Soft and sweet, these sticky buns are made from an easy enriched dough rolled up with a tasty fig filling and topped with a lush caramel glaze. With an overnight option, these vegan fig sticky buns are as perfect for brunch as they are for a make-ahead dessert!
If you’re looking for the perfect holiday morning breakfast, look no further – this overnight sticky bun variation is sure to satisfy everyone at your table. These buns are vegan-friendly, egg-free, and dairy-free.
Thank you to Valley Fig Growers for sponsoring this recipe. All opinions are my own.
What are Fig Sticky Buns?
These sweet fig rolls are similar to cinnamon rolls, except they have a cinnamon fig filling (a bit richer but thinner than what you’d find in a fig roll cookie), and are baked on top of an easy, yet decadent caramel. Once baked, flip them upside down onto a serving tray so all of the glossy caramel from the bottom is now on top and dripping down the sides. This type of sweet roll is best served warm when the caramel is sticky gooey and pooling!
Why You’ll Love These Buns
- They are big, fluffy, and sweet!
- An easy dried fig recipe.
- Fancier than your average cinnamon bun, these are buttery and maple-y with a touch of rum, and the mellow flavors of sweet dried figs.
- A delicious alternative filling for sticky buns.
- Easy mornings! Make them the night before and pop them in oven while you relax.
Anatomy of a Sticky Fig Bun
There are 3 parts to making fig sticky buns:
- Easy homemade dough.
- Sweet fig filling.
- Caramel glaze.
Dough: This is an enriched dough, which means it has sugar and fat (butter) in it which makes it richer than regular bread dough. I’ve used this dough for years, and it is my go-to for my apple pie cinnamon rolls, raspberry sweet rolls, and peach pie cinnamon rolls. Make it effortlessly in a stand-mixer with a dough hook, a big bowl with a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease, or even in your bread machine (follow manufacturer instructions for enriched dough).
If you’re making the dough without an appliance, and you’ve never kneaded dough before, check out this article about kneading wet dough which has lots of pictures to help guide you.
Above, on the left is the dough before it has risen, and on the right is the dough once it’s risen 1-2 hours and has roughly doubled in size.
Filling: The fig filling is quick and easy – simply pop the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until well blended.
Glaze: The glaze puts the ‘sticky’ in these sticky buns. Just whisk the ingredients together in a small pot and then simmer for a minute. Easy right?
How to Make Fig Sticky Buns
1.Proof the yeast. Even if you’re using instant yeast, I recommend doing this to make sure the yeast are alive. If they are expired or haven’t been stored properly, they may not do their job and it’s best to know this right away, not when you’ve already used more ingredients and made the dough.
2. Make and knead the dough. Let it rise 1-2 hours, or until roughly doubled in size.
3. Make the filling. Place the fig filling ingredients into a food processor and blitz.
4. Make the glaze. Whisk the caramel glaze ingredients together in a small pot over low heat. Bring to a simmer for one minute, then pour into a prepared baking dish.
5. Roll the dough into a level rectangle, about 20×14″ (51×35 cm.)
6. Spread the fig filling evenly over the dough.
7. Roll up the dough and slice evenly into 12 rolls.
8. Place the rolls flat side down over the caramel in the baking pan. Let rise 30-60 minutes, or cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight to bake in the morning.
9. Bake! The sticky buns take about 25-35 minutes to bake. Check them at 20 minutes, and place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top if they are browning (this prevents the tops from burning while the centers cook.)
10. Flip the buns and serve! Be very careful with this step – the drippy glaze will be very hot.
Ingredients & Substitutions
I use soy milk in my baking because it has a mild flavor and has a higher amount of fat and protein than many other types of plant-based milks. Avoid watery milks like rice milk or almond milk which don’t enrich the dough as much.
Ensure that the milk is lukewarm (95-115°F/35-46°C) which helps hydrate and stimulate the yeast to bloom. Take care not to use hot milk or the heat will kill the yeast. If you don’t have a thermometer, the milk should feel lukewarm and comfortable on your skin.
Sugar provides food for the yeast, helps create a more tender crumb, richer flavor, and helps create soft moist buns. As such, the amount of sugar should not be reduced for this recipe. Artificial/alternative sweeteners can not be used because they do not provide energy for the yeast.
Active Dry Yeast
Yeast is important for these sticky buns because it causes the enriched dough to rise, have a soft pillowy texture, and taste amazing. If you’re curious about how yeast does this, check out this article detailing the roles of yeast in baking.
This fig bun recipe calls for dry active yeast but you can also use an equal amount of instant yeast. Instant yeast does create a faster rise (be sure to follow the package instructions.) While instant yeast doesn’t require being hydrated before using it, it’s still good to test (aka proof) it – if it doesn’t foam up after a few minutes, it’s dead and you’ll need new yeast before you can continue with the recipe.
Fat is important for enriched dough. In this case, we’re using vegan butter which creates soft, fluffy rolls that nearly melt in your mouth. Use block-style vegan butter (or baking sticks) rather than the type of margarine that comes in tubs which contains more water. The fig filling and sticky glaze also rely on butter for flavor and texture.
You can use softened refined coconut oil (refined means the coconut flavor has been removed so it’s neutral tasting).
Vanilla adds flavor and richness to the dough.
This vegan fig bun recipe calls for all-purpose flour which produces a softer, cakier roll. For fluffier, chewier rolls, try using bread flour.
Salt is important to yeasted dough in terms of flavor, structure, and crust color. Use fine salt.
I used Orchard Choice® dried golden figs – they provide a lighter colored filling and delicate fig flavor, but other varieties of dried figs work well, too! Dried mission figs, for instance, which have a dark purple/black skin have a deeper, richer fig flavor. Fresh figs will not work in this recipe as written.
Brown sugar creates those deep, caramel notes in the fig filling and the sticky glaze. Dark or light brown sugar works well here. When measuring, be sure to have the sugar packed well in the measuring cup.
Cinnamon is a classic flavor in sticky buns, and goes really well with dried figs. There’s just enough in the filling without overpowering the other flavors, allowing the figs to shine.
Maple syrup helps thin out the fig filling to create a spreadable paste, while adding flavor and a delicate sweetness. The glaze also requires a little maple syrup. Corn syrup is most often used in sticky buns, but maple syrup just tastes better and marries so well with the figs without being cloyingly sweet.
In testing, everyone’s favorite was the sticky fig bun with a rum infused caramel glaze. If you don’t have rum (or prefer not to use it), you can use vanilla extract instead for more of a classic sticky bun topping.
Overnight & Make Ahead Option
These fig sticky buns are great for the holidays and entertaining because they can be prepared the night before and then baked fresh in the morning. (Bonus: chilling the dough overnight actually improves the flavor of the dough!) Simply follow the instructions up to and including placing the assembled rolls on top of the caramel glaze in the baking dish, cover them tightly with plastic wrap, and place them in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove them from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking, remove the plastic wrap, cover with a clean, lint free towel and let the baking dish come to room temperature. Bake in a preheated oven as instructed.
Enriched dough left in the fridge for more than 18-48 hours will start to ferment giving it a sour smell and unpleasant flavor. This is called over-proofing – the leavening power of the yeast will be limited or gone, and so the buns will not continue to rise in the oven.
Once cooled completely, store the buns in an airtight container either in the refrigerate for about 5 days or at room temperature for a couple of days (depending on the heat and humidity in your kitchen.) They are best the day you bake them. After that, they will start to dry out.
If you’d like to freeze leftover vegan sweet buns, wait until they have completely cooled. Place them in an airtight container, or wrap each one individually in plastic wrap and then store in a sealed container in the freezer for up to a few months.
Reheating Fig Sticky Buns
Reheat leftover sticky buns in the microwave for about 20 seconds each. Or, set the entire tray covered in foil in an oven preheated to 350°F (177°C, gas mark 4) for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.
Frequently Asked Questions
The dough used in sticky buns and cinnamon rolls is the same, the filling is similar with some sticky buns having less cinnamon, and so the main difference is the glaze! Cinnamon rolls may not be glazed at all, or may feature a frosting or vanilla glaze on top after they are baked. Sticky buns are baked on top of a caramel type glaze – once they come out the oven the whole pan is flipped over onto a serving try so the glaze is now dripping from the tops of the buns. Sticky buns tend to be sweeter because of the type of glaze used.
Yes! You can skip making the caramel glaze so these are simply fig cinnamon rolls -follow the rest of the instructions. The baking time will be the same.
The most accurate way to test to see if the buns are fully baked is to check the temperature of the dough by inserting a kitchen thermometer into the center of the rolls. Cooked dough should reach an internal temperature of 180-200°F/82-93°C. If you don’t have a thermometer, the tops of the buns should be browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the middle (go in at an angle between the folds of a roll) comes out clean.
Want More Vegan Sweet Breakfast Recipes?
- Almond Croissants
- Overnight Lemon Raspberry French Toast Bake
- Churro Waffles
- Triple Chocolate Banana Bread
- Raspberry Sweet Rolls
If you make these Fig Sticky Buns, please give them a rating in the recipe card and leave a comment below! Follow along on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes! You can also follow me on Pinterest for vegan recipe inspiration and on Facebook. Thank you for reading!
Fig Sticky Buns
For the Dough:
- 1 ½ cups plant-based milk, warm (95-115°F/35-46°C) (I use soy)
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 3 tsp dry active yeast
- ½ cup melted vegan butter* (see Notes for substitutions)
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 4-4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
For the Fig Filling:
- 1 cup Orchard Choice® or Sun-Maid® California Dried Figs (preferably Golden Figs for a lighter filling), stems removed
- ¼ cup vegan butter (see Notes for substitutions)
- ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
For the Sticky Topping:
- ¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- ½ cup vegan butter (see Notes for substitutions)
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 3 tbsp plant-based milk
- 1 tbsp rum (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
For the Dough:
- In a large bowl with a wooden spoon (or in the bowl of a stand-mixer with a dough hook attachment), mix the warm milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes – the yeast should have created some foam in the bowl. If it hasn’t, you need new yeast as the ones you used have died/expired.
- If the yeast is healthy (foamy), slowly stir in the rest of the granulated sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Add one cup of flour and mix until incorporated. Add the salt, then the rest of the flour one cup at a time.
- If using a stand mixer, run it on a medium-low setting for about 5-8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic with a slight tackiness. If doing it by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and knead it for about 8 minutes. Keep your hands lightly oiled or buttered to prevent the dough from sticking to you. Form the dough into a tight ball.
- Lightly grease the bowl you mixed the dough in. Place the dough in the bowl, turning once so the top is lightly oiled, too. Cover lightly with a clean lint-free towel (or foil or plastic wrap) and let rise in a warm spot (away from windows and drafts) for about 1-2 hours or until roughly doubled in size. If your oven has a dough proof setting, you can use this to rise your dough.
For the Fig Filling:
- Place the figs, brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon into a food processor. Blitz until the mixture becomes thick and pasty without chunks of figs remaining – only the tiny seeds should remain intact. Set aside. (If you refrigerate the filling ahead of time, it will need to be returned to room temperature so it is spreadable – it will thicken when chilled.)
For the Sticky Topping:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°F/gas mark 4). Line a 13 x 9" (33 x 23 cm) baking dish with parchment paper or lightly oil. See Notes for other baking dish options.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, and milk. Bring to a simmer for a minute until glossy and well combined. Remove from heat and whisk in the rum (or vanilla). Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Set aside to cool whilst you prepare the rolls.
Assembling the Sticky Fig Buns:
- Prepare your work surface for rolling out the dough. Lightly oil or butter the surface and rolling pin (alternatively you can use a dusting of flour, I just find it messier.) Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 20"x14" (51×35 cm). If the dough is resisting and springing back on you, let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then try again.
- Spread the fig filling evenly over the dough. With the long end closest to you, roll the dough evenly away from you. Push the roll over so the seam is facing down. Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into 12 even pieces. Place the rolls into the prepared pan cut side down. Cover lightly with a lint free kitchen towel (or foil or plastic wrap) and place in a warm spot for 30-60 minutes, or see Notes for the overnight option.
- Uncover the rolls, place them in the preheated oven and bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the middle (go in at an angle between the folds of a roll) comes out clean (180-200°F/82-93°C). Very carefully as the glaze underneath the rolls will be molten, invert the buns onto a heat-safe serving tray or baking sheet. Let the buns cool for about 10 minutes, and serve warm. Once cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container.
Vegan Butter & Substitute:When selecting vegan butter to use in baking, use vegan butter sticks, not the tub style vegan butter or spreadable margarine. Sometimes called baking sticks, this product has a higher fat content (and a lower water content) which produces better results in texture and flavor. You can use softened refined coconut oil (refined means the coconut flavor has been removed so it’s neutral tasting).
Baking Dish Options:Don’t have a rectangular baking dish? Here are a couple of other options:
- 10-12″ (25-31 cm) oven safe skillet
- 2x 9”(23cm) round cake or pie pans.
Overnight Make-Ahead Option:Follow the instructions up to and including placing the assembled rolls on top of the caramel glaze in the baking dish, cover them tightly with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove them about 30 minutes before baking, remove the plastic wrap, cover with a a clean, lint free towel and let the baking dish come to room temperature. Bake in a preheated oven as instructed. Enriched dough left in the fridge for more than 18-48 hours will start to ferment giving it a sour smell and unpleasant flavor. This is called over-proofing – the leavening power of the yeast will be limited or gone, and so the buns will not continue to rise in the oven.
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The Nutrition Information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the Nutrition Information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.