Healthy chocolate-zucchini muffins for kids (a Paula Deen zucchini bread makeover)

STOP EVERYTHING. THESE ARE THE BEST MUFFINS you’ll ever make. And don’t tell Ina Garten because I’ve strayed again and updated another Paula Deen recipe for this one. Right now Paula’s zucchini bread is the most popular thing on the Food Network website; and my remake of her pumpkin cake (now pumpkin spice mini-muffins) is the most popular thing on Foodlets. That’s why I decided to give this makeover a try. And if I weren’t so busy eating as many of these muffins as I can, I’d tell you how happy I am that I did!

I love doing recipe makeovers, especially from the folks at the Food Network. Right there, on my 13 inch TV screen in my miniature Manhattan apartment, I used to watch Ina Garten and Paula Deen make their masterpieces. Back then I yearned for more space, more kitchen tools and more laughs along the way. (Who has that much fun standing over a stove?) Those were the years when I really started to get interested in cooking but since I lived alone, it was only at dinner parties that I’d break out the serious recipes. They took me forever to make (mostly because I didn’t know how to do anything and had to go slowly) and were so full of butter, fat and other devilishly tasty things that you wouldn’t want to eat them regularly anyway. But yum. Each one had the desired effect: deliciousness for me and my guests. And my undying affection began.

There’s another connection too. Before I worked for Martha Stewart, I headed up the internet division for HGTV, a sister company of the Food Network, which brought me thiiis close but never quite far enough. So I’ve been to the Food Network kitchens many times but never met Ina Garten or Paula Deen but would very much like to. Very much. In the meantime, I’ll just focus on their food. Because it’s amazing.

But also a little rich so here we go.

{Foodlets Recipe Makeover: Delicious Recipes Made a Little Better for You}

  • ORIGINAL RECIPE: Paula Deen’s Zucchini Bread
  • A LITTLE HEALTHIER: Use whole wheat flour. And cut back on sugar. The recipe calls for 3 cups of sugar. Reduce this by 1 cup (and don’t add anything in its place).
  • A LITTLE MORE KID-FRIENDLY: Substitute 1/2 cup of sugar for sweetened cocoa powder, or keep the sugar and add 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • EVEN HEALTHIER: Reduce the sugar, use whole wheat flour and make two substitutions: use 1/2 cup of applesauce for half the oil and replace 3/4 cup of flour with wheat germ. My recipe below includes these changes and a few more.


I used a mini bunt pan for these, and serve each kid half for breakfast, along with some sliced bananas and a cup of milk. Smiles all around.


  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (half a fresh lemon)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sweetened cocoa powder


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients starting with the eggs. Beat them for a minute with a whisk, then add zucchini, oil, applesauce, honey and lemon juice. Mix then add sugar too.

Set a sifter over the bowl and add dry ingredients: wheat germ, flour, baking soda, spices and cocoa powder.

The batter will puff up over a few minutes’ time; fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full. If you’re making regular muffins, bake for 10-12 minutes. If you’re doing large muffins like these bunt cakes, bake for 15 minutes. Test muffins by pressing on the top. If it springs back immediately, it’s done. You’ll also start to smell the muffins when they’re getting close.

This post is part of Melt In Your Mouth Monday.



  1. Amanda says

    Hi, I was going to try this recipe, but only have unsweetened cocoa powder. I assume I would need to increase sugar for this modification. How much more do you suggest I add?


    • charityc says

      Hi Amanda! Thanks for visiting and welcome to Foodlets. Since the sweetened cocoa powder I had in Rome was very powdery, I’d actually suggest using 1/4-1/2 cup of powdered sugar in addition to the 1/2 cup of regular (unsweetened) cocoa powder–and add 3 tablespoons of water to the batter too. I’ve tried to make these muffins only once since we’ve been back in the US and added WAY too much flax meal so mine came out weird. I often overdo it when trying to amp up the good-for-you ingredients. You won’t do that so yours will already be much tastier. :) Good luck!


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