I make this vegan carrot cake recipe for Jack's birthday each year. Moist, cinnamon-spiced, and slathered in frosting, it's perfect for celebrations.
This vegan carrot cake recipe is a riff on my mom’s traditional recipe. That cake is Jack’s all-time favorite dessert, so she makes it whenever she comes to visit. Then, I make it again for Jack’s birthday. This year, instead of making her recipe as written, I adapted it to make a vegan carrot cake instead!
My mom’s recipe calls for applesauce, which makes her cake super moist and light. Using applesauce, you can actually veganize carrot cake relatively easily. Along with the shredded carrots, it adds enough moisture to eliminate the need for flax eggs or other unconventional ingredients. As a result, the cake batter comes together with pantry ingredients like all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, sugar, and melted coconut oil.
The results are fantastic. The cake is moist, tender, and filled with warm, spiced flavor from cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract. Enjoy it on its own, or take it to the next level by slathering it in rich, creamy vegan frosting. Even Jack – a total carrot cake traditionalist – fell for this vegan carrot cake recipe. I think you’ll love it too!
Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe Tips
- Grate your carrots finely. Finely grated carrots meld seamlessly into the cake, while larger pieces create a chunkier, less uniform texture. For tender, cohesive cake slices, grate the carrots on the small holes of a box grater or on the smallest setting of the grating attachment on your food processor.
- Don’t overmix! This rule applies to baked goods across the board. Mix your batter until just combined – and not any longer – or your cake will be dense.
- Let the cake cool completely before you frost it. The hardest part! Make sure your cake is at room temperature before you slather on the frosting. Otherwise, the frosting will melt.
Vegan Carrot Cake Recipe Variations
- Let’s talk frosting. The frosting recipe below is a cream cheese-like blend of macadamia nuts, cashews, lemon juice, coconut oil, and almond milk. Instead of using powdered sugar, I sweeten it naturally with maple syrup. I love this frosting, but you do need a high-speed blender to get it really smooth and creamy. If you don’t have one, or if you prefer a more traditional vegan cream cheese frosting, find one here.
- Or skip the frosting! This vegan carrot cake is delicious plain. We also love it with a dollop of coconut whipped cream.
- Add a mix-in. If you like your cake with raisins, chopped walnuts, or pecans, gently fold 1/2 cup into the cake batter when you add the carrots.
- Or sprinkle something on top. Sprinkle the frosted cake with chopped toasted pecans or walnuts for crunch, or use shredded coconut for extra warm, buttery flavor. Yum!
More Favorite Vegan Desserts
If you love this vegan carrot cake recipe, try one of these vegan treats next:
- Vegan Chocolate Cake
- Healthy Banana Bread
- Banana Muffins
- Best Peanut Butter Cookies
- No Bake Cookies
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Then, check out this post for 30+ vegan dessert recipes!
Vegan Carrot Cake
- 2¼ cups flour (half spelt or wheat, half all-purpose)
- 3 teaspoons baking powder (*see note below)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup applesauce
- 1 cup almond milk or oat milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup cane sugar
- ½ cup melted coconut or canola oil
- 2 cups grated carrots
- ½ cup raw macadamia nuts (soaked, drained and rinsed)
- ½ cup raw cashews (soaked, drained and rinsed)
- ¼ cup almond milk
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13 baking pan.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the applesauce, almond milk, vanilla, sugar and oil.
- Mix the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients.
- Fold in the carrots and stir until just combined.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
- Make the frosting: combine all frosting ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend until very smooth for 1 to 2 minutes or more, scraping down the sides occasionally. You can add an extra tablespoon of almond milk if necessary to get your blade moving.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes before spreading. (It will firm up a bit).
- Store frosted cake in the fridge.
**Soak your cashew and macadamia nuts for at least 3 to 4 hours, preferably overnight, then drain and rinse before using. I recommend using a very high speed blender (vitamix, blendtec, or similar). For a more traditional frosting, use the frosting in this recipe using vegan butter and vegan cream cheese (such as Kite Hill).
Can we use a loaf pan?
I’m not sure it’ll bake all the way through as a loaf.
This looks really good. I am going to make it and take to my vegan daughter and her 16 mo old (no nuts for baby, though). I will NOT use canola oil, though. Many nutritionists I follow say that canola oil is very bad for you. I think the recent trend of using canola oil in everything is because it is cheap. I have been told to steer clear of that stuff. Otherwise this looks like a great recipe, and kudos on the frosting!!
Hi! I’ve been making this for years now and I love it so much!! I was wondering what you would recommend for bake time if I were to make cupcakes using this recipe?
Hi KB, I’m so glad you’ve loved it! I would check them around the 17 to 20 minute mark.
I know someone asked about subbing macadamia nuts with cashews – I don’t have the former on hand, and I’m curious what the difference would be with texture / taste. Would 1 cup cashews suffice or does the ratio need to be adjusted? Can’t wait to try this!
Hi Janine, 1 cup cashews will be great – it won’t affect the texture.
Could I sub macadamia nuts with cashews? Thanks!
Hello! Thank you for this recipe. I made it for a vegan friend and everyone raved about it. I’m wondering if I can substitute the flour with Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free replacement? Thanks.
I Lucy, I haven’t tried it but I think some others in the comments may have.
This recipe has been a healthy dessert staple for me for years now!!! I typically make it two times a year it’s absolutely scrumptious and perfectly moist! Weirdly enough we like it more when it’s been in the fridge for a while but it’s great fresh too! My non vegan friends really love it as well! It’s truly flawless and fairly simple!
Hi Krystal, I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it so much! I like it from the fridge too 🙂
Can I use a 1/2 c maple syrup or Suzanne’s brown rice syrup in place of the 1 cup white sugar?
Thanks so much for this great vegan recipe.
Hi Susan, no, I don’t swap dry and liquid sugars, but you could use coconut sugar in place of the white sugar.
What can I use instead of apple sauce?
Hello! Was just wondering if this recipe could be made in a 9inch round cake pan? If not, what changes would you suggest?
Thank you so much!
Hi Cherrie, the batter will be too thick and might not rise properly. You can use it if you put less of the batter in the pan (and maybe bake the extra batter in something smaller, like a few muffin cups)
Can i replace the apple sauce with crushed pineapples?
I use pineapples in my regular carrot cake recipe.
Hi Nelly, not for this one, the applesauce helps the vegan cake bake properly and extra pineapple would make this already moist cake too moist.
Can I use just all purpose flour ??
Haven’t made this yet. But is unsweetened coconut milk okay to use instead of almond or oatmilk?
Hi Cait, you can use the type of coconut milk from the carton (the beverage type, not the canned type which has a higher fat content). I hope you enjoy!
We’d love to purée the carrots instead of grating finely.. will this work in this recipe?
(We are using baby carrots)
Hi Lisa, baby carrots are fine, but I’d still grate them (you can do it in your food processor with the grate attachment). Pureed carrots will add to much moisture to the batter.
Wondering if this be able to be made gluten free as well?
Thanks for your help
Can I omit the oil by adding more applesauce? or something else?
Hi Rebecca, I haven’t tried this without oil, but I think adding additional applesauce will make the cake too moist and dense.
hi, are baking pan dimensions in inches or cm? 🙂
inches – apologies for not labeling that!
no problem, I figured that out 🙂 cake was amazing, saving it in my favourites for sure
I didn’t have a go-to vegan carrot cake, made this one last night. The three men I fed it to said it was the best carrot cake they had ever had!! Holy smokes! It was really good and for a vegan cake, it rose surprisingly well! I added coconut and walnuts, and as per a reviewer below, added a splash of apple cider vinegar…who knows if that did anything, but didn’t hurt, so there’s that. Fyi, didn’t make the frosting, made a more traditional “cream cheese” frosting, but this cake is now my go-to carrot cake! Thanks!
Wow best carrot cake I’ve ever tried vegan! I added some apple cider vinegar to help with the rise and it really works miracles.
I’m so glad you loved it!
How much apple cider vinegar did you add?
Not more than a tablespoon for this recipe.
How much apple cidar vinegar did you add?