During my trip to Hawaii last month with my mom, I naturally woke up shortly after 6 am nearly every day feeling completely rested and refreshed. (The time difference between California and the Big Island really helped, too!) With Mom already out jogging, I quickly dressed, stretched, and headed down to the hotel gym for a workout.
Even at that early hour, plenty of couples and families sat in comfy sofas and chairs scattered throughout the open-air lobby, many of them overlooking the pool and facing the ocean. I also spotted quite a few businessmen perched at tables, their laptops open in front of them while they hurriedly typed, headphones and ear buds jammed into their ears to minimize the chatter from the surrounding families.
The vast majority of these hotel guests sprawled throughout the atrium had little brown paper bags, disposable coffee cups, and napkins in front them from the café in the lobby. Only open for breakfast and lunch, it still stayed busy all morning long, providing pastries and caffeine to all of its patrons.
Although slightly tempted to peek at its offerings… I knew how quickly the gym filled up (and how nauseous I feel when I exercise after eating!), so I walked straight past the café and its line to the stairs that led directly down to the gym entrance to fit in my workout before Mom and I “officially” started our day.
As I lifted, lunged, squatted, and burpeed through my workout, my mind wandered back to the small café located almost directly above the gym… And I imagined the delicious flavors and various sweet treats they must have sold. (Especially when one man brought a cup of coffee into the gym to sip on in between sets!)
By the time I walked back upstairs to our room to shower, most of the breakfast pastries had disappeared… But knowing how much butter, oil, and calories probably hid inside each one, that was probably a good thing!
So instead, I baked my own batch of tropical-flavored breakfast treats after I flew back home: these Healthy Hawaiian Muffins! They’re incredibly moist and tender from lots of Greek yogurt, and they’re filled with some of the most classic Hawaiian foods… Including pineapple (my favorite!), coconut, macadamia nuts, and a generous splash of vanilla (inspired by our vanilla bean tour on the Big Island!).
With how well they kept in the fridge, I was transported back to the tropics and able to enjoy a taste of Hawaii every day for nearly an entire week… Until I ran out of muffins and needed to make more!
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY HAWAIIAN MUFFINS
So let’s go over how to make these healthy Hawaiian muffins!
The dry ingredients are fairly standard: white whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Yes, you need both baking powder and baking soda. We’ll go over why that is in a minute!
But just in case you’re new to Amy’s Healthy Baking (or just in case you’ve forgotten during my summer break!)… White whole wheat flour actually exists, and contrary to what it sounds like, it’s not simply a mix of white (aka all-purpose) flour and regular whole wheat flour!
Instead, white whole wheat flour is made by finely grinding a special type of soft white wheat (hence the name!), whereas regular whole wheat flour comes from a heartier variety of red wheat. The both have the same health benefits, like extra fiber, but white whole wheat flour has a lighter taste and texture.
That little color difference makes a huge difference in the taste and texture of your healthy Hawaiian muffins… The white whole wheat flour makes them so moist and fluffy, and it lets the sweet and buttery flavors shine!
Yes, these healthy Hawaiian muffins do taste extra buttery, even with a mere ½ tablespoon of butter! That small amount of butter really helps keep your Hawaiian muffins low fat and low calorie. Then to make life easy… You use melted butter, not softened! I rarely remember to set out butter far enough in advance to let it properly soften, so I take a little shortcut and use melted butter in my healthy muffin recipes whenever I can. 😉
Because you’re only using ½ tablespoon of butter in your healthy Hawaiian muffins, the majority of their buttery flavor actually comes from vanilla extract. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it??
However, vanilla extract enhances butter’s rich flavor and amplifies that buttery taste. Therefore, by adding at least 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract to these healthy Hawaiian muffins, they taste just as rich and buttery as the regular “indulgent” ones you’d buy from a bakery—or from that little café in our Hawaiian hotel!
Side Note: I bought vanilla beans on our Vanillerie tour on the Big Island to make my own vanilla extract at home! Although my homemade vanilla isn’t ready yet (it requires close to 6 months for the best flavor!), I’m really excited to make another batch of these muffins in the future with my homemade Hawaiian vanilla!
Before we get to the rest of those special Hawaiian ingredients, we need to cover a few other important ingredients in these muffins. These are ingredients you don’t always find in classic muffin recipes, but they’re all really important in these healthy Hawaiian muffins!
Unlike traditional muffins that call for refined granulated sugar, you’ll skip that and sweeten your healthy Hawaiian muffins with liquid stevia instead. Stevia is a plant-based, no-calorie sweetener that contains nothing refined or artificial (aka it’s clean eating friendly!). It’s also really concentrated. You just need 2 ½ teaspoons to sweeten this entire batch of muffins. That’s the equivalent of more than 1 cup of granulated sugar!
One important thing to note! Many brands and stevia products have slightly different sweetness levels, so for the best results, I recommend using the same one I did. I buy it online here! That’s the best price I’ve found, and I don’t notice any strange aftertaste like with some other stevia products. (You’ll also use it in all of these recipes of mine, too!)
Also unlike traditional muffin recipes that include much more butter or oil, you’ll stir Greek yogurt into your batter instead. This is one of my all-time favorite healthy baking hacks! Greek yogurt adds the same moisture as extra butter or oil but for a fraction of the calories. It also gives your healthy Hawaiian muffins a protein boost!
Tip: I usually keep a big tub (or two!) of Greek yogurt in my fridge at all times, but one of those single-serving cups of Greek yogurt is almost exactly the right amount for this particular recipe!
As for this next ingredient… I alluded to it a bit earlier! Remember how I said you needed both baking powder and baking soda? That’s because you’re adding plain white vinegar to your batter. No, I promise you cannot taste it in the fully baked muffins!
That’s because all of the vinegar (an acid) reacts with the baking soda (a base). When they react, it creates air bubbles. Those air bubbles help your muffins rise, and they also give your healthy Hawaiian muffins a more tender texture.
Nerdy baking chemistry is yummy! Don’t you think? 😉
Now it’s time for those special Hawaiian ingredients! You’ll add in diced pineapple, diced macadamia nuts, and shredded unsweetened coconut. Fresh pineapple as well as pineapple canned in 100% juice both work! That means you can easily make these muffins all year round, not just when pineapple is in season. Definitely a good thing, in my opinion… I could use a mini tropical taste-bud vacation partway through just about every winter!
For the macadamia nuts, I always use roasted ones! If you can only find natural or raw macadamia nuts, then it’s really easy to roast your own. Just pop them in a 300°F oven until they’re beautiful golden brown!
The thing I absolutely love about roasting my own macadamia nuts? I let them bake a little longer and turn a little more golden brown compared to most store-bought macadamia nuts… And I’ve found that really brings out their buttery flavor notes… Which makes your healthy Hawaiian muffins taste even more rich and buttery!
One last thing! If you’re using cupcake liners, like I did in these photos, then you must coat them really well with cooking spray before adding in your muffin batter. Low fat batters (like with these healthy Hawaiian muffins!) tend to stick to liners like superglue. Misting the liners with cooking spray really helps them peel away from the muffins much more easily!
Tip: If your liners still stick, then seal your muffins inside of an airtight container or zip-topped bag for 24 hours. That helps loosen the liners!
Although it was hard to leave the Big Island… These little breakfast gems definitely transported me back to paradise every morning with each bite! 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 healthy Hawaiian muffins!
Healthy Hawaiian Muffins
- 2 ¼ cups (270g) white whole wheat flour or gluten-free* flour (measured like this)
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tbsp (7g) coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tbsp (15mL) vanilla extract
- 2 ½ tsp liquid stevia
- ½ cup (120g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp (45mL) distilled white vinegar
- ¾ cup (180mL) nonfat milk, divided
- 1 cup (210g) diced pineapple (see Notes!)
- 3 tbsp (28g) roasted macadamia nut halves, diced (see Notes!)
- 2 tbsp (10g) shredded unsweetened coconut (see Notes!)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. (If using liners, then line 12 muffins cups with liners and coat them with cooking spray.)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil or butter, egg whites, vanilla extract, and liquid stevia. Add in the Greek yogurt, stirring until no large lumps remain. Stir in the vinegar. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and stirring just until incorporated. (For best results, add the flour mixture in 4 equal parts.) Gently fold in the pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coconut.
- Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350°F for 23-26 minutes or until the top feels firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (or with a few crumbs attached). Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Pineapple Coconut Scones
♡ Healthy Pineapple Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
♡ Healthy Slow Cooker Pineapple Upside Down Cake
♡ Healthier Pineapple Mango Cheesecake
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy muffin recipes!