Morning Glory Muffins: Optionally Grain Free

If you’ve never heard of a Morning Glory Muffin and, certainly, if you’ve never tried one, you are in for a treat! They have just about everything in them but the kitchen sink and are DELICIOUS. Chef Pam McKinstry created them in the 70’s for her restaurant and this is my own take on her recipe. Bonus, they’re easily translated to grain free.

The flavor of these muffins is out of this world. They have just the right amount of sweetness, but no processed sugar, and you’d never know they’re chock full of nutrients–carrots, apple, coconut, dates, almonds, walnuts…Just try them, I promise you won’t be sorry. And if you’ve never had a grain-free muffin and want to try that option, you will be impressed at how good these are. I know this carb lover was! If you’re on the search for a healthy baked treat for your little ones (or yourself), you’ve found it.


Morning Glory Muffins

(makes about a dozen regular sized muffins)

Don’t forget to check out my Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions at the bottom of the recipe.



  • ½ cup all-purpose flour (omit if grain-free)
  • ¾ cup + 2 tbsp almond flour (if grain-free, add another 1/4 cup)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon


  • 2/3 cup pitted dates
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup desiccated or shredded coconut, unsweetened


  • 1 cup grated carrot (about 1 big carrot)
  • 1 cup grated, peeled granny smith apple (about 1 big apple)


  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup liquid fat (I use melted ghee and extra virgin olive oil)
  • ¼ cup raw, unfiltered honey
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line or grease muffin tins.
  3. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl, including coconut if using desiccated.
  4. Put the dates, walnuts, and shredded coconut (if using instead of desiccated) into a food processor and grind until fine.
  5. Mix the ground ingredients and grated carrot/apple into the dry ingredients.
  6. Whisk together wet ingredients in a separate bowl or large liquid measuring cup.
  7. Add wet to dry and gently mix until combined.
  8. Fill muffin tins ¾ of the way.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes for regular muffins and about 15 minutes for mini, until a tester comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool in the pans on a rack.


I always recommend following a recipe the way it’s written before making any changes; your substitutions will work out much better if you know what the food tastes like in its original form and can make educated substitutions. With that, here are my tips, tricks, and substitutions for this recipe:

All-Purpose Flour: I originally made these muffins grain-free, but found them a bit too delicate for my 1.5-year-old son, so I replaced some of the almond flour with all-purpose white wheat flour. I like that it makes just the right amount of difference, but that there’s still very little processed grain per serving.

If you can’t have gluten or grain, feel free to try any substitution you like. I know that 1/4 cup almond flour works in place of the 1/2 cup of all-purpose. I would also recommend trying 6 tbsp cassava flour.

Almond Flour: If you can only find almond meal, use that in place of the almond flour (psst they’re the same thing). Also feel free to experiment with any other nut meal/flour. If you make your own, I recommend toasting the nuts first (as I do with the walnuts in this recipe) to enhance the flavors.

Dates: These are used in place of sugar and, because they’re ground, you’ll never know they’re there. You can try any other dried fruit, but I’d recommend raisins, plums, or figs as the best alternatives. Dried fruit has a lot of sugar, so you still shouldn’t go overboard on muffins, but it’s nutritious sugar that actually lowers blood sugar, so you can be confident you’ll get sustained energy in a sweet package 🙂

Walnuts: Walnuts are one of the most nutritious nuts you can eat, which is one reason I chose them for this recipe. They’re also great in baked goods and cut the sweetness, so I think they’re perfect here. A good substitution would be pecans, but feel free to use any nut you like (including almond meal).

Coconut: Well, you can’t really substitute the delicious, unique flavor of coconut 🙂 If you can’t find desiccated, which is dried and ground up coconut (not the same as coconut flour, which has been defatted), then shredded is just fine–I just recommend adding it to the food processor because I don’t prefer shreds of coconut throughout my baked goods. Up to you, though! And if you don’t like the flavor of coconut, feel free to omit it or replace with more grated carrot.

Carrot: This adds moisture as well as nutrients. If you don’t want to use carrot, I might try subbing with half coconut, half apple, or subbing completely with zucchini, but be sure to squeeze out the liquid first because carrots don’t retain nearly as much water.

I also don’t bother peeling the carrot, I just wash and scrub it to ensure there’s no dirt. That peel has good fiber not to be missed and you’ll never know it’s there!

Granny Smith Apple: I chose granny smith because it’s a tart apple and there are a lot of sweet ingredients in these muffins. Whenever that’s the case, I always look for things that will help cut the sweetness. You can use any apple you like, though, I’d just recommend something crisp that’s good for baking, although I’m sure a soft apple would work fine (just may not grate as easily). If you want to keep the peel, try grinding it. I’ve never tried this, but I’d be interested if it works because, again, that’s good fiber!

Eggs: This is kind of self-explanatory–the eggs help bind the muffins, but they also add a healthy protein. Of course, if you’re egg-free, use whatever your usual substitute is.

Liquid Fat: Usually a recipe like this will call for vegetable oil, but that’s one of the least healthy fats, so I opt for anything else that’s a better alternative. Ghee is very healthy–yes, made from butter and a good fat! It’s actually even anti-inflammatory and most people with a dairy allergy can eat it because the allergy-inducing milk proteins are removed.

I also like to use extra virgin olive oil because it’s one of the healthiest fats you can consume, plus you really cannot taste it, I promise. When I first developed the recipe, I used one part melted ghee, one part melted coconut oil, and one part extra virgin olive oil because I was afraid the flavor would come through. The next time, I omitted the coconut oil (one part ghee, two parts olive oil) and I still couldn’t taste the olive oil. This is really exciting to me and I’ll be using all olive oil in my next batch (less effort melting the ghee!).

Raw, Unfiltered Honey: This is, of course, one of the most nutritious forms of honey you can consume, which is why I use it. Unfiltered honey is also not as liquid as filtered honey, so it’s a great substitution for sugar. You can feel free to use whatever liquid sweetener you like, but I have to stick to my guns that this is just about the healthiest and far preferable to something like liquid Stevia or agave nectar, which has been proven not-so-healthy afterall. Plus, it just plain tastes like honey anyway…But as always, your choice!

Pure Vanilla Extract: What can I say here? Don’t sub it 😉 If you don’t have it, just don’t worry about it! Please just never, never, never, never, nevernever…use artifical flavoring. Never.

Grain Free Muffins and Paper Liners: If you decide to make the muffins grain-free and use paper liners, make sure they are completely cool before taking the liner off or they will stick, stick, stick! They come off even cleaner when the muffins are frozen 🙂


My son has really bad eczema (or did before I fixed it with my own homemade cream!) and reflux, and since I’m always on a mission to use only products that are natural, I’ve researched my a** off trying to find remedies for both of these. There was a time when I wondered if A was allergic to grains, which could cause the eczema (he’s not — no food allergies, phew!) and then I read that processed grains and whole grains (that haven’t been soaked/fermented properly to reduce anti-nutrients) can really mess with the digestive system, causing reflux and what appear to be allergic reactions, like eczema! Because not only are nutrients not passing through the intestinal wall correctly, but substances are passing through that shouldn’t, causing the immune and digestive systems to go all whacko (that’s the scientific term, I swear).

Anyway, I considered that he might have to go grain free, if not for his eczema, then for his digestion. So I started looking up recipe after recipe after recipe. His favorite food is muffins, it’s our go-to. If he throws everything else on the floor, he’ll more than likely at least take a muffin! And what I figured out was that the best grain free baked good is a muffin! Because it’s a liquid batter and you can make up for the lack of grains with a lot of egg to bind (which also keep it delicate and cakey!), muffins (or any cake) turn out really well. What really seals the deal for me is the fact that there are a lot of cake recipes that are naturally grain-free. That is, they were created a hundred or more years ago without allergies or diet in mind, just with delicious cake in mind, which tells me that it really is good.

So, once I figured out the basic formula, it was really easy to turn just about any wheat muffin into something grain-free. And when I stumbled upon morning glory muffins, I knew I had to make them for my son, but my own even more nutritious version (the original does use all wheat flour and processed sugar). I mean all those healthy foods in one place! Fruit, vegetables, protein, fat, even dairy (if you choose). I always taste test whatever I’m going to give my son (of course), and when I ate the first muffin…I wanted to eat them all. They are astoundingly delicious, to me. Just so so good. I was really impressed! And it was really difficult to keep my hands off them 🙂

Now I know that whenever I’m going to make a batch of these, I should make a big batch to freeze so I don’t have to feel guilty any time I want to steal one. I would recommend you do the same 😉


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