Tropical Coconut Vegan & Gluten Free Cupcakes

July 20, 2017
Ah, the beloved coconut. With all its dreamy & creamy tropical goodness, it's no wonder it's taken the world by storm in recent years. Coconutty-this and coconutty-that, we're told the humble coconut can cure all. But in addition to all of that, they taste, well, divine. I thought I'd take a whack at gluten free cupcakes, using all the coconutty goodness that I could get my hands on. I was left with arguably the most delicious creation that's ever graced my counter top. And that's not a lie. Now, you've got to be fully onboard with your coconut to appreciate these. These coconutty, gluten free cupcakes are intense. Not in the way that a fudgy chocolate cake is heavy, but they're intoxicatingly tropical and definitely make me feel like I'm away on an island somewhere in the Pacific. The great news, though, is that these are both vegan & gluten free and surprisingly light, meaning that pretty much everyone can enjoy them! The texture is perfection, and the frosting a delight. The only thing you have to bear in mind, though, is that they do require sitting overnight as part of their prep, and the frosting should be applied right before serving, straight from the fridge. But if you can manage that, the actual baking part is super simple and easy. These delightful vegan and gluten free cupcakes are just as appropriate in summer as they are winter and a definite staple for you to have in your recipe stash. Time to get tropical!
Tropical Coconut Vegan & Gluten Free Cupcakes

Tropical Coconut Vegan & Gluten Free Cupcakes

Recipe Type: Sweets
utensils YIELDS 12 gluten free cupcakes
herb graphic for recipe card
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups golden caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 7-8 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 2/3 cups gluten-free self-raising flour
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons desiccated coconut
        graphic for recipe card


1. The night before making your cupcakes, refrigerate one of the cans of coconut milk. This will be used for the frosting at the final stage.
2. Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C, and line a 12-hole cupcake tin with cups.
3. Melt your coconut oil if solid and place in a large bowl with the caster sugar. Mix together until combined.
4. In a small bowl, make your chia "eggs" by combining chia seeds with water. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes to become gelatinous.
5. Add chia eggs to sugar-oil mix. Add in baking powder and apple cider vinegar. Mix to combine.
6. You will be adding your flour and coconut milk to the bowl gradually and in equal quantities. This will be 1 2/3 C flour and 1/2 C of coconut milk from the can that wasn't refrigerated. You'll want to be sure to use the liquid part from the bottom of the can. Add in half the flour, then combine. Follow with half the coconut milk. Add the remaining half of the flour and the remaining half of coconut milk.
7. Add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and mix.
8. Divide the batter between the 12 cupcake cups and bake for 20-22 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Bear in mind that gluten-free flour is much paler than wheat, and you can't always rely on the top going golden-brown as an indicator that they are done. To avoid dry cupcakes, check with the toothpick technique. Consistently, I've found 20 minutes is perfect.
9. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
10. Frosting is best done immediately before serving; however, the mixture can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until required. To make, retrieve your can of refrigerated coconut milk. Open the can upside down and pour out the liquid (keep this for making smoothies or curries!). Scoop out the solid part and gently break apart in a mixing bowl. Add in the powdered sugar in small quantities and whisk with an electric mixer to combine. This frosting goes very liquidy very fast - especially with the heat caused by the mixer. It's no worry, though; it'll quickly firm up when popped in the fridge.
11. To serve, spread a generous layer of frosting onto your cupcakes and sprinkle with desiccated coconut. Voila! NOTE: If it's unlikely that the cupcakes will all be eaten at once, I find it best to store the cupcakes unfrosted in an air tight container and the frosting in a jar in the fridge. Frost and sprinkle prior to serving for the best effect. Warning - spoon may be needed as they're a messy eat!

Also by Kat: Vegan Lemon Zucchini Breakfast Muffins

Related: Ginger Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes

Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes

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Photos: Kat Kennedy

Kat Kennedy is an Arizona-based physiology doctoral student and holistic health advocate writing about science, health, and her experiences as a third culture kid and global nomad. She's @sphynxkennedy everywhere.


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