Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake (Oil-Free)

by Alena

Make these healthy vegan carrot cake bites with a simple whole food plant-based cashew frosting for a comforting oil-free treat!

Loaded with fragrant, cozy spices, shredded carrots and hints of brown sugar, our healthy vegan carrot cake recipe is perfect for so many occasions!

This whole food plant-based treat is fantastic all throughout fall and winter when you’re snuggled up on the couch but also serves as a great Easter recipe.

You’ll love the perfect combination of crunchy walnuts, moist and dense cake, with hints of caramel, cinnamon and carrots!

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Together with the simple oil-free cashew frosting, it’s a great way to get more nutrients into the belly of any fussy eater who’s not super keen on veggies. 

This healthy vegan carrot cake and our vegan pumpkin brownies are our favorite ways to eat more veggies!

If you love healthy and seasonal vegan desserts, be sure to check out our mini vegan fruit tarts, sugar-free apple crumble and high-protein chocolate mousse cake.

woman in grey shirt holding a white plate in her hand and holding a square piece of plant based carrot cake with cashew frosting in her other handPin

Recipe overview

  • The most delicious way to eat your veggies
  • Undetectably plant-based and healthy
  • Meal prep- and kid-friendly
  • Great for snacking and sharing
  • Full of cozy, warming and fragrant spices
  • Perfectly portable grab-and-go snack
  • Moist & tender
  • No oil thanks to the applesauce

You seriously won’t taste how healthy this vegan carrot cake is. We promise it’ll leave you feeling and satisfied!

white table with different sized bowls containing carrots, whole wheat flour, applesauce, cashews and spicesPin

Ingredients needed

  • Whole grain flour: making this carrot cake extra healthy but feel free to use regular or gluten-free.
  • Applesauce: perfect oil replacement in baking recipes as it adds moisture without adding heaps of calories!
  • Carrots: that probably doesn’t come as a surprise; what a way to eat your veggies!
  • Brown sugar: for the sweetness and touch of caramel.
  • Flaxseeds: replacing eggs while adding omega-3 precursors is a win-win in our books!
  • Cashews: the base for our healthy vegan frosting.
  • Spices: this recipe calls for cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and vanilla extract.

No fancy kitchen tools are needed to make this plant-based recipe, only a baking pan, grater and two mixing bowls.

woman in apron standing next to a bowl with plant-based batter and putting shredded carrots on top of itPin

How to make vegan carrot cake

Soak 1 cup of cashews for 2 hours before making this recipe.

Get a 9×13 inch non-stick baking pan or line a traditional one with some parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350° F (180° C).

Make the batter

Gather your ingredients and start by making your flax egg by mixing the flaxseeds with water, then let the mixture sit for a few minutes while you grate your carrots (either by hand or using a food processor).

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and all of your wet ingredients in another bowl. Now, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

At this point, you can add some raisins and walnuts to the batter if you like!

Bake the carrot cake

Pour the carrot cake batter into your prepared pan and place it into the oven for around 35 minutes.

Once the top of your batter has turned slightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, remove your baking pan from the oven and let it cool completely.

If you want to speed up the time it takes for the cake to chill, you can move the dish into the refrigerator for half an hour while you make the cashew frosting!

12 squares of freshly baked plant based carrot cake on parchment paper next to some cashew frostingPin
woman in white shirt holding two squares of oil free vegan carrot cake while putting some homemade cashew frosting on top of them Pin

Make the cashew frosting

Drain your soaked cashews and add them with all the other ingredients for the frosting to a high-speed blender.

Should you work with a non-heavy-duty blender, soak the cashews overnight.

Blend until creamy and smooth, adjusting the components for the perfect texture and flavor as wanted.

We like to make this frosting while the cake is baking and place it in the refrigerator to chill and thicken a bit!

Assemble the carrot cake

Once your cake has cooled completely, take your cashew frosting out of the fridge. Make sure the cake has cooled completely so you don’t mess up the result!

Using a spoon or spatula, spread the cashew frosting onto your carrot cake. You can do so before slicing it into bite-sized pieces or decorate the pieces individually!

Top with crushed walnuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon if you like!

white plate with four pieces of healthy vegan carrot cake squares topped with cashew frostingPin

Storage & serving suggestions

Any leftovers can be stored on the counter for about 3 days and in the fridge for up to 5 days. We suggest that you keep the cake in the refrigerator because the cashew frosting might become runny when it’s too warm!

This carrot cake is also freezable for a few months – we recommend you separate the carrot cake squares into appropriate servings before freezing so you can defrost them more easily when the time comes.

Serve on its own or alongside a cup of tea, almond milk or vegan vanilla latte!

It’s a great dessert, lunchbox addition or vegan brunch idea.

woman standing by a window with a place of plant-based carrot cake pieces and taking one to eatPin

FAQs & tips

If you want to make a traditionally-shaped carrot cake, simply double the recipes for both the batter and the frosting, then bake it in two circular cake pans.

You can also make carrot cake bread or muffins by simply pouring the batter in the respective baking forms!

How to make it gluten-free

Swap the whole wheat flour for a gluten-free all-purpose mix to make a gluten-free vegan carrot cake.

Reduce calories

While this recipe is already a lot healthier and lighter than traditional carrot cake, you can reduce the calories even further.

Top it with aquafaba whipped cream instead of cashew frosting and skip the raisins and walnuts. You can also replace half of the brown sugar with calorie-free sweeteners!

finished plant based carrot cake cut into piecesPin

Make it nut-free

Swap the walnuts for sunflower or pumpkin seeds. You can also just omit them! Instead of a cashew-based frosting, make tofu or sweet potato frosting.

Let’s talk sweeteners

You can also use a vegan liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup or agave, instead of brown sugar, but make sure to decrease the amount of soy milk in this case.

To make the frosting really stiff and white, use powdered white sugar!

The carrot cake batter can also be sweetened with dates similar to our vegan blueberry muffins.

Other food swaps

If you need this recipe to be soy-free, use any other plant-based milk, such as oat, almond or coconut.

For a more convenient version of this vegan carrot cake, either make it with store-bought vegan cream cheese, coconut whipped cream or skip the frosting altogether! The latter makes the bites much easier to transport, too.

More healthy vegan desserts

Eager to try more whole food plant-based treats? Why not start with these fan-favorites from our blog!

Did you make our healthy carrot cake and like it? Feel free to let us know in the comments below and give it a rating. You can also Pin it here!

top view of 4 pieces of vegan carrot cake with cashew frosting on a grey plate next to a wooden spoon and black linen

Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake (Oil-Free)

Yield: 12 squares
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Make these healthy vegan carrot cake bites with a simple whole food plant-based cashew frosting for an oil-free decadent treat! Loaded with fragrant, cozy spices, shredded carrots and hints of brown sugar, this recipe is perfect for so many occasions and lovey by young and old alike.

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole grain flour (240 g)
  • ½ cup brown sugar (110 g)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground ginger

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup applesauce, unsweetened (240 ml)
  • 2 cups carrots, shredded (220 g)
  • ¾ cup soy milk (180 ml)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 6 tbsp water

Optional add-ons

  • ½ cup raisins
  • ⅓ cup walnuts, chopped

Frosting

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked for 2 hours (130 g)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy milk (60 ml)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp vanilla

Instructions

Make the Batter

  1. Let’s start by making the flax egg. Whisk together the flax seeds and water, then let it sit for about 5 minutes until it gets a thick consistency. 
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C) and prepare your 9x13 inch non-stick baking pan.
  3. Peel and shred your carrots in a food processor or using a grater. 
  4. Now, place the dry ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and mix them with a spoon. 
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until well-combined (don’t forget the flax eggl), then fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients without overmixing the batter. 
  6. Finally, fold in the raisins and walnuts.
  7. Pour the batter into your pan, evening the top with the back of a spatula.
  8. Bake for around 35 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and come out clean, then remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before transferring the cake to a cooling rack. 
  9. Let the cake cool completely on the counter or put it in the refrigerator to finish cooling faster.

Make the Cashew Frosting

  1. Drain and rinse your soaked cashews, then place them into a high-speed blender together with the sugar, soy milk, lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla extract.
  2. Blend everything until smooth, adding more soy milk if needed. The end result should be thick like cream cheese. 
  3. If you have some time left until your carrot cake is cool enough to be assembled, place the cashew frosting into the fridge.

Assemble the Carrot Cake

  1. Once the carrot cake has cooled, remove from the fridge and start spreading the cashew buttercream frosting on top.
  2. Top with chopped nuts and cinnamon for decoration if you like, then cut the cake into squares and enjoy!

Notes

  • Shorten the soaking time for the cashews by placing them in hot water for 10-20 minutes, depending on the power of your blender.
  • You can store your carrot cake in the fridge for 5-6 days or on the counter for 3 days. If you want to freeze it, make sure to do so in single servings and let it thaw in the fridge or on the counter before eating. It keeps well in the freezer for several months.
  • Instead of walnuts, you can also use pecans or skip nuts altogether in favor of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or shredded coconut.
  • For more customization ideas, read the tips in our article above!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 253Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 322mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 3gSugar: 17gProtein: 6g

Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated automatically, their accuracy is not guaranteed. Just focus on whole plant-based foods and eat until satiety!

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Alena sitting in a cafe with a bowl of fresh plant-based food and a glass of coffee in front of her

About Alena Handwritten FontAlena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.

28 thoughts on “Healthy Vegan Carrot Cake (Oil-Free)”

    • Hi Kathy,
      thanks for asking. I have only ever used soy milk (because that’s the one we always have at home) but assume that nut milks work here, too. Maybe you’ll need a little less of it, though, should they be lower in fat and not as creamy.
      Hope this helps! Thanks for the lovely comment :)
      Best wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
  1. Thank you for your sharing. Thanks to this article I can learn more things. Expand your knowledge and abilities. Actually the article is very practical. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Thank you so much for this recipe! It’s been a long time I have been looking for one, with no oil, that would taste so good!
    It is now my favorite! Will share it!
    Nata

    Reply
    • Oh Nata, so happy to hear that!
      Yes, oil-free plant-based recipes are still hard to find online so we’ve made it our mission to create them ;) I’m beyond thrilled to know you liked the carrot cake very much. Just need to find something that replaces the moisture and chewiness that the oil would add.
      Let us know if you’re looking for another oil-free recipe for something specific.
      Best wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
  3. Alena, its Nata again :)
    This weekend I want to try using your carrot cake recipe, transforming it into the banana/chocolate cake. Have you tried making oil free chocolate cake? Let me know if you have any important tips! Thank you so much again for this recipe, I have made it several times already! I also mill spelt into flour just before making the cake. Last time I tried buckwheat instead, it was good, but more dry, turned out to be a sweet bread, which was also quite delicious!
    Greetings from here,
    Nata

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for checking back in and letting me know about your experiences! We don’t make cake very often and I don’t remember making chocolate cake in a long time… but it’s a wonderful idea, thanks a lot. I’ll put it on my list :)
      So happy to know that you made this carrot cake a couple of times already! Yay for health(ish) treats.
      Warm wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
  4. Hi,
    This sounds like a great recipe, I’m so glad to find it, I’ve been looking for a healthy carrot cake recipe! I’d just like to substitute chick-pea flour instead, I just hope the cake doesn’t become completely crumbly and fall apart!

    Reply
    • Hey Lyra,
      thanks so much for the wonderful feedback! I haven’t tried making them with chickpea flour and am very interested in how they turn out – so please feel free to share. One thing I know is that you cannot substitute glutenous flour like wheat flour 1 : 1 with let’s say chickpea flour. You need something to make it sticky, too.
      Hope this helps!
      Best wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
  5. Hi!
    I made it today and substituted mashed banana for apple sauce. It works well!
    I’m searching none oil and low sugar carrot cake recipe, so I’m so happy that I found this recipe. Thank you from Japan!

    Reply
  6. My original recipe is very close with the subs. But also calls for a can of crushed pineapple. Can I get away with that in this recipe or should I cut out a wet ingredient?

    Reply
  7. Made this for my hubbys birthday and he just LOVED it. I cut the recipe in half for my first go. This NO DOUBT will be a staple in our home and Im thinking of making a big batch for Thanksgiving. It is the perfect thanksgiving treat. I did not use the sugar as I love date paste and that worked perfectly. I was wondering about any other options for those that have a nut allergy or might be closely watching fats – any other substitutions for the icing? Thank you for all you do – I love your website and refer patients to it too as a place to get WFPB recipes and learn to cook healthy while eating yummy!

    Reply
    • thanks so much for the lovely feedback, this makes me so happy! yes, so you can cook and blend a Japanese sweet potato with some vegan milk and a splash of sweetener, perhaps some vanilla and use that as a low-fat frosting ;)

      Reply
  8. Do you think you could make this gf by replacing the flour 1:1 with a gf flour mix? My boyfriend loves carrot cake and I want to make it for him. This one looks delicious ????

    Reply
  9. Gonna use blended dates instead of brown sugar. How many dates should I blend to make it equivalent? And instead 1 cup of applesauce, how much should I use? And for soy milk to?

    Reply
    • Hey Naomi,
      thanks for your questions! Let’s see, I haven’t made the carrot cake with dates for a while now so I would suggest you go for about a cup of pitted dates and add 2 tbsp of applesauce as well as half a cup of soy milk. See if the batter comes together nicely, if not, then add more applesauce.
      I’ll be sure to make your suggested version soon and update the recipe card! Let me know how yours turns out :)
      Warm wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
  10. Already made this recipe a few times with some adjustments, and loved it. I made muffins out of it, cut the sugar in half, used two bananas instead of applesauce, and added an apple for a nice twist. Perfect morning breakfast or afternoon treat.
    I do want to try the cake at some point though, with frosting and sugar and all :)
    Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply
    • this sounds awesome, thank you so much for sharing! now you’ve inspired me to try more versions of this, too :) any details you want to share with us?

      Reply
  11. This looks yummy Can I substitute real eggs for the flax egg mix? My daughter can’t have milk but can have eggs? Her new baby has a milk allergy and she is breast feeding him and I wanted to make her something special for Easter!

    Reply
    • sorry Cindy, I haven’t tried this because I live a vegan lifestyle and that doesn’t entail eggs! How lovely that you like to bake something special for Easter :) Maybe you just want to try the recipe as written or go ahead and make the swap to see how the carrot cake turns out!

      Reply

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