How to Make Monkey Bread from Scratch

Skip the canned biscuits and learn how to make monkey bread from scratch. We'll walk you through the process of making the dough, caramel and glaze so you can get monkey bread perfection.

There’s something special about breakfast treats. You roll out of bed, put on a pot of coffee and dig into a cozy, comfortable bake. Sure, a good coffee cake is always welcome, but if you want a dish that’s indulgent, go for monkey bread. These warm, yeasted pull-apart breads are sweet, sticky and always a hit with friends and guests.

While you could rely on canned biscuit dough—like this simple monkey bread recipe does—making monkey bread from scratch is worth every second of extra time. By creating your own dough, each sticky, pecan-topped morsel of this Caramel-Pecan Monkey Bread is tender and yeasty. This monkey bread recipe is also great for folks that want to take the next step with bread baking. We’ll walk you through how to make this sharable sweet step by step.

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How to Make Monkey Bread from Scratch

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There are three components to our Test Kitchen’s favorite recipe: the dough, caramel and icing.

For the dough, you’ll need:

  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water, about 110ºF
  • 1-1/4 cups warm 2% milk, about 110ºF
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup melted butter, divided
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the caramel, you’ll need:

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, divided

And finally, the icing requires just a few ingredients:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons 2% milk

Step 1: Make the Dough

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The first step in this top-rated monkey bread recipe is to make the dough. Like with most yeasted doughs, you’ll start by proofing the yeast in warm water—no hotter than 115ºF. The yeast should begin to froth and bubble a bit

Editor’s tip: New to baking bread? Here’s exactly how to proof yeast.

After proofing, stir in warm milk (again, no hotter than 115ºF or you’ll kill the yeast), eggs and melted butter. Then mix in a quarter-cup sugar, salt and three cups of flour. Beat on medium speed for three minutes or bust out the wooden spoon and some elbow grease. Add in additional flour as needed so you have a nice, firm dough—up to an additional two cups. You’ll know the dough is right when it’s no longer thin and sticky.

Step 2: Knead and Let Rise

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Now comes the fun part: kneading. Knead this bread dough for about eight minutes. You want the dough to be smooth and stretchy when you’re done. Dust your work surface with flour if needed.

Check out our basic tutorial for how to knead dough.

Editor’s tip: Your dough is kneaded enough when it passes the windowpane test—meaning when pulled between your fingers the dough should stretch to make a pane and not tear.

Once you’re done kneading, coat the inside of a bowl with a bit of cooking spray. Place your dough in the bowl and turn once to coat. Pop this in the fridge to rise overnight. Much like other sweet bread recipes, like this chocolate babka, this dough will not rise dramatically, so don’t sweat it if you don’t see it double.

Editor’s tip: Yes, this dough does need an overnight proof. Resist the urge to cut it short.

Step 3: Portion and Coat in Cinnamon Sugar

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After spending the night in the fridge, punch down your dough and portion it into the small buns that’ll form this pull-apart bread. Aim for about 40 portions. A kitchen scale can help you get precise sizes, but monkey bread is fairly informal so it’s OK to eyeball it here, too.

Roll out 40 or so nuggets, then dip each into melted butter and coat in cinnamon and sugar.

Step 4: Make the Caramel

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Set your pieces of dough aside. It’s time to make caramel! Before you begin, be sure your saucepan is absolutely spotless. Any specks left behind in the pot can cause the caramel to crystallize (not the texture you want in caramel). This one of the most common caramel mistakes.

With your sparkling clean saucepan over medium heat, add in butter, brown sugar, and cream. Bring these ingredients up to a boil. Cook and stir for three minutes. It should look rich and golden.

Step 5: Start Layering

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The next step is to put all of your components together. Grease the inside of a 10-inch fluted pan—these are our editors’ favorite Bundt pans. There’s a lot of sticky stuff going into this monkey bread, so don’t skimp on the butter here.

Next, pour half of the caramel into the pan. Layer in half the chopped pecans.

Editor’s tip: Toast the pecans first for even more flavor. Here’s a quick how-to on toasting nuts.

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Then layer in half of your pieces of dough. Top with the remainder of the caramel and pecans. Then layer on the remaining dough.

Step 6: Proof Again and Bake

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You’re almost to the finish line at this point, but first, you need to let your bread proof a second time. Cover the bread with a tea towel and let it rest for about 45 minutes. Yeast likes it warm (about 75ºF or more), so let the bread sit in the warmest room in your house for the best lift.

Editor’s tip: Too chilly inside? Don’t worry. We’ve got lots of tips on how to proof bread when it’s cold.

After the bread has risen again, pop it into a 350ºF oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. If you find that the bread is browning quickly, cover it with foil.

Let the bread cool in the pan for ten minutes, then turn it out onto a plate for serving. Be sure to serve this one up warm—it’s just too tasty this way.

Step 7: Make the Glaze

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The finishing touch for this monkey bread is optional, but it is so delicious you won’t want to skip it.

Create a cream cheese glaze to complement the pecans, cinnamon and caramel. Whipping up this glaze is easy. Just beat together the cream cheese and butter until blended. Then add in confectioners’ sugar and enough milk to reach that just-right drizzling consistency. Spread over the top while the bread is still warm.

How to Serve Monkey Bread from Scratch

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A bread this tasty needs little accompaniment. A glass of milk or hot coffee and a fresh fruit salad are all you need for a perfect brunch.

If you have any leftovers (how is that possible?), you can store them at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days or wrap sections of bread tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. But let’s be real: This caramel-pecan monkey bread is so good you’ll go back for the leftovers for dessert later in the day.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.