Do you wish you had the perfect muffin recipe for every occasion? Do you ever find yourself missing ingredients, or wondering if you can substitute this for that? Well then. You’ve come to the right place. These miracle muffins are truly miraculous and are always good. They’re also good for you, and kids like them. Win-win, right? If I time a batch for when one or both kids have friends over after school it’s like they’re a swarm of locusts, plus the house smells great.
Muffins are a staple in our house, mostly in school lunches. My kids take two every day. Every single day for their entire school career works out to…approximately 2,880 between the two of them. So one might expect that I’ve mastered the muffin by now and indeed I have.
Mini muffins work well because they fit in the bento-style lunch boxes we use, and they are also almost bite-sized, so they’re quick to eat yet nutrient-dense and kids don’t have any trouble eating them during the short food breaks they get at school. They freeze well, and are a quick and easy snack at any time. They’re also handy for those times you want to bring a batch of muffins to a friend’s house or a playdate and know that there will be multiple small people who take a bite and then discard the rest because that’s what toddlers do. Anyone who has ever tried to feed a toddler knows this to be a fact.
The miraculous thing about these muffins is that they are so flexible that they work with a wide range of ingredients. I have made this recipe so many times now that I don’t have to get out the recipe card (handwritten recipe cards are how I roll) and only need to think about what version I’m going to make this time around. We can switch it up enough that they don’t get boring and the kids eat them — every day.
This recipe uses the “muffin method,” straight out of home ec class. Wet stuff in a wet bowl, dry stuff in a dry bowl, combine until just mixed, and done. This recipe works well for regular-sized muffins too, just increase the cooking time a bit.
The key to these magical little nuggets of goodness is that they are so flexible. You can swap out ingredients with ease, and they are so forgiving you don’t have to be terribly worried about what combination of things you are using. And every combination is yummy (or at least edible – once I forgot the sugar entirely and we just dumped on some jam and they were fine). These mini muffins have less than 3.5g of added sugar per muffin (more if you add chocolate chips, or other bits of sweetness) which is still oodles less added sugar than many recipes.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Wet Bowl – combine well:
- 2.25 cups of mash (6 over-ripe or frozen-defrosted bananas OR applesauce OR puréed pumpkin/squash OR yogurt OR some combination of the above)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
Dry Bowl – combine well:
- 3 cups flour (I use whole wheat, but white would be just fine)
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- Optional: 2 Tbsp cocoa powder, or 1 tsp cinnamon, or live on the edge and do both
Add wet to dry, combine until just mixed. It may be a little dry at this point, with bits of unmixed flour still exposed.
Add 1/3 cup melted coconut oil and stir until combined. If you don’t do coconut oil then you can add 1/3 cup vegetable, avocado, or canola oil to your wet bowl. Coconut oil needs to go in here though or it will clump and then make a terrible leaky smoking mess in your oven (ask me how I know this).
Then gently fold in some combination of:
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips
- 1 cup whole frozen cranberries
- 1 cup of something grated like carrot, sweet potato, apple, zucchini, or crushed and drained pineapple
- 1 cup chopped nuts (nuts are delicious but aren’t allowed at our school so I use pumpkin seeds instead)
- 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 3/4 cup soaked dried cranberries or raisins (plunk them in a cup of hot or boiling water and let them sit for a while, drain off before adding. This keeps them juicy in the muffin instead of sucking the moisture out of the batter.)
- 1-2 Tbsp chia seeds
Spoon into muffin pans, or use a 2 Tbsp ice cream scoop. Makes approximately 3.5-4 dozen mini muffins depending on how many additions you add and how full the pans are.
Mini muffins take 12-14 minutes; bigger muffins take…longer. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool on a rack, remove from pan.
Some variation of these muffins have traveled with us on every road trip and outdoor adventure, and often take the place of granola bars if we need a quick snack on the go.
Notes about my favourite combos and ingredients:
Banana-Cranberry-Chocolate Chip or Thanksgiving Muffins (pumpkin with cranberries and pumpkin seeds and extra cinnamon and nutmeg) are two stand by variations here. A carrot-cake like one is also tasty, adding grated carrot and crushed pineapple to a base of applesauce and yogurt mash.
You can use over-ripe or frozen and then defrosted bananas. Kids are often seriously grossed out while simultaneously fascinated by the process of squeezing defrosted banana from their skins. You can take them out of the freezer several hours before needing to bake with them, or defrost in the microwave as needed. I once taught a grade seven class of home ec students how to make these muffins and the carrying on about this process was something else!
A large can of mashed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) is 3 cups; use 2 and freeze the last cup for another time when you can combine pumpkin and applesauce or pumpkin and yogurt for variety.
For this batch I used grated, frozen zucchini from last summer that a friend gave me. I drained it as it defrosted because quite a lot of water comes out of defrosting zucchini, and a better person than I would promptly use that zucchini water for soup or a smoothie or something. Whatever floats your boat. My kids wanted to taste it, and then I dumped it down the drain. For the record it tastes just like you’d expect zucchini water to taste!
While writing this my husband helpfully quizzed me on what could go into these muffins in a grated format. I’m unsure on beets, and think probably not on turnip, but he did get me thinking about how a savoury muffin would work with a yogurt base combined with zucchini, cheese, and ham. If you test something new let us know how it worked out!
Experiment a bit with how you add fruit to your muffins. Frozen berries such as raspberries or blackberries tend to become pockets of mush once baked, but frozen blueberries and frozen cranberries hold up really well, cranberries especially. I’m down to the last bag of fresh ones my parents brought me in the fall, straight from the cranberry capital of Ontario, but most grocery stores will now have them in the frozen food section, or fresh in the produce section around Thanksgiving or Christmas. Peeled and chopped apples work well here too, but cube them fairly small if you’re making mini muffins.
If you use dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries aim for a variety that doesn’t have added sugar, and do soak them in hot water to plump them up before you start combining your other ingredients. Drain off the water before adding.
Nuts or Seeds
Pumpkin seeds (raw, unsalted) are a nice addition, particularly if you like that crunch but can’t send nuts to school. Otherwise chopped pecans or walnuts are excellent.
I’m afraid for the day I finish this bottle of vanilla from Costco, as I hear it’s now close to $50/bottle up from the $12 or so I paid for it originally. The price of vanilla is now shockingly high. My crafty friend gave me this homemade vanilla for Christmas though and I expect it will be good and flavourful by the time I finish the store bought bottle!
One does not need fancy tools to make muffins. However, I do like stainless steel bowls, a nicely shaped rubber scraper (spatula), and then my favourite 2 Tbsp ice cream scooper from Pampered Chef that my mom gave me one year for my birthday, and silicone muffin pans.
I have been using these mini muffin pans from Canadian Tire for at least ten years. They do go on sale for half price periodically, so set up a sale alert for yourself if you’re eyeing them. Watch for other recipes coming soon that use these pans too!
Ready to try your own?
Download this printable to a photo album on your phone, iPad, or print it and put it in a recipe box. It’s perfectly sized at 4×6.