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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
You’ve heard of sneaking veggies into smoothies, pastas, even oatmeal. But what if you could sneak veggies into dessert? Yep. Enter these Zucchini Cupcakes.
Now, I’ve already done with my Easy Zucchini Bread, but I wanted to see if I could adapt that recipe to make cupcakes. And it sure did pay off. These delicious cupcakes are insanely moist, perfectly sweet, and have a super light crumb. They’re also topped off with the perfect Lime Cream Cheese Frosting and finished with a sprinkle of crushed pistachios.
🧾 What You’ll Need
This zucchini cupcake recipe is made using pretty basic cupcake and cream cheese frosting ingredients…with the addition of your favorite summer veggie! (Links are affiliate links and I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)
- Canola Oil: canola oil has the perfect neutral flavor to add moisture to the cupcakes. I don’t recommend any oil with a more recognizable flavor like olive oil.
- Baking Soda and Baking Powder: work together to keep the cupcakes light and fluffy.
- Zucchini: you’ll need 2 cups, which is about 1 medium zucchini, for this recipe. Use a cheese grater to get perfect shreds of zucchini for the cupcakes.
- Unsalted Butter: don’t forget to soften the butter first. We want a smooth and creamy frosting.
- Cream Cheese: make sure you get a full-fat block of cream cheese. Anything with less fat will create a too thin frosting.
You don’t need much in terms of equipment to whip up these zucchini cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Here’s what you’ll need. (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, which makes it super simple. Just be careful not to grate your knuckles!
- Hand Mixer: you can mix your batter using a hand 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!
- 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, and baking powder.
- 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 2/3 full.
- Bake the cupcakes at 350ºF for 18 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. The softer they are, the better they incorporate into the frosting with no lumps.
- If the frosting looks too thin, just add 1/4 cup powdered sugar at a time until thickened. You can also refrigerate for 30 minutes or so.
For the cupcakes:
- 7.5 oz light brown sugar, (1 cup)
- 2 eggs
- 8 oz canola oil, (1 cup)
- 5.3 oz all purpose flour, (1 1/4 cups)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 cups zucchini, (approx 1 medium zucchini), grated
- lime zest, (from 1 lime)
For the frosting:
- 4 oz unsalted butter, (1 cup), softened
- 8 oz cream cheese, (1 block), full fat
- 2 TBSP lime juice
- 16 oz powdered sugar, (4 cups)
- lime zest, (from 2 limes)
- 1/4 cup pistachio nuts, roughly chopped, optional
- For the cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
- Put the brown sugar, eggs and canola oil into a mixing bowl. Use an electric whisk to beat together until smooth.
- Combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Slowly add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and beat on a low speed. Stop beating when you can no longer see white streaks of flour.
- Add the grated zucchini and lime zest and fold into the mixture gently by hand.
- Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake liners (they will be about two-thirds full).
- Put the cupcake pan into the center of the preheated oven and bake for 18 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 soft butter into the bowl of a hand mixer. Use the paddle attachment to beat until creamy.
- Add the cream cheese and beat 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 piping nozzle and pipe on top of the cupcakes.
- Scatter pistachios over the top of the frosted cupcakes to decorate.
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.Click here to learn more about baking measurements and conversion.
About Elizabeth LaBau
I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me SugarHero! I’m a former pastry chef turned blogger, cookbook author, and baking instructor, and I consider myself sugar’s #1 fan. Learn more from my About page, or connect with me on social media: