Fall is here, meaning it’s time for the cult of pumpkin to come out of hiding and celebrate its favorite season. These folks could be onto something. This gourd is chock-full of healthy vitamins and minerals, and you can make it into other equally nourishing treats, such as a nutrient-rich, moist pumpkin bread.
‘Tis the season to get baking. What are the best ingredients to use for this autumn classic? How can you make it in scores of ways to satisfy everyone’s food cravings, sensitivities, and restrictions? Here’s the ultimate nutrient-rich pumpkin bread recipe with variations to delight everyone on your gift.
Is Pumpkin Bread Healthy?
Whether or not you have a loaf of healthy pumpkin bread depends on the ingredients. For the best and most customizable results, it’s best to bake it yourself. While you’ll find store loaves advertised as “low-fat pumpkin bread” or “low-sugar pumpkin bread,” such formulations often contain unwanted stuff that messes with your blood sugar.
When you bake at home, you can make healthy pumpkin bread from multiple recipes — if you know the art of substitution. For example:
- Use whole-grain flour instead of the processed, all purpose flour.
- Experiment with various gluten-free flours.
- Replace white or brown sugar with lower glycemic index foods like maple syrup or applesauce.
- Include good-for-you additions like pepitas, raisins, dried cranberries, or dark chocolate chips.
When chock-full of good stuff, yes — pumpkin bread can be healthy! It’s the perfect fall treat solo, with butter, or as a base for a leftover turkey sandwich.
Healthy Pumpkin Bread Recipe
You might think of pumpkin bread as a Thanksgiving recipe. However, this dish is good any time of year. Baking it multiple times allows you to personalize and perfect your unique additions until you have a blue ribbon winner.
Pumpkin Bread Ingredients
Your ingredient list may vary over time, but here’s a basic healthy pumpkin bread recipe to start with:1
- 1 ⅓ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup butter
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon allspice
Many of these ingredients provide beneficial health effects. For example, whole wheat flour is an excellent source of fiber. Some fiber acts as a prebiotic, nourishing the good bacteria in your intestines. Other fiber draws water into your colon, making “the go” easier. Pumpkin puree is also an excellent fiber provider.
Pumpkin is a rich source of beta carotene; a substance your body converts to Vitamin A for eye, skin, brain, and heart health. It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin to keep your vision sharp and other nutrients that promote well-being. The potassium and antioxidants reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer — two of the biggest killers.
The spices also provide benefits. Cinnamon improves blood sugar control, ginger stimulates immune function, and nutmeg shows strong antimicrobial and antioxidant activity.2,3 All of the spices listed above are included in pumpkin pie spice, so this can easily be substituted in the above recipe.
Pumpkin Bread Instructions
Baking is a precision art. While you can use the “dash of this, dash of that” method with cooking, baking requires measuring ingredients for the best results. Failing to do so can result in a healthy pumpkin loaf nobody wants to eat, thanks to its dryness, gumminess, or overall poor texture.
Therefore, you should execute these instructions to the letter. When adding variety, write down what you did so you can replicate the results. It’s best to alter one ingredient at a time to make it easier to pinpoint what needs adjusting.
1. Preheat Oven
Preheating the oven ensures the dough goes in at the right temperature. Failure to do so can result in a runny, undercooked mess, not healthy pumpkin bread.
Preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit, and wait for the beep or light. In the meantime, line an 8 ½ by 4 ½-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Mix the Wet Ingredients
Baking also requires you to blend ingredients in the correct order. Your wet ingredients include:
- Pumpkin puree
- Maple syrup
Begin by adding the butter to a small saucepan. If you are dairy-free, try using coconut oil or a dairy-free butter substitute.
Whisk it constantly as it begins to crackle and foam. Continue whisking as it begins to brown, turning a rich amber shade. Remove it from heat as it gets darker brown, and you detect a nutty smell. Transfer the butter to a medium mixing bowl and let cool until comfortable enough to touch.
In a separate, large bowl, whisk the remaining wet ingredients together — the pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla, and eggs. Using maple syrup as an alternative gives your healthy pumpkin loaf the right touch of sweetness without affecting your glycemic index like sugar. Continue whisking as you add the browned butter.
3. Mix the Dry Ingredients into the Batter
You need to mix your dry ingredients separately first. Use a different large bowl to blend the whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice until well combined.
Once mixed, mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture a little at a time. Use a spatula and a gradual approach to blend until just combined. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
4. Bake the Loaf
Pop your healthy pumpkin bread into the oven and bake it for a cook time of 50 to 65 minutes. Use a tester or toothpick to check for doneness. The top should be brown and stick clean or with only a few crumbs clinging to it.
Step 5. Let the Pumpkin Bread Cool
Cooling your healthy pumpkin loaf is also a 2-step process. Begin by leaving it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. After that, remove it from the pan and place it on a rack to fully settle and return to room temperature.
Healthy Maple Glaze (Optional)
Some healthy pumpkin bread has a maple glaze. You can add one to yours for a touch of sweetness, too. Here’s a healthier version with a powdered sugar substitute to keep it from spiking your glycemic index:
- ½ cup powdered sugar OR ½ cup Lakanto powdered monk fruit sweetener OR ½ cup coconut sugar OR ½ cup hot cocoa mix
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk
Mix the ingredients in a small, separate bowl. Pour over the cooled pumpkin bread, chill in the refrigerator, and serve.
Pumpkin Bread Nutrition
The nutritional value of your pumpkin bread will vary depending on the specific ingredients you use. However, here’s what you can expect from the original recipe:
- Serving size: One glazed slice
- Calories: 202
- Carbohydrates: 31.7 grams
- Protein: 3.1 grams
- Fat: 7.2 grams
- Saturated fat: 4 grams
- Fiber: 3.4 grams
- Sugar: 16.4 grams
Additionally, you get oodles of vitamins and minerals. You already know pumpkin is a good source of vitamin A. It’s also a good source of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, and vitamins E and K.
How to Store Pumpkin Bread
One of the best features of healthy pumpkin bread is it keeps well. If left on the counter, your loaf will last up to four days. Wrapping it up and placing it in the fridge extends its life, but your family will have probably gobbled it down long before it expires.
However, you can also freeze your treat to enjoy it later. Simply wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and place it in a freezer bag, or store in an airtight container. It will remain fresh for up to three months.
Pumpkin Bread Variations
What if you want to get creative? You can do many things to improve your healthy pumpkin loaf. For example, you might make pumpkin bread with applesauce instead of maple syrup or experiment with pumpkin oat bread. See if you can make gluten-free pumpkin bread or add extras, creating a pepita loaf. Here are six ways to play with the original recipe and make it your own.
1. Go Vegan
It’s pretty easy to make vegan pumpkin bread. All you have to do is swap the butter and eggs for vegan versions.
To swap out the eggs, try: 4
- Two teaspoons of baking powder and a half cup of soy yogurt
- Two ounces of Ener-G egg substitute or use flax eggs
- One teaspoon of yeast in a quarter cup of hot water
2. Go Gluten-Free
What if you can’t do wheat because of a gluten intolerance? Any whole-grain flour will do, including ancient grains like amaranth and quinoa that gluten-sensitive people typically tolerate. Another option is to make pumpkin oat bread, using oat flour as a substitute.
Oats are gluten-free and tolerated by many people with celiac disease. Finding out whether you have this condition or a sensitivity requires testing, but you know how you feel after ingesting wheat5. Read product labels carefully — some oats may be cross-contaminated with the problematic protein if produced on the same equipment as other grains.
Other alternatives to whole wheat flour include chickpea or garbanzo bean flour, flax flour, almond flour, or rice flour. Each lends a slightly different consistency, so experiment with various types until you find one you love.
3. Add Chocolate Chips
Adding chocolate chips won’t necessarily make your healthy pumpkin loaf higher in sugar. Dark chocolate won’t spike your glycemic index like the milk-based variety and may lower insulin resistance, so take that route.
4. Add Nuts or Seeds
Pumpkin already has magnesium but nuts up the percentage you get of this miracle mineral for neurological health and migraine prevention. Seeds are also good sources of magnesium, selenium, and zinc for brain health and contain lignans.
Lignans also act like plant-based estrogens in the body and may improve hormonal health. Consider a pepita loaf laden with pumpkin and flax during the first 13 days of your menstrual cycle if you have problems.6 You could also add pecans to your loaf for a crunchy textue.
5. Add Dried Fruit
Pumpkin is already slightly sweet. A bit of dried fruit can make it sweeter without raising your glycemic index much. Raisins and dried cranberries are natural additions.
Another method of sweetening your loaf without sugar is substituting mashed banana for maple syrup. Bananas also have a lower glycemic index than sugar, keeping you from the spike-and-crash cycle.
6. Healthy Pumpkin Pie Alternative
Are you watching your sugar intake this Thanksgiving? Why not swap out the pumpkin pie for this healthy loaf instead? You can always serve vanilla ice cream and whipped cream on the side for those guests who don’t monitor their glucose as carefully. You could also make this bread into pumpkin muffins by using a muffin tin instead of a loaf pan.
Healthy Pumpkin Bread FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions bakers encounter when making healthy pumpkin bread.
1. Why is my healthy pumpkin bread dry?
Dry pumpkin bread can result from too much flour or time in the oven.
2. Why does my pumpkin bread not rise?
An imbalance of any ingredient can prevent your bread from falling flat. This rule holds even more when working with whole grain flours. Furthermore, expired yeast won’t make your bread rise.
3. Is canned pumpkin the same as pumpkin puree?
The terms are synonymous so you can substitute canned pumpkin for pumpkin puree. Look for items that say “pure pumpkin” to ensure no additives have been included in the final product. Pumpkin pie filling is different from both canned pumpkin and pumpkin puree. Pie filling often has a higher sugar content and already contains spices like cinnamon, allspice, and clove.
4. Is pumpkin low carb?
Pumpkin is lower in carbs than rice, potatoes, and pasta. Furthermore, pumpkin is gluten-free, although using whole wheat flour provides plenty of this wheat protein. Use an alternative flour if gluten-sensitive.
5. Why is my pumpkin bread gummy?
Gummy pumpkin bread can result from uneven oven heat. Try dialing down the digits slightly, adjusting your pan position, and taking notes until you find the sweet spot.
Learn More About Nutrition and Healthy Habits with Signos’ Expert Advice
Healthy pumpkin bread is only the beginning. Learn more about the science of monitoring your glycemic index and how it can help you reach your goals with Signos’ expert advice.
Want more great recipes? Our blog is a treasure trove of information on various foods and ingredients to help you plan your menu. Are you ready to elevate your health? This short quiz can tell you if Signos is right for you.
Topics discussed in this article:
- “Healthy Pumpkin Bread With Maple Glaze.” Retrieved from: https://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/healthy-pumpkin-bread/
- “Pungent Ginger Compound Puts Immune Cells on Heightened Alert.” Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/02/230214153932.htm
- Agustin, Rachmawati Dwi and Taihuffu, Yunaisih Mulyani Jubeliene. “Antioxidant and Antibacterial Activity of Nutmeg Oil (Myristica fragrans Houtt) from Ambon Moluccas.” Retrieved from: https://pubs.aip.org/aip/acp/article-abstract/2588/1/020012/2872368/Antioxidant-and-antibacterial-activity-of-nutmeg?redirectedFrom=fulltext
- Esposito, Kathleen. “Vegan Egg Substitute List for Different Dishes.” Retrieved from: https://www.lovetoknow.com/food-drink/meal-ideas/vegan-egg-substitute-list-different-dishes
- “The Landscape of Celiac Disease Testing and Treatment.” Retrieved from: https://www.beaconlbs.com/blog/the-landscape-of-celiac-disease-testing-and-treatment/
- “What Is Seed Cycling?” Retrieved from: https://www.stlukeshealth.org/resources/seed-cycling-and-how-it-works