Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe

By Jessica Hylton -

These Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes are soft, fluffy & so chocolate-y! They take only 10 minutes of prep, use simple pantry ingredients and are so easy to make! They rise beautifully. One bite & they will become your go-to cupcake recipe for any occasion, from Valentine’s Day to birthdays and beyond!

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

close up of frosted vegan chocolate cupcakes on a metal cake stand

Easy Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

I’ve made more chocolate cupcakes than I can count thanks to my baking company days, and when I tell you that these are my favourite vegan chocolate cupcakes to date! I refined them quite a few times to ensure they were foolproof and only a few steps and I can’t wait for you to try them.

With Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day coming up, now is the perfect time to treat ourselves and our loved ones to these incredible chocolate cupcakes. Not that we even need an excuse to make these fluffy morsels, right?!

They’re based on my Chocolate Sheet Cake Recipe and my Chocolate Cake recipe which have a total of 124 5-star reviews, so I KNOW you’re already to love these cupcakes too. They’re a lot less intimidating than a cake to make too and are great if you’re making them alone, with kids, or with friends and family. Key tip: try not to eat all the delicious frosting before it makes its way to the cupcakes!

Notes on Ingredients

Vegan chocolate cupcakes ingredients with words

Like I mentioned earlier, these ingredients are pretty typical. I vegan-ized the chocolate cupcakes for all of my chocolate lovers out there.

For the Cupcakes:

Apple Cider Vinegar: Adding this to vegan milk will curdle it to create vegan buttermilk. This aids in flavour, texture and helps the cupcakes to rise. You don’t taste this at all. You can also use regular white vinegar.

Vegan Milk: You can use soy milk or any vegan milk here. I would recommend a thicker milk for richer results such as soy, oat or cashew milk.

Brown Sugar: Aids in tenderising and sweetening the cupcakes, so don’t reduce the sugar amount. You can also use cane sugar, white sugar or coconut sugar (although this may alter the texture slightly).

All-Purpose Flour: This will give the cupcakes the right consistency. You can also use gluten-free flour, but it might change the texture.

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: I recommend using a high-quality one unsweetened cocoa powder. Don’t use dutch processed since it will not react the same way to the baking soda and will affect the rise of the cupcakes.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda: This and baking soda help the cupcakes rise! Make sure to test that your baking powder is good. Learn how to test these ingredients here!

Sea Salt: I recommend sea salt, but if you’re using table or kosher salt, use a little less since the granules are smaller (so you don’t over salt them).

Oil: This adds a necessary fat to help make these cupcakes moist and tender. You can use any oil here.

Vanilla Extract: Adds a deeper flavour to the cupcakes. You could also use a different flavouring if you want to add an almond flavour or even a chocolate extract.

Warm Milk + Instant Coffee: This combo really boosts the chocolate flavour. The warm milk melts the coffee and helps the ingredients blend together at the end. You can also use espresso powder if you’d like, or decaf coffee if you don’t want the caffeine.

Vegan chocolate frosting ingredients

For the Frosting:

Powdered Sugar: You can also use confectioner’s sugar – it’s the same thing. If you want to make your own, blend any sugar in your blender.

Vegan Butter: You may use salted or unsalted. If you use salted, skip the sea salt.

How to Make Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Making these vegan cupcakes is super simple. After mixing together all of the ingredients, you bake for only 18 minutes.

Preheat Oven and Line Muffin Tins: Preheat oven to 350°F/230°C. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners or foil bake cups.

Prep Buttermilk: In a jar, add the vinegar and vegan milk together to curdle and form a buttermilk. Set aside.  

step by step vegan chocolate cupcake photos

Combine Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, add the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Using a whisk, whisk all the ingredients together, removing and clumps that may form.

Mix In Oil and Buttermilk: Add in the oil, the buttermilk mix from earlier and the vanilla extract.

step by step vegan chocolate cupcakes batter

Add Instant Coffee and Warm Milk: Heat up that additional milk and coffee mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds (or on stove top until warm not boiling). You want it warm enough to dissolve but not boiling. Stir the instant coffee into it with a whisk or fork to dissolve for about 30 seconds.

Mix It All Together: Add it to the bowl on top of everything. Beat on medium speed of electric mixer for no more than 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once in between to ensure that everything is incorporated.

step-by-step baking of vegan chocolate cupcakes

Add Batter to Muffin Tin: Divide the batter evenly between 12 cupcake liners (about ¾ full with batter). You can use an ice cream scoop to help! Tap the cupcake pan on the counter three times (lift and tap down slightly) to remove any excess air bubbles before baking.

step-by-step baking of vegan chocolate cupcakes

Bake the Cupcakes: Place the pan in the middle rack of your oven and in the center of that rack. Bake for 18 minutes until fully cooked. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

How to Make Vegan Chocolate Frosting

Once you have the cupcakes ready to go, it’s time for the best part – frosting! This frosting is my go-to recipe for frosting and is made with vegan milk and vegan butter. It’s like a chocolate buttercream frosting, but vegan. It’s super velvety and so delicious.

how to make vegan chocolate frosting step by step

For the Frosting: Add the unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar, vegan butter, vanilla extract, sea salt and half of the vegan milk to your electric stand mixer or a hand mixer. Start mixing it together at slow speed, gradually increasing speed until it’s very thick and smooth. Add the 1/2 cup of the extra powdered sugar at a time until it reaches your desired thickness and consistency. If needed, add in the other half of the milk about 1 tablespoon at a time.

Frost and Add Sprinkles: After cooled, frost with chocolate frosting and with sprinkles (optional!) Enjoy!

Expert Tips for Success and FAQ

five chocolate cupcakes with frosting on a metal cake stand

With these tips, you’ll make the best cupcakes every single time.

  • Don’t Skip the Vinegar: This is our key ingredient to helping these cupcakes rise alongside the baking soda! It reacts to it and also helps with the fluffiness. Don’t worry – you don’t taste it at all.
  • Ensure Ingredients are Room Temperature: This ensures that everything blends together properly. It also makes emulsion (such as for the buttermilk) easier, so aids in the end cupcakes being fluffy, tender and soft.
  • The secondary ½ cup warm milk is crucial. It helps to dissolve the coffee which enhances the chocolate flavour. It also aids in helping the cupcakes to be soft. You want this to be warm, but not piping hot!
  • Check Your Ingredients for Freshness: Always ensure your baking powder and baking soda are fresh! This will make or break your recipe, and its very easy to check with this tip.
  • Weigh Cocoa Powder: I highly suggest using a kitchen scale for this! It gives you the most accurate results. Even if you don’t weigh the other ingredients, I highly recommend always weighing your cocoa powder. It can get packed very easily and you can end up adding too much or too little, which will throw off the rest of the recipe.
  • Don’t Over-Mix the Batter: Over-mixing the batter can make the cupcakes too dense because of the gluten that activates in the flour – just mix enough to combine all of the ingredients together.
  • Always let your chocolate cupcakes cool completely before adding frosting. This way the frosting won’t slide off or melt.
  • Sift Your Powdered Sugar: Be sure to sift your powdered sugar before making your frosting! This makes such a tremendous difference to the consistency of the frosting.
  • To Avoid Thick Frosting: You don’t want the frosting to be runny, but you also want it to spread easily across the top of the cake. If your frosting turns out to be too thick, try adding a splash of milk to it. Add your milk a little bit at a time.
a single vegan chocolate cupcake with frosting on two stacked plates

How to Store Leftover Cupcakes

You can leave these on the counter for about 1-2 days. After that, I would store in the fridge in an airtight container. If storing with frosting already on and you live in a hot area, you can store these in the fridge right away.

Freezing Your Cupcakes: You can freeze your cupcakes, frosted or unfrosted. Make sure to allow them to cool completely and then put them in a freezer safe, air tight container. This is great if you’re making them in advance. 

If you know you plan to freeze these, I would freeze them unfrosted, and freeze the frosting separately. To thaw, allow to come to room temperature on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour, or overnight in your fridge.

single chocolate cupcake with frosting on a plate with a bite taken out of it

More Vegan Dessert Recipes

Enjoy friends! If you make these Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!

close up of vegan chocolate cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

These Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes are soft, fluffy & so chocolate-y! They take only 10 minutes of prep, uses simple pantry ingredients and are so easy to make! They rise beautifully. One bite & they will become your go-to cupcake recipe for any occasion, from Valentine's Day to birthdays and beyond!
by: Jessica in the Kitchen
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 28 minutes
Servings 12
Course Desserts
Cuisine American
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar or regular vinegar
  • ½ cup soy milk or other vegan milk (120mL) (room temperature)
  • 1 cup brown sugar or cane sugar (200g)
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour  (180g)
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder  (40g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • cup oil  (66g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup warm milk + 1 teaspoon instant coffee mixed in until dissolved. Stir these together right before you need it so it's still warm

For the Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup unsalted vegan butter (softened) or salted, but don't use the sea salt below
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2½-3 cups powdered sugar
  • cup vegan milk (+ 1 tablespoon extra if needed)
Instructions

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Line muffin cups with cupcake liners or foil bake cups.
  • In a jar, add the vinegar and vegan milk together to curdle to form a buttermilk. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, add the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Using a whisk, whisk all the ingredients together, removing and clumps that may form.
  • Add in the oil, the buttermilk mix from earlier and the vanilla extract.
  • Heat up that additional milk and coffee mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds (or on stove top until warm not boiling). You want it warm enough to dissolve but not boiling. Stir the instant coffee into it with a whisk or fork to dissolve for about 30 seconds.
  • Add it to the bowl on top of everything. Beat on medium speed of electric mixer for no more than 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once in between to ensure that everything is incorporated.
  • Divide the battery evenly between 12 cupcake liners (about ¾ full with batter). You can use an ice cream scoop to help! Tap the cupcake pan on the counter three times (lift and tap down slightly) to remove any excess air bubbles before baking.
  • Place the pan in the middle rack of your oven and in the center of that rack. Bake for 18 minutes until fully cooked. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
  • After cooled, frost with chocolate frosting and with sprinkles (optional!) Enjoy!

For the Frosting:

  • Add the cocoa powder, vegan butter, 2 ½ cups of the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, sea salt and half the vegan milk to the bowl of an electric stand mixer or a hand mixer.
  • Start mixing it together at slow speed, gradually increasing speed until it’s very thick and smooth.
  • Add the ½ cup of the extra powdered sugar at a time until it reaches your desired thickness and consistency.
  • If needed, add in the other half of the milk about 1 tablespoon at a time.
NOTES
Calories are for cupcakes without frosting.
NOTES
  • Don’t Skip the Vinegar: This is our key ingredient to helping these cupcakes rise alongside the baking soda! It reacts to it and also helps with the fluffiness. Don’t worry – you don’t taste it at all.
  • Ensure Ingredients are Room Temperature: This ensures that everything blends together properly. It also makes emulsion (such as for the buttermilk) easier, so aids in the end cupcakes being fluffy, tender and soft.
  • The secondary ½ cup warm milk is crucial. It helps to dissolve the coffee which enhances the chocolate flavour. It also aids in helping the cupcakes to be soft. You want this to be warm, but not piping hot!
  • Check Your Ingredients for Freshness: Always ensure your baking powder and baking soda are fresh! This will make or break your recipe, and its very easy to check with this tip.
  • Weigh Cocoa Powder: I highly suggest using a kitchen scale for this! It gives you the most accurate results. Even if you don’t weigh the other ingredients, I highly recommend always weighing your cocoa powder. It can get packed very easily and you can end up adding too much or too little, which will throw off the rest of the recipe.
  • Don’t Over-Mix the Batter: Over-mixing the batter can make the cupcakes too dense because of the gluten that activates in the flour – just mix enough to combine all of the ingredients together.
  • Always let your chocolate cupcakes cool completely before adding frosting. This way the frosting won’t slide off or melt.
  • Sift Your Powdered Sugar: Be sure to sift your powdered sugar before making your frosting! This makes such a tremendous difference to the consistency of the frosting.
  • To Avoid Thick Frosting: You don’t want the frosting to be runny, but you also want it to spread easily across the top of the cake. If your frosting turns out to be too thick, try adding a splash of milk to it. Add your milk a little bit at a time.

Nutrition

Calories: 200kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 240mg | Potassium: 125mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 78IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 1mg
by Jessica

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Recipe Rating




25 comments

  1. LJ Grant says:

    5 stars
    Great recipe for we chocolate lovers and gorgeous photos! Thank you!

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Thanks so much LJ! We’re really happy that you enjoyed it.

  2. Connie says:

    5 stars
    Really lovely flavour. Soft, moist and tasty. Thanks so much for sharing! I thought I was going to have to attempt quite a few recipes before I found a keeper, thankyou for saving me the time!! I am serving. Them tomorrow morning (it’s late night here now) am I best to keep them on bench or in fridge??
    Thanks again!! 😋😋

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Thank you so much! You can definitely keep it on the counter if its not too hot. I hope this helps.

  3. Hana says:

    really wanna make this for my mom, but she doesn’t take anything with coffee… would it be possible to skip the coffee step?

    • Hi Hana,

      Yes it is! Just leave out the actual instant coffee, and use the liquid alone! I hope that helps, and enjoy!

  4. Izzy says:

    Hi.
    These looks soo good.
    I have never tried freezing ahead of time though I have heard it’s very handy and cakes still turn out nice.
    Do you place them in a container then freeze.

    Also how fresh do they keep after they have been thawed?

    Thank you 😊
    Izzy

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Hi Izzy thanks so much for reading! We normally place them in a freeze safe container. They’re pretty fresh but we haven’t kept it frozen for more than a week to two weeks. I hope this helps!

  5. Jordan says:

    5 stars
    Oh my goodness! I made these tonight and they are deeeeeelish! So light and fluffy! The icing is definitely what makes it. I didn’t use the instant coffee but they still baked & tasted just right. My husband and I use a lot of your recipes Jessica and they never disappoint! I’m on my way to search your site for more baked goodies. Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes!

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Thanks so much Jordan! We’re happy you liked it!

  6. Rebecca Smalley says:

    Can I use gluten free flour instead of plain flour? If so would it just be the same measurement?

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Yes, just swap it weight for weight. I highly recommend you use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour (in the blue bag) that’s what I tested these with!

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