This simple Vegan Chai Cupcakes recipe will turn everyone’s favorite sweet and spicy tea into a delectable dessert. Made with mostly pantry ingredients and less than 20 minutes of active work, these tasty treats are perfect for cold-weather gatherings and holiday parties!
The first time I tried a masala chai latte, I was immediately hooked. It was sweet, spicy, creamy, caffeinated, and oh-so-cozy. When I finished the last sip I quickly started plotting when I’d get my next fix. Fast-forward more than a decade and I’m still enamored!
This yummy recipe for chai latte cupcakes transforms my beloved beverage into a perfectly portable snack, complete with warm spices and a lusciously creamy chai buttercream frosting. In short, they’re the perfect thing to whip up for your next fall birthday party, holiday, or bonfire.
What Is Chai?
Contrary to what most Americans might think, chai is simply the Hindi word for “tea.” What we have come to know as “chai tea” (which literally translates to “tea tea”) should actually be called masala chai, which means “spiced tea.”
While it only rose to American prominence in the 90s at the behest of coffee shops like Starbucks, masala chai lattes are based off ancient Ayurvedic recipes that have been used for thousands of years.
This simple vegan cupcakes recipe requires just 11 easy-to-find ingredients. Here’s what to grab:
- Masala Chai Teabag - There are tons of varieties on the market these days, so choose whichever suits you best. I used VAHDAM brand. You can also swap in a tablespoon of loose-leaf tea secured in a mesh tea ball or a piece of cheesecloth.
- Plant-Based Milk - Any unsweetened, unflavored (or vanilla-flavored) vegan milk will work here.
- All-Purpose Flour - I developed this recipe using regular ol’ white flour. Feel free to use cake flour for a more tender crumb or a 50/50 split of AP and white whole wheat pastry flour for a slightly healthier bake.
- Salt - Even sweet things need seasoning!
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda - Yes, you’ll need both. Unfortunately, they’re not interchangeable.
- Vegan Butter - Vegan butter has come a long way since I went vegan in 2015! I typically prefer the brands of vegan butter that come in stick form like Miyoko’s or Earth Balance. There’s also Country Crock plant butter, which I’d recommend only if you can’t find the others as it contains palm oil.
- White Sugar - Be sure to choose a vegan brand like Bob’s Red Mill or Wholesome to make sure your sugar isn’t refined using bone char.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - For activating the baking soda. Feel free to use white vinegar if that’s all you have on hand.
- Vanilla Extract - For richness. You can use equal amounts of either vanilla powder or vanilla paste, or half as much ground vanilla if you prefer.
- Powdered Sugar - Also known as “icing sugar” or “confectioner’s sugar,” powdered sugar is essential for making fluffy buttercream. If you don’t have any on hand, feel free to make your own using white sugar, cornstarch, and your food processor.
- Homemade Masala Chai Spice Mix - You are certainly welcome to use a store-bought masala here (e.g. Spicewalla), but making your own is fast and simple if you have the spices on hand. Note that whole spices will last longer on the shelf and you can always use a spice grinder to turn them into powders. That said, I used all pre-ground spices for convenience.
Pro Tips For Vegan Chai Cupcakes
Making these spiced chai cupcakes is pretty straightforward, even if you’re relatively new to vegan baking. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t overmix the batter. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined, then stop! If you overdo it, you risk developing too much gluten, which can turn your vegan cupcakes into a tough, rubbery mess.
- Let your chai tea cupcakes cool completely before frosting. I’d recommend letting them hang out in the tin for about 5-10 minutes, then moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
- Make sure your frosting is at room temperature. I’ll sometimes make my frosting ahead of time and store it in the fridge to space out my time in the kitchen. If you’ve done the same, make sure to let it warm up enough to be a soft, spreadable, pipeable consistency.
- Use cupcake liners. They can be parchment or reusable silicone, but make sure to use them to prevent sticking and breaking the cupcakes when you remove them from the tin.
Making chai cupcakes vegan-friendly is a snap. Here’s how it’s done:
Prepare the Muffin Tin: Preheat the oven to 350°F, grease a 12-cup muffin tray, and line with paper baking cups.
Make the Chai Spice Mix: In a small bowl, mix all of the chai spices. Set aside.
Steep the Tea: Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan or heat it up in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat or microwave and add the tea bags. Allow the tea to steep for 10 minutes.
Make the Cupcakes: Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and half of the chai spice mix. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl using a handheld or stand mixer, beat the butter together with the sugar until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then beat in the milk mixture, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract for another minute.
With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Pour the cupcake batter evenly amongst the muffin tin so each liner is about ¾ths of the way full. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and come out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
Make the Frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer, beat the stick of butter until it's light and fluffy. Add half of the chai spice mix, and gradually stir in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until it's completely mixed in. Then, add the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of plant-based milk and beat for 2-3 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. If the frosting seems too thick you can add 1 tablespoon at a time until you have your desired consistency. If the frosting is too thin, add ¼ cup of powdered sugar at a time until you have the desired consistency.
Place the frosting into a piping bag and frost each cupcake. Add a cinnamon stick to each cupcake as a garnish if desired, and enjoy!
I love this recipe for chai spice cupcakes exactly as it is written, but that by no means limits you. Feel free to make any edits or customizations you need to make it work for you and your family! Here are a few BSV-approved variations to try:
- Use Chai Concentrate - Don’t have any chai-spiced teabags on hand? No need to fret. You can easily reduce the amount of plant-based milk by a tablespoon and swap in a tablespoon of chai concentrate instead! (For reference, I tested the recipe using the Trader Joe’s chai concentrate and it came out perfectly.)
- Vegan Chai Muffins - Omit the frosting and serve as muffins for breakfast!
- Dirty Chai Cupcakes - Spike the batter and the frosting with 1 teaspoon of instant coffee or espresso powder for an extra caffine boost.
- Chai Spiced Vegan Gluten-Free Cupcakes - While I haven’t made them myself, past baking experience leads me to believe that this would be a fine recipe to swap in a cup-for-cup gluten-free flour mixture. Just remember to rest the batter for about 30 minutes before baking to prevent a grainy texture.
- Turn Them Into Mini Vegan Cupcakes - Simply use a mini muffin tin and liners in place of the regular muffin tin and reduce your baking time to about 9–12 minutes.
- Or Make A Large-Format Vegan Chai Cake - Use an 8-inch square or 9-inch round parchment-lined baking tin in place of the muffin tin, increasing the bake time to about 28-32 minutes.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
If you, like me, are a big fan of Indian masala chai, you’re going to flip for these vegan cupcakes. If they were an article of clothing, they’d definitely be a cozy flannel! As if the crave-worthy chai flavor wasn’t enough to love, this vegan cupcake recipe is also:
- Quick & Easy - You only need about 20 minutes of active time to make the batter and the frosting. Swoosh on the buttercream with a butter knife or spoon for a more rustic look, or use a piping bag for a more polished look. Either way, decorating shouldn’t take more than another 5–10 minutes.
- Made With Mostly Pantry Ingredients. If you are already on your vegan journey, it’s likely you already have most of what you need to make these mouthwateringly appetizing treats.
- Versatile - The chai spiced cupcakes and chai buttercream frosting are both excellent stand-alone recipes. Feel free to swap in vegan cream cheese frosting for the cupcakes, or use the chai frosting on vanilla or pumpkin-flavored cupcakes or cookies instead.
- Customizable - Swap in a cake tin for cupcakes, or turn them into bite-sized treats using a mini muffin tin. You can also add instant coffee to the mix for more of a dirty chai vibe! Read above for even more ideas on how to turn this recipe into your ideal autumnal dessert.
Let me know if you try out these vegan chai cupcakes, and if you do, I would love it if you left a rating and review below! Make sure you also follow along on Instagram and Pinterest for more food inspiration.
More Vegan Treats Recipes:
- Chocolate peanut butter rice krispie treats
- Ginger cookies
- Nutella stuffed cookies
- Oreo Truffles
- Apple Galette
- Millionaire Shortbread Bars
- Funfetti Protein Bites
- Lemon Poppy Seed Donuts
Pin the image below to save your new favorite holiday dessert!