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Hearty Vegan Morning Glory Breakfast Muffins


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These are the best vegan morning glory muffins! They’re hearty and full of texture, packed with crushed and grated fruit, carrots, ground flaxseed, nuts, and shredded coconut. The muffins provide healthful fats, complex carbs, and fiber for your daily nourishment, and they’re a great make-ahead breakfast option for busy weeks.

A white platter has been lined with golden brown, vegan morning glory muffins.

When I was in college, the campus cafe nearest to my dorm room sold plump, nutty, raisin-studded muffins called morning glory muffins.

I remember ordering one early in my first semester and thinking that I’d never eaten a muffin like it.

Most of the muffins that I knew and loved were on the sweet side. They were chocolate chip muffins, crumb muffins, double chocolate muffins, and lemon poppyseed muffins. All delicious, but not predominantly wholesome.

Morning glory muffins were both hearty and wholesome. Yet they were sweet and tender as well, a treat to eat with my cup of coffee before class.

I’d never heard of a morning glory muffin before. For a while, I thought that these muffins were unique to the little cafe outpost that sold them at my school.

I would later learn that these muffins weren’t some hyper-locale specialty. In fact, they have a pretty devoted fan base (me included).

In spite of the ups and downs of my relationship with food in those college years, the muffins remained a steady source of enjoyment for me.

I have happy memories of eating them while perched outside someplace on campus, watching other students come and go, between notebook scribbles in classes, and as I watched the sun rise from my dorm room.

After many iterations, I’ve finally created a vegan morning glory muffin that rivals the muffins that I remember.

What are morning glory muffins?

If you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting one of these muffins before, you’re in for a treat.

Google “morning glory muffin,” and you’ll find a variety of recipes. Some call for pineapple, others apple; some feature grated carrots and some don’t; some have coconut, some raisins, some both.

You’ll gather from any recipe you peruse that these muffins are meant to be wholesome.

So wholesome, in fact, that I’ve seen them described as “a hippie health food store muffin if there ever was one.”

If that means a whole lot of fiber in one sturdy little muffin, then yes.

The original morning glory muffin was created in 1978 by a chef named Pam McKinstry. At the time, she was the owner of a Nantucket eatery called the Morning Glory Cafe.

The cafe went on to close in 1994. But McKinstry’s muffins had at that point earned a national following. A reader reached out to Gourmet magazine requesting the recipe, and it was published in 1981.

By 1991, the muffins were chosen as one of the magazine’s twenty-five most popular recipes from the last fifty years.

The original muffin recipe includes coconut, carrots, apples, raisins, nuts, and pineapple chunks. It also contains a lot—a whole tablespoon!—of cinnamon.

My vegan recipe cuts back on the cinnamon and allows you to choose between applesauce or crushed pineapple. I prefer the taste of the latter, since it’s a more unique ingredient in baking. But home cooks are more likely to have applesauce in their pantries. Either will work.

Speaking of which, let’s go through the muffin ingredients, one-by-one.

Vegan morning glory muffin ingredients

It’s rare that I create a muffin recipe with so much nutrient-dense goodness in a single place! Here’s a list of what you’ll need.

All-purpose flour

My flour of choice for these muffins—and most of my vegan muffin recipes—is unbleached, all-purpose flour.

Years ago, when I was still writing for Food52, I made a morning glory muffin recipe that used whole grain flour.

I’m constantly re-testing and reiterating recipes, and what I’ve found over time is that even whole wheat pastry flour makes these muffins a bit too dense. They’ve already got a lot of weighty mix-ins; whole wheat flour just makes them denser.

All-purpose flour gives the muffins some lightness and fluffiness to counterbalance all of the sweet, moist ingredients inside.

Ground flaxseed

I’m not of the mind that egg needs replacing in every vegan recipe; sometimes I skip an egg replacer.

In other recipes, a flax egg—AKA a tablespoon of ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons of water, allowed to thicken up—can be helpful for binding. And that’s true in this recipe.

Flax seed also adds fiber and healthful, Omega-3 fatty acids to the muffins.

Crushed pineapple or applesauce

This is the fruit component of the recipe.

I use applesauce all the time in baking, so pineapple is a really fun departure for me. It also pairs well with the shredded coconut in the muffins.

If you don’t have a can of crushed pineapple at home, however, applesauce will also work well in the recipe.

If you don’t happen to have either fruit, you could used mashed, ripe banana instead.

Grated carrots

It’s always a win when a nutritious veggie can sneak gracefully into a breakfast muffin.

Carrots, along with the apple or pineapple, add natural sweetness to the recipe. They also add color, texture, fiber, and the antioxidant beta-carotene.

No carrots at home? Grated zucchini will also work—the muffins will just have a less orange color and be ever so slightly less sweet.

Grated apple

There may already be applesauce in the muffins, but grated apple just creates more goodness: more moisture, texture, fiber, and sweetness.

If you don’t have an apple handy, grated pear is also a nice alternative.

Brown sugar

Speaking of sweetness, there’s also some brown sugar present in these muffins.

I like to bake with light brown sugar, but dark brown sugar is also fine. If you prefer to use coconut sugar, that’s also a great option; it has a lovely, almost burnt sugar flavor.

Raisins

I know that raisins can be controversial—I’m always surprised by how many folks don’t care for them—but I love them.

Raisins add nice, juicy, chewy pockets to muffins and quick breads. I use them in my applesauce spice cake, my chewy vegan oatmeal raisin cookies, and in lots of other baked goods.

The raisins will add juiciness and (you guessed it) additional texture to your vegan morning glory muffins.

Walnuts

Walnuts add a hint of nutty flavor and some crunchy texture to the muffins.

I like baking with walnuts because they’re an especially nutrient-dense nut.

Walnuts are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also especially rich in antioxidants, including Vitamin E and various polyphenols—that are associated with cardioprotective effects.

If you’re allergic to walnuts, don’t have them, or don’t care for them, you can use chopped pecans, almonds, or cashews instead.

You can also trade chopped nuts for seeds, or you can omit the nuts altogether.

Coconut

If you’ve read my blog for a while, then you may recall that coconut is not one of my favorite flavors. As a result, I tend to be conservative with it in my recipes.

Even so, there’s a time and a place for grated coconut and its mildly sweet, distinctive notes. Morning glory muffins are such a place.

In fact, I think that the coconut is really what sets these muffins apart; without it, they’re not so different from my carrot raisin muffins or apple bran muffins.

There’s not a lot of grated coconut it in the muffins, but what’s there is important from a flavor perspective. Be sure to use unsweetened, grated coconut, rather than the sweetened kind.

Spices

Who else is ready for the scent of cinnamon and ginger filling the home as something delicious and sweet bakes in the oven?

I sure am. Such aromas are one of my favorite things about the fall.

The spices in these muffins are cinnamon and ginger. If you’d like to add a pinch of cardamom, allspice, or cloves, go for it.

Apple cider vinegar

Specifically, I tend to use homemade vegan buttermilk in my recipes to make the muffins rise. The acid in the buttermilk puts baking powder and baking soda to work, activating their chemical leavening properties.

So many components add moisture to the vegan morning glory muffins that buttermilk isn’t necessary.

Acid, though, is still important for the muffins to rise. So there’s a little apple cider vinegar included in the recipe.

Avocado oil

Sometimes I use melted vegan butter in my muffin recipes.

When I want a totally neutral flavor, however, avocado oil is my fat of choice.

For these muffins, I don’t want buttery flavor to compete with the coconut flavor or any of the muffin’s other delicious components, so avocado oil it is.

In place of avocado oil, you can use canola oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil, or a mild-tasting olive oil.

Can the muffins be made gluten-free?

Yes, the muffins can definitely be made gluten-free.

I don’t recommend a single type of gluten-free flour—for example, only oat flour, only almond flour, or only chickpea flour—in the muffins.

A gluten-free, all-purpose flour blend, however, works well in this recipe. My favorite is the King Arthur Measure for Measure flour.

How to make vegan morning glory muffins

Step 1: Prep your mix-ins

There are a lot of mix-ins for morning glory muffins: apples, carrots, nuts, etc. Preparing them is actually the most time-consuming step in this recipe, I think.

So: grate your carrots and apple, chop the walnuts, and create a mis-en-place with everything else.

While you’re at it, you can preheat the oven and line a muffin pan with liners.

From there, making the muffins is simple.

Step 2: Prepare your flax egg

In a small bowl, mix the ground flax seed and 3 tablespoons of warm water. This is the flax “egg” that will help to bind the muffins and give them structure.

Allow the mixture to thicken while you continue with the recipe.

Step 3: Whisk together your dry ingredients

You’ll want a relatively large mixing bowl for this step. The muffins produce a generous amount of batter, and this is the mixing bowl it will all end up in.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients when you’re done.

Step 4: Mix the wet ingredients

In a separate bowl, you’ll mix the oil, applesauce or pineapple, sugar, and vinegar (or lemon juice) together.

The wet ingredients will be added to that well in the dry ingredients, along with the flax “egg.”

A large mixing bowl holds whisked flour, with a liquid mixture poured into the center. The white mixing bowl rests on a white surface.
Add your wet ingredients to the center of the bowl with your whisked, dry ingredients.

You’ll fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until you have an evenly mixed batter. The batter will appear very thick, and that’s OK. The apple and carrot that you’re about to add will make the batter looser.

Step 5: Add the the mix-ins to the batter

Now it’s time to fold in all of those mix-ins that you’ve prepared. Do this with a spatula and some elbow grease, until the mix-ins are evenly distributed in the batter.

A white mixing bowl is filled with grated carrot, apple, coconut, raisins, and a batter underneath them all.
Your batter will appear quite thick until you add grated carrot and apple—along with your raisins, coconut, and walnuts.

Step 6: Bake

Transfer the batter by the heaping half cup to your prepared muffin pan. Don’t overfill each of the wells in the muffin pan—if you do, your muffins will have trouble rising.

Transfer the muffin pan to the oven and bake the muffins for 25-30 minutes. You’re aiming for the muffins to have a domed, firm top and an even, golden color.

A white tray is lined with golden brown muffins in muffin liners.
You can use a toothpick to check the muffins for doneness, but what I look for is a gently domed top and a golden brown color.

Step 7: Cool and enjoy (or store)

Cool the muffins for about 20 minutes before breaking them open and enjoying their lovely, sweet, coconutty scent and wholesome texture.

A round, white plate holds a hearty vegan morning glory muffin, which has been broken open to reveal a soft interior.
The interior of your muffins will be moist, soft, and studded with nuts, fruit, and carrots.

Meal prep and storage

These muffins are a great option for nutritious weekly meal prep. They’ll keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and can be frozen for up to 8 weeks.

The Vegan Week

Embrace the joy of eating homemade food every day with the hearty and wholesome recipes in The Vegan Week.

Whether you have three, two, or even just one hour of time to spare, The Vegan Week will show you how to batch cook varied, colorful, and comforting dishes over the weekend.

Buy The Vegan Week

I’ve labeled the muffins “breakfast muffins,” and yes, I think they’re a great option for vegan meal prep breakfasts. More than with other muffins, I like to enjoy them as I greet the day.

But of course, you can enjoy the muffins at other times of day. They make a great snack, and thanks to all of their fiber, they’re a snack with some staying power.

Fall muffin madness

Among the many things I love about fall, it’s baking season. And baking season means muffins, lots of them, because I’m a big vegan muffin fan.

If you’re a fan, too, here are some other muffin recipes to inspire you:

  • Blueberry crumb muffins
  • Strawberry muffins
  • Banana walnut muffins
  • Corn & jam muffins
  • Pumpkin cranberry walnut muffins
  • Apple bran muffins
  • Blueberry corn muffins
  • Berry hemp spelt muffins
  • Banana oat chia muffins

And here are the morning glory muffins that I fell in love with years ago and have been tinkering around with in my kitchen ever since.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (8g)
  • 3 tablespoons water (45ml)
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (240g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 tablespoons avocado oil (90ml)
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple or applesauce (225g, or 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar (150g)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 medium scrubbed and grated carrots (1 1/4 cups / 100g)
  • 1 large peeled and grated apple (3/4 cup / 110g)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (70g)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (30g)
  • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (20g)

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350F and line one or two muffin pans with liners. Alternatively, use a nonstick muffin pan or lightly oil a regular muffin pan to prevent sticking. 
  • In a small bowl, mix the ground flax seed and 3 tablespoons of warm water. Allow the mixture to thicken while you continue with the recipe.
  • Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger together in a large mixing bowl. 
  • In a separate bowl, mix the oil, applesauce or pineapple, sugar, and vinegar or lemon juice together. Add this mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients, followed by the flax mixture. Stir until the batter is just combined; it will be thick until you add the grated carrots and apple.
  • Fold in the grated carrots and apple, raisins, walnuts, and coconut. Mix until everything is evenly distributed. 
  • Transfer the batter by the 1/2 cup to your prepared muffin pan. Transfer the muffin pan to the oven. Bake the muffins for 25-30 minutes, or until domed and set on top and browning at the edges. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack and allow them to cool for 20 minutes before enjoying. 
  • Muffins will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and can be frozen for up to 8 weeks.
A vegan muffin, which has been wrapped in a brown paper muffin liner, rests on a small, round white plate.
A big batch of vegan morning glory muffins will give you a week of portable, convenient breakfasts and nutrient-dense snacks.

It’s the weekend, and weekends are a perfect time for baking. They’re also a great moment to get ahead on breakfasts, snacks, and other food for the week ahead.

Maybe these muffins will emerge from your oven in the next day or two. I hope you enjoy them!

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