Want the feeling of being transported to a tropical island without ever having to leave your kitchen? These soft and fluffy Vegan Coconut Lime Cupcakes are bursting with the flavors of sweet coconut, zesty lime, and all topped with a smooth buttercream frosting. And of course they are undetectably vegan, can be made gluten free, and can even be made sugar free!
I think food has a special ability to mentally transport you other places. That can either come from eating something nostalgic that brings back a childhood memory, or that can come from eating a food that’s of a certain city or country or region that is so specific, it makes you feel like you must be there physically. And that’s how I feel eating these cupcakes – the flavors and smells of coconut and lime really make me think I could be on a beautiful, tropical beach, anywhere in the world.
Well, maybe I need to close my eyes while eating. Otherwise all I see is the mess in my kitchen.
I love these cupcakes because there are so many layers of each flavor. The cupcake itself is made with coconut milk, shredded coconut, and lime zest. The frosting is a typical buttercream frosting, but you can add in more coconut milk or some lime juice to give it an extra punch of flavor, then top off with more lime zest, and more shredded coconut, maybe even toasting the shreds for a few minutes first to give it even more depth of flavor!
Oh and have I mentioned these are SUPER quick and easy to make?? Go grab your sunglasses and flip flops, it’s time for Vegan Coconut Lime Cupcakes!!
How To Make Them:
Let me just say it’s taking a LOT of self-control to not add a link to the song Put The Lime in the Coconut. But maybe you’re already singing it in your head anyway, like I am. Okay sorry I swear now it’s Vegan Coconut Lime Cupcake time.
Before we get into the specifics I am going to make one important point – the limes you use here do NOT need to be Key Limes. They can just be average regular old limes. Key limes are a bit sweeter, they just have a different flavor than regular limes, and that’s usually why you find them in large quantity lime baked goods like Key Lime Pie. Regular lime may be overwhelming here. But in these cupcakes, you really get to control how much lime flavor you add, and personally I like using regular limes in this recipe, but you get to choose!
Anyway. These cupcakes come together dangerously quickly. No advance prep work needed, nothing needs to come to room temperature that isn’t already there, you just have a craving and GO. Start by mixing your dry ingredients in a large bowl – gluten free (or all-purpose) flour, granulated sugar (or see the Ingredients Needed section to learn how to make these sugar free!), baking powder, and salt. Then add coconut milk, neutral oil, and vanilla extract. Finally you add in some lime zest and shredded coconut, and your batter is ready!
A few notes on ingredients..
- Coconut milk – get the good kind in a can, not the kind you’re putting in your cereal or coffee. This brand is my go-to, I always have a few cans on hand for coconut baked goods emergencies. And make sure the can is well-shaken and combined.
- Lime zest – you can definitely play around with this amount depending on how much you want. I find 2 tbsp to be my perfect amount, and this will take you around 2-3 limes, but you can do a little more or less or even leave it out entirely if you’ve made your way to this recipe because you want coconut cupcakes but secretly hate lime.
- Shredded coconut – if you don’t have any, that’s okay, it’s not needed, but I like the extra flavor and little bit of texture it brings to the cupcake. If you can I’d recommend using finely shredded coconut like this type rather than larger pieces.
Okay, once the batter is ready, pour it evenly across the 12 cupcake liners. I like to transfer it into a large measuring cup, as I think the spout helps me keep the pouring even and (somewhat) clean. Pop them in the oven for about 21-23 minutes, test for doneness by sticking a toothpick into the center of one and making sure it emerges with just crumbs and no wet batter, then remove from the oven. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Once the vegan coconut lime cupcakes are completely cooled, time for the frosting! The recipe I use here is just my go-to vegan vanilla buttercream frosting, and then I top it with more lime zest and shredded coconut, but if you want even more flavor you can add some extra coconut milk or lime juice to the frosting itself. A few notes for this part:
- Use the vegan butter straight from the fridge. It’ll take a few minutes with your mixer to soften and combine easily with the powdered sugar, but you want it to be cold and hard so it keeps its shape when you are ready to pipe it.
- If you are adding any coconut milk or lime juice to the frosting itself, you will likely want to add a bit more powdered sugar to balance out the additional liquid. You can also see the Ingredients Needed section to learn how to make this part sugar free.
- If you want to toast your shredded coconut for the topping, put the flakes onto a parchment lined pan and stick in the oven at 350 degrees for just a few minutes. They’ll move fast, usually around 4-5 minutes they start to turn a golden brown. Let them get as toasty as you want, then remove the pan from the oven, and carefully remove the parchment paper from the pan to let the shreds cool down before adding as a topping.
Once the butter and powdered sugar is combined with any of your other ingredients or toppings, pipe it onto your fluffy cupcake friends, and voila! Vegan Coconut Lime Cupcakes!
Store the cupcakes in an air-tight container, they will stay good 2-3 days.
Pro Tips & Tools:
- Make sure you are measuring your flour either by weight or using the spoon and level method. Do not scoop directly from the container, as you will wind up with too much! This is so important! If you want to buy a pre-made gluten free flour blend, make sure it’s King Arthur’s Measure for Measure Gluten Free Flour, it is BY FAR the best one for my recipes, NOT Bob’s Red Mills or any others. If you want to make a homemade blend, here is a link to the one I use.
- Make sure you measure your liquid ingredients using liquid measuring cups. This will ensure accuracy! I love this set.
- As I mentioned, using a hand mixer with the frosting is the way to get the best results there. I use this very simple and effective one.
- If you haven’t used piping tools for frosting, or if you just need new ones, this set is my favorite. I love the medium and large sized tips.
- Missing any of the basics? Here is my go-to muffin tin, and my go-to cupcake liners.
- If you are unsure on what coconut milk to use, this one is my favorite.
- Flour – Make sure you are measuring your flour either by weight or using the spoon and level method. Do not scoop directly from the container, as you will wind up with too much! This is so important! If you want to buy a pre-made gluten free flour blend, make sure it’s King Arthur’s Measure for Measure Gluten Free Flour, it is BY FAR the best one for my recipes, NOT Bob’s Red Mills or any others. If you want to make a homemade blend, here is a link to the one I use.
- Granulated sugar – If you want to make these sugar free, I love using this Monkfruit Sweetener in place of granulated sugar.
- Baking powder – I recommend using baking powder that has no added aluminum. This one is my go-to.
- Coconut milk – a good canned kind, not the kind you put in your coffee. If you haven’t worked with coconut milk before, I recommend this one.
- Neutral oil – again, any should do, I always use grapeseed. I have not tried these oil free.
- Vanilla extract
- Lime zest – does NOT need to be key limes, regular limes are great here
- Shredded coconut – unsweetened and small shreds ideally versus larger pieces. I like this type best.
- Vegan butter – for the frosting. I use Earth Balance sticks.
- Powdered sugar – for the frosting. If you want to do this part sugar free, you can use this Monkfruit Powdered Sweetener in place of powdered sugar.
- Optional for in or on top of the frosting – additional lime zest or shredded coconut, or add more coconut milk or lime juice into the frosting itself.
What To Bake Next:
- Want more coconut goodness? Try these Vegan Coconut Donuts, or these Vegan Coconut Macaroons.
- Want more citrus fruit? Try these Vegan Lemon Bars, or this Vegan Lemon Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, or this Vegan Mimosa Bundt Cake.
- Want more fun cupcakes? Try these Vegan Funfetti Cupcakes, or these Vegan S’mores Cupcakes, or these Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes.
Vegan Coconut Lime Cupcakes (Sugar Free and Gluten Free options)
- 1½ cups gluten free flour can sub all-purpose if desired. This links to my favorite store bought gluten free flour blend that works best with all of my recipes, or see "Ingredients Needed" section for further info.
- ¾ cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar *if you want a sugar free option, this links to my favorite sweetener, you can substitute it 1:1 in place of regular granulated sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup coconut milk from a can, and well shaken
- ¼ cup + 3 tbsp neutral oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp lime zest
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 1 cup vegan butter cold, straight from the fridge
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3½ – 4 cups powdered sugar *if you want a sugar free option, this links to my favorite powdered sweetener, you can substitute it 1:1 in place of regular powdered sugar
- optional lime zest, shredded coconut, coconut milk, or lime juice
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Then add in coconut milk, neutral oil, and vanilla extract, and mix until just combined. Finally add in the lime zest and shredded coconut and stir until evenly mixed through.
- Pour your batter evenly into the cupcake liners. Note – I like to transfer the batter from a bowl into a measuring cup, since I find that easier to pour from. Each cupcake should be filled around 2/3 – ¾ of the way up.
- Bake at 350°F for 21-23 minutes. I find my sweet spot to be around 22.5 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
- To make the frosting, take cold butter from the fridge and mix with a hand mixer. Add in the vanilla, and add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing until smooth each time. If you want to add any lime juice or coconut milk to the frosting itself, you may want to add a bit more powdered sugar to even out the additional liquid. Otherwise just make as described then add lime zest and/or shredded coconut to the top of the cupcakes when decorating.
- Eat and enjoy!