13 Ways To Make Store-Bought Dinner Rolls Taste Homemade

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There's no reason to serve boring, store-bought dinner rolls when there are countless ways to upgrade them so they taste homemade. Whether you're using frozen dough or you buy the rolls pre-cooked, there are tons of tricks you can use to make them taste amazing. The best tip that can help take dinner rolls up a notch in flavor is to warm them up and add flavor and fat; however, there are plenty of ways you can go about doing this with your dinner rolls.

We've gathered 13 ways to upgrade both the inside and outside of your store-bought rolls to make them taste even better. There's no reason to limit yourself to just one idea, though. You can combine several of these tips to make perfect dinner rolls that everyone will assume you spent far more time making than you actually did. So, the next time you have a potluck, feel free to just bring the rolls — once you learn how to make them fabulous, they'll no doubt be one of the biggest hits. These ideas can also work just as well for a holiday meal as they do for an ordinary at-home dinner any night of the week.

1. Start with frozen dough instead of pre-baked

One of the biggest tips we can offer for making store-bought rolls taste homemade is to use frozen dough instead of pre-baked rolls. They take a bit more time to bake since you need to fully cook them rather than just warm them up, but the results will speak for themselves. Even though these take a little longer than rolls made from scratch, at least you won't have to spend time measuring or trying to avoid making mistakes with the yeast. So, it's still a win.

Yes, some frozen rolls out there come pre-cooked, so make sure you choose a variety that comes uncooked, like Sister Schubert's Parker House Style Yeast Rolls from Walmart or Rhodes BakeNServ Dinner Rolls, also from Walmart. All you have to do is thaw them, let them rise, and bake them.

Since you're working with dough rather than pre-made rolls, you can even shape them to fit the occasion. For example, you can form them into leaves for a fall meal like Thanksgiving, into animals for a kids' party, or even into hearts for Valentine's Day.

2. Add butter or alternate fats

When you warm up your rolls, you can make them twice as nice by brushing them with some type of fat. Fat itself adds both flavor and texture, plus it can help carry the flavors of any other toppings you add. It's common to brush melted fat over the top of your rolls before putting them in the oven to help them turn golden on top. You can also add the fat after you take them out of the oven — for an even more decadent roll, add your fat both before and after.

When you think of adding fat to your rolls, it's likely in the form of butter, but there's no need to stop there. Two other great options include garlic butter or a compound butter infused with herbs and spices. Just remember to keep the oven temperature at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or below, unless you use clarified butter or ghee (their smoke points are much higher at 485 degrees Fahrenheit). Using ghee is also a nice option for a more nutty and caramelized butter flavor.

Butter isn't the only fat option, either. You can also use your favorite oil (like olive oil, for instance) or animal fat. Melted duck fat or chicken schmaltz work fine. You could even use bacon grease to give your rolls a down-home, smokey bacon flavor.

3. Sprinkle them with herb or spice mixes

When the time comes to add flavors to your rolls with herbs or spice mixes, the sky's the limit. The beauty of adding herbs and spices is that you can match the flavor of your rolls to the flavors in the type of cuisine you're having. So, whatever seasonings you're adding to your food, you can duplicate on your rolls.

One challenge is getting the seasonings to stick to rather than fall off the rolls, so you'll need to mix them with whatever type of butter, oil, or other fat you've decided to add. Then, sprinkle the seasonings on top of the fat.

There are a multitude of possibilities for seasonings. Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, chives, dill, parsley, or oregano work great. Use a single one or mix them together in combinations that will match the rest of your meal. The dried versions work, too, and the fat can even help moisturize them and plump them up. Other possibilities include adding garlic (powdered or freshly grated), either alone or with Italian herbs for a garlicky rendition. Dried onions also work. You can even use pre-made seasoning mixes. Some to consider include za'atar, everything seasoning, and lemon pepper.

4. Add cheese inside or out

Most people can agree that cheese makes everything better. So, consider adding cheese to your store-bought dinner rolls before baking so they seem more homemade. Cheese is great both inside or outside of your rolls, and we're certainly not going to stop you if you decide to do both at the same time. Also, don't forget that you can upgrade your cheese toppings or fillings with herbs and spices.

Grated cheese on top of your roll is great, especially paired with butter or your fat of choice. In fact, it's hard to envision a type of cheese that wouldn't taste good on top of a roll. A classic sharp cheddar will work just fine, as will parmesan. Alternatively, you could borrow from one of Panera's popular bagel toppings and spring for Asiago cheese. You could even opt for pepper jack cheese if you wanted to go a spicier route. One idea is to turn your side into cacio e pepe rolls with butter, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and freshly ground black pepper.

Putting cheese inside is also a no-brainer; you can slice the rolls either horizontally or vertically to do so. You could even hollow out a small area with your finger or a knife for stuffing the cheese inside the roll.

5. Top them with flavorful condiments

A variety of flavorful condiments can help improve store-bought dinner rolls. We're talking less about the types you'd find on your hamburger and more about thicker types that are either herby or spicy. It's your choice whether to add them before or after warming.

Fresh, herby green condiments, in particular, pair well with store-bought dinner rolls — basil pesto is just one example. A similarly fresh green condiment that's a great match for dinner rolls is chimichurri sauce. Adding a little parmesan cheese before warming (or baking) pesto- or chimichurri-covered rolls in the oven makes them even more delicious. Another option is to mix in a little panko with the pesto or chimichurri, as well as parmesan for a bit of a crunchy top. You can also put herby condiments like pesto between pull-apart rolls so that the pesto stays nice and moist instead of drying out, which can easily occur if you're baking instead of warming your rolls. You can even flatten frozen-roll dough to make pesto (or chimichurri) rolls that resemble cinnamon rolls — try adding prosciutto, mozzarella, or parmesan.

If you're a fan of spicy foods, you might want to consider adding chili crisp, which adds both oil and flavor. In fact, you might want to spoon a bit of extra oil from the chili crisp over the rolls to add additional fat and flavor and to help them brown a little better.

6. Top with seeds or nuts

Seeds or nuts are also potential toppings for your store-bought dinner rolls. They add texture, flavor, and added nutrition. While you could add herbs and spices along with the seeds and nuts, they're more than capable of standing on their own.

Getting the seeds and nuts to stick can be a challenge, though. A bit of melted butter (or other fat) on top of the rolls will help keep the seeds or nuts in place while you warm or bake them in the oven. Try using ghee for a nutty, browned-butter flavor that will pair well with the flavor of your toppings. If you don't want to add fat, you can still get these toppings to stick by adding the seeds to a damp cloth on your countertop and pressing the rolls into the seeds with a bit of light pressure.

Most of your favorite seeds or nuts will work fine. The most obvious choices are poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Stronger options like celery seeds, fennel seeds, or caraway seeds could also be interesting, depending on what you're serving them with. Feel free to also use more robust seeds like pumpkin or sunflower. Some good nut choices include almonds or pistachios, although you can try whatever type of nut you have on hand.

7. Don't forget to add flakey salt

Flakey salt is a secret ingredient for store-bought dinner rolls that's easy to overlook. Its job is to amplify all the flavors already present in (and on) the dish. Even if you don't put anything but butter on your rolls before or after warming, adding some nice, flakey salt can intensify your rolls' flavor and add an interesting texture. If you do add extra toppings, however, the salt can help make them taste even better.

In her cookbook "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking," Samin Nosrat explains that "salt affects both taste and flavor. Our taste buds can discern whether or not salt is present, and in what amount. But salt also unlocks many aromatic compounds in foods, making them more readily available when we eat." So, when you add salt to your rolls, no matter what other toppings or fillings you add, you're enhancing the entire smelling and tasting experience.

Why flakey salt? Well, it's partially about the texture but also about how well it dissolves to help intensify your rolls' flavors. Ideally, you can get the best of both worlds: some salt that doesn't dissolve and remains flakey, and some that does dissolve and becomes a flavor booster. Win-win.

8. Move your toppings inside

Moving your toppings to the inside of your store-bought rolls can solve some of the problems you might encounter when adding toppings. Plus, they can make your rolls seem even more homemade. If you heat your rolls for too long with heat that's too high, you could end up burning the toppings. Plus, there's always the risk of the toppings sliding off and landing on the pan instead of the roll; however, if you move the toppings inside, all those tricky problems go away.

This trick can also change the flavor and texture of both your rolls and their toppings. We've already mentioned the option of adding cheese inside the roll, which yields a pocket of melty goodness; in contrast, cheese becomes crispy and crunchy on the outside of bread. Other options include adding butter and either spices or garlic inside (rather than on top) of the roll. Inside, the butter and seasonings become melty and soft instead of hardening on top. Of course, you can always add your toppings both inside and out. This option gives you a variety of textures while simultaneously doubling down on flavor.

9. Put different toppings on each roll

If you're looking for a topping option that has mass appeal and looks like you did it yourself, you can try offering a variety of flavored toppings on your rolls all at once. Every roll could have a different topping, or you could just have a handful of each variety. Combined with all the other ideas gathered here, choosing this variation allows you to try more than just one kind of roll at once. It's also a particularly good choice if you have lots of different palates to please.

Start by brushing melted butter, oil, or the fat of your choice on top of your rolls. Then, sprinkle different toppings on each one before baking or warming them in the oven. For example, some might have fresh herbs, some might have seeds, some might have cheese, and some might have a seasoning mix like everything seasoning. You could even make some without any topping (except butter) for picky eaters. Using pull-apart rolls or starting with frozen dough will make them look even more like you made them from scratch.

10. Turn them into a pull-apart bread bowl

One way to make store-bought dinner rolls look fancy and custom-made is to turn them into a pull-apart bread bowl. Use the center of the bowl to hold meal accompaniments, party dip, thick stews, or even chili. There are several ways to accomplish this, depending on whether you're starting with frozen dough or pre-made rolls.

If you're starting with frozen dough, there are a couple of methods available. The first is to place the uncooked, buttered dough balls around the edges of a round pan (make sure they're touching one another). Then, place a hearty, bake-able dip — like spinach artichoke dip or hot Maryland crab dip — in the middle and bake until the rolls are done and the dip is bubbly and hot. Another method is to turn thawed dough into one huge dough ball, then use a knife to slice the ball all the way through and make 12 slices like a pie. Then, let it rise to double its original size before baking it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes. To fill it, you'll need to hollow some bread out of the middle.

Of course, if what you want to put in the bowl is a relatively thin liquid like soup, you might want to put the soup in a real bowl inside the bread bowl to prevent making a mess when people start tearing pieces off. This advice might be especially pertinent when using soft, pre-cooked rolls.

11. Bake them into hot sliders

One of the tastiest things you can do with store-bought dinner rolls is to turn them into oven-baked sliders. These are so easy, the hardest part about making them is figuring out what to put inside — and on top.

This idea is especially easy if you're using pull-apart rolls; this way, you can use a good bread knife to cut them in half horizontally all at once, keeping the sides connected. Then, simply fill the rolls with your ingredients of choice, add whatever toppings you desire, and warm the whole thing in the oven. Any recipe will work, whether it's something as simple as ham and cheese sliders or it's a little more fancy.

One of the best kinds of slider you can make with store-bought dinner rolls combines five of this list's ideas into one: Start by filling the rolls with breakfast ingredients like fluffy eggs and prosciutto (or your breakfast meat of choice), add pesto inside, and top with melted butter, Italian seasonings, and flakey salt. It's not that complicated, but it tastes completely homemade, even if you start with pre-made rolls.

12. Make them sweet

If you've only been considering savory ways to make rolls, you've left out a whole other realm of serving possibilities. Dinner rolls are the perfect vehicles for sweet ingredients, whether you start with savory, pre-made dough or sweeter varieties like Hawaiian rolls.

Two sweet options combine butter with sugary ingredients to create delicious, caramelized results. The first takes cues from favorite toast toppings with butter, cinnamon, and white or brown sugar. The other option is honey butter rolls. Either start with pre-made honey butter or make your own by melting together honey and butter in a saucepan and cooking it until it turns the color of caramel. Also, using salted butter for either of these options can mix the flavors of savory and sweet.

A couple of other sweet options can be created with toppings. Try drizzling cooled rolls with cinnamon roll icing and sprinkles. Another tasty option is to top them with a flavored curd like passionfruit or lemon. In fact, there's no reason you can't combine these two ideas: Fill the rolls with curd while baking, and then drizzle icing on top after they've cooled.

13. Make them into a French toast bake

Sometimes, you can make store-bought dinner rolls seem homemade by incorporating them into something that actually is homemade. One such creation turns store-bought dinner rolls into a delectable French toast casserole bake. There are many versions out there, but we'll mention two: one with berries and one with a crumble topping. Both are dishes you can make ahead of time and soak overnight before baking in the morning.

Both versions start in similar fashion: Mix milk and eggs together with vanilla and cinnamon like you would for French Toast. Place all the pre-made, store-bought dinner rolls in a buttered casserole dish, and pour the spiced milk and egg mixture over the top to soak into the rolls overnight. One option is to mix berries in with the rolls, while another is to make a crumble topping using brown sugar, flour, butter, and cinnamon. (Of course, there's no reason you can't have berries and a crumble topping.) The next morning, just bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how stiff or moist you want it. If you like, add fresh fruit or powdered sugar on top to mimic real French toast.