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What is Monkey Bread?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 16, 2024
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Monkey bread is a popular dessert or breakfast pastry, coated in cinnamon and sugar. From a basic yeast dough, this bread makes a hearty as well as filling treat, despite its simple ingredients. The name “monkey bread” is uncertain in origin, though theories run rampant as to how this tasty, sticky pastry got its name.

A simple yeast dough is called for in most recipes for monkey bread, although even more simplified versions call for the use of refrigerated biscuit dough. While some experts frown at the use of pre-made dough, using it can allow you to throw this dish together in a hurry to serve to unexpected company or in a pinch if you have less food than planned for a breakfast or brunch.

Once the dough has risen or you have opened the tube of biscuits, roll into individual balls and coat in melted butter. After they are thoroughly coated, roll the dough in toppings of your choice. Typically, cinnamon and white or brown sugar is used, but feel free to add nuts, raisins, or other toppings you enjoy. Once covered, squish the balls side by side into cake or bundt pans. Some recipes call for a second rise or overnight rise in the refrigerator, whereas others suggest baking immediately at a medium-high temperature for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Once cooked the monkey bread will be moist, sugary, and easy to pull apart in simple sections. Served with coffee, tea or a big glass of milk, this treat is sure to be a hit with even the pickiest of eaters. If you are searching for monkey bread on a menu, be aware that it also lurks under the names “Hungarian coffee cake” and “bubble loaf”.

The origin of the name “monkey bread” is a great mystery with many theories. Some believe that the 1850s chef who invented the dish named it because it looked to him like the lumpy hands of a monkey. Others suggest that the name references the way the dough lumps together cozily during baking, much like a pack of monkeys. First Lady Nancy Reagan, who famously served the dish as part of a Christmas menu at the White House, thought it was because the dough was slippery, causing you to "monkey around" with it to get it in the pan. Whatever the original idea, monkey bread is an unfailingly simple and popular recipe and a fantastic basic dish to add to any cook’s repertoire.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for DelightedCooking. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon925975 — On Jan 15, 2014

I think it's called monkey bread because you have to pull parts of it out, the same way a monkey tears at its food in the wild. It won't eat a banana all at once, it will pull it off in pieces.

By YummyKing — On Apr 22, 2011

If you guys want really yummy Monkey Bread, try Oprah's recipe! It was featured on her show, and it was sooooo good!

By LittleMan — On Oct 28, 2010

I love making monkey bread with butterscotch pudding -- that adds a whole new dimension to the taste, and it makes the dough delightfully springy and chewy.

I am also a big proponent of overnight monkey bread. I find that if you leave it overnight, then the dough has a much better consistency. Anybody can get the flavor right, but the consistency of the dough is much more difficult.

In my opinion, the best monkey bread differs in texture, not taste -- and if you've ever tried a soggy monkey bread, you know what I mean!

By EarlyForest — On Oct 28, 2010

Monkey bread has always been one of my family's long-term Christmas foods. We make monkey bread from Pillsbury biscuits at least once a week every December, and it lasts a shamefully short time. My sister and I have been known to finish off a pan in one sitting -- it's that addictive.

If you're looking for a really easy monkey bread recipe that uses biscuits, you should check out food.com -- that's where we got our family recipe.

Just thinking about this makes my mouth water -- I can't wait until December!

By FirstViolin — On Oct 28, 2010

I'm one of those snobs who hates monkey bread from biscuits or a monkey bread mix. For me, fresh monkey bread dough from scratch is the only way to go. And it's really not that hard. Here's an easy from scratch monkey bread recipe for all you biscuit-users -- maybe I'll convert you!

Here's your ingredients in order of use:

1 tablespoon yeast

1 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

2 1/2 cups white bread flour

1/2 cup powdered milk

1/2 tablespoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup pecan halves

Now, you dissolve your yeast in the water to start with. Then mix the sugar, flour, oil, and salt together until you can form the dough into a ball. Quickly shape it into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, turning it so all the sides are oiled, and wait until it about doubles in size.

Next, punch the dough down and form it into rolls. Roll each piece of dough in the cinnamon and sugar, and squish them down into the pan.

After this, you can start to make the sauce. Take the butter, sugar, and cinnamon and melt them in a pan, but don't let it scorch.

Then, pour the sauce over your rolls, and top with the chopped nuts. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 375 degrees (F), and voila, you'll have the best from scratch cinnamon monkey bread you've ever tried!

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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