Easy Vegan Lemon Cupcakes

BY : PUBLISHED : February 22nd, 2022 UPDATED: August 5th, 2022

Light, fluffy, and wonderfully moist, easy vegan lemon cupcakes with a lemon buttercream frosting OR glaze! One bowl, fuss-free, inexpensive, and super versatile (keep reading for tons of flavor variations!)

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completed lemon vanilla cupcakes on a white surface

Light and Fluffy Vegan Lemon Cupcakes

Unpretentious, simple, and inexpensive vegan desserts are what we’re all about, and these vegan lemon cupcakes fit the bill on all accounts! This recipe requires just a handful of frugal pantry staples (you can probably make them right now), one bowl, all-natural lemon flavor, and the option between a vegan lemon buttercream and glaze topping. Even better, while surprisingly simple, this vegan lemon dessert is bursting with citrusy flavor. So even non-vegans will enjoy them!

Lemon lovers will adore the bright, fresh, and zingy flavor in these eggless lemon cupcakes, especially when topped with a super-zingy lemon glaze or fluffy, creamy lemon buttercream. And for those that want something a little bit ‘extra,’ there are also tons of optional mix-ins you can choose from for a bake that fits everyone’s needs. These include lavender, coconut, and raspberry versions, as well as frosting-free vegan lemon muffins (among many others!)

Whether you need inspiration for a special occasion (birthdays, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc.) or just a mid-week treat, these make for a great go-to, fuss-free vegan cupcake recipe. Best of all, they’re also freezer friendly for up to 3 months, so you can have them on hand at a moment’s notice!

And if you want to impress a crowd with more simple vegan bakes, check out these super fudgy vegan brownies, lemon poppy seed snack cake, vegan apple cake, or blueberry banana muffins!

The Ingredients

  • Flour: We use all-purpose flour. However, you could also try this recipe with white whole wheat flour or a 50/50 blend of both (though the latter options may be slightly denser).
  • Sugar: We used regular white granulated sugar. Note that it’s best to use organic to guarantee that it’s vegan. While it’s possible to experiment with unrefined sugars, the color/flavor will vary.
  • Baking soda: Will provide lift to the cupcakes for a fluffy texture.
  • Vinegar: Use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to react with the baking soda and provide lift.
  • Oil: Use any neutral cooking oil like canola oil, vegetable oil, or melted coconut oil (only use the latter with room temperature ingredients; otherwise, it may solidify in the batter). Olive oil may also work but will affect the flavor slightly.
  • Vanilla extract: Use pure, natural vanilla for the best flavor in these lemon-vanilla cupcakes.
  • Salt: Just a pinch to enhance the flavors in this vegan lemon cupcake recipe.
  • Water: Or unsweetened plant-based milk (any—almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, etc.)
  • Lemon: You’ll need lemon juice and lemon zest, so using an organic unwaxed lemon is preferable. Otherwise, you’ll first need to remove the wax layer (refer to recipe notes section below).
  • Topping: You could either use vegan lemon buttercream frosting or lemon glaze to top the dairy-free lemon cupcakes. You could also use other fruity frosting options like raspberry or strawberry.

ingredients for lemon cupcakes measured out against a white surface

Optional add-ins & Recipe Variations

This vegan lemon cupcake recipe is actually SUPER versatile. Here are just a few ways to adapt the recipe.

  • Vegan lemon curd: To make lemon-filled cupcakes. Core the vegan cakes, spoon in a little vegan lemon curd, and top with the 'hat' before frosting.
  • Candied lemon peel: Makes for a pretty and delicious garnish.
  • Lemon poppyseed cupcakes: Add 2-3 tablespoons of poppy seeds to the batter.
  • Coconut lemon cupcakes: Add 3-4 tablespoon of unsweetened coconut flakes to the batter and optionally top with a coconut frosting.
  • Vegan white chocolate: Add a handful of vegan white chocolate chips or chunks to the batter. Alternatively, drizzle the eggless lemon cupcakes with melted vegan white chocolate.
  • Blueberry lemon cupcakes: Add ¾-1 cup of fresh or frozen berries. Fold half into the batter and press the remaining into the top of each cupcake before baking (to ensure they’re spread evenly).
  • Other berries: You can use the same method (and amounts) as above for raspberries, blackberries, or chopped strawberries.
  • Turmeric: If you want the lemon drizzle cake to be more yellow In color, add a pinch of turmeric powder to the batter (you won’t taste it).
  • Lemon Earl Grey Cupcakes: Add the content of 2 tea bags to the batter OR use strongly brewed tea in place of the water.
  • Lemon lavender cupcakes: Add 1-2 teaspoons of food-grade lavender extract OR dried, food-grade lavender.
  • Vegan orange cupcakes: These citrus cupcakes are easily adjustable. Simply swap the lemon for orange juice and zest instead.

How to Make Vegan Lemon Cupcakes?

1) First, preheat the oven to 350F/175C and line a cupcake tin with paper or silicone cupcake liners. At the same time, zest and juice the lemon/s.

ingredients for lemon cupcakes measured out against a white surface

2) Then, combine all the vegan lemon cupcake ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer/whisk. Mix until smooth, being careful not to overwork the batter (which can cause dense, unrisen/sunken cupcakes).

lemon cupcake batter in stainless steel bowl lemon cupcake batter in stainless steel bowl

3) Divide the lemon batter equally among the cupcake tin, so they’re all ¾ full. Then bake in the oven for between 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean (or with just a few crumbs).

lemon cupcakes batter in stainless steel bowl with pictured muffin tin with paper liners batter of lemon cupcakes in paper liners of muffin tin

4) Transfer the vegan lemon muffins/cupcakes to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before topping with lemon frosting/glaze (optional). Enjoy!

Storing Instructions

You can store the vegan lemon cupcakes (with a lemon glaze) loosely covered on the countertop for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for 5-7 days (with glaze or vegan lemon frosting).

You can also freeze the vegan lemon muffins/ cupcakes - best done un-frosted. Place them on a baking tray and flash freeze until solid. Then transfer to an airtight container or Ziplock/Stasher bag and freeze for 3 months.

Allow them to thaw at room temperature for several hours or in the fridge overnight, decorate, and enjoy!

completed lemon vanilla cupcakes on a white surface

FAQs

Can I reduce the amount of sugar added?

It’s possible to somewhat reduce the sugar in these vegan lemon muffins/ cupcakes. However, be careful with it, as sugar helps to provide moisture for the correct texture. If you experiment with a sugar-free sweetener like erythritol/xylitol, let us know the results in the comments below.

Can I prepare/make these vegan lemon cupcakes ahead?

You can prepare the batter up to a day in advance, minus the baking soda and vinegar. Then, remove it from the fridge 30 minutes before baking, adding the baking soda and vinegar right before baking them.

Can I make them gluten-free?

Though we haven’t tried, you can experiment with using an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend (like Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur’s). However, avoid single flour types like coconut flour or almond flour. Let us know the results in the comments below.

Can I substitute the oil in the cupcakes?

You could experiment with using unsweetened applesauce for some or all of the oil, though the texture may vary somewhat.

Can I use lemon extract?

Fresh lemon juice/zest will provide the best (and most natural) flavor. However, it’s possible to use extract in a pinch. Adjust the amount to taste.

Top Recipe Tips and Notes

  • Adjust the amount of lemon: We’ve made these vegan lemon cupcakes fairly zingy (because no one likes a ‘barely there’ lemon-flavored bake), but adjust the amount to taste.
  • Don’t overmeasure the flour: To measure the flour, it’s important to spoon it into the measuring cup and level that with a knife (rather than scooping the cup into your bag of flour) to use the correct amount of flour that will make for light and fluffy eggless lemon cupcakes.
  • Don’t over mix the batter: Otherwise, the gluten becomes overly activated, affecting the density and rise of the dairy-free lemon cupcakes.
  • Cool entirely before decorating: Otherwise, the lemon frosting/glaze will melt into/off the sides of the bakes.
  • To remove the lemon wax layer: Place lemon/s in a colander and pour boiling water over it. Then, scrub with a vegetable brush, rinse, and voila!
  • For a lemon loaf: We already have a vegan lemon glaze loaf recipe, so refer to that for the best results.
  • For mini lemon cupcakes: You’ll need two trays and to adjust the baking time. Check on them at 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

completed lemon vanilla cupcakes on a white surface

More Easy Vegan Cupcakes and Muffins

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

completed lemon vanilla cupcakes on a white surface

Easy Vegan Lemon Cupcakes

Toni Okamoto
Light, fluffy, and wonderfully moist, easy vegan lemon cupcakes with a lemon buttercream frosting OR glaze! One bowl, fuss-free, inexpensive, and super versatile (keep reading for tons of flavor variations!)
5 from 32 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 12 cupcakes
Calories 148 kcal
METHOD Oven
DIET Vegan

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cups of granulated sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of white or apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of lemon zest

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 degrees C). Line a cupcake tin with silicone or paper baking cups.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer), mix together all the ingredients until smooth.
  • Pour the batter into each baking cup until it’s three-quarters full.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Test a cupcake by sticking a toothpick in the middle. If the toothpick comes out dry, the cupcakes are done.

Notes

Variations:
  • Vegan lemon curd: To make lemon-filled cupcakes. Core the vegan cakes, spoon in a little vegan lemon curd, and top with the ‘hat’ before frosting.
  • Candied lemon peel: Makes for a pretty and delicious garnish.
  • Lemon poppyseed cupcakes: Add 2-3 tablespoons of poppy seeds to the batter.
  • Coconut lemon cupcakes: Add 3-4 tablespoon of unsweetened coconut flakes to the batter and optionally top with a coconut frosting.
  • Vegan white chocolate: Add a handful of vegan white chocolate chips or chunks to the batter. Alternatively, drizzle the eggless lemon cupcakes with melted vegan white chocolate.
  • Blueberry lemon cupcakes: Add ¾-1 cup of fresh or frozen berries. Fold half into the batter and press the remaining into the top of each cupcake before baking (to ensure they’re spread evenly).
  • Other berries: You can use the same method (and amounts) as above for raspberries, blackberries, or chopped strawberries.
  • Turmeric: If you want the lemon drizzle cake to be more yellow In color, add a pinch of turmeric powder to the batter (you won’t taste it).
  • Lemon Earl Grey Cupcakes: Add the content of 2 tea bags to the batter OR use strongly brewed tea in place of the water.
  • Lemon lavender cupcakes: Add 1-2 teaspoons of food-grade lavender extract OR dried, food-grade lavender.
  • Vegan orange cupcakes: These citrus cupcakes are easily adjustable. Simply swap the lemon for orange juice and zest instead.

Nutrition

Calories: 148kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 2gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 190mgPotassium: 22mgFiber: 1gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 1IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 5mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedonaBudget! 🙂

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

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About Toni Okamoto

"They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
'Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways...
we got to start taking better care of ourselves " - Dead Prez

View all posts by Toni Okamoto

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Michelle Cehn says

    These are so pretty, Toni!!

    • Andrea White says

      The pictures came out so beautiful!

  2. Jay says

    So excited to try these it looks so good

    • Andrea White says

      Nothing like some yummy cupcakes!

  3. Jami Gerke says

    Lemon just reminds me of summer! I can't wait until it comes. In the meantime, I'll have to make these cupcakes. 🙂

    • Andrea White says

      Yessss! So sweet and summery!

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