Confession: I’ve never loved blueberry muffins (mostly because to me, fresh blueberries > cooked blueberries). I embarked on this bake off mostly because it was highly requested, and I know blueberry season is imminent!
But surprisingly, after trying 12 blueberry muffin recipes, I found quite a few I liked. I discovered that my ideal muffin is light and cakey, slightly on the drier side, not too tangy, and with fewer blueberries (I know I’m probably in the minority here). As usual, I’ll break down each recipe below to help you find your ideal blueberry muffin!
- 25 total tasters
- All 12 recipes were baked the day of and judged at room temperature
- All tasters ranked each muffin on a scale from 0-10 for flavor, texture, and overall as a whole
- All muffins were baked in unlined, greased muffin tins
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- Swans Down cake flour
- Bob’s Red Mill superfine almond flour
- Unsalted Land O Lakes butter
- Borden whole cultured buttermilk
- Daisy sour cream
- Kroger whole milk yogurt
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Diamond kosher salt
- Driscoll’s blueberries
- Imperial granulated sugar and dark brown sugar
Excitingly, this bake off had a clear runaway winner for crowd favorite–the Levain Bakery copycat muffins from Hummingbird High! Bravetart had a strong second place finish, and a bunch of recipes that essentially tied for third (6 recipes hung out in the margin of error).
For the recipes that were ranked a bit lower, texture was a key detractor more than flavor. More detail about factors that affect both texture and flavor below.
Here are our rankings along with your friendly reminder that I am an enthusiastic home baker (not a professional baker)!
- Butter vs. oil: After the chocolate cake bake off, I had high hopes for the muffin recipes made with both butter (for flavor) and oil (for a light yet moist texture). However, Cook’s Illustrated and A Cozy Kitchen were the only two recipes to use a combination of butter and oil, and (perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not) both landed in the bottom half of the rankings. Oil-based Spruce Eats and Inspired Taste basically tied in the middle of the pack. Meanwhile, butter-based recipes took the top 5 spots and a few near the bottom.
My theory here is that unlike chocolate cake where the flavor of butter is partially masked by chocolate, the butter flavor becomes much more important in blueberry muffin recipes. There were some complaints about lack of flavor for both of the oil-based muffins, but I think the light and cakey texture helped compensate for flavor (reflected in the texture/flavor scores for Spruce Eats).
- Sour cream vs. yogurt vs. milk vs. buttermilk: Though I thought sour cream might lend an edge to some recipes, the top two recipes used only milk as the form of dairy. In fact, all recipes that used milk (sometimes in conjunction with sour cream, as with Sally’s Baking Addiction and Baker by Nature) tended to be more highly rated. Those with yogurt were split (Smitten Kitchen took fourth place while BA was last). Those with buttermilk (CI, Handle the Heat and A Cozy Kitchen) all came in towards the bottom, which I think was probably due to other factors that affected texture, not just the buttermilk.
Sour cream and yogurt help lend a tangier, tender, but slightly heavier and more moist crumb. Conclusion: I think recipes with milk tended to do better because most tasters preferred a lighter crumb and didn’t need the tanginess of yogurt/sour cream/buttermilk in a muffin.
- Flour: The grand majority of tested recipes used only all-purpose flour. I was curious to see if the cake flour in The Spruce Eats’ recipe would result in a noticeably cakier texture, but I didn’t find a notable difference compared to another cakey-style muffin like Inspired Taste.
Conclusion: I wouldn’t bother purchasing cake flour specifically for a cakier muffin. Though if you are willing to invest in almond flour, that is one of the keys to Hummingbird High’s recipe light-textured, toasty-flavored, sky high muffins. More on that below.
- Rest: Hummingbird High and A Cozy Kitchen were the only recipes to call for a rest (I rested the batters for 1 hour each). According to this article, resting batter helps the starch in the flour absorb liquid and thicken the batter as well as help the gluten relax, making for a more tender muffin. When I compared A Cozy Kitchen with a similar recipe that didn’t call for a rest (Cook’s Illustrated), I didn’t notice a difference in dome height. The Hummingbird High recipe is specifically engineered for high domes, so here the rest is just one factor among many.
Anecdotally, I rested leftover Spruce Eats batter for 3 days before baking it off and it resulted in beautifully tall muffins. Conclusion: resting your muffins certainly won’t hurt and will probably help make a more tender and possibly taller muffin.
- Oven temperature: That same article notes that starting off muffins at a high temperature helps jump start a rise, leading to taller muffin tops. Both Sally’s Baking Addiction and A Cozy Kitchen utilize this technique, but I have to say I’m not sure it made for a higher dome than baking at one temperature would have. Michelle notes in her recipe development notes that she streamlines her recipe to bake at just one temp (400) and achieves the same results. Conclusion: the high temp/low temp isn’t the only (or even probably a leading) factor in getting a high dome rise.
Analysis on the Best Blueberry Muffin Recipes
Bon Appetit: a sturdy, spongy, robustly-flavored muffin with hints of lemon
BA’s recipe was distinct in its use of whole wheat flour (for a nuttier flavor), additional egg yolks (likely for richness and moisture), a full 1.5 cups of yogurt, freshly grated nutmeg, lemon zest, and lemon juice and a sprinkling of coarse sugar on top. This muffin was fairly straightforward to make, and results in a structured, sturdy, flavorful muffin. The added egg yolks in addition to yogurt seems like overkill–it feels like excessive moisture that leads to a slightly coarse and dense crumb with a chewier, spongy texture. For me, the flavor is the star here–the lemon comes through nicely paired with a good amount of tang, but the springy texture wasn’t my personal favorite.
Tasters liked the notes of brown sugar and molasses, but wanted a bit more sweetness and lightness. “Too dense to eat more than one,” said one taster. Others thought it was a little “too moist” a little “eggy” and “bready” and though it had decent flavor, the heavy texture deterred most tasters from ranking this among their favorites. I might try remaking this muffin with less yogurt or omitting the yolks (purely for curiosity).
A Cozy Kitchen: a plush and soft muffin on the less-sweet side with a slightly spongy “boxed muffin” texture
Adrianna’s recipe is also very easy to throw together (melted butter means no getting the mixer dirty!) and calls for a minimum 1 hour rest to encourage rise on the muffins. I wanted to compare her oil and butter-based recipe to Cook’s Illustrated, which is very similar but uses a slightly different flour/sugar ratio and doesn’t require a rest. Ultimately, I didn’t find a significant difference in rise between the two recipes, but I’m curious to try resting the batter overnight to see if that makes for a more dramatic difference. Perhaps because these muffins are on the lower end of the sugar content spectrum, I found the texture just a little coarser and breadier than some others, though overall the texture was still pleasantly plush and moist. Taste-wise, these were a good level of breakfast-sweet rather than cake sweet.
This muffin proved quite divisive among tasters–it was in the “top 2” for some, with its “soft boxed muffin spongy texture,” buttery flavor, “blueberry to cake ratio” and not too sweet flavor. On the other hand, some thought this texture was a bit too springy, slightly too moist and eggy-tasting, and some thought the cake was a bit bland.
Handle the Heat: a slightly drier-textured muffin with unconventional but delicious notes of toasty brown butter and maple
I chose this recipe to have a brown butter contender! (Note: I did omit the crumble for consistency.) This recipe also stood out for its use of buttermilk, which Tessa says creates a “finer crumb and more moisture AND flavor.” This recipe uses about the same amount of butter as comparable recipes, but browning butter always decreases moisture in a recipe. Accordingly, I found the texture of this one on the slightly drier, slightly breadier side (which could also be due to a lesser amount of sugar since sugar helps both sweeten and tenderize.) Still, there was a pleasantly squishy texture, and since I like drier muffins, I found this texture pretty satisfying. The brown butter flavor shines through (perhaps a little distracting for those looking for a classic muffin), and it seemed to highlight the salt balance in this muffin.
Most tasters actually interpreted the brown butter flavor as maple. A number of tasters appreciated the lighter crumb and rich flavor: “honey graham undertones are top notch” though some missed a more classic flavor profile: “I miss the pure blueberry flavor” I think appearance actually affected the rating of this muffin as the brown color made people think it was healthier: “flavor was perfect but texture was a little too whole grain muffin-y.” Or perhaps that it was just that some wished it was more moist. For brown butter lovers, I think this is a fantastic muffin (especially if you add back the streusel).
Cook’s Illustrated: a spongy, lemon-scented muffin with jammy swirls of blueberry compote and a satisfying sugar crust
Similar to A Cozy Kitchen, CI uses a combination of butter and oil. The recipe also calls for topping the muffins with a lemon sugar (made by rubbing zest into sugar) and a quick and simple blueberry compote for maximum blueberry impact. Although the compote is an extra step, it truly does only take about 6 minutes to do, and swirling it into the top of each muffin is pretty fun. Topping the batch of muffin with 1/3 cup of sugar seemed excessive, but it does result in muffins with a notably crunchy and beautiful sugar crust. Next time, I might take it down to 1/4 cup of sugar, or 1 teaspoon per muffin. (Be warned, the topping does sog overnight and loses some of the crunchy allure, so I think these are really best the day of.) I loved the jammy swirls and notes of lemon in this muffin and thought the texture was solidly moist if slightly spongy. My main critique is that the cake didn’t have a ton of flavor.
Tasters liked the zesty, sweet flavor of this muffin. Some thought this muffin was a bit dense and dry with a slightly spongy texture. For the most part, it was a little drier and spongier than ideal, but tasters loved the sugary crusty top. “What I feel a muffin should be,” said one taster. “Love the subtle lemon flavor, but crumb is a bit dense,” said another. One complained about “too much sugar on top,” but I don’t think that’s a real problem. This is actually an easier recipe as CI recipes go, and I think it’s worth a try if you’re a blueberry fanatic.
Baker by Nature: a dense, cakey and sweet muffin that epitomizes a decadent pound cake (or an elevated packaged muffin) in all the best ways
I was drawn to this recipe due to the incredible amount of butter (2 sticks!!) and sour cream (1 cup!) to a pretty standard amount of flour and other ingredients. Sure enough, the thick and creamy batter baked up into muffins that were basically pound cake with a squishy, super tight crumb. They were also extremely top heavy as the recipe calls for dividing the mountain of batter into just 12 muffins–which I was somehow able to do because the batter is so thick that it mounded on top. Unfortunately these overfilled muffins baked up with large but flat muffin tops; next time I make these, I’d fill them less full (maybe to the brim of each cup) and make at least 14-16 muffins to hopefully achieve the picturesque rise in the pictures. I loved the sweetness and moist pound cake texture of these muffins!
Most agreed this muffin was more like pound cake in the form of a muffin with its tight crumb and soft texture. Those who weren’t as big a fan found it a bit plain and wished it had a crunchy top (this was the only muffin that didn’t call for a sugar topping) with more blueberries. “Tastes like a white cake with blueberries,” said one taster. These are very reminiscent of packaged vending machine muffins, but exponentially better; I’d easily make these again when I’m in an indulgent mood.
Inspired Taste: the simplest, cakiest, light and sweet oil-based muffin to rule them all (my future easy go-to)
This muffin recipe is so simple, I had almost convinced myself it wasn’t going to be good. It’s a simple matter of whisking dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately (just 1 egg and no melted/creamed butter required!) and using a FORK to stir everything together. But miraculously, this baked up into a super light and cakey muffin that reminds me of a boxed cake but better. The sugar top also held up much better than CI into the next day, so they keep fairly well. Based on the effort-to-payoff ratio, this will probably be my go-to muffin in the future when I’m feeling lazy. I’m honestly so excited that I found a recipe that is this easy, doesn’t require any odd ingredients and still yields my ideal balance of a cupcake-esque muffin that’s on the slightly drier side. I found this muffin quite similar to the Spruce Eats recipe (perhaps a hair drier and with less body from the lack of sour cream) but honestly very similar and easier to make.
Tasters enjoyed the fluffy, buttery, soft crumb, and sugary top but thought it could use more blueberries (I disagree). The most common complaints were around a slightly drier cake and underwhelming, bland flavor (I fully admit to being into slightly drier muffins). Interestingly, several thought it had a cornbread-y texture (again, I disagree).
Spruce Eats “Perfect” Blueberry Muffins: a slightly more moist and full-bodied oil-based muffin with a gorgeous sugar crown
Although The Spruce Eats has several blueberry muffin recipes, I chose the “Perfect” recipe, which happens to be nearly identical to Alton Brown’s recipe except that it adds 1/4 cup of sugar to dust on top. Like Inspired Taste, this keeps the gorgeous crunchy sugar top even into the second day. Even though oil is supposed to help provide more moisture, I found both of the oil-based muffins (this and Inspired Taste) erred on a the side of a slightly drier texture, though this muffin was more moist. Here, the slightly grainy crumb did kind of remind me of a cakey cornbread. Here again, I loved the cakey texture, though I found the sweet crumb a bit more moist and heavy than Inspired Taste–which was a good thing for most tasters (except for me).
Tasters widely commented that there was a lot (perhaps too much) sugar on top. Most liked the soft, cakey texture (“reminds me of boxed cake”) though others noted the “batter itself is too sweet to be a muffin.” The majority of complaints centered around not enough flavor (“taste was a bit flat”) and that the muffin was slightly too sweet. To be honest, I would probably default to making the very similar Inspired Taste muffin in the future unless I had cake flour and sour cream to use up.
Jordan Marsh: the famous department store muffin is the quintessential blueberry muffin with a generous amount of blueberries studding a simple vanilla-scented cake
This recipe (which I got via King Arthur Flour), felt like the one to beat. This recipe reportedly comes from a famous department store in Boston and is quite popular on the internet. It follows a typical cake technique of creaming the butter and sugar, and results in predictably cake-like, soft and tender crumb. This was another muffin that kept its gorgeous crunchy sugar top even into the second day. To me, this was the most quintessential blueberry muffin of the bunch–a good distribution of blueberries amid a lightly vanilla-scented cake batter with no tangy sour cream or lemon to distract.
Tasters loved the soft, cakey texture and the “crunchy, sugary crusty top.” “Not too sweet, perfect crust, even distribution of blueberries, the cake wasn’t too sweet to where I thought I was eating dessert,” praised one taster. Critics thought this muffin was a little dry and with not much depth of flavor. “Nothing wow,” said one.
Smitten Kitchen: a plush, lightly tangy and sweet muffin with a beautiful crunchy top
Deb’s “perfect blueberry muffins” are heavily customized from the original CI muffin source. This recipe bears the most resemblance to Bon Appetit (butter, milk and yogurt), though it uses far less egg and the ratios are different. Like BA, these muffins were a little more structured with some bounce and tang from the yogurt; the interior is plush and on the denser end of the spectrum (though not actually dense). I would be curious to try these again with sour cream instead of yogurt since I think the slightly higher fat content could make the crumb a little more tender. I loved the flavor of these, though the crumb was a tiny bit heavier than my cakey ideal.
The majority loved the hint of lemon in this muffin, crunchy top and the moist, cupcake-like texture. A few thought the texture was a little dense (“tastes more like a lemon blueberry cake”) and of course, the traditional complaint that the flavor was a little bland (my tasters get spoiled ok).
Sally’s Baking Addiction: a fluffy, moist and crowd-pleasing muffin with notes of molasses
Similar to Handle the Heat, Sally’s recipe was the only other one to use brown sugar (and I also omitted the crumble here for the same reason of consistency). The slightly browner appearance again tricked some tasters into thinking this was a “healthier” muffin, but the brown sugar did help keep the crumb soft and squishy with beautiful molasses notes. I can see why Sally calls this her “best” blueberry muffins–even without the streusel, the muffins are moist, a little chewy, and overall have a very pleasing texture and good flavor!
Tasters liked the fluffy, bouncy, moist texture and molasses-y notes. Some thought this muffin was a little more sophisticated; some thought the color indicated a healthier muffin (“tastes healthy”). Most enjoyed this muffin for the most part, though some wished for more blueberry flavor (“tastes like boxed pancake mix.”) This is an all-around crowd-pleasing muffin, and I’m positive that with the streusel, this muffin would be that much more irresistible.
Bravetart: a brightly flavored muffin with a cottony-soft yet moist-without-being-heavy, fairly sweet and cakey interior
Stella’s recipe stood out for a slightly higher amount of butter compared to others, a reverse creaming technique (i.e. blending the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a crumbly mixture) and the use of coriander and fresh nutmeg. This was another recipe that kept the gorgeous crunchy sugar top even into the second day. I wasn’t sure if the coriander and nutmeg would really do all that much, but I have to admit this muffin had a particularly full, round blueberry flavor. The pale white interior is almost cottony, but moist and tender with a close, squishy crumb. I loved that the cake was moist without being heavy, spongy or dense; this was another one of my favorites.
This muffin aced the texture test with most tasters: “almost cake like,” “perfect thick sugar top,” “great flavor, great texture.” And it wasn’t just me–tasters also noticed the blueberry flavor magic: “I felt like the blueberries retained a lot of their tartness, which made this one seem like it was made with a very fresh batch of blueberries.” Another called it the “platonic ideal of blueberry muffins.” Interestingly, some complained that it had a dry bottom and too-sweet muffin top. But most agreed it was sweet, blueberry-forward/heavy on the blueberries and had the right moisture level. Although these are a little more work, I would happily make these again.
Hummingbird High: the quintessential blueberry muffin, elevated with an ethereally light, airy and perfectly cakey texture for a true muffin masterpiece
Reading through the post, it’s clear how much time and effort Michelle put into developing this recipe–and it’s paid off in a masterpiece of a muffin. Although it calls for many particular steps (creaming the butter thoroughly, crushing the blueberries, resting the batter, baking the muffins in every other cavity and filling the remaining cavities with water, etc.), if you follow each step, you’ll be rewarded with the most dramatic, sugar-crusted muffin tops. Warm out of the oven, they’re airy, crisp and ethereally light. They’re adapted from the Jordan Marsh recipe but with added almond flour and somehow the quintessential blueberry muffin flavor is still there, but the texture is elevated to next-level lightness. These also keep the gorgeous crunchy sugar top even into the second day (but please warm them up before eating to get back that ethereally light texture).
Tasters were wowed by the impressive muffin top, flavor and texture. “This is what I came for in a blueberry muffin bake off. The flaky sugary crunch, nice blueberry flavor, so tender!” Even though it was delicate and fell apart, tasters thought it was “too good to care.” “The crunchy top was the best, contrasted with a soft, pillowy, airy and cakey interior,” said one taster. “We’re all here for the muffin top and this does not disappoint. Buttery, very moist, nice mouthfeel.”
The only thing keeping this from being my future go-to muffin is the level of effort (you also have to cool them completely in the tin before removing, and trying to extricate these oversized muffin tops without decapitating any of them was the single most stressful part of the bake off). In the future, I might honestly sacrifice the huge muffin tops for more manageably sized muffins that would be easier to remove from the pan–I’m pretty confident they’ll still be amazing. (Excitingly, Michelle also has a recipe for the small batch (just 4 muffins!) version here!)
Best Blueberry Muffin Recommendations
Ultimately, the top two muffins are both a bit more effort to throw together. In my opinion, they are totally worth it for the incredible results if you have the time. But if you don’t, there are plenty of other similarly delicious recipes to try!
Best crowd-pleasing muffins: Hummingbird High, Bravetart, Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best cakey muffins: Hummingbird High, Inspired Taste, The Spruce Eats, Bravetart
Easiest to make: Inspired Taste
Most classic, quintessential: Jordan Marsh, Hummingbird High
Best moist and light style: Bravetart, Sally’s Baking Addiction
Best moist and dense style: Baker by Nature, Smitten Kitchen, A Cozy Kitchen, Bon Appetit
Best blueberry-forward muffins: Cook’s Illustrated, Bravetart, Jordan Marsh,
Best untraditional flavor: Handle the Heat
Happy baking! As always, tag #pancakeprincessbakeoff on Instagram if you try any of these recipes–would love to hear your thoughts!