During the winter quarter of my first year in graduate school, I enrolled in a mandatory spectroscopy lab, which met once a week at 7:30 am. By the time the sun rose, about a dozen of my classmates and I were sitting in the Chemistry Building basement, ready for our three-hour session.
We took turns setting up and running the special magnetic machines. They looked like shiny metal cylinders, standing six to ten feet tall and three to five feet wide, and if we manipulated them properly, they would create a printout that looked like a random spiky mountain range… And from the peaks in that graph, we could determine the exact spatial arrangement of atoms in small molecules.
Pretty nerdy stuff!
Towards the end of the quarter, the professor held a special session in a different lab on the other side of campus, which housed magnetic machines twice as big—close to two stories tall!—and nearly ten times as sensitive as the ones in the Chemistry Building basement. As a result, they took almost an hour to produce each graph, so we ended up with lots of free time to chat while we waited.
I learned a lot about my classmates during that session, and it turned out that one girl’s parents owned a popular local coffee shop in her Oregon hometown. She explained how she grew up grinding beans and whipping up lattes for the somewhat hipster clientele…
But according to her, none of the bakery items her parents sold were made in-house! They bought all of their bagels, croissants, and jumbo Costco-style muffins from wholesale distributors, but their customers never knew. And the most popular item?
The gigantic double chocolate muffins… With nearly half a day’s worth of calories!
As a huge chocoholic, I completely approved of that flavor as the patrons’ favorite… But in their health-oriented town, I have a feeling these Healthy Double Chocolate Zucchini Bran Muffins would have been an even more popular choice! They’re supremely rich and chocolaty, with a hint of fudginess (like my favorite fudgy brownies!), but they contain no refined flour or sugar and only 105 calories!
So… Sneaky vegetables. Wholesome bran. Two types of chocolate. All resulting in brownie-like muffins.
That’s true breakfast perfection in my book!
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BRAN MUFFINS
To make these healthy muffins, you’ll need a few key ingredients, starting with whole wheat flour (or gluten-free!), oat bran (like this, or the gluten-free version if necessary!), and cocoa powder (this kind!). Just use regular ol’ unsweetened cocoa powder! You’re adding more cocoa powder than flour, so your muffins will already taste extra rich and chocolaty without Dutched or special dark cocoa powder.
Tip: Regular unsweetened cocoa powder has a different acidity level compared to Dutched and special dark cocoa powder. Because of this, when you substitute one of the latter two for regular unsweetened cocoa powder, it can change the texture of your baked goods. Therefore, I always recommend using the same cocoa powder explicitly called for in the recipe!
It’s extremely important that you measure the flour, oat bran, and cocoa powder correctly, using this method or a kitchen scale. (← That’s the one I own and love!) Too much of any of those three will dry out your muffins, especially the oat bran. It acts like a sponge and soaks up tons of liquid from your batter! Too much cocoa powder will also make your muffins taste bitter, rather than rich and dark.
Tip: My kitchen scale only cost $20. It’s the best kitchen tool I’ve ever bought!
To make these bran muffins really soft and tender without lots of oil or butter (like in traditional recipes!), I have a special trick… You’ll soak the oat bran in some Greek yogurt and milk while measuring and mixing together the rest of the ingredients! This softens the oat bran, just like how my overnight oats recipes work, which makes your muffins perfectly moist. It’s such a great trick!
Bonus: The Greek yogurt adds lots of protein to your muffins, too! It has around 21g per cup!
Instead of refined sugar, you’ll sweeten your muffins with a combination of pure maple syrup (like this!) and molasses (this kind!). Molasses is actually what gives bran muffins their iconic taste—cozy, comforting, and a teensy bit earthy—so I don’t recommend substituting anything for it! Molasses is shelf-stable and keeps for ages, and you’ll use it in all of these recipes of mine, too! (This is the kind that I use!)
Of course, we can’t forget the zucchini and mini chocolate chips! (I’m obsessed with these!) Remember to thoroughly pat your zucchini dry with paper towels before stirring it into the batter. This removes the excess moisture. If you skipped this step, the zucchini would release all of that moisture into the muffin batter while baking… And that would cause your muffins to completely collapse while cooling!
Then for a finishing touch, I always press more mini chocolate chips into the tops of the batter before popping my trays in the oven. How cute and irresistible does that make them look??
As a huge chocoholic, these are definitely going in my regular breakfast rotation! ♡ And when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your muffins!
Healthy Double Chocolate Zucchini Bran Muffins
- 1 ½ cups (180g) oat bran (measured like this and gluten-free if necessary)
- ½ cup (120g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- ¾ cup (180mL) nonfat milk, divided
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (60g) unsweetened cocoa powder (measured like this)
- ¼ cup (30g) whole wheat flour or gluten-free* flour (measured like this)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tbsp (7g) coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large egg whites (room temperature)
- ¼ cup (60mL) molasses (room temperature)
- ¼ cup (60mL) pure maple syrup (room temperature)
- 1 ½ cups (160g) freshly grated zucchini, patted dry (see Notes!)
- 3 tbsp (42g) miniature chocolate chips, divided
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick spray.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the oat bran, Greek yogurt, ½ cup of milk, and vanilla extract. Let the mixture rest for at least 10 minutes while preparing the remaining ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. In a third bowl, whisk together the coconut oil and egg whites. Stir in the molasses and maple syrup. Add the oat bran mixture, stirring until fully incorporated. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and remaining ¼ cup of milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and stirring just until incorporated. (For best results, add the flour mixture in 3 equal parts.) Fold in the zucchini and 2 ½ tablespoons of miniature chocolate chips.
- Evenly divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups, and press the remaining miniature chocolate chips into the tops. Bake at 350°F for 20-23 minutes or until the tops feel firm to the touch. Cool in the muffin cups for 5 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
♡ Healthy Double Chocolate Bran Muffins
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Chocolate Mini Muffins
♡ Healthy Chocolate Chip Banana Bran Muffins
♡ Healthy Chocolate Chip Zucchini Mini Muffins
♡ Healthy Chai Spice Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
♡ Healthy Zucchini Banana Bread