Life is often about compromising, about having to choose one thing over another one, even if we like both. Take sweets and veggies, for example. When is the last time you gave in to your sweet tooth despite your best efforts to stick to that diet plan? Today, we put an end to that. Say hi to our vegan zucchini cinnamon rolls!
Classic cinnamon buns are a beloved treat, but like most sweets, they are not very healthy. We changed this, and selected a fantastic mix of ingredients to turn the traditional rolls into a diet-friendly snack!
We did this by making the filling of our rolls more nourishing. Instead of the traditional sauce made with butter and sugar, we used date paste and grated zucchinis. Plus the cinnamon.
Courgettes are such a delight. They have a sweet and delicate taste that blends perfectly in both savoury and sweet recipes. Moreover, they are an excellent source of vitamin A and C, and of critical minerals like manganese potassium and magnesium, to name a few.
Zucchinis contain potent antioxidants that help our bodies fight against the evil free-radicals. This green veggie may also improve heart health, keep our digestive system in check, and help with weight-loss .
You can have all of this while eating cinnamon rolls. Amazing right? But we haven't stopped here.
The date paste is equally impressive, and a fabulous replacement to refined sugar.
Dates are naturally sweet, rich in fibres, and they have a low glycemic load (GL). Low GL foods are ideal for people on a weight-loss diet and those who have diabetes because they don't raise blood sugar levels excessively. Compared to white sugar, this fruit is a good source of minerals and antioxidants .
Our zucchini cinnamon rolls have half the calories and ten times fewer fats compared to the traditional recipe.
If you want to learn more about this recipe, check out our FAQ section after the recipe steps. There we talk more about how to make these cinnamon rolls suitable for diabetics, and other neat facts. But now let's get baking!
Are cinnamon rolls good for me if I have diabetes?
Traditional cinnamon rolls use refined sugars in the dough and the filling, making them not suited for people who have diabetes, or even those who want to lose weight.
Our vegan zucchini cinnamon rolls don't have any added sugars, only a splash of maple syrup. So people on a weight-loss diet can rest assured their intake of sugars is going to be minimal.
Now let's look at how we can improve our low-sugar zucchini cinnamon rolls for folks with diabetes.
The two sources of sugars are dates and maple syrup. We have used a homemade dates paste as a replacement for white sugar in the cinnamon rolls filling. We then added some maple syrup to the dough to make it sweeter.
Dates are diabetes-friendly, so no problem there. Our date paste has a low GL and GI and will not spike your blood sugar levels.
Maple syrup, not so much. It's not as bad a refined added sugar, with a GI score of 54 compared to 65 of table sugar . But if you have diabetes, you should either limit the consumption of maple syrup or remove it altogether.
Luckily, it's easy to adjust our healthy recipe to meet those needs. We only have to replace the two tablespoons of maple syrup with a suitable low GI sweetener, like erythritol. For this recipe, you could use 2 1/2 tablespoons of erythritol, for example.
A simpler solution is to ditch the maple syrup altogether. The date paste and the zucchini are flavourful and sweet enough on their own! If you are quite accustomed to a low-sugar diet, this last suggestion is likely the one you should follow.
Can I make cinnamon rolls dough ahead?
If you were thinking of cooking lots of these courgette cinnamon rolls, you could either batch-cook them and store in the fridge for up to 5 days, or better yet make the dough ahead.
By making more dough than you need, and only using enough to make your daily dose of cinnamon rolls, you can enjoy fresh-baked rolls every time.
You can store the excess cinnamon bun dough in the fridge, or even freeze it.
If you opt for freezing, then make sure you partition the dough into single-use portions first. You can refer to our recipe above and even adjust the quantities of ingredients to find the right portion for you. It's also vital that you allow the dough to rise before freezing it. To then use it, let it warm up at room temperature and use as indicated in our recipe.
The same applies to the filling. Prepare more of it and store it away in a cold place. To use it, let it soften at room temperature and spread on the dough before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
Are all cinnamon rolls vegan?
The traditional cinnamon roll has eggs, milk, and butter. So if you love the bun but are following a vegan diet, you will have to look into alternative recipes.
There are many vegan recipes out there. If eating healthy and nutritious food with low-sugars is a priority, then our vegan zucchini cinnamon rolls are perfect for you.
Our recipe above was designed with health in mind. We have replaced all forms of dairy and eggs. Then we got rid of all refined sugars and swapped them for tasty dates and a splash of sticky maple syrup. Finally, we spiced things up by using some refreshing courgettes, that contribute to one of your 5-a-day portions of veggies.
Which is the best yeast for cinnamon rolls?
When we bake sweets and cakes, we use baking powder. Yet, we used dry yeast for our zucchini cinnamon rolls. Why is that?
Cinnamon rolls are more similar to bread than a cake or pie. Raising agents in bread act differently than in a cake, and the same applies to cinnamon rolls.
When baking a cake, the dough rises in the oven. Bread instead wants to prove slowly before cooking, so that we can mould it in the final desired shape.
So the best type of raising agent for cinnamon rolls is fast-acting dry yeast, like the one for bread or pizza.
An exciting alternative to dry yeast is sourdough. When delicate zucchini and sweet cinnamon powder blend with the intense flavour given by this natural yeast, you know you have baked something remarkable.
If you have never made sourdough before, check out this video by Patrick Ryan from ILoveCookingIreland. Following Patrick's simple instructions, we have been baking our sourdough bread for a few months now. We love the results. It's easier than you think, give it a go!
Can cinnamon rolls be made without yeast?
The cinnamon roll dough is very similar to bread or pizza dough. As such, we need to have some raising agents to help the rolls grow tall, thick and chewy.
You can make cinnamon rolls without yeast, but the result will differ from the traditional recipe. The buns would be shorter, and the rolling folds wouldn't be as soft, all else being equal.
But the yeast is not impacting the flavour of this zucchini cinnamon rolls, only the consistency and the look. So if for whatever reason you can't use yeast and you don't care about appearance, you can still bake tasty cinnamon rolls without raising agents.
How to keep cinnamon rolls soft?
Few things are as indulgent as taking a bite from a freshly-baked, soft cinnamon roll, still warm from the oven. But leave them outside for a few hours, and that bouncy dough will start to turn stale.
What can we do to preserve these vegan cinnamon rolls and keep them soft for longer? Let's look at a few options below.
If baking is a passion and a relaxing way to spend your time, then there's no better option than making them on the go.
Prepare enough buns for you and your love ones in the late evening, and let them prove overnight covered by a blanket or tea towel. Then, pop them in the oven in the morning and cook them for 15 minutes, as mentioned in our recipe above. Enjoy them right out of the oven or pack them in a lunch-box for later!
By the way, you can save time by making the dough in advance, cut it into portions and freeze it. Then take it out the day before you make the cinnamon rolls and let it thaw in the fridge. Refer to the FAQ above for more info.
If you prefer to batch-cook the cinnamon rolls, you can preserve their softness by sealing them in an air-tight container. It is ideal to use a food vacuum sealer if you have it.
When using an air-tight container, try to pack in a single box or bag only as many cinnamon buns as you would eat in one go. The less you open and close the container, the better.
For the Zucchini Filling
For the Vegan Dough
- White Flour
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Maple Syrup
- Fast-Acting Dried Yeast
- Almond Milk
In a mixing bowl, combine the plain white flour, salt, olive oil, maple syrup, warm almond milk, and the fast-acting dried yeast.
Mix the ingredients with a spoon and then, as the dough comes together, turn it out onto a floured surface.
Now, knead the dough for 5 minutes to develop the gluten. Press it down and stretch it forward with the heel of your hand. Then fold it back, turn sideways and repeat until you have a smooth and elastic dough.
Then, roll the dough into a ball and transfer it into a bowl, cover it with a tea towel, and leave it to prove in a warm place for one hour. You'll see that it will double in volume.
While the vegan dough proves, prepare the zucchini filling.
Grate the courgettes and pat them dry with a kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.
Blitz the dates with water until you have a smooth and dense paste. If the dates are very dry then soak them in water for 10 minutes before blending.
Combine the date paste with the grated zucchini, and add ground cinnamon.
Once the dough has proved, knead it again for a few minutes to push excess air out.
Then, transfer the dough onto a sheet of baking paper and roll it out into a rectangular shape with the help of a rolling pin.
Next, spread the zucchini and date filling over the entire surface with the help of a spatula (1).
Roll the dough tightly, helping yourself with the parchment paper. To do so, start at the long end of your dough and wrap it up unfolding the paper as you go by.
Then cut the roll into 4 cm (1.5 inches)-thick pieces. You can use a sharp knife, a wheel cutter, or a baker blade (2).
Next, transfer the slices, cut side up, onto a non-stick baking tray. Allow the buns to prove again, covered with a tea towel, in a warm place for 15 minutes.
Bake the zucchini buns for 15 minutes at 200°C (390°F) for conventional ovens or at 180°C (355°F) for fan ovens until they are lightly browned.
Finally, place the cooked cinnamon rolls onto a wire rack to cool down.
Use a bread machine to both knead and prove the dough, and you'll save time and effort!