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Cook’s Illustrated (May/June 2009)


Last year, we went on a blueberry binge, making pies and muffins and throwing blueberries into just about anything we could.  We’ve been a bit obsessed with strawberries lately, but when we recently found blueberries on sale, we eagerly bought four pints and brought them home.

The majority of the blueberries went into cereal, or were just eaten as a snack.  But we were most excited that the presence of blueberries in our fridge gave us an excuse to make Cook’s Illustrated’s “Best Blueberry Muffins.”

With a title like that, Cook’s makes quite a claim. Are these blueberry muffins really the best?

We’ve made blueberry muffins a handful of times in the past, mostly using random recipes we’ve found online. Any time that we’ve baked them, they’ve turned out well.  You probably wouldn’t line up around the block for them, but for a weekend morning treat at home, they did the trick.

The article accompanying this recipe discusses the author’s desire to create a blueberry muffin that compensates for store-bought blueberries’ lack of flavor, as well as a muffin recipe that gives blueberry flavor throughout. Having previously made muffins using blueberries fresh from the farm, she contends that blueberries available to most of us have far less flavor and a more watery taste.

In order to add more flavor to muffins, Cook’s presents an ingenious solution.  You begin by first making a blueberry jam:  fruit cooked down with sugar into a thick, flavor-packed compote.  This can be made ahead (we did ours the night before we wanted to make muffins) and set aside to cool.

The rest of the muffin recipe is fairly standard until the final steps. Once the batter is in the muffin tins, a spoonful of blueberry jam is placed on top of each mound of batter and then swirled in through the batter, distributing the great flavor of the jam.  It’s an easy step but makes a lot of sense.

Another nice touch here is the addition of a sugar and lemon zest topping that is sprinkled on the muffins prior to baking. It gives them a delicious, bright-tasting, crumbly crown.

So are these the “best” blueberry muffins?  We sure think so!  They were far more flavorful than any muffins we’ve made in the past.  Swirling the jam into the batter really does infuse each muffin with a great blueberry essence.

Below you’ll find this recipe, as well as several other variations on these muffins, including Blueberry Muffins with Orange Glaze, which sounds amazing.

If you can find a blueberry muffin recipe better than this one, let us know.  We think this one’s going to be hard to beat!

More great blueberry breakfast recipes:

Blueberry Pancakes

Blueberry-Banana Pancakes

And don’t miss the rest of our great recipe ideas for breakfast.



Cook’s Illustrated (May/June 2009)

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(This Photo: Carl Tremblay/Cook’s Illustrated)


Lemon-Sugar Topping

1/3 cup (21/3 ounces) sugar

teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon


2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh blueberries, picked over

1 1/8 cups (8 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/2 cups (12½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon table salt

2 large eggs

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk (see note)

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Note: If buttermilk is unavailable, substitute 3/4 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup milk.

1. FOR THE TOPPING: Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined; set aside.

2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 11/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)

4. Following photos above, use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

5. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.


Note: Our preferred brands of frozen blueberries are Wyman’s and Cascadian Farm.

Follow recipe for Best Blueberry Muffins, substituting 2 cups frozen berries for fresh. Cook 1 cup berries as directed in step 2. Rinse remaining cup berries under cold water and dry well. In step 3, toss dried berries in flour mixture before adding egg mixture. Proceed with recipe from step 4 as directed.


Follow recipe for Best Blueberry Muffins, omitting Lemon-Sugar Topping. Prepare streusel by combining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, pinch table salt, and ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons (3½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour in small bowl. Drizzle with 5 tablespoons warm, melted unsalted butter and toss with fork until evenly moistened and mixture forms large chunks with some pea-sized pieces throughout. Proceed with recipe as directed, sprinkling streusel topping over muffins before baking.


Follow recipe for Best Blueberry Muffins, omitting Lemon-Sugar Topping. Add 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest to egg mixture in step 3. Proceed with recipe as directed, sprinkling 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar over muffins before baking. While muffins cool, whisk together 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1½ tablespoons orange juice until smooth. Drizzle each cooled muffin with 2 teaspoons glaze before serving.


Follow recipe for Best Blueberry Muffins, omitting  Lemon-Sugar Topping. In step 1, combine 1/3 cup finely ground almonds and 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar; set aside. In step 3, add 1/3 cup finely ground almonds to flour mixture. Proceed with recipe as directed, adding 1 teaspoon almond extract with vanilla extract in step 3 and sprinkling almond topping over muffins before baking.


1. MAKE BERRY JAM Cook half of fresh blueberries into thick jam to concentrate their flavor and eliminate excess moisture.


Stir 1 cup of fresh blueberries into batter to provide juicy bursts in every bite.


Scoop batter into muffin pans, completely filling cups.


Place 1 teaspoon of cooled berry jam in center of each batter-filled cup, pushing it below surface.


Using chopstick or skewer, swirl jam to spread berry flavor throughout.

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