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These simple Coconut Cupcakes are moist, filled with toasted coconut and topped with a delicious coconut buttercream frosting. They're perfect for when you're craving coconut, but don't want to make an entire cake.
These coconut cupcakes are similar to my vegan coconut cake, but in cupcake form! I like cake, I really do, but cupcakes are so much easier to make! Plus, they're pre-portioned, so no one's arguing about who got the larger piece.
If you don't know by now, coconut is one of my favorite flavors and highly underrated, in my opinion. My coconut cookies are hands down my favorite non-chocolate cookie recipe. Soft, chewy and filled with toasted coconut. ...kind of like these cupcakes!
- They're vegan-friendly, meaning they're made without dairy and eggs (but you'd never know!)
- Made with three kinds of coconut -- coconut milk, coconut oil and shredded coconut -- to make them extra coconut-y
- Perfectly moist with a fluffy texture
This list is meant to provide further clarification on a few of the ingredients. The full ingredient list is below in the recipe card.
Flour - I recommend using all purpose flour or gluten free 1:1 flour for these cupcakes. I assume whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour would work, but I haven't tested it myself. I do NOT recommend using almond flour or coconut flour for this recipe.
Sugar - Cane or granulated sugar is best. To lighten them up a bit, you can substitute coconut sugar.
Coconut oil - No substitutions; the oil helps with both texture and flavor. However, there's also coconut oil in the icing, and for that, you can substitute softened unsalted butter if you prefer.
Coconut milk - Full fat canned coconut milk is best. Simply put, it's significantly more flavorful than the coconut milk you get from the refrigerated section.
Applesauce - Keeps these cupcakes nice and moist! I use it in almost all of my vegan cake recipes.
Shredded coconut - Sweetened coconut is the way to go! Again, we're trying to bring out as much coconut as we can, and sweetened coconut will yield better results.
Step 1: Prepare. Preheat the oven to 350° and line a muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.
Step 2: Toast the coconut. Add HALF of the shredded coconut to a skillet and heat it over medium-low heat. Toast the coconut until it's barely golden brown, then transfer it to a plate. At this point, you should also melt the coconut oil in the microwave or over the stove.
Step 3: Whisk wet ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk the coconut milk, applesauce, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract together, then pour in the coconut oil once it's at room temperature.
Step 4: Combine. In a separate bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, then stir together with a hand mixer until smooth. Last, stir in the toasted shredded coconut by hand.
Step 5: Bake. Divide the batter evenly amongst the cupcake liners (NOTE: the recipe makes 24 cupcakes, so you'll either need to use two muffin tins, or bake them in batches). Bake the cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave them in the tin for 10 minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire rack.
Step 6: Make the frosting. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the icing by whisking the oil, milk and vanilla together. Then, add the powdered sugar and stir until smooth. Once the cupcakes have cooled to room temperature, top with frosting.
Tips and tricks
- If the canned coconut milk is separated (i.e. the cream is at the top and the water is at the bottom), scoop/pour it into a bowl, then use a hand whisk to whisk it together until it's smooth before adding it in with the other ingredients.
- Make sure to only add the melted coconut oil once it's cooled down; if you add hot or even warm oil in with the milk and applesauce, the oil will solidify, which we don't want.
- Don't over-mix the batter! Otherwise, you risk the cupcakes turning out dense instead of fluffy.
- I DON'T recommend using coconut extract; I feel like it typically has a fake coconut flavor to it, and these cupcakes are far superior using coconut milk, coconut oil and shredded coconut instead.
- Option to sprinkle each cupcake with a bit of shredded coconut flakes before serving.
- If you're looking for a gluten free cupcake recipe, be sure to check out my almond flour cupcakes.
Do I have to use coconut oil in the frosting?
Nope! I love using softened coconut oil because it adds a mild coconut-y flavor to it. However, the key is that it must be softened. so if you're making these in the summertime, that may be a bit tricky because the oil might already be melted from the warm temperatures.
What should you do in this situation? Simply put, you can use softened butter instead. Who doesn't love a buttercream icing?! Or, you can use melted coconut oil, but you'll want to omit the milk from the icing, and you probably won't need as much oil.
Can I use coconut cream instead of coconut milk?
Nope! Though they're similar, coconut cream tastes different than coconut milk, and contains more fat, which therefore alters the texture. Stick with coconut milk and you'll be good to go!
Can I make a coconut cake instead?
If you want to make a cake instead of cupcakes, I highly recommend checking out my vegan coconut cake recipe. It's quite similar!
- Room temperature: Store cupcakes in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- Refrigerator: Or, you can refrigerate them for up to 5 days
- Freezer: Store cupcakes in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Then, refrigerate them overnight before you want to eat/serve them. Make sure to freeze the cupcakes without icing and add the icing on the day you want to eat them.
More easy dessert recipes
If you made this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below. Thanks!
- Preheat oven to 350° and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.
- Add the shredded coconut to a skillet and heat over medium-low. Toast the coconut until it's slightly golden (be careful not to burn!) then transfer it to a plate. At this point, you should also melt the coconut oil either in the microwave or over the stove.
- Whisk the coconut milk, applesauce, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla together, then add in the melted room temperature coconut oil.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the all purpose flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, then use a hand mixer to combine wet and dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix the batter. Last, stir in the toasted coconut by hand.
- Distribute the batter into the muffin tin (NOTE: the recipe makes 24 cupcakes, so you'll either need to use 2 muffin tins, or bake these in batches), then place them in the oven and bake the cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I recommend checking them at the 20 minute mark. Leave them in the tin for 10 minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire rack to cool.
- While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting: whisk the softened coconut oil (or butter), milk and vanilla together, then add in the powdered sugar and stir until smooth.
- Wait until the cupcakes have cooled to room temperature before icing them. Add the icing atop each cupcake, and then sprinkle with some extra coconut flakes (optional). Enjoy!
- Room temperature: keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days
- Refrigerator: or, refrigerate for up to 5 days
- Freezer: if you prefer to make these ahead of time, store them in a sealed container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then add the frosting the following day (do not freeze with the frosting)