Chocolate Ricotta Muffins: An Easy, Light Coffeehouse Recipe from Cleo Coyle

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Our readers might recall these light, chocolaty muffins from our bestselling Coffeehouse Mystery A Brew to a Kill

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learn more.

As the story opens, coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi hires a sweet-natured dietitian to help lighten some of the higher calorie items on her menu. 
When Lilly is brutally struck by a hit-and-run driver, Clare’s outrage propels her into tracking down the culprit; and once again, Clare is sleuthing her way in and out of trouble. 

For today's recipe, I'm duplicating one of Lilly's coffeehouse menu makeovers. May you eat it with joy and in good health! 

Cleo Coyle's 

Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

With a mocha variation

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A Recipe Note from Cleo... 
Cleo Coyle writes two
bestselling mystery
 series with her husband.
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These little cakes are packed with big chocolate flavor! They’re also one of our favorite
guilt-free coffee break snacks. The reason is our secret ingredient: ricotta cheese. 

You will not taste the cheese in these muffins. You will only taste the chocolate. What the ricotta brings to these muffins is a beautiful creamy moistness, along with protein and nutrition (but without the added calories of more butter or oil). 

Natural cocoa powder adds flavor but also structure to the muffins, which allowed me to reduce the amount of refined white flour in the recipe. To make these muffins even healthier, you can swap in white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, which brings more dietary fiber to your snack table.  

While you can use many types of neutral-tasting oils for this recipe (vegetable, avocado, etc.), my favorite for this recipe is cold-pressed (unrefined) virgin coconut oil. To learn more about coconut oil and what terms like "virgin" and "cold-pressed" mean, click here for an informative post, which includes reviews of different brands.

Finally, while chocoholics might throw a fistful of chips into this batter, we enjoy these tender, chocolaty muffins as is or with a dollop of Chocolate "Buttercream" Frosting, made without butter or cream. How would a culinary sleuth like our beloved coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi make that frosting? With a mystery ingredient, of course! To see that recipe, click here.

Cleo Coyle's
Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

Makes 6 large muffins or 8 small


1 large egg 

½ cup ricotta (whole is preferable, but you can use part-skim) 

½ cup light buttermilk (see note on substitution*) 

3 T. neutral-tasting oil such as vegetable, avocado, or virgin coconut** (but do not use olive oil, not the right flavor for this recipe!)

¼ cup granulated white sugar 

¼ cup light brown sugar 

1/3 cup + 1 T. natural, unsweetened cocoa powder 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

2 pinches of table salt 

¾ teaspoon baking powder 

¼ teaspoon baking soda 

½ cup + 1 T. all-purpose flour 

*Buttermilk substitute: For best results, use light buttermilk in this recipe. Otherwise, to make a substitute, measure out 1T of lemon juice or white vinegar into a 1 cup container. Fill the rest of the cup with whole or 2% milk. Stir and allow the mix to sit on the counter for 10 minutes before using.

**Coconut Oil: If you're new to using coconut oil, which is my favorite choice for this recipe, be sure to look for cold-pressed (unrefined) virgin coconut oil. To learn why I suggest this and what those terms mean, click here for an informative post, which includes reviews of different brands.


For Mocha Muffins, add 1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso where indicated in Step 1. Instant espresso is freeze-dried espresso and not ground espresso roast beans. I use this brand (Medaglia D’oro), but you can certainly use any you like. 

Chocoholics: Feel free to fold in semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips before baking (1/3 to 1/2 cup, according to your own taste). You can even “go nuts” and add finely chopped hazelnuts or walnuts. 


Step 1 – Make muffin batter with one-bowl mixing method: Using a hand whisk or electric mixer, beat the egg until slightly frothy. Measure in the ricotta, light buttermilk, oil, white and light brown sugars, cocoa, vanilla extract, salt, baking powder, and baking soda (if making mocha muffin, add your 1-1/2 teaspoons of instant espresso now). Whisk well until fully blended. Measure in the flour. Mix only enough to make a smooth batter. Do not over-mix at this stage or you’ll develop the gluten in the flour and your muffins will be tough instead of tender.  

Step 2 – Spray the papers: Line muffin cups with paper holders and spray the papers with non-stick spray. This is a low-fat recipe, so if you do not spray the papers, the muffins will stick. 

Step 3 – Bake: This recipe makes about 1-3/4 cups of muffin batter. You can make six large muffins or eight small ones. Divide the batter among your muffin cups. Bake in a well-preheated oven at 375° F. for about 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Do not over-bake. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into a test muffin comes out clean (with no batter clinging to it). 

TIP: Muffins will be fragile when they first come out of the hot oven. Allow them to cool in the pan for about ten minutes and transfer to a rack. If muffin edges are sticking to the paper, simply allow them to cool a bit more.


Try finishing the cooled muffins with a dollop of Chocolate “Buttercream” Frosting (without butter or cream). What is the mystery ingredient in this chocolate frosting? (Followers of this blog already know. :))

Get this dairy-free chocolate 
frosting recipe by clicking 
the link above or clicking here

F o o d i e  

P h o t o s

Click for the free recipe PDF.

Eat (and read) with joy!

New York Times bestselling author
of The Coffeehouse Mysteries and
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Cleo (Alice) with her husband Marc

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