Snacks

May 6, 2021

Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins with a Maple Walnut Streusel

These healthy Carrot Cake Muffins are made with whole wheat, topped with a walnut streusel, and drizzled with a maple cream cheese icing. You would never guess that they are refined sugar free and low calorie!

My husband recently started working full-time at a solar panel company and apparently his coworkers know more about me than I know about them (not surprised though).

I try and pop in once every two weeks or so to get to know them, show my face (and now my growing belly haha), and share my recipe tests with them. Heaven knows Tyler and I can't eat them all!

Not only do I bring my treats so Tyler and I can make friends, but I also bring treats to help more people get a real taste (get it?) of what my blog, my brand, and my recipes are all about.

Some people have a thing about "healthy food" and I want to prove that healthy food can also be delicious!

A few weeks ago, I came by to drop off a fresh loaf of my Best Healthy Chocolate Chip Banana Bread for a Friday treat and say hi to everyone. I discovered that Tyler's boss is a total foodie, so I asked him what his favorite sweet treat was.

Without hesitation, he said "anything carrot cake! I've been making carrot cake since I was 12."

Unfortunately, his carrot cake includes raisins, but I won't hold it against him.

Anyway, since I'd never made carrot cake and I wanted extra "brownie points" from the boss, I decided that night to go home and write my own carrot cake recipe.

I didn't see a point in trying to master an actual carrot cake, so I modified my Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffin recipe and ended up with these absolutely incredible Carrot Cake Muffins!

Ok, but really, healthy carrot cake muffins with a crunchy walnut streusel AND a maple cream cheese icing? I'm drooling!

Carrot cake muffins drizzled with maple cream cheese icing

What makes these carrot cake muffins healthy?

  • Whole wheat flour: much more healthy than all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour retains the entire wheat kernel during processing. This ensures you're getting all the protein, fiber, and essential B vitamins from the wheat. Since whole wheat flour is more dense, we're also using a little bit of cornstarch to make a homemade whole wheat pastry flour.
  • Vanilla protein powder: for an extra boost of protein to keep you fuller, longer. It also replaces part of the flour and adds some natural sweetness to the muffins!
  • Fresh shredded carrots: the star of the show! Just like in zucchini muffins, carrots naturally have some water in them, which helps moisten the muffins. They also provide a good source of vitamin A, potassium, and fiber.
  • Vanilla greek yogurt: a healthy substitute for butter and oil. I always use this brand of nonfat yogurt in all my recipes, but feel free to use what you have on hand.
  • Almond milk: I'm not dairy-free, but I do love my almond milk for its creaminess and its low calorie content. It's also fortified with all the vitamins and calcium you need, so you're not losing any nutritional value! Feel free to use regular dairy milk too.
  • Stevia: a zero-calorie plant-based substitute for regular granulated sugar. I promise you will never know the difference! You can get a big bag of Stevia at Walmart for an incredible price; mine lasts me months and I bake multiple times a week!
  • Sugar-free maple syrup: let's you enjoy the maple flavor without the calories. We're using it for the muffin batter, the streusel, AND the icing!
  • Walnuts: one of the healthiest nuts, in my opinion. Walnuts are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant, and omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health and weight control.
  • Cozy spices: cinnamon and nutmeg have been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce blood pressure, and relieve indigestion. They also compliment the carrots, maple, and cream cheese perfectly!

A carrot cake muffin with a bite out of it

Expert tips for making these muffins

You'll love these carrot cake muffins because they are so simple and easy to make! In my years of experience making muffins, here are a few tips to make sure these really are the best healthy carrot cake muffins you'll ever eat:

  1. Make the streusel first: this is important for two reasons. First, because we want it to be ready to sprinkle on top of the muffin batter as soon as the batter is in the muffin tin. The longer the batter sits out, the more dense your muffins will be! Second, by popping the walnut streusel in the fridge while you prepare the muffin batter, you're allowing the fats and sugars time to really bond together and deepen the flavor, as well as making it easier to crumble onto the carrot cake muffins.
  2. Don't overmix the batter: the more you mix, the more you develop the gluten in the flour. More developed gluten yields a dense muffin, which nobody likes! Leave a few streaks of flour throughout the batter before folding in the carrots so your muffins become just incorporated.
  3. Don't substitute the protein powder for flour: I say this for a few reasons. One, I developed this recipe using protein powder, so the best results will come from following the recipe! Two, using the protein powder ensures these muffins are more macro-friendly (the ratio between carbs, protein, and fats is more even). Three, a lot of my recipes (especially my baking recipes) call for protein powder, so if you invest now, you'll have it on hand for so many other delicious and healthy recipes on the blog!

Carrot cake muffin batter in a muffin tin
Carrot cake muffin batter with walnut streusel on top

  1. Use whole carrots: I actually tested this recipe with pre-shredded carrots and Brooke-shredded carrots. The store-bought shredded carrots are much more stiff, don't soften into the batter, and don't provide any extra moisture to the muffins. Let me just say it was a sad batch of healthy carrot cake muffins when I used the pre-shredded carrots. I promise it's worth the effort to shred whole carrots yourself, especially when you have a good cheese grater like this one!
  2. Use room temperature cream cheese: microwave-softened cream cheese just doesn't mix like naturally thawed cream cheese, especially when combining with Stevia. Do yourself a favor and set out the cream cheese an hour before you plan on baking your healthy carrot cake muffins. If you don't, it's not the end of the world, but your icing might be clumpy!
  3. Know your oven: if you know your oven runs a little hot, set your timer for the lower end of the suggested bake time and always test with a toothpick. The walnut streusel will look done before the muffins are done, so watch carefully! Your toothpick should come out clean or nearly clean. If they seem like they need just a bit more time (like less than 2 minutes), pull them out anyway and let them finish baking in the hot muffin tin.
  4. Eat within 72 hours: because these muffins are considered "quick bread" muffins, they don't last as long on the counter, even in a Ziploc bag. I don't recommend storing muffins in the fridge because they will lose their moisture and become very dense.

A carrot cake muffin with a bite out of it

Troubleshooting quick bread muffins

Why are my muffins so dense?

This could be one of two things. One, you might have overmixed the batter! When combining the wet and dry ingredients, use a spatula or wooden spoon to fold the batter rather than stirring or whisking it, and go slowly! Leave a few streaks of flour in the muffin batter before adding in the shredded carrots so the batter is just combined when you're finished.

Two, you didn't measure your flour properly. Scooping the flour with your measuring cup will add an extra 2-4 tablespoons of flour to the recipe! To ensure your muffins don't turn out like dense bricks, spoon flour into your measuring cup, then level off with a knife.

Why are my muffins dry?

You probably overbaked them! The greek yogurt and egg in these healthy carrot cake muffins helps add moisture, but if you leave the muffins in the oven too long, that moisture disappears. Don't just look at the streusel on top to see if the muffins are done - make sure you test with a toothpick!

Why didn't my muffins rise?

It's likely that your leavening agents (ie baking powder and baking soda) are expired. If you're sure your leavening agents are fresh, you probably undermixed the batter.

Carrot cake muffins with maple cream cheese icing on top

As always, if you try this recipe, I'd love to hear about it! Be sure to leave a star rating and review below so other readers (and Google!) know how you liked the recipe.

You can also tag me on Instagram with your healthy carrot cake muffins so I can see your creation! Happy baking!

Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins with a Maple Walnut Streusel

These healthy Carrot Cake Muffins are made with whole wheat, topped with a walnut streusel, and drizzled with a maple cream cheese icing. You would never guess that they are refined sugar free and low calorie!

Author:

Brooke Harmer

Prep:

15

min

cook:

25

min

total:

40

min

servings:

12

Ingredients

For the Muffins

  • 1 C whole wheat flour
  • ½ C vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ C unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or any milk)
  • ⅓ C sugar-free maple syrup
  • ¼ C nonfat vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 C shredded whole carrots*

For the Walnut Streusel

  • ¼ C whole wheat flour
  • ¼ C Stevia
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla protein powder
  • 1½ Tbsp Country Crock 8% Butter Spread (or softened butter of choice)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar-free maple syrup
  • ¼ C walnuts, chopped
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste

For the Maple Cream Cheese Icing

  • 2 oz fat-free cream cheese (room temperature)
  • ¼ C Stevia
  • 1 Tbsp sugar-free maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set out a muffin tin. Spray each tin with cooking spray or line with muffin liners. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, Stevia, protein powder, and spices until well combined. Use a fork to cut in the butter and maple syrup until the dry ingredients resemble wet sand. Mix in the chopped walnuts and store the streusel in the fridge until the muffin batter is ready.
  3. Make the muffin batter. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients - the flour, protein powder, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt - until well combined.
  4. In a large bowl, stir the almond milk, maple syrup, greek yogurt, egg, and vanilla together until smooth. Gradually fold in the dry ingredients until a few streaks of flour remain in the batter.
  5. Lastly, fold in the shredded carrots until just combined. The batter should be just thick enough that it will slide off a spoon but not drip in a constant stream.
  6. Add the carrot cake muffin batter to the prepared muffin tin. Each tin will need about 3 tablespoons of batter to be about 2/3 full. Remove the streusel from the fridge and crumble  it with your fingers over the muffin batter. Gently press into the batter to make sure none of the streusel spills out during baking.
  7. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.*
  8. To make the icing, whisk together all icing ingredients until smooth. (Add more milk if you like a really thin icing.)
  9. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and drizzle with the icing. Enjoy!

Notes

*See blog post for more details.

Nutrition facts are a calculated estimate of one muffin, including the streusel and a drizzle of icing.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 muffin / Calories: 111 / Fat: 3.2g / Saturated Fat: 0.5g / Carbohydrates: 13.5g / Fiber: 1.9g / Sugar: 1.4g / Protein: 7g