I think my kids like saying “monkey bread” as much as I like hearing them pronounce cinnamon as cimmanin. My 6-year-old was endlessly curious about why it’s called monkey bread, and wouldn’t stop asking until I Googled it. Turns out, it’s meant to be eaten like a monkey, pulling apart the sticky pieces with your hands.
I’ve got to admit—I cook a lot, but have never made monkey bread. I’ve tasted (and loved) it in our Test Kitchen, shared it with my mom at a local brunch spot, but never made it myself.
When to Make This Recipe
I intended to let this rise overnight to bake one morning, but kitchen projects with young kids late in the day are tough when bedtime is an hour after you’ve made dinner (and maybe not cleaned up yet). I wanted to make sure we’re not all eating caramelly, sticky monkey bread willy-nilly. No sir, this is a morning treat.
In reality, we started making this around 10 a.m. That made it the perfect dessert after lunch.
By the way—read this before you start baking with kids.
How to Make Monkey Bread
This recipe is from Diana Kunselman in Pennsylvania. It makes 16 servings—about enough for a hungry family of four.
- 2 loaves (1 pound each) frozen bread dough, thawed
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup butter, cubed
- 1 package (3 ounces) cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
- 2 tablespoons 2% milk
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Tools You’ll Need
Rustle up a 13×9-inch pan, parchment paper, a saucepan, a whisk, a rubber or silicone spatula and a garden hose. Your kids are going to get sticky!
Step 1: Kids prep the dough, grownups prep the pan
This simple recipe starts with dividing the dough into 1-inch pieces and placing them in a greased 13×9-inch pan.
I used two different kinds of store-bought dough because these are strange times and that’s what the store had: pizza dough and biscuit dough. I’ve got to tell you, the biscuit dough made my absolute favorite pieces. The flakiness of the biscuit dough makes the pull-apart texture even better.
You can amuse your kids with the pop of the dough tube opening, then show them the magic inside. My kids wanted to tear apart the dough themselves. So I let them. They tore pieces that were pretty tiny, but I quite liked that because it gave the monkey bread: A) smaller serving sizes and B) more crispy edges.
Step 2: Kids mix, grownups simmer and pour
Measure the remaining ingredients before the kids join in, if you prefer order to chaos. I was out of brown sugar, but I made my own with a quick baking substitution.
Let the kids add the ingredients to the saucepan before it gets hot. Bring to a boil; grownups cook and stir 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour over dough pieces.
Step 3: Wait, then bake
Cover your pan with parchment or foil and let raise in a warm spot for 45 minutes. Turn the kids’ attention to lunch, home learning or, if you have a magic wand, the dishes.
This bread rises longer than it bakes. I let it rise in my oven for about 40 minutes on the “proof” setting. I took it out before time was up so that I could preheat the oven to 350° and get this bad boy done as soon as possible. (Once you smell the sauce, you’ll understand.)
Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes. You can invert the whole pan immediately onto a serving dish, or skip this step to avoid dirtying another dish. It’s perfectly delicious no matter your angle of attack.
How to Customize This Recipe
Don’t stress over the ingredients. If you don’t have vanilla pudding mix, fine. Use butterscotch, banana or even chocolate pudding mix. You can also skip the pudding mix altogether—you’ll have a thinner, more buttery sauce.
Use your favorite dough, store-bought or otherwise. I wholeheartedly recommend biscuit dough, as its buttery, flaky layers brought a lovely texture to the party. You could even use cinnamon roll dough—my family prefers this monkey bread sauce to the vanilla frosting that comes with cimmanin rolls, anyway.
Make the texture extra fun by adding chopped nuts to the sauce. Top with banana slices to really drive the “monkey” theme home for your kids. Blueberries bake up nicely with a recipe like this, though you may want to have extra napkins ready.
How to Store Your Monkey Bread
It’s cliche when it comes to recipes, but I really doubt there’ll be anything left after those little hands get ahold of this one. You can seal leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days. It’s really best enjoyed fresh and warm, so recreate the magic by microwaving portions for 30 seconds or less.