Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
These Homemade Whole Wheat Buns are perfect for Burgers, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, Smoked Pork Butt and more. Whole wheat flour is balanced with all-purpose, for a bun that soft and not too dense but still has whole wheat flavor.
While it’s true that storebought buns are convenient, I can never find any that I actually like. Homemade is the way to go.
They’re usually full of dough conditioners, preservatives, corn syrup, and other things that I prefer not to have in my food. And they don’t taste very good either. Fortunately, it’s really easy to make your own!
Why I Love This Recipe
Good flavor – Because we’re using good ingredients and making this from scratch, there’s a very clean flavor here. You can taste the whole wheat and a touch of sweetness from the honey. Kind of like how bad bread can ruin a sandwich, a bad bun can really ruin your hamburger, but we’ve got good flavor here.
Sturdy – These are a nice balance between sturdy and soft. They’re not as light as Brioche, but they’re still plenty soft and not overly dense. They really hold the meat in place.
Doesn’t take too long – Like any bread that requires time to rise, this isn’t quick, but it’s relatively quick for bread. The first rise only takes an hour, and the second rise between 30 and 45 minutes.
Freezer friendly – This recipe makes 12 buns, and what you don’t want to eat now, you can cut in half and stick in the freezer for later. Just put them in the toaster for a few minutes and they’re ready to eat again!
How to Make Them Step by Step:
As an overview, we will combine the wet ingredients, add them to the flours and yeast, knead it all together, then let the dough rise. Then we’ll portion it into 12 pieces and roll them into balls, do a second rise, and bake!
Combine the Wet Ingredients
In a small saucepan, combine milk, water, butter, honey, and salt:
Place this on the stove and heat it just enough so that the butter and honey melt and everything combines. You don’t want to bring it to a boil, and it doesn’t need to in order to combine.
Remove the pot from the heat, and let it cool down to 110F, which will take about 10 minutes.
Combine the Dry Ingredients
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and yeast:
Whisk that together to distribute everything evenly.
Add the Wet to the Dry
Pour the lukewarm liquid in with the dry ingredients:
Using a spatula, mix this all together until it forms a rough, shaggy dough:
Knead The Dough to Build Strength
Get the bowl onto the stand mixer and fit the machine with the dough hook. Knead on low speed for about 10 minutes, until relatively smooth:
If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can do this by hand for about 10 minutes, but just know that the dough is relatively sticky. Adding more flour will make the buns denser, so try not to add any more.
Prepare for the First Rise
Shape the dough into a ball, then place into an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, so the dough does not dry out.
Let the dough rise until it doubles in size, which should take about an hour:
Divide and shape the dough
Divide the dough into 12 pieces, then shape each one into a ball. I do this by pulling the top down and underneath the ball, like this:
Flatten the dough
Place the dough balls onto two trays lined with parchment paper, then flatten each one with the palm of your hand, until about one inch tall.
Do the Second Rise
Cover the dough again and let the dough rise for 30 to 45 minutes, until nearly doubled in size again.
I personally love my baking sheet lids (affiliate) for this job, since you have an airtight seal to prevent the dough from drying out and the lids don’t touch the dough.
Egg Wash the Tops
Brush the risen pieces of dough with egg wash:
This will give the buns a gorgeous golden color, but it also allows you to dress up the tops if you’d like.
I like to sprinkle on sesame seeds, poppy seeds, wheat germ, and sometimes Everything Bagel Seasoning.
Bake the buns for about 15 minutes, until they are golden and puffed.
If you have a thermometer, you can check that they are at least 200F inside.
Let the buns cool before slicing and enjoying. They’re now ready to be filled!
FAQ and Tips
After baking, let them cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Before freezing, I recommend cutting them in half. That way you can put the frozen slices directly into the toaster and reheat them.
The reason why most recipes don’t do this is because using only whole wheat flour won’t give you enough strength for the dough. Things like Whole Wheat Pancakes or these Whole Wheat Oatmeal Cookies you are able to use 100% whole wheat flour because you don’t need to build the gluten and strength, but here we need that strength. You can try Whole Wheat Pretzels for a 100% whole wheat recipe.
Technically yes, though it may be difficult for the stand mixer to knead a double batch of dough. You may need to divide the dough for that stage, but otherwise yes, you can double it just fine.
After you’ve done the second rise, you can hold the buns in the fridge for a day before baking fresh. However, since the fully baked buns freeze pretty well, I like to bake everything completely and save some for later.
Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
- 1 cup milk (whole recommended)
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp butter (unsalted or salted)
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1.5 tsp kosher salt
- 15 oz all-purpose flour, by weight (3 cups, measured)
- 10 oz whole wheat flour, by weight (2 cups, measured)
- 2.25 tsp instant yeast (one envelope)
- 1 tbsp olive oil for greasing the bowl
- 1 large egg
- everything bagel seasoning optional for topping (or sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc)
- In a small saucepan, combine the milk, water, butter, honey, and salt over medium to medium high heat. Cook until the butter and honey melt, making sure you do not bring the mixture to a boil, which is unnecessary for melting the ingredients. Remove the pan from the heat, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until it’s 110F. Ideally use a thermometer to check, but if you don't have one, you want to wait until the liquid feels lukewarm.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flours and yeast together to combine. Pour the lukewarm wet ingredients into the flour, and stir roughly with a spatula until the dough starts to come together.
- Fit the bowl onto the stand mixer with the dough hook, and knead on low speed for 10 minutes, until relatively smooth. If you don't have a stand mixer, you may knead by hand, but know that it will be sticky. Do not add more flour, as this will make the buns dense.
- Grease a large bowl with the olive oil using your fingers, then shape the dough into a ball and place it inside. Toss the dough to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
- Divide the dough into 12 portions. Shape each one into a ball by pulling the dough underneath itself and gathering on the bottom (see blog post for photo). Split the balls between two half sheet pans lined with parchment paper (6 on each), and flatten each ball with the palm of your hand until it’s about 3 or 4 inches wide and one inch tall. Cover the trays, then let the dough rise until doubled in size, around 30 to 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl, then brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tops with everything bagel seasoning, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds. Or, you may leave them plain.
- Bake for 15 minutes until they are golden brown in color and read 200F with an instant read thermometer. Let cool completely before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated with new photos, writing, and more tips and instructions in August 2021. Originally published in May 2011.