Recipe Review

I Tested 6 Top-Rated Blueberry Muffins and the Winner Is So Delicious, I’ll Be Baking Them Every Week

published May 9, 2024
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Overhead labeled shot of six different blueberry muffin recipes
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

At any coffee shop or bakery, my eye is always drawn to two things: the croissants and the muffins (specifically, the blueberry muffins). To me, a blueberry muffin is the quintessential muffin flavor and a staple breakfast pastry. 

I know what you must be asking yourself: What makes a muffin bakery-style? Although maybe slightly subjective, a bakery-style muffin is often defined by having a beautifully rounded top, delicious golden to golden-brown color, a tender and moist crumb, and some sort of topping to make the muffins both visually and texturally interesting. 

Over the past few years I’ve been on the search for a go-to bakery-style blueberry muffin recipe and, to my surprise, finding the perfect one has been less than fruitful (pun intended!). In going into this showdown, I had my own preconceived notions of what made the best bakery-style muffin recipe — no mixer needed, topped with streusel, and large in size— but would those notions prove themselves to be true? 

After baking through six of the most popular recipes on the internet over the course of one day, I was both shocked and pleasantly surprised at my findings, and was even lucky enough to find my new go-to muffin recipe in the process. 

Quick Overview

So, What’s the Best Bakery-Style Blueberry Muffin Recipe?

Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry muffins were perfectly golden-brown, had the most delicious crackly tops, were super moist and plush, and actually tasted like blueberries. Plus, the recipe took the least amount of work and was the quickest to make.

Meet Our 6 Bakery-Style Blueberry Muffin Contenders

Upon first glance, the recipes all seem to be similar enough. However, after closely reading through each of the six recipes, I realized that the only real common thread was that every recipe used some amount of eggs and called for all-purpose flour. The leaveners and even the type of salt varied.  

Although similarities were far and few between all six, some of the recipes did share closer ties to one another. Three of the recipes were mixed in a stand mixer and called for softened butter, while the other three used melted butter (and oil in one) and did not need any sort of electric mixer. Five of the recipes used fresh blueberries (some with the option to use frozen if needed) while the other one specifically called for frozen blueberries. All but one recipe had some sort of topping. 

  • Ambitious Kitchen: One of the three recipes that doesn’t require a mixer, Ambitious Kitchen’s version browns the butter for the batter as well as uses both vanilla and almond extract to flavor the muffins. It’s one of a couple of recipes to toss the blueberries in flour first before folding into the batter, and is also one of two that uses a crumb topping (in this case flavored with cinnamon). 
  • Host the Toast: I was deeply intrigued to see if Host the Toast’s recipe (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen) tasted the most like blueberry, as it incorporates fresh berries in three different ways: cooked into a syrup that gets swirled on top of each before baking, folded whole into the batter, and pressed into the tops of the muffins after baking. It’s the only recipe to use buttermilk in the batter as well as oil, and one of two that has a crumb topping and uses lemon. Additionally, this is the only recipe that starts the muffins at a higher oven temperature and drops the temperature part of the way through. 
  • Smitten Kitchen: Long evolved from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, Smitten Kitchen’s recipe is straightforward and the last of three to opt for melted butter. It also only uses one bowl. It’s the only recipe that calls for yogurt (with a substitution for sour cream), calls for topping the muffins with a generous amount of turbinado sugar, and uses quite a bit of lemon zest in the batter to flavor rather than vanilla. Although it only yields 9 muffins, the proportion of fresh blueberries is generous — comparable to, if not more than, some other recipes. 
  • Joanna Gaines: From Gaines’ Magnolia Table cookbook, these muffins are one of the few to start the batter by creaming together softened butter and sugar in a stand mixer. This recipe uses sour cream in the batter and is the only one to call specifically for frozen blueberries (the smallest amount at 1 cup). It’s also one of two recipes to call for spraying the pan with cooking spray instead of lining with paper liners (although the book does list an option for lining). These muffins are topped with a streusel that’s heavier on the ratio of sugar to flour. 
  • Hummingbird High: Out of all the recipes, I was most excited to bake Hummingbird High’s Levain Bakery blueberry muffins. These copycat muffins take the most time, employing techniques (many of which are tricks I know will yield bakery-worthy muffins) like squishing some of the blueberries (a hefty 2 1/2 cups total — the most of any recipe) until juicy, resting the batter, filling every other well of the muffin tin, and cooling completely in the pan before removing from the tin. This version uses almond flour in addition to all-purpose, opts for generously greasing the tin with cooking spray, and finishes each with a full teaspoon of granulated sugar. 
  • Ina Garten: Ina’s recipe makes the most muffins of the bunch, totaling 16. As per all of her baking recipes, this was the only one to require extra-large eggs and call for 2 half-pints of berries (rather than provide a standard weight or volume amount). These muffins, along with Joanna Gaines’, are the only two to bake the muffins at 350°F. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

How I Tested the Bakery-Style Blueberry Muffin Recipes

  • I baked all of the muffins one after the other over the course of one day (and tasted them the same day as baking). Blueberry muffins tend to change in texture the day after having been baked, often becoming slightly more wet, soft, or sticky from the blueberries. Because of this, it was important to make the muffins and compare them on the same day as they were baked so they were at their peak. 
  • I used an oven thermometer for every single recipe. Especially with muffins, the way  quickbreads rise and how high they rise is affected by the oven temperature. To ensure I was getting the most accurate rise (and browning) from each muffin, I used an oven thermometer to double check the actual temperature in my oven. 
  • I used the same brand for similar ingredients across each recipe. For example, I used King Arthur all-purpose flour, Land O’ Lakes unsalted butter, and Diamond Crystal kosher salt (unless a different, specific salt was specified).  
  • I weighed the flour. I used this conversion chart to weigh the flour in recipes where weighted measurements were not provided because measuring flour by volume is not always consistent.  
  • I used the same two muffin tins for all the recipes and took care to let them cool off completely between batches. Although minimal, all pans vary slightly. Even though the size is standardized, two standard muffin tins from different brands can have the tiniest difference in size. Using two of the same brand pans here helped me to better compare the muffin’s size differences without having to worry about it being from differences in the pans. Moreover, allowing the pans to cool ensured the batters did not begin to prematurely bake before they actually hit the oven, changing the final result. 
  • I tasted each muffin at least twice. The first once completely cooled, and the second the day after baking to see how they held up. (Spoiler alert: They all fared best the day of baking).

Why You Should Trust Me as a Tester 

I’m a graduate of a four-year baking and pastry program, and part of that time was spent studying at pastry school in France. Overlapping with my final months in college, I began working in food media as an intern at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Food Network, then went freelance. Almost the entirety of my beginnings in food media was spent recipe testing; I learned how to apply my foundations in baking and pastry as well as properly write, develop, and evaluate the success of a recipe. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

1. The Muffin That Fell Flat: Joanna Gaines’ Blueberry Muffins from the Magnolia Table Cookbook

Overall rating: 3/10
Get the recipe: Joanna Gaines’ Blueberry Muffins from the Magnolia Table Cookbook

While this recipe was relatively straightforward and simple to follow, I felt like there was a lack of attention to detail. For example, the ingredient list doesn’t instruct you to bring the eggs and sour cream to room temperature first, which resulted in the butter mixture seizing. Additionally, there aren’t instructions on how to cool the muffins enough to pop them out of the tin, and the vague directions to grease the tin led to a lot of separated muffin tops and bottoms.

The actual, finished muffins unfortunately didn’t hit the bakery-worthy mark. Although described as a “streusel,” the topping’s high ratio of sugar to flour and butter resulted in more of a sugary-paste that, when baked, turned into a crackly shell of sugar over the muffin top which could have been achieved by just sprinkling granulated sugar over the top. The muffin’s appearance was also lackluster, being both the smallest and palest of the bunch. 

Moreover, the muffins regrettably also fell flat in terms of flavor and texture. They had a very tight, cake-like crumb that leaned slightly tough and the flavor was bland, only tasting generically sweet. Most disappointing was that the blueberry flavor (which came from a scant 1 cup of frozen blueberries) did not come through.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

2. The Most Basic: Ina Garten’s Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins

Overall rating: 7/10
Get the recipe: Ina Garten’s Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins

As a longtime Barefoot Contessa fan (I’ve watched her since middle school), this recipe was a good middle-of-the-road muffin that was easy to follow and delivered on the dependability I’ve come to know from Ina Garten’s recipes, but fell short in a few areas. Although this recipe did require the use of a stand mixer, the batter came together relatively quickly and the mixing method yielded a texture that was soft and tender and muffin-like.

The muffins had a pleasant vanilla-y sweetness and took on nice, lofty tops with a golden to golden-brown color when baked. But almost every muffin top baked into one another, which caused them to brown unevenly. This recipe also called for a generous amount of blueberries, but didn’t necessarily have strong blueberry flavor — and unfortunately most of them sank. Overall, they were pleasant, but didn’t blow me away with their flavor and texture.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

3. The Best Make-Ahead Option: Ambitious Kitchen’s Best Bakery Style Blueberry Muffins

Overall rating: 7/10
Get the recipe: Ambitious Kitchen’s Best Bakery Style Blueberry Muffins

Similarly to Ina’s recipe, there were a few drawbacks with this recipe (which is why they ended up with the same rating). Ambitious Kitchen’s recipe was one of the few to not require an electric mixer, and while it saved time in creaming the butter and sugar, it made up for it in the time it took to brown and cool the butter. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that the time spent to do so was worth it, as the flavor of the browned butter didn’t come through. Despite that, this recipe was simple to bake through, and I did enjoy not having to drag out my mixer. 

Overall, these muffins were stunning. They came out perfectly golden-brown, had nicely rounded tops and even blueberry distribution (with some even poking through the topping), and the topping stayed afloat with no sinking. Texturally, these muffins were plush and moist and had a really wonderful contrast to the topping. They were also the only muffins to hold up well the next day and not be sticky and/or wet. 

But where this recipe really fell short for me was in flavor. The cinnamon in the topping and almond extract in the batter (both of which do complement blueberries) completely overwhelmed the fruit, making these muffins feel more like a coffee cake or fall dessert that happens to have berries in it, rather than a blueberry muffin.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

4. The Most Labor-Intensive Muffin: Hummingbird High’s Levain Bakery Blueberry Muffins

Overall rating: 8/10
Get the recipe: Hummingbird High’s Levain Bakery Blueberry Muffins 

As someone who bakes for work almost every day of the week, committing my off-time to baking through a longer, more involved recipe is quite hard for me. It needs to be really worth it for me to do it. With that said, trust me when I say this one is worth taking the time to bake. Not to mention, and I think most notably, this recipe was incredibly well-written and each direction, measurement, and visual cue was spot-on

Hummingbird High’s recipe was the one I was most excited about, as it incorporated many of the techniques often used to create “bakery-worthy” muffins, such as resting the batter and only filling every other well of the muffin tin. As expected, the muffins came out extra large and lofty (the tallest of all six recipes) and mimicked the distinct look of Levain’s muffins well with their deep browned, crispy edges and soft, tender middle. 

The texture of these muffins was tight and slightly more cake-like, but still very soft and moist with nice contrast from the sugary crust on top. They did have nice blueberry flavor, although still a little flat considering they had the highest amount of blueberries. All in all, the biggest drawback of this recipe was truly just the amount of time and effort it took as compared to the recipe I found to be the best, but I think it’s still worth keeping in your back pocket for a rainy day.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

5. The Picture-Perfect Muffin: Host the Toast’s The Best Bakery-Style Blueberry Muffins

Overall rating: 8.25/10
Get the recipe: Host the Toast’s The Best Bakery-Style Blueberry Muffins

After lining up all my batches of muffins (and before tasting them all), these were the muffins I thought were going to end up in the top spot. Between their big, rounded tops (partly in thanks to baking at two different oven temperatures), pretty purple swirl, and blueberry-studded crumb topping, they’re nothing short of impressive looking. Upon tasting, I was satisfied, but for what the recipe entailed and promised, I needed more. 

This recipe was the most intriguing to me, as it incorporates the berries in three different ways, and I had high hopes for the flavor payoff that I anticipated would come with it. Although the batter and topping came together quicker than some, the recipe in total took about the same time as the others with having to make a blueberry syrup. The muffins themselves were really lovely, tender, and moist, and the topping was well-flavored and provided a wonderful texture. 

The muffins, however, did not deliver a massive amount of blueberry flavor. The blueberry flavor was well-balanced in the muffin, but for the bit of extra work of making the syrup, there wasn’t much more flavor payoff than some of the previous recipes. That said, I would make these again and do think this was a successful recipe. My one note: iIf you plan on making these, skip pressing the fresh blueberries on top after baking (the muffins didn’t need it).

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

6. The Very Best Blueberry Muffin: Smitten Kitchen’s Perfect Blueberry Muffins

Overall rating: 10/10 
Get the recipe: Smitten Kitchen’s Perfect Blueberry Muffins

If you’re only going to make one blueberry muffin recipe for the rest of your life, make this one. Truly, I haven’t stopped thinking about when I’m going to make my next batch of these and that’s always how I know I love a recipe. 

First and foremost, these muffins took the least amount of work, and were the quickest to make out of all six recipes. The batter comes together in one bowl (like, you can actually measure the ingredients right into the bowl), only needs to be whisked and folded together, doesn’t require any special tricks or techniques, and yet still yields the perfect bakery-style blueberry muffin. They were super moist and plush, came out beautifully golden-brown, and the simple topping of just a generous helping of turbinado sugar (which didn’t at all make the muffins too sweet) created the most delicious crunchy and crackly top with no extra work. 

What stood out the most in these muffins was the blueberries. Being that the recipe yields 9 muffins, the ratio of blueberries was comparable to, if not more than, the other recipes — and actually tasted like it. The thick batter ensured the berries were evenly distributed, so you got a good amount in every bite. However, what really made the berries, and consequently the muffins, shine in this recipe was the generous amount of lemon zest in the batter. The brightness you get from the zest brought these muffins to life. Without even using the juice, the zest awakened the blueberry’s flavor, making for a bright and zingy bite that was far more flavorful than any other.