Aunt Shirley’s Famous Dinner Rolls (and a Bun in the Oven Announcement!)

My Aunt Shirley is basically the baking queen. This is her famous dinner roll recipe! So light, so fluffy, SO much heavenly buttery goodness. Who needs dinner when you’ve got these dinner rolls?? I could eat the whole batch.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

We’ve got all KINDS of buns going on today. Not just the yeasty kind…

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

The baby kind too. ( ^^12 weeks. This was about a month ago.) Here’s the already-waddling oven in which the bun bakes:

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

(And there’s Charlotte at her dance recital last weekend. Isn’t she so cute??)

Yay! Eric and I are SO excited for baby #3, and don’t even get me started on the kids. Charlotte wants a girl and Truman wants a boy (of course). We find out in a few weeks.

(Any guesses? I’m clueless. I didn’t get the gender-intuition-gene. I thought Charlotte was a boy and Truman was a girl.)

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

So now you know why I have been almost completely absent the last couple months. I get super sick for my first trimester. Like, the-thought-of-food-makes-me-actually-hurl kind of sick. I basically lived on milk and cereal for months. (I’m not exaggerating. Some days me and the kids would go through an entire half gallon of milk. Baby won’t be hurting for calcium…)

When food makes you sick but your entire job revolves around food, you are kind of forced to take a break, hence the radio silence going on here at The Food Charlatan.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

When I drove from Sacramento to Philadelphia, I was still feeling pretty awful. But by the time I got home and left for Seattle, I was mostly better, with just a few setbacks here are there. Now I’m almost completely back to normal, if not fitting into any of my clothes by 19 weeks is normal. Hallelujah!

We are due on November 8. Guess when our multi-family Disneyland trip was scheduled for? November 14. Ooooops. Sorry family. (We managed to reschedule for October. Will they give me a wheelchair at 35 weeks pregnant you think?? Please say yes.)

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

Who already knew I was pregnant?? Come on, some of you ladies guessed, right?

My cousin Amber brought her mom’s dinner rolls to our Easter get together this year, and I literally ate nothing else. If you think I’m exaggerating, then you have never had morning sickness before. It really is possible to ignore ham, asparagus, jello salad, and all kinds of other amazing food when faced with queasiness and an entire pan of dinner rolls.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

I begged for the recipe and now you lucky kids get to try them too! I love them because they have 2 full tablespoons of yeast and are SO fluffy and light. The flavor is just amazing. My Aunt Shirley uses Crisco in her recipe, but if that’s not your thing, I’m sure butter would work too. The shortening makes them SOOO soft though, and I used butter-flavored Crisco, so no flavor sacrifices.

Check out some step by step photos below the recipe. If you make these, I’d love to see them! Tag #TheFoodCharlatan on Instagram!

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Aunt Shirley’s Famous Dinner Rolls (and a Bun in the Oven Announcement!)

Yield: Makes 24 rolls

Recipe from my Aunt Shirley


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup butter-flavored shortening OR real butter
  • 1 egg
  • 4-5 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing


  1. In a small bowl or coffee mug, microwave the 1/2 cup water for 20-30 seconds, until it is lukewarm but not hot.
  2. Add the yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar and stir. Let this mixture sit for 5 minutes. Watch it so it doesn't overflow!*
  3. In a glass measuring cup, microwave 2 cups milk for 1-2 minutes until it is warm but not hot.
  4. In a large bowl or stand mixer, add 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and shortening, and 2 cups of the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the warm milk, yeast mixture, and 1 egg. Mix well and let rest 5 minutes. At this point I started using the dough hook on my mixer.
  6. Add 2-3 (or up to 3 and 1/2) cups flour, one cup at a time, mixing in between. Once all the flour has been incorporated, knead for 5-6 minutes, using your hands or the dough hook.
  7. Grease a large bowl well with oil or butter. Scrape all the dough into the bowl, shape it together, then turn it over so that the top is greased.
  8. Cover loosely with a tea towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  9. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball (pinch one end with your fingers).
  10. Place the rolls in 2 well-greased pans. I used one 9x13 pan and one 2 quart casserole dish.
  11. Cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm spot for another 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size. When they are almost done rising, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  12. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown all across the top.
  13. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter.
  14. Eat hot!


*If your yeast mixture is NOT getting foamy, then abandon ship! You killed your yeast with too hot water probably. Better to start over now than wind up with sad flat rolls in 2 hours.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

Proof your yeast to make sure you don’t kill it. There is so much yeast in this recipe that you have to move fast before it overflows the bowl!

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

When the dough has been kneaded, it should still be pretty sticky. You want to be able to work with it, but don’t dry it out with too much flour.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

Don’t run errands during your one hour rise, because you will be late and this will happen.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

Separate the dough into 24 pieces and shape them by gathering it and pinching with your fingers, then make the pinch the bottom of the roll.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

I’m fussy and like to use a scale. Each roll should be about 2 ounces. On the right you can see just how fast these rolls rise. Both of these weigh 2 ounces, but you can kinda see that the one on the right has started to puff a little, even though it had only been a couple minutes.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

Here’s the spacing situation when you use a 9×13 inch pan.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

This is a 2 quart casserole dish, so the rolls are more squished, but it worked great.

Aunt Shirley's Famous Dinner Rolls from The Food Charlatan

Pull them out of the oven when they are a nice golden brown all over the top!

More stuff you will like!

Imagine eating these rolls with a little pot of this Cinnamon Honey Butter. HEAVEN:

Cinnamon Honey Butter from The Food Charlatan

Buttery Sweet Potato Rolls:

Buttery Sweet Potato Rolls from The Food Charlatan

Big Fat Crescent Rolls: Bad picture. But these are amazing rolls.

Big Fat Crescent Rolls from

Roll recipes from other bloggers!

The Very Best Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls from Five Heart Home
Heavenly Rolls Recipe from Lil Luna
Fluffy Sweet Rolls from Cooking and Beer





    • says

      You started a trend Sarah! I think most people are guessing girl! I just found out yesterday that my ultrasound isn’t until JULY 6 which is basically an eternity. haha. Thanks friend!

  1. Denise says

    Congratulations!!!I think your having a girl! I can not wait to try this fabulous recipe! All the ones I’ve tried are great!

  2. stephanie says

    omg, i cannot imagine traveling at all nevermind driving if i was that sick! you are a trooper, congratulations on all of it! glad you’re feeling more like yourself again. i was going to guess “girl” too, but honestly i just kinda wanted to get a pattern going :p

    these rolls look awesome, too. and something about overflowing dough just cracks me up. i don’t know, i guess it just speaks to my inner twelve year old but it makes me laugh every time. especially those pictures where a dough tube pops while still on the shelf in the grocery store. okay, nevermind, i’m ridiculous.

    oh, also? i love that crisco comes in sort of flat “sticks” now so you can measure it like butter, by just chopping off how much you need instead of trying to shove it into a measuring cup. now it’s just as easy to use and…i’m hungry for bread. (not a surprise.)

    • says

      Thanks Stephanie! Honestly I’m not sure how I did all that traveling either! But I made it thank goodness.

      And I agree with you about overflowing dough. There is just something silly about it that makes me giggle. That’s why I always include the photos when I have dough that goes crazy!

      And yes! Crisco sticks are the beeeeest!!

  3. Sarah says

    We’re all recovering from the stomach flu and I feel like I actually would want to eat these…so simple, so comforting, so not weird in flavor or texture. And I vote BOY! You need two boys in a row to ramp up the craziness over there. I want to see shenanigans.

    • says

      That’s what I’m hoping?? And I really am hoping that they will let me wheel around, even if it’s only for part of the day. 35 weeks you are like a watermelon on stilts. haha. Thanks so much Ashley!!

  4. Chris Wells says

    I am so happy for you. And how fun for us to follow along on this adventure!
    I think it is a girl!

  5. beth says

    Congratulations! I am making these delicious rolls right now and was wondering if I can use the dough hook of my kitchen aid to do the kneading or if I need to knead the dough by hand? (That questions sounds pretty kneady! ha ha) Thanks for your advice!

  6. says

    OHMYGOODNESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m literally dancing around my kitchen in excitement for you right now Karen!! So, SO happy for you and your (soon-to-be-growing) family!! I still remember when you, Alex and I went to Rick’s two Decembers ago, and you mentioned wanting a third child… And now it’s happening! You are already the BEST mom ever (and yes, I am completely justified in this statement because I’ve been over to your house for dinner and seen how you interact with your adorable kids and you are seriously such a sweet, natural mother!), and this little-one-to-be is so incredibly lucky to have you. Just like Charlotte and Truman! :) I miss you lovely lady, and I really hope I’m able to see you sometime soon!! Glad you’re over the first trimester and hopefully able to start eating more than cereal and milk too!!
    Amy @ Amy’s Healthy Baking recently posted…Apple Pie SnickerdoodlesMy Profile

  7. Diane M. says

    Congratulations!!!!!!! What wonderful news! Babies are such a Blessing.
    I say you are having a Girl.

  8. says

    Congratulations for so many things I dont know where to start. Your ‘special bun’ those rolls – yum, brilliant photography which make one dream for a minute that the buns are real!!, your story but especially to your little Prima Ballerina!! She looks adorable – is she excited to have a new baby in the house? Take care, stay safe and hopefully this sickness will now go. Carina
    Carina Simeon recently posted…Ulli Theeyal (Little Onion Curry)My Profile

  9. says

    Congratulations! That’s wonderful. What exciting news!
    In my opinion you can never have too many homemade bread/bun recipes. I just adore that smell. And so much better than store-bought.

  10. Claire says

    Karen!!! Congratulations! So excited for you and your family. :) Morning sickness is AWFUL, I am glad you are moving beyond that now!

  11. says

    YAY!!!!! CONGRATS!!!! I’m so excited for you guys!!!! Wish I could give you a big hug! :) Morning sickness is soooo not fun!! And I can totally relate to only wanting carbs. I lived off of pb toast, plain bread, popsicles and frozen grapes on my last pregnancy. Glad things are starting to get better for you!! And these rolls, I could totally eat the whole pan!!
    Malinda @Countryside Cravings recently posted…Triple Berry Baked OatmealMy Profile

  12. Krista says

    Can I freeze the dough at all to prepare it ahead of time? I’ve never made dinner rolls from scratch in my life! I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year and am hoping to save some time if I can!! Thanks!

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