Winter might be the peak season for citrus, but sunny lemon always sounds so good in spring and summer. Which is why I decided to bake up these dairy-free lemon cupcakes for the weekend. They’re moist, tender, and have that wonderful sweet-tart flavor that’s hard to resist.
Easy One Bowl Recipe for Dairy-Free Lemon Cupcakes
I’ve tested many recipes for dairy-free lemon cupcakes, most of which use dairy-free butter alternative. But the faux butter muddled the lemon a bit too much, causing an off flavor, in my opinion. So I switched to using oil for a cleaner citrus taste. It’s also cheaper and simpler! This recipe for dairy-free lemon cupcakes doesn’t require creaming, separate bowls, a mixer, or extensive steps. It’s a simple add and whisk strategy that’s done all in one bowl in just a few minutes! To make it even simpler, I have answers to common FAQs.
What Type of Oil Do You Use for Lemon Cupcakes?
Right now, I’m using extra-light olive oil (not extra-virgin) for most of my baking. It’s got a good neutral taste, works well, and is relatively inexpensive. but feel free to use your favorite baking oil. If you opt to use coconut oil, make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature before beginning, including the lemon juice, milk alternative, and egg. If any of your ingredients are cold, it can cause the coconut oil to solidify, creating little beads of hardened coconut oil throughout.
Can I Use Butter Alternative?
It’s your choice. As mentioned, I don’t like the buttery flavor in dairy-free lemon cupcakes. Butter alternative is also lower in fat than oil. So if you opt to swap in plant butter, use buttery sticks (not spread) and increase the amount to 1/2 cup. Either melt the butter alternative and use it as a direct substitute, or cream it with the sugar and add the remaining wet and dry ingredients in an alternating fashion. Creaming the “butter” makes fluffier cupcakes. This will also make 14 lemon cupcakes instead of 12.
Can I Use Water Instead of Milk Alternative?
Yes, in a pinch, you can. I do prefer the taste and texture with the added creaminess from the milk alternative, but water can work just fine. I use coconut milk beverage (the drinkable type in cartons), almond milk, or macadamia nut milk for these dairy-free lemon cupcakes. But your favorite type should work fine.
Can I Use Meyer Lemons in this Lemon Cupcakes Recipe?
You definitely can! This recipe also makes delicious dairy-free Meyer Lemon Cupcakes. Meyer lemons are a great option if you prefer a slightly sweeter and less tangy lemon flavor.
I Don’t Have Fresh Lemons. Can I Use Bottled Lemon Juice?
Yes! Without fresh lemons, you won’t have zest either. But the bottled lemon juice will still impart some of the lemon flavor. If you have lemon extract on hand, you can add up to 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract in place of the zest.
The rise of these dairy-free lemon cupcakes should come just to the top, and have only a slight dome. Unlike muffins, they should be relatively flat to accommodate the frosting!
Help! My Lemon Cupcakes didn’t Rise Much and are too Dense. What Went Wrong?
If your cupcakes rose very little, or they only rose in the middle, your baking powder is unfortunately losing it’s mojo. It’s time to get a fresh one! To verify the issue, place a little baking powder (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) in a glass. Add some boiling water. It should fizz up quite vigorously. If it does nothing or just bubbles and foams a little, you need new baking powder. If I haven’t baked in a while, I test my baking powder before using it.
Help! My Cupcakes Sunk in the Middle. What Went Wrong?
If they are just lightly sunken in the middle, and never rose up, then your baking powder might not be fresh. See the FAQ above. But this problem can also happen when cupcakes rise too quickly. They quite literally burst and cave in. It gives the appearance of deflated cupcakes. This is a common issue at higher altitudes, even as low as 2000 feet or higher. If they are only slightly indented, reduce the baking powder to 1 1/4 teaspoons. If they have a notable indent, reduce the baking powder to 1 teaspoon. If they are quite caved in, reduce the baking powder to 3/4 teaspoon.
How Should I Adjust the Recipe for Higher Altitude?
If you are above 3000 feet, I would reduce the baking powder to 1 teaspoon. Above 5000 feet I would reduce the baking powder to 3/4 teaspoon. You can also increase the baking temperature to 375°F, which will help bake the dairy-free lemon cupcakes more quickly, so that they don’t have as much time to rise. If baking at a higher temperature, check in starting at about 16 minutes.
These dairy-free lemon cupcakes peel away from the wrappers perfectly, and have a moist, tender, and rich crumb.
Special Diet Notes: Lemon Cupcakes
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, coconut-free, palm oil-free, and vegetarian.
For egg-free and vegan lemon cupcakes, see our Egg Substitute Guide. I prefer a powdered egg replacer for this recipe. They will be a little more dense and more fragile in terms of altitude adjustments.
For gluten-free dairy-free lemon cupcakes, your favorite gluten-free all-purpose flour blend for cakes should work. But I would use eggs, not an egg substitute. They will be a little more delicate and more fragile in terms of altitude adjustments.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup plain dairy-free milk alternative
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup lemon juice (increase to ⅓ cup for more lemon flavor)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 batch Dairy-Free Lemon Frosting, Vanilla Buttercream, or Cream Cheese Frosting
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and line 12 muffin cups with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the milk alternative, oil, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla to the middle of the flour mixture. Whisk the liquids together while gradually incorporating the flour mixture. Whisk until just combined. Do not overmix the batter.
- Divide the batter between your lined muffin cups. They will be about ¾ full, and only about ½-inch from the top.
- Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.