Lightened-Up Pumpkin Spice Bars
Enjoy these easy pumpkin-spice bars – lightened up with less sugar and fat.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
- 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
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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