Pumpkin-based Muffins or Cake

This is one of my favorite go-to sweet treat recipes because it’s so versatile: a cake batter with a pumpkin puree base. Healthier and more nutritious than a purely flour-based cake, you can change up the additives to make a variety of flavors.

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The recipe starts with pumpkin. Or squash. What’s nice about this recipe is that it offers a lot of room for substitution and variation. Pumpkin may be difficult to get when not in season (it seems in the US, pumpkins are exclusively a Halloween and Thanksgiving thing), but you can substitute it for any kind of autumn squash, such as butternut or acorn squash.

Pumpkin and squashes are great substitutes for a lot of the wheat and dairy that would normally be used in a muffin or cake recipe. It’s starchy like a grain and holds moisture well, but at a fraction of the calories and carbs with added nutritional benefits (pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A). The flavor is also pretty neutral. Combined with a more substantive secondary component, like almond flour, pumpkin pureé makes sure the cake-like texture comes out perfectly moist every time.

Personally, I love making this with kabocha squash. Kabocha squash is a Japanese varietal that’s pretty commonly sold around the Bay Area. It’s shaped like a pumpkin, but is green on the outside with bright orange flesh within. The taste is nuttier and sweeter than your standard pumpkin (and sort of tastes like chestnuts to me), so when you cook with it, you can reduce the amount of added sweetener used.

If I am doing this the right way, I will start with a fresh kabocha squash, cut it, steam it, scoop out the orange flesh, and blend it with water in my Vitamix to make that pumpkin pureé.

However, starting with a fresh pumpkin is a lot of added steps and mess that takes more processing time and is more difficult to store. I highly recommend starting with kabocha squash for the best nutritional return on your efforts, but if you’re strapped for time or energy, your standard canned pumpkin will work just fine.

Steps:

This recipe is designed to work with a single 15-16 oz can of pumpkin and be incredibly easy.

Ingredients for pumpkin based muffins with chocolate chip and pumpkin spice

On the left are your dry ingredients. On the right are you wet ones. In this batch, I’ve decided to make pumpkin spice chocolate chip muffins, but there are many variations to this recipe you can try (see the bottom of this post for some ideas!). mix the dry ingredients together (except the chocolate chips) and mix the wet ingredients together. Step 1 done.

bowl of mixed batter

Then mix together! One the wet and dry ingredients are incorporated together, add the chocolate chips and fold them in. The final batter should look like the above… wet but not runny and not 100% smooth since we are working with pumpkin and not wheat flour.

Pour into an oiled muffin tray (or line each muffin cup with a paper liner).

A muffin tray filled with muffin batter

Bake at 350ºF (176ºC) for 40-45 minutes. One finished, let cool for 10 minutes and then remove from tray to cool at room temperature before storing. Enjoy!

a dozen muffins
pumpkin-based muffin pictured with chocolate chips

Gluten Free Dairy Free Pumpkin-Based Muffins

Muffins made from pumpkin puree and almond flour
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 12 Muffins
Calories 180 kcal

Equipment

  • Muffin pan

Ingredients
  

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 cups Pumpkin puree (approx 1 15-16 oz can) Can substitute other autumn squashes, or sweet potato puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup Can substitute sugar or honey (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil Can substitute for other oil

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

See notes on flavor variations

    Instructions
     

    • Pre-heat oven to 350ºF (177ºC)
    • Combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla extra, eggs, and oil in a bowl and mix until smooth (an electric mixer is ideal, but you can also do this with a high-powered blender or by hand).
    • In a separate large bowl, sift in the almond flour. Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt, any spices if using (see notes), then stir with a whisk until well mixed.
    • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together until well incorporated. It should be slightly clumpy, but you should not see any dry ingredients separated from the wet. Fold in your additional mix-ins if using (see notes).
    • Grease a muffin tray with oil and an oil brush. Scoop the batter and evenly distribute between the 12 cups (you can tap the tray on the counter a few times to help the batter settle into its cups). Add a little flair if you want (i topped mine with a few chocolate chips for decoration). Place the muffin tray in the oven and bake for ~40-45 minutes.
    • Take the muffin tray out of the oven and use a skewer to test for done-ness (stick the skewer in one of the muffins. When you remove it, it should come out clean with no wet batter sticking to it. If there's batter, it means the muffin is not fully cooked inside. Place it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes and then test again)
    • Let the muffin tray cool on the counter for ~10 minutes, then gently remove the muffins and rest on a wire rack to fully cool to room temperature before storing.
    • You can eat these while they're still warm, or store them in the fridge for a few days. These muffins also store well in the freezer. Just pop one in the microwave or toaster oven when you want to eat and they'll be warm and melty (if you used chocolate chips) like you first baked them.

    Notes

    This basic muffin recipe can be flavored with your favorite spice blends. You can also try mixing in toppings such as berries, raisins, walnut pieces or chocolate chips!
    You can also mix in some additives to make this more nutritious, such as flax seeds. Just make sure to reduce the amount of almond flour to accommodate the added bulk. 
    This recipe can also be converted into a cake! Just pour the batter into a greased cake pan instead of a muffin sheet and adjust the baking time (should take about 5-10 min longer).
    If starting from roasted pumpkin or squash,, make sure to add water when making the  pureé so you can have a smooth consistency.
    If substituting the maple syrup with sugar, add 1/2 cup of water to compensate for less liquid. 
    If substituting with honey, reduce to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup water to compensate for less liquid.
    If using a sweeter squash like kabocha squash, reduce sweetener by half. 
    Keyword baking, base recipe, dairy free, gluten free, paleo
    a chocolate chip pumpkin based muffin cut in half

    Variations

    This is a base recipe and can be adapted to other flavors. Give these options a try:

    Pumpkin Spice Muffins

    Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

    • add 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (NOTE: Cocoa powder soaks up a lot of moisture so you may need to add a little bit of water (or milk of choice) to compensate)
    • mix in 1/4-1/2 cup of chocolate chips to the batter

    Chai Spice Muffins

    • add 2 tsp chai spice to the dry ingredients (Chai Spice Blend recipe)

    Supplemental Recipes

    • Corn Free Baking Powder
    • How to make pumpkin puree from raw whole pumpkins (or squash!)

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