Perfectly spiced and incredibly moist, these vegan carrot cake cupcakes make any occasion all the more festive. Top them with a delicious homemade almond cream cheese frosting or simply enjoy them as healthy muffins that are light on sugar.
I don’t know about you, but I start to crave vegan carrot cake cupcakes around this time of year!
It seems to be one of those desserts that’s equally comforting in the Fall as it is welcoming to the Spring season. They are great to bake for Easter, birthdays, the holidays, as a gift, or anytime your heart desires them!
You can add warm spices such as ginger and cloves or give them a tropical hint with coconut shavings and pineapple.
Cinnamon and nutmeg perfectly enhance the naturally sweet carrot flavor. Simple ingredients such as applesauce and canola oil help create the ultimate moist crumb with a light airiness. And they’re generously frosted with a rich, decadent vegan cream cheese frosting with a hint of almond.
You have the option to leave the frosting off for healthy vegan carrot cake muffins. The fresh carrots, walnuts, and low amounts of sugar make them a great breakfast to kickstart your day.
This recipe makes 12 cupcakes, but you can easily halve the ingredients to create a small batch. Either way, they store really well in the refrigerator or freezer whether they’re frosted or not.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
Flour - I use all-purpose flour for these cupcakes, but this 1-to-1 gluten-free flour from Amazon works as well.
Spices - Ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg add to the delicious flavor. The nutmeg is optional and you can certainly add ginger, cloves, and allspice if you want more of the warmer Fall flavors.
Applesauce - Applesauce helps bind the ingredients as an egg would as well as provide an acidic element that activates the baking soda. It also has a natural sweetness and gives added moisture to the cupcakes. It’s okay if yours is the sweetened or flavored variety. Crushed pineapple works well as a replacement.
Canola Oil - Similar to applesauce, canola oil adds moisture to the cupcakes. Any other light oil such as light olive oil, safflower, or grapeseed would work.
Plant-based Milk - I usually use oat, but almond, cashew, or soy would work as well. I haven’t tried this recipe with coconut milk, but I’m sure it would work as well.
Carrots - Three medium-sized carrots are peeled and finely grated here. You can shred them if you want, but I think finely grating them provides a better texture.
Walnuts - Nuts are completely optional here, although I will say that they add a lovely, subtle crunch. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, or any favorite nut should work.
Other Dairy Replacements - Vegan cream cheese and salted vegan butter are combined with powdered sugar and almond extract to form the frosting. For cream cheese, I like Kite Hill, Trader Joe’s, or Miyokos because they blend well. For butter, I like Miyokos because it isn’t as soft or as yellow as others. If your butter isn't salted, simply add ⅛ teaspoon.
Almond Extract - A hint of almond makes the cream cheese frosting incredibly delicious. However, if you don’t have this ingredient on hand, you can simply omit it, use vanilla extract, lemon juice, or even a squeeze of orange.
How to Make Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Here are some quick visual steps. The full recipe with exact measurements can be found within the recipe card below.
Prepare the Carrots - Preheat the oven. Then, peel and finely grate the carrots. You’ll want to use freshly grated carrots because their moisture helps the batter come together.
Whisk the Dry Ingredients - Combine the dry ingredients, except the walnuts, in a large mixing bowl. Crush any clumps you encounter as you whisk everything together.
Mix In the Wet Ingredients - Create a well at the center of the bowl and pour the wet ingredients into it, except the grated carrots. Mix everything together with just a few stirs so you don’t overwork the batter. It’s okay if you still see some streaks of flour.
Fold In the Carrots and Nuts - Gently fold in the carrots and walnuts. The batter will seem a bit dry at first, but the moisture from the carrots will help everything come together nicely.
Scoop and Bake - Line the cupcake pan and divide the batter evenly. Each liner should be about ¾ full or 2 scoops of a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop. Bake the cupcakes in the oven for 20-25 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of them comes out clean.
You can either enjoy these as warm muffins or let them cool completely while making the frosting.
How to Make Vegan Almond Cream Cheese Frosting
Start the Frosting - We’ll start the frosting while the cupcakes are baking in the oven. Mix the softened vegan butter and vegan cream cheese with a hand or stand mixer. You can also mix everything together by hand using a spoon.
Add the Powdered Sugar - Once this mixture is lump free, add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Working it through a sifter will help break up the clumps. Pause occasionally to scrape the walls of the bowl.
Pour In the Almond Extract - Add the almond extract when the frosting is smooth. Mix for a few more seconds until it’s spread throughout. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes so it can firm up.
Frost the Cupcakes - Frost the cupcakes after they've cooled down for at least 20 minutes. You can pipe the frosting on or simply spread it on top with a butter knife. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top (optional). Store the cupcakes in a closed container and in the refrigerator so the frosting holds its shape if you aren’t going to eat them right away.
Recipe Variation Ideas
- Fold in ¼ to ½ cup raisins or dried cranberries.
- Add ¼ cup shredded coconut and replace the applesauce with crushed pineapple for more of a tropical dessert flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
These carrot cake cupcakes can be made 5 days ahead of time. Either frost them and store them in a dish with a lid or wait to add the frosting before you are ready to enjoy them.
If they are in the form of carrot cake muffins, they can be stored in a sealed container, at room temperature for 3 days. Store muffins and frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator for 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
Related Sweet Vegan Recipes
- Have fun in the kitchen baking these delicious, crumbly Blackberry Scones.
- Start your day off with a bang by eating a nutrient-rich Chia Pudding with Oat Milk.
- Enjoy this decadent Vegan Bread Pudding with homemade butterscotch sauce.
- Make these incredibly easy Thin Mint Truffles with your leftover Girl Scout cookies.
I hope you loved these Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes! Please leave a star rating and comment below.
Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Almond Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Carrot Cake Cupcakes/Muffins
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
- ⅓ cup cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup applesauce, unsweetened
- ¼ cup plant-based milk
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup carrots (about 3 medium carrots)
- ⅓ cup chopped walnuts, optional
For the Cupcakes/Muffins
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Take the vegan butter out of the refrigerator so it can start to soften. Peel and finely grate the carrots.
- Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cane sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl.
- Make a well at the center of the bowl. Add the applesauce, plant milk, canola oil, and vanilla to it. Stir the ingredients together with a spoon until they are mostly combined.
- Gently fold in the carrots and walnuts with just a few folds to prevent overmixing the batter.
- Place 12 liners into a cupcake pan and then divide the batter evenly across the liners. Each one should be about ¾ full.
- Bake the cupcakes in the oven for 20-25 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of them comes out clean. You can either enjoy these as muffins or frost them to make carrot cake cupcakes by following the steps below.
For the Frosting
- Make the frosting while the cupcakes are baking. Add the softened vegan butter and vegan cream cheese to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Cream them together until they are fully combined.
- Add the powdered sugar to the bowl, one cup at a time. Mix everything together until they are fully incorporated. Pause occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Stir in the almond extract, cover the bowl, and place it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes so it can firm up.
- Frost the carrot cupcakes once they have completely cooled. Sprinkle nuts on top and enjoy!
- Use freshly grated carrots for their added moisture.
- Finely grate the carrots with one of the smallest options on a box grater.
- Store the cupcakes in the refrigerator if they are frosted to keep the frosting from softening.
The nutrition information is estimated and can vary depending on brands and measurements used.