How to Make the Best Muffins Ever

“A bad muffin is as memorable as a good muffin is unforgettable.” Br. Peter Reinhart

The true sign of a good muffin is that it elicits a reaction.

It can be a sigh, a pause, or maybe a closer inspection followed by a question or comment–usually made with a full mouth. Every time I serve these Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Muffins, still warm from the oven, I watch out of the corner of my eye for the reaction.

No matter how chatty a group of girlfriends get over their coffees, one bite into these muffins and the conversation slows to a crawl; for the moment, attention is diverted from boy talk and baby names to a perfectly moist, flavorful muffin.

Occasionally, I’ll get a “I usually hate muffins, but…”

And oh, I have been there. I don’t think I ate a decent muffin for the first twenty years of my life, and I had resigned myself to a reality where muffins were dry, tasteless (or overly sweet), and no match for a good scone or sticky bun.

The summer I was twenty, I worked a job in a kitchen where muffin-making was mandatory, and I faced a challenge: the dry muffin. Many hockey pucks, exploding volcanoes, and moon craters later, I had a few recipes worked out that actually brightened up my mornings.

Here are a few things I learned along the way…

10 Tips to Making the Best Muffins Ever

  1. Start with ingredients at room temperature, eggs, milk, etc.
  2. Take care not to over mix the batter; use a flexible spatula to gently fold ingredients together.
  3. Batter should be stiff enough to hold a spoon upright; if it seems runny, gently fold in a few extra tablespoons of flour.
  4. Use the freshest spices as possible when they are required.
  5. Grease the entire muffin tin, not just the holes. More often than not, the muffins expand over the sides, and if those sides have not been properly greased, you’re going to run into trouble when you try to remove the muffins.
  6. Fill muffin tins three-quarters full; the tops are the best part, so don’t be shy with the batter.
  7. Slide a baking sheet under the muffin tin to help prevent the bottoms from getting too dark in the oven. This also helps with cleanup in case there is overflow.
  8. Take care not to over-bake the muffins.
  9. Allow muffins to cool in the pan at least 10 minutes before removing them, especially if they contain soft fresh fruit.
  10. Enjoy them fresh. If you must, freeze them, although I prefer to freeze the batter (without add-ins), then thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake the muffins fresh in the morning.

Recipe: One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins

Now the art of making muffins will never garner the solemn respect that bread baking and yeast-work deserves, still every one should have a solid muffin recipe in their repertoire.

The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. It is a base muffin recipe that can happily accommodate almost any add-in you like, and believe me, with the picky eaters around my table, I’ve tried quite a few variations.

One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins: Flavor Combinations

  • 1 cup Raspberries, fresh or frozen & ½ cup Dark Chocolate, chunked or chips
  • ¾ cup Diced Apple (Granny Smith or Russet) and ½ cup toasted Walnuts, roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup Dried Cranberries & ½ cup toasted Pecans, roughly chopped
  • ¾ cup White Chocolate, chopped or chips & 1 cup Blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup toasted unsweetened Coconut & ¾ cup Peanut-Butter Chips
  • 1 cup diced Rhubarb, fresh or frozen & ½ teaspoon Green Cardamom, freshly ground
  • ¾ cup Dates, pitted and chopped & ½ cup Pistachios
  • ¾ cup Golden Raisins & ¾ cup grated Carrot

One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins: Basic Recipe

Oatmeal is one of the constants in the recipe and provides, in my opinion, necessary texture.

Be sure to read the recipe all the way through before getting started. You will note that the oats soak in the milk 1 hour prior to assembling the rest of the ingredients, so take that into consideration before starting out.

Makes 12 medium muffins

  • 1 cup milk*
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
  • add-ins of your choosing (see above suggestions)

Combine milk, vinegar and oats in a large bowl and let stand one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a twelve-cup muffin tin and line with cupcake papers.

Crack the egg into the oat and milk mixture; add brown sugar and mix to combine. Stir in melted butter.

Sift remaining ingredients into the bowl: flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, & spices. Gently fold into batter, taking care not to over mix.

Sprinkle add-in and flavorings of your choice and combine muffin batter gently.

Use a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop batter into muffin tins. Bake until light brown and tops spring back when gently touched, about 10-12 minutes. Note: Muffins will take slightly longer to bake if you are adding fresh fruit such as blueberries or rhubarb.

Remove from oven and cool in tins. To remove, run a sharp knife around the edges and pop muffins out. Enjoy!

*You may also substitute 1 cup buttermilk, and then omit the vinegar from the recipe.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. I need to send this to my MIL. She makes good muffins, but she under fills and there are never any muffin tops (of the good kind).
    This brings back memories of my muffin making business in university…
    .-= Cheryl Arkison’s last blog: Texas Sunshine =-.

  2. these sound wonderful. I am going to print out the recipes and add them to my kitchen binder. I was wondering if it would be possible to have a ‘print recipe’ button so we could print just the fab. recipe.

    Aimee
    .-= Aimee’s last blog: I ♥ Faces: Hands Entry =-.

    • It’s there now, Aimee. Enjoy!

    • Was wondering if there is any way you could provide your recipes in a recipe card printable format. I would love to have these easily accessible in my recipe box! Right now I am hand copying the ones that looks so good – which is pretty much all of them – and my hand writing is not the prettiest 🙂

      Thanks & Please continue helping me improve my kitchen!
      Belinda

  3. I was just looking for an oatmeal muffin recipe yesterday! I can’t wait to try these.
    .-= Wendy’s last blog: Bento Inspiration =-.

  4. This looks great! Muffins were a staple at my house when my kids were young. Can’t wait to try these!

  5. GREAT post! Not only do we get an awesome looking recipe but the tips are a keeper. I’m going to print both the recipe and the tips and work on perfecting my muffins. Thank you!!!
    .-= Elizabeth’s last blog: Hat #2 for Red Andrews Dinner – Hurricane Hat =-.

  6. I never thought of freezing muffin batter. That would keep my older kids from taking the muffins out of the freezer. They figured out that a frozen muffin microwaved for 20 seconds is nearly like fresh out of the oven. Storing up food with teens in the house is a challenge! But just freezing the batter might do the trick. Thanks for the idea!
    .-= Tiffany’s last blog: Italian Sausage and Bean Soup =-.

  7. I like the idea of freezing the muffin batter before adding in the add-ins. Great tips!
    .-= Jan (family bites)’s last blog: Books for Cooks =-.

  8. Raspberry and dark chocolate! Oh my! I will definitely give these a try.
    Some of my favorite muffins are these Apple Zucchini Muffins with Maple Streusel Topping:
    http://noemptychairs.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/apple-zucchini-muffins-with-maple-streusel-topping/
    .-= Kelly’s last blog: Cinnamon Twists =-.

  9. What would be the difference if quick cooking oats were used in place of rolled oats? I have 3 canisters that I am trying to use up.

  10. hi!cold you tell me what the white vinegar is for? i read it in another recipe as well and was wondering what it does to the batter,so to speak:)would be thankful for a reply. best,anja
    .-= anja meyer’s last blog: my scars are my body =-.

    • Hi Anja,
      Baking soda needs an acidic medium in order to become active; here the vinegar combines with the milk to create sour milk, which provides the necessary reaction for the muffins to rise.

      You can also substitute 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup milk, in place of the milk/vinegar, or 1 cup buttermilk.

      Thanks for your question.

  11. Thank you! I’ve been waiting for this recipe ever since you tweeted about these muffins. We’re finishing a batch of banana chocolate chip muffins this morning so we’re ready for something new!!

  12. oh my gosh…. I looked and looked for it! Thank you so much for pointing it out to me. =) Reminds me of something my mom used to say about it being any closer it would have bitten me. =)
    .-= Aimee’s last blog: I ♥ Faces: Hands Entry =-.

  13. Thanks for the great tips. I can’t wait to try these with the kids.
    .-= Rana’s last blog: Life Lesson # 255 : Stranger Danger =-.

  14. Great muffin tips! I’ve got a few favorite muffin recipes but am always willing to branch out.

  15. Mmmm, these muffins do look delicious! I Love a good muffin, but do find them hard to come by outside of my own kitchen. And I’ll have you know I only begrudgingly eat the stump…:)
    .-= Elizabeth’s last blog: Perfect Every Time Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables =-.

  16. Great tips! Raspberry and chocolate-my conversation would come to a slow crawl too if I were eating these!
    .-= Melissa’s last blog: Decadent Double-Chocolate Brownie Torte =-.

  17. I’m printing this one! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE muffins, but my husband is much more willing to put the work and time in to make scones on a weekend morning. Last weekend, I convinced him to let me make oatmeal muffins (we were out of butter and short on eggs), and he actually conceded that they were pretty good. I’m sure this recipe will win him over.
    .-= Alissa’s last blog: What’s Working =-.

    • Alissa, this recipe pretty much wins over anyone who tries it.

      How cool is it that your hubby stirs together scones on the weekends?! Love that.

  18. Oh, my!! This is a wonderful recipe and the tips are great. Thank you, thank you. I love muffins but it has been so hard to find a good basic recipe that I like and with options. This one is great. I am anxious to try it.

  19. Mandi @ Organizing Your Way says

    Mmm, we LOVE muffins here, and I can’t wait to try some of the combinations you featured plus our old standbys with your tips in mind!

    Thanks, Aimee!
    .-= Mandi @ Organizing Your Way ‘s last blog: Creating a Healthy Blog/Life Balance =-.

  20. This look amazing! I was wondering how it would go if I substitute sugar for honey or agave and the butter for applesauce. Have you tried this? Do you think it would destroy them? Thanks! They look so yummy!
    .-= Jena’s last blog: Christmas Day =-.

  21. You may have just inspired me to bake muffins, which hasn’t happened in a while. Sometimes you get caught up in making more “elaborate” things and you forget how good the basics can be 🙂 Thanks!

  22. Loving these muffins and tips! I can’t wait to try out all the different versions! Some of my favourite muffins are these Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins: and these Apple Lemon Cinnamon Muffins: I am definitely a tops kinda gal.. but that’s probably just because that’s where the streusel is. 🙂
    .-= Cheri’s last blog: Burnt Orange Monday =-.

  23. I totally have my eye on the one with the white chocolate and blueberries–wow!

    Thanks for the tip about freezing & thawing batter, too. I knew I would learn a lot over this way!!
    .-= Simple Homeschool ~ Jamie’s last blog: New on Simple Organic: Green Goal-Setting, Part 2: Home Life =-.

  24. Oh me, oh my. I’ve rarely met a muffin I didn’t like, so I’m quite easily impressed with muffins of any variety. These look AMAAAAAAAAAZING. Printing out now to add to recipe binder.

    Thanks, Aimee!
    .-= [email protected]’s last blog: Let’s Talk about N-F-P! (answering The Birth Control Question) =-.

  25. These looks awesome Aimee! I want to try the while chocolate and blueberry ones 🙂 My current favorite are cranberry-orange- pecan muffins, but I’m always on the prowl for new recipes. I find muffins make a great morning and afternoon snack for the kids and I, much healthier than cookies too.

  26. What is your preferred way of greasing muffin tins? I’ve used the PAM with flour spray, which works great for getting the muffins to slip right out, but it’s awful to clean off my silicone muffin trays and almost as bad on my metal tins.

    • I save all my butter wrappers (keep them in a baggie in the fridge) and use them for greasing pans…works great for me!

  27. These sound fantastic. I love to bake with my 3 year old and I’m always looking for something a little healthier than cookies. These look delicious. I’m sure we’ll have a blast!
    .-= Jackie Lee’s last blog: Books Books Books: What to do with the books? =-.

  28. Mmmmm…. now I can’t stop thinking about raspberry dark chocolate muffins.
    I think I know what I’m baking when I’m back from my weekend trip.

    Thanks as always for the wonderful tips and suggestions cuz!

    xo
    .-= Cafe Novo’s last blog: Cleaning + Purging are good for the Soul. =-.

  29. Alison @ Hospitality Haven says

    Wow, these sound fabulous! Glad you twittered it. I’ve bookmarked this recipe. I love a good muffin recipe! 🙂

  30. Thank you! This recipe looks wonderful. I just read it to my husband and our mouths are watering. Can’t wait to give this one a try!

  31. Fabulous article! So often we only get the recipe and not the whys or tips behind how to make it great.

  32. I just made some wonderful bran muffins, these are next!!

  33. Great tips. I will be trying these soon!
    .-= Maria’s last blog: 2peas3-0 =-.

  34. I just love basic recipes that allow you to adapt to your tastes! Thanks!
    .-= RLR’s last blog: Sweet Thoughtfulness =-.

  35. First time making these or muffins in general…. Ive’ learned not to over fold thebatte makes purple muffins.. (oops) and not to be soo stinge with the muffin mix…Didnt rise soo high…First attempt but tasted yummm!

  36. You seem like the best person to ask this: What is the difference between white and brown eggs?

  37. Mmmmm, now I REALLY want a muffin…and raspberry dark chocolate!?!? Wow!

  38. Wow, these sound like the ultimate muffins-I can’t wait to give them a try! I loved reading through the muffin baking tips as well, looks like I’m going to have a lot of fun in my kitchen these next few days 🙂

  39. Thanks so much for this muffin post! Just what I needed. To suggest another flavor combination, I added diced up fresh peaches (from Trader Joes that took a week to ripen, but was soooooo in the mood for summer fruits! =). I also tried baking them in mini-muffins as I have many small children who like tiny muffins. I tried 2 methods: reducing the temp to 350 and baking the same 10-12 min, and keeping temp at 375 and baking them 7-8 minutes. Verdict? Turned out the same!

  40. Nicole aka Gidget says

    Wow, those look/sound amazing! I love the idea of freezing the batter too. Thanks!
    .-= Nicole aka Gidget’s last blog: Encyclopedia of Me =-.

  41. These look great! Do you suppose steel-cut oats would work in place of the rolled oats?

    • I’ve tried it with half steel-cut and half rolled oats (I ran out of rolled oats). Definitely soak them for at least an hour (more is better). But it worked great! It’s a different texture than using regular rolled oats, but still good.

  42. why do you grease the pan AND use the paper liners? Wouldn’t one or the other be enough?
    .-= judean’s last blog: Plugging away… =-.

  43. I made these yesterday with Granny Smith apples, and they didn’t disappoint! They were light and fluffy and yummy.

    One change I had to make was to increase the cooking time to about 18 minutes before they were finished. BUT, I do have one of those old, 11-hole cast iron muffin tins. They’re much deeper than standard tins (but oh, do they make good muffins).

  44. I just made the raspberry and dark chocolate version and they are SO GOOD! I make muffins often, but these ones are definitely (already) one of my favourites:) BTW, I substituted 1 c. whole wheat flour (for the all purpose) and used vegetable oil instead of butter. They took about 18-20 to bake- not sure if that was because using oil instead of butter.

  45. I made these with the blueberry and white chocolate add-ins and they are very good. The oatmeal gives the muffin a unique (but yummy) texture. Thanks for a great recipe!

  46. I’ve made these several times in the last month – a big deal for me, because I rarely bake! Our favorite so far has been the carrot-raisin muffins.

    I think this is going to become my go-to recipe for using up soured milk.

  47. Can you use steel cut oats in the oatmeal recipe?

    • I’ve never tried, Karol, but my guess is the texture would be wrong. Perhaps if they soaked overnight…
      Let us know if you try it out!

  48. What alternatives to (butter)milk could I use for lactose-intolerant friends? Is there another option or are they condemned to a muffin-less life?

    Best, John

  49. Just made these with zucchini, banana, and blueberry…………whoa mama. thanks for a tasty base, we have been having fun experimenting

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