Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 29, 2009

My friend, AJ, bakes up a storm, yet she uses not a single drop of cooking oil or margarine. She also uses no sugar to sweeten her desserts—only dates. And that’s not all—she doesn’t even use flour! Think about that! Muffins that are born free of oil, sugar, and flour—and her desserts are damn delicious.

I began to give that some thought. I had a craving for muffins so I pondered the oil thing and realized others have done fat-free baking using mashed fruits—so that was doable.

The sugar issue was also not too daunting. There are other sweeteners like maple syrup, agave nectar, and brown rice syrup, but could I turn out a muffin that was sweet enough with only dates? Well, I figured if AJ could do it, I could probably make it work, too.

Giving the flour a bit of thought, I realized that old-fashioned rolled oats could probably give a muffin some great body as well as a few health benefits, as well.

For this old nut, you can guess the recipe had to be good and nutty—so hazelnuts became my nut of choice for this recipe that was beginning to take shape in my head.

Well, it came together beautifully—actually, it almost seemed the ingredients propelled themselves into the four bowls it took to mix up the batter. The muffins took just a little longer to bake than most, but only a few minutes longer.

The thing most people find unusual about my kitchen tools is that I keep a hammer in the drawer. That’s for the nuts, I tell them. It works perfectly for coarsely crushing tough nuts like hazelnuts and almonds.

Well, here it is– the oil-free, sugar-free, and flour-free gems. We loved them and think you will, too.

Richly flavored with spices and extracts and sweetened only with dates, these delicious muffins provide a scrumptious breakfast treat that has a guilt-free feature built in. They contain no added fats like margarine or oil and rely on old-fashioned oats in place of flour. So you can enjoy a high-fiber, low-fat treat and give your body the health benefit of soluble fiber to keep the cholesterol in check and low fat to keep the calories down.



Yield: 1 dozen muffins

Date Puree
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, snipped in half
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

3/4 cup whole hazelnuts

1 1/4 cups vanilla soymilk
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or other mild vinegar

2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon caramel extract

1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer
1/4 cup water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 six-section muffin tins with baking cups or have ready a 12-section silicone muffin pan.
2. To prepare the Date Puree, combine the dates and water in the food processor and pulse and process to a coarse puree. Set aside.
3. To prepare the muffins, place the hazelnuts into a heavy-duty plastic bag, seal it, and place it on a hard surface. Pound the nuts with a hammer to coarsely crush them and set aside.
4. Combine the soymilk and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.
5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt and mix well. Add the crushed hazelnuts and stir in.
6. In a medium bowl, combine the bananas, vanilla extract, caramel extract, the reserved date puree, and the soymilk/vinegar mixture. Stir well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
7. In a small bowl, combine the egg replacer and water and beat with a fork until foamy. Add to the muffin batter and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
8. Fill the muffin pans to the brim and bake for 26 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool completely before removing.

The amounts used to prepare the date puree makes 1 cup of puree.


  1. Wow, it’s great that you came up with such a creative recipe. If it’s OK with you, I will put a link to it in my next email newsletter. I bet that people who get it will really like it. What do you think?

    From one nut to another, thanks again.

    • nutgourmet said

      Hi Jill,

      I’d be honored to have a mention of the NutGourmet Blog on your site. And don’t ever lose your delightful nut wit!


  2. They look like they taste good. Will try them soon.



  3. Laurie said

    I just followed the link from Jill “The Veggie Queen’s” latest newsletter, and definitely plan to give these a whirl! We love muffins, and these sound wonderful (and delightfully Autumnal!) 🙂
    I’ve never seen caramel extract (or a recipe that called for it either, come to think of it!), and am not real fond of caramel flavor. I’m sure vanilla extract would work fine… or perhaps maple would be a better choice? Any suggestions? Thanks for sharing this recipe! (And thanks to you for sharing the link to it, Jill!)

    • nutgourmet said

      Hi Laurie,

      I’m so grateful to Jill for putting my link on her website. Thanks for visiting my Nut Gourmet blog. I, too, am a muffin enthusiast and came up with these because I have a friend who is avoiding added fats and sugar. It was sort of a challenge that worked surprisingly well. As for the caramel extract, it’s impossible to find it in any supermarket. I ordered it online from the Watkins Company. They make an amazing variety of extracts that never show up in grocery stores. The vanilla extract would also work just fine as would almond and maple extracts. If you do any variations that you’re really happy with, let me know and I’ll pass it on.


      • Laurie said

        Hi, Zel!

        I need to get dates (& hazelnuts, unless we decide to use almonds, pecans or walnuts instead!), and I think I’ll try this with maple extract. I’ll definitely let you know how it goes! Thank you again!

        (P.S. We too are vegans who cook and bake without added fats. And muffins are such an easy treat to make this way! So happy to find this yummy-looking recipe to add to our stash!) 🙂

      • nutgourmet said

        Hi Laurie,

        Welcome to the club! We recently had friends over for dinner and they were surprised to discover that the 4 salad dressings I made for our salad didn’t have a drop of oil. They loved them and were blown away. Maybe I’ll post one or two of them to share. I have one I just created with cranberries that’s tangy and delicately sweet–great for this upcoming holiday season. Not all of my creations are without oil, but I certainly have been discovering more and more ways to work without it. I’m slowly getting to that oil-free point.

        Enjoy the muffins!


  4. Cought this link on Veggie Queen’s newsletter. Excited to give the receipe a try. They look good and the receipe looks easy too. I’ll keep you posted on the outcome…thanks.

    • nutgourmet said

      Hi Debra,

      Welcome to the Nut Gourmet blog. Please do try these muffins–they’re a blast and truly are easy. I served these to some friends who are not vegan and totally surprised them when I said there were no eggs, no oil, and no sugar in these little babies. It blew them away and couldn’t seem to get enough of them. I think they had 4 each–that’s a heckofa lot of muffins for one sitting! Enjoy!


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