Cupcakes are great (OK, they’re amazing), but we’re having a muffin moment. These light, fluffy handhelds are perfect any time of day—even for dinner if they’re savory! And as long as they’re not the size of softballs and made with wholesome ingredients (read: not a pound of sugar), they can be healthy.
To prove our point, we rounded up 36 simple and nutritious muffin recipes. From classic blueberry and crumble-topped treats to ones hiding vegetables and made from mac and cheese (oh yeah), these simple, lick-the-bowl-clean recipes will have you hit with muffin mania too.
With just a half a cup of sugar in the entire 12-serving batch, this recipe is pleasantly sweet rather than cloying sweet like so many processed poppy seed varieties in the muffin market. Also, unlike their conventional white-floured counterpart, these use white whole-wheat flour to retain fiber without adding too much density. The “double lemon” factor comes from using both the zest and the vitamin C-rich juice of the fruit, giving these treats a little sunshine to wake up any sleepy weekday!
Who would pass up the chance to start the day with a food that has “shortcake” in its name? These muffins may be dessert-like in taste, but they don’t contain a drop of oil, pat of butter, or any flour. Low-fat Greek yogurt and eggs keep them moist and fluffy, while oats bind everything together. And no mixing needed: The batter is made in a blender!
Blueberry muffins are like the little black dress of the baked good world—they work in any situation. This blogger gives the timeless favorite a modern-day nutritional makeover, swapping white flour for the gluten-free version; oil for applesauce; and a significantly reduced sugar serving to make each muffin less than 200 calories. One thing she doesn’t cut back on? The blueberries. Bursting with the fibrous, potentially metabolism-boosting fruit, each bite tastes like the classic (despite being way healthier).
Mango plus coconut is a no-fail combination, and you can find the delicious duo in the batter and crunchy topping of these muffins. Bananas add a touch of potassium while also working as the replacement for oil or butter, walnuts provide heart-protecting omega-3s, and the coconut contributes both tropical notes and filling fats.
Just a fourth a cup of high-fiber coconut flour forms the bulk of the dry ingredients in these muffins—a refreshing change from the crazy mix of obscure flours that gluten-free baking can sometimes call for. Combined with digestion-aiding coconut oil, some incredible edibles, and just a few natural flavorings, the yield is a simple yet wholesome vanilla base with a lightly sweetened topping of sliced Bosc pears. (Tip: Keep the peel on for added fiber!) Even better, the recipe makes just six at a time: perfect for easy portion control, but easily doubled if baking for a crowd.
Never underestimate the potential of frozen produce. That’s the lesson to be learned from this blogger, who takes a bag of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries out of the freezer aisle, and bakes them into gorgeous and healthy muffins. With a generous pour of maple syrup lending some extra depth and sweetness to the tart fruit, these muffins are the ultimate way to get in some summery antioxidants, even in the dead of winter.
Amidst all the gluten-free, low-fat, non-dairy options out there, sometimes you just want a good, old-fashioned muffin. This recipe fits the bill, using classic and no-fuss ingredients (it doesn’t get more straightforward than eggs, whole-wheat flour, and canola oil) for golden-brown, nutritious results. With plenty of banana mashed into the batter, they’re potassium-packed and full of flavor, too.
In a world where baking is a science, this recipe is a breath of fresh air. Working with you (rather than telling you what to do), it encourages you to use the milk of your preference, xylitol or real sugar, and your choice of flour. Use what you’ve got on hand, and go as gluten-free or as sweet as you want; even the vanilla glaze on top is optional. Whichever way you bake it, the result will be a light and tender muffin, chock-full of blackberries for cancer risk-reducing benefits.
It’s easy for recipes to think they can get away with calling for pounds of butter just because they have the word “carrot” in their title. These muffins stay true to their healthy promise, using unsweetened applesauce in place of the fat, minimal added sugar, and of course, eyesight-improving beta carotene thanks the orange veggie. It’s all the flavors of the traditional, but in muffin form for 115 calories—making it all the more acceptable to have your cake and eat it too.
10. Zucchini Muffins
Although there’s only 1/3 cup sugar (plus Greek yogurt and whole-wheat flour) in this recipe, these healthy muffins certainly don’t taste like cardboard! Zucchini adds incredible moisture (no hockey pucks here!), while dried fruit lends a touch of tart (if you use cranberries) or sweet (raisins).
Healthy muffins don’t have to be fat-free. Whether it’s the unsaturated fat from the almond butter or omega-3s from the canola oil and flaxseeds, this recipe focuses on getting the most beneficial types of fats into these goodies. But if their heart-healthy benefits don’t win you over, consider the heap of sweet potato whipped into the batter, which gives the baked results a texture that the bloggers describe as “bread pudding-like.” Need we say more?
12. Spinach Muffins
Who wouldn’t eat their greens if they were pureed into a scrumptious batter that tastes like cake? These muffins get their pine shade not from fake food coloring, but instead from an entire bag of fresh baby spinach. Blended along with more typical ingredients, the results have the flavor of regular banana muffins, but with all the bone-preserving, immunity-enhancing, anti-inflammatory goodness of the veggie. Even if green smoothies aren't your thing, believe us on green muffins—you’re gonna love ‘em.
This produce-packed recipe crams 1/3 cup of vegetables into each muffin. And the shredded beets don’t only tint the batter a fun shade of pink, but they also provide folate to help the body produce new cells. Don’t be afraid that they’ll taste like dirt; with a touch of sugar, a bit of orange zest, and a dusting of cinnamon, there’s still plenty of flavor to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Loaded with a cup each of zucchini, carrots, and sweet potato, these muffins are just one step away from being a salad (at least that's what we’ll tell ourselves when we go back for thirds). Coconut oil gives them a rich flavor while the fat helps to absorb the nutrients from the produce. Plus, the flecks of shredded veggies make the muffins look like they’ve been filled with confetti, so they’re ideal not just for a welcome home celebration, but any festive occasion!
If you’re not on the black beans in baked goods train yet, these muffins will make you jump on board. Packed with protein and fiber, black beans also add moisture and make things tastes all kinds of fudgy. These vegan treats (superfood chia replaces eggs) are filled with both cocoa powder and semisweet chips for smart snacking at its chocolatey best.
Double chocolate not enough? Try these triple chocolate muffins, calling for cocoa powder and chocolate chips both in the muffins as well as on top. All those flavonols pair up with the soluble fiber in oats for a (somewhat) heart-healthy dessert that’s also gluten-free—and that melts in your mouth.
For anyone who's craved pancakes during the week but had no time to whip up batter, bake a batch of these on Sunday, and you’re good to go any time the urge strikes. With whole-wheat flour anchoring the recipe, low-fat buttermilk lending that requisite tangy flavor (plus, the cultured dairy is easier on sensitive digestive systems!), and just one tablespoon of butter for 12 servings, they’ve got all the taste of the traditional, but made in muffin tins instead of on a griddle. Studded with chocolate chips, they’re not just healthy, but also extra cute.
Skinny, chocolate, and peanut butter aren’t words that often come together in a recipe that actually tastes sinfully scrumptious. But these dark chocolate treats deliver. The blogger adapts the recipe from a richer original version, swapping traditional baking ingredients for healthier alternatives wherever possible. Processed peanut butter is traded out for the natural kind, and using one egg white rather than a whole cuts back the cholesterol.
Black forest cake has taught us that combining chocolate with cherries is a good idea. So a muffin that does so, and comes in at 110 calories per serving at that, is without a doubt an excellent idea. What’s more, the calories aren’t empty—whole-wheat flour along with the fruit lend a good dose of fiber, and applesauce stands in for more than half the sugar. Black forest cake, we love you, but you ain’t got nothing on these muffins.
Ten simple pantry items go into these luscious, full-of-texture treats. Most of the flavor comes from the antioxidant-heavy dark chocolate and mineral-rich shredded coconut (use the unsweetened kind to keep the sugar count low). Calling for such basic ingredients and only 15 minutes in the oven, these are the muffins to make even when you don’t have time to make muffins. (Vegan bakers, feel free to use almond milk in place of the skim and your favorite egg substitute.)
Nut-based muffins can often be too dense, but these hazelnut-loaded treats escape that fate thanks to the vibrant orange flavor that bursts through from the juice and zest of the fruit. Cacao butter takes place of butter and oil in the recipe and has many antioxidant properties—plus gets all melty as the muffins bake, permeating these baked goods with an irresistible chocolate flavor. Topped with flecks of orange, these would be a pretty addition to any brunch table.
It’s so easy to see the words “trail mix” on a package label and just assume that whatever is in there is healthy (we’re guilty!). But depending on the kind you buy, some trail mixes are sugar-laden and sodium-saturated, becoming more like dangerfoods than smart snacks. Bypass that trap and make these: including whole-wheat flour, oats, raw nuts, and antioxidant-filled dark chocolate, they truly are a wise choice. Pop one in your bag for an on-the-go breakfast, or grab one for a post-workout energy boost.
Ditch those oversized, trans fat-laden, sugar bombs you find at so many bakeries and reach for one of these in the morning instead. While bananas are probably most known for their potassium, they also boast vitamins C and B6 as well as fiber. And an ounce of walnuts a day may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s thanks to the antioxidants in the nuts, according to a new study. Dietary supplementation of walnuts improves memory deficits and learning skills in transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Muthaiyah B., Essa MM, Lee M., et al. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 2014; 42(4): 1397-405. Nutrition aside, these muffins are gorgeous, rising impressively in the oven to achieve that ultimate muffin top. You’ll go banana’s for ‘em.
These muffins are a nut-lover’s dreamcome true, with chopped walnuts spread throughout the batter and a generous chocolate-hazelnut swirl waiting in the middle of each serving. Wary of storebought nut-butters? Make your own Nutella-inspired spread instead. Although the name says “breakfast,” these are just as good as dessert.
When 3 p.m. rolls around, what better pick-me-up than an oversized yet healthy muffin infused with the flavors of chai? No weird ingredients here, either; cardamom pods or powder can be found at any local grocery store and may help lower blood pressure and ease digestive woes. Slightly sweet, pistachios balance out the spice, making these perfect for an afternoon boost that’s easier on your wallet than buying a cup of caffeine.
What you won’t find in these paleo muffins: flour, grains, gluten, dairy, or refined sugars. What you will find: hazelnuts, protein-laden eggs, rich dark chocolate, potassium-packed bananas, and “good cholesterol”-raising flavonoids from cacao powder. Yielding fudgy and soft results, it’s hard to tell that the recipe contains ingredients that depart from tradition. The “caveman diet” may not be for everyone, but these muffins sure are.
Most crumb toppings are pretty predictable: a bit of butter here, a sprinkling of sugar and a spoonful of oats there. These muffins take a delicious departure from the standard streusel, swapping the oats with shredded coconut for some extra nuttiness and a textural twist. The end result is melt-in-your-mouth delectable, and pairs beautifully with the fresh, vitamin C-rich mango. The flavor combo may give off summery vibes, but rest assured you can enjoy these freezable muffins all year long.
If there was ever a muffin modeling competition, these babies would win—and we’re not just judging on looks, either. With plenty of vitamin A from pumpkin, a batter free of oil or butter, and a crumbly streusel made of heart-healthy oats and unrefined brown sugar, they’re winners in the nutrition and taste departments. See? That “beautiful inside and out” concept doesn’t just apply to people—baked goods prove it too.
Get your daily fix of fiber in the most delicious way possible with these muffins, which pack a hefty punch with figs, whole-wheat flour, and almonds. As a bonus, the figs turn gooey as they bake. Add a super-inviting, caramelized sheen to the end product, and their natural sweetness eliminates the need for too much added sugar. More crushed almonds in the topping give these an extra crunchy, nutty, and yummy depth of flavor.
These muffins may have “banana” in their title, but the recipe is so versatile that the blogger encourages subbing them with any fruit you’re in the mood for. And, let’s face it, as healthy as the fruit is, it’s really the topping that’s the star of the show here. A touch of butter mixed into the whole-wheat flour and oat mixture helps give it that classic velvety but crumbly texture.
Look up “muffin” in the dictionary, and a picture of these will probably show up. They’re that much the epitome of the quintessential baked good—but healthier, cutting back on both the sugar and the oil. Between the applesauce and a full cup and a half of chopped fresh apples, the fruity flavor is unmistakable. Still, you can’t have apple cinnamon muffins without topping, and this one, going old school with oats, butter, and sugar, can’t be beat. Don’t skimp on the cinnamon, either; the spice helps fight inflammation and kills bacteria.
Yes, it’s a Thanksgiving recipe, but do you really need it to be the third Thursday in November for an excuse to eat mashed potatoes and (meatless) stuffing? We didn’t think so. These gravy-topped, bite-sized snacks aren’t just adorable and creative, they’re nutritious too! Use whole-wheat bread cubes for maximum fiber benefits and load on the herbs—rosemary may help reduce blood pressure, while thyme boasts antioxidants.
However cooked—scrambled, sunny-side up, poached—eggs are part of a healthy breakfast that sticks with you. But they’re not always super portable for grab-and-go mornings. (Unless you use this recipe.) Take less than an hour on a Sunday to fold whatever veggies you have into a bunch of beaten eggs, throw in some shredded cheese, pour the mix in a well-greased muffin tin, and pop in the oven. Naturally gluten-free, a few of these are a yummy way to start your day with some protein, and a batch keeps up to a week in the refrigerator. Bon appétit!
If the tricky temperament of phyllo is the only thing stopping you from making spanakopita, let these muffins come to your rescue. Ditching the paper thin pastry for whole-wheat flour and eggs, they still taste a lot like the traditional Greek version, but have the added benefit of eyesight-protecting beta-carotene and vitamin A from the hefty half-pound of pumpkin.
Ready-made tortillas eliminate the cumbersome step of rolling out a crust from scratch, and gluten-free ones work great if necessary. Use regular cheese or a vegan version—the blogger even provides the link to homemade non-dairy cheese sauce if you avoid store-bought substitutes. Go with prepared marinara sauce in a pinch, or simmer your own chunky, veggie-packed one to up the fiber quotient. Bake them in mini muffin tins or regular ones. Pizza for everyone!
Scouring the Internet for the ultimate crowd-pleasing appetizer/easy lunch/snack box staple? Your search ends here. With automatic portion control, whole-grain pasta, three types of cheese, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals from the broccoli, what’s not to love about these mac and cheese cups? They even take crumb-topped to new heights, with buttery flakes of panko adorning each ooey-gooey serving. We’ll end here so you can get baking already.