The Best Ever Healthy Carrot Cake

March 17, 2021

If you are looking for the best ever healthy carrot cake, I’ve got you! This carrot cake is made with gluten-free flour and lightly sweetened with coconut sugar and pineapple. Each piece is loaded to the max with carrots, raisins, walnuts, and pineapple, and topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting. And did I mention it’s vegan, too? Say hello to your new favorite carrot cake recipe!

When I was a little girl, I would avoid carrot cake like the plague, instead opting for chocolate cake. But as I grew up, my taste buds slowly changed, and now a good carrot cake is best thing in the world. One of the best ones I’ve ever had is from Susie Cakes; each slice contains many layers with a decadent cream cheese frosting in between. My version is a take on my favorite Susie Cakes carrot cake, but with more nutritious ingredients and no refined sugars. Of course mine isn’t a layer cake, so there’s that difference too, but the taste? Yep, it measures up!

Ingredients needed to make the best carrot cake

You are going to be surprised to see that the ingredient list for this carrot cake is pretty simple! In fact, I’m sure you have some of these ingredients in your pantry already.

  • Carrots: This recipe uses 3/4 cup shredded carrots, packed. I like to use the small or medium grate, so that the carrot pieces are not too large.
  • Pineapple: This recipe also uses pineapple, both for texture and sweetness. I recommend purchasing canned pineapple (with no added sugar), because you will need some of the juice! 
  • Coconut oil: This cake is nice and moist thanks to coconut oil. I have also made this recipe with avocado oil, so I can vouch for that. I’m pretty sure you can go with butter, if you’d like.
  • Vanilla extract: Vanilla extract is a must in any baked good! It elevates the taste and you only need a little!
  • Apple cider vinegar: Because this recipe is vegan and doesn’t contain any eggs, the apple cider vinegar, combined with the baking soda, is what is going to make this cake rise. So don’t skip it, and don’t use any other vinegar. You need apple cider vinegar.
  • Gluten-free flour: I always use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 baking flour in my recipes, as it always gives me the perfect result. The Trader Joe’s gluten-free flour is a great one, too. If you want to use regular, all purpose flour, it will work, but just note, I have not tested any other flour.
  • Coconut sugar: I love the taste of coconut sugar in this recipe. It’s fantastic, and we are only using 1/2 cup in the entire recipe, and that’s because the cake also gets some sweetness from the pineapple and the raisins. 
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon is probably my most favorite flavor of all in this recipe, so don’t skimp on it.
  • Ginger: I use ground ginger in this recipe. 
  • Baking soda: This is an essential ingredient in this recipe, needed to make the cake rise. 
  • Raisins: Now, I know some of you don’t like raisins, and if you are one of those people, just feel free to omit them all together. However, a traditional carrot cake includes raisins, and I love them, so here we are. 
  • Walnuts: I love the taste of walnuts in carrot cake, but if you are nut free, feel free to omit them all together. If you aren’t huge walnut fan, go ahead and substitute pecans for the walnuts. The world is your oyster!

How to make the best ever carrot cake

The million dollar question…how do I achieve a perfectly moist and perfectly delicious carrot cake? I am going to tell you!

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease an 8×8 square baking dish very well, and set aside. I like to line my baking dishes with parchment paper so that the cake just lifts out. If you’d like to try that, I recommend greasing the inside of the baking dish first, so that the parchment paper sticks.
  3. Next, in a medium bowl, mix together the shredded carrots, crushed pineapple, melted coconut oil, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar.
  4. Then fold in the flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, raisins and chopped walnuts.
  5. Transfer the batter into the greased baking dish.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let the cake cool completely.
  8. Once the cake has cooled completely, frost it, then cut it into 12 squares. 

How to make a delicious dairy-free cream cheese frosting

Ok, so I went the extra mile in this recipe and made my own dairy-free frosting. If you don’t feel like making your own, just grab a store-bought cream cheese frosting (or vanilla frosting) and call it a day! If you are going to give mine a go, it’s super easy!

  1. In a bowl, beat together the dairy-free cream cheese and the vegan butter. I use a hand mixer to do this. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed.
  2. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until well combined. It might look dry at first, but the more you beat it, the creamier it will become, I promise.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and the lemon juice and beat all of the ingredients together until they are soft, fluffy, and fully smooth. That’s it!

    How to store & freeze this healthy carrot cake

    One of the reasons I like this recipe is because I can make it a few days before I’m ready to serve it. When I go that route, I just wait until I’m ready to serve it to add the frosting. And in fact, I actually think the cake tastes better after a day or so – the flavors really soak in and it become moister (I know we all hate that word, but it’s true!)

    Storing your healthy carrot cake

    Once you’ve made your carrot cake, cover it with foil or transfer it to an air tight container, and place it in the refrigerator for up to one week. If you leave it out on the counter more than a day or so, it definitely won’t last as long.

    Freezing your healthy carrot cake

    If you want to freeze this carrot cake, don’t frost it. Wrap it in plastic and freeze, and when you are ready to serve it, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and allow it to come to room temperature before frosting it and cutting it into squares.

    If you make this recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and a rating below. This really helps other readers decide whether to make this recipe, and it also helps my recipe appear in Google searches! And if you are feeling especially kind, be sure to tag me in your creations on Instagram, so I can see them and repost on my IG stories!

    The Best Ever Healthy Carrot Cake

    Author: Nicole Modic of @KALEJUNKIE

    Prep Time 15 mins
    Cook Time 35 mins
    Total Time 50 mins
    SERVES 12
    Print It Pin It
    If you are looking for the best ever healthy carrot cake, I've got you! This carrot cake is made with gluten-free flour and sweetened with coconut sugar and pineapple. Each piece is loaded with carrots, raisins, walnuts, and pineapple and topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting. Say hello to your new favorite carrot cake recipe.

    Ingredients

    Carrot cake:

    • 3/4 cup finely shredded carrots packed
    • 1/2 cup crushed canned pineapple do not drain all of the liquid out. when measuring your 1/2 cup, be sure to include some of the liquid, too.
    • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted (or avocado oil)
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
    • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
    • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

    Cream cheese frosting:

    • 1 8 oz container dairy-free cream cheese
    • 1/2 cup vegan butter
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

    Instructions

    To make the carrot cake:

    • Preheat oven to 350F.
    • Grease an 8x8 square baking dish very well, and set aside.
    • In a medium bowl, mix together the carrots, crushed pineapple, melted coconut oil, vanilla, and vinegar.
    • Next, add the flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, raisins and chopped walnuts.
    • NOTE: the batter should be thick, but NOT dry and crumbly. If it is, that is ok! Just add a few more tablespoons of the pineapple juice or a few tablespoons of water. It's all good, do not worry!
    • Transfer the mixture to the greased baking dish.
    • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick in the center comes out clean.
    • Let the cake cool completely before adding the cream cheese frosting.
    • Cut into squares and enjoy!

    To make the cream cheese frosting:

    • In a bowl, beat together the dairy-free cream cheese and the vegan butter. I use a hand mixer to do this. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed.
    • Slowly add in the powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until well combined. It might look dry at first, but the more you beat it, the creamier it will become, I promise.
    • Add the vanilla extract and the lemon juice and beat all of the ingredients together until they are soft, fluffy, and fully smooth.

    Notes

    NOTE: the batter should be thick, but NOT dry and crumbly. If it is, that is ok! Just add a few more tablespoons of the pineapple juice or a few tablespoons of water. It's all good, do not worry!

    Did you make this recipe?

    I’d love to see what you made - tag @kalejunkie
    in your posts and I’ll re-share!

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    1. 5 stars
      This is the best carrot cake! So moist and tastes like the real deal. I subbed the coconut oil for carrot baby food and it is still the best carrot cake I’ve had; you can barely tell its healthy. Thanks so much for sharing it, will become a regular for me.

      • I love hearing that!! Thank you so much, Nadine! I am so thrilled to hear this will be a new regular for you!

    2. Thank you for this delicious recipe! I am allergic to pineapple so I replaced that with mashed banana (very ripe) and some oat milk and it turned out great. I also chose to make them into cupcakes and they only needed about 10 minutes at 350F. Really appreciate the great GF vegan recipe!

      • Hi! Yes! But you might need to add a little more pineapple juice or water, to ensure the batter isn’t dry. The batter should be super thick, but not dry. Enjoy!

    3. Very nice recipe indeed! I tried making it yesterday and overall it came out great.
      Only, I used Tapioca flour for the gluten free floor which I think made it a little gooie. Which Gluten free flour would you recommend?
      Also, I didn’t have cream cheese at hand so just replaced with some sour cream in the frosting, which was delicious.

      • Hi! That’s definitely why – you can’t substitute tapioca flour for gluten-free flour 🙂 I recommend Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour, it’s awesome!

    4. 5 stars
      Made this today for Easter while dinner was cooking – SO good. Super easy to make, perfect texture, not too sweet. The only adjustment I made was omitting vegan butter in the frosting. This is probably one of my favorite desserts I’ve ever made! Thank you!!

    5. 5 stars
      I made this the day before easter and it turned out great! Not under-spiced or too sweet! I used regular sugar but that was the only sub I made. I was surprised I cant taste the pineapple in it at all. Everyone else in my house loved it too! Thanks for an awesome new regular I’ll be making!

    6. 4 stars
      Yum! This was really good, but like many of the reviews, the batter was really dry. I ended up adding about 2/3 cup extra pineapple juice and, because I am not vegan, added 1 egg for some more moisture + rise and it came out perfect!

    7. 4 stars
      Easy and really good flavor and not too sweet which was perfect with the creek cheese frosting. My one issue was the mix was super dry… I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be like but it certainly wasn’t like a batter so added some Greek yogurt to the mix and it turned out perf!

    8. Did the recipe used to say you could substitute applesauce for pineapple? I swore it did, but I also may be making things up? Hoping to make this today for Easter tomorrow, but may have to run to the store for pineapple 🙂

    9. Hi! This looks amazing and I would love to make this for Easter. I was wondering if it could be made in multiple round cake pans and served as a layered cake with frosting in between? Thanks so much!

      • Hi! Yes, if you double the recipe. This recipe makes square for an 8×8 pan, so if you double the recipe and bake in a round pan, it will be perfect as a layer cake!

    10. Thank you for this recipe! I’m not used to vegan baking and I followed this to a T except used white sugar instead as it’s what I had. The cake, while delicious, turned out dry and crumbly and didn’t rise. Any idea what could have gone wrong? I want to get it right and serve it for Easter!! (Will get coco sugar next time)

      • Hi! Thank you for letting me know. If the dough is dry, then it means you need to add a bit more of the pineapple juice, so that the batter is thick, yet still moist before the cake goes into the oven! That’s the only reason I can think of, because the fact that you used white sugar instead of coconut sugar doesn’t make a difference! 🙂 Give it another try and don’t be afraid to add more of the liquid to the batter. Enjoy!

      • Hi! I wouldn’t recommend it, because you do need some liquid from the can, so that the cake isn’t dry.

    11. 5 stars
      This cake is so damn good. I topped it with regular buttercream frosting and I swear I haven’t had a better dessert in recent memory. So freaking delicious.

      • OOOOH, I love a good buttercream frosting too!!! Thank you so much for reviewing this recipe!