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Lighter Gluten Free Chocolate Muffins

Lighter Gluten Free Chocolate Muffins
Lite gluten free chocolate muffins have 180 calories & under 2 teaspoons of sugar. Still rich and generous, with all the rich chocolate flavor. Have it all!

Lite gluten free chocolate muffins. 180 calories, with all the rich chocolate flavor. Have it all!

In the spirit of January and potential New Year’s resolution-type feelings, I give you a lightened up muffin recipe. These rich chocolate muffins have way way less sugar than I would usually use in muffins or cupcakes, and lots less butter.

They’re tender and chocolatey, but clearly well-suited for breakfast. And I didn’t even bother to tell my kids they were “light.”

Lite gluten free chocolate muffins have 180 calories & under 2 teaspoons of sugar. Still rich and generous, with all the rich chocolate flavor. Have it all!

Can we talk about these lighter recipes for a minute? First, the hand-holding: I was a little nervous last week that you wouldn’t be into a lighter gluten free baking recipe since this is not a “diet” blog.

I don’t count calories, and I don’t ever want my 2 girls to hear me complaining about the way I look, so I never do it. Ever. In the same spirit, I don’t provide nutrition information generally for my recipes (that, and it’s crazy labor-intensive to do it). Unless I say “lighter,” or “light” in a recipe title.

Lite gluten free chocolate muffins have 180 calories & under 2 teaspoons of sugar. Still rich and generous, with all the rich chocolate flavor. Have it all!


Second, baking light in general: It’s hard! Since both fat (yum!) and sugar (yum!) are not only delicious but act as tenderizers in baking, it can be very, very difficult to bake light without ending up baking a tough muffin.

That’s why every muffin ever made or sold in the 1990’s was low fat but heavy as a brick and tough as shoe leather—or packed with sugar. Or both.

Lite gluten free chocolate muffins have 180 calories & under 2 teaspoons of sugar. Still rich and generous, with all the rich chocolate flavor. Have it all!

In this lighter recipe, I cut out a fair amount of the butter, but added in some unsweetened baking chocolate and concentrated even more on reducing the sugar in the recipe. Fat may be calorie-dense, but it’s satisfying.

I do love the taste of sugar, but I think we all know how bad it is for us. And it tends to create cravings. That’s why these muffins have only 7 grams of added sugar per muffin. For some perspective, that’s less than 2 teaspoons of sugar in the whole muffin.

I added a few miniature chocolate chips to the batter, and then a few more to the top of the muffin, and the nutrition information includes those few chips. You could leave them out, but mini chips are great for lighter baking since they really do go a long way.

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Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 12 muffins


4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups (210 g) all-purpose gluten free flour (I used my Better Than Cup4Cup blend)

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup (20 g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder

7 tablespoons (84 g) granulated sugar

1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) + 2 egg whites (50 g) at room temperature, beaten

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) lowfat buttermilk at room temperature + enough water to make 2/3 cup (5 1/3 fluid ounces) liquid*

2 ounces miniature chocolate chips (optional, but included in nutrition info below)

*This ends up being 3 1/3 fluid ounces water + 2 fluid ounces lowfat buttermilk to make 5 1/3 fluid ounces total liquid.


  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease or line a standard 12-cup muffin tin, and set it aside.

  • In a small, heat-safe bowl, place the chopped butter and chocolate and place over a small pot of simmering water, making sure the water in the pot doesn’t touch the bowl. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Set the bowl aside to cool briefly.

  • In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the melted butter and chocolate mixture, egg and egg whites, vanilla, and buttermilk and water mixture, mixing to combine after each addition. The batter will be thick but smooth. Add the (optional) 2 ounces miniature chocolate chips. Divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin cups, smooth the tops with wet fingers.

  • Place the tin in the center of the preheated oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 19 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • Nutrition Information per muffin, as calculated with recipes.sparkpeople.com (I only provide nutrition info for recipes that I call “light” or “lighter”):

    Calories 175.3 | Total Fat 9.1g | Cholesterol 28.6 mg | Sodium 116.7 mg | Potassium 111.7 mg | Total Carbohydrate 21.9 g (Dietary Fiber 1.9 g; Sugars 9.1 g) | Protein 3.0 g

  • Originally published on the blog in 2014. Recipe unchanged, photos and video all new.



P.S. If you haven’t yet, please pick up your copy of Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread! Your support keeps the blog going and going, and I am so grateful!

If you liked this recipe, you'll love my new book!

Gluten-Free Small Bites

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  • Jennifer S.

    Thank you for this – really – I’m all over “lighter” stuff but not fat free – blech! I love baking but end up eating so much of it myself, so this is perfect. I’m so glad that there are options….

    • I agree about the options, Jennifer! Always good to have. Different strokes for different folks and all that. ;)

  • lisa.l

    I love your blog and cookbooks, but when I see a recipe that calls for separating eggs, I keep on going without a second look. Seems so wasteful to me since I never get around to using the un-called-for halves. So could I use 2 whole eggs instead, or is there a reason for certain parts only? I’m not trying to be critical, just genuinely curious! Thanks!

    • Mary Garrard

      I agree about wasting food, even if it’s something relatively small like an egg yolk. So, I usually use two eggs instead of one whole egg and two whites, and haven’t found any difference in the outcome.

      • Linda

        I made them yesterday with two whole eggs instead of the 1 whole/2 whites in the recipe and they turned out great! I was just running a little short on my farm fresh eggs and that’s why I made the change.

    • Sarah M.

      you could also try buying the little cartons of just egg whites :) I use these recipes as an excuse to buy a small one (same size as a small single serving milk carton) and then use whatever’s left to make a fluffy tasty low-calorie omelette :D

    • Lisa, these are lighter recipes. That is the reason for using more egg whites than yolks. I haven’t tested the recipe with any substitutions, so feel free to experiment!

  • Mary

    Hi, I really appreciate your blog and recipes, and I love chocolate! I do find that the flour blends you recommend contain a high amount of starches, so I substitute a whole-grain mix for some or all. I’ve also found that I can increase the tenderness and nutritional value in muffins by subbing in some almond flour, and they usually turn out well.

    • I’m glad you found something that works for you, Mary. I certainly can’t promise, for others, that that will always work, as baking with whole grains can be quite different, though. But if it’s working for you, by all means keep it going!

  • Mare Masterson

    Oh my goodness…I must have these! Going grocery shopping tonight…lowfat buttermilk just made the list. I have everything else in the pantry!

    FYI Nicole, someone I know since the 70s in NJ has seen my bread and bagel pictures on FB and she posted this yesterday: “You have convinced me and I have ordered the book.” I also told her to come to your blog.

    • Mare, you’re the best GFOAS ambassador! Love it. Thank you!

      I have to say that, although you can pretty easily sour your own milk and make “buttermilk,” and even though what you buy in the grocery store as buttermilk isn’t really true buttermilk, it’s really wonderful for baking, whatever it is!

      • Mare Masterson

        Having the “buttermilk” in the house gives me an excuse to make onion rings too! :) (like I need an excuse!)

  • Michelle

    I am loving these lighter muffin recipes, not because they are lower in calories, (but really, why would I complain about that?) but because they have such a great texture. I loved the blueberry ones, and these will make a perfect 3pm snack. Thanks so much for the wonderful recipes!

    • You bet, Michelle! So glad you’re enjoying this type of recipe. :)

  • anna

    These look delicious! So dark and chocolatey. Mmm… I do have one question, though. What brand muffin/cupcake papers do you use? All of the ones that I have tried end up sticking to the baked goodie, and spraying them with a bit of baking spray makes them greasy. I absolutely dont mind going paper-less with baking anything in a muffin tin, but sometimes you just need that pop of color or print. Thank you!

    • I use If You Care brand muffin liners, Anna. I love them, and I get them in the regular grocery store. But if you want something prettier, just search the web for “greaseproof” liners. That’s what you need to make sure they don’t bleed, and don’t stick. There are tons of sources online for them these days!

      • anna

        That’s the brand parchment paper i use! I’ve never seen their muffin liners at my local grocery stores. I will have to order online. Thanks a bunch!

  • Sarah

    I love the lighter recipes! I am tired of blogs with tons of butter and bacon, etc. – it just isn’t realistic to eat that way and stay healthy. I will try these for sure

    • dgf

      Actually it is a great way to stay healthy. Fat does not make you fat and makes you eat less because you are satisfied. Sugar and an over indulgence of carbs make you fat, these need to be a treat once in awhile.

  • Samantha

    Thank you!!! I am so excited about these lighter recipes. I love to bake and I love sweets. I usually don’t go into baking thinking about the calories or fat content…maybe I should?! Once in a while it is really nice to bake something that is better for you…and still have great flavor. Thank you for these recipes…I love them! Keep them coming if you can:)

    • Hi, Samantha, So glad you’re into them. Lighter baking is definitely its own challenge, and for me recipe development is all about new challenges! So you will definitely see some more lighter recipes from time to time on the blog. :)

      • Samantha

        Yay! You are the best Nicole:)

  • Marilyn McLeod

    These look so tasty. I’m glad you’re offer some “lighter” fares, as I can’t eat very much sugar. I tried making some oatmeal raisin cookies the other day with NO sugar (just some agave) and they turned out like little hockey pucks! Things just need a little sugar for the texture I guess! I will definitely try these and the blueberry muffins, as I love love love blueberry muffins! Thanks for all of your wonderful recipes.

    • Agave is a sugar, Marilyn, but there are so many variables in a recipe so who knows why you got hockey pucks! I am building up to making lighter cookies. That’s actually completely different in terms of low fat/low sugar, so it’s been bumpy, but I’ll get there eventually! So glad you’re enjoying this type of recipe. Thanks for the kind words. They’re much appreciated!

  • Cindy

    Lighter is a thousand time better than lowfat or nofat,,, in which they replace the fat with sugar. I love a lighter fare. Why not! And hurray for you for not fussing about your weight to your kids. I’m not even close to being thin but I figure this is the way God made me. Although I do watch, I try not to fuss. These look so great. I often buy Udi’s muffins for a quick breakfast on the run. I usually feel guilty about eating them but now I can make these and think about you instead!!!! Thank you Nicole for all you do!
    ~ Cindy

    • Good for you, Cindy! And thanks so much for the kind words. :)

  • Chris Stephan

    Can I use Better Batter for this recipe?

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  • GF Baker in AZ

    I made these yesterday, and they were fabulous! I had to use vanilla yogurt instead of buttermilk (none in the fridge), and they came out perfect. The texture was great, and the taste was nice and chocolatey without being too sweet. Thanks for a great recipe!

    • GF Baker in AZ

      PS – I am really enjoying the lighter recipes, too. Life is about balance, I believe there is a place for both richer and lighter recipes. Thanks for adding these to your offerings.

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  • Marcia Kimpland

    Hi Nicole, I prefer using almond flour for baking – just prefer the taste and texture. Do you know how I can adapt this recipe using almond flour? Thanks!!

    • I’m afraid you can’t simply replace all purpose gluten free flour with almond flour, like you can’t replace conventional all purpose gluten free flour with almond flour and have the recipe turn out. Almond flour requires recipes formulated specifically to be made with it. I recommend that you try my Paleo recipes. You should find something you like there. But I’d also try this recipe as written. These muffins are so good!

  • Mary C.

    Question, I have an egg allergy. Can I substitute eggs with applesauce or banana?

    • I haven’t tested this recipe with an egg substitute, but if you’d like to try I do not recommend using applesauce or banana, which don’t provide structure, only moisture. I always recommend a “chia egg,” (just google that phrase). Here, I’d try using 2 chia eggs (using ground, not whole, chia seeds). Good luck!

  • Bonnie van Esch

    Thanks for the recipe. I’m gluten intolerant but I also like to live as sugar-free as possible. A great substitute would be erythritol. It closely resembles sugar but without all the calories. It can be subbed at a ratio of 1:1 . Just for those who are refined sugar-free.

    • You cannot use erythritol in place of sugar 1:1, Bonnie. But feel free to experiment!

      • Bonnie van Esch

        You can actually. If it is the powdered version.On the back of the tub I buy it says so. I do a lot of Gluten-free baking and and use erythritol as a 1:1 substitution all the time. Works perfectly.

  • Mary

    I know it’s not much buttermilk. Can you substitute something else that is not cow milk related? Maybe almond or coconut yogurt?

  • Elaine Lyon

    This is exactly the gluten free and light recipient I have been looking for! I’m so excited to try making this!

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