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The 14 Best Dinner Rolls And Where To Buy Them

Your definitive guide to every type of dinner roll and how to pair them with your holiday meal.

As much as toxic diet culture has tried to vilify all manner of glorious carbs, the fact of the matter is that they bring joy with every bite. They can even set the tone for a nice night out—because who among us hasn't judged an entire restaurant based on the quality of the bread basket?

The same is true at chain restaurants. Texas Roadhouse's warm rolls with cinnamon butter are half the establishment's appeal. Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp is great (for us, not so much for Red Lobster), but those Cheddar Bay Biscuits are the true highlight. The Cheesecake Factory's namesake dessert is an undeniable draw, but the sweet brown rolls are now sold in supermarkets due to their popularity.

Clearly, the bread served with dinner, especially for special occasions like holiday meals, is important. Let's walk through 14 common types of dinner rolls, the best brands to buy of each variety, and some other cool carbs to try out as well.

1. Basic Soft White Rolls

I think we're all familiar with this default—it's the Wonder Bread of dinner rolls, no matter who makes it. Soft, tender, mass-produced bread made with enriched white flour that puffs up light and soft with a barely discernible crust. However, this crushable bread is also the most nondescript and least prized you can provide. If you go this route, try to avoid the most basic of these brands, as they can have a dry crumb and very little flavor.


From the bread aisle, Pepperidge Farm has the most expected, innocuous flavor, and Wonder makes its own version if it's nostalgia you seek (they're dry on top but extra soft inside). In-store bakeries sometimes offer slightly fancier-looking versions of soft white dinner rolls, but they can be hit or miss depending on the store.

2. “Artisan” White Rolls

The label "artisan" doesn't really mean much when it comes from a commercial mass production bakery, so it's pretty subject to interpretation. That interpretation seems to be plush, dense, pillowy, thicker-crust bouncy bread with a short(ish) list of ingredients. Oh, and a dusting of flour to make it look less machine-made and more "there goes the baker with his tray, like always."


A good example of this in loaf form is Nature's Own Perfectly Crafted breads, but that brand currently only makes brioche rolls (more about those later). This leaves the main option for this style: Sara Lee's Artesano Bakery Rolls, which start with a creamy character and end with a tinge of sourness on the finish.

3. Potato Rolls

And just like that, we're in primo dinner roll territory already. Potato rolls are awesome, and if you're not familiar with them, you might just be living under a rock with the tubers themselves. They're so named because potato flour (or actual potato) replaces some of the regular wheat flour in the dough recipe, resulting in rolls that are slightly sweet, moist, and tender from the root vegetable starch. They have a fine texture with good elasticity that prevents them from drying out or crumbling up.


For this, problematic political leanings aside, I'm going to recommend the classic: Martin's Famous Potato Rolls and Bread, whose sweet mealtime rolls come in "dinner" or "party" sizes. I grew up in the Northeast, where this Pennsylvania-based bakery was the brand, and the original mass-made potato bread. It's used by big chains like Shake Shack and smaller award-winners like Georgia's NFA Burger. The rolls are made with real milk, sugar, butter, high-protein wheat, and some dough conditioners, which are controversial, but I'm okay with anything that achieves such squishy elasticity.

Martin's is not the only brand making potato dinner rolls these days, either. Some supermarket bakeries now sell them, too.


4. Brioche-Style Rolls

As we noted earlier this year, brioche is every-frickin'-where this year. Why not on your dinner table, too? No one is ever mad to see these glossy, deeply golden buns; there's no fatigue (yet) for this yeasted, enriched, soft and lightly sweet bread with butter traditionally kneaded right into the dough. Because major bread manufacturers are making this type of bread now, it's pretty easy to get some semblance of it in dinner roll form. (The reason we throw in the caveat of brioche "style" is that most mass producers will cut corners and use fat substitutes in lieu of all butter. Still good.)


America's favorite brioche brand is St. Pierre's slider rolls and its seasonal Brioche Holiday Star, which adds a pinch of vanilla dry custard-like filling in each pull-apart piece and is actually made in France. Nature's Own Perfectly Crafted Brioche Style Butter Rolls are another great option, and they're actually moister and softer than the leading brand—a nice reinterpretation for American palates.

5. Hawaiian Rolls

This is another trendy bun—a favorite of Arby's time and again for its limited-time sandwiches. It's a very sweet, shiny type of roll, and it's an absolute treat, even on its own. Vanilla extract is added to bring out the sweetness in the fruit juice in the dough's recipe. As for its super-soft, moist, and light texture, that can be attributed to the fact that it's traditionally risen three times, which is one more rise than most standard breads.


The obvious choice is the classic, King's Hawaiian. Invented by the Hawaii-born sun of Japanese immigrants, Robert R. Taira, in the 1950s at Robert's Bakery before it became King's and moved from Hilo to Honolulu, this is the standard and most recognized brand. The dinner rolls now come in Savory Butter, Jalapeno, and Honey Wheat varieties in addition to the original recipe, which are ultra-adorable in uber-tiny sizes.

Some store brands like Kroger, 365 by Whole Foods Market, and ALDI's L'Oven sell their own versions, and select supermarkets with bakeries may also bake them up fresh.

6. Sourdough Rolls

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the favorite bread of San Francisco (and pandemic bakers everywhere): sourdough. It's sour instead of sweet, thanks to the magical fermentation reaction between wild yeast and good bacteria. But flavor isn't the only thing a good sourdough starter will impart. It also leads to roughly crusty outsides, big air bubbles inside, improved shelf life, and a lower glycemic index than white breads. And the better the starter, the better the rise.


For this, a gourmet pick would be La Brea Bakery's Take and Bake Seeded Sourdough Rolls, which add millet, flax, and poppy seeds for even more texture. For a blank canvas, try Sister Schubert's Sourdough Mini Baguettes.

7. Hard Rolls

Hard rolls are what immediately comes to mind when I think of "nice" restaurant dinner rolls. They're crusty like sourdough, a lovely tan color that can sometimes flake off if dealt with too roughly. But unlike sourdough, the "meat" of the roll is sweet and elastic, with middling airiness, and they're puffy, joyous things when warm and slathered with a generous pat of butter.


If you prefer a French style of hard roll, try Lidl's bakery's dinner rolls, which are baked fresh daily on premises and can be purchased individually. If you don't have a Lidl but you do have a Trader Joe's, the Organic French Rolls are a good choice. Costco's Kirkland Signature Dinner Rolls fresh from the bakery are truly fantastic—sweet, pliant, and in a quantity that gives you an excuse to fill up on bread.

If you're wiling to turn on the oven, Sister Schubert and La Brea Bakery make parbaked versions you finish off at home.

Then there are Kaiser-style mini rolls, for which I highly recommend J.J. Cassone; there's nothing like that New York water to bring in that true Viennese flavor. Europa's is a little drier, but still better than any supermarket bakery, whose iterations only ever look the part but fall apart in dry crumbles at first bite.


8. Rustic Rolls

What I'm calling "rustic" are also typically hard rolls. I would put whole grain, multigrain, seeded, fruited, and nutty breads in this category—anything "interesting" and hearty that isn't plain ol' white bread or sourdough.


Cranberry walnut rolls are big faves at steakhouses and have made it to grocery store bakery departments, and La Brea Bakery makes an intriguing Sunflower Turmeric variety. However, I'd stretch this category to include ciabatta, which feels rustic despite being typically a white-flour bread, and Cheesecake Factory's famous "Brown Bread," which is soft, airy, and sweet like enriched breads designed for shelf life but studded in rolled oats for that "country" feel.

9. Milk Bread Rolls

If you're near a Chinese or Asian bakery, try these. If you're not, maybe you should drive out to one, because Asian milk bread rolls are a sublime experience. Look for pull-apart buns with shiny dark brown tops baked in a disposable aluminum round tray. The texture is just gorgeous, lying somewhere in between brioche and machine-made danish dough—think Entenmann's buns and manufactured strip danishes versus laminated croissant-like pastry. They're ultra-soft and don't flake off, but rather peel off at the breakaway point. (This is what I mean.)


If you're at a good bakery, these rolls are a little hollow in the center, where a pat of butter saturated and evaporated the middle for a supremely rich surprise. My family picks these up in Flushing, Queens, at Maxin Bakery, Tai Pan Bakery, or in Manhattan, Manna House Bakery. Fay Da is another good source, with considerably more locations.

10. Parker House Rolls

We have Boston hotel Omni Parker House for two great culinary inventions: the Boston Cream Pie and Parker House rolls. This is another decadent, extra-tender, pull-apart dinner roll style and is known for having So. Much. Butter. A proper Parker House roll has butter folded into the dough of its signature pocketbook shape, then more butter is brushed on after baking. The use of milk and egg in the dough also contribute to its richness.


Lots of folks make these from scratch, but if you don't want to, Sister Schubert comes to the rescue once again. These won't be as rich as homemade, but they are made with real butter and no artificial flavorings.

11. Pão de Queijo

If you've ever been to churrascaria and meat heavens Fogo de Chão or Texas de Brazil, you've had these as your "dinner rolls" and more than likely loved them. Bread-like cheese puffs that taste like melted, toasted cheese but feel like a soft, chewy bubble, these are traditionally made with tapioca flour, which makes them gluten-free without construct, pretention, or appropriation. Awesome.


Best of all, you no longer have to source out tapioca flour and make them from scratch, because Brazi Bites are available at major grocery retailers nationwide and many regional Costcos. But best of all, the brand is making them in cool flavors like 3 Cheese Pizza and Garlic Asiago. Air-frying them keeps your oven free for everything else you're preparing for dinner.

12. Biscuits

Biscuits can be a matter of great debate. Some say it's not a proper biscuit without buttermilk; others say regular milk is fine. Some people don't mind a squat, crumbly biscuit, while others look for flakiness reminiscent of laminated pie crust. And then there are the cut biscuit vs. drop biscuit arguments, which pit a labor of love against a quick and easy alternative.


I live in the South, where biscuits are typically made with White Lily flour, well documented as the secret to superior biscuits due to the nature of soft winter wheat. That said, if you're going to buy biscuits to serve as dinner rolls, there are a lot of good brands out there. Grocery store bakery biscuits will be closer to KFC's style, if that's your jam.

For traditional Southern biscuits, look to Mason Dixie and cutesy Callie's Hot Little Biscuits, both of which are available frozen in many supermarkets. For something quick, there's always Pillsbury Grands Southern Style. Or go the Red Lobster route—nothing wrong with a good Cheddar Bay, which you can get frozen or as a drop biscuit mix (no rolling, folding, booking, shaping, or cutting required).


13. Focaccia

Being a native Long Islander, I've been eating focaccia for as long as I've been eating pizza. This flat, leavened, baked Italian bread is spongy, dense, and delicious, with more yeast than a traditional pizza dough. Most authentic versions are made with so, so much olive oil (as seen in this Salt Fat Acid Heat episode) and a coating of coarse sea salt.


But we New Yorkers have a tendency to do Italian our own way, despite how hard the region waves its tricolored flag. I have no complaints about being raised on oregano tomato sauce-topped Sfincione-style Sicilian pizza dough masquerading as dinner bread. And now, many supermarkets are making their own versions, topping them with roasted veggies at Italian markets like regional cult faves Uncle Guiseppe's, Pat's Marketplace, and Sprouts, and even mainstream markets like Kroger. Buy one and cut it up into roll-sized squares to really jazz up dinner.

14. Cornbread

Yes, I know cornbread is a quick bread, which isn't really bread in the same sense as many rolls on this list, but hundreds of years of Native American and Southern tradition can't be wrong in categorizing this as a dinner accompaniment. It's sweet and grainy, equally good as a before or after dinner carb. Many people love it baked in a skillet coated with butter or lard and with whole corn kernels mixed in. My personal favorite is New Orleans' Jacques-Imo's version: mini muffins baked with garlic and topped with melted garlic butter and fresh herbs.


Luckily, it's easy enough to gussy up your store-bought cornbread the same way. Many supermarkets will sell aluminum trays of cornbread you can just cut up and serve, and BJ's offers them in mini-loaves in the bakery department. Sprouts offers jalapeno-studded cornbread for a little extra fire for your breadbasket.