There are a lot of muffin recipes out there, but really, you only need one. This recipe for basic dairy-free muffins is a simple, no frills formula with endless variations. It uses just 7 basic ingredients, which can be found in most homes, and takes minutes to whisk up. You don’t need any special equipment or fancy ingredients. And the result is tender, perfectly sweet muffins just like mom used to make.
Basic Dairy-Free Muffins that You can Customize to Taste
You might recognize this recipe from my flagship book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. I’ve been using it as a base for quite a while, so it seemed important to add it online. I have included a list of variations in the notes for this basic dairy-free muffins recipe, but I also have answers to some FAQs.
Can I Use Regular Whole Wheat Flour?
Technically you can, but the muffins will turn out more dense. I recommend a 50/50 blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flour to keep them lighter. Whole wheat pastry flour is a better option, because it has a lighter grind and less gluten.
Can I Substitute Gluten-Free Flour?
I haven’t tested this recipe without gluten, but it might work. A friend of mine swears by King Arthur 1:1 Gluten-Free Flour for all baking recipes. If you do opt to try gluten-free, use a gluten-free flour blend intended for substituting as a 1:1 substitute for wheat flour. Don’t just substitute a nut flour (like almond flour) or coconut flour. These will not produce good results. That all said, we do have quite a few dairy-free gluten-free muffin recipes, which might work better for you.
Will a Liquid Sweetener Work?
I honestly haven’t tested this recipe with a liquid sweetener, only with granular ones, but it should in theory work fine. Liquid sweetener will affect the taste and texture a little.
Can I Use Less Sugar?
These basic dairy-free muffins aren’t overly sweet. They don’t taste like cupcakes and are easy on sensitive morning taste buds. But if you really want something less sweet, you can reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup. This will make the texture a little less tender. You can compensate by adding a little applesauce or increase the oil to 1/3 cup, if desired.
Can I Use a Sugar-Free Sweetener?
I do not have experience with sugar-free sweeteners, so I can’t weigh in on this. They do make sugar-free baking blends, which I assume perform well in muffins. But of course, they will affect the taste.
What Milk Alternative Do You Recommend?
I typically use coconut milk beverage or almond milk beverage. Most types should work fine, but keep in mind that brands with a lot of additives (protein isolates, gums, etc) might affect baking a little. Minimalist products are always best. And yes, homemade nut milks should work great! Homemade oat milk will affect the texture, so I don’t recommend it.
Can I Use Water Instead of Milk Alternative?
Yes, you can, but it will remove a little bit of richness from the muffins and will make the batter thinner. This isn’t a problem if you aren’t adding bulky items, like fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips. If you are, you might need to reduce the water just a touch. You can add a little extra splash of oil to compensate for the loss in richness and to help add moisture without thinning the batter too much.
What Oil Do You Recommend?
Right now, I’m using extra-light olive oil (not extra-virgin) for baking. But your favorite baking oil should work without a problem. Just keep the flavor of the oil in mind. If using coconut oil, melt it first and make sure your milk alternative and egg are at room temperature. If the coconut oil hits any cold ingredients, it will “bead up” with little solid pieces of coconut oil. This will give you more of a biscuit-like texture.
Can I Substitute Dairy-Free Butter Alternative for the Oil?
Yes, you can. I would personally increase it to 1/3 cup if using buttery spread or sticks, just to keep the muffins tender. You can cream it with the sugar for a thicker batter and more cupcake-like texture before adding the other ingredients. Or you can melt it and simply add it in place of the oil.
Can I Substitute Applesauce for the Oil?
I’m really not a fan of fat-free or super low fat muffins, so I don’t personally recommend it. These basic dairy-free muffins are already relatively low in fat. They’re much lower in fat than ones you would buy at the store! Reducing the fat more will result in a gummy texture.
Can I Add Banana to these Basic Dairy-Free Muffins?
In theory, adding a mashed banana should work without a problem. It will add moisture and binding, and will just make the muffins a touch more dense. However, I have a Dairy-Free Banana Muffins Recipe that is just as simple and my favorite for using up overripe bananas.
How Can I Make this as a Mix?
For a four-batch baking mix, quadruple the ingredients (8 cups flour, 3 cups sugar, 1/4 cup baking powder, and 2 teaspoons salt). Whisk them all together and store in a large airtight container. When ready to bake, whisk the 1 cup milk alternative, 1/4 cup oil, and 1 egg together. Add a generous 2 3/4 cups of the flour mix (2 1/2 cups + 1/3 cup will work perfectly) and stir to combine. Proceed with the recipe.
Do These Basic Dairy-Free Muffins Freeze Well?
They do! In fact, I recommend making the full batch for smaller households, and freezing leftovers. For best consistency, let them defrost at room temperature before eating. You can pop one in a lunch box and it will be ready to eat within a couple hours. But if you want to devour one immediately, heat it in the microwave for about 20 seconds.
What Are Your Favorite Add Ins?
My basic dairy-free muffins almost always contain vanilla. And I love adding fruit and cinnamon. My husband is all about vanilla and dairy-free chocolate chips.
Special Diet Notes: Basic Dairy-Free Muffins
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free optional, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan optional, and vegetarian.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, or a combination of the two
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder (reduce to 2 teaspoons above 4,000 feet)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk alternative
- ¼ cup oil
- 1 egg (see Egg-Free Option below)
- Preheat your oven to 400ºF and grease 12 muffin cups or line them with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
- Measure the milk beverage in a glass measuring cup. Add the oil and egg, and whisk to combine.
- Pour the liquid mixture into the well of the dry mixture. Gently whisk or stir the ingredients together, just until moistened. Some small lumps are okay; you do not want to overmix.
- Divide the batter between your prepared muffin cups. They will be about ¾ full without any bulky add-ins (like fruit or chocolate chips).
- Bake the muffins for 20 to 24 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
- Let the muffins cool for a few minutes, and then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Store the muffins in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or freeze them to enjoy later.
Berry Option: Fold 1 to 1½ cups fresh berries into the batter just after you stir in the liquids. If using frozen berries, toss them in with the flour mixture to help prevent “bleeding” and sinking.
Chocolate Chip Option: Stir in ¾ cup dairy-free chocolate chips just after you stir in the liquids.
Dried Fruit or Nut Option: Fold in ½ to ¾ cup dried berries or chopped nuts (like walnuts) just after you stir in the liquids.
Cinnamon or Spice Option: Whisk 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, chai spice, or pumpkin pie spice with the dry ingredients.
Essence Option: Stir 1 teaspoon vanilla, maple, almond, or coconut extract into the wet ingredients.
Zest Option: Stir 1 teaspoon orange, lemon, or lime zest into the wet ingredients.
Sweetener Options: Substitute packed brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple sugar, or date sugar for the cane sugar.
Breakfast Cupcake Option: “Frost” the muffins with your favorite nut or seed butter or chia jam.