • 6 ounces warm water (¾ cup)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 8 ounces whole milk (1 cup, scalded and cooled)
  • 22 ½ ounces unbleached all purpose flour (4 ½ cups, see note)
  • 3 ounces sugar (⅓ cup)
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter (¼ cup, melted)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

For the Topping:

  • 6 ounces unsalted butter
  • 7 ounces brown sugar (1 cup, packed)
  • 2 ½ ounces maple syrup (¼ cup (see note))
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces chopped pecans

For Assembly:

  • 7 ounces brown sugar (1 cup, packed)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter (¼ cup, melted)


Make the Dough

  • In a mixer bowl combine the water, yeast, milk and 2 cups of the flour. Mix to form a thick batter. Cover the bowl and set aside to rise for 30-60 minutes.
    2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast, 6 ounces warm water, 8 ounces whole milk, 22 ½ ounces unbleached all purpose flour
  • Add the sugar, melted butter, egg and salt then mix to combine. Change to the dough hook if using a stand mixer. With mixer on low slowly add the remaining flour. The dough will start out soft and shaggy. Knead for 5 minutes. The dough will clear the sides of the bowl and gather on the hook. If mixing by hand continue mixing and then kneading in the flour by hand. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead into a smooth ball.
    3 ounces sugar, 2 ounces unsalted butter, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon table salt
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Cover the bowl and set it aside at room temperature until the dough doubles in volume, about 60 minutes.

Prepare the Topping

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Lightly brush a 9" x 13" baking pan with some of the melted butter. Return the butter to the heat and add the brown sugar, syrup and salt. Cook over low heat until the mixture begins to bubble and the butter and sugar are melted. Pour the filling into the prepared pan and sprinkle the chopped nuts in an even layer over the caramel.
    6 ounces unsalted butter, 7 ounces brown sugar, 2 ½ ounces maple syrup, ¼ teaspoon salt, 8 ounces chopped pecans


  • Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Turn the dough onto a floured surface without kneading. Roll the dough to a 18" x 16" (48 cm x 41 cm) rectangle. Generously brush the surface of the dough with egg wash. You should use almost ½ the egg wash to get a good coating so the cinnamon sugar will stick. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the egg washed dough. Use your hands to smooth out the cinnamon sugar to an even layer all the way to the edge of the dough.
    7 ounces brown sugar, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 egg for egg wash
  • Working from the long side, tightly roll the dough into a log, pinch the seam to seal. Straighten out the log so it's of even thickness and is 18" (48cm) long (see note).
  • Use a serrated knife to cut the log into twelve 1½" (4 cm) wide buns. Place the buns in the prepared pan. Generously brush the tops of the buns with the melted butter. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (see note).
    2 ounces unsalted butter
  • In the morning take the pan out of the refrigerator. Overnight the buns should have risen to almost fill the pan. Allow the buns to come to room temperature while the oven preheat to 350 °F.
  • Bake the buns until they're until golden brown and set in the center, 25-30 minutes. 
  • Allow the buns to cool for 5 minutes in the pan then flip them from the pan onto a serving platter or tray while they are still warm.

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If measuring the flour by volume use the “dip & sweep” method. That is, dip the measuring cup into the flour bin, overfill it, then sweep away the excess.
You can use honey or corn syrup in place of maple syrup.
At this point you can wrap the log and freeze for up to a month. Defrost and then continue the recipe.
If you want to bake the buns the same day you can leave them at room temperature to rise at this point.


Calories: 561kcal | Carbohydrates: 78g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 265mg | Potassium: 200mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 35g | Vitamin A: 475IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 3mg
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Recipe Rating


  1. Well, my first pan turned out great, even though I had some issues with putting it together and baking time.
    I’d like to share some problems I had but do not want these to be complaints. I think it is that I am not very experienced in the art of cooking, having taken it up at 70 years old following retirement and my wife deciding she was retiring from our kitchen.
    The dough came together nicely but trying to roll it out to a rectangle turned out to be an issue for me. I ended up with a rounded rectangle or squared off oval shape no matter how much I pulled on it or rolled it out. I’m hoping you have some secrets on how to do this successfully.
    I DID get it to an 18″ log, but it looked more like a cigar than a log, so cutting it into the 1 1/2″ slices resulted in somewhat different volumes or shapes. I think this may have caused the baking issues as well.
    After refrigeration overnight and bringing it to room temperature for 2 1/2 hours, I baked it for 30 minutes to a golden brown, but realized that the middle wasn’t set AFTER I turned it onto a platter. Four buns on the outside edge were done enough to enjoy, but I reloaded the remaining buns back into the cleaned pan and baked for an additional 15 minutes. That seemed to enable the buns to cook enough to enjoy, although they didn’t look as nice as your photo. I also noticed the caramel was very runny after 30 min, but thickened up nicely with the additional baking time.
    I WILL make this again and try to duplicate your photos and put more caution into the baking process.
    Thank you for your great recipes. I’ve been making your Sourdough bread, crackers, Cinnamon Raisin Bread and other items that are now staple in our home.

    1. Sounds like you did a great job, David. Handling dough does take a bit of experience. But in the end, as long as it tastes good it doesn’t have to be pretty!

  2. I used my Grandmothers bread recipe mixed with your filling and topping recipe. Dynamite combo! This is going in my recipe box as my go to. Thank you!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

  3. 5 stars
    Simply amazing recipe! Really, so easy to follow, and I love to have the flexible timing. They also hold really well in the refrigerator. We just finished ours off a week after they had been baked. Just 20 seconds in the microwave and they were as good as on the first day. This will definitely become our Thanksgiving morning go-to recipe!

    On another note, I absolutely love your new cookbook! The tutorials and shortcuts are great!