Recipe: 100% Whole Wheat Vegan Muffins

June 17, 2012

My quest for the perfect muffin began in 2006 when I was a college student. I lived above a Panini shop in New York City that sold fat-free and sugar-free muffins, which I frequently devoured for breakfast. The best two flavors were strawberry and pineapple, oddly enough. These muffins were soft and moist but not too heavy, and not overly sweet. They were made with applesauce, which replaced the fat and sugar, or so I was told. Sometimes I wondered if they were just regular muffins—those 600 calorie muffins that might as well be a giant piece of cake—passed off as healthful. They were that good.

After I moved, I decided I would do some experimenting to figure out their recipe. I’d done this before with at least some success. This one, however, was impossible to replicate. Everything I made came out dry, dense, or bland—sometimes all three. Finally, I gave up.

Years later I decided to renew my experiments, this time with an added challenge. I wanted to make fat-free, sugar-free muffins that were also vegan and 100% whole grain. These experiments produced some of the worst disasters that have ever come out of my kitchen. I remember one in particular that I made with bran and grated carrots—it wasn’t at all sweet, it had barely risen, and since there was no oil, it was literally glued to the cupcake wrappers. Again, I abandoned my quest.

Then I read about an interesting technique for baking with whole grains: soaking the flour. It’s really quite simple. You just mix the flour with some kind of liquid and let it stand on the counter overnight. For a muffin recipe, this is perfect since you get to do some of the work the night before. I decided to use coconut milk and white whole wheat flour. The results were unexpectedly good—a moist, tender crumb throughout that wasn’t too dense or too airy, and a golden, slightly crispy exterior. I’m now convinced that soaked whole wheat flour produces a better muffin texture than white flour.

The other trick I discovered during the course of my muffin quest is that the texture of vegan baked goods is significantly improved with the right ratio of two simple ingredients: vinegar and baking soda. I’m no chemist, so I don’t know what scientific reactions take place between these two substances, but whatever happens makes for a notably more tender product. You’d never know these muffins were made without eggs.

I’ve done some tweaking to the recipe that I started with, and I truly think, without bias of course, that I’ve finally achieved the perfect muffin recipe. These muffins are not sugar- or fat-free, but they’re made with natural sweeteners and most of the fat comes from the coconut milk. It may even be possible to make them with lite coconut milk or applesauce and almond milk, which would significantly reduce the fat content. I’ll continue experimenting and report back.

The recipe is meant to be a base for whatever you feel like putting in it. I’ve been making mine with blueberries, or blueberries and cherries as you see here, but you can use really any kind of fruit suitable for baked goods. I like to use chopped frozen fruit because it saves me the hassle of prepping it, and it’s generally cheaper than buying it fresh. You could also add toasted nuts, coconut flakes, cinnamon, or citrus zest.

These muffins freeze fairly well if you wrap them individually. You can reheat them in an oven or microwave; I don’t bother to defrost them first. I like to make a batch of them on the weekend, freeze them, and eat them all week for breakfast.

100% Whole Wheat Vegan Muffins

9 to 12 muffins

<center><br><br>100% Whole Wheat Vegan Muffins

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups coconut milk (see note*)
1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp canola or melted coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup, or a scant ¼ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 to 1 ½ cups blueberries or chopped fruit (fresh or frozen)

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, coconut milk, and white vinegar. Cover and leave overnight at room temperature.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the remaining ingredients to the soaked flour and mix until well combined, either with a spoon or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer (this is not a very finicky batter so don’t worry too much about over mixing). Stir in the fruit.

Distribute the batter into greased muffin tin cups, 9 – 12 depending on how big you want the muffins to be. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a plate.

*Note: The fat content and thickness of coconut milk varies widely by brand. If your coconut milk seems too thick, replace ½ a cup of it with water. I do this when I use Chaokoh brand coconut milk.


Recipe: 100% Whole Wheat Vegan Muffins

  1. I’ve definitely had some dismal experiments of this sort… despite the fact that I hate throwing away food, there have been some “muffins” that even I couldn’t suffer through. So, thank you for this! Can’t wait to try it…

  2. I wish I had seen this a week earlier! I made vegan whole wheat blueberry muffins for my students last week. It turned out well, but I had to use a non-vegan recipe and just substitute a chia egg. This would have been so helpful! :) I’ll bookmark it for next time.

  3. Wow, cool technique! I’ve never tried soaking the flour overnight before, but I’ll definitely try this out. The vinegar acts on the grain as a tenderizer, making it less likely you’ll get bready or gummy muffins, then reacts with the baking soda to convert solid NaCO2 to CO2 gas, which would create lightness in the muffin.

    I make a no sugar banana bran muffin with only 2 Tbsp of fat in it (the recipe is on my blog!) which is absolutely my favourite muffin. The sweetness comes from bananas and from dates, and there is a lightness to these muffins as well which makes it hard to believe they’re free of added sugar and nearly free of added fat.

  4. Woah, thanks for posting that link! I’ve never seen that recipe, but I’ll definitely be giving it a go as well. I love carrot cake! I got the idea for my no sugar muffins from a sticky date pudding recipe. The dates are chopped and boiled with water, then baking soda is added to the boiling mixture which reacts with the heat of the water and causes the dates to basically explode into a (delicious sweet) foamy mess which is perfect for sweetening and adding moisture to baked goods.

  5. Hi there Chloe! Your cupcakes look lovely and i absolutely love the perfect little caps they’ve got! I don’t get white whole wheat in India where I live…I’m going to try this with regular whole wheat…how do you think it’ll turn out?

  6. Thanks, Nandini! I think regular whole wheat flour would be fine. It’s a little more bitter than white whole wheat, so you may want to increase the maple syrup or honey a little. I can’t wait to try out some of your recipes–the spinach kootu sounds amazing!

    Katie–What a great idea! I’m definitely going to try it out in some baking experiments. I love dates and boiling things in baking soda is always fun :)

  7. Hey! Im trying out the recipe, but Im not sure if i am supposed to put 1/4 maple syrup AND 1/4 honey or just one? can someone please help me out here THANK YOUU SO MUCHHHH IN ADVANCE 😀

  8. Thanks, Chris! I’m so glad you liked them. The overnight soaking method does sound a little odd but it’s often used for making bread. Love the photo!

  9. These look delicious! Do you think I could use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar and sunflower oil instead of canola? I already have those ingredients in my pantry. :)

  10. Thanks, Lamackova! Sunflower oil (or any mild tasting oil) would work just as well as canola. Apple cider vinegar has a stronger flavor than white vinegar, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it would taste even better!! Let me know how they turn out.

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  13. So fluffy and moist and light without eggs! Yay!! I used whole wheat flour and some soy with fresh pears as the fruit. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  14. Fresh pears are a great idea! I will have to try that soon–maybe with a little almond extract? Thanks for leaving comment, Jul!

  15. Has anyone tried this using almond milk instead? Should I increase the amount of oil? Or make any other changes? I just hate the taste of coconut milk.

  16. Hi Kennie–I have not tried almond milk yet, but I think you would want to add another tablespoon or so of oil since coconut milk is thicker and has more fat. Personally, I can’t taste the coconut milk in this at all, but I don’t have an aversion to it. Let me know if the almond milk works!

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