Packed full of healthy greens (I promise, you can’t taste the spinach!), these bright green hulk muffins are soft, tender, and delicious…and prove that healthy really can be delicious!

Healthy Green Spinach Power Hulk/Popeye Muffins

So if you want to know the truth, I don’t do a whole lot for St. Patrick’s Day around here.

Sorry if that revelation is a huge disappointment.

I’m not a holiday grinch by any means. I go crazy in my own right for other holidays, but St. Patty’s day is one of the holidays that I’m kind of “meh” about celebrating.

At least when it comes to sneaky leprechaun footprints, hidden pots of gold and treasure hunts, and green everything (including all the foods that should, quite honestly, never be turned green in the first place just to humor small children).

I blame it on the fact that I was born with green eyes. So I never had to make an effort for this holiday to begin with.

And my lackadaisical attitude has stayed with me, I’m afraid.

Healthy Green Spinach Power Hulk/Popeye Muffins

But these delicious little green muffins have certainly earned me some rock star points with my kids over the years.

You can’t get much greener than these soft and tender muffins.

Plus, there are extra rock star points because all that green-ness comes from a whole bag of spinach blended up with other simple ingredients to make healthy, green muffins.

And guess what? They actually taste good. 

I promise you can trust me on this one for the simple reason that I’m the last person/food blogger on this earth to get behind food trends just because they’re cute or festive or outrageously unique.

Healthy Green Spinach Power Hulk/Popeye Muffins

I love it when my food looks pretty, don’t get me wrong, but if it doesn’t also taste amazing, my heart turns cold and the recipe is cast out forever.

Recipes for these bright green muffins have been floating around the internet for years, so they are hardly a cutting edge, trendy recipe anymore.

Since we’ve actually been making these muffins for a while now (a sweet reader, Erin, emailed me a link to the recipe a couple years ago!), I consider them a solid tried-and-true muffin recipe, especially because we don’t reserve them just for St. Patrick’s Day.

We eat them all the time for breakfast and after school snacks, and often, I’ll double the batch and keep the baked and cooled muffins in the freezer.

Healthy Green Spinach Power Hulk/Popeye Muffins

And if you are wondering about the “hulk” part – Erin, who sent the recipe to me, joked that since her kids wouldn’t know who Popeye is, they nicknamed these “hulk” muffins.

That name has stuck with us as well. But it also makes me think it’s kind of a travesty that my kids are not familiar with good ol’ Popeye.

I feel old.

However, I have caught one or two of my boys flexing in the mirror after devouring a couple of these “hulk” muffins…so there is that.

If you are more into the St. Patrick’s Day celebrating than I am and are looking for a festive, fun, green treat/breakfast/snack to serve on the big day, this is a feel-good solution!

Packed with spinach and whole grains, these muffins are lightly sweet and ultra-fluffy in texture (thanks to the buttermilk and banana bread-esque qualities).

Healthy Green Spinach Power Hulk/Popeye Muffins

When I made them for the first time years ago, my expectations were low.

I mean, it’s a naturally green muffin. How tasty can it be?

But we loved these from the start, and it makes me happy that these green muffins of wonder actually taste amazing.

I’m currently experimenting with a bran muffin version of these babies (since we love bran muffins more than life around here: exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C).

The research is tasting good. Really good.

Also, in case you are wondering, here are a few of my favorite muffin-making tools:

-My favorite muffin pan (light in color so the bottoms don’t burn!)
-I always use my #20 cookie scoop to perfectly portion out that muffin batter (so easy and less messy!)
-I love these natural, unbleached muffin liners (I’ve also found them at Orson Gygi when I travel down to Salt Lake)

That about does it! If you have any fun St. Patrick’s Day traditions, I’d love to hear about them; comment below!

Healthy Green Spinach Power Hulk/Popeye Muffins

One Year Ago: Thin and Chewy Funfetti Blondies {From-Scratch}
Two Years Ago: Carrot Cake Cream Cheese Swirl Bundt Cake
Three Years Ago: Whipped Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Healthy Green Spinach Power Hulk/Popeye Muffins

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Print

Whole Grain Green Hulk Muffins

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 16-18 muffins

For the flour, you can definitely use all-purpose for the whole wheat flour or use a combination (half whole wheat, half all-purpose). For the sugar, if you want a healthier alternative to the granulated sugar, try maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar. 

Finally, for the buttermilk, if you don't keep it on hand or don't have any, mix equal parts sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt) and milk together for the perfect buttermilk solution. 

I also forgot to mention that the color of these muffins darkens over time (the muffins we have leftover to eat the next day are dark green instead of bright green). Also, we prefer these muffins after they've been baked and cooled - the flavor and texture is better than straight out of the oven (although we've found that a quick 5-10 second spurt in the microwave can help warm them slightly without affecting flavor/texture). 

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) white whole wheat flour (see note above)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup (5.5 ounces) granulated sugar (see note above)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (see note above)
  • 1/4 cup canola, vegetable, avocado, grapeseed oil or melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6-ounces baby spinach
  • 2 very ripe bananas (about 8 ounces unpeeled/3/4 cup mashed)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners or grease with nonstick cooking spray (the recipe makes between 16-18 muffins).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 
  3. In a blender, add the egg, sugar, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, spinach and bananas. 
  4. Blend until pureed and smooth. 
  5. Pour the spinach mixture into the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. A few small dry streaks and lumps here and there are ok. Don't overmix or the muffins can be dry. 
  6. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling the cups about 2/3 full. I use my #20 cookie scoop to make this process easy as can be. 
  7. Bake for 15-18 minutes (increasing time as needed as each oven differs slightly in exact oven temperature) until the tops of the muffins spring back lightly to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.
  8. Let the muffins cool for a few minutes in the pan; turn them out carefully onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe Source: from two recipes online (The Green Forks and Pamela Salzman) after a reader, Erin G., sent me one of the links almost two years ago – I put my own spin on the muffins (using buttermilk, adding weight amounts, changing up the method just a bit)

Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links for products I’ve purchased from there.


102 Responses to Delicious Whole Grain Hulk Muffins {Naturally Green!}

  1. Danielle says:

    Delicious! My kids loved them; I didn’t tell them about the spinach until after they gobbled them up! I love that they’re so healthy. They were moist too! I often use applesauce in part or in place of the oil. I might try that next time. Thanks for the yummy recipe!

  2. Sheree L says:

    Yum! These are delicious. I love spinach and make spinach smoothies almost every day for lunch. I cut the sugar to 4 oz, subbed applesauce for the oil, and used 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (made in my Instant Pot!) mixed with 1/4 cup almond milk in place of the buttermilk. Oh, and I added a bit extra spinach, just because 🙂

  3. kristy Tidwell says:

    Not my personal favorite, I have a hard time with banana flavor mixed with a veggie but I give it a five for my kids. My 5 year old and 3 year old loved them and when I was napping the 3 year old lied to my husband and said she was allowed to eat as many as she wants….so…she pounded down four more before he realized she wasn’t telling the whole truth. haha.

  4. Anne says:

    Such cute muffins, we will have to try them! Growing up, St Patrick’s Day was always made a big deal by my mother. We have Irish ancestry on both sides. Then my family has made it our own by always having corn beef and potatoes and carrots, truly a very simple and delicious meal, and mixed wheat/white rolls that I dye green. For dessert we mix it up, but my daughter made a lemon meringue pie that she dyed green this year. We always invite a family over to share the meal with and usually someone dresses up like a leprechaun to play games with the children. If you research St. Patrick, he is a man worth emulating because he was a phenomenal missionary who brought Christianity and literacy to Ireland. He is a wonderful example of mercy and forgiveness because as a boy, he had been kidnapped from Britain and forced into slavery in Ireland. Then after escaping back to his home and studying theology, he followed the Lord’s directions to return to Ireland and teach the people about Christ. Here is a great article: http://www.mormonmatters.org/2009/03/17/st-patrick-a-wonderful-missionary/
    Anyway, don’t worry about not celebrating it, just some fun ideas.

  5. April says:

    How many cups of spinach is 6oz would you say? I have a giant costco size bag and it is in pounds… 2.5 pounds… a lot of spinach. Am I guess short if I say 1 cup

  6. Tina says:

    Has anyone figured out nutritional info on these. Calories, ww points perhaps ??

  7. Christine says:

    We loved these muffins! I completely forgot to add the sugar, and they still turned out ok, I made a glaze for the top just to give them some sweetness. But they were still eaten even without it. Next time I’ll read more carefully

  8. Natalie says:

    Delicious! You can’t even taste the spinach.

  9. NJ Jenny says:

    It was all in the name with my boys! Hulk/superhero anything is a sure winner , plus we all loved them! I didn’t have white whole wheat flour, so I substituted 2 cups of whole wheat bread flour and 1/2 cup of all purpose flour. Definitely going to make these again!

  10. Jennifer says:

    Have you tried freezing these? You and your blog are a true gift to society :)!!!

  11. Rebecca says:

    Made them today for a delicious – Day After St. Patrick’s Day fun. I never have my act together for this holiday either…but they were awesome and everyone loved them. A little dab of butter was perfect on them.

  12. Trisha says:

    Made these last night for our St Patrick’s Day breakfast today. Love them! I ate a few myself. 🙂 I used more like 9oz of spinach (most of an 11 oz bag, didn’t measure) and they were fantastic! I think these with a green smoothie will become our traditional St Patrick’s Day breakfast now. Thank you!

  13. Amy says:

    I made these last night and they turned out great! Mine were a little darker green because I used coconut sugar which is dark. White sugar probably would have resulted in a brighter green color. The kids liked them!

  14. Cindy says:

    I made these today for an after school snack and they were delicious. They are very sweet and have a nice hearty texture. Fun for Saint Patrick Day!

  15. Bexky says:

    For those wondering about subs for allergies or health reasons, I subbed almond milk for buttermilk, a flax egg for the egg and used 1/4 c applesauce to replace the oil. They​ still rose beautifully and were light and fluffy. They were a fun, yummy addition to our holiday breakfast. All six kids and my husband loved them. Thanks!

  16. Laura says:

    How do you measure the spinach? By weight? Or a measuring cup?

  17. amber says:

    If you really want to surprise your kids, accidentally leave out the sugar… 😉

  18. Jestine says:

    In the oven as we speak, can’t wait to try. Have to share: mixed up the batter (added chocolate chips because why not?!), plopped the spoonfuls into the muffin tin, slid them in the oven, then took a lick of my batter covered finger. OOPS! Forgot the sugar! Thankfully was able to take them right out and [over]mix the sugar right in, but I was THIS close to having a whole batch of spinach chocolate chip biscuits! :\ bleh. Hoping I was able to save them, my kids will love the fun green!

  19. Ashlee T says:

    I have to laugh.. my boys (and girl) check out their muscles while eating “hulk” smoothies. I had to think of a quick fun name to get them to love them. I’m glad we share the hulk tradition My mom would always make green pancakes for st patties. So that’s what I did today! I’ll have to try these. They sound yummy!!!

  20. Amber says:

    Thanks, Mel, for helping me redeem myself from being a St. Patrick’s Day grinch! I pulled these out of the oven an hour ago so they could be my kids’ after school snack. They taste great and look so fun in all their green glory. My kids loved them. And dinner tonight is your Shepherd’s Pie recipe (the original one, not the one with chicken and kale). So again, thanks for helping us have a little fun on this silly holiday!

  21. Jen T says:

    Made these for an after school snack today and everyone LOVED them! They were impressed. Thanks! Soooo good!

  22. Melanie says:

    I made these for St. Paddy’s day today, and they turned out fantastic! I had a giant tub of spinach in my fridge that was about to go bad, so I was happy to be able to use up so much of it! I used my kitchen scale to weigh the 6oz. My boys have happily devoured them, and my daughter will get to try hers when she gets home from school very soon here. Thanks for such a fun recipe! I love that there is no food dye in them.

  23. Bridget says:

    I made these muffins today, but they weren’t very green? They had more of a brownish/green tint. I may not have added enough spinach. I used a measuring cup to guestimmate 6 oz. Next time I’ll put them in the blender first and use that as my measuring guide. My kids still loved the taste! I appreciate you posting these fun, healthy recipes.

  24. Natalie says:

    These were a huge hit this morning. Thank you! I didn’t have spinach so I subbed baby kale, I worried it would be too strong of a flavor but you can’t tell. They were perfect!

    • Mel says:

      That’s great to know! The one time I used kale, it wasn’t baby kale, and the taste was a little strong. Glad to know baby kale is the key!

  25. Jen T says:

    We do the all green foods for dinner–green food coloring is my favorite friend today! These are perfect! No green food coloring needed…thanks!!!

  26. When I saw the image, I figured food dye. How brilliant that they’re colored with spinach. I love this! I’m always looking for ways to sneak greens into my kids’ food. (When they were babies I used to grind chard into their peanut butter – they never even noticed.) This looks a lot more appetizing. Thanks!

  27. Carine says:

    Wonderfull effect ! My daughters called them shrek’s muffins, and loved them. Thank you for this gorgeous recipe.

  28. Erin says:

    These are so good! My kids and I made them this morning and they will be added to the muffin rotation around here! You never disappoint!!!!!

  29. Ashley says:

    So fun! Baking them now. My husband has been on my back about serving more vegetables so these are going to please everyone! I discovered you about a year ago and I swear your recipes have made me a better mom and benefitted my family so much–thank you for helping the rest of us!

  30. Lacie C says:

    I just made them and WOW!! So good! You win again!

  31. Barb Ingram says:

    Since you mentioned the Grinch in your post, it occurred to me that he’s the same color as these muffins! (Another holiday link! Haha!)

  32. Shawna says:

    What kind of oil do you usually prefer using in your muffins? And have you tried the applesauce instead of oil but kept the bananas? Haha, so many questions!
    Thanks, we love all your recipes! And I’m pretty lame when it comes to St. Patty’s day…we usually just have a green smoothie and call it good. If we’re feeling really ambitious we have a key lime pie. I love an excuse to eat pie.

    • Kara says:

      I just made these and subbed all the oil with applesauce instead. I kept the banana amount as listed. Turned out great!

    • Mel says:

      Hey, no shame in green smoothie. That’s pretty festive! 🙂 I have tried applesauce, and I thought they were a little gummy, but you could definitely try. I usually use avocado, canola or grapeseed oil (and sometimes melted coconut oil)

  33. Lisa says:

    These look awesome! My 5-year-old would love the Hulk idea. I want to give these a try tomorrow. Thanks Mel!

  34. Julie says:

    I just made these for my four little kids, and they taste like delicious banana bread! I love spinach smoothies, so the whole blending spinach and bananas was pretty natural to me. Everyone was a little nervous to try them, but totally loved them. Thanks for a fun and healthy St. Patrick’s Day recipe! I am that mom who serves a ton of green veggies and a fruit rainbow on St. Patrick’s Day instead of lots of dyed green food, so this was perfect for us!

  35. Alicia says:

    Just made these — they are SO good. If you close your eyes, they’re pretty much just a tasty banana muffin. We increased the batch to fully use a 10-oz bag of spinach, and made some mini and some regular sized, both with and without chocolate chips. 3 of us are home right now, and all 3 of us gives these a major thumbs up. Thanks, Mel!

    • Mel says:

      Makes me so happy, Alicia! I had to smile at your “if you close your eyes” comment – so funny how we really do eat with our eyes first.

  36. Teresa says:

    These look so interesting. We all love spinach, so I know these would go over well. Your whole grain honey bran muffins (made with all honey vs. part molasses for us) are my favorite muffins. But I really love all your muffins, so excited to try these. I use the “If You Care” brand of unbleached muffin liners. I find them at Whole Foods. I absolutely love them. Never have to grease the muffin liner with any recipe. The muffins just come right off without losing any yummy muffin crumbs! And I love my King Arthur Flour muffin/scone scoop–fantastic!!! These things make me happy when I make my muffins.

    • Mel says:

      Things like that make me happy, too! Thanks for the recommendation on muffin liners!

      • Amy says:

        You can find the If You Care unbleached muffin liners in bulk on Amazon subscribe and save. That’s a lot of muffins! Just came here to print out this recipe to make right now for a quick breakfast for my peeps to eat over the weekend while I’m working. Didn’t quite have it all together to get ’em made this morning!

  37. Chelsea Bauer says:

    Can’t wait to try these!! Thanks for sharing! My mom went all on growing up on St Patrick’s day so I love too as well. We always invite our church’s missionaries over for a fun festive dinner and wear crazy hats, accessories while we eat (and then send pics to their parents 🙂 It’s been a fun tradition!

  38. Rebecca says:

    I just made these! My six-year-old inhaled two for an after school snack! They are delicious, thanks!

  39. Paige says:

    I’m totally making these on Friday! They look amazing!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  40. Liz says:

    Could I sub almond milk for the buttermilk? My daughter needs a dairy free diet.

    • Mel says:

      Could certainly try, Liz – I’m guessing it would work (the recipes I used as a starting point both used regular milk and one suggested almond milk, I believe).

    • Sahara says:

      Do report back if you try it, my daughter is in the same situation!

      • Liz says:

        They worked fine with almond milk. I did like the addition of Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips, which are dairy free! My daughter enjoyed them. However I think the green color threw off my boys who didn’t eat them as well. I would like to try again with buttermilk for them.

    • Chari says:

      I used a Vanilla almond milk yogurt and made up the difference with almond milk. Turned out fine for my dairy free girl!

  41. Kristen Halling says:

    Would frozen spinach work? Because other than that I have all the ingredients on hand!

  42. Jane says:

    I just made these with my 3 year old.
    She and her Dad did NOT see the secret green ingredient (it was mysteriously added by a leprechaun) – and they love them ☺
    Thank you for a great easy, healthy and fun recipe!!!

  43. Amber says:

    Looks amazing! We have been on a huge spinach kick lately, so I will definitely be trying these out soon!

    We’re worse than you…we do absolutely NOTHING for St. Patrick’s Day. I’m pretty sure our (out-of-town) extended family would disown us if they knew…but we all have green eyes, so we’re safe. 😉

  44. rhonda says:

    the color is quite off-putting- don’t know if my family could get past it. There are so many more muffins that have an appetizing color. I’ll pass on this one.

  45. Catherine says:

    Delicious! I made them for lunch for 4 hungry boys. I ended up eating two of them with my lunch as well and I may be getting a third. I had spinach I needed to use anyway so this was perfect. Thanks!

  46. Erin G says:

    Yahoo!!! I am so glad to hear your family has enjoyed this recipe!! We still make it all the time too!

  47. Jocy says:

    i have made the chocolate version of this, from the same blog The Green Forks. Delicious! I even considered mailing to you, too 🙂

  48. Merideth says:

    Could you substitute kale for the spinach?

  49. Sandra says:

    Could I use frozen spinach if I thawed and drained it?

  50. Jamie Gill says:

    do you remove the stems off of the baby spinach or just leave them on?

  51. Jill says:

    So I’m allergic to spinach. Wondering if you think the spinach is vital to the recipe (beyond being needed to add the green color)?

    • Mel says:

      For this recipe, yes, I do think the spinach is necessary (it adds moisture to the muffins and without it, I’m not sure how the texture would be).

  52. Sheila H. says:

    I will definitely make these tomorrow to start our day. (way better than green eggs and ham) You were spot on with the cheesy turkey sloppy joes and earned my boys’ trust of your recipes. Have you ever tried adding chocolate chips or nuts?

    • Mel says:

      Hey Sheila! Yes, I’ve popped mini chocolate chips in the batter before. Goes without saying, it was a delicious choice. 🙂 Haven’t tried nuts, though.

      • Emily says:

        Since my kids love banana chocolate chip muffins, we made them today with chocolate chips and they were AMAZING! The perfect St. Patrick’s Day treat for this mom who does nothing more then wear a green shirt usually for this holiday. :o)

  53. Anneline says:

    Wow I will DEFINITELY be making these! Although it does mean I have to go to the store to buy some spinach, I ran out yesterday… I might sub part of the flour with old fashioned oats though!

  54. Sheree L says:

    One little typo: in step #7 it says “bake for 15-18 muffins”! 🙂

  55. Sharaun says:

    These could very possibly make an appearance on April 1st at our house. We have an inside family joke about fish oil muffins, these would be a great follow up.

  56. Betsy says:

    Do you think you could use applesauce in place of bananas? Just ate the last banana for breakfast and not sure I’ll make it to the store today.

    • Mel says:

      You could definitely try. I’ve experimented a lot with these muffins and always come back to close to the original – when I’ve used applesauce, they’ve turned out a little gummy in my opinion.

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