Discover our picks for the best cinnamon buns in the world. This tasty list includes Scandinavian cinnamon buns and traditional American cinnamon buns plus more.
Growing up in the USA, we thought that cinnamon buns were an American thing. Perhaps that’s because we hadn’t seen the world yet or maybe we were influenced by commercials featuring the Pillsbury Doughboy. Yes, we grew up eating Pillsbury cinnamon buns.
As kids, we rarely resisted eating a sweet, buttery cinnamon pastry whether it was called a cinnamon bun, a cinnamon roll, a honey bun or even a danish. However, we were typically happiest when the pastry was raisin-free and topped with a generous amount of icing.
A lightbulb went of in our heads when we traveled to Stockholm and bit into our first (but not last) kanelbulle. That’s when we realized that modern day cinnamon buns actually have Scandinavian roots. And they don’t all look alike. Some are shaped in braids whiles others are twisted into crowns of interspersed pastry.We also realized that cinnamon buns and coffee are a culinary dream team.
Cinnamon is an ancient spice that’s typically extracted from trees grown in Asian countries. There are two types of cinnamon – common cinnamon called cassia found in China, Indonesia and Vietnam and ceylon cinnamon, a highly sought after luxury product found in Sri Lanka.
After experiencing that aha moment in Stockholm, we’ve since eaten a variety of cinnamon buns around the world. Some of our favorites were at coffee shops while others were at bakeries and cafes. There’s something comforting about eating cinnamon buns in foreign countries. The tasty pastries remind us of home (despite their European origin) and they taste great too. (It should come as no surprise that France, a country with a prodigious pastry pedigree, produces some of the best cinnamon rolls we’ve ever tasted.)
Head to your local Ikea and order a cinnamon bun at the cafe if you don’t have any European trips in your near future. The Ikea cinnamon bun is essentially a Swedish kanelbulle. You can buy a package of the megastore’s frozen cinnamon buns to bake at home if your craving is extreme.
Our Picks For The Best Cinnamon Buns
Our cinnamon bun journey started in America and continued in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Fast forward to the present and we now take pleasure in eating cinnamon buns wherever we find them including countries where it’s not the norm to add cinnamon to buttery pastries.
European Cinnamon Buns
Europe is a culinary epicenter famous for a range of savory foods that includes coq au vin, currywurst and schnitzel as well as sweet treats like baklava, sacher tortes and the cinnamon bun. But not just one cinnamon bun. Each Scandinavian country has its own version, with most eschewing icing as the preferred topping.
Cinnamon bun fans will want to eat kanelbollar in Norway, kanelbullar in Sweden, kanelsnegle in Denmark, korvapuusti in Finland, franzbrötchen in Germany and snúður in Iceland. That’s a given. But cinnamon bun fans will want to eat these pastries in other countries too.
We’ve done both and these are our favorites:
1. Kanelbulle (Stockholm)
Swedes have been passionate about cinnamon buns for over a century. The typical Swede eats more than 300 kanelbullar each year both at home and while working – often during fika coffee breaks. The country even has an annual holiday, Kanelbullens Dag, that celebrates the country’s iconic pastry.
Enticed by the aromas of cinnamon and cardamom wafting through the air, we ate our first kanelbulle upon our arrival at Stockhom’s Central Railway Station. Needless to say, those first buns were far from our last. We proceeded to enjoy daily fika sessions throughout the city with our favorite being at Fabrique Stenungsbageri in trendy Södermalm.
Discover how to fika in Stockholm like a pro.
2. Kanelbulle (Amsterdam)
It’s easy to find great pastries as well as great specialty coffee in Amsterdam. With this in mind, we were happy to eat a kanelbulle at Scandinavian Embassy during our most recent visit to the Dutch city.
Baked on-site with locally milled flour and topped with pearl sugar, Scandinavian Embassy’s kanelbulle didn’t disappoint these two cinnamon bun lovers. As a bonus, our iced latte was so good that we ordered a second.
Discover more great Amsterdam coffee shops.
3. Kanelbulle (Rouen)
While eating pressed duck in Rouen was a priority, pairing excellent flat whites with equally excellent kanelbullar was an unexpected treat. After all, the Normandy city is more famous for its epic cathedral and Jean d’Arc museum than it is for its food.
We consider ourselves lucky in this regard for two reasons. First, the city’s best coffee shop was located mere steps from our Rouen hotel. And, second, Prélude Cafe‘s pastry selection changes daily.
Discover French pastries more typically baked in Normandy.
4. Kanelsnegle (Lisbon)
Considering that the kanelsnegle is Denmark’s classic cinnamon bun, it seems ironic that we ate our first kanelsnegle in our Lisbon. However, any potential irony is negated by the fact that we ate it at Copenhagen Coffee Lab, a Lisbon coffee shop that has Danish roots.
With a name that literally translates to cinnamon snail, the kanelsnegle is flatter and wider that other cinnamon buns. Typical toppings include powdered sugar, sugar glaze and even chocolate. The version we typically eat at our neighborhood Copenhagen Coffee Lab is topped with sugar glaze.
5. Kardemommesnurrer (Copenhagen)
Danes drink a lot of coffee, surpassed by only Finland, Norway and Iceland. However, based on our personal observations, the Danish cinnamon bun consumption rate is equally auspicious.
We joined the fray by eating multiple cinnamon buns in Copenhagen including flaky kardemommesnurrer at both Juno the Bakery and Lille Bakery. Both cardamom buns evoked memories of kanelbullar we’d eaten in Stockholm. However, Copenhagen’s pastries were just a little bit better than their Swedish cousins.
Discover more notable Copenhagen bakeries.
6. Cardamom Croissant (Copenhagen)
It’s debatable whether Denmark or France has better pastries. (We’re on team France.) However, there’s no debate that the cardamom croissant is a delightful mash-up of the two pastry powerhouse countries – especially the one we ate at Hart Bageri.
That cardamom croissant was worth every calorie. Originally made with leftover croissant dough and a whole lot of butter and sugar, the hybrid creation is now the popular bakery’s signature pastry.
Discover more Danish food favorites.
7. Kohrvapuusti (Helsinki)
We’re not pulling your ear when we say that we love Finland’s buttery, soft Korvapuusti. We’re also not poking your ear despite the fact that korvapuusti literally translates to ear poke.
Although the korvapuusti has a reputation for being larger than other cinnamon buns, the best ones we ate in Helsinki were just the right size. Loaded with cardamom, those sweet Finnish cinnamon buns smelled as great as they tasted.
Discover more great food in Helsinki.
8. Kohrvapuusti (Portland)
The idea of eating a korvapuusti in Portland may seem odd since the Oregon city is 5,000 miles from the pastry’s homeland. But that’s what we did when we popped into Heart Coffee Roasters during our cross-country American road trip.
At the time, we didn’t realize that the coffee shop’s owner, Wille Yli-Luoma, is Finnish and that we were pairing our cappuccinos with a classic Finnish cinnamon bun. We just knew that the korvapuusti‘s combination of cinnamon, cardamom and pearl sugar was a winner. And the coffee was great too.
Discover more Portland food favorites.
9. Kanelbolle (Stavanger)
It would be understandable to confuse Norway’s kanelbolle with Sweden’s kanelbulle based on the names alone. But don’t do it. Not only are Norwegian cinnamon buns their own thing but they also go by two additional names – kanelsnurr and skillingsboller.
10. Franzbrötchen (Hamburg)
Don’t bother looking for a franzbrötchen in Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich. It’s not that Germany’s version of the cinnamon bun isn’t good. Rather, the issue is that the franzbrötchen is specific to Hamburg, a German city that’s just located 200 miles from Copenhagen.
We fell for the franzrötchen during our first trip to Hamburg and fell for it again during our second and third visits. Inspired by France, hence the name, the sweet German pastry makes a great little breakfast or afternoon treat. It’s especially tasty when paired with coffee.
Discover more irresistible German sweet treats.
11. Kardemummabullar (The Catskills)
We did a double take while perusing the pastries at Kingston Bread and Bar in The Catskills when our eyes hit the sign for cardamom buns. Of course, we had to buy one.
Despite the sign, we had no doubt that these cardamom buns got their inspiration from Sweden’s kardemummabullar. We later learned that one of the bakery’s owners has a Swedish mother-in-law.
Discover more foodie finds in Kingston.
American Cinnamon Buns
Although Americans have been eating cinnamon buns since Germans and Swedish immigrants arrived in the 17th century, American cinnamon buns didn’t achieve peak popularity until Cinnabon entered the scene in 1985. The mall chain’s cinnamon buns became instantly iconic both for their monstrous size and pervasive aroma.
While we appreciated watching Jimmy/Saul/Gene working at Cinnabon on Better Call Saul, we prefer splurging our calorie wad on American-style cinnamon buns at local bakeries and cafes whether where in the United States or another country.
These tare he best American-style cinnamon buns we’ve eaten so far:
12. Classic American-Style Cinnamon Bun (Tucson)
In America, cinnamon buns are decadent desserts that double as breakfast. Adding a side of butter and spoonable icing sounds absolutely superfluous. Or is it?
We still dream about the freshly baked cinnamon bun that we ate during our brunch at Robert’s Restaurant in Tucson. Its side of sugary glaze took the toasted treat to a galactic level, setting the bar for all future American-style cinnamon buns we eat.
Discover more spots to eat brunch in Tucson.
13. Cinnamon Bun with Sprinkles (New Orleans)
New Orleans is a city famous for desserts like bananas foster and beignets. However, it would be short-sighted to rule out other sweet treats like donuts and, of course, cinnamon buns.
We had his revelation at La Boulangerie, a tony bakery on Magazine Street in the Garden District. Sure, we could have ordered a croissant, turnover, muffin and cookie but the bakery’s cinnamon bun smothered with vanilla glaze and colorful sprinkles was simply impossible to resist.
Discover more irresistible desserts in New Orleans.
14. Truck Stop Cinnamon Bun (Colorado)
Although we don’t usually eat at truck stops, stopping at Johnson’s Corner Restaurant & Bakery, located in Colorado, was a must. The truck stop, located on I-25 between Denver and Fort Collins, is so famous for its cinnamon buns that it bakes 15,000 of them each month.
The truck stop has been baking cinnamon buns and topping them with cream cheese frosting since the 1950s. Adventurous diners can add additional toppings like caramel apple, key lime and chocolate cherry. However, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple by ordering a plain cinnamon bun.
Discover more American food favorites.
15. Surprising American-Style Cinnamon Bun (Florence)
Most people don’t seek out cinnamon buns in Florence, instead focusing their time on eating pasta, pizza and traditional Italian desserts. Sadly, they’re missing out on the most authentic American-style cinnamon bun we’ve eaten on the European continent.
You too can eat this classic American cinnamon bun at Florence’s Melaleuca. One of the cafe’s owners grew up in Gainesville, Florida which explains the location of this tasty pastry.
Discover more Florence food favorites.
16. Cinnamon Bun With Coffee Icing (Caen)
We didn’t plan to eat a cinnamon bun at Keys Coffee House in Caen during our multi-day tour of Normandy – our actual goal was to drink specialty coffee at the cafe located less than an hour from the D-Day beaches. However, skipping the cinnamon bun simply wasn’t an option once we spotted the beautifully baked pastry in the Normandy cafe’s pastry case.
It was a good move. Not only was the cinnamon bun flaky and light, but it was also topped with rich coffee icing. Although the cafe’s kiwi owner was disappointed that we didn’t order a signature donut too, we more than satisfied with the bun.
Discover our favorite donuts around the world.
17. Sourdough Cinnamon Bun (Philadelphia)
We were pleased to find freshly baked sourdough pastries at Vibrant Coffee Roasters & Bakery near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Since the popular cafe’s cinnamon buns are topped with buttery cream cheese frosting, that’s what we ordered to go with our coffee.
Not only was the sourdough cinnamon bun big enough to share, but it also paired well with our cappuccinos. Winning!
Discover more coffee shops in Philadelphia.
18. Cinnamon Bun with Creamy Icing (Prague)
Prague has a global food reputation that involves meat, meat and more meat. But carnivores aren’t the only ones who can and should eat well in the hip Czech capital. The city has plenty of options for vegetarians, coffee drinkers and dessert fans too.
Since we fit into the latter two categories, we couldn’t resist pairing a classic American-style cinnamon bun with a milky latte when we stopped at Café Letka in Prague’s Praha 7 neighborhood. The pair worked. It didn’t hurt that the coffee was crafted with beans sourced from Amsterdam’s Five Elephant Roastery. The same can be said for the cinnamon bun’s creamy icing.
Discover more coffee shops in Prague.
19. Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Bun (Paris, France)
Cinnamon buns became a thing in Paris when Circus Bakery opened in 2018. Sadly, that groundbreaking coffee shop spinoff closed in 2021. However, cinnamon bun fans have other options in the city of light.
Sunday in Soho is one of those options. The Parisian brunch spot bakes ooey-gooey American-style cinnamon buns with makara cinnamon and tops them with cream cheese icing. If you’re looking for a classic Paris pastry, this cinnamon bun isn’t for you. But if you’re an American looking for a tasty treat that evokes childhood memories, you’re at the right place.
Discover more Paris brunch spots.
20. Flavored Cinnamon Bun (Barcelona)
Sometimes we get bored of classic American-style cinnamon buns. It doesn’t happen often but it does occur every blue moon. That’s when it’s time to mix things up and eat a flavored cinnamon bun.
Since we were tempted by the flavored cinnamon buns at Candela Canela, a dedicated cinnamon bun shop in Barcelona‘s Gràcia neighborhood, we’d like to tell you that we ordered a flavor like apple, dulce de leche, kinder, lemon or raspberry during our visit. However, the truth is that we ordered a plain cinnamon bun to go with our filtered coffee. Apparently, the moon wasn’t blue that day.
Discover more Barcelona food favorites.
Hybrid Cinnamon Buns
But wait there’s more!
Some of our favorite cinnamon buns don’t fit into the traditional American and Scandinavian categories. The following cinnamon buns may be unique but they’re tasty too.
21. Caramel Roll (Austin)
We get the urge to exclusively eat Texas BBQ and Mexican food in Austin – the city does both exceedingly well. But there are other foods worth eating like donuts, sushi and… you guessed it… cinnamon buns. But not traditional cinnamon buns. We’re talking about caramel rolls at Pieous.
These decadent buns are baked with cinnamon, brown sugar and Texas pecans before they’re topped with house-made caramel and more pecans. We’re not alone with our appreciation for this caramel roll. It’s popular with Austin locals and has been featured in national media outlets.
Discover more Austin food favorites.
22. Laminated Cinnamon Roll (New York City)
Trust a New York City baker to bake a cinnamon bun that looks too pretty to be a cinnamon bun. The baker in this scenario is Nora Allen and her cinnamon bun is a true beauty.
To be clear, the cinnamon roll that we ate at the temporarily closed Mel the Bakery wasn’t a typical cinnamon bun. In addition to the expected cream cheese frosting, it was topped with an edible flower and candied fruit.
Discover more New York City food favorites.
23. Cinnamon Kouign Amann (New York City)
Brittany’s kouign amann may be the greatest pastry in the world. It’s layered. It’s buttery. And it has caramelized sugar.
As if that pastry perfection isn’t enough, Chef Françoise Ip goes one step further at Cafe D’Avignon by baking a kouign amann with both cinnamon and honey. Sure, you can find kouign amann pastries at other New York City bakeries like Dominique Ansel, but eating one with cinnamon and honey is more fun.
24. Cinnamon Roll Pancakes (New Haven)
Why order plain pancakes when you can order cinnamon roll pancakes instead? That’s the rhetorical question we asked ourselves before ordering the delightful pancake-cinnamon bun mashup at The Pantry in New Haven.
The less obvious question involved whether or not we should order a side of pure maple syrup since our cinnamon roll pancake was topped with swirled cream cheese icing. After careful consideration of our options and in light of Connecticut’s proximity to Vermont, our answer was a resounding yes.
Discover the best pizza in New Haven.
Cinnamon Bun FAQs
Cinnamon buns are rolled pastries baked with a healthy amount of both butter and cinnamon.
The cinnamon bun is a pastry with many names. Some of these names include cinnamon roll, cinnamon swirl, danish, honey bun, franzbrötchen, kanelbulle, kanelsnegl, kanelsnurr, korvopuusti and skillingsbolle.
The modern cinnamon bun has roots in Sweden.
While people eat cinnamon buns all over the world, the pastry is most popular in Scandinavia and the United States.
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About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
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Original Publication Date: November 19, 2023