I am SO in love with this oil-free vegan carrot cake recipe. It's everything I want in a carrot cake. Moist (there I go with that word again), lightly-sweetened, fragrantly spiced, flecked with sweet, juicy raisins, and topped with a creamy, tangy, dairy-free cream cheese frosting. Oh, and it happens to be oil-free, gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, whole grain, and full of whole food plant-based goodness.
It's full of healthy ingredients like carrots (duh), raisins, oat flour, applesauce, walnuts, shredded coconut, and pineapple. Not to mention, it's the best vegan carrot cake (really, the best carrot cake, period) I've ever had.
Wait, wait, wait. Pineapple?
Well, shit. I was hoping I could sneak that by you. Yeah, I was skeptical, too. But when the magical Somer McCowan suggests something, you listen!
Carrot cake is THE BEST kind of cake and I make one for my birthday every year. A few days before my birthday last year, I asked Somer if she had a good, not-terribly-unhealthy carrot cake recipe. She sent me this recipe from the NY Times and told me she veganizes it. I made some smart ass comment about being a carrot cake purist and said I was super opposed to pineapple in my carrot cake. But you know what? I don't think I had ever even had carrot cake with pineapple in it (I'm just an asshole), and I trust any recommendation from Somer, so I decided to go for it.
It was... incredible. Over the next couple months, I made the carrot cake six more times, each time tweaking and adjusting and adding and removing things, until I came to this version I'm giving you today. It has a pretty long list of ingredients, and it's not a quick recipe, but it is SO worth the effort. I hope you love it as much as I do.
(THANK YOU, SOMER!)
Let's talk about the recipe!
- This vegan carrot cake recipe contains no eggs, no dairy, no wheat, no gluten, no oil, and no cane sugar. No cashews in the cream cheese frosting either.
- Oat flour makes it whole grain and it's packed full of fruits, veggies, and nuts. This is probably the most nutritious carrot cake you'll ever eat. Healthy vegan carrot cake for everyone! 🥳
- The unfrosted cake freezes well, so it's an easy make-ahead dessert. Just thaw and frost.
The full recipe is in the recipe card at the end of this post, but here's a quick look at the ingredients you'll need to make your very own oil-free vegan carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
- oat flour (make sure yours is certified gluten free if you have a sensitivity)
- coconut sugar (date sugar would also work)
- ground cinnamon
- ground ginger
- baking soda
- ground flax seeds mixed with water to make a flax "egg"
- your favorite plant milk mixed with apple cider vinegar to make vegan "buttermilk"
- canned crushed pineapple
- chopped walnuts
- unsweetened shredded coconut
- unsweetened applesauce
- vanilla extract
- canned coconut cream
- your favorite vegan cream cheese (I've used Kite Hill every time!)
- lemon juice
- xanthan gum
First, you'll want to put a can of coconut milk or coconut cream in the fridge the night before.
When you're ready to bake, gather your ingredients*, preheat your oven and prepare your cake pans. Make sure you get the cream cheese out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature. *Keep the coconut milk in the fridge until you're ready to make the frosting.
Now grate your carrots and chop your walnuts. Add them to a big bowl with the rest of your add-ins.
Make your flax "egg" and vegan "buttermilk".
Next, you'll combine your dry ingredients. Then combine your wet ingredients and pour them into the dry ingredients. Once it's mixed, fold in the grated carrots, pineapple, walnuts, coconut, and raisins.
Pour the batter into your cake pans and bake!
While the cake is baking, make the frosting by powdering your coconut sugar, then whipping together all the frosting ingredients in a stand mixer.
When the cake is done baking, let it cool completely before covering it in creamy, dreamy frosting.
- Make sure you use canned crushed pineapple in 100% pineapple juice. The texture and juice both play a part in the recipe, so make sure you get the right stuff!
- Save time by using a food processor to grate your carrots and chop your walnuts.
- Make sure the cake is completely cooled before you frost it or the frosting will make a melty mess. You can even split the process into two days by wrapping the room-temperature cake in plastic wrap and refrigerating it overnight before you frost it. The cake can be frosted straight out of the fridge.
FAQs & Substitutions
How do I make carrot cake cupcakes instead of cake?
As written, this recipe will make 20 cupcakes. Make the batter as directed and scoop a rounded ¼ cup (or about 75g) into each cupcake paper. Bake cupcakes for 30 minutes and cool completely before frosting.
Can I make this nut-free? Or raisin-free?
Absolutely! Just leave the walnuts out and the cake is nut-free. To make the frosting nut-free, make sure you buy a nut-free vegan cream cheese.
I don't know what you have against raisins, but you can leave those out, too. Hater.
Why is there pineapple in carrot cake?
It has a very important job! The pineapple adds moisture and sweetness. This is especially helpful since we're not using oil or a bunch of refined cane sugar in this recipe.
If you make this oil-free vegan carrot cake recipe and become the healthy carrot cake champion amongst your friends and family, please come back and tell me all about it in the comments (while you're down there... how 'bout rating the recipe?). And since I'm already sitting here barking orders at you, share a photo of your cake and tag me on Instagram, too! 🤓