This healthy carrot cake recipe packs all the warming spice flavors of the classic, but with whole wheat flour, Greek yogurt, olive oil, dates, and honey for a lighter, more grown-up approach. To finish things off we skip the cream cheese frosting and opt for a dusting of powdered sugar instead.

A close up of a slice of the healthy carrot cake in front of the rest of the cake on a sheet of parchment paper.
Photo Credits: Katherine Irwin

Carrot cake happens to be my husband Saba's absolute favorite, but the extra sweet, frosting-topped American version never quite did it for me. I love the Italian’s take on carrot cake, which has a strong orangey almond flavor and no butter. This healthy carrot cake recipe takes the same lighter, frosting and butter-free approach, but keeps carrot cake’s classic warming spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger.

I took inspiration from my Apple Olive Oil Cake, using olive oil which keeps the cake tender for days and imparts a lovely nuance to the flavor. Whole wheat flour adds a rustic quality, and honey and dates means there’s no refined sugar. (I do like a final dusting of powdered sugar but feel free to leave that off if you’d like.)

Greek yogurt adds the perfect tang to balance the sweetness. I could eat this healthy carrot cake for breakfast lunch and dinner! The best part: it freezes well so you can keep it on hand for healthy snacking.

Table of Contents
  1. Carrot Cake Ingredients 
  2. Ingredient Spotlight
  3. How to Make this Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe
  4. How to Serve Healthy Carrot Cake
  5. How to Store Carrot Cake
  6. Freezing Instructions
  7. More Butter-Free Cake Recipes
  8. Try our Arbequina
  9. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  10. Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe
ingredients for healthy carrot cake including whole wheat flour, olive oil, greek yogurt, milk, honey, eggs, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, carrots, dates, walnuts, and powdered sugar.

Carrot Cake Ingredients 

Whole wheat flour, extra virgin olive oil, dates, and honey not only make this carrot cake more wholesome, it also gives it a richer flavor. You’ll need: 

  • Olive oil: A smooth extra virgin variety with a pleasant flavor is essential (suggestions below). 
  • Greek yogurt enriches the cake and adds a subtle tang to balance the sweetness.
  • Milk: Both whole milk or reduced fat milk will work here.
  • Honey sweetens the cake without adding refined sugar. Use the highest quality honey you can get your hands on–I love the Greek wildflower honey from our shop, but a dark honey like manuka would also work well. 
  • Eggs bind the cake.
  • Whole wheat flour adds a nutty, wholesome flavor to both sweet and savory baked goods, from blueberry muffins to pizza dough
  • Baking powder makes the cake rise. 
  • Kosher salt: Even in sweet recipes, a small amount of salt brings out the flavor.
  • Flavor-makers: Ground cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger add warming, sweet spices reminiscent of pumpkin spice. Look for ground green cardamom like the one from our spice shop (as apposed to black, which has a savory flavor). 
  • Carrots: Smaller varieties tend to be sweeter. 
  • Medjool dates: Taste like bursts of honey! Dates are also good for you: they’re high in fiber and packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (see the USDA for the full breakdown). 
  • Walnuts add a lovely tender, buttery crunch. 
  • Powdered sugar: A small sprinkling of powdered sugar ties everything together with no frosting necessary, but you can add a drizzle of honey in its place if you’d like to avoid refined sugars all together. 
An and overhead photo of 9 slices of healthy carrot cake on a sheet of parchment paper. Next to these are bowls of walnuts, cinnamon sticks and dates, a sieve with powdered sugar, and a kitchen towel.

Ingredient Spotlight

I love, love, love baking with extra virgin olive oil, weather with this healthy carrot cake recipe, Italian Apple Olive Oil Cake or Orange Cardamom Olive Oil Cake. It not only boasts healthy fats and antioxidants, it gives the most tender crumb, a lovely fruity flavor, and it stays moist for days. 

That said, olive oil has a much more dominant flavor than the fats you would typically bake with like butter or neutral oil. A low quality oil will likely make your cake taste bitter and overpower the nuanced flavors of the spices and carrots. 

While a robust, peppery oil like our Spanish Hojiblanca is delicious for savory recipes or salad dressings, for example, I would not recommend it for baking. I typically use either our Arbequina from California or Italian Nocellara, both of which are buttery-smooth and rich but not too bitter or peppery. 

A close up of a slice of healthy carrot cake with a bite taken out of it on a plate with a fork.

How to Make this Healthy Carrot Cake Recipe

A few simple swaps takes carrot cake from overly sweet and loaded with sugar to full of wholesome flavor. And with no frosting to whisk and set, it’s even easier than the original! 

  • Get ready. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper (or coat well with olive oil). 
  • Combine the wet ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup Greek yogurt, ½ cup honey, and ⅓ cup milk. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, and whisk to combine with each addition.The wet ingredients for the healthy carrot cake mixed together in a bowl with a whisk. Surrounding this are bowls of dates, spices, baking powder and the dry ingredients for the dough, and measuring cups of walnuts and powdered sugar.
  • Combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon each salt, cardamom, and ginger.A bowl of the dry ingredients for the healthy carrot cake with a wooden spoon. Next to this is the bowl with the wet ingredients and a whisk, a measuring cup with walnuts and a bowl of dates.
  • Make the batter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix gently with a wooden spoon until just combined.The ingredients for the healthy carrot cake in a bowl with a wooden spoon just after being mixed together. Next to this is a bowl of egg shells, a measuring cup with walnuts, a bowl of dates, and 3 other empty bowls, on with a spoon.
  • Finish the batter. Gently fold in 2 cups finely grated carrots, 6 finely chopped dates, and ⅓ cup chopped walnuts. Pour the carrot cake batter into the prepared pan.An overhead photo of the healthy carrot cake batter poured into a parchment lined baking dish. Next to this is a measuring cup with powdered sugar, 4 empty bowls and bowl of egg shells.
  • Bake. Bake in the heated oven until a toothpick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely in the pan.
  • Finish and serve. Sprinkle on a light dusting of powdered sugar, if desired. Cut into 9 or 12 square pieces. Enjoy!An and overhead close up photo of 5 slices of healthy carrot cake, one with a bite taken out of it. Next to this is a bowl of walnuts.

How to Serve Healthy Carrot Cake

This carrot cake is delicious on its own, perhaps with coffee or Black Tea as an after-dinner treat or morning indulgence. If you’d like to dress it up, toast it in your toaster oven or oven until warm. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt, drizzle of honey, chopped walnuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

An overhead photo of a carrot cake in a parchment lined baking pan fresh out of the oven. Next to this is a kitchen towel and bowls of walnuts and cinnamon sticks.

How to Store Carrot Cake

This healthy carrot cake has no frosting, so you can store it at room temperature. Allow it to cool completely and store, wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. 

An and overhead photo of 8 slices of healthy carrot cake.

Freezing Instructions

Once cooled completely, cut into squares in the tray. Cover and freeze in its baking tray (if it's freezer safe) or transfer to a freezer-safe tray. Let it freeze until solid (about 4 hours). Then remove and wrap each square individually in plastic wrap and a final layer of aluminum foil. Thaw the pieces you need in the fridge overnight.

More Butter-Free Cake Recipes

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Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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arbequina olive oil from the mediterranean dish.
4.86 from 7 votes

Healthy Carrot Cake

Suzy Karadsheh of The Mediterranean Dish. In the kitchenSuzy Karadsheh
A close up of a slice of the healthy carrot cake in front of the rest of the cake on a sheet of parchment paper.
A healthy carrot cake recipe that feeds a crowd! Or, freeze it for a ready breakfast or snack. A few secret ingredients keep it light and butter-free. And it's one of the easiest cakes to make!
Prep – 15 minutes
Cook – 1 hour
Total – 1 hour 15 minutes
Cuisine:
Mediterranean
Serves – 12
Course:
Dessert

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • cup milk
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots (Peeled or scrubbed, from about 2 large carrots. You can use food processor to very finely chop instead.)
  • 6 Medjool dates pitted and finely chopped (you can use food processor)
  • cup chopped walnuts
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Get ready. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper (or coat well with olive oil).
  • Combine the wet ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, yogurt, milk, and honey. Add eggs one-by-one and whisk to combine.
  • Combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.
  • Make the batter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix gently with a wooden spoon until just combined.
  • Finish the batter. Gently fold in the carrots, dates, and walnuts. Pour the carrot cake batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake. Bake in the heated oven until a tooth pick inserted in middle of the cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely in the pan.
  • Finish and serve. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Cut into 9 or 12 square pieces. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Shop this recipe: Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including the olive oil, cardamom, and honey used in this recipe.
  • To store: Because this healthy carrot cake has no frosting, you can store it at room temperature. Allow it to cook completely and store, wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.
  • Freezing instructions: Once cooled completely, cut into squares in the tray. Cover and freeze in its baking tray (if it's freezer safe) or transfer to a freezer-safe tray. Let it freeze until solid (about 4 hours). Then remove and wrap each square individually in plastic wrap and a final layer of aluminum foil. Thaw the pieces you need in the fridge overnight.

Nutrition

Calories: 286.9kcalCarbohydrates: 39.8gProtein: 6.4gFat: 13.2gSaturated Fat: 2.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 7.4gTrans Fat: 0.004gCholesterol: 42.3mgSodium: 180.4mgPotassium: 249.3mgFiber: 4.1gSugar: 21gVitamin A: 1796.8IUVitamin C: 0.8mgCalcium: 84.8mgIron: 1.5mg
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*This post has recently been updated with new information for readers’ benefit.

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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4.86 from 7 votes

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Comments

  1. Ester Kraehmer says:

    Hi! I have just popped my cake in the oven and noticed that I did not add the honey!!! I suppose I could drizzle it over the top when it comes out of the oven.

    The problem is that the honey is never mentioned in the instructions, only in the list of ingredients, so it is easy to forget it. Maybe you should add it for idiots like me!

    1. Summer Miller says:

      Hi, Ester! I'm Summer and I work here at The Mediterranean Dish. We are so sorry for the oversight. Thank you for letting us know! We have corrected the recipe so it reflects the addition of the honey. I hope drizzling it over the top does the trick! You could also make a simple syrup with the honey (1 part water to 1 part honey) use a skewer to poke holes in the cake and drizzle it over the top to let it "soak" the cake. Good luck!

  2. Ana Figueroa says:

    Hello, am I able to use sea salt and fresh ginger instead?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Ana. We've never officially tested these substitutes, but I think they would work fine. Enjoy!

  3. Rowen Henning says:

    Question: Would this recipe be followed exactly the same using white flour?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Rowen. Likely not. If you want to substitute white flour for the wheat, you may need to adjust the amount white flour used, the amount of liquid in the recipe, and even the baking time. It's not something we've tested before with this recipe, so it's a bit hard to give specific advice. You may just have to do a little experimenting... maybe even starting with 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white flour. If you do end up giving it a try, we'd love to hear how it turned out for you!

  4. Mart says:

    Hello, what’s dark honey ?

  5. Mike C says:

    I made this and it finished with a bitter aftertaste. I am wondering if I made mistake or which ingredient would cause bitterness. Thank you.

    1. Summer Miller says:

      Hi, Mike! Sorry to hear it was bitter. Try drizzling a little honey over the next slice and see if that helps. My guess is it was either the carrots or maybe your olive oil was expired. I know sometimes carrots can taste bitter instead of sweet. Early season carrots and small carrots tend to taste sweeter than larger late season carrots. Olive oil is a fat and if it's old it can go rancid, which can also create a bitter taste.

  6. Jelena says:

    Hi,
    Can I replace Baking powder with Bicarbonate of Soda?
    If answer is Yes, how many grams?

    Thank you

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Jelena. No, we don't recommend using Bicarbonate of Soda in place of the baking powder here.

  7. Angelica says:

    5 stars
    I made this cake for my mom's birthday, everyone loved it! She's diabetic and it's nice to have a treat she can enjoy. The only thing I noticed is that one of the ingredients is honey, but the instructions do not mention when to mix it in. I mixed it in with the wet ingredients before adding the dry ingredients. Maybe the recipe can be edited so others won't have the same problem.

    1. Suzy says:

      Thanks for the heads up, Angelica. We'll take a look at that.

  8. Bel says:

    Hi Suzy,

    Would it possible to bake into large size muffins? I am looking for options to take to work for those who leave very early and eat breakfast at the office.

    Bel.

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Bel! I feel like that would work, but I have never tried it myself. If you do, I'd love to hear how it turned out!

  9. Jelena says:

    5 stars
    Can't thank you enough for this amazing recipe! <3

    1. Suzy says:

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  10. Sonali Tare says:

    Can I skip the dates? I'm trying to make is as low sugar as possible, while still making sure it tasted good. And can I replace some of the olive oil with apple sauce? Thanks!

    1. Suzy says:

      We haven't tried it without dates, Sonali, so I am not sure the flavor will work out as well. But you can replace a bit of the olive oil with apple sauce if you need to.