Light and fluffy vegan lemon cupcakes that use fresh lemon juice and zest for the best flavor! The cupcakes are made with simple pantry ingredients, come together in one bowl and are perfectly paired with a zesty lemon buttercream.
Simple ingredients you'll need
The full list of ingredient quantities and instructions are in the gray recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Ingredients notes and substitutions
Fresh lemon zest and juice instead of lemon extract, for the best flavor! Too much lemon juice in a cake can actually make it deflate, but rather than skimping on flavor, I used LOTS of lemon zest.
Dairy-free milk. I love soy milk as it's higher in protein which makes cakes softer. However, you can use any milk such as oat milk or almond milk.
Granulated sugar for the lightest and fluffiest lemon cupcakes. You may use coconut sugar however, it will make your cupcakes light brown and they will taste like lemon caramel.
Any neutral oil or a light olive oil. Olive oil makes the cupcakes more yellow, like my vegan lemon olive oil cake.
Tips for making the batter
The batter for these vegan lemon cupcakes is easy to make! Simply mix the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, and mix until combined.
My biggest tips for making the batter are:
- First, rub the sugar with the lemon zest with your fingertips. This will release the natural lemon oil which enhances the lemon flavor in the cupcakes!
- Accurately measure the flour, because adding too much flour will make the cupcakes dry. If you're using measuring cups, use the spoon and level method. Alternatively, use an electronic scale to weigh the flour.
- Avoid overmixing the batter as this can make the cupcakes dense. Some lumps in your batter are fine, as long as the lumps aren't floury.
Baking the vegan lemon cupcakes
I love using an ice cream scoop to divide any cupcake batter - it evenly portions the batter and is easier than using a spoon!
For a nice dome, I recommend filling each cup around three-quarters full. I used a USA Pan Muffin Pan but all cupcake tins are different so your cupcakes may bake a little differently.
To get even taller cupcakes, fill every other cup in your muffin pan (shown below). This allows more oven heat to circulate each cupcake so they rise more. So, if you have a 12-cup cupcake pan, you'll need to bake 6 cupcakes at a time, in 2 lots.
These lemon cupcakes are perfect with a vegan lemon frosting! Alternatively, you can top your cupcakes with:
- Simple lemon icing from my lemon olive oil cake recipe
- Vegan cream cheese frosting from my carrot cupcake recipe. Feel free to add some lemon zest to the frosting for extra flavor!
- Strawberry frosting or strawberry cream cheese frosting
Customizing these vegan cupcakes
- Make lemon drizzle cupcakes for even more flavor and moisture. You can make a simple lemon syrup with granulated sugar and lemon juice and drizzle it on the cupcakes. See my vegan lemon drizzle cake for a guide.
- Add vegan lemon curd to the center of the cupcakes (remove the core first). I recommend using the curd from my lemon cheesecake recipe but increasing the cornstarch to 2 tablespoons.
- Add blueberries or raspberries to the cupcakes. Make sure you coat them in all-purpose flour before adding them, otherwise they may sink.
- For something special, add chopped white chocolate to the lemon cupcake batter.
More vegan lemon desserts
Vegan Lemon Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
Make the cupcakes:
- Optional: Add the sugar and lemon zest to a large mixing bowl. Use your fingertips to rub them together until fragrant.
- Add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and whisk until there are no lumps. Add all the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Use an ice cream scoop or a large spoon to divide the batter between your cupcake liners. Each cupcake cavity should be three-quarters full.
- Bake the cupcakes for 20-25 minutes. They are ready when you insert a toothpick in the center of a cupcake and it comes out with no wet batter on it (a few crumbs are fine).
- Cool the cupcakes in the tray for 5 minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack.
Make the frosting:
- Add the butter to a large bowl (if using a hand mixer) or bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla and beat until just combined. Taste the frosting and adjust if needed. If the frosting is too thin, add more sugar and beat or add more lemon juice or non-dairy milk if it's too thick.
- When the cupcakes have fully cooled, use a spatula or piping bag to frost the cupcakes. Decorate as desired.
- Serve the cupcakes immediately. Store the unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. If your cupcakes are frosting, keep them at room temperature for 1 day or in the fridge for up to 3 days. Allow the cupcakes to come to room temperature before serving. The cupcakes freeze well but I recommend storing them separately from the frosting.
- Accurately measuring the flour will result in fluffier cupcakes. To spoon and level the flour, fluff up the flour in its container, use a spoon to add flour to your measuring cup, and level it off with a knife. Using your measuring cup to scoop flour out of the container will pack flour into the cup, and too much flour can result in dry and cakey cookies. Alternatively, use the grams measurements for the best results.
- You'll need 3-4 medium lemons for the amount of zest and juice in the recipe. When you zest the lemons, try to avoid getting any of the white lemon rind otherwise your cupcakes may be slightly bitter.
- Alternatively, top your cupcakes with a simple lemon icing from my lemon olive oil cake recipe, or cream cheese frosting from my carrot cupcake recipe.
This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.