How to Make Hawaiian Rolls

Updated on December 20, 2019
Justin P Richards profile image

I have been cooking for years and hosted a cooking podcast called Kinds of Cooking. I love baking bread and cooking just about anything.

Get your ingredients together and get started!
Get your ingredients together and get started!

Bread Is an Art That Requires Practice

Bread is difficult. You need to experiment and fail to learn how different flours work, how correctly hydrated dough feels, and how to find the correct temperatures to get the desired result.

For two years, I have been practicing and have become pretty good at it. Hawaiian rolls are one of the breads I worked on that took some effort to perfect. These rolls aren't your standard recipe and can be quite finicky. The first batches that I made came out flat and dense, with almost no rise. And it wasn't until this last try that I actually came to some conclusions that fixed the problems I was having and created a fluffy and delicious roll.

As we get into it, I will tell you what I discovered I was doing wrong, how I fixed it during my baking process, and how I will fix it going forward in the future.

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Cook Time

Prep time: 25 min
Cook time: 4 hours 30 min
Ready in: 4 hours 55 min
Yields: 24 small rolls or 12 large rolls or 2 loafs


  • 6 cups flour or bread flour
  • 1.5 cups pineapple juice
  • 1.5 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, fresh and grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructional Overview (See Notes Below)

  1. Add room temperature pineapple juice and active yeast to mixing bowl. Stir and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until foaming.
  2. Mix beaten eggs, melted butter, salt, ginger, and vanilla together in separate bowl. Once yeast is foaming, add to mixing bowl.
  3. Mix in 1 cup of flour at a time until combined. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.
  4. Transfer to a floured surface (not too much flour) and hand-knead for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Form down into a ball and put into a greased bowl. Allow it to rise until it doubles in size (1.5-2 hours).
  6. Punch down dough and split into rolls or loaves and put in a greased pan or bread tin. Allow to rise again for at least 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 25-30 minutes until tops are golden brown. Allow to cool and serve!

Instructional Notes

The reason I am writing this guide for you is that you will find many different recipes for Hawaiian roll knockoffs, but each one I tried took me down similar paths that never yielded the desired result of fluffy rolls.

  • Ingredients: This bread actually has a lot of ingredients compared to what I am used to, so it's no wonder that I have had some trouble getting it just right! So, you'll need flour (bread or all-purpose is fine), yeast, eggs, ginger, butter, pineapple juice, salt and vanilla extract. For comparison, when I make my sourdough rounds, all I need is flour, sourdough starter, and water (and sometimes salt).
  • First stage of mixing: To start, mix in a small bowl you butter (melted and cooled to room temperature), eggs, salt, ginger (grated) and vanilla extract and set aside. Most other recipes are going to have you add in the pineapple juice now as well, but this has always yielded poor results for me, and it almost did again. More on that later.
  • Pineapple juice and yeast: Now, it a large bowl or stand mixer add your pineapple juice (room temp) and yeast. Allow the yeast to start foaming add the rest of your liquid. The mistake I see in other recipesand made by me, even this timewas not activating the yeast first. You want to follow the recipe in front of you, but maybe there is a better way. By activating the yeast first, you make sure it's bubbling and ready for the flour. I also would add more yeast next time as well.
  • Adding the flour: Once your liquids are together, start adding in your flour one cup at a time and mix. A stand mixer is great here! Once you've combined all the flour, my recommendation is to pour it out on a floured surface and knead by hand for about 4-5 minutes. The idea here is that you will be familiar with the dough. You want it to be tacky, but not sticky. Add flour as needed, but not too much, the dough should be tacky and look similar to below.
  • The first rise: Once you have finished kneading the dough roll it into a ball and place into a large greased bowl. You will now let it rise for about 2 hours or at least until it doubled in size. This is where I hit my biggest snag that caused me to adjust the recipe above.

Photo Guide

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The dough is not sticky, but tacky. You also don't want to add so much flour that it becomes smooth.
The dough is not sticky, but tacky. You also don't want to add so much flour that it becomes smooth.
The dough is not sticky, but tacky. You also don't want to add so much flour that it becomes smooth.

Troubleshooting the First Rise

So, I had followed the recipe I had, put my dough in the greased bowl, and covered it. However, after an hour of rise time, I checked and noticed that the dough had barely risen, if at all. I knew that another hour wasn't going to change this unless I did something to fix it.

Note: Before moving on I should mention that the dough would have risen the appropriate amount given more time, but I was following a recipe, and I had other recipes going that needed to finish around the same time, so waiting for an additional 2-4 hours for the proper rise would not have worked for my timeline.

My fix was simple, but not everyone can do it. I have a bread box. Quite literally it is an old cooler that I have attached a light to the inside. I use it to regulate temperature for bread rises. What my Hawaiian roll dough needed was a higher temp to increase the activity of yeast (do note: excessive heat will kill yeast, so unless you have experience with this, don't just pop your dough into the over to heat up). After another hour of waiting my dough had risen past the point, it needed to, and I was back in business.

Now, that was my game time fix. The upfront fix, as mentioned above would be to increase the amount of yeast used and activate the yeast before mixing. The recipe I was using had to add the yeast halfway through the mixing. Unfortunately, that just didn't get the yeast moving fast enough.

Once your dough rises, punch it down and divide it into as many rolls as you like. You can make small ones, large ones or even just make a loaf!

Instructional Notes (Continued)

  • The second rise: Yes, this is a bread that requires a second rise. So before throwing them in the oven let them sit another hour or so to double in size again. I had to put mine back in the bread box but did get the desired rise. This second rise is important; this is what is going to determine how fluffy your rolls are. If you bake them too soon, they will taste good, but they will be dense. You need to be patient, and it will pay off.
  • Baking: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake your Hawaiian rolls for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Take out and serve! These are great to make pulled pork sliders with!

Cast your vote for Hawaiian Rolls

Bon Appetit!

Bread is not hard to make. It often just takes time and patience. Bread is hard to perfect though. If I hadn't spent the last two years teaching myself how to bake bread, I would not have been able to fix my issues in making these rolls, and I would not have been able to come up with a solution to do it right the first time for my next try.

Anyway, please give this a try and let me know how it turns out. They really are so good and go well with so many different things from just being a sweet dinner roll, to housing some delicious pulled pork!


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