Crescent rolls are my favorite part of Thanksgiving. I’ve been at Thanksgiving dinners where there were beautiful, delicious, fresh-baked rolls on the table instead of crescent rolls, and I ate them and they were wonderful. But also, I missed the crescent rolls.
Recently, while perusing the crescent roll section of the grocery store and trying to come up with a dinner that would justify buying them (stew, roasted chicken, aforementioned pesky turkey), I was surprised by the newfound variety of crescent rolls available. The ones I think of as simply “crescent rolls” have now been dubbed “Original,” because there are also Honey Butter crescent rolls, 90 Calorie crescent rolls, Sweet Hawaiian crescent rolls, and Butter Flake crescent rolls.
Why? I lamented to no one. Why complicate what used to be the easiest part of my Thanksgiving shopping trip with extra choices? Sure, I could just get the Original and move on. But I’m American, so I’m always wondering if there’s something better than what I’ve got. Obviously, I needed to try all the options to see whether any of them would be a superior replacement for the Original at the Thanksgiving table.
I scoured several of my local grocery stores and could only get my hands on the Original, Sweet Hawaiian, and Butter Flake varieties. Pillsbury kindly mailed me the Honey Butter and 90 Calorie versions so I could have a full set for my taste test. Read on for a detailed description of each.
In my mind, I imagined that the Sweet Hawaiian Crescents were going to be super sweet, possibly even with a coconut profile. Pillsbury doesn’t go into a lot of detail in its product description. It simply refers to these as having a “sweet Hawaiian taste.” Would it be tropical like the signature coconut pineapple bread at Disney World’s ‘Ohana? The answer is: definitely not. I also didn’t find the sweetness as bracing as the sweetness in a King’s Hawaiian roll. In fact, I didn’t detect a lot of sweetness at all; only when I took a bite of these next to an Original was I able to taste the difference. Still, I think if these end up on your Thanksgiving plate, they’ll lend a bit of sweetness but not so much that anyone will accuse you of serving dessert for dinner.
I love a wheat roll with honey butter, so I had high hopes for the Honey Butter Crescent Rolls. In practice, they didn’t quite replicate the experience of honey butter, but they definitely were sweet. I found the sweetness even more straightforward than in the Sweet Hawaiian rolls. Also, although they baked up just like the others once they were in the oven, the dough was very sticky to work with; I had to wash my hands after rolling them. Again, I don’t think these are so sweet that anyone would throw a pie in your face for serving them at dinner, but they definitely are sweeter than the Original.
The Butter Flake Crescent Rolls might have been the most surprising sensory experience in this entire experiment. I wasn’t expecting much deviation from the Original here, because while the ingredient list for the Original does not include dairy, I still think of it as a buttery food. Surprisingly, though the ingredient list for the Butter Flake rolls also does not include dairy (nor do the Honey Butter ones, for what it’s worth), these smelled like movie theater popcorn and tasted quite buttery, too.
I’m not sure I would have noticed if I’d been making these Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls on their own, but since I was making them alongside all of the other varieties, I noticed that the low-cal version has a much thinner dough than the rest. The crescents, therefore, came out thinner and longer. And, had I been eating these on their own, I might have thought they were fine. But compared to the rest, they definitely tasted lower in calories, and by calories I mean flavor and joy. For what it’s worth, comparing calories alone, these are 90 whereas the Original is 100. They have 3 grams of fat versus the Original’s 4.5. And they have an extra gram of carbohydrate—13 to Original’s 12.
The bottom line here is that you’ll be fine with any Pillsbury crescent rolls you choose. The differences between flavors are low-key enough that I don’t think any would make a terrible swap for the Original, especially alongside a flavorful Thanksgiving spread.
That said, I’d probably stick with the Original if you can. It just has the balance and consistency one expects from a buttery little table roll. But if the Original is sold out, or if you accidentally buy the wrong ones, I’d serve any of the above as an alternative to the worst case scenario. “Worst case scenario” being, of course, “not having any crescent rolls at Thanksgiving.”