|Enjoying low carb baked goods helps me stick to my ketogenic diet|
In spring 2019, after the medical scare that motivated me to get serious about losing at least 50 pounds and become significantly leaner to reduce my risk for cancer and heart disease, a ketogenic diet was one of several options I considered. One of my biggest concerns about keto was whether–and how–I could stay on such a restrictive diet for however long it would take to lose that weight.
I didn’t think I could, nor did I want to, commit to a way of eating that prohibited all baked goods, since I estimated that it would probably take a year, or maybe longer, to reach my healthy weight loss goal. And, based on what I had read during my extensive research on the ketogenic diet approach, most recipes for keto baked goods turned out dry, dense, and with an unpleasant aftertaste from the sweetener. To be successful on an extremely low carb diet, I could find ways to incorporate keto-friendly baked goods that didn’t taste like cardboard!
When I thought about which ones would be most helpful in staying on track long-term, I initially narrowed my focus to muffins, cupcakes, cake, bread, and rolls, including hamburger buns. I tried a lot of recipes, many of which I didn't care for, but was able to find some I liked. I also sampled an array of keto-friendly baking mixes, limiting them to ones that were made with simple, high-quality ingredients, mostly the same ones I used in my homemade low carb baked goods. Again, some weren't up to my standards, but others were a very pleasant surprise.
Today, I'm sharing my favorite baking mixes (so far) for making keto-friendly muffins and cupcakes, as well as some recipes I can recommend, and the variations and add-on ingredients I use frequently. I'll also include some tree nut and coconut free options. (I'll do the same for other types of baked goods in future posts.)
Keto Baking Mixes vs. Recipes: Pros and Cons
I've been an avid baker all my life and have always enjoyed baking. And, of course, it always costs less when you only have to pay for the ingredients. However, I've found that when it comes to making my own keto baked goods, there's often more prep time and more ingredients needed than with conventional recipes (which also means more measuring cups, spoons, etc., to wash).
In addition to being less expensive, many of us generally prefer to bake from scratch to ensure that our treats are made with wholesome, nutritious, high quality ingredients, and because if you're a reasonably good home baker, they usually taste better than those made from a commercial mix (such as Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, or even Krusteaz). However, the keto-friendly baking mixes I'm sharing here are made with the same foods I would use in my favorite low-carb baking recipes (with only a couple of exceptions), and most taste even better than many of their scratch-baked counterparts.
Another very important consideration for anyone tracking their macros is that many of the best keto recipes for cupcakes and muffins I've tried are significantly higher in calories, net carbs, and fat than treats made from the mixes I've included here.
Since last year, low carb food manufacturers have been really stepping up their game. There are many more options and much better tasting baking mixes than when I started in 2019. So, whether you prefer double chocolate chip cupcakes or savory (faux) corn muffins, I encourage you to give some of the mixes I recommend a try. You may find, as I do, that the taste and texture of your keto baked goods, the convenience, and not having to stock your pantry and freezer with a range of new, more expensive, and often perishable ingredients might be worth the higher cost.
Keto Blueberry Muffins or Cupcakes
HighKey Blueberry Muffin & Cupcake Baking MixHighKey Snacks makes some wonderful products for people who follow a ketogenic diet. I keep a wide range of them in my cupboard at all times, especially their baking mixes and mini cookies. Their HighKey Blueberry Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix, which I usually order on Amazon with free Amazon Prime shipping, produces a nice, tender, cake-like muffin.
The mix uses a combination of coconut flour and almond flour for a tender texture that's a cross between a muffin and a cupcake. It's sweetened with HighKey's proprietary natural sweetener blend that includes erythritol, allulose, stevia and monk fruit, as well as soluble tapioca fiber (resistant dextrin), a non-digestible carbohydrate that the FDA considers a dietary fiber.
Prepared according to the package instructions with 4 eggs, 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk, and 1/3 cup coconut oil, each blueberry muffin has only 1g net carbs, 140 calories, 12g fat, 7g dietary fiber, 0g added sugars, and 4g protein.
If you can afford a few extra net carbs in your daily keto macros, these individual treats taste even better with some extra fresh or frozen blueberries, especially wild blueberries that are plentiful in Maine during the season. They have much better, more intense flavor than regular blueberries, and they're also tiny, which means the fruit can be more evenly distributed when it's mixed into the batter. If you don't live in New England, or when wild blueberries are out of season, Wyman's of Maine brand frozen wild blueberries are an excellent alternative to fresh berries.
You can also add a little finely grated fresh lemon zest and/or lemon extract (but not lemon juice), if you'd like.
Blueberry Muffins Recipe With Almond Flour
One of the first cookbooks I bought when I started my keto weight loss journey was The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook by Maya Krampf, and the first think I tried from it was the blueberry muffins recipe. They turned out very good, if slightly dry (it's possible I might have overbaked them a smidge). And split, lightly toasted and buttered, they were delicious!
They're sweetened with erythritol, but since the book was published Maya Krampf has come out with her own line of Besti sweeteners, including a granulated monk fruit and erythritol blend that can be substituted 1:1 for erythritol in baked goods recipes.
Note that these homemade muffins are significantly higher in calories, fat, protein, and net carbs than those made with the HighKey mix: 5g net carbs, 254 calories, 23g fat, 0g added sugars, and 8g protein. (The recipe's nutrition information doesn't include dietary fiber.)
The almond flour blueberry muffins I made with the
recipe from The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook
Keto Chocolate Cupcakes or Muffins
HighKey Double Chocolate Chip Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix
Given my chocoholic tendencies, you may have guessed my favorite low carb cupcakes or muffins flavor is double chocolate chip. I make them from HighKey Double Chocolate Chip Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix often, and usually mix 1/2 cup of sugar-free ChocZero white chocolate baking chips into the batter. (Does that make them Double Chocolate Double Chip, or Triple Chocolate Chip?)
The texture falls somewhere between a cupcake and a muffin. I think of them as the former when I eat them for dessert, and as the latter when I enjoy them as a decadent breakfast treat.
The mix requires 4 eggs, 1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk, and 1/3 cup coconut oil to yield 12 servings. Like the HighKey blueberry mix, it's sweetened with HighKey's proprietary natural sweetener blend, which includes erythritol, allulose, stevia and monk fruit.
Prepared according to the package directions, one serving of these sumptuous treats has only 1g net carbs, 120 calories, 10g fat, 5g dietary fiber, 0g added sugars, and 4g protein.
The optional ChocZero white chocolate chips add not only a complementary flavor but also a bit of extra dietary fiber, which can be hard to get enough of on an extremely low carb diet.
I made these decadent, fudgy treats with HighKey Double Chocolate Chip
Muffin & Cupcake Baking Mix and ChocZero white chocolate chips
Low Carb Chocolate Muffins and Cupcakes Recipes
Here are a few good ones to try.
Keto Chocolate Cupcakes recipe from Wholesome Yum
Keto Double Chocolate Muffins recipe from All Day I Dream About Food
Keto Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins recipe from My Keto Kitchen (I haven't tried this one yet, but it has a 5-star rating with 230 votes - a pretty good endorsement in my book!)
Keto (Faux) Corn Muffins
Good Dee's Corn Bread Mix
Real corn is a major no-no on a ketogenic diet, which is a bit of a bummer for those of us who love all things corn. Fortunately, it's possible to bake something that gives us something that is sort of reminiscent of cornbread that is also very low carb, if you set realistic expectations for how "corny" something with no corn in it can taste. And if you're going to top it with keto chili, for example, it does very nicely, indeed.These days, my favorite way to make faux corn muffins is withGood Dee’s Corn Bread Low Carb Baking Mix. (The package says “Corn Free Bread,” with the word "free" in much smaller letters than "corn" and "bread" for truth-in-advertising purposes.) The directions, which are based on making cornbread in an 8-inch pan, say to bake at 325 F for 18-23 minutes. I divide my batter among 12 silicone baking liners and bake until the muffins test done (i.e., a wooden toothpick stuck into the center comes out without any uncooked batter). That takes around 12-15 minutes, if I remember correctly.
I boost the corn flavor by adding Amoretti Sweet Corn Extract to the batter. It costs more than other brands, but has really good flavor and is keto-friendly. And, since I don't make corn muffins or bread that often, the 2-ounce bottle lasts me quite a while.
This mix makes faux corn muffins that are neither savory nor sweet and contain just a hint of stevia extract. They're perfect for adding shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese, with or without chopped jalapeño or other chili peppers, if you're so inclined, or you can add a little erythritol, monkfruit, BochaSweet (pentose), or a blend, if you prefer yours on the sweeter side.
Prepared with 3 large eggs, 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter, and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar according to the package directions, these low carb cornbread muffins have 1g net carbs, 130 calories, 11g fat, 5g dietary fiber, 0g added sugars, and 4g protein. The optional teaspoon or two of Amoretti sweet corn extract adds negligible calories or fat and no net carbs per serving.
Tasty keto corn muffins made with Good Dee's Corn Bread
Low Carb Baking Mix and Amoretti Sweet Corn Extract
Keto Banana Muffins
Keto and Co Banana Caramel Muffin MixI love banana bread and cupcakes, and I really missed them after I adopted my new low carb lifestyle. Then, I discovered the awesome Banana Caramel Keto Muffin Mix by Keto and Co, which makes extremely moist, tender, and flavorful muffins that taste as though they were made with real mashed, ripe bananas, yet they contain no fruit at all. They have a slightly sticky, chewy texture similar to almond macaroons (yum!).
This mix is sweetened with the company's proprietary Wondrose Sugar Replacer, a mix of erythritol, non-GMO soluble corn fiber, inulin, monk fruit and natural flavors.
Each bag of mix, which calls for 4 large eggs, 6 tablespoons of melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, makes 9 banana cupcakes or muffins.
I like to amp up the banana flavor even more with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of OliveNation Pure Banana Extract, which has 0 net carbs, no added sugars, and no calories when used as directed for baking (the alcohol burns off in the oven). These muffins are even better if you add 1/3 cup of ChocZero sugar-free dark chocolate chips or white chocolate chips.
To make them into cupcakes, simply cover the tops with a swirl of keto-friendly frosting.
|I love adding ChocZero sugar-free white or dark chocolate chips when I bake Keto and Co Banana Caramel Keto Muffin Mix batter|
Keto Banana Muffin RecipesBanana Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe from Joy Filled Eats
Low Carb Banana Muffins recipe with cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips from Sugar Free Londoner Note: This recipe is flavored with one very ripe banana, which is why it has nearly 8 net carbs. But if you really dislike recipes that use banana extract and you can fit it into your macros, you might want to make a batch of these and freeze them, so you can have one occasionally as a treat.
Low Carb Carrot Muffins or Cupcakes
Good Dee's Carrot Muffin & Cake Mix
I've always been a big fan of carrot cake and muffins, so I was really happy to discover Good Dee's Carrot Muffin & Cake Mix. Instead of almond flour and/or coconut flour, it's made with watermelon seed flour and sunflower seed flour.
Although this mix contains erythritol and very small amount of stevia extract, it's not as sweet as many others, which is actually a very good thing. If you'd like it a bit sweeter, you can easily add a very little bit of additional erythritol and/or stevia extract or another alternative, such as granulated/crystallized allulose, monk fruit, or a blend of some or all of them. However, after several months on a fairly clean keto diet (which also means no artificial sweeteners that can spike your blood sugar and can feed your psychological sugar addiction), you are likely to find that your sweet tooth has diminished, and you may find yourself preferring your baked goods a bit less sweet. I kept hearing this from other people doing mostly clean keto, but never dreamed it could happen to me...until it did!
This mix also has some cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg, but it's pretty subtle. I prefer carrot muffins and cupcakes with a more prominent spice flavor, so I always add additional cinnamon and, often, a bit of powdered ginger. I highly recommend Penzeys Spices for fresh, high quality herbs, spices and pure vanilla extract at terrific prices.
This mix calls for 3 eggs, 1/3 cup melted coconut oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for carrot muffins, or 4 eggs, 1/3 cup melted coconut oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract for carrot cake or cupcakes (follow the directions for the cake, but divide the batter into 12 silicone cupcake liners and bake for only 18-23 minutes). The "as prepared" nutrition information (which doesn't specify whether it's for cupcakes or muffins) listed on the package is 3g net carbs, 150 calories, 12g fat, 3g dietary fiber, 0g added sugars, and 4g protein.
Note: Although there are no tree nuts or coconut in the ingredients, the mix is manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility that also processes soy, milk, tree nuts, and eggs. So, if you have a severe food allergy to any of those things, this might not be an option for you.
Variation: Carrot Muffins with Nuts and/or Shredded Coconut
Traditionally, carrot muffins and carrot cake recipes often include crushed pineapple, raisins or dried cranberries, all of which are off-limits on a ketogenic diet. However, if you enjoy tree nuts and/or coconut and can tolerate them, these carrot cake muffins are even better if you add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut and/or chopped, lightly toasted walnuts or pecans to the batter.
While these additions will nudge the calories and net carbs a bit higher, they will also provide more healthy fat, dietary fiber and protein. I have tried several brands and prefer Anthony's Organic Unsweetened Shredded Coconut, which is great quality and costs less per ounce than many other high quality brands. I keep a 2-pound bag of it in our freezer.
Variation: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Make the Carrot Muffins with Nuts and/or Shredded Coconut variation, then add a dollop or swirl of sugar-free cream cheese frosting to each serving. I recommend either the cream cheese frosting recipe from the Wholesome Yum website, or my favorite keto cream cheese frosting recipe on page 380 of The Ultimate Guide to Keto Baking by Carolyn Ketchum, an absolutely fabulous cookbook that has become my go-to for low carb baking. If you want to learn how to make delicious keto muffins, cupcakes, layer cakes, frostings, cookies, doughnuts, gingerbread, brownies, pies, tarts, pizzas, crackers, bread, and more, this cookbook will become your keto baking bible. In addition to explaining simply and thoroughly the fundamentals of low carb baking, this book contains more than 150 sweet and savory baking recipes. And, while I haven't tried them all yet, every recipe I've made has been a winner.
Choose Your Flavor Muffin Mix
Good Dee's Low Carb Base Muffin Mix
You can whip up a batch of sweet or savory keto muffins in a jiffy by mixing in whatever flavoring ingredients you want into Good Dee's Low Carb Base Muffin Mix. This versatile mix makes a neutral muffin batter that you can customize to suit your individual preferences. Shredded cheese and bits of ham or crispy bacon, fresh raspberries or strawberries, shredded coconut and lemon zest, any flavor extract you can think of...the only limit is your imagination!
Good Dee's low carb base muffin mix is a blank canvas
so you can flavor it with any ingredients you wish
Adapting Keto Baking Recipes for People with Tree Nut Allergies
Almond flour, alone or with coconut flour, is the foundation of most low-carb baking. While there are some recipes that use coconut flour and no almond flour, these two ingredients behave very differently in baked goods, and you can't simply substitute one for the other and end up with a successful result. That means most keto recipes for baked goods are off limits to people who suffer from severe tree nut allergies.
Fortunately, in most cases, sunflower seed flour, also called sunflower seed meal, can be substituted for almond flour, if you add a bit more than the recipe calls for to get the right consistency (you may need to experiment a bit).
Although I'm not allergic to tree nuts, last fall I wanted to make a recipe that called for this almond flour alternative. I ordered a bag of Gerb's sunflower seed meal, which is convenient and high quality, but also on the expensive side. So, when that bag is finished, if I want more, I'll make my own by grinding raw sunflower seeds in a clean coffee grinder and sifting it. This post from Carolyn Ketchum on how to make sunflower seed flour has some helpful and important tips.
My Favorite Silicone Baking Cups / Liners for Muffins and Cupcakes
Keto baked goods often don't release as easily as their conventional counterparts. So, whenever I make low carb muffins or cupcakes, I always scoop the batter into my favorite non-stick, reusable, Pantry Elements Silicone Cupcake Baking Cups / Liners. This set of 24 fluted silicone liners includes four each of six bright, cheerful rainbow colors—yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, and green—in a bonus see-through storage container. The silicone passes the "pinch test" for color, and they also can be used standalone without the support of a cupcake or muffin tin, which is how I usually use them, since my old wall oven died and we now use only our countertop oven, which won't accommodate a full-size cupcake pan. I use these wonderful silicone liners for baking at least every other week.
Note: I've also recommended these silicone cups previously, in my review of the best silicone cooking and baking tools and accessories.
Thoughts on Soluble Tapioca Fiber, Soluble Corn Fiber, and Inulin in Low Carb Mixes
Tapioca and corn are starches, and high-fructose corn syrup (aka HFCS) and maltodextrin are high carbohydrate sugars with a very high glycemic index. None of them should be eaten on a ketogenic diet. However, although it is derived from HFCS, soluble corn fiber (SCF) is a horse of an entirely different color! Soluble corn fiber is a resistant dextrin, a water-soluble dietary fiber that has other potential health benefits, such as increasing bone calcium retention in postmenopausal women. It adds viscosity and sweetness without spiking blood sugar levels, because it passes through the stomach and small intestine without being digested. Similarly, inulin, another soluble dietary fiber recognized by the FDA, also provides sweetness and has an extremely low glycemic index.
Some people argue that anything with a sweet taste should be avoided on a ketogenic diet because, they allege, continuing to eat sweet-tasting foods will simply feed your food addiction to sugar. They point to studies that suggest that consuming artificial sweeteners may affect the metabolism, and a recent study that suggests that merely tasting something sweet might alter our metabolism and glucose control. However, these studies were focused solely on sugar (sucrose) and artificial sweeteners sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), and saccharine, all of which affect blood sugar and metabolism differently than plant-based, low glycemic sweeteners such as erythritol, monk fruit and stevia. It doesn't seem scientifically valid to draw conclusions about the metabolic effects of anything that tastes sweet based on extrapolating findings about effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners.
I have been eating foods containing soluble tapioca fiber, soluble corn fiber, and inulin for more than a year, while losing 58 pounds on my ketogenic diet, and I successfully kicked my sugar addiction and enjoy, but no longer crave, sweet foods. There are many, many others who have had similar experiences. As always, your mileage may vary.
Also, different people metabolize carbohydrates differently. If you have any concerns about how any type of sweetener might affect your blood sugar (especially if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic) or your ability to stay in ketosis, or just try adding plant-based sweeteners in limited amounts for a month, without changing anything else about what, when, and how much you eat, and see whether it seems to affect your weight loss.
High Quality Keto Baking Ingredients & Mixes Cost More Than Flour, Sugar, and Honey
The only significant downside of my ketogenic lifestyle is a noticeably higher grocery bill, despite purchasing less food on our shopping trips. Whole, high quality, nutritious foods are cost significantly more than processed foods, pizza, rice, grains, and traditional baked goods, especially since I try to choose mostly foods that are organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, pasture-raised, etc., when possible (and practical). And for baking, ingredients like almond flour, coconut flour, psyllium husk powder, and high quality, naturally-derived sweeteners, such as monk fruit extract, stevia extract, erythritol, allulose, and my personal favorite, BochaSweet (pentose) that have a low glycemic load, are more expensive than their far less nutritious conventional counterparts, such as wheat flour, cornstarch, sugar and honey.
But I consider the added expense a small price to pay, compared to the extremely high financial, emotional, and quality of life costs of developing and being treated for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or another serious and potentially life-threatening illness, for which my obesity put me at much higher risk. And the ability to enjoy life so much more, now that I feel (and look) so much better, free from my prior chronic joint pain and inflammation, with more energy and verve than I could have imagined, is priceless.
Want Even More Low Carb Cupcakes and Muffins?Bookmark this page and check back often over the next few weeks. I'll be updating this review with more of my favorite keto recipes and baking mixes for the best muffins and cupcakes to enjoy on a ketogenic diet.
Low Carb Muffins & Cupcakes: Treats to Enjoy on a Keto Diet by Margaret Schindel
Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey
Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas)
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