Genius Recipes

The Fastest, Fluffiest Muffins With a Genius Secret Ingredient

Meet Jerrelle Guy’s speedy, funky cousin to Irish soda bread in this week’s Genius Recipe.

October  7, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

Outside of my food writer life—in my real, scrambled, messy life—you will not catch me making muffins. Or hand pies, or stuffed peppers, or mini-quiches, or most other things where each serving requires its own pampering, its own zone to clean. This is why we have cake.

I recognize there are plenty of cooks with more time and passion for tucking undergarments into muffin tins and scrubbing them clean, for scooping each portion and jimmying it out at the end—many of them apparently also parents of young children. (How? How do you have time to muffin a corn dog, friends?)

Muffins for people who don't think they have time to make muffins. Photo by ROCKY LUTEN. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG. PROP STYLIST: GERRI WILLIAMS.

But for the rest of us, food stylist, photographer, entrepreneur, and James Beard Award–nominated author Jerrelle Guy created a punchy muffin recipe that is swift and rewarding enough for even the tired and rudderless, with a surprise ingredient propelling the batter (and you) in ways you might have thought unimaginable—until now.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I made it again using my regular sweet tea kombucha and love the recipe. I wouldn't call them light, but definitely leavened. Soft moist flavorful. Doesn't have the tang of the first time. I may try purchased apple cider vinegar next time.”
— Paul

In her first cookbook Black Girl Baking, Jerrelle built chapters based on senses, and recipes based on moods and memories. This one, in the Touch chapter, was inspired by both the Irish soda breads in Boston where she was then living, and kombucha, the fizzy, sweet-sour tea drink with hazy but likely origins in China that she was drinking as a quenching daily pick-me-up.


“I crave the feeling of that cold, carbonated liquid hitting my chest, giving me the sensation it’s opening my lungs for the first time that day,” Jerrelle writes in Black Girl Baking. “I thought I could use the carbonation and acid to make some kind of quick bread or breakfast muffin.”

She was right. In our throats, kombucha slakes and energizes. Poured into batter, it foams reactively with baking soda, adding incomparable lift—similar to beer in some cake and bread recipes, but with more sweetness and tang.

In practice this means that—without even pausing to whip egg whites stiffly or let butter soften until creamable—you can whisk six simple ingredients together, watch them fizz and expand, then pour into tins, a process so fast and mesmerizing it defies monotony. And because the batter is so foamy and light, the muffins bake in about half the time of your average bran or blueberry. (In my fierce oven and petite muffin tins, they’re done in under 10 minutes, but yours might take a few more.)

Which means you’ll be popping them warm into your mouth soon, perhaps hand over fist like my daughter. You’ll stop not to press in a tiny quiche crust or re-position a sinking hot dog, but only to blow puffs of cooling breath and smear on more butter.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Laura
  • Paul
  • WeLike2Cook
  • Mgy312
  • Donelle
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Laura October 28, 2020
This looks so great! Any possibility of making it gluten free?? I'd love to try them. I wonder if Bob's Red Mill 1:1 GF Flour would work. Any thoughts?
Kristen M. October 30, 2020
I think it should work fine!
Paul October 16, 2020
I make my own Kombucha so thought this would be an interesting use. I had a batch where I put a Kombucha scoby in a half gallon of apple cider. It pretty much turned into apple cider vinegar. I used it and the muffins had a definet tang to them. I made it again using my regular sweet tea kombucha and love the recipe. I wouldn't call them light, but definitely leavened. Soft moist flavorful. Doesn't have the tang of the first time. I may try purchased apple cider vinegar next time.
Kristen M. October 30, 2020
Great to know—thank you Paul!
WeLike2Cook October 15, 2020
Does cooking the kombucha decrease its probiotic effects?
Kristen M. October 15, 2020
I would assume so, yes, like baking with yogurt or cooking with miso. So I'd pick up 2 bottles, if that's what you're looking for—one to drink and one for the muffins!
Mgy312 October 11, 2020
Silly question but is there a substitute for the kombucha? I'd love to make these this morning and don't have any. : (
Kristen M. October 12, 2020
Hi Mgy312, I haven't tried it but buttermilk or a similar substitute (1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice, mixed with enough of any milk, plant-based or not, to make 1 cup) might work—if you try it, let us know!
Donelle October 9, 2020
I love the recipe lightness using the fermented drink. My suggestion is use an ice cream scoop for filling your muffin pan. I have several sizes and it works so well without all the mess. I also always use silicone scrappers to get all the agave etc out of the measuring cup or bowl. It is surprising how much is left behind otherwise. Thanks for the recipe !
Kristen M. October 12, 2020
Thank you for the tips! I really need to get a better variety of ice cream scoop sizes. I did oil the cup so the agave came out easier than it otherwise would have, but a silicone scraper would have helped.
Samia O. October 8, 2020
Can I know the reason why you are relying on baking soda and not eggs?
YY October 8, 2020
I think it was intended to be a plant based recipe.
Samia O. October 12, 2020
oh riiiight!!! That makes sense!
MacGuffin February 19, 2023
Because baking soda reacts with acidic kombucha?
YY October 7, 2020
Very creative but are there any variations to enhance flavours and nutritional value?
Kristen M. October 8, 2020
This is a great base recipe for mixing in fruits or other flavors (I'm doing classic blueberry on my next batch).
YY October 8, 2020
Thanks Kristen, would be great if you can share quantity adjustments.
Kristen M. October 8, 2020
Hi YY, I haven't tested variations outside the options in the recipe, so I don't want to steer you wrong, but if adding blueberries or similar fruit, I would just eyeball it once the batter is mixed, based on how many blueberries I want to see in my muffins.
YY October 8, 2020
Good to know, I will try that!
Carol October 7, 2020
Can they be frozen?
Kristen M. October 8, 2020
Yes! They would freeze great.
Vivian October 7, 2020
Can’t wait to try them! Thank you for sharing this recipe with us.
Kristen M. October 8, 2020
My pleasure! I'm very excited to share Jerrelle's recipe with more people.
NS October 7, 2020
Are you sure about the amount of soda? No aftertaste?
Kristen M. October 8, 2020
I have noticed an aftertaste of baking soda when I've used the agave option, since it's mild in flavor, but I haven't minded it (it just makes me think of pretzels!). But when I've used honey, that flavor comes through more strongly and masks the baking soda.
AJ October 9, 2020
I haven't seen the original recipe, but 4 tsp of soda seems like too much. I have "slipped" with this ingredient before and wound up with a salty, bitter tasting result. On the other hand, I have used a Tbs or more of baking POWDER with no ill effects. Might you have meant baking powder? Is this something worth trying?
Kristen M. October 12, 2020
Hi AJ, this is definitely baking soda, since it was partly inspired by Irish Soda Bread and it reacts with the acid in the kombucha. But I have tried this recipe with a bit less than 4 teaspoons and it still worked, it just wasn't quite as fluffy, so up to you! If you're concerned about the flavor, use the honey option for a stronger flavor to mask it.