Two types of savory vegan muffins: Pumpkin-miso and Carrot-onion-hazelnuts

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I think mini muffins are great for bentos. They are tiny, easy and fast to make, freeze beautifully, and defrost naturally by lunchtime if you take them out of the freezer in the morning. They are handy snacks to eat when your energy is running low but you don't have time to stop and eat properly, and are also great accompaniments to a soup or salad.

I do not like very sweet muffins, like those monster ones sold at certain fast-food-coffee franchises. Why call it a muffin, when it's really a cupcake without icing? So when I make my own muffins, I like savory ones or at least ones that are not loaded with sugar.

Here are two savory-yet-sweet muffins that are also vegan. The bright orange winter squash or pumpkin muffins have the added twist of miso, which gives them a unique flavor. These muffins don't rise much, but they are crispy on the outside and have a light, almost creamy texture on the inside. The carrot-onion-hazelnut muffins are a bit lighter and fluffier. Both have only 2 tablespoons each of maple syrup in them - the natural sweetness of the vegetables makes up for it. Plus, each batch only has 2 1/2 tablespoons of oil. Made as mini-muffins they only have 40-45 calories per muffin. Even as regular size muffins they are only around 100 calories per piece. The non-dieting omnivore loves both of them regardless, though he says he has a slight preference for the pumpkin ones.

Recipe 1: Pumpkin (or winter squash) miso muffins

Makes 24 mini-muffins, or 10 regular size muffins (put some water into the 2 empty muffin compartments when baking). Mini-muffins are 45 calories each, regular size ones about 103 calories each.

  • 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin or winter squash puree, homemade or from a can (I cook winter squash in the oven until soft and scoop out the flesh, or cut it up into small pieces and cook it with a little bit of water in a heavy pan until soft.)
  • 1 tsp. Garam Masala
  • 2 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. mild white miso
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk (or regular milk, if you're not concerned with keeping these vegan)
  • 1 cup all purpose white flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 180°C / 375°F. If necessary, oil or spray your muffin tins.

Mix together the wet ingredients: the pumpkin puree, spices, maple syrup, olive oil, miso and soymilk until thoroughly blended.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix into the wet ingredients. If it looks too stiff, add a tiny bit of soy milk.

Spoon evenly into muffin tins. Bake for 15-18 minutes for mini muffins, 22-25 minutes for regular size. The muffins will not rise much, but will be lightly browned on top. Cool on a rack. To freeze, pack in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag.

Recipe 2: Carrot, onion and hazelnut muffins

Makes 24 mini-muffins, or 10 regular size muffins (put some water into the 2 empty muffin compartments when baking). Mini-muffins are 42 calories each, regular size ones about 100 calories each. This one is inspired by one in Saisai Lunch.

  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • Oil for cooking vegetables
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (or other nuts)
  • Grated rind of 1/2 lemon (about 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. maple syrup
  • Several grinds of coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup all purpose white flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch baking soda

Preheat oven to 180°C / 375°F. If necessary, oil or spray your muffin tins.

Sauté the carrot and onion in a little olive oil until limp and lightly browned. Toast the chopped up nuts lightly in the same pan.

Combine the sautéed vegetables with the soymilk, lemon juice (the soymilk with curdle a bit - don't worry, it's supposed to), olive oil, maple syrup, pepper and salt. Mix well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda and add to the wet ingredients. Add the nuts. Mix until just combined. If it's too stiff, add a tiny bit of soy milk.

Spoon evenly into muffin tins. Bake for 15-18 minutes for mini muffins, 22-25 minutes for regular size. . The muffins will rise a bit more than the pumpkin muffins but not that much, since they have no egg in them, but not to worry - they'll still be light. Cool on a rack. To freeze, pack in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag.

See also

These non-vegan (has egg and cheese) zucchini basil muffins also work well as savory muffins, mini-size or regular size.