A couple of mornings ago, I was really in the mood for muffins (a common occurrence this pregnancy), so I asked my toddler what kind she wanted to make. She’s two and she loves chocolate, so that was her answer: chocolate muffins. I thought about it and determined that I couldn’t just make a plain ole chocolate muffin. I needed to make them mini. Add walnuts. And top them with homemade caramel sauce and flakey sea salt. Extra? Totally. Delicious and worth it? Yes!
The muffins themselves are so easy. One bowl. Hardly a mess. And if you have a 24-count mini muffin pan, you can bake them all in one batch that takes less than 10 minutes to bake! And these muffins are good. Like, if you want to forget about the caramel and sea salt all together, then I’m here for it. After all, there’s nothing like a fresh, warm muffin. Especially when melty chocolate chips are involved!
But the caramel drizzle will take these muffins to the next level. It’s a simple recipe and method that I learned from watching Cupcake Jemma, and I highly recommend checking out her Caramel Masterclass video! If you’ve never made caramel before and you’re intimidated, I get it. I won’t even fault you if you choose to go for store-bought for these muffins. But if you make your own, then you’ll feel super accomplished and have tons of delicious caramel leftover to pop onto anything you’d like!
Since my vegan caramels tend to come out thinner and too runny for a drizzle, I re-boil my mixture for 5-10 minutes to thicken them up. You don’t need a candy thermometer and the whole caramel making process (aside from the cooling) should take around 30 minutes. You can even make your caramel the night before, let it totally cool, and then store it in the refrigerator to drizzle on the muffins later. Whatever you choose, have fun and enjoy these bite-sized pieces of dessert heaven!
Some of the ingredients I love for this recipe:
Coconut oil lends lots of moisture to these muffins. If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to use another vegetable oil (I prefer olive oil).
Instant coffee adds depth to the chocolate flavor. You can also use espresso powder if you have that on hand. This ingredient is totally optional.
Coconut sugar is my go-to sweetener. It’s low GI and unrefined and tastes nothing like coconut! It’s a perfect replacement for regular white sugar.
Vegan Caramel Sauce
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, liquid
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 large eggs, room temp (or 2 flax eggs if vegan - see note)
- 1 tsp instant coffee (optional)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or cane sugar)
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup natural cocoa powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips, divided
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts pieces (optional)
- Make the caramel sauce: combine liquid coconut cream and vanilla extract; set aside. In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, add the sugar and then the water - don't stir. Swirl the pan gently until sugar is soaked.
- Place sugar mixture over medium heat and bring to a boil. Without stirring, boil the mixture until it turns amber in color. The sugar will go from amber to burnt quickly, so keep an eye on it! And do not stir it!
- Once the amber color is reached, immediately remove from the heat and place on a towel or hot pad. Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir in the coconut cream mixture, being cautious as the mixture is extremely hot and will bubble up!
- Return caramel sauce to medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-10 minutes or until caramel thickens. Transfer caramel to a room temp, heatproof bowl to cool.
- Make the muffins: bring your eggs to room temperature by placing them in a glass of warm water for around 10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350°F and generously spray your mini muffin pan with non-stick spray or line with paper cups/liners.
- In a medium bowl, combine the oil, plant-based milk, and eggs. Whisk in the instant coffee and vanilla, and then whisk in the sugar. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use a large spatula to gently mix until just combined. Add in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips and the walnuts and mix.
- Scoop about 1.5 Tbsp of batter into each mini muffin well - nearly to the top. I used a cookie scoop for quick and easy filling. Top the unbaked muffins with the extra 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, lightly pressing the chips into the batter.
- Bake muffins at 350°F for 6-10 minutes or until toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out with a few crumbs. Allow muffins to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then gently remove them to cool on a cooling rack.
- Once muffins are cool, spread the caramel sauce over the tops and sprinkle with sea salt flakes.
- Allow caramel to set before storing any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature. Store leftover (and cooled!) caramel sauce in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator.
- For vegan muffins: use 2 flax eggs (mix 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal + 6 Tbsp warm water, allow to thicken for five minutes)
- Be sure to use at least a medium sized pot to make your caramel. The hot sugar mixture will bubble up when you add the coconut cream!
- To ensure no sugar crystals form in your caramel sauce, do not stir the caramel while it's boiling the first round. Don't scrape the sides of the pan at any point, or otherwise mess with it! Also, allow your caramel sauce to totally cool before transferring it to your refrigerator.
- When boiling the caramel the second round (to thicken it up) it's okay to stir it a bit.
- If using melted coconut oil, you'll want the rest of your ingredients, including your eggs, to be room temperature. This ensure your coconut oil will remain in a liquid states while making your batter.