Thursday, April 9, 2009

Vegan, Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes

You are in for a real treat today! The other night I had an early morning dream of these cupcakes with the recipe clearly spelled out for me. I was in sort of a lucid dream-like state and knew I needed to write it down. But alas, I have been exhausted caring for my children who have the chicken pox (and Tom who apparently did not have them as a child). So I fell back asleep with them playing on the bed. The next time I awoke I had the recipe in the forefront of my now awake mind. I asked my seven year old, Lily, to run and get me a pen and paper. I quickly wrote it down before it disappeared into my daily routine.

I don't know if it was because I was reading Shirley's GFE blog the other night and looking at her delectable chocolate cake or what - but this type of recipe is not the norm for me. I have never made anything completely from almond flour and vegan nonetheless!

But here it was, so I thought I should at least try it out. Since the only almond flour I had was Bob's Red Mill (a rather coarse blanched almond flour) this is what I used. The result was very tasty and brownie-like but too chunky. I knew there were finer ground almond flours out there, so I googled it. Lucy's Kitchen Shop popped up. I had heard of Lucy before because she is local and has written a Specific Carbohydrate Diet cookbook that was displayed next to our cookbook at our local Co-op when it first came out.

Naturally, I called her up to see how soon I could get some of this very finely ground flour. She was lovely to speak with and I paid over the phone and stopped by her house a few hours later to pick it up!

Today I tried them with my new flour and they are oh so delicious! Simple ingredients but the end result is rich and delicious with a full-bodied chocolate flavor. This cupcake is not for the faint at heart! I had planned on posting my Lemon Poppy Seed Tea Bread for Easter but since this recipe came to me I thought I would share this one.

Now, if you are willing, I would love to know what interests you the most as far as gluten-free baking goes. Vegan? Sugar-Free? Grain-Free? Nut-Free? Everything-Free? Just Gluten-Free? Your feedback will help me with the next book (hint, hint) I have been working on. I would love to hear from you! There is a "Comment" section you can click on at the bottom of each post where you can leave a little something for me to read. You can also email me but your note may get lost in the sea of emails I receive. (If I have not responded to an email you sent, I am very sorry, just busy, please send it again!)

Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

When making these be sure to use a finely ground blanched almond flour like the one mentioned above. I used Dagoba organic cocoa powder which is gluten-free. For the frosting I use Dagoba Chocodrops which are gluten-free and contain no soy lecithin. I use full fat coconut milk for both the frosting and cupcakes. 

3 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar 
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line one 12-cup muffin pan with paper muffin cups.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl whisk together the almond flour, cocoa powder, arrowroot, baking powder, sea salt, and xanthan gum. Use your fingers to break up any lumps from the cocoa or almond flour.

In a separate small bowl whisk together the remaining wet ingredients. Add the wet to the dry and whisk together well.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan. Bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Be careful with them, they are fragile when hot. Source:

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

This frosting also came to me in my dream. It is very easy to make, just be sure not to cook at too high a temperature otherwise the chocolate will burn. Now, if you are not interested in chocolate on top of chocolate then you can use the refined sugar-free frosting in this post instead.

1/2 cup Dagoba Chocodrops (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup canned coconut milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Place all ingredients into a small pot and heat over low heat. Stir continuously until melted and thickened, just about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Spoon over slightly warm or cooled cupcakes starting from the center. Sprinkle with shredded coconut if desired. Do not chill! Source:

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About the Author

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole foods diet. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. Dreaming of chocolate brownie cupcakes ... hmmm, that probably sounds familiar to many! ;-) LOL Seriously, what an awesome recipe. They are gorgeous and can work for so many special diets. Dreaming may help you finish your new book (how cool!)--you might not need our help after all! I just hope the rest of your dreams aren't from exhaustion, dear.

    I am so glad you found that flour. It sure sounds great, as does Lucy. Bob's is not great almond flour IMO. I don't have a Lucy, but I've heard Honeyville almond flour is great. I can always order that online. And, really as far as texture, all GF flours need to be finely ground--why aren't they? But, I digress ...

    I like gluten-free, dairy-free, and grain-free/flourless recipes, but probably a mix of "free" recipes will be good for satisfying everyone's needs.

    BTW, I haven't tried the Dagoba chips yet (remember ... no grocery stores that carry them around here), but I love that they don't contain soy. Last, too funny that my Mediterranean Chocolate Cake might have inspired you. :-) Thanks for the mention!


  2. Oh my, this looks yummy! Thanks for sharing your recipe.


  3. I am making chocolate and vanilla mini-cupcakes for Easter, but mine have to be nut-free in addition to being free of gluten, dairy, eggs and soy! I will be using a mix because I would have no idea how to do it otherwise! (hint hint for your cookbook)

  4. Love this recipe, can't wait to try. I just started a gluten-free blog, and I am starting my own Holistic Health Counseling business. I love your website and what you guys do. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. I hope your family recovers quickly!

    For your cookbook, I personally would like some recipes that are vegan and free of soy, nuts, gluten, and beans. Like Shirley said, it is probably best to have a mix. Thank you so much for your wonderful recipes!

  6. The cupcakes look great. We haven't really experimented much with almond flour. I feel like I'm still getting used to baking gluten-free, trying to tackle all the other -frees at the same time sounds daunting.

    Do baked goods made with almond flour have a almond-y taste?

  7. Oooh, these cupcakes look DELICIOUS. I can't wait to try them!

    I really appreciate that your recipes are mostly gluten, dairy, egg and refined-sugar free, as those are what I need, and they are hard to find together! I am also interested in a mix of recipes that are free of other things for when I'm experimenting with eliminating other items - soy can be particularly challenging if you like asian flavors (or buying ANYTHING in the stores). Thanks!

  8. This sounds very tasty, I'm going to make these for Easter. For your cookbook, I'd like to see a variety of w/o recipes but my main interest is gluten-free. I like to try everything so keep up the excellent work!!!

  9. Thanks for the great looking recipe... will definately try it for easter! I am always looking for recipes that are not only gluten free, but grain free while also limiting unhealthy carbohydrates. Unfortunately, I have yet to discover sweeteners that are lower in carbohydrates that don't taste like chemicals... the best I've found so far is agave which is at least low glycemic. Anything like that will make me love you for ever!!!!

  10. Your recipe looks great! I'm enjoying so many things on your blog. 3 out of 4 in the family are gluten free and vegan. And my husband adds to the mix a need for low fat to reverse atherosclerosis. Thanks for trying to help us all.


  11. I have a 12 year old with celiac and type 1 diabetes. Experts estimate that as many of 15% of type 1 diabetics also have celiac. I think you should empasize the fact that this recipe has a low carb count and uses agave as the sweetener. The low glycemic index of agave is great for kiddos like mine. My guy also has issues with dairy and egg. Keep the great recipes coming - Kerri in Colorado

  12. You are a very nice mommy to make chocolate cupcakes for your whole polka-spotted family! I have good memories of playing pretend connect the dots with my chicken pox to make my own constellations when I was little--it seems like connecting the dots to siblings and daddy might be more fun.

    As far as desserts, some first and second birthday treat ideas might be nice. Finding nice dessert treats that the little ones can enjoy is sometimes challenging.

    Are homemade graham crackers a gluten free possibility? Or is graham flour specifically a gluten filled thing? I have no idea since it never occurred to me to want to make graham crackers on my own in my pre-toddler years :-).

    I am not generally too into chocolate because chocolate things tend to make me feel ill, but now I am suspecting that it's the ingredients with chocolate (wheat, dairy, sugar, etc...) that cause problems and not the chocolate itself. Will almond flour have some of the protein content of the nuts? They look really yummy and I am excited to try them.

    Food dreams are yummy!

  13. Gluten-Free/Vegan/Whole Food recipes are the ones I love to see! Thanks so much for all your hard work!

  14. Wow these look so good, I want to take a bite right through the screen! Now I just need to order some of that flour!

  15. Hi Ali,
    Those cupcakes sound yummy. I will plan to make them when I can get the flour.
    In your new cookbook I would like to see, gluten, soy, dairy free, and also being a diabetic need to have some with agrave.
    Thanks for all your hard work enjoy your site so much.

  16. Thanks so much for the comments thus far! I very much appreciate hearing what interests you. I don't have time right now to respond to each of you so here is a quick synopsis:

    So far I have a mix of recipes, cupcakes too, some recipes contain nuts, most don't, none use bean flours (don't like them), most are potato-free - though I have found potato starch very useful in some recipes, lots are sugar-free - but not all. I am sure more will be grain-free now that I have 10 pounds of super fine almond flour!

    The almond flour gives a slight almond flavor in these cupcakes which I enjoy.

    I gave most of these away to friends as my daughter Lily does not like chocolate, my twins don't eat chocolate yet, and Tom is not feeling well (chicken pox got him).

    Ok - I think that just about covers it all. I may create some more recipes now based on some of this feedback. Looking forward to hearing more!

    -Ali :)

  17. Ali, so sorry to hear your dear family has come down with the chicken pox. I remember when my daughter had them, years ago. Oatmeal baths can be really helpful. I am looking forward to your next book! For me just gluten-free, I don't think I have a problem with any other foods.

  18. The "everything appraoch" seems to work best for our family, though we do indulge in a few sugar-sweetened treats once in a while. These cupcakes look divine, do you offer a nut-free version?
    Thanks for all you do!
    We are really looking forward to your next cookbook.

  19. I am so excited to hear of a new cookbook from you! I picked up the other one last year at the (Bellingham) Co-op. Newly gluten-free, I am looking forward to taking a cooking class from you as well.
    I would love to see many lactose/dairy free recipes included too, and maybe some recipes using Stevia as the only sweetener. I would LOVE to see some other recipes, or ideas, for candida as well - no mushrooms, vinegars, etc.
    Looking forward to your book. Good luck with the spotty family. :)

  20. Personally I'd like to see some hypoallergenic recipes that would also be appropriate for someone recovering from adrenal fatigue. I'm also curious to learn some new ways to use millet and wild rice.

  21. And soy free! I am making these tomorrow to take over to a new special someone's house.

  22. I will definitely be purchasing your new cookbook when it comes out! I would love to see a few recipes in your book that are gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and soy-free all within the same recipe. These are hard to find. Looking forward to your new book!

  23. These look sensational and I can't wait to try them! I'm intrigued by them being vegan, grain free, sugar free and chocolate! Thanks!


  24. Hello, Ali, from Arkansas... You have your hands full with the pox, it sounds like. I wish all the kiddos and esp. Tom a speedy recovery... You need him!! We love almond meal - I often throw a bit into pancakes or whatever I'm baking. I'm most interested in egg-free since that is our known allergy. But also, I really appreciate your use of a variety of nutritious grains and other ingredients, just to add more vitamins and minerals and diversity to our diets. Also, sweet-tasting, but sugar-free/low glycemic works well for us. Those cupcakes look tasty!! xo - April

  25. Hey Ali!
    Holy bamoly!! These look SUPER yum.
    Now if only those Dagoba Chocodrops did not have cane sugar in them. I wrote to them about this, but they said the market for an alternative sweetened chocolate chip was not large enough. Dang!
    As for what I like in a cookbook- dairy, gluten, soy, and cane sugar free are the main ones. I also cannot have white potato. I LOVE chocolate. So, dairy sugar gluten free chocolate recipes (like this cupcake!!) would be fantastic :-D
    Main course meals free of all those things are always appreciated too since I get stuck in a rut with the same old stuff all the time.
    You are great, thanks for this recipe!! <3

  26. You and Shirley are going to get me baking yet. You keep tempting me with these delicious looking chocolate treats that have all the ingredients I can eat. I know if I bake them I won't be able to control myself so I'll need to have a party and invite everyone over to give them a try. Now I just need to order some almond flour. It keeps popping up in different blogs I'm reading. Elana's Pantry has written a whole cookbook on it. I still don't know how you have time for all of this. Hope everyone is finally healthy!

  27. When you say do not chill, do you mean don't chill the whole cupcakes or just the frosting before you put it on the cupcakes (as it would go solid and therefore not spread?).



  28. Thanks for all of the comments everyone, I very much appreciate your feedback! I will let you know more about the book in the coming months.

    Helen - yes - do not chill the frosting or the cupcakes w/frosting because it will become very hard.

  29. i am so glad that i found your blog today. i am nursing a wheat-dairy-nut-allergic child, so i am naturally eating the same way.

  30. These cupcakes are divine Ali! I am so happy you had this dream. We have made them twice already and they are perfect each time. I have shared them with friends and told them about your blog. I keep meaning to leave a comment but have not had a chance until now, hope its not too late.

    I am most interested in egg-free, gluten-free baking using whole food ingredients.

    Thanks again! Lillian B.

  31. Ali - thanks so much for your generosity in sending me home with a few of these lovely muffins. I couldn't believe they were gluten and dairy free! My daughter, husband, and I absolutely loved them!
    Thanks again!

  32. I was looking for something creative like this. Then tried this awesome recipe. This recipe does not disappoint. It's a snap to prepare and really tasty & healthy.

  33. The recipe is great! I agree with the comments on the almond flour being on the coarse side. I make my own almond milk, and I find that the almond meal I strain away from the milk is about the perfect consistency for this recipe. Its also a lot less expensive and far easier to come by.

  34. Hi Ali, having recently started on the candida diet, I'm interested in sugar/wheat/gluten free recipes (most recipes I find have at least one of these ingredients). It's so hard to find tasty ones. Yours seem very appealing, although I'm not sure if agave can be replaced by the allowable diet sweeteners (stevia/xylithol), without suffering on the taste. Any suggestions? Breakfast/dessert recipes would be great. Thank you!

  35. Thanks for your comments, Susan - Lucy's Kitchen Shop sells the perfect type of blanched almond flour for this recipe - the link is in the post. The strained off almond pulp sounds like a creative way to use it up - I might try that sometime, thanks. :)

    Val - I followed the Body Ecology Diet about 10 years ago with great results, none of my symptoms returned after going off the diet. I would recommend this book. The only allowable grains are millet, amaranth, and quinoa. Quinoa for breakfast is yummy. You can make a topping by cooking fresh (or frozen) cranberries in a skillet with cinnamon and stevia with a little water to create a sauce for the quinoa. For desserts using xylitol/stevia I would recommend going to Lauren's Healthy Indulgences blog - it is gluten free/sugar-free. She uses xylitol to sweeten. Also check out Kelly's Spunky Coconut Blog (and her cookbook). Both links are in the sidebar under "Other Gluten-Free Blogs" - hope this helps! -Ali :)

  36. I made these cupcakes earlier today and they were a big hit! So delicious! They were rich and sweet. The coconut milk and almonds makes them moist and creamy.Honestly you don't miss the grains at all.
    I must admit that the almond flour is a little pricey where I live in Hawaii, 3 cups was $12.99 at my local health food store.
    Regardless, I absolutely recommend these to everyone!
    Thank you so much for this recipe.

  37. Looks good. I'm thinking about trying it. I'm trying to be meat-free and grain free and sugar free but not vegan. Anybody have any books or sites to recommend?

  38. I've got these in the oven now and they look awesome. The batter was delicious. I ground my own almonds and didn't quite have 2.5 cups, so added .5 cups of millet flour. And I don't have grapeseed oil, but did have macadamia nut oil, so subbed this. The batter tastes like chocolate and peanut butter. Yummm....

    Thank you! I love grain-free baking!

  39. My vote would be for gluten free and vegan. As we're not dealing only gluten allergies but also dairy & egg allergies. I just discovered your blog and I'm really looking forward to trying your 'dream cupcakes'.

  40. These cupcakes are spectacular. My favorite GF recipe so far...and vegan to boot! As for the nut free thing (I didn't read all the comments to see if it was addressed) I also tried it with a combination of GF flours such as Sourghum, Brown Rice and Buckwheat. Also, if out of Arrowroot, corn starch worked as a great alternative. YUM!

    Thanks so much for this fabulous recipe.


  41. I am very interested in GF, vegan, and sugar free baking. My partner has sensitivities to all of these things, but I love baking. I've been using Cybele Pascal's cook books which I like. And, I've also been venturing into converted my own recipes. I'm having a ball and so glad to find your web site. I've also got your cook book and looking forward to the next one.

  42. I really appreciate attempts at grain-free / sugar-free baking, but it worries me that so many people seem to accept agave as a healthy substitute for sugar. Agave is just another concentrated sweetener and is actually higher in fructose than high-fructose corn syrup! Consumption of concentrated fructose has been proven to be a huge contributor to metabolic syndrome, and thus diabetes and heart disease.

    I know some people have a hard time with the idea of giving up sweeteners altogether and everyone ultimately has to make their own decisions regarding what's right for them and their fmaily. But please don't fool yourself into thinking that agave is a health food or is somehow not sugar.

  43. Thanks so much for this recipe. I have been searching the web for a cupcake recipe that uses almond flour and frosting that uses agave! I make my own almond milk and love using the meal that is left over for gluten free breads and deserts. I found that if you dehydrate the almond meal that is left over from the almond milk process, it works great in baking.
    I will definitely be making these today.

  44. re: Gluten-free Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes. I made this recipe this afternoon. I have tried many, many recipes that don't contain flour, eggs, sugar or butter and NONE turned out nearly as good as this one! THank you so much for creating it. The cupcakes are delicious, moist and hold together perfectly. My husband who turns his nose up at my usual creations ate one and pronounced it delicious.
    I altered it a bit, using only 1 teaspoon of baking soda and honey instead of agave nectar, and I had to cook it 5 minutes longer and I didn't make the icing - it doesn't need it.
    Here's a question for you: have you seen a cookbook for fermented foods? I'm experimenting with various liquids in place of milk - the latest was corn milk I blended up, but it's not that great.

  45. This recipe sounds great. I can't wait to try it. For the cookbook I would love to see Vegan and Sugar free recipes.

  46. These chocolate brownie cupcakes are DELICIOUS! So moist and sweet - but not too sweet! I love that they are relatively low glycemic, composed of whole foods, easy/quick to prepare (and bake!), and FUDGY! My husband really likes them too! We didn't frost our brownies since they are sweet enough and we plan on freezing some for a quick breakfast or snack after our baby girl arrives! Thanks for the great recipe!

  47. These still taste great after freezing (and reheating in the microwave) but are pretty crumbly...any suggestions for making subsequent batches? I was thinking of adding an additional 1/8 tsp of xanthan gum or possibly an egg...Thanks!

  48. I am very interested in gluten and sugar free. Recent studies have shown that agave nectar is equally as bad as sugar, so regretably, I don't consider these sugar free.

  49. I'm always looking for gluten free and sugar free baking ideas! I can only tolerate 1 tsp of honey or agave at one time, so I have to reduce the amounts of sweetener in your recipe. How about a book with more recipes like that? I do use stevia a lot, but I don't like it much in far.

  50. Made these last week as a treat for the husband and I finished them in three days! So fantastically rich! I used Bob's Red Mill almond meal since that was all I had on hand, and they have definite texture, but I think that adds to the "brownie" experience.

    I WILL make these again, and hopefully won't snack too much on the batter next time :)

  51. WOW! These cupcakes are amazing! I ordered Lucy's almond flour as you suggested and was so happy with these. I'm grain-free, egg-free, dairy-free etc right now, and these deliciously moist cupcakes were exactly what I've been hoping for! THANK YOU! :)

  52. going to bake these today!! i love the natural sugar recipes that are gf and vegan.....i would love to have recipes in my dreams...means you are definitely doing something your are passionate about! thank you for the blog, can't wait for the cookbook!

  53. These cupcakes are fantastic! These are the first things that my 16 year old son has really loved since I started cooking gf. We decided to top these with your raspberry sauce. I used your blueberry sauce recipe and subbed raspberries. They were delicious. Thank you for your cookbook and your blog.


  54. I am really interested in making this recipe but I'm wondering if you have a substitute for the Xantham Gum to make these truly grain-free. Thank you!

  55. I am really interested in sugar-free baking - I'm on a (moderate) candida diet so the sugar-free recipes are fantastic for me! I've checked out other gluten-free blogs/cookbooks but a lot of them still use sugar, so I'm happily trolling through this site for the sugar-free recipes!

  56. I should specify - I'm particularly interested in sugar-free baking that uses stevia, applesauce, etc., rather than agave or honey, which I use in very small quantities but try to avoid.

  57. Yes Agave nectar is a well marketed sugar it is as strong on your pancreas-

    It's a starch similar to corn syrup. On that note re sugar you might like this interview to help kick the habit!

    I have yet to give it up completely myself...but this has inspired me to find your blog.

    I like the look of your cupcakes, Im thinking on what to sub your syrup with maybe mashed banana except due to our disastrous rain storms last year bananas are at a premium and rising here in Australia. Maybe smidge Stevia with something moist...

    You can easily make almond flour by grinding whole or slivered or flaked or blanched almonds in a coffee grinder. Grind it again to refine it. X

  58. posted on my Facebook for all my Whole food friends to see!

  59. would these work without the xanthan gum? It is corn-derived, so not technically grain free (but more importantly we have a corn allergy). Also we're on GAPS so we have to use you have an idea of what the measurement would be for honey?

  60. Joyful Melody - Yes! You can make them without the xanthan gum, just add an extra 2 tablespoons of arrowroot in the dry ingredients (I don't think starches are GAPS friendly though) and use honey or coconut nectar to replace the agave, and melted coconut oil in place of the grapeseed oil. I modified this recipe a while back and put it into our new cookbook:

    Enjoy! -Ali :)

  61. Just shared on my FB page :-). My readers love it!

  62. I'm brand new here, my naturopathic doctor sent me here to try one new recipe a week. I really love the looks of these recipes! I love baking, but my daughter has a kid in class with a tree nut allergy so all almond products are out. Is there somewhere to figure out a conversion of the different flours listed on this website? If I don't have one, but another how much do I use? Is it one for one?For example, what can I substite for the almond flour in this yummy looking recipe?

  63. Hello,

    I'm doing a full elimination diet. (no corn, gluten, soy, citrus, chocolate, coffee, tea, sugar, dairy or eggs.) I'm looking at the post for
    "Vegan, Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes" and wondering what to substitute for Dagoba Chocodrops. I am subbing carob powder for cocoa but am unsure about the chocodrops. Thanks!

    1. for whomever posted this, you can use carob chips i would imagine. Available in most health food stores.

  64. thank you posting the recipe, I am grateful.
    I had a difficult time with these, they looked great, and then sank. I wonder if overmixing them does that, or too much flour? I used honeyville flour, and followed the recipe as well. I did have a lot of batter, and filled them full. I wonder if I had filled them less, if they won't have sunk. Just wondering if any feedback.
    Thank you again, I enjoy your site, and have had much success with other recipes.

  65. I'm looking to make these for my son's birthday this weekend... wondering if these (along with your other cakes and cupcakes) can be made ahead and frozen? Hoping so as they look delicious!!

  66. in case any one hasn't mentioned it already, if you have a high-powered blender like a vita-mix or a juiceman smoothie machine, you can buy the coarse flour (because it's easier to find) and grind it finer on the highest setting.


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