A few weeks ago, my grandma and I met at Starbucks for a coffee date. We arrived mid-afternoon… Apparently right as teenagers finished their classes at the high school campus a block away.
Nearly twenty of them gathered inside, split between standing in line to order and waiting on the other side of the room for baristas to present their drinks. At least two dozen more stood around outside, laughing and shouting and — much to my grandma’s bemusement — traveling around the shopping center together in packs.
Using her usual charm, my grandma managed to snag an outdoor table and chair from one boy, along with a second unused chair from another guy a few yards away. To our surprise, the teens even offered to help her move the patio furniture!
I left my grandma at the table and slipped inside to buy her a peppermint mocha and a plain black coffee for myself. Although only one patron stood in front of me by the time I entered the store, we still waited at least five minutes to order. The harried baristas deftly worked behind the counter, circling like tornados, and I watched as they quickly pulled espresso shots, filled blenders, squeezed out whipped cream, slipped pastries into brown paper, and called out the names of the high school kids.
Although slightly tempted to request a baked treat too upon seeing the students reach into those little sacks, I immediately decided against it when I spotted the slim pickings still remaining in the glass display case. A few minutes later, two steaming mugs in hand, I pushed open the front door and sat down across from my grandma, where we stayed and chatted until the sun disappeared below the horizon.
Yet shortly after I drove home that evening, I whipped up a batch of these ultimate healthy apple muffins to satisfy my craving for something baked and sweet. They’re deliciously cozy with the perfect texture, and they’re lovely for breakfast — or a mid-afternoon coffee date!
QUICK OVERVIEW — THE ULTIMATE HEALTHY APPLE MUFFINS
Difficulty: Pretty easy, including for most beginner bakers.
Taste: Sweet, cozy, and comforting from a mix of cinnamon and other spices that flavor the background, plus bright pops of natural sweetness from juicy diced apples.
Texture: Really moist, tender, and fluffy muffins, with soft apple bits that melt in your mouth.
KEY INGREDIENTS TO MAKE HEALTHY APPLE MUFFINS
Let’s talk about what you’ll need to make the best healthy apple muffins! I’m assuming you already have pantry essentials like baking powder, baking soda, and salt… So let’s focus on the other ingredients right now.
White whole wheat flour. Yes, this actually exists — and it’s not a combination of regular whole wheat flour and white (aka all-purpose) flour!
Here in the US, there are two main types of wheat: red wheat and white wheat. They both have the same health benefits (like extra fiber!), but the former is heartier with a more pronounced “wheat-y” flavor, whereas the latter is lighter in taste and texture.
Red wheat is used to make regular whole wheat flour, and white wheat is used to make (you guessed it!) white whole wheat flour. Because this type of wheat has a lighter taste and texture that’s pretty similar to all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour gives your healthy apple muffins a sweeter flavor and a really tender texture!
Hint: It’s similar to the difference between red and green grapes. Same health benefits, just different flavors!
Tip: If you’d like to make your healthy apple muffins gluten free, then I’ve included how to do that in the Notes section of the recipe!
Spices. You’ll need three of them: cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. I prefer Saigon cinnamon (like this!) because it has a stronger and sweeter flavor. Allspice is a single spice (not a blend!) that tastes like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. A pinch of nutmeg gives the spice profile in these apple muffins a richer, deeper taste.
Greek yogurt. You just need ½ tablespoon of butter or oil in this recipe, which helps keep your healthy apple muffins low fat and low calorie. Then Greek yogurt contributes to the rest of their super moist texture! It adds the same moisture as extra butter or oil (but for a fraction of the calories!), and it gives your muffins a protein boost too.
Sweetener. I used liquid stevia to make these healthy apple muffins sugar free. It helps keep them low calorie too! Many stevia brands and products have different sweetness levels, so for the best results, I highly recommend using the same one that I do. I buy it online here because that’s the best price I’ve found, and I love how I don’t notice any strange aftertaste like with some other products.
Hint: You can use liquid stevia to make all of these recipes of mine too. (I promise it’s not a “one-time use” ingredient!)
Tip: If you’re not a fan of stevia, then I’ve provided some other sweetener alternatives in the Notes section of the recipe!
Vinegar. I know, I know… Vinegar? In muffins?? It may sound like I’ve lost all my marbles… But this secret ingredient makes a big difference in the moist and tender texture of your healthy apple muffins! Here’s why…
Vinegar is an acid. Baking soda is a base. When you mix the two together, it creates air bubbles (specifically carbon dioxide!). Those air bubbles help your muffins rise once you put the batter in the oven, and they also create a fluffy and moist texture. By the time your muffins finish baking, all of the vinegar will have reacted with the baking soda, so you will not taste any vinegar whatsoever! (Just… Don’t taste the raw batter. Trust me.)
Apples. I love Fuji apples for making these ultimate healthy apple muffins because they have a naturally sweet flavor and a great texture that softens yet still holds up well, without turning mushy or mealy. However, the more important part is how you prepare the apples — not just what variety you use!
In my first round of testing, I diced the apples. I loved the bright pop of apple flavor and natural sweetness they added to each bite of muffin, but they were still on the crisp “al dente” side and fairly firm.
Next, I tried grating the apples. In that batch, the apples softened completely, which was exactly what I wanted… But because they were grated, the apples completely blended into the background, and you couldn’t detect any pops of apple flavor.
Then I had a moment of brilliance. (Well, it certainly felt like it, anyway!)
What if I precooked the diced apples so they’d be softer, like the grated ones… But they’d still add that bright pop of fruit flavor that I loved?
That batch turned out perfectly! Bursts of sweet apple flavor, with an incredibly soft texture that melted in your mouth. The best of both worlds!
So to get that perfect apple taste and texture in your apple muffins, first dice them so they’re ⅛” thick (or up to 3/16” thick — but no bigger!). This is SO important. Bigger and/or thicker apple slices will not soften properly. Yes, I know it takes extra time to dice your apples that small… But I promise it makes the best apple muffins possible!
Hint: Dice, chop, and mince aren’t synonyms… They actually refer to different sizes! Chop is the biggest, dice is much smaller, and mince means superfine.
Next, pop those diced apples in a bowl with a bit of water, cover the top, and microwave on high for 2 ½ minutes. If you let them sit while you measure and mix together the rest of the ingredients, they’ll be much softer and ready to use by the time you need to fold them into the batter.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST HEALTHY APPLE MUFFINS
Now that you’ve got your ingredients ready, let’s talk about how to make the best healthy apple muffins! This recipe is easy to make, so there are only a few key steps to cover.
No mixer. That’s right — put away your stand mixers and hand-held mixers! For the best healthy apple muffins, make this batter by hand. Use a whisk where explicitly instructed, and use a fork for everything else.
Why a fork and not a wooden spoon?
The open spaces between the tines of a fork allow for the batter’s ingredients to pass through them, which makes it easier and more efficient for everything to come together while you stir. This helps prevent over-mixing — which is exactly why you do NOT want to use a mixer!
Both stand mixers and hand-held mixers (aka electric mixers) tend to over-mix low fat batters, like this healthy apple muffin batter. Over-mixing leads to a tough or gummy texture. Not good! But if you use a whisk and fork — and a gentle hand while stirring! — then your muffins should turn out really soft and tender.
That’s my third secret to making moist muffins! A whisk, a fork, and making the batter by hand. (The first was Greek yogurt, and the second was vinegar!) Then my fourth secret is…
Alternating additions. This is a common method used to make cake and cupcake batters, and I love using it to make muffin batter too. It also helps prevent over-mixing, which creates a really moist and fluffy muffin texture
So what does “alternating additions” mean? It’s simple! Switch between adding some of the flour mixture, gently stirring it in, adding some milk, gently stirring it in, and going back and forth between these two until you run out of the flour mixture and milk. And yes… I use a fork to do this, not a spatula or wooden spoon!
Coat muffin cups or liners with cooking spray. This is super important! Low fat batters, like this apple muffin batter, will stick to muffin cups and muffin liners like superglue because the batter contains so little oil or butter. Generously coating either with cooking spray will prevent your muffins from sticking too much. (I use this trick for all of my healthy muffin recipes — and my healthy cupcake recipes too!)
Tip: I highly recommend doing this for any type of muffin pan (metal, silicone, etc) and muffin liner (paper, foil, silicone, etc)!
FAQS ABOUT HEALTHY APPLE MUFFINS
Are these healthy apple muffins gluten free?
Yes, you can easily make them gluten free! See the Notes section of the recipe for how to do this.
What is the secret to making moist muffins?
I covered this in more detail above, but the quick answer is (a) Greek yogurt, (b) vinegar, (c) a fork and no mixers, and (d) alternating additions. Scroll up to the sections with bold text in my blog post for more information about each of these!
What can I substitute for the vinegar?
I’ve only tested this recipe with distilled white vinegar so far, so I can’t personally vouch for any substitutes. However, if distilled white vinegar isn’t readily available where you live, then lemon juice or apple cider vinegar would probably be what I’d try. (You need some type of acid to react with the baking soda to make these apple muffins rise properly and give them the best soft, moist, and tender texture!)
What can I substitute for the stevia?
See the Notes section for my top recommendations!
What kinds of apples are best for muffins?
I personally love Fuji apples for muffins because they’re juicy, naturally sweet, and have a great texture that holds up well during and after baking.
How should I store these healthy apple muffins?
In an airtight container in the refrigerator. When stored like this, they should last at least 5 days, if not longer!
Do apple muffins freeze well?
Yes, these healthy apple muffins freeze really well! To thaw them, I like to pop individual muffins in the microwave and heat them on 50-60% power until they’re warmed all the way through. When thawed like this, they practically taste freshly baked!
Ready to bake your own? 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 ultimate healthy apple muffins!
The Ultimate Healthy Apple Muffins
- 1 ½ cups (187g) diced Fuji apple (see Notes!)
- 3 tbsp (45mL) water
- 2 ¼ cups (270g) white whole wheat flour or gluten-free* flour (measured like this)
- 2 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tbsp (7g) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tbsp (15mL) vanilla extract
- 2 ½ tsp liquid stevia (see Notes!)
- ½ cup (120g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp (45mL) distilled white vinegar
- ¾ cup nonfat milk, divided
- 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.)
- Add the diced apples and water to a microwave-safe bowl. Tightly cover the top with a lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 2 minutes 30 seconds (2:30). Immediately (and carefully!) remove the lid or plastic wrap, and gently fluff the apples with a fork. Set aside to cool (while measuring and mixing together the rest of the ingredients).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter or coconut oil, egg whites, vanilla extract, and liquid stevia. Add in the Greek yogurt, stirring until no large lumps remain. Stir in the vinegar. Stir in ¼ cup of milk. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and remaining milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and stirring just until incorporated. (For best results, add the flour mixture in 3 equal parts.) Gently fold in the diced apples, as well as any water still remaining in the bowl.
- Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350°F for 23-27 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…
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Blueberry Muffins
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Banana Nut Muffins
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Apple Pie
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Apple Crisp
♡ Healthy Apple Scones
♡ Healthy Apple Pie Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy muffin recipes and healthy apple recipes!