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Tahini Cinnamon Rolls - An Arab Twist on American Breakfast

posted on: Feb 15, 2023

Tahini Cinnamon Rolls – Alison Norquist

By Alison Noruqist / Arab American Contributing Writer

While I am not Arab by culture or ethnicity, I have found a deep appreciation for the culture that I have been introduced to since the start of my time with Arab America. I have had my tastebuds and eyes opened by the foreign-to-me but comforting flavors that I have tasted on my journey. This week, however, I felt like trying something a little closer to home.

The Inspiration

As a child, I can remember every time a family member or good friend would come to visit, my great-grandmother would make cinnamon rolls. Her recipe, the most outstanding cross between homemade and shortcut, has delighted my family for many generations. This past week, when family once again came to visit, instead of continuing the tradition of Scandinavian American-style cinnamon rolls, I decided to shake up her recipe to reflect the work that I have been doing with Arab America.

My grandmother, who can never get enough of sesame treats and often adds peanut butter to her cinnamon rolls for a nutty twist, was the inspiration for this fusion. With a jar of tahini in hand, I began to prepare for the mixing of my childhood memories and my beginning career. The addition created a subtle but luxurious breakfast pastry that delighted the three generations that joined her and me for coffee.

The trick to the cinnamon rolls is to use frozen bread dough. Can you make yours completely from scratch? Sure. Can you buy a tube of premade cinnamon rolls and then add the tahini to the filling? Also yes. This is just the way that my family does it and it creates a perfect roll every time that is bouncy and rather large. That said, here is the recipe!

How to make Tahini Cinnamon Rolls

The Tahini Cinnamon Rolls

1 loaf of bread dough, frozen*

1/2 c butter, softened

2 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 c sugar

1/4 c tahini

The Tahini Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/2 c butter, softened

1/4 c tahini

1/2 c powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of sea or kosher salt

sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

The instructions

  1. Roll the dough into a large sheet, approximately the size of a baking sheet.
  2. Mix the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and tahini into a paste. Spread evenly across the bread dough
  3. Tightly roll the bread dough into a log widthwise, pinching the ends to seal the roll. Trim the ends and then cut them into 12 even slices.
  4. Place each roll carefully into a greased pan, ensuring even space between each roll and the sides.
  5. Let proof until doubled in size.*
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25-35 minutes or until the center rolls sound hollow when tapped.
  7. Allow the rolls to cool completely.
  8. In a mixer, combine all of the ingredients for the frosting. Mix on medium to combine and then whip to make it fluffy.*
  9. Spread the frosting evenly across the cinnamon rolls and enjoy!


There are several brands of bread dough on the market, my family has been using Rhodes Bake-n-Serve for years. Use your favorite. Another option is to either make your favorite dough from scratch. Be sure to follow the baking directions of whichever option you choose.

If you are using the pre-made roll dough in a can, such as Pillsbury, omit the filling ingredients. Unroll and just spread the tahini on the rolls before pinching them back up. Bake as instructed.

To proof the rolls, I like to set my oven to its lowest temperature setting and add a small, heat-safe bowl with a little water in addition to my dough. If your oven does not have a proofing setting, set it to the lowest temperature, usually around 250, and then turn it off after putting your dough and water into the oven. Once doubled in size, take it out to preheat the oven.

If you have a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment to create a super fluffy frosting. If you are using a hand mixer that has a whisk attachment, use it after the standard beaters have combined the ingredients.

Should you feel like using different or additional spices, such as cardamom or nutmeg, you can add those in addition to the cinnamon without omitting them.

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