Sticky Bun vs. Cinnamon Roll—What's the Difference?

Both sticky buns and cinnamon rolls are filled with cinnamon sugar and baked into fluffy, golden perfection. But there are a few key differences between the two sweet treats.

Chocolate Coconut-Almond Sticky Buns
These decadent buns taste just like an Almond Joy for breakfast, complete with chopped almonds, sweetened coconut, and chocolate. To prevent the rolls from becoming tough, allow the dough to rest while rolling it out, and handle it as little as possible to keep them tender. If you’ve never made homemade sticky buns before, this is the perfect recipe to start with. You’ll roll out the dough, brush it with melted butter, then sprinkle it with coconut and chocolate. Now for the fun part: rolling it up, pinching the seams, then cutting the roll into individual slices. As they bake, they’ll become deliciously golden brown and puffed. Get the recipe: Chocolate Coconut-Almond Sticky Buns. Photo: Greg DuPree

Though they both send sweet smells of cinnamon wafting through our kitchen, there is a difference between sticky buns and cinnamon rolls. Allow us to explain what exactly a sticky bun is—and share our favorite recipes.

The process of making sticky buns begins with a caramel glaze, which gives the buns their name. The glaze is poured into the baking dish first, followed by toasted pecans. The buns are placed atop the sticky mixture, and after baking, the pan is inverted so that the glaze is on top. The sweetener in the glaze varies—you'll often see granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, or a combination. (If honey is used, the bun becomes a honey bun). Though pecans are the most traditional nut, we're not opposed to walnuts or almonds.

Unlike sticky buns, cinnamon rolls are placed directly into a baking dish, and a cream cheese glaze is drizzled on top after baking. Typically, cinnamon rolls do not contain nuts. For tips on how to perfect them, check out our comprehensive guide to cinnamon rolls.

The buns' similarities lie in the dough. Both are made with a yeasted dough that is patted into a rectangle, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (and, in the case of a sticky bun, more pecans), rolled into a log, and sliced into rolls. Both also require two rises: a first rise after the dough is made, and a second after the rolls have been formed.

RELATED: How to Make the World's Easiest Cinnamon Rolls

Of course, there's nothing wrong with taking a shortcut to get morning buns on the table ASAP. Our pecan sticky buns start with frozen white bread dough, and our world's easiest cinnamon rolls take advantage of store-bought puff pastry. If you're a savory morning person, opt for our kabocha squash sticky buns, which begin with a can of crescent roll dough.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles