The original name for this easy to make, decadent dessert is “Bubble Loaf” or “Bubble Bread”, but when it came into my life through Ben’s Aunt Cindy, it was called Monkey Bread. It’s basically a pull-apart dessert (or breakfast) that tastes just like fresh baked sticky buns. It’s effortless to make, using only 5 ingredients, and the final presentation is so jaw-dropping that folks will think that you spent days in the kitchen making it.
The original version of the dish was practically vegan when I found it. The Rhodes Rolls that form the base of the Monkey Bread are labeled as vegan on the package. The brown sugar (look for organic or char-free) is already vegan, as is the cinnamon. Nuts are of course vegan, and the vanilla flavored Jell-O “Cook and Serve” pudding is pretty much just starch and sugar.
Of course there’s the butter, but I guarantee that when this recipe was invented, probably sometime in the 1980s, or when Aunt Cindy originally made this recipe, “real” butter wasn’t even in the house. Everyone was afraid of butter in the 80s, so we all just used margarine instead.
In fact, when I asked Aunt Cindy about it after seeing it on her counter for the first time, she told me that she always used Country Crock to make it. Unfortunately it wasn’t their “Plant Butter”, so I didn’t sample it. But there is was, the only non-vegan ingredient, and it wasn’t even a real animal-based ingredient.
When I asked her for the recipe so that I could try it out for myself, she handed me this piece of paper:
It has been so long since someone has shared a recipe with me, handwritten, on their own personal kitchen “stationary”. Most of the time we just share links to one another. When she handed me this recipe, on this little piece of paper, it sealed the deal on all of the nostalgia that this dessert represents.
This is a dessert. This is gooey and sticky and full of fat and oil and sugar, and it’s effing delicious. If you’re going to make it, go all in. This is not the time to skimp or conserve. This is a dessert.
The ingredients for this dish are simple, and I can’t really suggest any substitutions. There are generic Rhodes Rolls, so you could use those instead. There might be generic pudding, but the name brand version is fairly inexpensive already. It’s up to you what brand of vegan margarine or butter you want to use, so just choose the one that is available to you, or that you would normally use for baking. Earth Balance was available at the supermarket I went to, so that’s the one that I used when testing and making this dessert.
Aunt Cindy’s Easy Vegan Monkey Bread
This dessert can be thrown together the night before, and then baked fresh in the morning. With only 5, easy-to-find, store-bought ingredients, the most difficult part of this recipe is waiting for it to rise.
- 5 tablespoons Earth Balance or vegan butter, divided
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 ½ lbs frozen Rhodes Rolls (about 16 rolls)
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 ounces Jell-O vanilla “Cook and Serve” pudding (not instant)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Generously coat your cast iron pan with 1 tablespoon vegan butter. Sprinkle bottom and sides with chopped pecans. Arrange rolls evenly in the bottom of the pan.
Combine brown sugar, vanilla pudding, and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture over the rolls, allowing it to fall between the cracks. Distribute the remaining 4 tablespoons of vegan butter over the tops of the frozen rolls. Cover with parchment and allow to rise overnight (about 5 hours), until the rolls have at least doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Place your cast iron pan onto a lined baking sheet to catch any overflow. Bake Monkey Bread at 350 F. for 30 minutes or until lightly golden on top. If the rolls brown before the 30 minutes is up, tent them with some foil to prevent burning.
Remove Monkey Bread from the oven, and place a large serving platter or plate over the top. VERY CAREFULLY invert the Monkey bread so that the tops of the rolls are now on the plate. Scrape out any remaining caramel from the bottom of the pan. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.