Naturally Dyed Green Cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day

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St. Patrick's Day Desserts Cupcakes

St. Patrick’s Day Desserts

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

With the approach of St. Patrick’s Day, green foods start popping up all over the place. But, we all know the base for that emerald or Kelly green is typically lots of food dye. And that makes me want to stay away from anything that isn’t naturally green.

Going green for St. Patrick’s Day is still fun, so I decided to come up with a St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes recipe that are healthy and dyed green the natural way. You’ll even get a dose of veggies while you’re at it. (Shhh, we won’t tell the kids!)

Secret Ingredients for Natural Green Color

To get the green color in these cupcakes, we look to nature. Dark leafy greens, like spinach, are the perfect way to create a natural green dye for your cake batter. We’ve made the cake more healthful by cutting down the sugar and substituting apple sauce for some of the oil you would find in a typical cake recipe. By pureeing the spinach with the apple sauce, you create a smooth green paste-like dye (with a consistency similar to pesto). The bright green color of the spinach/applesauce mixture transforms the cake to a magical shade of green.

Health Benefits, In CAKE!

Dark leafy greens like spinach are packed with nutrients. Spinach contains iron, magnesium, protein, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. It’s also high in fiber, vitamins A and K, and potassium. Spinach actually ranks as one of the top vegetables on the World’s Healthiest Foods list of vegetables!

We all know that reaching for dark leafy greens is a healthy choice, whether in a salad or braised as a side dish with dinner. But, who would have thought that power-house spinach could make an appearance in dessert too?

The Real Question

I know what you’re all wondering: “What does it taste like?” Well, frankly, it tastes like cake.

Biting into one of these cupcakes, you’d never guess they are full of leafy, good-for-you spinach. They’re moist, fluffy, and have a lovely vanilla flavor.

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes: Naturally Green

Prep: 30 min | Cook: 20-25 min | Yield: 10-12 cupcakes



  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease your cupcake pan and set aside.
  2. Place the spinach in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse the spinach until it is chopped into small, even bits. Add the apple sauce to the processor, and puree until a smooth, green mixture forms. Set the spinach mixture aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer, until evenly mixed. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla and spinach mixture, until evenly colored.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Mix well. (This batter will be thick compared to other cake batters.)
  5. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cupcakes for 20 min, or until a knife inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  6. Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.

*If using coconut palm sugar, keep in mind the natural color of this sugar will darken your baked goods and slightly affect the vibrancy of the green color. 

Naturally Green Honey Frosting


  • 1 cup organic spinach, packed
  • 1 cup organic butter, softened
  • ½ cup raw honey (find it here)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract


  1. Place the spinach in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until the spinach is finely chopped.
  2. Add the softened butter, honey, and vanilla. Blend until smooth. Taste the frosting for sweetness and add additional honey if desired.
  3. Frost cupcakes before serving.

Get More Green

If you’re looking for other ways to get your green on this St. Patrick’s Day, think about how you can use the green of fruits and veggies to your advantage. Green grapes, kiwi, green vegetables, and fresh herbs are a great start.

A green smoothie would be the perfect way to start the day on a green foot. And for dinner, try pesto pasta or zucchini fritters!

What ideas do you have for making your St. Patrick’s Day healthy and naturally green?


About Sarah Ozimek

Sarah is a writer, recipe developer, traveler, gardener, and lover of (almost) all things outdoors. Together with her husband Tim, she writes the blog Curious Cuisiniere where they explore world cuisines and cooking using real ingredients and tried and true methods, the way our ancestors have done for ages. Connect with Sarah on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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  1. Sarah says

    How much frosting does this make? We don’t like a lot, and it seems that frosting recipes always make too much.

    • Sarah Ozimek says

      Hi Sarah. We’re not huge frosting eaters either. Unfortunately, I can’t find my note on the exact yield for the frosting, but, if I’m remembering right, I believe this recipe will give you roughly 1 1/2 cups of frosting. — Sarah