These Zucchini Cupcakes are moist, light, and fluffy! You can eat them plain, add a sprinkling of powdered sugar, or top them with cream cheese frosting.
Zucchini Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
The problem: homemade cupcakes are prone to drying out after a day or two, leaving all of us cupcake lovers sadly eating crumbly, dry cupcakes. The solution: pack those cupcakes with ZUCCHINI, bay-bee!
Zucchini is the ultimate “moist-maker” (shoutout to Friends for that reference) when it comes to baked goods. No more choking down dry cupcakes while a single solitary tear runs down your cheek–the natural moisture from this shredded vegetable produces a supremely soft and tender cupcake, with staying power for DAYS. Top them off with my Lime Cream Cheese Frosting and a sprinkling of crushed pistachios to make the perfect treat.
Turn Zucchini Cupcakes into Bread
One more bonus to this recipe: it also makes an awesome loaf of zucchini bread! Yep, this exact same recipe can be baked in a 2lb bread pan, to make the most delicious zucchini bread you’ve ever had. Find the full instructions in my Easy Zucchini Bread post, try it both ways, and then tell me which way you prefer to have your zucchini! (Hint: eating it plain is not an option 😉 )
Table of Contents
🧾 What You’ll Need
My zucchini cupcake recipe is a bit different than most–I like adding some lime zest to brighten them and add a secondary flavor. If you’re not a lime lover, you can use lemon or orange, or omit it entirely, but I urge you to keep an open mind, because I think they just might surprise you! Here’s what else you’ll need to make these cupcakes: (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Zucchini: We’re using 2 cups of zucchini (which is roughly 1 medium zucchini) in this delicious treat. The zucchini adds tons of moisture to the bread too, for an amazingly soft texture!
- Lime zest: this ingredient might come as a surprise, but I love adding the bright pop of lime flavor to my zucchini bread. If you don’t have limes, you can swap in lemon or orange zest, or omit it entirely. You can use regular limes or key limes in this recipe. Not sure what makes them different . . . check out my detailed post about what makes a regular lime different from a key lime!
- All-purpose flour: “Regular” flour, aka all-purpose, is what we’re using to give the bread its structure. I recommend actually weighing the flour (and all of your ingredients!) for a more accurate result, but you can also spoon it into the measuring cup and gently level it off.
- Baking soda and baking powder: you need both leavening agents to create a perfectly light yet moist texture.
- Oil neutral canola oil keeps the flavor focus on the zucchini and lime.
- Brown sugar: brown sugar gives the cake a deeper flavor and helps keep it moist. You can use dark or light brown sugar.
- Eggs: the eggs should be at room temperature. Either let them sit out for 20-30 minutes, or submerge them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to warm them up quickly.
The equipment list is short, and full of things you might own already! (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Cupcake Pan: I use a standard-sized cupcake pan. You can use another size, but the baking time will be affected.
- Cupcake Scoop: a cupcake scoop is a super clean and easy way to portion out the batter.
- Piping Bags and Piping Tip: using a piping bag with a piping tip is one of the easiest to get perfectly frosted cupcakes.
- Grater: a grater is a great way to get small shreds of zucchini to incorporate into the batter.
- Microplane: I use a microplane to zest the lime, but a fine cheese grater also works.
- Hand Mixer: you can mix your batter using a hand mixer or stand mixer. Just make sure not to over-mix or you’ll end up with tough, gummy cupcakes!
These zucchini cupcakes are ready in just over 30 minutes! Get a printable version of this recipe in the recipe card below.
- In a bowl, mix together brown sugar, eggs, and oil. Use a whisk to beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet batter. Mix until no streaks remain.
- Use the grater to shred the zucchini into small shreds, then add that to the batter along with the lime zest.
- Mix by hand until combined.
- Portion the batter out into a lined cupcake pan. Fill each liner about 1/2-2/3 full.
- Bake the cupcakes at 350ºF for 20 minutes or until they are lightly golden. Cool completely, then add the frosting.
Stick to the original recipe, or mix things up a bit with these variation ideas!
- Spice things up. Feel free to add 1 tsp of cinnamon to the batter in place of the citrus zest to make spiced cupcakes for fall.
- Add nuts. Mix in a handful of chopped walnuts or pecans for some extra crunch.
- Make them chocolatey. Mini chocolate chips would be a great addition as well.
- Use another zest. Not a fan of lime zest? Swap it out for lemon or orange zest—or just leave it our entirely! Love all the citrus? Check out more of my recipes using citrus!
- Use another frosting. These cupcakes taste delicious with the cream cheese frosting, because who doesn’t love any recipe using cream cheese. However, they would also be great topped with other types of frosting, such as buttercream or chocolate sour cream frosting.
- Flavor the frosting. This cream cheese frosting recipe can be easily adapted for other flavors. You can substitute the limes for lemons or turn it into a vanilla frosting by adding 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. You can also try adding 1/2 tsp of cinnamon for a cinnamon frosting.
💡 Tips and FAQs
- Use flavorless oil. We used oil instead of butter, because it yields a super light crumb, which is delicious. I recommend sticking to a flavorless oil such as vegetable oil. Olive oil will not work here as you will be able to taste it.
- Don’t dry the zucchini! Although it may be tempting, do not squeeze the water from the zucchini after you grate it. That water makes these cupcakes so insanely moist. Their light, soft, and moist texture is part of what makes them so darn good.
- Use full fat cream cheese. If you’re making the cream cheese frosting, make sure you use full-fat cream cheese blocks. Otherwise the frosting will be thin and runny.
- Bring the butter and cream cheese to room temp. Before you begin, bring the butter and cream cheese to room temperature. This ensures a silky smooth frosting with no lumps.
- Adjust the texture if needed. The consistency of this frosting is a little thinner for sweet breads than you would want for cupcakes. If it looks too soft, just add more powdered sugar (1/4 cup at a time). You can also refrigerate for half an hour or so which will help the frosting to set up.
❤️ More Cupcake Favorites to Try
Looking for more fun cupcake recipes to try? Here are a few of my favorites!
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
Easy Zucchini Bread
Don’t miss the step-by-step tutorial showing how to make Zucchini Cupcakes – check out the web story here!
Leave a Review!
If you make this recipe, let us know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on the recipe below, and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram @elabau, or use #sugarhero on IG!
For the cupcakes:
For the frosting:
- 4 oz unsalted butter, (1 cup), at room temperature
- 8 oz cream cheese, (1 block), full fat
- 2 TBSP fresh lime juice, (from 1 large lime)
- 3 TBSP lime zest, (from 2 large limes)
- 20 oz powdered sugar, (5 cups)
- 1/4 cup pistachio nuts, roughly chopped, optional
- For the cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 20 cupcake cavities with paper liners.
- Put the brown sugar, eggs, and canola oil into a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat them together until smooth.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- With the mixer running on low, slowly add the dry ingredients, and mix just until combined. Stop mixing when you can no longer see the streaks of flour.
- Add the grated zucchini and lime zest, and fold into the batter gently by hand.
- Divide the mixture between 20 cupcake liners.
- Put the cupcake pan into the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes are lightly golden and feel springy to the touch.
- Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool before frosting.
For the frosting:
- Put the room temperature butter into the bowl of a hand mixer. Use the paddle attachment to beat until creamy.
- Add the cream cheese and mix again until combined.
- Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well between each addition.
- When all the powdered sugar has been incorporated, add the lime zest and lime juice, and beat until combined. You may need to add more powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency.
- To frost the cupcakes, transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip, and pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake.
- Scatter pistachios over the top of the frosted cupcakes to decorate, if desired.
- Zucchini cupcakes will last unfrosted in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. They can also be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. Once they are frosted, they will last for up to a week in the fridge. The cream cheese frosting can be made and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Defrost in the fridge overnight.
Our recipes are developed using weight measurements, and we highly recommend using a kitchen scale for baking whenever possible. However, if you prefer to use cups, volume measurements are provided as well. PLEASE NOTE: the adage “8 oz = 1 cup” is NOT true when speaking about weight, so don’t be concerned if the measurements don’t fit this formula.
Want to learn more about baking measurements and conversion?