Most wonderful things start out with a crazy idea. Some people say it’s because you have to see the world a little differently to create something wonderful, but I think wonderful ideas are all around us and the trick is following where they lead.
I’ve had a few good ones…
- Running outside during a polar vortex deep-freeze, on multiple occasions.
- Trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon with 10 weeks of training (not recommended).
- Moving to Singapore for four months on an academic exchange.
- Signing up for an Ironman (we’ll see how this one goes).
The cool thing about crazy ideas is that even if they don’t turn out the way you expected, you usually learn something or at least have a good story to tell. In this case, it resulted in possibly the most versatile, healthy and delicious gluten-free vegan muffins you’ll ever make. These moist and lightly sweetened muffins have some pretty awesome fiber and protein, and can be made vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and either nut-free or soy-free depending on what type of milk you use.
Gluten-free Vegan Muffins Sound Scary
If you don’t have some of these ingredients, don’t worry. Not everyone has a kitchen equipped with the ingredients for vegan and gluten-free baking, and that’s totally cool because just about everything even remotely specialized about this recipe can be substituted with the most basic ingredients you have. Don’t have chia seeds? Use flax meal or egg. Almond milk? Soy or dairy milk will work too. The only extra step – compared to regular muffins – is cooking the lentils, and that hardly takes any time at all.
Making the muffins
There are four basic steps:
- Cook the lentils
- Mix chia seeds with water to form a gel
- Combine cooked, wet and dry ingredients
- Spoon into muffin pans and bake
Bring water and salt to a boil, then add dried lentils and simmer for 20-30 minutes; you’ll know they’re done when all the water is absorbed and you have a creamy brown sauce. The lentils can cook while you preheat the oven and get everything else ready.
By the way, brightly coloured silicon baking cups are fantastic. You don’t even need to grease them, and they look so pretty when they’re all ready for muffin batter.
While the lentils are cooking, mix the chia seeds and water together in a small bowl…
…and after about 10 minutes you get a nice thick gel that replaces the eggs in traditional baking. If you don’t have chia seeds, you can substitute 1:1 with flax meal to keep it vegan or use two eggs (in this case leave out the water too) and skip the 10 minute wait.
While the chia seeds are working their magic, mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. I prefer quinoa flour for baking because I find it has a good texture in most recipes, is sold in my local grocery store and means I don’t need to keep five different types of flour in my pantry (not that I don’t have five types of flour in my pantry – I just don’t need to). If you’re gluten-sensitive, you can try using other gluten-free flours like rice, almond or coconut, but I haven’t tested anything other than brown rice flour. On the other hand, if you can eat wheat, then regular whole wheat flour (possibly with some wheat bran) is also an option – just leave out the xanthan gum.
Once the lentils have finished cooking, add them to the chia gel along with the remainder of the wet ingredients – just be careful not to stir too enthusiastically at first or the oil might go everywhere (like mine did). I generally use unsweetened almond milk in my baking, but any milk will work here; soy, coconut and flax milk are all good options to keep the recipe dairy-free, and regular cow’s milk works too. So go nuts – or should I say nut-free?
Finally, add everything together and mix until you get a nice fluffy batter and all the lumps are gone.
Spoon the batter into your brightly coloured baking cups (you have those right?) or greased muffin pans, dividing it evenly between 12 cups. The muffins don’t really rise, so the batter should be mounded over the tops of the pan.
Bake at 350F until a toothpick stuck in the center of the muffin comes out clean, which takes about 20 minutes. Let the muffins set in the pans for about 5 minutes, then cool them completely on a wire rack.
If you’re not eating them right away (I can never resist eating one straight out of the oven), they will last several days at room temperature, up to a week in the fridge or about a month frozen. Before serving, thaw and reheat them in the oven at 250F for 10-15 minutes.
Serve with love :)
- ¾ cup split red lentils, dried
- 1½ cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- ⅔ cup water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ½ chopped dried dates or walnuts
- 1¼ cup flour (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- In a medium saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil, then add lentils and simmer on low for 20-30 minutes until water is absorbed.
- While lentils are cooking, preheat oven to 350F and grease muffin pans.
- In a large bowl, combine chia seeds and water, letting them sit for 10 minutes until the mixture forms a thick gel. In a smaller bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices).
- Add cooked lentils and remaining wet ingredients (vanilla, sugar, oil) to chia gel and mix well, then add dry ingredients and dates or walnuts. Stir until combined.
- Spoon batter into muffin pans and bake at 350F for 25 minutes (add 10-15 minutes for gluten-free flour), or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes then remove to cooling rack. Store in a sealed container for several days, or freeze to enjoy whenever you wish.
I usually bake these muffins with whole wheat flour, sometimes using ¼ wheat bran + 1 cup w.w. flour for added fiber.
For gluten-free muffins, I use quinoa flour mixed with ½ tsp xanthan gum. I've also tested the recipe with half brown rice flour and half quinoa flour, and I imagine your favourite gluten-free flour would also work.
205 calories | 7.2g fat | 31g carbs | 6.2g fiber | 12.9g sugar | 5.5g protein
Update 03/28/2014 : this recipe won the top pick on Healthy Vegan Fridays over at Hello Veggie!
Now for the giveaway!