Easy Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes (Gluten-Free)

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Side view of a vegan vanilla cupcake with buttercream frosting and sprinkles

What started as a quest to perfect vegan gluten-free pound cake morphed into creating the most perfect vanilla cupcake we’ve laid taste buds on. Friends, these vegan vanilla cupcakes are a must-try: 1 bowl, 10 ingredients, naturally sweetened, and gluten-free. Let us show you how it’s done!

Almond flour, cornstarch, potato starch, vanilla, almond milk, applesauce, avocado oil, maple syrup, baking powder, and salt

Gluten-Free Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

These cupcakes start with mixing the wet ingredients. Almond milk replaces dairy milk, applesauce replaces eggs, and avocado oil locks in the moisture.

Maple syrup adds sweetness, and we included a generous amount of vanilla extract for BIG vanilla flavor.

Bowl of gluten-free vegan vanilla cupcake batter

Next, the dry ingredients are added to the same bowl, minimizing the mess!

A mix of gluten-free flours is key to creating the perfect cupcake texture. Almond flour smells just like cake and provides a crumb texture. Potato starch makes them light and fluffy. And cornstarch adds structure.

For leavening, we included baking powder, and for more flavor, we added sea salt.

Scooping vegan vanilla cupcake batter into a parchment-lined muffin tin

After baking and cooling, they’re ready to eat! They’re delicious on their own or topped with your favorite frosting, like our Classic Buttercream Frosting, Vegan Chocolate Ganache Frosting, Date-Sweetened Chocolate Frosting, or Coconut Whipped Cream.

Tray of vanilla cupcakes with half of them frosted

We hope you LOVE these cupcakes! They’re:

Fluffy
Vanilla-infused
Perfectly sweet
Easy
So delicious
& Just like the real thing!

They’re perfect for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, or any time you’re craving a sweet treat!

Vanilla cupcakes topped with frosting and sprinkles

More Vegan Cupcake Recipes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Partially eaten fluffy vegan vanilla cupcake

Easy Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes (Gluten-Free)

Perfectly fluffy vanilla cupcakes that happen to be vegan, gluten-free, and naturally sweetened. Just 1 bowl and 10 ingredients required!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Top down shot of six vegan vanilla cupcakes topped with frosting
4.6 from 15 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 12 (Cupcakes)
Course Dessert
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 Month (unfrosted)
Does it keep? 3 Days

Ingredients

CUPCAKES

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk (we used almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups almond flour (the closest sub would be cashew flour, or a mix of coconut flour and a GF blend, but we haven't tested it this way and can't promise good results!)
  • 3/4 cup potato starch* (not potato flour)
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and line a standard-size muffin tin with cupcake liners (we prefer these ones). Cupcake liners are preferable over greasing the pan because they prevent the sides from browning too much and yield a prettier result. But in a pinch, lightly grease instead.
  • To a large mixing bowl, add dairy-free milk, applesauce, avocado oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
  • Add almond flour, potato starch, cornstarch, baking powder, and sea salt and whisk again until well incorporated and no lumps remain. The texture should be thick and look similar to cornbread batter (see photo). If too thick, thin with a little more dairy-free milk. If too thin, add a little more almond flour.
  • Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners filling a generous 3/4 of the way full. Recipe as written makes 12 cupcakes.
  • Bake on the center rack for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, they are golden brown on the very edges, the tops appear dry, and they spring back a bit when touched or pressed (rather than deflating). It’s better to slightly over-bake than under-bake these cupcakes to avoid gumminess.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to let cool completely.
  • Once cooled, option to top with frosting of choice. These subtly sweet cupcakes pair nicely with a sweeter frosting such as our classic buttercream frosting, vegan chocolate ganache frosting, or date-sweetened chocolate frosting. For a lighter option, try lightly-sweetened coconut whipped cream and fresh berries.
  • Best when enjoyed within the first 24-48 hours after baking. Store leftovers covered at room temperature for 1-2 days or in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Freeze unfrosted cupcakes for up to 1 month.

Video

Notes

*We did not test other starches, but in place of potato starch, a blend of coconut flour and arrowroot starch may work. Or possibly oat flour.
*In place of cornstarch, arrowroot may work.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without frosting.

Nutrition (1 of 12 servings)

Serving: 1 cupcake Calories: 243 Carbohydrates: 27.1 g Protein: 3.9 g Fat: 14 g Saturated Fat: 1.2 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 2.9 g Monounsaturated Fat: 9.2 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 284 mg Potassium: 183 mg Fiber: 2.2 g Sugar: 9.9 g Vitamin A: 3.8 IU Vitamin C: 0.1 mg Calcium: 116 mg Iron: 0.8 mg

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  1. Rebecca says

    I made these once before when I couldn’t use cornstarch and used coconut flour instead – it wasn’t a huge success (my comment is here with more details).

    I had applesauce and almond flour lying around that I needed to use up, so though I am not gluten-free, I thought I would make these right the second time. The batter and cupcakes looked just like in the photo, and when I took a bite the crumb looked just like in the picture. They were an okay texture but my husband and I just weren’t crazy about the mouthfeel. We’re not used to gluten-free desserts, so maybe it’s “good for a gluten-free cupcake”?

    The next day I wanted to have some for a snack, and they were just crazy dry and crumbly and just fell apart in my hands whenever I took a bite. It’s just the two of us, so I freeze baked goods immediately after baking them so we can eat them “like fresh” when we feel like it, so I had just defrosted them for an hour on the counter before eating. Even an hour out of the oven, though, we weren’t crazy about them, but I am glad I gave them another shot.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks for the updated review, Rebecca. Sorry to hear this one wasn’t for you! Baked goods with potato starch are more prone to drying out so are best within the first day or two.

  2. Richa says

    Hi. I am gluten intolerant but not vegan. Can I substitute vegan ingredients with mom vegan like eggs and butter etc? TIA!!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Richa, we haven’t tried with those modifications, but it looks like another reader mentioned subbing the applesauce for 2 eggs. Let us know if you do some experimenting!

  3. Dorothy says

    Just finished making these! I made them EXACTLY as stated and they were totally delish! Even hubby liked them and he refuses to eat any baked goods that “aren’t REAL”! (He thinks if there’s no butter, eggs, sugar, or gluten, it can’t be REAL!). LOL!

    They have a nice vanilla flavor, a great texture, and pair perfectly with your classic buttercream frosting!

    Thanks!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Amazing! We’re so glad you both enjoyed them, Dorothy. Thanks so much for sharing! xo

      • Dorothy says

        OOh, and as a follow up, we also tried them cut in half with a dollop of your buttercream frosting AND a little scoop of fruit spread (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Superfruit Fruit Spread)–super yummy. Especially great on day 2 as the cupcakes get a little more dry/crumbly.

        Thanks for making such great recipes!

  4. sam says

    i made a few minor changes: i used coconut oil instead of avocado, i added a little more vanilla, and i added some sprinkles to the batter to make it funfetti. they were a little dry the day of, but still tasty. these tasted vegan to me and my partner if you know what i mean. it made me realize how front and center butter is in the flavor profile of regular vanilla cupcakes. i donʻt think i would serve this to family that arenʻt vegan, though there are many other vegan baking recipes from MB that i do and get rave reviews for.

    the next day the cupcakes were quite hard and crumbled very easily. it tasted the same, but the texture took a turn for the worst. the day after that, the texture got worse again, still very crumbly but somehow a bit gummy at the same time. i will try this recipe again as i have had a lot of success with MB baking recipes in the past.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Sam, sorry to hear these didn’t turn out as expected! Baked goods with potato starch are best the first day as they are more prone to drying out. We’d suggest trying avocado oil next time for best results with texture.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Iva, unfortunately, we don’t think that would work. In place of potato your best bet is a mix of coconut flour and arrowroot starch. Let us know if you try!

  5. Kaitlan says

    Hi Dana!

    We made these and they turned out awesome! Thanks for the great recipe :)

    Quick question, where did you buy your sprinkles? I love that color combo!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed them, Kaitlan! Thanks for sharing! We can’t remember where these sprinkles are from, unfortunately.

  6. Rebecca says

    I have been looking for recipes to make during Passover now that I don’t eat animal products, and these look perfect, except that we don’t eat corn or cornstarch on Passover. We have loads of potato starch and even coconut flour – would either of those work in place of the cornstarch?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Rebecca, additional potato starch might work, but we haven’t tried it. Let us know if you give it a try!

      • Rebecca says

        I made these today – the only substitutions I made were vegetable oil instead of avocado oil and coconut flour instead of cornstarch for Passover. They weren’t inedible – my whole family ate them and some even took seconds, but they were dense and crumbly – felt a bit like eating sand. I have a feeling the coconut flour really messed with the texture and flavour – I would be curious to give these another try when I can use cornstarch.
        Not giving these a rating yet as my change probably drastically affected things – just wanted to put it out there for anyone needing a grain-free version of these that coconut flour isn’t a successful substitute :)

        • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

          Hi Rebecca, coconut flour is very dry and sandy. We’d definitely recommend cornstarch next time! Keep us posted =)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I don’t think that would work. In place of potato your best bet is a mix of coconut flour and arrowroot starch. Let us know if you try!

  7. Naureen Siddiqui says

    I love the results of the original recipe but didn’t need them to be vegan this time around-just grain free- so I used grass-fed whole milk (in place of almond milk), 2 eggs (in place of applesauce) and arrowroot starch (instead of cornstarch).
    Still resulted in a dozen cupcakes but cook time was only about 15 minutes.

    Turned out perfect.

  8. Erica says

    Hi Dana! Big fan here. I made these cupcakes with a couple substitutions, namely two eggs instead of applesauce (not vegan) and some gf blend in stead of some almond flour (I had about a half cup of almond flour and then subbed the rest.) They are delicious but pretty dry. Any thoughts?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Erica, I’d say your substitutions are likely what made it dry. Almond flour is not nearly as absorbent or drying as GF blends so that’s likely what went wrong. The eggs shouldn’t have made a difference here in terms of moisture, but you may need to add oil if trying this recipe again as you described. Hope that helps!

  9. Kristen says

    BEST VEGAN/GF VANILLA CUPCAKES EVER! Seriously. You’ve outdone yourself Dana. These are WAY lighter than the cupcakes in your cookbook (which I use on the daily). They taste just like their gluten filled counterparts! Thank you!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! We’re so glad you enjoy them, Kristen! Thanks so much for the lovely review! xo

  10. Blake says

    How do these taste compared to the Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes in the Minimalist Baker Everyday Cooking cookbook? They have some similar ingredients. Thanks!!

    • Taylor says

      Hi I have a nut allergy, gluten free and try to eat whole grain. I know there’s not usually a one size fits all but do you have any suggestions for subbing the almond flour? Thanks

      • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

        Hi Taylor – that’s tricky. What about trying to sub a seed meal, such as sunflower, plus a little coconut flour (or can you not have coconut?)?

  11. Cristina says

    Thank you for all of these wonderful recipes. I usually try to make your recipes exactly as you post them; however, my daughter has severe almond allergies, and I sometimes modify (to varying success rates!) your recipes that call for almond flour or almond meal. I made this recipe, as you suggested, with cashew “flour” and it turned out really well. It did not look as light and fluffy as your picture, but that was probably because I was not able to grind the cashews to a fine consistency, and I only had about 1 and 3/4 cup of cashew “flour,” so I topped it off with hazelnut flour (which was also coarser than the almond flour would be). Next time I will grind the cashews to a finer consistency. It was such an easy recipe and everyone loved it. Thank you.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      How wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Cristina!! So glad everyone enjoyed them. And your modifications sound lovely. xo!

  12. Stine says

    It looks delicious, but it’s quite hard to find those glutenfree flours where I’m living, do you think you could sub with wheat flour?

  13. Elena says

    Like others, I decided to make them as soon as I’ve seen them in am emails because: 1.there are very few ingredients, 2.i had most of the ingredients, 3.looked easy and quick to make. OMG! absolutely love them! Easily the best vegan vanilla cupcakes I’ve had. The modifications I made are:

    – Sunflower oil instead of avocado oil;

    – Oat flour instead of potato starch;

    – Arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch.

    Just great! Will definitely make them again. Thanks for sharing this recipe :)

  14. Helen says

    This recipe is pure genius. So simple and so delicious! I made them exactly as written and appreciate the testing efforts you put into your recipes because they came out perfectly. I have celiac and my father-in-law is recovering from a heart attack. So many celiac friendly baked goods contain gobs of coconut oil and I love that recipe is much more heart healthy! Your cupcakes are allowing us to enjoy a much needed birthday celebration for my mother in law. Thank you!

  15. Karissa says

    I made these cupcakes for gluten-eating friends and was curious/nervous to see whether the cupcakes would be a hit. My friends thought they were delicious!

    I didn’t have potato starch, and there wasn’t a clear modification for items in my pantry, so I used 1/2c Bob’s Red Mill GF All-Purpose Baking Flour (which has potato starch among the ingredients) and 1/4c Arrowroot starch.

    I thought the muffins were a little crumbly, perhaps because of my substitute, but were still delightfully moist and not too sweet. I topped them with the vegan buttercream.

  16. Karson says

    These were… beyond amazing.
    And this is coming from someone who isn’t gluten free or vegan ;)

    I didn’t have any potato starch on hand so I experimented with equal parts arrowroot and coconut flour to substitute, and it worked perfectly.

  17. Ewelina says

    What can be used when someone apart from gluten, dairy has intolerance of corn and potato so means starch and flour too🥺

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Ewelina, you can see out substitution recommendations in the ingredients and notes sections in the recipe box. Potato starch is pretty key here, but can potentially be subbed for a mix of arrowroot and coconut flour. Cornstarch can likely be subbed for arrowroot. Also scan the comments as others have already had success with some variations!

  18. Grammarcop says

    Looks lovely!

    Just FYI: I have immense respect for you and your creations. However, I must point out that “these ones” is not grammatically correct!

  19. Corey says

    Looks sooo good! Any thoughts on an applesauce sub? More oil? Maybe pumpkin puree? Can’t wait to try this!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hmm, I’d say another similar fruit puree would be ideal! We haven’t tried more oil. Let us know how it goes!

  20. Claire says

    Hello! If I want to convert this to a cake recipe, how would I do that. Thanks so much I’m so excited to try this xxx.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I would suggest pouring it into a 9-inch round cake pan (greased and floured) and baking at 350F for ~30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges are golden brown. Let us know if you try!

  21. Liza says

    In case anyone wants to know:
    I tried to sub both starches for Tapioca starch and it didn’t turn out well.
    The inside was more like a mochi (glutenous rice cake).
    It didn’t stop me from eating them though, but it’s heavy on the stomach.

  22. Dee says

    My sister’s birthday is coming up and I’d love to make these for her but she is allergic to almonds, coconut and most other nuts. Is there a nut free replacement for the almond flour?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      The best sub I’ve encountered is a mix of coconut flour and arrowroot. Let us know if you try as we haven’t tested it this way.

  23. Layan says

    Let me preface this by saying that my rating is based on my version of the cupcakes rather than the recipe itself. With that said, I made a couple of modifications: grapeseed oil instead of avocado oil and a combination of coconut flour and arrowroot starch instead of potato starch (about 1/2 and 1/4 respectively).
    The batter turned out to be wet, but still very thick and unlike the photos shown. I kept adding milk until I achieved a similar consistency to the photo, so that could have also played a part.
    The cupcakes were ~moist~ and not very fluffy, and they tasted just okay but it was not what I was expecting considering other MinimalistBaker recipes i’ve tried and loved. Ultimately lacked that rich vanilla flavour.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Layan. So coconut flour is very absorbent as compared to almond and that’s likely why you had issues. And the more moisture you add to compensate the more it will dilute the flavor and make the mixture wet. Sorry your variation didn’t work out! We can only attest for the recipe working as written.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi there! We added a few substitution suggestions in the ingredients and notes area. Hopefully that helps!

  24. Deb says

    Hi

    Sadly this can not be called grain free since it has cornstarch in it. This is definitely a grain and one that many people that need to be gluten free also need to avoid.

  25. Candice says

    Made these as soon as I got them in my inbox!
    Delicious and perfect is how I would describe these.
    I subbed arrowroot Starch instead of cornstarch. I love that they are sweetened with maple syrup. Thank you! Will be making again for sure!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I don’t think that will work, unfortunately. We did, however, add a few suggestions for substitutions in the ingredients and notes area. Let us know if you try!

  26. Beth Ann says

    So cute! Any thoughts how would it work to use almond flour and replace potato starch and cornstarch with AP flour? Or suggested modifications?
    Thanks so much!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Beth, we shared a few ideas in the instructions and notes – hopefully that’s helpful!

  27. Krissy says

    When I got the email about this recipe and realized I had most of the ingredients, I knew I had to make them! I can’t have gluten anymore, and this cake is so moist and delicious! I also made the vegan buttercream but added some vanilla paste and wowowow! I can’t wait to make these again and maybe add some lemon zest or some almond! I feel like this is one of those recipes that are so delicious but leaves so much room for versatility. Thanks so much, Dana!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      One option would be a really fresh and drippy nut butter, but we haven’t tried it that way and can’t guarantee it will work. Let us know if you try anything!

  28. Cheryl says

    Is there a non-nut replacement for the flour? I developed a food sensitivity to nuts, unfortunately, and my doctor wants me off grains. Basically, I feel like I can’t eat anything! I don’t know, maybe garbanzo flour? This looks SO GOOD!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Cheryl! That’s a toughie. I added a few suggestions for substitutions in the notes and ingredients section. Let us know if you try!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Karin, we added some ideas in the recipe box just now. But the closest would be cashew flour (finely ground cashews), or a blend of coconut flour and a GF blend. But it won’t be the same recipe as it’s perfect as written. Let us know if you try!

  29. Grace says

    Can I use oat flour in place of almond flour? And if I use almond flour that is fine, but not super-fine, will it work with this recipe?
    With super thanks for all you do and share,
    Grace