Hack your muffin recipes: 4 easy ways to make healthier muffins

Guestpost by copycait on Jan 10th

I LOOOVE eating muffins for breakfast! They are the perfect food for me and my husband when we are on the go — I can eat them in the car relatively mess-free, take them to work in a packed lunch and have them survive relatively smoosh-free, and eat them in the movie theatre relatively guilt-free!

However, I am the first to admit that my mother was right when she warned me that muffins are really cookies in disguise. So, I have been on a quest to find healthy muffin recipes ever since.

What I've found is that most muffin recipes only have one or two factors that make them "unhealthy," like too much sugar or too much butter. FORTUNATELY, there are easy fixes for most of these problems that allow me to make the muffins healthier, while still enjoying this tasty treat.

Muffin Recipe Hack #1: Substitute butter with applesauce

People who are watching their cholesterol levels need to limit their intake of tasty, tasty butter. An easy solution is to replace butter with margarine, but this causes its own set of problems by increasing the amount of trans-fat.

Solution?: Apple Sauce! I recommend substituting half of the amount of butter called for in the recipe with apple sauce. If you don't mind a much denser muffin, you could even go whole hog and replace it all.

Muffin Recipe Hack #2: Substitute white flour with whole wheat flour

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Whole wheat flour is healthier (surprise!). I recommend replacing half of the amount of white flour called for in the recipe with whole wheat. Again, if you don't mind a much denser muffin, you could replace it all with whole wheat.

Muffin Recipe Hack #3: Reduce the amount of sugar

This is where matters of personal taste really become… well… personal. I prefer to leave my muffins largely unsweetened, and then add the sugar back after the muffins have baked in the form of jam or peanut butter. To do this, I simply reduce the amount of sugar. I try to not add more than one teaspoon of sugar per muffin into my recipe, so this means that if my recipe makes 12 muffins, I'd only add ¼ cup of sugar regardless of what the recipe calls for. You can reduce the amount of sugar to whatever you like without really affecting the texture of the muffins. Fair warning, though: NO sugar usually equals no taste!

Some people can't live without the sweetness, though, and I totally get it. You could replace sugar with sweetener, but I personally hate the chemical taste. One solution that works really well is ground nuts! Toast your favourite nuts in the oven for a few minutes and then grind them into a fine powder in a food processor. Warning: They shouldn't be processed for too long or they turn into nut butter. Substitute half of the sugar called for in the recipe with your "nut powder" (haha!) and you're good to go.

Muffin Recipe Hack #4: Add fresh fruit

Add up to 1 cup of fresh chopped fruit to any muffin recipe for an extra-tasty health boost. You may need to increase the baking time slightly.


So how do these tricks look in real life? Here is a "before and after" muffin recipe that I use ALL the time. As a side note, this recipe freezes beautifully as well.

Original oatmeal muffins (makes 12)

From Gourmet magazine, February 1995. Available on epicurious.com:

Ingredients:
• 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1 large egg, beaten lightly
• ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
• 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ cup dried currants

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, combine oats and buttermilk and let stand 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. and butter twelve ½-cup muffin tins.
  3. Add egg, sugar and butter to oat mixture, stirring until just combined.
  4. Into another large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and add to oat mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in currants.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin tins. Bake muffins in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Healthy-fied blueberry oatmeal muffins (makes 12)

Ingredients:
• 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1 large egg, beaten lightly
• ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
• ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
• ¼ cup apple sauce
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• ½ cup whole wheat flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, combine oats and buttermilk and let stand 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. and butter twelve ½-cup muffin tins.
  3. Add egg, sugar, butter and applesauce to oat mixture, stirring until just combined.
  4. Into another large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and add to oat mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in blueberries.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin tins. Bake muffins in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 22 minutes.

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About copycait

I am a high school English teacher, new mom, and food enthusiast.