Updated: Dec 28, 2020
I'm sure you've seen "healthy" muffin and banana bread recipes all over the internet that have no grains, no dairy, no added sugar, etc. etc. etc. Some are not that bad, some are terrible, and some are pretty good! I've tried dozens of them and none of them have been constant repeats because they always left me feeling like something was missing. This recipe right here is in my humble opinion, the most perfect "healthy-ish" muffin I've ever had. I make it constantly and after 5 years of making it, I am still not sick of it.
It has gone through a few rounds of improvements over the years and I've finally mastered the perfect combination. I've also figured out how to make it 100% vegan and still taste almost exactly the same, and have alternatives for almost every ingredient.
These muffins are really popular with new moms because the ingredients are loaded with nutrients that are helpful for lactation (breast feeding). They are also perfect for those who are on a gluten free or low carb diet since there are no processed flours used.
This muffin batter works really well in standard muffin tins, mini muffin tins, specialty shaped muffin tins, mini loaves, and donut trays.
The batter also freezes really well, so you can use small loaf pans to freeze the batter then defrost and bake when needed. I typically let it thaw on the counter for 30 minutes and then bake them at 350F.
1 medium or large ripe banana
7-8 softened dates (dates should be the same quantity as banana)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup creamy almond butter
1 cup old fashioned oats (blended)
4 heaping tablespoons almond flour
4 heaping tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk (or more until batter reaches desired consistency)
3/4 cup or more semi-sweet chocolate chips
Since I've tried this recipe with so many variations, I wanted to share which substitutions would give you the absolute best results.
Eggs If you want to make these muffins vegan, just replace each egg with a flax egg. To prepare your flax eggs, make them ahead of time by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of hot water for each egg replacement. Let it sit in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before using. You can also substitute the 2 whole eggs with 3 egg whites. I've done this several times and couldn't even tell the difference!
Oats You absolutely want to use old fashioned rolled oats for this recipe. Steel cut oats are too coarse and will not give you fluffy muffins. The oat texture is really important in this recipe because there is no other flour ingredients. For this recipe, you will need to pulse your old fashion rolled oats in a food processor to get a rough oat flour consistency. Finely milled oat flour can work but it won't give you the same type of texture that makes these muffins so good.
Almond butter You can either use plain creamy almond butter or creamy honey almond butter in this recipe. I do not recommend using chunky almond butter because it would likely weight down the muffins. If you choose to use honey almond butter instead of plain almond butter, then reduce your honey by about 2-4 tablespoons depending on how sweet you like your muffins to be. If you are running short of almond butter, you can mix in some peanut butter (I usually do 60/40 or 50/50). Making this muffins with just peanut butter would change the flavor profile though, so I recommend just sticking to almond butter if you can. The neutral flavor pairs best with the chocolate in my opinion. If your almond butter if feeling stiff, it will make it harder to incorporate it into your batter. Just stick your jar into the microwave for 30 seconds to loosen it up and give it a good mix before adding it to your muffin batter.
Honey If you are vegan and need to swap out the honey, I recommend using maple syrup. Maple syrup is runnier than honey though, so you will have to adjust the amount of plant based milk you use because you don't want the batter to be TOO liquidy.
Milk If you are using cow's milk, whole, 2% or skim will all work perfectly fine. If you are using a milk substitute, I highly recommend sticking with almond milk.
Chocolate Do. Not. Skip. The. Chocolate. I usually fold in the standard sized semi-sweet chocolate chips in the batter then sprinkle a few mini chocolate chips on top for a little extra something. These muffins taste great with dark chocolate chips too. There are also vegan chocolate chips!
Flax I love the flavor of flaxseeds in these muffins. You can't however use them whole, you absolutely need them to be ground. If you don't want to have to grind the flaxseeds yourself, just make your life easier and buy flaxseed meal. It is just as good! Chia seeds and hemp seeds are not good enough alternatives unfortunately. If you are in a real pinch, you can swap the ground flaxseed with extra ground almond meal, but you will be missing out on a ton of flavor and nutritional benefits.
Bananas and Dates For best results, you want to make sure your bananas are ripe. They are best when they have brown spots all over them, meaning they will be sweet and soft enough to mash thoroughly. My favorite type of dates to use are sukkari dates, but I know those are hard to come by in the U.S. California medjool dates work perfectly too and so do air sealed sugared dates. The key is to make sure the dates are soften, so make sure you soak them for a few minutes in hot water to ensure they will break down. My favorite method is mixing both mashed ripe bananas and the soaked dates, but you can get away with just using bananas if you don't have access to dates. Just replace the dates with one more ripe banana.
Smash ripe banana and dates until soft and mushy. If your dates are not soft enough, soak in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to discard the soaking water before adding the dates to the bananas.
Use an electric mixer to beat the bananas and dates together until the bananas are fully mashed and the dates are evenly incorporated - about 3-4 minutes. You can also do this with a stand mixer.
Add eggs, honey, almond butter, vanilla, and milk to the banana and dates mixture. Reduce honey by 25-50% if you are using honey almond butter. If you want to make this vegan, prepare your flax eggs ahead of time by mixing 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed with 6 tablespoons of hot water. Let it sit in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Add in all dry ingredients: ground flaxseed, almond flour, baking soda, and blended rolled oats. See note above about which type of oats to use and how to pulse them in a food processor for the best consistency.
After the thick batter is thoroughly mixed, gradually add the milk. You may need more milk than listed in the recipe if your batter is still too thick. The thicker the batter is, the denser the muffins will be. Add one extra tablespoon of milk at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Spray muffin tins with nonstick spray and use a cookie scooper to evenly distribute batter. I recommend filling the muffin tins about 3/4 of the way up. Garnish with extra mini chocolate chips.
Bake in 375F oven just until toothpick comes out clean. Do NOT overcook them or else they will dry out quickly. Timing depends on your oven and the size of your muffins. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from pans. Pro tip: use the toothpick to gently pry out the muffins if they are sticking to the pan.
Enjoy these warm or at room temperature.
You can also use this exact recipe to make baked donuts! Use the same batter but instead of adding all the chocolate chips to the batter, mix in half then dip the baked donuts into your favorite glaze like a classic frosting of chocolate ganache.