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Sourdough Milk Bread Rolls

A recipe inspired by the classic dinner roll, our sourdough dinner rolls are moist, pillowy soft, and perfect for Thanksgiving or your next gathering. This sourdough recipe is without being too sour. These rolls have a tender crumb and a texture made for spreading on butter or soaking up gravy. They’re also great for making leftover sandwiches. Serve them at your next gathering and watch them disappear off the table!

How to Make Soft Sourdough Dinner Rolls

For this recipe, we used a stiff sweet starter. Adding sugar to the starter suppresses the growth of lactic acid bacteria and the production of acid, creating a less tangy flavored dough.

To create soft and tender dinner rolls, we used an Asian technique called tangzhong. Used in Japanese (Hokkaido) milk bread, tangzhong involves cooking a mixture of liquid and flour over low heat until it thickens into a mashed potato-like consistency. Pre-cooking the flour gelatinizes its starch, which helps improve water absorption and allows the starch to retain moisture for longer. As a result, the rolls remain soft and moist for longer, making them perfect for gatherings or making ahead. They also make great leftovers.

The addition of butter enriches the dough and contributes to the irresistibly tender crumb.

Egg & Dairy Free Rolls

This recipe can easily be made egg & dairy-free. Simply replace the milk and butter with non-dairy alternatives. For the milk, we’ve had great success with plain soy milk or oat milk. For the butter, use a stick butter (not a tub spread), preferably unsalted, but salted will work well, too. To replace the egg wash, combine 3 tablespoons of non-dairy milk with 1 tablespoon maple syrup and use this to brush on the rolls.

Sourdough Milk Bread Rolls Recipe


20 rolls


Active: 2 hours; Inactive: 19 hours; Total: 21 hours

Dinner rolls timeline
Printable Recipe


Stiff sweet starter: 

IngredientGramsU.S. Volume
Sourdough Starter, 100% hydration50¼ Cup
Water68scant ⅓ Cup
Granulated sugar                              25 2 Tbsp
All-purpose flour1351 Cup + 2 Tbsp


IngredientGramsU.S. Volume
Milk                                                 2451 Cup + 1 Tbsp
All-purpose flour61½ Cup


IngredientGramsU.S. Volume
All purpose flour3773 Cup + 2 Tbsp
Bread flour 1601 ⅓ Cup
Spelt flour (may replace with whole wheat or all-purpose, if desired)1001 Cup
Water, about 78-80°F (25-27°C)2801 Cup + 3 Tbsp
Fine salt161 Tbsp + ½ tsp
Granulated sugar68⅓ Cup
Stiff sweet starterAllAll
Tangzhong                                        AllAll
Butter                                987 Tbsp

Egg wash:

IngredientGramsU.S. Volume
Whole egg                              501 each
Milk30 2 Tbsp


  • Spatula or dough whisk
  • Bench knife
  • Pastry brush
  • 9 x 13” (23 x 33 cm) baking pan
  • Cooling rack


Day 1 

Mix the stiff sweet starter.
In the evening, mix the stiff sweet starter. In a mixing bowl, add the water and sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the starter and stir to incorporate the starter. Add the flour. Mix until well combined and no dry flour remains. The starter will be somewhat stiff and feel more like a dough. If stirring becomes difficult, you may hand-knead the starter. Place into a clean container, and place into the Sourdough Home or the Folding Proofer set to 72°F (22°C) for about 12 hours. When ready, the starter will have tripled (or more) in size, and bubbles will be visible on the top and sides of the container.

Day 2 

Make the tangzhong.
About 30 minutes before you are ready to mix the dough, make the tangzhong. In a small saucepot, add the milk and flour. Whisk until the flour is completely dissolved and no clumps remain. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it has thickened (about 3 minutes total). The mixture will resemble soft mashed potatoes when done. Spread the tangzhong out onto a plate and set aside to cool.

Stiff starter in front of sourdough home

The tangzhong can also be made in the microwave. Thoroughly whisk the milk and flour until no lumps remain. Pace in a microwave-safe container and cook on high for about 2 minutes, stopping every 20 seconds to stir.

Remove the butter from the refrigerator and cut into pats. Set aside to come to room temperature.

Making the tangzhong in a pot, stiring
Spreading the tangzhong out onto a plate

Mix the dough.
To the bowl of the mixer, add the stiff sweet starter and the water. Use your hands to break up the starter. Add the tangzhong and stir to break up. The mixture does not need to be homogeneous at this point. Add the flour, sugar, and salt. (The butter will be added after the initial mixing.) Turn the mixer to its lowest speed and mix for 3 to 4 minutes to incorporate all ingredients. Once the dough comes together, turn the speed to low-medium (speed 2) and mix for 8 to 10 minutes. At this point, the dough should look pretty smooth and have some strength. Turn the mixer back to low speed and begin adding the pats of butter one at a time, waiting to add the next until the previous one is mostly incorporated. This process will take about 10 minutes to complete. When the dough is done mixing, it will be smooth and feel strong if tugged, yet it will be soft and perhaps somewhat tacky.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl or container.

Dinner roll ingredients in a mixer
Dough in a bowl and the Proofer set to 80 degrees

Bulk proof the dough.
Turn the Folding Proofer on, fill the water tray, and set to 80°F (27°C).

Place the dough into the Proofer. The dough will need about 4 hours total for bulk fermentation, with two sets of stretch and fold performed during the first hour.

To perform the stretch and folds:
After 30 minutes of proofing, remove the dough from the Proofer. Dampen your hand to prevent the dough from sticking. With the dough still inside the bowl, grab one edge of the dough, stretch it up as far as it will go, and then fold it into the center. Repeat this motion until you have gone around the circumference of the bowl. If the dough seems slack, you may go around a second time. Place the bowl back into the Proofer. After 30 minutes, perform one more set of stretch and fold. Leave the dough in the proofer for the remaining 3 hours of the proofing time.

When done proofing, the dough should have visibly increased in volume. It will feel light and airy when touched. If the dough seems tight or somewhat dense, proof for another 30 minutes or so.

Divide and Shape the dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter. Gently press down on the dough to deflate. Using a bench knife, divide the dough into 20 pieces, each weighing about 80g. Shape each piece onto a round.

Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13” baking pan. Place the rolls in the pan.

Dividing the dough into 20 pieces
Shaping each piece onto a round
Placing the rolls in a pan

Proof the rolls.
The Proofer should still be set to 80°F (27°C), and check to ensure there is still water in the tray.Place the pan of rolls inside of the Proofer. From this point, there are two ways to proceed with the rolls- same-day baking or next-day baking.

For same-day baking:
Proof the rolls for 2 ½ to 3 hours. When done proofing, the rolls will have visibly increased in size so that they are all closely touching each other and will be filling out the pan. They will still be below the lip of the pan. They will feel light and airy to the touch and not dense.
Near the end of the proofing time, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Brush the rolls with the egg wash (or plain milk). Place the rolls in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, rotate the pan and bake for another 15 to 18 minutes until they are golden brown.

For next-day baking:
Proof the rolls for 1 ½ hours. Remove the pan from the Proofer. They will not have fully risen at this point. Wrap the pan well and place in the refrigerator overnight. The rolls will finish their rise in the refrigerator.

The next day, about 20 minutes before you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and make the egg wash (if using). Once the oven is ready, remove the rolls from the refrigerator. Brush the rolls with the egg wash (or plain milk). Place the rolls in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, rotate the pan and bake for another 15 to 18 minutes until they are golden brown.

Brushing the rolls with the egg wash
Baked milk dinner rolls in a pan