These gluten free poppy seed rolls are wonderfully soft, with an open crumb and a thin, golden-brown crust. They’re incredibly close to the typical “white” wheat bread rolls, and it’s honestly difficult to guess that they’re gluten free at all! On top of that, they’re super easy to make and require only a single rise.
Today’s offering is a gluten free twist on a childhood favourite: poppy seed rolls. There have been so many requests for gluten free bread rolls lately, I simply had to move this recipe to the very top of my to-do list. And gosh, I’m so very glad I did – because these gluten free poppy seed rolls are AMAZING.
They’re pillowy-soft and fluffy, with an open crumb and a thin, golden crust. Both in terms of their flavour and texture, they’re incredibly close to the typical “white” wheat bread, thanks to the mix of gluten free flours used.
And, importantly, they’re super easy to make! Just like my gluten free seeded loaf and gluten free hot cross buns, these rolls require only a single rise. This way, you can save on time, while still maximising on the flavour and texture.
Furthermore, you don’t need any special equipment: no stand mixers or anything like that. Just a bowl, a wooden spoon and you’re good to go.
Because I’ve received numerous requests for gluten free bread recipes that don’t use xanthan gum, these gluten free poppy seed rolls only use psyllium husk as the binder (that is, as the gluten substitute).
And what’s really great about this recipe is that you can use it as the basis for numerous other gluten free bread roll variations: just omit the poppy seeds and use any other seeds or nuts or even dried fruit to tweak the recipe to your own taste. You can also just make them plain, with no add-ins.
So, let’s have a look at how you can make THE BEST gluten free poppy seed rolls!
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making these wonderful rolls – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
Making gluten free poppy seed rolls: the dough
Making these gluten free poppy seed rolls truly couldn’t be easier. Here’s how:
- Combine the gluten free flours (tapioca starch, sorghum flour, millet flour), instant yeast, salt,
- and sugar in a large bowl,
- and whisk them all together until evenly combined.
- Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, then add the warm water,
- psyllium gel (that is, the mixture of psyllium husk and water),
- and apple cider vinegar.
- Using a wooden spoon, mix well
- until the dough starts coming together.
- Then, knead it by hand until you get a homogeneous dough with no dry patches of un-mixed flour. Just squeeze the dough through your fingers, going around the bowl until you’ve incorporated all the flour.
- The final dough should form a ball and easily come away from the sides of the bowl.
A few side notes about the ingredients:
- The mixture of gluten free flours (and their ratios) used in this recipe gives a flavour and texture that’s very close to that of the typical “white” wheat bread and bread rolls.
- As many readers have requested more bread recipes that don’t use xanthan gum, these gluten free poppy seed rolls use only psyllium husk as the binder (gluten substitute).
- The apple cider vinegar creates a slightly acidic environment for the yeast, which boosts the yeast’s activity and results in softer rolls with a more open crumb.
Shaping gluten free poppy seed rolls
Now that you’ve prepared the dough for these gluten free poppy seed rolls, you can proceed with shaping and proofing. Just like my gluten free seeded loaf and gluten free hot cross buns recipes, this recipe requires only a single proof – this saves on time, but you’ll still get the best possible results in terms of texture and flavour.
So, no need to bulk proof the dough. You can shape it directly into the individual rolls. Here’s how:
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and give it a gentle knead.
- Roll it out into a long log,
- and divide it into 6 equal pieces.
- To make sure that the pieces are truly of equal weight, weigh them using a digital kitchen scale and adjust as necessary.
- Gently pat down one of the 6 pieces of dough until it’s about ½ inch (1-1.5cm) thick. It doesn’t have to be a very regular shape.
- Then, take the edges of the dough and fold them up and towards the middle.
- Pinch the ends together so that you get something like a pouch.
- Turn the ball of dough seam-side down,
- and hold your hand like a claw over it. Move your hand in a small circle over the dough to form it into a tighter ball.
- Finally, use the heels of your palms to rotate the ball of dough in place – this further seals the seams and also helps to create the even, round shape of the roll. Repeat with the rest of the dough pieces until you get 6 balls of dough.
Note that because of the absence of gluten, you won’t get a perfectly smooth surface on the rolls, like you might expect for bread rolls made from “regular” wheat flour. Instead, their surface will be bumpy and uneven – but don’t worry about it, the oven spring after the rolls enter the oven will help smooth it out!!
Proofing and assembling gluten free poppy seed rolls
Once the rolls are shaped:
- Transfer them to a large lined baking sheet, at least 1 inch (2.5cm) apart from each other.
- Proof them in a warm spot until approximately doubled in volume, for about 1 hour or so.
- Once proofed, brush them lightly with egg wash (an egg whisked together with a splash of milk).
- Sprinkle them generously with poppy seeds,
- and use a bread lame (or a sharp serrated knife) to cut a cross into each roll.
- And then: bake!
A note on making the rolls vegan
The only non-vegan ingredients in the recipe are the egg and milk used in the egg wash. The purpose of the egg wash is three-fold:
- It prevents the surface of the rolls from drying out in the oven (if the crust dries out, it can get a white-ish colour and can be very crunchy).
- It helps the crust of the rolls to brown and caramelise nicely in the oven.
- It ensures that the poppy seeds stick to the buns, rather than falling off in the oven.
Instead of the egg wash (if you want to keep the poppy seed rolls vegan as well as gluten free), you can mix some dairy-free milk, such as almond, soy or rice milk, together with a bit of maple syrup – this will help the rolls brown nicely in the oven, while also ensuring that the poppy seeds stick to them.
Baking the gluten free poppy seed rolls
The baking procedure in this recipe is optimised to give the best oven spring (that is, the maximum expansion when the rolls first enter the oven), as well as the softest poppy seed rolls. The aim is to get rolls with a soft, light, open crumb and a thin crust that’s on the softer side – if you want it to be crunchier or crisper, you can bake them for a few minutes longer.
For the best gluten free poppy seed rolls:
- Start baking at 480ºF (250ºC) with a steam source (a tray of boiling hot water at the bottom of the oven) for 10 minutes. This initial period in the oven at a super high temperature and with steam maximises oven spring.
- Then, remove the steam source and reduce the oven temperature to 390ºF (200ºC) and bake for a further 20-25 minutes. This second part ensures that the rolls are baked all the way through and that enough moisture has evaporated from them to ensure a light crumb that isn’t too sticky, gummy or wet. This is also when the rolls will get their gorgeous golden-brown colour.
Note that all oven temperatures above (and in the recipe) are for a conventional oven, not for a fan oven. If using a fan oven, reduce all oven temperatures listed in the recipe by 20ºC, though I don’t recommend using the fan setting for gluten free baking in general if you can avoid it.
Once baked, transfer the rolls onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. I don’t recommend cutting into a still hot or warm roll (no matter how tempting!) as the crumb will still be somewhat sticky. Instead, try to be patient and wait for them to cool completely.
How long do gluten free poppy seed rolls last?
These gluten free poppy seed rolls are definitely at their very best on the day of baking, after they’ve had a chance to cool completely.
However, they keep well for 3-4 days in an airtight container at room temperature. If enjoying them on days 3 or 4, you’ll need to reheat them briefly in the microwave (for about 20 seconds) to soften them up again – once re-heated, they’re just as soft and delicious as they were on the first day. Alternatively, they’re amazing toasted or fried on a bit of butter!
Although all the ingredients in the recipe should be easily accessible either in your local grocery store or online, I still wanted to include a list of substitutions you can make.
- Instant yeast: You can use active dried yeast, in which case you’ll need to activate it beforehand in the warm water with a teaspoon or so of sugar. You’ll need a slightly larger quantity of active dried yeast due to the way in which it’s produced and processed, use about 10g.
- Psyllium husk: YOU CAN’T SUBSTITUTE IT WITH A DIFFERENT INGREDIENT. But if you use psyllium husk powder as opposed to the rough/whole husk form, use only 85% of the weight listed in the recipe.
- Tapioca starch: You can use cornstarch (also known as cornflour in the UK), potato starch or arrowroot starch instead.
- Sorghum flour: You can use white teff flour, buckwheat flour or oat flour instead.
- Millet flour: You can use brown rice flour instead.
A note on measurements (tl;dr: if possible, use a scale)
While I’ve included the volume measurements (cups and spoons) in the recipe card below, if at all possible (and I really cannot overemphasise this): USE METRIC GRAM MEASUREMENTS IF YOU CAN.
They’re much more precise and produce more reliably delicious results. This is true for pretty much all of baking – a kitchen scale will invariably give better results than cups and tablespoons.
And that’s it! This might look like a super long blog post packed with information and step-by-step photos, but making these gluten free poppy seed rolls is actually incredibly easy.
Plus, they’re absolutely delicious – they’re wonderful for breakfast with a bit of butter or jam, as an accompaniment to lunch or dinner, and especially as a substitute for burger buns in burgers or sandwiches!
I hope you’ll love them as much as I do.
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Gluten Free Poppy Seed Rolls
For gluten free poppy seed rolls:
- 20 g (4 tbsp) whole/rough psyllium husk (If using psyllium husk powder, use only 17g.)
- 380 g (1 ½ cups + 1 ½ tbsp) warm water, divided
- 160 g (1 ⅓ cups + 1 tbsp) tapioca starch (You can also use an equal weight of arrowroot starch, cornstarch (US) or cornflour (UK), or potato starch.)
- 100 g (¾ cup) sorghum flour (You can also use an equal weight of buckwheat, white teff or gluten free oat flour.)
- 60 g (⅓ cup + 2 tbsp) millet flour, plus extra for flouring the surface (You can also use an equal weight of finely milled brown rice flour.)
- 20 g (1 ½ tbsp) granulated or caster/superfine sugar
- 8 g (1 ¼ tsp) salt
- 8 g (2 ½ tsp) instant yeast (If using active dried yeast, use 10g.)
- 10 g (2 tsp) apple cider vinegar
For egg wash:
- 1 UK medium/US large egg
- 15 g (1 tbsp) whole milk
You will also need:
- 3-4 tbsp poppy seeds
For gluten free poppy seed rolls:
- Line a large baking sheet with baking/greaseproof paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the psyllium husk and 200g (¾ cup + 1 ½ tbsp) warm water. After about 15 seconds, a gel will form. Set aside until needed.
- In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer, if using), whisk together the tapioca starch, sorghum flour, millet flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add the rest of the warm water, psyllium gel and apple cider vinegar into it.Tip: If using active dried yeast, activate it first by mixing it with the rest of the warm water and a teaspoon of sugar. Set aside for about 5-10 minutes, until you see bubbles/foam appearing on the surface – this shows that the yeast is alive and active.
- Using a wooden spoon, mix well until the dough starts coming together. You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, making sure that you scrape down the sides of the bowl to remove any dry, un-mixed patches of flour.
- Once it starts coming together, knead it by hand until you get a homogeneous, smooth dough with no dry patches of un-mixed flour. Just squeeze the dough through your fingers, going around the bowl until you’ve incorporated all the flour. The final dough should form a ball and easily come away from the sides of the bowl. (Again, you can also use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook).
- Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and give it a gentle knead. Be careful not to incorporate too much extra flour into the dough.
- Roll out the dough into a long log and divide it into 6 equal pieces – I recommend using a digital kitchen scale to get the pieces of equal weight and therefore approximately equal size.
- Shape each piece into a ball – see the blog post for detailed instructions and step-by-step photos of how to best shape the poppy seed rolls.Tip: Don't worry if the surface of your rolls isn't perfectly smooth – that's to be expected due to the absence of gluten. As the rolls bake, their surface will smooth out due to oven spring.
- Once shaped into individual rolls, transfer them onto the lined baking sheet, at least 1 inch (2.5cm) apart from each other. I've arranged them in two rows of three (see blog post for photos).
- Lightly cover with cling film and proof them in a warm spot until approximately doubled in volume, for about 1 hour – 1 hour 15 minutes.
- While the rolls are proofing, adjust the oven rack to the middle position, place a baking tray at the bottom of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 480ºF (250ºC).
Assembling the gluten free poppy seed rolls:
- For the egg wash, whisk the egg and milk together until well combined.Tip: If you want to keep the poppy seed rolls vegan as well as gluten free, you can mix some dairy-free milk, such as almond, soy or rice milk, together with a bit of maple syrup (instead of the egg wash) – this will help the rolls brown nicely in the oven, while also ensuring that the poppy seeds stick to them.
- Once proofed, brush the rolls lightly with egg wash all over.
- Sprinkle generously with poppy seeds.
- Use a bread lame (or a sharp serrated knife) to cut a cross, about 1-2mm deep, into each roll.
Baking the gluten free poppy seed rolls:
- Place the rolls into the oven, pre-heated to 480ºF (250ºC) and pour boiling hot water into the baking tray at the bottom. Close the oven door and bake for 10 minutes. Tip: The presence of steam and the high oven temperature will maximise oven spring and smooth out the surface/crust of the rolls.
- After 10 minutes, remove the baking tray with the hot water from the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 390ºF (200ºC) and continue baking in a steam-free environment for a further 20-25 minutes until the rolls are deep golden brown. If the rolls start browning too quickly, you can cover them with aluminium foil (shiny side up) and continue baking until done.Tip: You don’t want to keep the steam source (baking tray with hot water) in the oven for too long, as it can make the rolls too heavy.
- Once baked, transfer the poppy seed rolls onto a wire cooling rack – this helps to maximise steam evaporation, to get a soft crumb that isn’t too wet, sticky or heavy. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.
- These gluten free poppy seed rolls are at their very best on the day of baking.However, they keep well for 3-4 days in an airtight container at room temperature. If enjoying them on days 3 or 4, you’ll need to reheat them briefly in the microwave (for about 20 seconds) to soften them up again – once re-heated, they’re just as soft and delicious as they were on the first day. Alternatively, they’re amazing toasted or fried on a bit of butter!