Monkey bread is a pull-apart bread that’s coated in a gooey caramel sauce. Instead of using canned biscuits, I made the monkey bread dough completely from scratch! 

Homemade monkey bread with caramel sauce on a round platter.

Monkey bread is gloriously sticky, ooey gooey, and meant to be eaten with your hands.

Many recipes use canned biscuits as a shortcut when making pull-apart monkey bread, but I prefer making the dough completely from scratch. It’s a simple yet flavorful enriched dough that’s made with butter, whole milk, an egg, and a little sugar. 

The dough is rolled into small balls and coated with cinnamon sugar before being piled into a bundt pan, coated in caramel sauce, and baked.

Making monkey bread from scratch requires a little extra prep work, but this is an easy recipe to follow. You can even prep it ahead of time for a delicious breakfast in the morning!

Overhead view of the ingredients needed to make cinnamon monkey bread.

Ingredients in This Recipe 

This recipe has three components: the monkey bread dough, the cinnamon sugar coating, and the caramel sauce. Everything is homemade, but the ingredients list is short and sweet. 

Here’s a brief overview of some of the star ingredients: 

  • Warm Water: Heat the water to about 110ºF but no further or else you may accidentally kill the yeast. 
  • Yeast: I prefer to use active dry yeast for this recipe because it’s what I keep on hand. 
  • Whole Milk: Adds moisture and flavor to the dough. I recommend using whole milk, but 2%, 1%, or skim milk would be fine.
  • Salt: There’s 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of salt in the dough. Remember that you need to flavor a lot of flour, and that the salt in the dough will help counterbalance the sweetness of the cinnamon sugar coating as well as the caramel sauce. 
  • Light brown sugar: This is used in the caramel sauce and adds so much flavor! If you don’t have any brown sugar on hand, you can make your own using granulated sugar and molasses. 

Overhead view of yeast proofing in a glass mixing bowl.

How to Make Monkey Bread From Scratch

Before making the monkey bread dough, you’ll need to proof the yeast. This involves combining the warm water, yeast, and a little sugar to check that the yeast is still active (i.e. that your bread dough will actually rise). 

If your yeast is not foamy after about 10 minutes, you will need to discard it and start again. This could either mean that the yeast is expired or your water is too warm.

I recommend testing your water temperature with an instant read thermometer. It should be 110°F to 115°F when you add the yeast.

Once you’ve tested the yeast, you can make the monkey bread dough. 

  • Prepare the wet ingredients: Add the sugar, butter, and salt to a heat-proof mixing bowl and set aside. 
  • Scald the milk: Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat until almost boiling. Stir it often so that it doesn’t burn.
  • Pour the scalded milk over the butter, sugar, and salt: Stir until everything is combined and the butter has completely melted.
  • Cool slightly: Let the mixture cool to about 110°F. You don’t want the mixture to be too hot when you add the yeast later on.
  • Stir in two cups of flour: Once the milk mixture has cooled down, mix in two cups of flour. I like to use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, but you can do it by hand.

A ball of homemade dough on parchment paper.

  • Add the remaining wet ingredients: Mix in the yeast mixture, then the egg.
  • Add the rest of the flour: Mix in two more cups of flour, adding more as needed. 
  • Knead the dough: Once the dough is combined and easy to handle, knead it by hand or with a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment for 5 t0 10 minutes. You will know the dough is ready when it’s smooth, elastic, and springs back when you lightly press it with your finger.
  • Let the dough rise: Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a clean, greased bowl. Cover it and set aside to rise for about one hour. 
Tip: I like to use a heating pad to let my dough rise! To do this, simply set a heating pad to the lowest setting, place a dish towel on the heating pad, then place your bowl on top.

After the dough has doubled in size, it’s time to assemble the homemade monkey bread. 

  • Make the cinnamon sugar coating: Melt one stick of butter in the microwave. In another bowl, whisk together a mixture of granulated sugar and ground cinnamon. 
  • Gently punch down the risen dough: This will deflate any air pockets.
  • Cut the dough: Pat the dough into a square and cut it into eight equal pieces. Cut each of the eight pieces into six more pieces. You should have 48 pieces of dough total. Then, roll each piece of dough into a ball.
  • Grease your pan: Generously spray a 12-cup bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. 
  • Assemble the monkey bread: Dip each ball of dough into the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place each coated ball into the bundt pan during this process.
  • Let the dough rise again: Once all of the dough balls have been coated in cinnamon sugar, place a damp towel over the bundt pan and set aside to rise for another 30 minutes. 

An overhead view of an assembled but unbaked pan of homemade monkey bread.

Finally, you’ll make the caramel sauce and bake the monkey bread. 

  • Combine the brown sugar and butter in a saucepan: Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. 
  • Pour the caramel mixture over the prepared monkey bread: Make sure to pour it all over the top of the bread so it gets in every nook and cranny!
  • Bake the monkey bread: It will take about 30 to 45 minutes. Once it’s done, let it cool for about 10 minutes before inverting it onto a large serving plate.

An overhead view of pull apart monkey bread on parchment paper.

Can Monkey Bread Be Prepared in Advance? 

Yes! To make the monkey bread in advance, prepare the recipe as written through the first rise time (step 7 in the recipe card). Then, punch it down and cut it into 48 pieces.

From there, I recommend covering the dough balls tightly and refrigerating them overnight. The next day, you can coat the dough balls and assemble the monkey bread, then let it rise the second time before baking.

Can Instant Dry Yeast Be Used? 

Yes, it would be fine to use an equal amount of instant dry yeast in place of the active dry yeast. Note that instant dry yeast tends to make baked goods rise faster, so you may need to shorten the rising times slightly so that the dough doesn’t rise too much. 

Monkey bread with pieces pulled off of it, on parchment paper.

Baking Tips

  • I recommend testing your water temperature with an instant read thermometer. If it’s too hot, you’ll kill the yeast and your dough won’t rise. 
  • If your yeast doesn’t develop foam on top after about 10 minutes, you’ll need to throw it out and start again. 
  • Scalding the milk may seem like an unnecessary step, but don’t skip it! Heating the milk unravels the proteins that inhibit rising which helps to make the bread softer and fluffier.
  • Make sure to generously spray your bundt pan before you start assembling the monkey bread. This will make it much easier to remove from the pan once it’s done!

More Caramel Dessert Recipes to Try! 

Recipe Video

An overhead view of monkey bread on a piece of brown parchment paper.

Homemade Monkey Bread

Prep Time: 1 hr 10 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Rising Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time: 3 hrs 25 mins
Monkey bread is a pull-apart bread that's coated in a gooey caramel sauce. Instead of using canned biscuits, I made the monkey bread dough completely from scratch! 

Ingredients

Servings: 8 servings

Monkey Bread Dough

  • ¼ cup warm water 110°F-115°F plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 (0.25-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons or 21 grams)
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar (62 grams)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature (45 grams)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup whole milk (240 ml)
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour spooned & leveled (500-625 grams)

Cinnamon Sugar Coating

  • ½ cup unsalted butter (115 grams)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Caramel Sauce

  • ½ cup unsalted butter sliced (115 grams)
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar (100 grams)

Instructions
 

  • To make the monkey bread dough: Whisk the warm water and the teaspoon of sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast on top and gently stir it into the water. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.
  • Add the 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar, butter, and salt to a heat-proof mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside.
  • Pour the milk into a small saucepan and place it over medium heat, stirring often. The milk will start to steam and bubble around the edges. Once the milk starts to bubble, right before it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat.
  • Pour the scalded milk on top of the sugar, butter, and salt and whisk until well combined. Set aside and allow to cool until it's warm and no longer hot (about 110°F or 43°C).
  • Once the scalded milk mixture has cooled, mix in 2 cups (250 grams) of flour by hand or using the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer. Add the yeast mixture and mix until well combined, then mix in the egg.
  • Mix in 2 more cups (250 grams) of flour until fully combined, then mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour at a time until the dough is easy to handle. Knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface or using the dough hook on a stand mixer on low speed for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding a little extra flour if needed.
  • Once the dough is kneaded, form it into a ball and place it into a lightly greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  • To make the cinnamon sugar coating: Melt the stick of butter in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave or in a small pot over medium-low heat. Set aside, allowing to cool slightly.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and ground cinnamon.
  • To assemble the monkey bread: Gently punch down the risen dough to release any excess air. Pat the dough into a square, then cut the square into 8 equal size pieces. Cut each piece into 6 pieces and roll each one into a ball, you should end up with 48 pieces.
  • Grease a 12 cup bundt pan with a generous amount of non-stick cooking spray or butter. Set aside.
  • Dip each ball of dough in the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place each coated ball into the bundt pan during this process.
  • Cover the pan with a damp towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) while the dough is rising.
  • To make the caramel sauce: Combine the sliced stick of butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat, stirring often until the mixture comes to a boil.
  • Once the mixture is boiling, remove it from the heat and pour it all over the top of the monkey bread.
  • Bake in the center rack of the oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Cover loosely or tent with aluminum foil if the dough starts to brown too much. Place a tray underneath (on the bottom oven rack) lined with parchment paper to catch any spills since the sugar can bubble over.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Use a butter knife to loosen any stuck parts of the monkey bread from around the edges of the pan. Then, carefully flip the pan onto a serving plate. If needed, use something heavy to bang the pan to help loosen the monkey bread. Shimy the pan to see if the monkey bread starts to release and repeat with tapping the pan until it’s easy to lift up.

Notes

Storage Instructions: Monkey bread is best served the day it's baked. Leftovers can be wrapped and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat refrigerated monkey bread in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it up.
Freezing Instructions: Once the monkey bread has cooled completely, you can wrap it tightly, and freeze it for up to 3 months. To thaw the bread, place it in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for several hours. 
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle
Did you make this recipe?Mention @livewellbakeoften on Instagram or tag #livewellbakeoften.

Adapted from my homemade cinnamon rolls and monkey bread muffins