Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grain-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

After multiple failed attempts to create a grain-free, nut-free, refined sugar-free cupcake recipe I finally got it! We couldn't decide whether or not to call these muffins or when frosted they are cupcakes and when plain they are muffins. I sweeten these little treats using pureed medjool dates. Combined with the coconut flour, they taste fairly sweet!

I have found that different brands of coconut flour yield very different results. Most of my coconut flour creations needed to be composted (ok, I have much more experience using grain flours) until I began using a different brand of coconut flour. Has anyone else experienced this? If you bake with coconut flour, what is your favorite brand? Please leave a comment if you have a moment. I have had best results using the Let's Do Organic! brand of coconut flour.

For detailed instructions on making your own pumpkin puree go to the post I did last year on How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Puree. It is important to make it correctly otherwise your puree could end up too moist which would affect how the cupcakes turn out. I use a Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe I posted over a year ago. I didn't have any opened jars of applesauce so I used 1/4 cup of Tom's freshly made dairy-free coconut yogurt (I normally use 2 tablespoons applesauce). I also increased the coconut oil to 6 tablespoons.

Grain-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes with Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting

These moist and spicy grain-free cupcakes are made with coconut flour and sweetened only with medjool dates. You’ll need a high-powered blender such as a Vitamix to make these. I use soft medjool dates that are not soaked first so a regular blender just wouldn’t be able to puree them. Use fresh, homemade pumpkin puree or canned in this recipe. You can also use any type of winter squash puree if sugar pie pumpkins are unavailable. I like to bake and puree a lot of pumpkins in autumn and then freeze the puree in 2-cup containers to use throughout the year.

Dry Ingredients:
½ cup coconut flour
½ cup arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups pumpkin puree
1 cup soft medjool dates, pitted
½ cup melted coconut oil
4 large organic eggs
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 recipe Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting
freshly grated nutmeg for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add all of the wet ingredients to a high-powered blender, blend until smooth and creamy, pulsing if needed.

Scoop out wet ingredients with a rubber spatula and whisk into the dry ingredients until combined.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each cup to the top. Gently smooth the top of each with your fingertips. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes and cool on a wire rack. If you want to frost these, wait until they are completely cooled. Then top each cupcake with a little freshly grated nutmeg.

If you make the frosting recipe, pour it into a bowl after you blend it and place it in your freezer for 30 to 40 minutes (stirring every 10 minutes or so). This will cause it to solidify to a spreadable consistency. Source:

More Pumpkin Recipes:
Spiced Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Quinoa Cornbread
Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

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. These look amazing, and the frosting is genius! Can't wait to try it! I would love to have you submit to this month's "Go Ahead Honey it's Gluten Free" roundup that I'm hosting - "spiced desserts" if you like:
    Thanks for sharing another great recipe post!

  2. Hi...These cupcakes look great and I love pumpkin. I was wondering if there is a replacement for the coconut flour and oil. Thanks

  3. This post is really helpful. It's nice to have a tried and true grain free recipe because it does take a lot of tries to convert . Yours looks great, and I love the idea of the puree. I use Let's Do it Organic Coconut Flour.

  4. These look incredible. Let me ask you - do you use white-fleshed sweet potatoes in your frosting? I'm all scratching my head wondering how the frosting isn't orange. LOL

  5. Ali, since I haven't cooked with coconut flour and can eat nuts, do you suppose that substituting finely ground almond flour might work?


  7. Ali,
    Last night I discovered that the brand/type of coconut flour does make a big difference. I have in the past, ground my own flour and used it in a recipe for bagels. Twice, I tried the bagels and they are to soupy. I think it has to do with how fine the flour is ground. Mine is more corse than Bob's Red Mill. At least that is my theroy. I will be trying different ones today. I got the bagel recipe from the "spunky coconut" so I know it's me and not the recipe. :) I'm looking forward to trying your muffins~

  8. These look fabulous, Ali! I recently made some grain-free pumpkin cupcakes myself, sweetened with maple syrup and frosted with a peanut butter frosting. :) I love the rise that yours have. I always forget to add apple cider vinegar to my baked goods...I think that really helps with the rise. Looks delish!

  9. These look great, and I am always eager to try grain free options. I made several of Elana Amsterdam's cupcakes with Bob's Red-Mill Coconut Flour. They all turned out, but I wasn't a huge fan of the texture or taste..I think it was all the eggs! What brand were you using that wasn't working for you? I'll try your recipe and let you know if there are any gluten, grain, AND egg free really challenges the basic baking chemistry formulas out there!

  10. Ali... you never said which brand of coconut flour that you ended up using. I've only used Bob's Redmill, and have had some good success with it in other recipes. I wonder if different flours have varying fiber content effecting density?

  11. I like Tropical Traditions coconut flour. I have not tried Bob's Red Mill, because the Tropical Traditions works so well I haven't needed to experiment.

  12. Ali,
    First - congratulations on your beautiful new little miracle! It must be so wonderful to have a newborn in the house again ;0)

    I was very excited about these cupcakes until I saw that the recipe has eggs in it. Bummer! But I am equally excited about the frosting! It looks fabulous, and by far the healthiest recipe I have come across yet. I was hoping you could share how you make coconut yogurt? I have tried, and just cannot get it to work.
    Your website blesses us so much! Thank you!

  13. I want so badly to be able to use coconut flour because of its versatility. Does anyone know if different brands are easier on the stomach than others? I get a case of Montezuma's revenge with it. Sorry, tmi, I know. It is probably the same with all brands, but I thought I'd ask just in case. :)

  14. These look totally amazing and I love that you are dabbling in the grain-free world! I am on the GAPS diet and can't have arrowroot because it is too much starch. Are there any substitutes that you recommend I can make for the arrowroot and still have the cupcake turn out? Thanks for the wonderful blog...yours is my favorite! ;)

  15. Absolutely amazing! I love cooking with coconut flour,but haven't used it as the majority of the 'flour' in my recipes, it's usually in combination with others. Divine :)

  16. Thanks everyone and happy Autumn!

    Anon - You'd need to experiment using different flours, I have no idea how to convert this recipe using something other than coconut flour. The coconut oil can easily be replaced with grapeseed oil, light olive oil, or melted butter.

    Alta - Yes, I use the white fleshed sweet potatoes which also have a very light-colored skin.

    Sarah - I really don't know if you could sub in almond flour for the coconut flour. Coconut flour behaves very differently in baking compared to all other flours. It absorbs a lot of moisture! Let me know if you have any success with it.

    Dot - I don't think a food processor would be able to puree the wet ingredients to a smooth enough consistency.

    Sarah - It could be the flour. However, I have found that I need to add either more flour or less moisture to Kelly's recipes (spunky coconut) because I live in a very moist climate at sea level and she bakes in a dry climate at around 5000 ft. This can also make a huge difference, and so can the type of flour.

    Tessa/JennL - I found that the Let's Do Organic! brand of coconut flour works best. It was late last night when I was typing up the blog post and should have put that in. I will add it now, thank you!

    Stephanie - Yes we are planning on sharing the yogurt recipe on the blog. :)

    Christine - Thank you! I really don't know what other grain-free flour you could sub in for the arrowroot. I could not get these to work w/o adding it. If you can figure it out I would love to know. :)

  17. Is it possible to cook with coconut flour without using lots of eggs? I am definitely interested in a vegan option. Also, I'm looking forward to that coconut yogurt recipe, as I haven't had success with dairy-free, soy-free yogurt either. Love your website and cookbook!

  18. What a fabulous recipe. I have all of the ingredients on hand, so I will be making these on the weekend (I'm make them right now if I hadn't already spent too much time in the kitchen making your quinoa flake almond butter cookies (from the blog) and a loaf of bread (from your cookbook). Thank you whole heartily for the truly beautiful recipes.

  19. These look SO AWESOME! I can't wait to try them. Thanks for the great share!

  20. FYI, did it all in a cuisenart food processor with no problems!

  21. Oh and I used Bob's Red Mill Coconut Flour and they turned out too!

  22. chs - I am not sure about not using eggs with coconut flour. At least, I have not had much success creating vegan coconut flour recipes. Maybe others have?

    Tessa - Thank you so much for the feedback, really appreciate it! :)

  23. Funny. Me and two other friends have had the worst luck ever many times w/the Lets do Organic! brand. It took awhile to figure out the problem but when you (we) use it for egg heavy recipes it makes a gluey mess. Bob's Red Mill works great for all of us. I suspect it depends on the recipe and egg ratio but so interesting how different people have better or worse luck with different ingredients. I am going to try this recipe w/Bob's tonight. Thank you!

  24. I asked the question about what to substitute for eggs in a recipe I found on another blog.
    The answer I received was to use white chia seeds.
    Grind the seeds and make Chia gel. 1T of chia gel equals 1 egg.
    To make Chia gel mix 3 T water and 1 T white chia seed meal. Let sit 5 to 10 min.
    Grind Chia seeds in a blender or spice grinder. If you make a larger amount, put in an air tight container and freeze for up to 1 year.
    Hope this helps.

  25. Ali, thank you for another amazing recipe. Your recipes always turn out beautifully on the first try for me - and this one was no different. I'd say it was a hit with my family of four as well because the whole dozen disappeared in just two hours!

  26. These are really delicious! The texture is soft, moist and almost a little custardy. I used the Bob's coconut flour w/good results. Thank you!

  27. WOW! This is interesting. I haven't tried baking using coconut flour. I wonder what will be the texture of the cupcake and of course its taste. Thanks for the recipe. Will try it this weekend.

  28. YUM. I don't eat grains and try not to eat refined sugar, so these were an incredible treat. (Heck, they'd be a treat even if I did eat grains!) I topped them with my usual cream cheese and butter frosting.

    I used Tropical Traditions coconut flour. Also, a quarter-cup butter and a quarter-cup coconut oil. They were done in 27 minutes.

    Oh, and the recipe worked great in a Blendtec if anyone is wondering. :)

    Thanks so much.

  29. I made these this weekend for my family and they were a huge hit! I'm going to make them again adding in some chocolate chips...we love our chocolate and it pairs so well with pumpkin! Thank you for sharing and I received notice that your new cook book has been shipped to me...can't wait to try more new recipes!

  30. Well poop, my cupcakes came out very dense and wet still after an hour of cooking. I must have used too much moisture! Dang it I hate wasting all my gluten free ingredients! haha oh well will have to try again! :) the dough tastes good though!

  31. I also use Let's Do Organic brand coconut flour.

    I wanted to share that I made a serendipitous mistake with my most recent batch of these awesome muffins. I mixed in the whole 16-oz can of pumpkin purée before I remembered that the recipe only calls for a portion of it. To balance out the extra wet ingredients, I added one cup of blanched almond flour (Honeyville Farms). The muffins came out perfectly! The pumpkin flavor really comes through and further mediates the sweetness of the dates.

  32. Hi Ali,
    Just wondering if I could use soaked dates for this recipe. Easier on my blender...which is not a vitamix :(

  33. I clicked on the link for the frosting and it brought me to the cinnamon roll recipe. I also did a search and again the frosting recipe didn't come up. Am I doing something wrong? I would really love to see the recipe. It looks amazing! Thank you!

    1. The frosting recipe is within the cinnamon roll recipe. Toward the bottom :)

  34. The recipe is a keeper! The muffins are very good!! Baking with coconut flour tends to be dry, these are perfect, tasty and moist!


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Thanks and Happy Cooking! ~Ali :)