gluten free chocolate cupcakes on a plate

I like to play a fun game anytime I serve Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes where I force whomever is eating one to try and guess the secret ingredient immediately after taking their first bite — fudgy chocolate frosting mustache and all. It’s really fun.

To this day, not one person has guessed that what makes these gluten free cupcakes exceptionally moist and tender, and vegan too, is canned pumpkin.

No egg nor butter substitutes needed — just a trusty cup of regular ol’ canned pumpkin. YES!

These ultra-chocolatey gluten-free cupcakes will immediately become your new favorite allergy-friendly baking recipe. Nobody would ever guess they’re not only gluten free, but vegan too!

vegan gluten free chocolate cupcakes on a cooling rack

Homemade Vegan + Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

Between my daughter’s egg and dairy allergies, and my Celiac Disease, the need for a vegan + gluten free chocolate cupcake recipe is real, and these cupcakes aren’t just good for being allergy-friendly — they’re objectively delicious. And the texture! My food photographer messaged me to say they’re better than the non-gluten free cupcakes she’s made.

When I tell you I audibly gasped!

I also love that these homemade cupcakes freeze well so I can pull one out and frost it anytime my daughter has a birthday party to attend, for example. There was a nearby bakery with a daily vegan cupcake flavor we’d pick up anytime she needed one, but it closed down recently. Furthermore, the cupcakes were expensive, the texture wasn’t great, and the flavor wasn’t usually something a young child would jump up and down for, like Lemon Blueberry.

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes studded with chocolate chips and flourished with fudgy frosting and sprinkles though? A hit with kids and adults alike!

Ingredients Needed

These chocolatey cupcakes are made with a handful of everyday ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Plant-based milk: look for plant milk — almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, etc. — without a ton of added gums for gluten free cupcakes that are light and fluffy yet moist and tender. See my top tips below for more on this.
  • Distilled vinegar: added to the plant milk creates homemade vegan buttermilk to give the cupcakes a nice rise and moist texture.
  • Gluten free flour blend: I tested this recipe with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. If you use a different blend, ensure it already contains a binder such as xanthan gum.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: provides a deep and decadent chocolate flavor.
  • Baking powder + baking soda: reacts with the vegan buttermilk to give our gluten free cupcakes a beautiful, high rise.
  • Salt: balances out the flavors.
  • Granulated sugar: for sweetness.
  • Pumpkin puree: is the MVP of this recipe because it eliminates the need for eggs and a large amount of fat. This is the ingredient nobody can ever pick out!
  • Vegetable oil: you can use any neutral tasting oil like canola oil or avocado oil.
  • Vanilla extract: a generous splash compliments the chocolate.
  • Chocolate chips: really pumps up the chocolate flavor! I recommend Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels, but you can use your favorite GF/vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips.

Cupcake Toppers

  • Frosting: anytime I go homemade with the cupcakes, I take help when it comes to the frosting. See below for my favorite way to give store-bought frosting the texture of homemade buttercream frosting. I like Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge Frosting which is GF and vegan.
  • Sprinkles: what are cupcakes without sprinkles?! While many store-bought sprinkles don’t contain gluten, a lot are manufactured on shared lines with products containing wheat. So, be sure to check labels before adding to your cupcakes. I like Supernatural (these photos show their chocolate jimmies), Sweetapolita,  Watkins, and Kate’s Safe and Sweet for gluten free + vegan sprinkle options.

a gluten free cupcake sliced in half

Top Tips for the Best Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

I’ve made these cupcakes enough times to accumulate a few tips for making them absolutely PERFECT.

  1. Plan ahead. Don’t even think about eating these cupcakes the day they’re baked. In my experience with gluten-free baking over the past 10+ years, GF baked goods like bars, cupcakes, and muffins, especially, benefit from a day of rest after baking. They simultaneously become more sturdy but also soften. So, bake, cool, then frost the cupcakes, but don’t plan on digging in until the next day.
  2. Pumpkin puree. Be sure to use 100% pure pumpkin puree vs pumpkin pie filling, which comes sweetened and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc. I like Libby brand canned pumpkin puree. I promise you cannot taste pumpkin in the final cupcakes.
  3. Watch out for gums. I’ve noticed the amount of gums (gellan gum, locust bean gum, etc) in the plant milk can affect the overall texture of the cupcakes, making them heavy and well, gummy! I’ve landed on Silk unsweetened soy milk as my favorite vegan milk to craft these cupcakes.

Store Bought Frosting Hack

When we first started our gluten free + vegan baking adventures, I was shocked yet delighted to find that most of the tub frostings at the grocery store are both GF and vegan — even some cream cheese “flavored” frostings!

Be sure to always check labels at your grocery store, but I love Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge Frosting for topping these chocolate cupcakes with. Here’s how I transform the frosting from thick and dense straight out of the tub, to light, whippy, and nearly identical in texture to homemade buttercream:

  1. Scoop: Scoop the frosting into the bowl of your electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or to a large glass mixing bowl if using a handheld mixer with whisk-style beaters.
  2. Whip: Whip the frosting on high for 3-4 minutes or until the texture is light and airy. In my experience the volume of the frosting doesn’t change (I assume this is because store-bought frosting have stabilizers to prevent the frosting from shrinking/sinking in the tub) — it’s just the texture that transforms.
  3. Frost: I’m telling you — nobody would ever guess it’s not homemade frosting when they bite in!

whipping store bought frosting

How to Store and Freeze

  • How to store: place the cooled plain or frosted cupcakes into an airtight container with a lid. Store on the counter for 3 days, or up to 7 days in the fridge.
  • How to freeze: cool the unfrosted cupcakes completely then place inside a gallon Ziplock freezer bag, remove the air, then freeze flat for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter then frost.

Alrighty, ready to dive into these irresistible chocolate bombs?

gluten free chocolate cupcakes with chocolate chips and frosting sliced in half

Try Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Too!

How to Make Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

Step 1: Make vegan buttermilk.

To a glass measuring cup or bowl, combine plant-based milk and distilled vinegar then stir to combine. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes then — voila — homemade vegan buttermilk!

Tip: in my experience making vegan buttermilk with different plant-based milks (almond, soy, etc.), sometimes the milk will look slightly curdled at the end of the 10 minutes, while other milks will look unchanged.

homemade vegan buttermilk in a glass jar

Step 2: Combine the dry ingredients.

While the vegan buttermilk does its thing, combine the dry ingredients. To a medium-size mixing bowl add the gluten free flour blend, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt then whisk to combine and set aside.

cocoa powder and gluten free flour in a mixing bowl

Step 3: Combine the wet ingredients.

To a large mixing bowl add granulated sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, pumpkin puree, and the prepared vegan buttermilk then whisk to combine.

wet ingredients for gluten free cupcakes in a bowl

Step 4: Combine the wet and dry ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 2 batches, whisking until smooth between additions, then stir in vegan/GF chocolate chips. These are Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels.

batter for gluten free chocolate cupcakes in a mixing bowl

Step 5: Bake, cool, then frost the cupcakes.

Scoop 1/4 cup batter into each cup of a muffin pan lined with paper or silicone cupcake liners then bake for 23-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean — don’t underbake.

Let the cupcakes sit in the cupcake tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. Once cool, frost then add sprinkles but again, HOLD OFF on enjoying until the next day — your patience will be rewarded!

I hope you love every crumb of these ultra chocolatey cupcakes that can make living and eating gluten free and vegan a little bit easier — and more delicious! Enjoy!

a vegan gluten free chocolate cupcake sliced in half

More Chocolatey Gluten Free Dessert Recipes

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes (Vegan)

5/5 (1 REVIEW)

Description

You'd never guess Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes aren't the "real thing". Moist and chocolatey, these gluten free and vegan cupcakes are the very best, thanks to this special ingredient!

Ingredients

makes 22 cupcakes

  • 1-1/2 cups plant-based milk, see notes
  • 2 teaspoons distilled vinegar
  • 1-3/4 cup gluten free flour baking blend WITH binder (see notes)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups GF+vegan chocolate chips, I like Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels
  • 2, 16oz containers prepared frosting, I like Pillsbury Chocolate Fudge frosting
  • gluten free sprinkles, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees then line 2, 12 cup muffin tins with liners and set aside.
  2. Add the plant milk to a glass measuring cup then add the vinegar and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, to a medium-size mixing bowl add the gluten free flour blend, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt then whisk to combine and set aside.
  4. To a large mixing bowl add the sugar, pumpkin puree, oil, vanilla extract, and milk and vinegar mixture then whisk to combine. Add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients then whisk until combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients then whisk until smooth and combined. Add the chocolate chips then stir with a spatula until combined.
  5. Scoop 1/4 cup batter into each lined muffin cup then bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean, rotating the pans 180 degrees and trading baking racks halfway through. Let the cupcakes cool in the tins for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. Once completely cool, frost the cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles then serve. Tip: turn a tub of store-bought icing into buttercream-style frosting by scooping it into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or a large glass bowl if using a hand held mixer fitted with the whisk attachments. Whip the icing on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until it’s soft and fluffy. Note: the volume of the icing will not increase / change — just the texture.
  7. To store: place the plain or frosted cupcakes into an airtight container with a lid. Store on the counter for 3 days, or up to 7 days in the refrigerator.
  8. To freeze: cool the unfrosted cupcakes completely then place inside a gallon Ziplock freezer bag, remove the air, and freeze flat. Thaw in the refrigerator or counter then frost.

Notes

  • Plan ahead! For the best results, do not plan on eating these gluten free cupcakes the day they're made — the texture and stability of the cupcake is best starting on day 2!
  • For light and fluffy cupcakes, look for plant-based milk with the fewest amount of gums in the ingredient list. I like Silk unsweetened soy milk for this recipe.
  • I tested this recipe using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour – your results may vary if using a different GF flour blend. Be sure that whatever blend you use already has a binder such as xanthan gum in the mix.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.

photo collage of vegan gluten free chocolate cupcakes

Photos by Ashley McLaughlin