Sometimes there’s nothing quite like soft buttery rolls with your dinner. If you’re having soup on a cold winter night or hosting a big dinner, a basket of hot rolls can be just perfect! These Soft Sourdough Rolls are my favorite dinner rolls. They have a super soft interior, a hint of sweetness, and flaky buttery tops.

I have a recipe for soft sourdough bread that I love and I’ve adapted it for these rolls. Most bread recipes are fine to shape as rolls instead of a loaf and this one was no exception.

Using a Bread Sponge

One thing that’s different about this recipe is that it starts with a sponge. When you bake with a bread sponge, you make a larger starter and let it sit overnight or until it’s bubbly. I sometimes make that the night before if I want to serve them with dinner. It works fine to let it sit for a few hours too. Remember, bread baking can fit your schedule once you get a feel for it. So make the starter the night before or the same day, whatever works for you.

Soft Sourdough Rolls

Sweet Sponge

  • 1 cup (100 grams) bread flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) water
  • 1/4-1/3 cup starter
  • 2 tablespoon (28 grams) granulated sugar


  • All the Sweet Sponge
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) milk
  • 2/3 cup (170 grams) water
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups (500 grams) bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon (11 grams) salt
  • 4 tablespoons (57 grams) butter

A recipe note: I use a digital scale and measure most of my bread recipes by weight. For this recipe I included the cup measurements and the weights. Use whatever you prefer.

Make the Sweet Sponge

Mix all the sponge ingredients in a large bowl or container with a lid. I use these Cambro buckets from Sam’s Club. Once it’s smooth, cover the sponge and set aside for a few hours or overnight to activate. Below you can see the starter and water, then with the flour and sugar, then after I mixed it. I set it aside for about 2 hours or until it had a few bubbles. I used whole wheat flour here for the sweet sponge.

Starter, water, and milk for Soft Sourdough Rolls.
Water and starter for sponge.
Starter mix and flour sponge for Soft Sourdough Rolls.
Wheat flour and sugar added.
Sponge for Soft Sourdough Rolls.
Sweet starter mixed and ready.

Mixing Soft Sourdough Roll Dough

When you are seeing some bubbles on the surface of the sponge, or the next day if you did the overnight option, it’s ready to mix. I add the milk and water first and give it a quick mix. Next comes the flour, sugar, salt, and butter. Give it a stir, making sure there are no pockets of flour hiding on the bottom of the container. Don’t worry about the butter not mixing in yet. It will soften as the dough sits and mix in just fine. Below you can see the sponge, the dough ingredients, and the intial mix.

Sponge ready for Soft Sourdough Rolls.
Bubbly sweet starter.
Dough ingredients for Soft Sourdough Rolls.
Dough Ingredients.
Mix for Soft Sourdough Rolls.
Initial dough mixed.

Stretch and Folds

Now cover the dough and let it rest, or autolyse, for 20 to 30 minutes. This lets the flour absorb the liquid, the gluten start activating, and the yeast in your starter get going. After that first rest you are going to start the stretch and folds. I usually do three stretch and fold sessions when I make bread.

All you do is pick up one side of the dough, stretch it up, and fold it over onto the dough. I do three stretches, cover the dough and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes, then repeat two more times. This is developing the gluten so your bread will rise. You can knead the dough if you like but when I found this method I quit kneading dough. Not only does it work better, it’s much easier. This post for my Basic Sourdough Bread has lots of details about this process.

Below you can see the dough after the first and second stretch and fold sessions. It becomes smoother and more elastic each time. After the third round, cover the dough and let it rise for a few hours or until it’s close to double in size. This isn’t exact, you just want to give it time to rise and do it’s thing. If your kitchen is cold you can set the dough in a warm place to rise and speed things up a bit.

First stretch and fold on Soft Sourdough Rolls.
After first stretch and fold.
Second stretch and fold on Soft Sourdough Rolls.
After second stretch and fold.

Shape, Rise, and Bake

When the dough is nice and airy, tip it out onto the countertop and divide it for the rolls. You can divide it into 9 or 12 rolls depending on how many you need or the final size you prefer. I went for 9 since I wanted larger rolls. A bench scraper is great for dividing dough and cleaning your countertop when you’re done. Mine is stainless steel and it’s really handy if you bake a lot.

There’s a couple ways to shape these rolls. You can hold each portion of dough in your hand and tuck the edges toward the bottom to shape the top smoothly. Another way is to cup you hand behind the dough on the countertop and pull it toward you. The pulling will create tension on the dough and pull it nice and tight.

However you shape them, put each roll in a buttered 9 inch pan to rise. Keeping them close together will help them have soft sides. If you want them to be crustier then use a larger pan and set them farther apart. I like soft sides so I use this pan. Besides, it makes a flower shape! Cover and let them rise.

Dividing Soft Sourdough Roll dough.
Dividing the dough.
Soft Sourdough Roll dough portioned.
Divided into 9 portions.
Soft Sourdough Roll dough set to rise.
Ready to rise.

Once the rolls are very puffy and risen, bake them in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes. They should be golden and crisp on top from all the butter. Let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes or as long as you can stand it. I like to tip them out onto a big plate to serve but it’s nice to put them in a big bowl or basket with a napkin over them too.

Soft Sourdough Rolls baked.

Tips and Tricks

  • Bake in a muffin tin instead of a cake pan for pretty rolls with crisp sides.
  • Brush with butter as soon as you take them out of the oven.
  • Add garlic or herbs to the dough.
  • Add raisins or currents to the dough.
  • Bake in a loaf pan for a pull-apart version.
  • Split and toast any leftover rolls for breakfast.