Cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger star in this sweet, chai-spiced muffin topped with a crunchy streusel and drizzled with salted caramel sauce. These caramel chai muffins are perfectly spiced, and because there is no tea in the muffin batter, they are caffeine-free!
I wait all year for fall just so I can make these muffins. They rise beautifully, have just the right amount of sweetness without being overwhelming, and come together in under an hour. The only thing I’m not a huge fan of is the amount of dishes left behind, but that’s pretty much a given.
Ingredients for Caramel Chai Muffins
Caramel chai muffins don’t use anything too exotic other than the optional star anise pods, but you may have to make a trip to your grocery store if you don’t have cardamom or plain yogurt already in your kitchen.
- All-purpose flour. Flour gives all baked goods their structure. If you’d like to make these muffins gluten-free, any 1-for-1 gluten-free flour substitute should work fairly well (but I have not personally tested it!).
- Baking powder.
- Baking soda.
- Granulated sugar.
- Brown sugar.
- Butter. Use whatever butter you have on hand—salted or unsalted both work great! If using salted, you may want to omit the additional salt in the batter.
- Cardamom, ground. Cardamom is the star of this recipe and the main flavor behind the combination of spices that make up chai spice.
- Cinnamon, ground. Always a must for fall desserts.
- Ginger, ground. Ditto.
- Star anise pods (optional). If you don’t have star anise pods and don’t want to buy them online, you can still make this recipe! I love the flavor the star anise gives these muffins, but you can absolutely leave it out and still end up with an amazing muffin.
- Plain yogurt. Plain yogurt keeps these muffins moist long after they come out of the oven.
- Milk. I have made this recipe with oat milk, 2% milk, whole milk, almond milk… Use whatever you have in your fridge.
- Salted caramel sauce. Use your favorite salted caramel sauce recipe. It doesn’t have to be homemade or even mine (but I’d be happy if it was).
Quick Tips for Prepping Caramel Chai Muffins
If you’d rather watch these tips, check out my video for this recipe! (Since publishing that video, I have added a few more tips and tricks in the body of this blog post.)
Blooming the Spices
Spices contain much of their flavor in fat-soluble compounds. By adding spices to hot oil before baking, you’re helping release more of the aromatic oils inside of those spices. The result is a much stronger chai flavor with only a small amount of spices.
It doesn’t take long to bloom the spices; you’ll know it’s done when you begin to smell the chai spices all around the kitchen.
Blooming is also used to strengthen the flavor of cocoa powder in baked goods, like in this chocolate Bundt cake.
Mixing Caramel Chai Muffin Batter to the Right Consistency
This muffin batter comes together in just one addition of wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Because of that, it doesn’t take a lot of mixing to achieve the perfect consistency. We’ve all heard “don’t overmix the batter,” but sometimes it’s hard to determine what that means.
For a tender muffin crumb, we want some gluten development, but not too much to make the cake tough. Gluten is developed with every stir, so keep that in mind as you’re mixing the batter together.
Use a whisk to incorporate the flour. It will go by quickly, in about 10-15 stirs. Stop mixing as soon as the flour is mostly incorporated. It’s fine if you see small pockets of flour; those will disappear as the batter chills.
Chilling the Batter
This is one of the best-kept secrets in the muffin game: Chill your muffin batter before spooning it into cups.
This isn’t a necessary step, but it helps hydrate the flour and relax the gluten before baking. That bit of relaxation results in a much softer and more tender cake than if you had baked it right away.
Even better, you can chill the batter for up to two days if you want to make these muffins ahead of time.
Quick Tips for Prepping the Chai Streusel
Use cold butter directly from the fridge. Cube the butter into pieces before putting it into a bowl and mixing in the flour, brown sugar, and spices. Use your fingers or a fork to rub the butter into the flour and spices.
Continue rubbing the butter into the flour until no large pieces of butter remain. A good streusel will be irregularly sized and resemble a coarse meal instead of being fully mixed together.
If the butter starts to soften at any point, put the mixture into the fridge or freezer for five minutes until the butter has hardened once more.
Baking the Caramel Chai Muffins
I did a couple of tests while making this recipe to see if there would be a difference in muffin height. Both oven temperature and placement play a big role in getting tall, fluffy muffins.
The Best Oven Temperature for Tall Muffins
High heat will give muffins the best rise, but it can also dry them out prematurely. To get a good rise without compromising on the consistency, bake the muffins for just five minutes at 425°F/218°C before lowering the temperature to 375°F/190°C.
This allows the baking powder and baking soda in the muffins to react to the high temperature and rise accordingly, but the majority of the baking will still occur at a cooler temperature.
Muffin Placement for Tall Muffins
Where you place the muffins in each pan also plays a big role in baking tall muffins. I recommend filling only every other hole in the muffin pan for optimal muffin height.
The pan is able to better retain heat when only half of the holes are in use, which increases the speed at which muffins bake.
In addition, having fewer muffins in the pan improves the airflow around each muffin top. Each muffin has more hot air around it, allowing it to rise more than if every muffin hole was in use.
Drizzling the Caramel onto the Caramel Chai Muffins
The caramel starts to absorb into the muffins after a couple of hours, so I recommend drizzling the caramel immediately before serving. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a slightly soggy top three days later. (Which is actually really yummy still, but the crunch of the streusel disappears.)
For low-mess transport, put a few tablespoons of the salted caramel sauce in a plastic zipper bag. A few minutes before you’re ready to serve the muffins, snip one of the corners off and drizzle the caramel sauce over each muffin.
Do These Caramel Chai Muffins Have Caffeine?
No, these chai muffins are caffeine-free. They use only chai spices and not black tea, so they are naturally caffeine-free.
Dish Cleanup: Gonna Take A While
I rate my recipe cleanups on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 is only a handful of dishes, and 5 is everything including the kitchen sink.
This caramel chai muffin recipe has a cleanup rating of a 4. There are only a few large items (the mixing bowl, muffin pans, and saucepan), but there are quite a few different measuring spoons. I also used a number of little bowls to hold everything before mixing the batter together. Those all add up, especially in the dishwasher!
Easily cut down on the dishes by skipping the prep bowls: Weigh or place dry ingredients directly in the mixing bowl!
Caramel Chai Muffins Recipe
Caramel Chai Muffins
- 2 ⅓ cups flour (305g)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder (10g)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda (3g)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sugar (100g)
- ¼ cup brown sugar (50g)
- 8 Tablespoons butter (113g)
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- 5 star anise pods (optional)
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- ½ cup milk
- 1 egg
- 2 Tablespoons salted caramel sauce
Chai Streusel Topping
- ¼ cup flour (35g)
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar (25g)
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 3 Tablespoons cold butter (40g)
Salted Caramel Drizzle
Preparing to Bake
- Preheat the oven to 425°F/218°C.
- Line two muffin tins with paper cups. This recipe will make 15-18 muffins, depending on the size of your paper cups.
- For really tall muffins, line and fill every other hole in the muffin pan. This will improve airflow and give your muffins a great rise.
For the Caramel Chai Muffins
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, bloom the spices: Melt the butter with the cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and star anise (if using) until the butter begins to bubble. Remove from heat, then whisk in the cold yogurt and milk to cool down the mixture. Add the egg and caramel and whisk together until well-combined.
- Pour the butter mixture into the large bowl with the flour mixture and whisk together until it's thick and just barely combined. (It's better to have a slightly lumpy batter than a perfectly smooth batter—trust me!) Chill in the fridge, covered for at least 15 minutes.
For the Chai Streusel
- Add all ingredients into a medium bowl. Use a fork or your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. A good streusel will have a variety of sizes; continue rubbing the butter until the largest clumps are about the size of a pea.
- If the butter starts to go soft, place the streusel in the fridge for five minutes until the butter has hardened again. The colder the butter is when it goes into the oven, the better it will retain its shape while baking.
Baking the Muffins
- Divide the batter evenly into the lined muffin cups until they are 3/4 full. Top each with a teaspoon of the streusel. Remove any unused baking cups.
- Bake at 425°F/218°C for five minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375°F/190°C and bake for another 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before serving.
- Immediately before serving, drizzle with salted caramel sauce.*
*The salted caramel sauce will absorb into the muffin after a few hours. If making these ahead of time, hold off on the salted caramel sauce until right before serving.
The muffin batter can be made ahead and chilled in the fridge for up to two days before baking.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 228Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 309mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 4g
The nutrition facts are estimated and may vary based on specific ingredients used.
Thanks for trying out my caramel chai muffin recipe! I’d love to see how they turn out: Take a photo and tag me on Instagram @floralapronblog to share with me, or use the hashtag #floralapronbakes.
Other Recipes You May Enjoy
A new fan favorite: my ritzy fudge recipe with salted caramel and Ritz crackers is a perfect dessert for busy people that still want to bring something homemade to a get-together. It has an easy cleanup and comes together in under 30 minutes!
My mini caramel apple pies use the same salted caramel sauce as this recipe and celebrate the beginning of apple season! You can shape them into rosettes for beautiful pies no one will want to share.
If you’re looking for more chai-flavored recipes, I’d recommend using chai tea in place of the earl grey tea in my rosy earl grey truffles. The truffles can easily be made vegan, and the chai spice would give them a great flavor!