Lightened-Up Pumpkin Spice Bars

Enjoy these easy pumpkin-spice bars – lightened up with less sugar and fat.

Easy Pumpkin Spice Bars - lightened up with less sugar and fat. sallysbakingaddiction.com

Considering my week’s plans include a Wednesday night baking date with my sister, a pumpkin pie + sweet potato casserole to inhale on Thursday, leftover turkey sandwiches on Friday, and a night of pumpkin beer to drink on Saturday… let’s just say something lighter is welcomed with open arms.

Easy Pumpkin Spice Bars - lightened up with less sugar and fat. sallysbakingaddiction.com

Traditional pumpkin bars get a healthy kick today. Typically made with a heavy dose of oil and sugar, pumpkin bars aren’t exactly your healthy snack of choice.  Everything in moderation, of course, but when pumpkin is involved… it’s hard for me to stop at one!

I have a thing for healthy pumpkin desserts, so for my last pumpkin recipe of the season, I give you one of my very favorites.

To lighten up your average pumpkin bar recipe, I used melted Land O Lakes Light Butter to replace the oil. I hardly ever use light butter in my recipes because fat is necessary for structure, taste, and moisture.  Bold in flavor and wet in consistency, pumpkin did a fine job of keeping these bars moist and tender – even without all of the fat of regular butter or oil.  Pumpkin is the reason why my low fat pumpkin cookies do not need any oil and still remain so soft! Feel free to use regular butter or a mixture of apple sauce and regular butter to replace the light butter in today’s recipe.

I reduced the sugar to the bare minimum and kept the bars flavorful with a medley of my favorite fall spices.  We have a heavy does of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in the batter and there is no other way I’d have it.  When it comes to cinnamon in recipes, I like the say – the more the better. I’m a complete cinnamon FREAK.

Easy Pumpkin Spice Bars - lightened up with less sugar and fat. sallysbakingaddiction.com

Both all-purpose and whole wheat flour make an appearance in today’s recipe. I didn’t want the bars to be extremely dense and heavy, which are typical results from the use of whole-wheat flour. I love whole wheat flour in recipes like oatmeal or granola bars, but not when I’m looking for a light and airy texture in my baked good.

I went halfsies on the types of flours used. We’re getting the best of both worlds – whole wheat wholesomeness with a light texture from all-purpose flour.  used the same flour logic in my chocolate muffins.

What I love MOST about these squares is the whole muffin-top quality. Clearly I am not referring to the muffin top associated with too-tight pants… although a healthy pumpkin bar could remedy that problem. The soft and sticky tops are my very favorite part of a muffin. The tops are typically packed with the most flavor and depending on the recipe, left incredibly moist when exposed to air. The same goes for the tops of today’s bars. The top layer is gooey, sticky, and sweet – making each bite taste like a muffin top + pumpkin pie combined.

The recipe makes a small 8×8 pan of 12 moderately sized squares. Feel free to double the recipe if you’re baking for a crowd.  When I’m making a treat for only myself, small batches are most definitely preferred. Especially since Kevin doesn’t even like pumpkin. (I know. I KNOW.)

Easy Pumpkin Spice Bars - lightened up with less sugar and fat. sallysbakingaddiction.com

A good use for leftover canned pumpkin, these one-pan-thank-you-ma’am squares are easily one of my favorite pumpkin recipes. Every now and then, I enjoy a “healthified” dessert recipe that tastes like the original – and I know many of you are with me in that boat!

Lightened-Up Pumpkin Spice Bars

Easy pumpkin-spice bars made lighter with less fat & sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
  • 1/4 cup milk (or almond or soy milk)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) light butter, melted (or regular butter or melted coconut oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients until fully combined. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, brown sugar, and pumpkin together until combined. Add the milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until *just* combined. Do not overmix.
  3. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely and cut into 12 squares. Bars remain fresh for up to one week stored chilled in an airtight container.
  4. Make ahead tip: These bars freeze wonderfully-- freeze them for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before enjoying.

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See more pumpkin recipes.

Enjoy these lightened-up pumpkin spice bars this holiday season! Grab the recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

66 Comments

Comments

  1. Maddy on September 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    My whole family loved these! They’re the most indulgent lightened up recipe I’ve yet to come by. Thanks!

  2. Keyia M on September 26, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Funny how you say it will stay fresh for a week in an airtight container. It lasted less than 24 hours AND tonight is the 2nd time in 48 hours that I’ve made it. Easy and delicious Fall treat!

  3. Tia on October 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Hey! I saw these and thought they would be a great alternative to the pumpkin bars I normally make which are SO not good or you! I just made these and I had them in the oven for 30+mins and so I took them out but they are very “mushy” still… could I have undercooked them or is that the muffin top like texture you are talking about?.. Thanks!

    • Sally on October 25, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Did you change anything about this recipe? Anything at all? I would check your oven temperature. Do you own an oven thermometer? I fear your oven temperature may be off if these are taking longer than 30 minutes to cook through.

      • Tia on October 25, 2013 at 9:12 am

        Yeah I am thinking its my oven, tried another recipe and the same thing happened! Not cool! I guess I will stick to making raw desserts for now until I can get it fixed! but I did change a few things, I used applesauce instead of butter and honey instead of brown sugar..



  4. Oz on October 27, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I just finished baking these and they are unbelievably delicious! The only thing is that the few pieces in the middle were still slightly uncooked, but even that way they are so tasty! This is one of the most moist, tender, scrumptious cakes I have ever made. Thank you!!

    • Sally on October 27, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Happy these bars are a hit, Oz! Maybe a little more time in the oven next time you try them. And cover loosely with aluminum foil so they bake evenly.

  5. Samantha on November 7, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Hey! Yesterday i made these bars and they are so good; they taste just like pumpkin pie! The only change i did was used all applesauce instead of the butter,they came out a little thicker but still amazing.

  6. Laura on November 11, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    This recipe is such a keeper, you absolutely cannot tell that these bars are “lightened up!” I used 1 cup all-purpose flour as it was all I had on hand, as well as almond milk and melted coconut oil in place of the butter and it turned out amazing- fluffy, soft, cinnamon-y pumpkin deliciousness! From reading the other comments at least I know I’m not the only one to make a pan of these disappear on my own in 2 days 🙂

  7. Heba on August 3, 2014 at 5:42 am

    Hi Sally , I don’t have pumpkin purée in where I live how can I made it at home?
    Thanks for sharing great recipes

  8. Nicole on September 15, 2014 at 7:22 am

    It blows my mind that these made with healthier ingredients still have more calories than a sugary pumpkin cheesecake cookie. I calculated 97 calories for these (had to use regular butter-didn’t have anything else) and pumpkin cookies from the store with cheesecake pieces only have 80? Did I calculate something wrong?

    • Liza on September 19, 2014 at 3:30 am

      Baked goods from the store are usually pumped full of preservatives so while they may be lower calorie, you’re better off making your own bars from scratch! I calculated these at about 110 calories a bar, for 12. Not bad for dessert at all!

    • Janessa on September 19, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      Look, trying not to be rude, but really here. Eat your dessert & be happy about it. Does it really matter that they had 15 extra calories then the store bought crap?

  9. [email protected] on September 19, 2014 at 3:28 am

    So… Funny story about these bars. I made them yesterday afternoon with the last of my pumpkin, and when I reached into my spice cabinet to grab cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves, I had grabbed Chili powder instead of cloves. I didn’t realize it until I had the measuring spoon in the little container and nearly added it to the batter! A couple drops actually did get into the batter… That would’ve a disaster! So glad I realized my mistake though because after that incident I followed these bars to the letter and was super happy with them! I think this will be my go-to recipe for using up extra pumpkin 🙂

    • Sally on September 19, 2014 at 10:42 am

      Hahahahaha – if you did add it, they would’ve been these interesting spicy/sweet pumpkin flavored bars. Maybe that would be good? Happy you caught yourself though!

  10. Nicole on September 29, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I made these last night. They were very good! I had a can of pumpkin left over and I needed to use it for something before the pumpkin went bad. These pumpkin bars were the ticket! 🙂 Even my fiancee who is a sugar addict liked them. Well done.

  11. Tori on October 14, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I made these yesterday! I substituted the eggs for flax eggs, all the butter for applesauce, and the all purpose flour for oat flour. I added a little extra baking powder because of the oat flour and flax eggs and doubled up on the nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla. I also frosted them with your Greek yogurt frosting (excluding the peanut butter) and lightly dusted the tops with cinnamon. They were aesthetically pleasing and really, really delicious. Thank you!

  12. Sofia on November 9, 2014 at 8:46 am

    hi Sally, I’m making these today and I have two questions. Could I use all whole wheat but only 3/4 cup? Also I would like to add some dried cranberries, how much should I add? Thank you!!

    • Sally on November 9, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      hi Sofia, sorry I’m just getting to you now. Sundays are usually my day off. I do not recommend reducing the flour, but using all whole wheat would be fine if you need to. I would say 2/3 – 3/4 cup dried cranberries would be great.

  13. Chloe Logan on March 12, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Sally I absolutely loved these bars, and all of my co workers did too! I used all whole wheat flour because thats all that I had and they turned out great 🙂 I also added on your recipe for streusel topping and it paired perfectly! I work in a restaurant and the head chef tried them and asked me for the recipe. Your lightened up treats are always a hit! Thanks so much for all of the handwork you put into all of your recipes. I can’t wait to see what you cook up for this years St. Patty’s day!

    • Sally on March 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      So glad these were such a huge hit, Chloe! Thanks so much for reporting back.

  14. Katelyn on July 22, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Can you believe that I have never heard of pumpkin bars before??!! These look so delicious.. I will definitely try them! Btw, I went to Books-a-Million yesterday to look at the cook books… I found your book and freaked out! I bought it and am so excited to try the recipes!

  15. Cassandra on September 14, 2015 at 2:05 am

    Hi! 
    I’ve been a follower for a few years and have always admired your writing style and recipes. Fall is just around the corner and I can’t wait to try these out this season 🙂

  16. Tiffany on September 26, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Oh my goodness. AMAZING!!! These won’t last long… Next time I think a sprinkle of chocolate chips on top before baking may be delicious too. I love your recipes!!!

  17. Elizabeth on October 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Just made these and they are delicious! I wonder how long they will last 🙂

  18. Becky on May 1, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Hi Sally! Could this recipe be made in a bread pan as apposed to an 8×8?

  19. Natasha on September 11, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Hi Sally, 

    Just wondering if these are freezable? and if so do how long? Thank in advance

    Natasha

    • Sally on September 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Hi Natasha! Yes, they freeze wonderfully. Quite tasty thawed, too! See my make ahead tip in the recipe.

  20. Christy on September 17, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Can I use all All-purpose flour instead of half whole wheat flour?

    Thanks,

    Christy

    • Sally on September 18, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Christy! Yes, you can use all-purpose flour instead. Same amount.

Reviews

Questions

  1. Christy on September 17, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Sally,

    Can I use all All-purpose flour instead of half whole wheat flour?

    Thanks,

    Christy

    • Sally on September 18, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Christy! Yes, you can use all-purpose flour instead. Same amount.

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