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“Discard” Sourdough Pecan Sticky Buns

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Soft, gooey, loaded with pecans, and a not-too-sweet flavor, this is quite possibly the only sticky bun recipe you'll ever need!

If you need a reason to create and maintain a sourdough starter, let this be it. Even if you never make sourdough bread, this recipe will be one you make again and again for holidays, treat days, family and friends and it will sound all the more impressive because you made it with your own sourdough starter. After the initial cultivation days, it’s rather easy to maintain, and you have “discarded” sourdough as early as the first starter “feeding” so you don’t have to wait to make these pecan buns.

For full details on how to make and maintain sourdough starter, I’d like to refer your to the King Arthur Flour website. They have quite a few articles devoted to the subject and can cover it in better detail than I can as more of a sourdough “hobbyist”. Open it in a new tab to read after you get all the delicious, ooey, gooey, pecan bun details here.

Soft, gooey, loaded with pecans, and a not-too-sweet flavor, this is quite possibly the only sticky bun recipe you'll ever need!

These are most definitely not the packaged sticky buns in the store, and I’d like to think the extra nuts make them rival any bakery product. But the real secret, what makes these really special for me, is the fact that they’re not too sweet. Yes, they’re totally loaded with a lovely pecan-flecked caramel sauce, filled with cinnamon sugar and even more pecans, but the sourdough keeps it all from feeling like one giant bite of sugar, which is exactly what I want in a “breakfast” pastry. I’m all for indulgences, but I don’t want to feel like I’m going to be in a sugar coma at 7:30 in the morning, there’s just too much to do!

Soft, gooey, loaded with pecans, and a not-too-sweet flavor, this is quite possibly the only sticky bun recipe you'll ever need!

Now call some friends, make plans for coffee and sticky buns, and we’ll just pretend the weekend starts tomorrow.

"Discard" Sourdough Pecan Sticky Buns

Yield: 12 buns
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Quite possibly the only reason you really need a sourdough starter. 😉


  • 1 cup unfed sourdough starter (what you would typically throw out when feeding your starter)
  • 1/4 c warm whole milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 lb unsalted butter (1 stick melted for dough, 1 stick melted for filling, 2 softened for caramel sauce)
  • 1 c unpacked light brown sugar, divided (1/3 c dough, 2/3 c filling)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil (or other vegetable oil)
  • 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1 c packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 c chopped pecans, divided
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon


  1. Combine the milk, yeast, and 1/2 tsp sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer** and let sit for 10 minutes until it looks foamy.
  2. Stir in the sourdough starter, 1/3 c brown sugar, 1 stick butter, salt, vanilla extract, egg, and avocado oil. Switch to the dough hook attachment.
  3. Add the flour in three increments: 1 cup, 1 cup, and a 1/2 cup. If your dough is still sticky, add additional flour 1 tbsp at a time.
  4. Knead 5-8 minutes until smooth, then remove the dough from the bowl, shape into a ball, spray the bowl lightly with nonstick spray, place the dough back in the bowl, cover, and allow to rise in a warm draft free spot for about 1 1/2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
  5. While the dough is rising, make the caramel sauce by bringing 1 cup dark brown sugar and 2 sticks of butter to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has melted and then pour into a 9 x 13" baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup of the chopped pecans over the caramel. Set aside.
  6. Make the filling by combining the remaining stick of melted butter with 2/3 cup light brown sugar, and the cinnamon.
  7. Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll the dough into a large rectangle (about 10"x18"). Spread the filling mixture over the dough, leaving about a 1/2" margin at the top long edge, and sprinkle the remaining cup of chopped pecans over the filling.
  8. Roll the dough into a tube starting with the long end closest to you. Cut into 12 equal portions using kitchen twine or unwaxed dental floss (it makes a cleaner cut than a knife) and arrange in the baking dish over the caramel.
  9. Cover and allow to rise for another hour at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight***.
  10. Preheat your oven to 350 F, bake the rolls for 30 minutes until a rich golden brown, then remove from the oven and allow to set in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a large cutting board or serving tray. Best served warm.


**This recipe is very easy to make without a stand mixer. Just use a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough gets too thick, then just knead by hand.
*** If you do allow these to rise in the refrigerator overnight, remove about 20 minutes prior to baking to bring to room temperature.
Recipe adapted from Saveur.


Love it? Pin it!Soft, gooey, loaded with pecans, and a not-too-sweet flavor, this is quite possibly the only sticky bun recipe you'll ever need!





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  • Reply
    Hanna Rudzinsky
    November 22, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Everyone I have made this recipe for ends up asking for some starter to maintain so they can make some of their own! They are so good with and without pecans and I can’t thank you enough for the delicious recipe! These are definitely going to be in my regular baking rotation for life!

  • Reply
    Saundra Whitney
    November 19, 2019 at 9:50 am

    Made this twice now. It is as close to a sticky bun I used to get at a bakery when I was younger. I have never found a replace and am often disappointed in the lack of richness and caramel. I will make these now, when I need to be taken back to those days.

  • Reply
    Dawn Walker
    January 13, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    I made this recipe today and it turned out fantastic and was very delicious!

  • Reply
    Stephanie Cannon
    December 25, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    This has become a Christmas tradition (ok, this is the just second year!). It works wonderfully and to many raves! I did cut back on the butter quotient; the calorie guilt, you know. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Katie Nielsen
    December 10, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    So, the taste was good, but there were problems with the recipe.
    First off, 30 minutes total time? It took me over 4 hours and I’m no novice. Maybe 30 minutes of work time, but now that I think of it, with the filling it was longer. I waited 2 hours for the first rise, 1 hour for the second (it probably could have used longer) and an hour of baking.
    If I had followed the recipe, they’d be all dough, and I would have had to toss them. I knew my house was cold so I put them in a heated space to compensate, and even still, it was a guessing game if they’d actually turn out.
    I don’t think the recipe was proof read, mostly because the sequence of ingredients is confusing. For example, the flour is way down towards the bottom of the list, and it’s nice to have everything grouped together. Maybe that’s too picky.
    After I baked the buns for half an hour, as stated in the recipe, I pulled them out and they were raw underneath, and cooked on the top. So I flipped them over and baked them for another 30 minutes watching them constantly, and they made it out okay. This makes sense to do because the caramel on the bottom of the pan is absorbing all the heat and it’s hard to transfer it to the dough, so it doesn’t cook through. I would suggest pouring the caramel on the top, maybe even after a little bit of baking.
    Like I said before, the flavors are there, but the instructions need some work.

    • Reply
      Mary (The Goodie Godmother)
      December 14, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      Hi Katie,

      This is one of my earlier recipes, and food blogging/recipe writing is a skill set different from baking. I’m updating the older recipes slowly to make them more user friendly and so the total time reflects active and inactive prep.

      I’ve made the recipe several times, and in my oven, 30 minutes works. That being said, every recipe is tested in a home oven, and even with a thermometer, there are variations from oven to oven. There are also variations in sourdough starter strength, which may account for the difference in rise time as well, along with differences in ambient temperature.

      I’m very glad you enjoyed the flavors, and hopefully your comment will help another baker trying the recipe until I can get to updating it. Thanks for stopping by!

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