Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and gluten-free version

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In November, Just Bento’s big sister site Just Hungry will be 7 years old. That’s 49 in dog years and probably about 80 in food-blog years - so many food blogs that were around when Just Hungry was born are no longer with us. Anyway, one of the early recipes I posted there that is still popular now is for zucchini basil muffins. It’s also the most popular savory muffin around our house to this day.

Since I’m trying to come up with more low-carb recipes these days, and buoyed by the success of the green onion and thyme muffins, I set about trying to make a low-carb version of the zucchini basil muffins. My first attempt was a disaster! I tried simply switching the flour for a mix of ground almond and hazelnut, but the ‘muffins’ that results were soggy and really greasy. I eventually figured out what that is - wheat flour absorbs oil, while ground nuts do not (since they are very high to start with) so the 2/3rds cup of olive oil called for in the original recipe seems like way too much in a batter that has no flour. The flour in the original recipe was also absorbing moisture from the shredded zucchini.

I finally figured out how to make non-greasy, low-carb, no wheat flour (and thus gluten free) zucchini muffins, by taking a look at a traditional Provençal recipe called pain de courgettes. Pain de courgettes actually is not a pain or bread, it’s more of a moist, eggy terrine, baked in a loaf pan, sliced and served chilled or at room temperature. We can buy readymade mixes for pain de courgettes at grocery stores around here, but it’s really easy to make from scratch too. A regular pain de courgettes recipe usually has some chapelure or finely ground breadcrumbs added to it for body, but i replaced that with a mixture of ground almonds and chickpea flour (gram flour). Chickpea flour does have some carbohydrate content, but there’s only a little of it in the whole recipe - and it is free of wheat gluten.

These muffins have a very different texture from the original zucchini-basil muffins - they are soft and moist, while the originals are bouncier and have more bite to them. The flavor profile of zucchini, basil, olive oil and Parmesan cheese is the same though. They can be used as muffins by low-carb or gluten-free people, or as a vegetarian protein too. They’re great for bentos, as well as for breakfast.

Recipe: Low-carb, gluten-free zucchini-basil muffins

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Makes 12 regular sized or 24 mini muffins

  • 3 medium zucchini or courgette (about 14 oz or 400g in weight before cooking)
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) plain Greek style (thick) yogurt
  • 1 cup finely shredded fresh basil leaves
  • 100g / 3 oz (about 3/4 cup) finely ground almonds or almond flour
  • 60g / 2 oz (about 2/3 cup) chickpea flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • About 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Grana Padano (or similar hard grating) cheese

Chop up the onion and zucchini finely. Heat up a large sauté pan and add the olive oil. Sauté the onion until it is turning translucent, then add the zucchini. Sauté, stirring to let the moisture evaporate. The amount of zucchini plus onion should reduce down to about 2 cups worth. Take off the heat and set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Grease your muffin tins if necessary. (I used silicone muffin cups, as I usually do).

Combine the dry ingredients - the ground almonds, chickpea flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the cooked zucchini and onion, yogurt, and basil leaves. Add the dry ingredients plus about half of the grated cheese to the bowl and mix well to combine. Pour the batter into muffin cups or tins, and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of each.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown on top.

To freeze, let cool down completely, then pack in freezer-proof bags or containers. If you used silicone muffin cups, you can freeze them cups and all if you want. Defrost for a minute in a microwave, or just pack a frozen one into your bento box and it will defrost by lunchtime (unless you are in a very cold environment).

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Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

Hi Maki,

Quick question - can you give a ballpark as to how much *chopped up* zucchini your 3 medium zucchini yields (say, in cups), or the approx weight of those three zucchinis all together? I find that small/medium/large can be very tricky when using measurements from different parts of the world, and I've run into difficulties before. Zucchinis (and eggplants) especially seem to have different standards of sizing depending on where one lives.

Love Just Bento, btw! I've made quite a few of your recipes with excellent (and repeatable) results!

Regards,
Dawna

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

Good question! Before it's cooked, you should have about 3 1/2 - 4 cups of cut up zucchini (assuming it's chopped up quite roughly). When it's cooked down, together with the onion you should have about 2 cups worth of zucchini + onion. Weight wise, before cooking it's about 14 oz or 400 g or so of zucchini.

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

awww, those muffin cups are SO cute!
please, maki- where did you get them?

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

I got them in Japan, at Loft if I remember correctly, in the baking goods area.

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

I'm not on any sort of gluten-free diet and not particularly concerned about my carbohydrate intake, so I was thinking of doing a sort of fusion of the two recipes you've given here. Do you think I would run into any issues if I were to substitute the 2 1/2 cups of white flour called for in the original recipe with wheat flour, and if I were to keep the addition of cooked onion and zucchini while taking out the yogurt and flour substitutes?

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

I really don't know...you will have to try it out and find out ^_^;

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

I'd never heard of pain de courgettes before and now I'm salivating and HAVE to try it.

Please could you point me to a reliable online recipe (in French would be fine)

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

This one looks about right (though I haven't tried this exact one.)

http://www.marmiton.org/recettes/recette_pain-de-courgettes_15371.aspx

Pain de courgettes

What a great way to use up stale bread!
The only creme fraiche I could get hold of today was some half fat stuff, but even with this the result was delicious.
Perfect for my one year old as it makes ideal finger/fist food she can feed herself with.
Super recette indeed! Je te remercie.

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

I'm not familiar with chickpea flour. Is this similar to falafel mix? Is it readily available in standard US grocery stores? Thanks!

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

Chickpea flour should be available at a large supermarket, or one that focuses on 'health food' or 'natural food' type. Whole Foods has it (though I guess that's not a 'standard' grocery store) as does Trader Joe's IIRC. Otherwise you can find it at a health food store. The cheapest place to buy it though would be at an Indian or South Asian grocery store, where it's called gram flour or besan. I am not familiar with specific falafel mixes, but I'm guessing they have spices and things in them already so they probably aren't the same thing.

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

I made these this morning and they turned out great! The only thing I changed was adding a bit of dried thyme to the sauteed zuke/onion mix. Since I know I like this flavor when just eating sauteed zucchini, I figured it would add a bit more of a savory flavor to the muffins. I've put most of them in the freezer and I'm interested to see how they taste out of the freezer later on.

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

Hi Maki! This looks fantastic and I'm definitely going to be trying it. Couple of questions: Would it be all right to use nonfat yogurt? Any idea of the calories per muffin?
Thanks! :)

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

Per muffin (if making 12), these are about 100 calories. I really don't know if non fat yogurt would work, and can't try it out until January when I'll be stateside - we can't buy nonfat yogurt in France or Switzerland. (And to be honest I'm not unhappy with that situation!) These do have fat content because of the almonds and olive oil primarily, so they are definitely not low-fat, so I'm not sure that switching to non-fat yogurt would really be worth it.

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

This I will have to try out. Sounds good, and healthy!

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

Maki - these are an amazing staple here in my house, especially good for a quick pre or post workout snack in the middle of the day. And they taste great from the freezer. Have you made them with other vegetables with success? Would love recommendations on other veggies that I could swap out without changing anything else and still maintain the same form of the muffin.
Thanks!
Harmony

Re: Zucchini Basil Muffins revisited: Low-carb and ...

Any kind of summer squash could be substituted. I think you could probably use cooked pumpkin too. However zucchini does have a pretty specific texture, which is what gives these muffins their particular character. I'll see what other kind of vegetable low-carb muffins I can come up with though!

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