America's best throwback bread course is found at Texas Roadhouse

While sourdough ruled the pandemic, a trip to the chain reignited my love for this vintage-Americana starter

By Maggie Hennessy


Published May 17, 2023 2:59PM (EDT)

Close-up of Sweet Homemade Dinner Rolls (Getty Images / Brent Hofacker / 500px)
Close-up of Sweet Homemade Dinner Rolls (Getty Images / Brent Hofacker / 500px)

A few months ago, I had my first-ever meal at Texas Roadhouse, the steakhouse chain with over 600 U.S. locations. One day I'll wax poetic on those brothy green beans with bacon and onion, or impart the pleasures of visual steak doneness guides like those Roadhouse servers carry in their aprons. But today I want to talk about the tender, buttery dinner rolls with sweet cinnamon butter that began our meal. 

After checking us in, the hostess led us to our table with a black plastic basket of warm, pillowy rolls she'd selected from the pass; almost like the rolls were guiding us too, in their butter-scented wake. Tearing into a fluffy, sweet roll, its glossy crust barely tinged with caramelization, was like an instant nostalgia injection. Suddenly I was sitting at a Midwestern dining table, ripping a tear-and-share butter roll at the seam — so satisfying! — to dunk into a bowl of chili or perhaps sop up the juicy remains of peppered beef roast. 

In my snobbish pursuit of naturally leavened sourdough breads these past several years, I've neglected the throwback joys of a soft, buttery dinner roll. But no more! 

The terrific dinner roll recipe I'm sharing today was part of my baking final exam in culinary school at Kendall College some 14 years ago. It doesn't run quite as sweet as the Texas Roadhouse roll. It's slightly chewier too, made from more glutinous bread flour. But it's just as delicious, buttery and versatile. The matte, barely resistant crust and the gently chewy interior make these a delight for ripping in half and dunking in soup or enjoying plain with dinner. These rolls freeze beautifully and reheat quite well in the microwave

The sole request I must make before you make them, dear baker of unknown skill level, is to invest in a digital scale if you don't already have one. As a self-proclaimed non-baker, I find it's one of the best defenses against the temperamental nature of yeasted things. 

Cook's Notes

Cinnamon honey butter is simple to make and will give these rolls that quintessential, Roadhouse edge. Mix ¼ cup each honey and softened butter. Sprinkle that with ½ teaspoon cinnamon and a dash of coarse salt, and mix well to combine. Smear on bread as desired. This butter is also heavenly stirred into porridge or smeared on cornbread or biscuits.

Soft butter rolls 
14-17 servings
Prep Time
1-4 hours, with proofing 
Cook Time
20 minutes


¼ oz. dried yeast
1 cup of warm water, about 100 degrees F
1 pound and 2 ounces of bread flour, plus more as needed for dusting
2 Tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
3 Tablespoons of dry milk
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 ounces of butter, soft
2 ounces of butter, melted



  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add a little flour, the sugar, salt, dry milk, egg and butter. Mix with a wooden spoon while gradually adding more flour until the dough is stable enough to handle (you might not need all of the butter listed above; trust your instincts). Flop the dough onto a generously floured counter, and start kneading. Knead until the dough springs back resiliently when you press on it with your finger. 
  2. Place the dough in a warm, damp place in a container large enough to allow for it to proof considerably, about one to four hours. Cover it with a cloth to prevent a crust from forming on the outside, and leave it until it is twice its original size. If you aren't sure what "twice the size" exactly looks like, the other way to test that your dough has fermented sufficiently is to press gently on it with your finger "and leave a belly button," as my Kendall College pastry chef-instructor used to say. This time, the dough should not spring back because the gluten is relaxed. 
  3. Flop the dough out onto a counter that you've once again dusted with flour. Pull up on one side of the dough and fold it over the center. Press down on the folded portion to expel carbon dioxide that formed from fermentation. Repeat this on the other side, and turn the dough over so the seams are on the bottom. 
  4. Weigh the dough, then divide it into as many 2-ounce portions as you can. Shape each portion into a smooth, round ball, stretching the top surface tight and smooth over the top of the dough. The best way to do this with such small pieces of dough is to hold your forefinger and thumb together as though you were making an "OK" sign, curling the rest of your fingers in the same way as your forefinger. Then, shove the dough between your thumb and palm, and push from the bottom of the dough out through the round hole in between your thumb and forefinger. This will stretch your dough into a rounded ball with a seam at the bottom. Repeat until you've rounded each portion.
  5. Place your rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and set them in a warm place to proof. They should double in size again. Take them out, and brush each one with melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden and puffed. Serve warm with room-temperature butter for schmearing. 



By Maggie Hennessy

Maggie Hennessy is a Chicago-based freelance food and drink journalist and the restaurant critic for Time Out Chicago. Her work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Taste, Eater and Food52.

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Baking Bread Dinner Roll Recipe Texas Roadhouse