Carrot Cake Muffins

Carrot Cake Muffins

These delightful little carrot cake muffins could not be tastier or easier to assemble. You make them in a single bowl with a whisk and a spatula, and all the ingredients you need are likely already in your pantry.

Cream Cheese + Carrot Cake = Heaven

We stuff these cuties with tangy, unsweetened cream cheese because cream cheese and carrot cake are a match made in heaven. The cream cheese also provides a nice contrast to the lightly sweet muffin. Think slice of carrot loaf cake with a smear of cream cheese and you’ll understand what you’re getting into here.

Sugar and Spice Swaps

We prefer brown sugar in this recipe for the molasses-like flavor it imparts, but you can substitute granulated sugar if desired. To streamline the recipe, we kept the spices to a minimum—just some cinnamon, in fact—but feel free to add a little ginger or cardamom if that’s how you roll.

How to Grate the Carrots

Using oil instead of butter in a muffin recipe makes them really easy to mix together and keeps them super moist (oil + carrots = moist muffins for days). The most “difficult”—if you can call it that—part of this recipe is grating the carrots. We like to use our food processor’s grater attachment, but you can also use a box grater.

When to Serve These Muffins (Hint: Anytime)

These muffins are obviously perfect for breakfast, but would also make a great late morning snack with a cup of coffee, an after-school snack for the kids (or you), or a lovely late-night treat while binge-watching tv. Bottom line: they are fantastic whenever the craving hits.

“These have a great mix of savory and sweet thanks to the addition of the tasty cream cheese center and the crunchy turbinado sugar topping. These are definitely at their best when served warm so make sure to give them a quick reheating before indulging.” —Noah Velush-Rogers

Carrot Cake Muffins/Tester Image A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (213 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 2 large eggs

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed grated carrots, 2 to 3 medium carrots

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

  • Turbinado sugar, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    carrot cake muffin ingredients gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  2. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 F.

    muffin pan lined with muffin liners

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  3. Whisk the brown sugar, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl until combined.

    brown sugar mixed with wet ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  4. Whisk in the eggs one at a time.

    eggs whisked into brown sugar mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  5. Sprinkle the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the bowl one at a time, vigorously whisking after each.

    spices and baking powder being added to wet ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  6. Gently fold in the flour with a silicone spatula just until a few streaks remain.

    flour folded into to batter with spatula

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  7. Fold in the carrots.

    shredded carrots folded into batter

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  8. Place 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of batter in the bottom of each muffin cup.

    small amount of batter scooped into muffin tin

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  9. Dollop 2 teaspoons of cream cheese into the center of each cup.

    dollop of cream cheese added to each muffin cup

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  10. Place another 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of batter over the cream cheese.

    Muffin cups filled with more batter

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  11. Sprinkle each muffin with turbinado sugar.

    muffin batter sprinkled with sugar before baking

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

  12. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, rotating at the halfway point, until a wooden skewer inserted into the side of one of the muffins comes out with a moist crumb or two attached (you don't want to insert it into the middle, or you'll jab the cream cheese). Serve warm or at room temperature.

    muffins from oven being tested with a toothpick

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

Tips

  • When finely grating the carrots, you can use a food processor or a box grater.
  • Do not aggressively pack the measuring cups with the grated carrots. They should be loosely packed.
  • Add the carrots when you can still see streaks of flour in the mixing bowl, so you don't over mix the batter.
  • A small 2-tablespoon portion scoop works great for portioning the batter into the muffin cups, if you have one.
  • You will know the muffins are done when they are dry to the touch (but don't burn yourself) and when a wooden skewer inserted into the side comes out with a moist crumb or two attached.
  • The tops of the muffins may pucker and dip a little once baked due to the cream cheese filling. If you do not use the cream cheese, they will dome.

Recipe Variations

  • Use granulated sugar instead of light brown sugar.
  • Add additional spices for a more complex flavor, such as 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom.
  • Divide the cream cheese into teaspoon-size bits and fold the bits into the batter before you fill the cups, rather than placing two teaspoons in the center of each muffin.
  • If you want straight-up carrot muffins, simply omit the cream cheese.
  • For carrot cake cupcakes (instead of muffins) omit the cream cheese centers and dip the cooled muffins into this cream cheese glaze, or drizzle it on top.

How to Store

The muffins can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Due to the cream cheese, they cannot be left out on the counter. These muffins do not freeze well, again, due to the cream cheese.

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