Surprise, surprise! These vegan gluten-free chocolate cupcakes manage to come out light and chocolatey despite containing nary a trace of egg or butter or gluten. Magic, yes? The actual alchemy resides in the vinegar, which reacts with the baking soda to create a nifty lift to the batter and an ethereal crumb to the cupcakes. Dip these babies in the easy cocoa frosting and indulge in what we consider to be the most delicious science project ever.–Jenny Howard
*Which Gluten-Free Flour Blend Makes These Cupcakes Turn Out Perfectly?
We tried this recipe with a couple different kinds of gluten-free flour blends with tremendous success. That said, kindly note that gluten-free flour blends vary dramatically from one to the next in ingredients and sometimes behave differently than one another. Our gluten-free testers had success with Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Flour Blend. We’d love to hear how your favorite performs here.
Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
For the chocolate cupcakes
- 1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk or other nondairy milk
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the muffin pan
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend or all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For the vegan chocolate frosting (optional)
- 1/2 cup room-temperature refined coconut oil (using refined coconut oil imparts less flavor to the frosting)
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- Pinch sea salt
Make the chocolate cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly oil a 12-cup muffin pan or line it with paper cups.
- In a 2-cup measuring cup or a medium bowl, whisk together the almond milk, oil, vinegar, and vanilla until combined.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, coconut sugar, cocoa, baking powder, espresso powder (if using), baking soda, and salt. Add the almond milk mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Don’t be alarmed if the batter seems runny.
- Spoon the batter into prepared muffin pan, filling the wells almost to the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
- Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer the individual cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Make the vegan chocolate frosting
- Dump the coconut oil in a heatproof bowl and place it in the microwave for 5 to 20 seconds on medium heat to soften it slightly. Whisk to remove any lumps.
- In a medium bowl with a stand mixer or an electric handheld mixer on medium-high, beat the softened coconut oil, maple syrup, cocoa, and a pinch of salt until light and spreadable. If the frosting seems a little soft, let it set at room temperature or place it in the refrigerator for a little while and it will stiffen somewhat. (The frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before using.)
- Frost the cupcakes using a small offset spatula or a table knife. (The cupcakes and frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I have been converted. I will no longer wrinkle my nose at baked goods without the “goods” (aka eggs, butter, and cane sugar). I would describe these delightful cupcakes as scrumptious fudgy goodness. The frosting did me in. Who knew coconut oil and maple syrup could hold its own against old-fashioned buttercream?
I used King Arthur brand all-purpose flour. The batter will appear very runny after mixing. This is normal. Don’t worry that you might have missed an ingredient.
Each muffin cup was filled about 1/4 inch from the top. Not to worry as I had no spillover during baking. The cupcakes came out perfectly domed on top after 20 minutes.
While the cupcakes cool, you can prepare the frosting in just 5 minutes. I do recommend softening the coconut oil for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave to remove any hard lumps. I didn’t and I had a few lumps appear after spreading the frosting on the cupcakes.
Since you will store these in the fridge for up to 1 week, I recommend microwaving the cupcake for 20 seconds prior to eating. The frosting (due to the coconut oil) does harden when chilled and heating softens it up as if the cupcake was fresh out of the oven.
Ok, I was FULLY not expecting these chocolate cupcakes to work out. Where is the egg substitute? I was down with all the other ingredients in the cupcake batter, making sure to use a mild-flavored olive oil, but wondered about the balsamic and the fact that there didn’t seem to be a substitute for eggs. I make a similar recipe for a dairy-free, gluten-free cake but I use eggs.
I was REALLY surprised by these. I LOVED how they weren’t too sweet and were light and fluffy and nicely shaped! I’ll be trying these again with GF flour as I have many colleagues and friends who could use this recipe!
This recipe came together quickly and in fact these were pretty lovely looking cupcakes. They baked up perfectly in 20 minutes and were light and fluffy with a nice domed top. They did smell a little of balsamic vinegar straight out of the oven.
The frosting also came together easily, though I struggled to keep my coconut oil from having lumps. I used an electric hand mixer and the frosting whipped up light and fluffy. Not too sweet but just sweet enough but with the distinctive taste of coconut from the oil. Not a neutral “chocolatey” icing if that’s what you’re expecting. I like coconut and this wasn’t too strong for me whereas sometimes things made with coconut oil taste like you’d imagine suntan oil would taste if you ate it! So it worked for me.
The frosting recipe made more than I needed to frost my 12 cupcakes.
These cupcakes were very easy to throw together and came out very tasty!
I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Flour Blend and I didn’t include the espresso but can imagine it being very good. The 20 minutes baking time was perfect!
The chocolate frosting is very tasty and easy! I’m definitely going to keep this recipe in mind for the future.
These little treats are perfectly acceptable, even good versions of a basic chocolate cupcake. Although I probably wouldn’t rave about them in general, I’m giving them a TC because they execute very well for someone who needs a vegan cupcake recipe that doesn’t call for a lot of complicated ingredients or unusual techniques.
The texture was a little bit coarser and less tender than a non-vegan cupcake would ideally be, and my taster-husband said right away that he thought he was eating “something healthier,” so he definitely detected that something was different, albeit not off-putting. (As in, he ate the entire thing quite happily).
The flavor isn’t really a deep chocolate but the espresso powder gives it some added dimension, so I highly recommend using that option.
The recipe comes together really quickly and the cupcakes baked up with perfectly domed tops when made with regular all-purpose flour. The icing is just that (i.e., an icing not a frosting) but it’s still quite good and almost preferable to a thick and cloying buttercream. If it’s made in advance and held either in the fridge or at room temperature, it may need to be heated for a few seconds in a microwave to get it to the right consistency. I used refined coconut oil so I wouldn’t have any coconut flavor in the icing.
The recipe made only 11 cupcakes, each filled 3/4 full, but I wouldn’t really want them any smaller, so it’s just an odd number of servings! My bake time was 22 minutes. And, in truth, 20 minutes might have been fine, too.
These chocolate cupcakes are excellent. They’re moist, fluffy, and have a very soft, deep chocolatey flavor. They’re not too sweet. Just sweet enough. I never knew you could get such a great cake texture without an egg in sight! There are no vegans in our household but I love a cupcake so I decided to try this recipe.
They rose beautifully and were perfectly baked at 20 minutes. I used almond milk and I included the optional espresso powder. I used store-bought frosting.
I started a bit on the fence with these cupcakes, partly because the texture of the coconut sugar seems so different from other raw sugars I was more familiar with, as well as the quantity. Nonetheless, I made a batch to the recipe, using a GF flour. At 20 minutes the skewer came out clean and the tops were a bit rough, crackly and slightly domed. I found that while the tops were not as smooth as my usual flour recipe for cupcakes (which yields that perfect “Duncan Hines” crumb that clings to the tines of your fork), this was still a quite edible cupcake.
The frosting can be a bit tricky because while you aren’t melting the coconut oil, you do need it soft enough to be malleable with the maple syrup and cocoa. My coconut oil normally melts around 76°F, which is a slightly warm room temperature, but coconut oil transitions quickly from solid to liquid. If you are trying to make frosting, you might think you need it more solid, but it also has a graininess that is not pleasing. It gives a nice finish and contrast (and will be OK in the fridge for a short while if you only want to frost as you serve these over several days.
I made these cupcakes with a gluten-free flour blend. They turned out chocolaty and tender and I would make these again. They were a little crumbly after they cooled, though. [Editor’s Note: Most gluten-free items do tend to crumble as gluten is what glues the ingredients together.]