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Save the sweet for the cupcakes.

By Stacey Ballis
April 01, 2021
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I adore a muffin. Because let's be honest, muffins are just cake you are allowed to eat at breakfast or at snack time. I love that muffins are endlessly adaptable—they can be as simple and healthy as a basic bran or as fancy as a blackberry with a lemon poppyseed glaze. They can even be a substitute for bread, like a corn muffin next to your bowl of chili.

But as much as I love cake, I don't always want something sweet. I tend to prefer a savory breakfast, finding that eating sugar at scale in the morning makes me sluggish and sleepy before noon. Snacking too, works better for me if I have a balance between carb and protein. And even some of the muffins that are designed to accompany your soup or salad can land in a very sweet place.

Meet the savory muffin

Enter the savory muffin. And to go from sweet to savory is as easy as a few quick recipe substitutions: sugar and vanilla out, and great ingredients like cheeses and vegetables folded in! Savory muffins can be a one-handed complete breakfast, a terrific match for your lunch, or a healthy keep-you-going snack. You can make mini ones that can help with portion control, or jumbo ones for decadent brunches. And the best part is that they are super adaptable, depending on which flavors you love!

While you can make savory muffins with just white flour, I like to add some whole wheat or other flour to mine, which makes them a little denser with a hint of nuttiness I love. When it comes to creating your combos, simpler is generally better: Try to limit your recipe to three flavors to avoid too much of a clash. Sometimes I add herbs or spices, sometimes not. Dried fruits and nuts can be great mix-ins, and a bonus topping like sunflower seeds can add interest. Once you start playing with savory combos for your muffins, you might save the sweet for cupcakes!

How to make savory muffins

Start with this easy recipe base:

1½ cups all-purpose flour (can be GF 1:1 flour if you like)

½ cup whole wheat or oat flour, or experiment with flours like buckwheat, chickpea, or even almond meal (if you don't want this added nuttiness, just skip this addition and begin with 2 cups all-purpose flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1¼ cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

Preheat your oven to 350° and line your muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk your dry ingredients together in a bowl, whisk your wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl, add wet to dry and fold together just until there are no more dry streaks of flour visible.

Now get creative and fold in up to 2 cups of mix-ins, such as:

  • Shredded or crumbled cheese
  • Cooked meats or vegetables, chopped
  • Chopped nuts or fruits

Think about tried-and-true flavor combos like feta and spinach, cheddar and bacon, or sundried tomatoes and pine nuts. Or go wild with exciting combos like smoked gouda and caramelized onion and walnut or chopped oil-cured olives and crumbled goat cheese.

Want to go further? You can boost the savory flavor (optional!) by stirring in some herbs, such as:

  • ½-2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs or aromatics like minced shallot, garlic, or scallions
  • ½-2 teaspoons of dried herbs or spices or spice blends, or seasoning pastes like harissa or chili crisp

Fill your liners ¾ full of your batter. Want to go next level? Sprinkle on some extra optional toppings, like chopped nuts, rolled oats, Everything Bagel spice, fried onions, or even just add more of the cheese you used in the batter… something bonus on top can add both flavor and texture!

Bake for between 12 minutes for mini muffins up to 25 minutes for jumbo. A skewer should come out mostly clean (unless it hits a nugget of cheese), and when pressed lightly on top the muffin should spring back.

Muffins can be kept in an airtight container for up to three days or freeze for up to three months.