Celebrate spring and summer with these healthy and delicious Banana Rhubarb Muffins! Made with whole grain spelt flour and coconut sugar these guilt-free muffins are perfect for breakfast or as a healthy snack on the go.
Fresh rhubarb is a special treat that you can only find for a short time every year – but when I can get it, I make rhubarb everything!
Of course, most of what I have made in past years have been sweet treats. Since rhubarb is so tart, it is common to pair it with strawberries, in strawberry rhubarb hand pies, or with extra sugar and cream, in rhubarb cheesecake muffins. But I have been trying to get my family to eat healthier and use alternatives that are higher in nutrients for the things we eat regularly.
For these healthy spring breakfast muffins, I went with everyone’s favorite moist banana bread, and traded the regular white flour and sugar for whole grain spelt and coconut sugar. The tart rhubarb really rounds out the flavors in these muffins, with lots of banana for that healthy potassium and tender texture.
Whole grain spelt
Spelt has been one of my go-to flours since trying to eat healthier on a regular basis. As an ancient grain, it’s significantly less processed and contains more nutrients than regular wheat flour, which is often heavily bred and selected for high yield over nutrition.
In my other healthy banana bread variation, I used white spelt, which acts more like all purpose flour in baking. For this tangy rhubarb version, I selected a whole grain spelt flour. It has a slightly stronger flavor, which holds up well against the fruits and coconut sugar.
Like whole wheat, whole grain (otherwise referred to as whole meal) spelt is ground with the bran (outer coating of the grain) on, giving the flour a nuttier flavor and more texture than plain or all-purpose flour. The bran contains extra nutrients and fiber that are important for a healthy diet. And it never hurts to start your day with those nutrients in a tasty muffin.
What is rhubarb?
While most commonly used in sweet recipes, you will often find rhubarb classified as a vegetable. Like celery, rhubarb is the stalk of the plant rather than the fruit or seed-bearing portion. It is very low in sugar and other carbohydrates, while high in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K (important for blood and bones). Among the other health benefits, it also has anthrocyanins, antioxidants that are good for blood pressure and heart health.
Rhubarb is frequently thought of as ripe when the stalk is red, but there are several different kinds, so of which are ripe when green. You are more likely to find the unconventional types at the farmer’s market or other local produce source, to if you want to experiment with the subtle flavors differences, that’s where you should go look for it. Any variety works in this recipe, you just won’t get the same color.
When preparing your rhubarb, be sure to remove all of the leaf. While the stems of rhubarb are tasty and edible, even raw, the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid which is poisonous. Don’t worry – it won’t kill you if you eat a little bit, but better to be safe and not have the stomachache.
When I cook with rhubarb, I peel it. There is some debate on whether you should or not for baking, but I prefer to. I find it stringy otherwise. I was doing some research, and it looks like different growing methods produce a different level of tenderness in the rhubarb. I guess the rhubarb I regularly get is the kind that is stringy.
To peel rhubarb, you just need to use a sharp paring knife and slip it under the thin skin. The difference between the skin and the meat of the stalk is easy to spot if you make a cross section cut and look down the stalk. You can also use a regular vegetable peeler and start at that same cut. Just don’t take too much off or you won’t have any rhubarb left!
The disadvantage with peeling rhubarb is that a lot of that beautiful red color comes from the skin. In some varieties, the meat is also red, but you still loose some of the color when peeling. This will not change the flavor though so you can choose whether you want to peel your rhubarb. For many people, chopping it small with a sharp knife works just fine.
While I love the sweet rhubarb pastries, sometimes healthy can taste just as good. Rhubarb really brightens up these satisfying banana muffins, with lots of fruit for a great start to the day.
Healthy Banana Rhubarb Muffins
- 2 cups (260g) whole grain spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- a dash of nutmeg
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter , softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 2 large eggs , at room temperature
- 4 ripe bananas , mashed with a fork
- 1/4 cup buttermilk , at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped rhubarb , plus more for topping
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition.
- With a wooden spoon, stir in the mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Do not over stir. Gently stir in the chopped rhubarb.
- Spoon the batter into the liners filling each cup 3/4 of the way full. Dot top with more chopped rhubarb.
- Bake the muffins for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes in the pan. Then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.