A moist and tender olive oil batter. A nutty pecan topping. Just a touch of vanilla glaze. A crumbly spiced crust. Can you guess what I am? I’m cake’s sugar free, dairy free BFF!! That’s right my friends, healthy pumpkin bars are here, and they are the reason for the fall season. Let’s bake!
Pumpkin season has arrived and we are HERE. FOR. IT. We’re here for it with pumpkin picking, and pumpkin decorating, and pumpkin creamer, but most of all with pumpkin cake.
Because cake is life.
But like most things in life, sometimes you gotta compromise. You give a little here and take a little there so your pants don’t yell at your and say “lay off the freakin’ cake woman!”. And that, my friends, is the not-so-very scientific explanation of how things like healthy pumpkin bars are born. Compromise. In the kitchen. It’s a thing!
Part cake, part bar, 100% snack or breakfast delight, these healthy(ish) pumpkin bars are moist, crumbly, and pumpkin-spiced AF. Some might call them basic, but to me that’s just a synonym for “essential”.
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How to Make Healthy Pumpkin Bars
Classic pumpkin bars get a make-over using whole wheat flour, heart healthy olive oil, and antioxidant rich maple syrup. The result is a low sugar, dairy free treat that’s decadent enough to be considered cake, and healthy enough to pass for breakfast.
Start by separately mixing the dry and wet ingredients. We’re replacing white flour with whole wheat flour, and adding in a healthy dose of traditional pumpkin spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves).
Whisk together a can of pumpkin puree with eggs, maple syrup instead of sugar, and olive oil instead of canola or vegetable oil. Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, has a citrusy, floral flavor that compliments the sweet pumpkin, and lends a dense, but still tender, crumb to the finished bars.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just barely combined. Lumps are good.
Pour the batter into a 9×13 cake pan lined with parchment paper. The parchment paper will help you lift the bars from the pan with ease. If you’re worried about them sticking, spray the paper with olive oil just to be on the safe side. For extra texture, sprinkle the batter with chopped pecans and some coconut sugar. The coconut sugar will caramelize on the top of the cake for a satisfying crackly crunch factor.
Bake these a bit longer (about 40 minutes) than traditional pumpkin bars and at a lower temperature (325°F instead of 350°F) to achieve the right finished texture – airy, tender, and chewy. Rest them in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and rest at room temperature for an hour or so. Drizzle with vanilla glaze for an extra dose of fancy, or slice into squares and eat them as-is.
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Healthy Pumpkin BarsPrint Recipe Rate This Recipe
- 2 c whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 c maple syrup
- 3/4 c olive oil
- 1/2 c chopped pecans
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar or brown sugar
- olive oil spray
Vanilla Glaze (Optional)
- 1/2 c confectioners sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp cashew milk, almond milk, or other dairy free milk
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Line a 9x13 cake pan with parchment paper. Spray with coconut or olive oil spray.
- Whisk wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves until evenly combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the pumpkin puree until smooth. Whisk in the maple syrup and olive oil until evenly distributed and smooth.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined. Some lumps are okay.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter into an even layer. Sprinkle with the batter with the chopped pecans and coconut sugar, then pick up a drop the cake pan onto the counter a few times to encourage the pecans to slightly sink into the batter.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove the cake pan from the oven and rest in the pan 5 minutes. Then, pull up the cake by parchment flaps and transfer to a wire rack. Rest at room temperature at least 1 hour.
- Whisk together the confectioners sugar, vanilla, and nut milk until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled bars. Slice into squares and serve. This cake keeps covered, at room temperature, for up to 3 days.
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