Monday, May 19, 2014

Lunch Lady Cafeteria Rolls

Scrolling through recipes on Pinterest and this was the recipe that caught my eye - "Lunch Lady Cafeteria Rolls."  I don't know about you but I certainly don't have fond memories of the rolls that were served by the lunch ladies when I was in school.  (Keep in mind that it's been 25 years since I've been in a school cafeteria and lunch room protocol has changed in the last quarter decade.)  Apparently my experience with underwhelming cafeteria rolls was not the norm though, there WERE school kids around the country being served delicious, fresh baked rolls on their school lunch tray every day.

The image that comes to my mind when I read "lunch lady cafeteria rolls" was completely different than the picture that accompanied the recipe on  I can assure you that these were NOT the rolls that were being served in our school cafeteria.

I have to admit that I was feeling a little cheated out of warm cafeteria rolls when I found a link at the bottom of the recipe to another page that featured Lunch Lady Cafeteria Cinnamon Rolls!   Seriously, were there kids in the 80's eating delicious, freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the school cafeteria in the morning?  I'm fairly certain that my school never served breakfast - let alone a warm, homemade cinnamon roll.

I may not have grown up eating fresh bread in my school cafeteria but it's never too late to make up for lost time.  I made a batch of these rolls for my family last week.

Apparently the lunch ladies of the 80s were quite efficient.   They used the same dough for the cinnamon rolls as they did for the rolls.  I decided to do the same.  I made 1 batch of dough and divided it in half.  I made a dozen cinnamon rolls and a pan of rolls to serve with dinner.  (Those lunch ladies are pretty clever.)

Posting the roll recipe today and tomorrow, I'll post the directions for turning the dough into cinnamon rolls.

Lunch Lady Cafeteria Rolls
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 + 3/4 teaspoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/8 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons shortening

Add yeast and sugar to warm water and let sit for 3-5 minutes.

Add melted butter (cooled), milk, eggs and salt to yeast mixture.

In a large bowl combine flour and sugar. Stir until combined.  Cut in shortening.

Pour liquid yeast mixture into flour mixture.  Knead until smooth.

 Place dough in a warm area, covered, until it doubles in size.

After dough has doubled in size, punch it down and knead with your hands one more time for 2 minutes. If dough is a bit sticky sprinkle it with flour as needed.  Divide dough in half if you like.  Use half for rolls and half for cinnamon rolls.

Divide half of dough into small pieces for rolls.


Shape and place in a greased baking dish.  (Cover and let rise 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.)

Bake rolls 12 minutes at 400.

Remove from pans to cool completely.

Gently pull rolls apart.

So now I want to hear from those of you who were eating fresh baked rolls and cinnamon rolls in their school cafeteria in the 80s.  I have a feeling that it was geographically specific but I want to hear from you to confirm my suspicions.  If the lunch ladies in your school cafeteria were.  And don't worry, if you're like me and you missed out on fresh rolls in your school cafeteria - now you can bake them for yourself at home.



  1. I ate amazing lunch lady rolls in the schools in WV I went to. In Ohio they only served Italian bread. Also in WV we had amazing lunch lady pepperoni rolls!! Yum. Your rolls look delish!

    1. WV schools in the 80s and 90s were sometimes better than eating at home! Places I've traveled to can't believe it when I run down a typical menu for school. And please don't get me started on the pepperoni rolls😝

  2. I'm like you. Feel completely cheated but cannot wait to try these. Thank you for posting.

  3. I was a cafeteria lady in the '80s, and I lost my recipe. Although it's not quite the same, as what I used to make, I'm going to give it a try.

    1. Let me know how my recipe measures up. Thanks for following the blog.

    2. Sorry that I took so long Amy. They came out great! I made the rolls and the cinnamon rolls (once I had the dough, making it into cinnamon rolls was easy, I remembered that part) The only thing that I changed was, as soon as they came out of the oven, we used to brush melted butter over the tops. I worked at a school in south Louisiana, just north of New Orleans, I'm pretty sure that most of the schools in St.Tammany Parrish did this final step also. Thanks again for the recipe

  4. I'd like to give them a try. I just went looking for school cafeteria rolls. In the late 80's early, early 90's our cafeteria in Florida would make rolls that looked like this, but not every day. Sometimes they would have this cinnamon sugar glaze over them. Either way I was super excited when i saw its was a roll day!

  5. We had fresh yeast rolls in our cafeteria every day! Southeast Texas cafeteria rolls were the best from 1975 until 1988. My children had them until they left elementary school, then our schools went to frozen every thing.

    1. I LOVE the idea of kids eating healthy homemade food in the school lunchroom. I wish that was still the case today. I guess I'll just have to make homemade rolls at home for my family. I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as my family does.

  6. On your recipe u have a measurement of 1/2 tbs with no description of what is is, please clarify

    1. Im so glad that you caught that. I think that I get in too big of a hurry sometimes when I copy my recipes. The 1/2 teaspoon ingredient that was missing was salt. I corrected the recipe. Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by the blog.