Healthy muffins! That taste like carrot cake! Oh, I think this might just be a dream come true.
Truth be told, carrot cake gets me every single time. I fell in love with it a few years ago and my craving for cake has quadrupled since then. I can’t get over the spices, flavor, and that thick-n-creamy cream cheese frosting that pairs so wonderfully with the cake. I’m not sure it gets better. By the way if you haven’t tried my grain free healthy carrot cake recipe, DO IT!
But wait, it does. Because now you can officially have carrot cake for breakfast in muffin form. I know, it’s probably not quite the same but my goodness does it crush a carrot cake craving like no other.
What makes these carrot cake muffins healthy?
Traditional muffin recipes can be packed with oil or butter and lots of refined sugars. To make these carrot cake muffins healthier, this recipe is made with applesauce and just a bit of olive oil for moisture plus pure maple syrup to sweeten them naturally. That’s right, these muffins aren’t baked with any refined sugars (except the glaze if you use it!)
Everything you need to make carrot cake muffins
Not only are these carrot cake muffins delicious, but they’re also made with nutrient-dense, healthy ingredients compared to a regular slice of carrot cake. Naturally sweetened, whole grains and includes both fruits and veggies, making them the perfect brunch treat or snack for both kids & adults. Here’s what you need:
- White whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour: white whole wheat flour has the same nutritional benefits as whole wheat flour, but much lighter in flavor and texture. You can usually find it at your local grocer. If you can’t, try looking for whole wheat pastry flour.
- Pure maple syrup: I prefer maple syrup but honey would also do the trick.
- Unsweetened applesauce: I love baking with applesauce because it naturally sweetens the recipe, adds fiber and vitamins and provides moisture to give these muffins a nice texture. Even though I use a few tablespoons of healthy oil in this recipe, most of the healthy fats come from walnuts or pecans.
- Milk: feel free to use any milk you’d like! I love using vanilla almond milk or coconut milk for a little extra flavor in the muffins. To keep these dairy free, use a dairy free milk.
- Eggs: you’ll just need one to help these carrot cake muffins stay together. I haven’t tried using a flax egg, but I suspect it will work well. Let me know if you try it in the comments.
- Shredded carrots: you’ll need to shred about 2-3 medium carrots, but make sure to measure 1 cup full total. If you’re feeling like you want more, you can use 1 1/2 cups.
- Cozy spices: cinnamon & nutmeg add a cozy flavor to these healthy carrot cake muffins and gives them that carrot cake flavor goodness.
- Optional add-ins: Try adding shredded coconut, raisins or pineapple to these muffins. Everyone prefers their carrot cake differently, so feel free to add them or enjoy the muffins as-is.
- For the glaze: cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and a splash of almond milk.
Simple ingredient swaps
Out of a few ingredients? Here’s what I can suggest for substitutions:
- Swap the applesauce. If you’re out of applesauce you can actually use 1 ripe mashed banana instead.
- Choose the oil. Melted and cooled coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil will all work well in the recipe. Or choose an oil like walnut or hazelnut oil. Butter also works great — totally up to you!
- Milk of choice. I like to use almond or coconut milk in this recipe, but feel free to use any milk you’d like.
Can I make them gluten free?
How to make vegan carrot cake muffins
Yes, these healthy carrot cake muffins should work well with a vegan substitute! Simply replace the egg with a flax egg by combining 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal and 3 tablespoons of water and allowing it to sit for 5 minutes before using in the recipe as the ‘egg’. Leave off cream cheese frosting (or use a dairy free cream cheese) and instead sprinkle tops with cinnamon and coarse sugar.
Tips for the best carrot cake muffins
- Follow the recipe. The best way to ensure the success of these healthy carrot cake muffins is to follow the recipe and use the exact ingredients as written (unless I note specific substitutes).
- Use finely shredded carrots. Shred those babies nice and thin so that they mix well in the batter.
- Do not overmix the batter. If you overmix batter you’ll end up with dense and gummy carrot cake muffins instead of fluffy and soft ones.
- Use fresh baking soda. If your baking soda is older than 3 months, I suggest grabbing a new one for best baking results.
Looking for a carrot cake bread?
I think these healthy carrot cake muffins can be made into a bread, too! Simply pour the batter into an 8×4 inch loaf pan greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake for 40-55 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
Alternatively, try my famous carrot cake banana bread for a wonderful option.
How to store carrot cake muffins
- In the fridge: store these carrot cake muffins on the counter in an airtight container for a day, then transfer them to the fridge for up to 4-5 days. The muffins really do get better after sitting in an airtight container for a day; they sweeten up a bit and get super soft. Served with a big glass of almond milk!
- Freezer-friendly carrot cake muffins: Feel free to freeze these babies for later! Allow them to cool completely after baking, then place them in an airtight container or reusable bag and freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat them, you can microwave them for 45 seconds-1 minute or until warm. I suggest freezing them without the the glaze and simply adding the glaze when you’re ready to enjoy them.
Don’t forget to check out all of our favorite kitchen essentials.
More carrot cake recipes you’ll love
- Healthier Carrot Cake Banana Bread with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
- Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal Cups
- Carrot Cake Smoothie
- Healthy Carrot Cake Cookies (made with coconut oil + dairy free!)
- The Best Healthy Carrot Cake You’ll Ever Eat (gluten free & paleo-friendly!)
Get all of our Easter recipes here!
I hope you love these healthy carrot cake muffins! If you make them I’d love for you to leave a comment and a rating letting me know how you liked them. I greatly appreciate it – xoxo!
Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins with Cream Cheese Glaze
Healthy carrot cake muffins packed with carrots, coconut, raisins and nuts. These deliciously moist carrot cake muffins are naturally sweetened with pure maple syrup and applesauce. Top them with a light cream cheese glaze for a delicious snack or healthy treat!
- Dry ingredients
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour (all purpose flour or all purpose gf flour also works!)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Wet ingredients
- 1 cup finely shredded carrots (from about 2-3 carrots)
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/3 cup natural unsweetened applesauce (or sub 1 mashed ripe banana)
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or melted coconut oil, walnut oil or avocado oil)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk (any milk will work)
- Optional mix-ins
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- For the glaze
- 4 oz light cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons almond milk, to thin glaze
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12-cup muffin pan with liners and spray the inside with nonstick cooking spray to prevent batter from sticking to the liners. You can also omit the liners and generously spray the muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Next add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to a medium bowl; stir to combine and then set aside.
In a separate large bowl, add carrots, maple syrup, applesauce, egg, oil and vanilla. Whisk to combine wet ingredients then slowly stir in milk and flour mixture until just combined.
Fold in shredded coconut and raisins, if you'd like. Divide batter evenly between muffins cups or liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan then transfer muffins to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Once muffins are completely cool, you can make the cream cheese glaze: Place cream cheese in medium microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 10-20 seconds or until cream cheese is somewhat warm and a little runny. Stir gently and add in powdered sugar, vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of milk; stir again and add more milk if necessary until glaze reaches desired consistency; not too runny and not overly thick.
Dip each muffin top into cream cheese glaze then place back on wire rack. Sprinkle with shredded coconut or walnuts/pecans if desired. Makes 12 muffins.
To make vegan: replace the egg with a flax egg by combining 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal and 3 tablespoons of water. Leave off cream cheese frosting and instead sprinkle tops with cinnamon and coarse sugar.
To make gluten free: try using chickpea flour or an all purpose gluten free flour. I have not tried this option, but am quite certain it would work.
How to store: store these carrot cake muffins on the counter in an airtight container for a day, then transfer them to the fridge for up to 4-5 days. The muffins really do get better after sitting in an airtight container for a day; they sweeten up a bit and get super soft.
Freezer-friendly carrot cake muffins: Feel free to freeze these babies for later! Allow them to cool completely after baking, then place them in an airtight container or reusable bag and freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat them, you can microwave them for 30-45 seconds or until warm. I suggest freezing them without the the glaze and simply adding the glaze when you're ready to enjoy them.
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats
Originally published on Feb 12, 2015, republished on April 4th, 2020, then updated with new photos and republished on March 30th, 2021.