These Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes are more than just egg and dairy-free. They are so good, no one guesses these are vegan!
Red velvet cake was a signature bake of mine back when I had my home bakery. Getting the flavor and texture right is especially key for this flavor, and if you’ve tried my classic red velvet cake, you get that. But what if you can’t or don’t eat dairy or eggs?
When I was asked to make egg and dairy-free cupcakes for a birthday party years ago, I was pretty excited. The flavor isn’t exactly the same as using buttermilk, but it’s close. You still get that red velvet tang and ultra-moise texture, which is what we’re all here for!
Vegan Red Velvet Cupcake Ingredients…
I’m not going to go over all the ingredients since most of the listed ingredients are the same as with any cake – flour, sugar, etc. We aren’t using any animal-based products though, so I will share some tips for those.
Start by choosing a milk alternative. Most milk-substitutes will work in this recipe. I prefer unsweetened soy, cashew, or almond milk for minimal added flavor. Unsweetened coconut milk can also be nice, but you will end up with some coconut flavor. It’s not a big deal since coconut and chocolate pair well together (like in this cake), but not classic red velvet.
What can I use for the cream cheese frosting?
It’s easy to make a vegan cream cheese substitute for the frosting (with some adaptations). There are several brands of plant-based cream cheese on the market, easy to find at any grocery store. Look in the dairy section with the rest of the cream cheese. If you can’t find it there, check the specialty food section with other plant-based foods.
The biggest difference you might notice is in the texture. Vegan cream cheese pipes softer than a dairy-based cream cheese frosting. You won’t typically pile the frosting very high on these cupcakes because the frosting will “settle”.
You will also need more powdered sugar to get the frosting to set up. More sugar means it is generally sweeter than a dairy-based cream cheese frosting. To reduce the sweetness, add a pinch of salt and a little extra vanilla! The size of your “pinch” varies based on the cream cheese base you are using. Start with a small one, mix, taste, adjust as needed.
Here’s how to make the cupcakes red (and keep them vegan)!
Red velvet cake is easily recognizable by its vibrant color, which is in part, natural. The chocolate and vinegar react to create a very slight red tint. It’s nowhere near as vibrant as we expect though and is helped a lot by the (optional) food coloring.
To get the signature deep red associated with these cupcakes, I recommend using coloring.
Gel food coloring requires the least amount added, but you have to make sure that it doesn’t contain carmine, which is an animal-based ingredient. There are many available brands out there that don’t include carmine, including some that are natural (i.e. –don’t include red 40). Natural colors won’t give you the same level of vibrancy, but it all tastes the same so it’s all down to personal preference.
I want to make it now! Can you share your top tips?
Curdling is super important – As tempting as it is to throw it all in together, don’t skip the “curdling” of the milk. Giving the vinegar and milk a chance to rest together for about 10 minutes will give you a much better flavor making it a crucial step.
It’s worth noting that the flavor won’t exactly be the same as a red velvet made with buttermilk, but it’s close since the vinegar and vegan milk are combined to “curdle” for a bit to make a buttermilk-like substitute.
Wait until your cupcakes are completely cool to add the frosting – Don’t add frosting to your cupcakes until you are sure they are completely cool or the frosting will slide right off! (I know, the waiting game can be hard, but you don’t want to risk it!)
How should I store my vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes?
Room temperature – You can make the cupcakes a day in advance and then store completely cooled but unfrosted cupcakes at room temperature.
When to refrigerate – As soon as you add the frosting, they will need to be refrigerated in an airtight container because of the perishable ingredients in the frosting.
Enjoy your cupcakes!
I hope you enjoy your Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes and love them as much as we do. Why not offer these to your family and friends before telling them that they are vegan and see if they notice the difference? Happy baking!
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (see notes), room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vinegar (see notes)
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup neutral-flavored oil
- gel food coloring (see notes)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 4 ounces non-dairy butter (see notes), softened
- 4 ounces non-dairy cream cheese alternative
- 4-6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, combine your milk and vinegar. Stir and set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 350 F and line a 12-well cupcake pan with liners. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine. You may also use your stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Whisk the oil, vanilla, and a few drops of food coloring (if using) into the (now curdled) milk and vinegar mixture.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. If using a stand mixer, run the mixer on low while you pour and stop as soon as the ingredients are combined. If mixing by hand, pour the wet ingredients in, then use a whisk to combine the ingredients.
- Divide the batter evenly between your lined cupcake wells, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes until the top of a center cupcake springs back lightly when touched and/or a tester comes out clean (a moist crumb or two is okay).
- Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Be sure your cupcakes are completely cool before frosting!
- To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese together in a bowl using the paddle of your stand mixer, or a hand mixer, until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
- Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, stirring and scraping the bowl after each addition. If, after adding 4 cups, you aren't at the desired consistency, add in 1/3 cup increments until you reach your desired consistency. Spread or pipe the frosting on the cooled cupcakes.
- Cupcakes are best the day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
I usually use unsweetened cashew, almond, or soy milk for this recipe,
Use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for this recipe, anything else has too bold a flavor.
Be sure that your red food coloring is plant-based or vegan friendly as some on the market do contain animal products.
The stick non-dairy butter works best here. It gives a little structure to the frosting so that your piping will hold its shape a bit better.
If you find the frosting too sweet, feel free to add a pinch of salt to temper the sweetness, and maybe a little extra vanilla if you'd like.
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