Gluten free vegan carrot cake cupcakes

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Are you looking for an easy carrot cake cupcake recipe that is gluten free and vegan friendly? Then check out this recipe for vegan carrot cake cupcakes! These light and fluffy cupcakes are flavored with grated carrots, pecans, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg then topped with a fresh vanilla icing.

These carrot cake cupcakes are made with coconut milk and coconut oil rather than butter and dairy milk. They are also made without eggs. That means that every ingredient in these carrot cake cupcakes is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and vegan friendly!

 

Five gluten free and vegan carrot cake cupcakes on a gray plate. A few carrots are in the background.

What is in these carrot cake cupcakes?

What is in these gluten free, dairy free, and vegan carrot cake cupcakes? Here are all the ingredients in these delicious allergen friendly cupcakes!

  • Gluten free all purpose flour. The main ingredient in this recipe for carrot cake cupcakes is gluten free all purpose flour (this is the brand we use). You should use all purpose flour rather than a single type of flour like rice flour, tapioca flour, or almond flour.
  • Brown sugar & white sugar. We use a mixture of brown sugar and white sugar to make these carrot cake cupcakes. We find that cupcakes that are made with brown sugar come out more moist and tender than cupcakes that are made entirely with white sugar.
  • Baking soda & baking powder. A mixture of baking soda and baking powder is used to leaven these cupcakes. The baking soda reacts with the apple cider vinegar that is added to the cupcakes to push even more air into the batter.
  • Coconut milk. Coconut milk is used in place of dairy milk so that these carrot cake cupcakes are vegan friendly and dairy free. We generally buy cans of coconut milk in bulk online since coconut milk is our absolute favorite plant based milk to use in vegan baking.
  • Vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is the main fat that is used in this recipe for carrot cake cupcakes. We find that cupcakes that are made with vegetable oil are more light and fluffy than cupcakes that are made with other fats like butter or coconut oil.
  • Vanilla extract. Although these cupcakes are not vanilla flavored, there is still some vanilla added to the batter. The warm flavor of the vanilla blends perfectly with the warm spices that are used in these cupcakes. We recommend buying vanilla extract in larger bottles online. Buying vanilla extract this way is generally more economical once you consider the cost per ounce.
  • Apple cider vinegar. A little apple cider vinegar is added to these carrot cake cupcakes. The acid in the vinegar reacts with the baking soda and helps to give the cupcakes a little extra rise.
  • Grated carrots. Carrot cake cupcakes would not be carrot cake cupcakes without the carrots! Finely grated cupcakes are added to this recipe for carrot cake cupcakes. We recommend grating the carrots with a microplane or a zester rather than a grater with wide holes. The more finely the carrots are grated, the better they will be dispersed in the cupcake batter. 
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are all used to add a little spice to these carrot cake cupcakes. We generally order Spicely or Morton & Bassett spices online because all of their spices are certified gluten free. Check out our article on the best gluten free spice brands for more info on gluten free spice brands.  
  • Pecans. Some pecans are added to give these carrot cake cupcakes a little bit of a crunch. We use pecans rather than walnuts in our carrot cake cupcakes because pecans have more of a warm, buttery flavor. If you do not have pecans, then walnuts are another great choice.
  • Salt. Finally, a little salt is added to this recipe to enhance all of the other flavors in the recipe.

Dry ingredients for gluten free and vegan carrot cake cupcakes in a bowl.

What is in the dairy free vanilla icing?

What is in this dairy free vanilla icing? Here are all the ingredients used in this dairy free vanilla icing. 

  • Confectioners sugar. Much like most other icing recipes, the main ingredient in this dairy free vanilla icing is confectioners sugar.
  • Vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is added to provide a warm flavor to the vanilla icing. The vanilla extract mellows out the sweetness of the confectioners sugar. We recommend buying vanilla extract in larger bottles online. It is generally much cheaper than buying smaller bottles at the store when you consider the cost per ounce.
  • Coconut oil. Coconut oil is the main fat that is used in this vanilla icing. Coconut oil is used in place of butter so that the icing is vegan friendly and dairy free. 
  • Coconut milk. Finally, a little coconut milk is added to thin the icing. Coconut milk is used in place of dairy milk so that the icing is vegan and dairy free. If you do not have coconut milk, you can use another plant based milk. We generally buy cans of coconut milk in bulk online since coconut milk is our absolute favorite plant based milk to use in vegan baking.

How fine do you grate carrots for cake?

How finely should you grate carrots for carrot cake? When you are making carrot cake cupcakes, you should grate the carrots as finely as possible. The more finely the carrots are grated, the better they will be distributed throughout the cupcakes. We recommend using a microplane or a zester that has small holes to grate the carrots rather than a large box grater. 

Fully cooked gluten free and vegan carrot cake cupcakes in a muffin tin.

Tips for making homemade cupcakes

  • Do not overfill the wells with cupcake batter. In the instructions for these carrot cake cupcakes, we recommend filling the wells of the muffin tin 1/2 to 2/3 of the way with cupcake batter. You should make sure to fill the cupcake wells no more than 2/3 of the way full. The cupcake batter expands as it cooks, so the cupcakes will overflow and sink in the middle if you overfill the wells. 
  • Let the cupcakes cool in the oven. We recommend turning the oven off and letting the cupcakes cool in the oven with the door propped open for a few minutes before taking the cupcakes out of the oven. If cupcakes cool too quickly, they are more likely to sink in the middle. 
  • Spoon flour into the measuring cup. We recommend using a spoon to spoon flour into your measuring cup rather than dipping the measuring cup directly into the bag of flour. If you dip your measuring cup directly into the bag of flour, the flour will get compressed and you may end up with up to 30% more flour than you should have. 
  • It is easiest to spread icing while the cupcakes are cool. This icing is intended to harden as it cools. It is easiest to spread this icing on the cupcakes when the cupcakes themselves have cooled, but the icing is still warm. 

How to store carrot cake cupcakes

How do you store leftover carrot cake cupcakes? Here is how to store leftover carrot cake cupcakes. 

  • In the refrigerator for a few days. You can store these carrot cake cupcakes in the refrigerator for a few days after you make them. We usually store our leftover carrot cake cupcakes in a tall tupperware container. The vanilla icing used in this recipe hardens in the refrigerator, so you can stack the cupcakes on top of each other to save room after the icing has hardened. 
  • In the freezer for a few months. If you want to keep these cupcakes around for a longer period of time, you can store them in the freezer for up to a few months. If you plan to store the cupcakes in the freezer, you should make sure they are in an airtight container such as a gallon freezer bag. You can take the cupcakes out of the freezer a few hours before you plan to eat them, or you can microwave the cupcakes for around 30 – 45 seconds to warm them up. 

Gluten free vegan carrot cake cupcakes

These carrot cake cupcakes are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and vegan.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword: dairy free, egg free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

Carrot cake cupcakes

  • 2 cups gluten free all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups grated carrot
  • 1/4 cup pecan pieces
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Vanilla frosting

  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Whisk all of the wet ingredients together in another large mixing bowl. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients little by little, mixing as you do so. Stir the batter until there are no large clumps left in the batter.
  • Line the wells of a muffin tin with cupcake liners then add the batter for the carrot cake cupcakes. We recommend filling the wells 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full. For a standard sized muffin tin, this will mean adding around 2 tbsp of cupcake batter.
    Make sure not to fill the wells any more than 2/3 of the way full. The cupcakes will expand as they cook and they will overflow if there is too much batter added.
  • Bake the cupcakes for 20 - 22 minutes at 350 degrees.
    If you are not sure whether the cupcakes are done, you can stick a toothpick in one of the cupcakes. If the toothpick comes out dry, the cupcakes are done.
  • We recommend turning the oven off and propping the door open then keeping the carrot cake cupcakes in the oven to cool. If the cupcakes cool too quickly, they will sink in the middle.
  • Melt the coconut oil for the icing and combine all of the ingredients for the vanilla icing. Spread the icing over the carrot cake cupcakes while the icing is still warm.

Notes

Icing consistency. This recipe for lemon icing makes a firm icing that solidifies in the refrigerator. We prefer to use this type of icing because it makes it easy to stack cupcakes on top of each other in the freezer or refrigerator. If you want to make an icing that is more light and fluffy, you should replace the coconut oil with equal quantities of vegan butter or margarine. If you are using butter or margarine, you should use softened butter rather than melted butter. If the icing is too thick, you can add a few teaspoons of non-dairy milk to thin it out. 
Xanthan gum. If your gluten free all purpose flour blend does not contain xanthan gum or a similar replacement for gluten then you should add around 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum per cup of flour.
Tips for measuring flour. We recommend measuring flour by spooning the flour into a measuring cup then leveling off the flour with a butter knife. This is the most consistent way to measure flour. If you dip your measuring cup into the bag of flour, it will compress the flour and you will end up with extra flour. 

Substitutions for carrot cake cupcakes

  • Pecans. If you do not have pecans, you can also use walnuts in the recipe for carrot cake cupcakes. If you have a nut allergy, you can exclude the pecans all together.
  • Coconut milk. If you do not have coconut milk, you can try using a different plant based milk in these cupcakes. That being said, coconut milk has a higher fat content than most other plant based milks so we recommend using coconut milk if possible. 

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