Lightened-Up Pumpkin Spice Bars

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

67 Comments

  1. Those Pumpkin Bars look so yummy. Ya have me in the mood to make mine. Not sure how fattening mine are, but when ur eating them……who really cares at that point. It won me 1st place in a baking contest. Yay! 1 box of spice cake mix & 1 can of pumpkin. And powdered sugar odusted on top. Easy enough I guess.

  2. Those looks so rich and deliciuos, I bet we’d never know they were light if you didn’t tell us. I’m all for saving up for the excitement and food to come. That pumpkin pie/sweet potato casserole sounds unreal. I hope there is a recipe coming with that!

  3. With the week of heavy eating I have before me, I could totally use a lightened up treat like this. And you know what? My husband doesn’t like pumpkin pie, though he is “okay” with pumpkin bread/bars/muffins. But what is up with guys not liking pumpkin? That’s just wrong–especially since I love it SO MUCH. 🙂 These bars look great, Sally!

  4. I still have SO much puree frozen from Halloween pumpkins left, this definitely seems like a delicious way to get rid of some of it! I’ll certainly be making these tonight Sally 🙂

  5. The muffin top part looks great – that ooey gooey part that I instantly go for! The part that I scope to see which exact bar in the pan has the most, that’s the one I’m having!

    Crazy Kevin doesn’t even like pumpkin! I bet he’ll come around one of these years, though!

    And small batches, yes, indeed. A food blogger’s best friend, for sure!

  6. Love all your healthy recipes! I’ve never heard of light butter before but it sounds interesting. One of my favorite things about pumpkin is that the fat and sugar can be reduced because it is so moist and flavorful.

    1. Sally, I’ve recently become a HUGE fan of yours when I stumbled upon your website via pinterest. My almost 2 year old twin girls and I love your skinny muffins. 🙂 I try to steer away from light butter because of the extra junk it has in it, so when you recommend doing a combo of apple sauce and regular butter would you do 2 tbspns (1/4 stick) of regular butter and then 2 tbspns of applesauce? It’s coming up on my pumpkin baking season soon, so I wanted to check! Thanks!

      1. Hi Melody! That’s a great question. I recommend exactly what you stated – 2 Tbsp reg butter + 2 Tbsp applesauce. I hope you love these lightened-up autumn treats!

        And I am so glad you and your daughters love my skinny muffin recipes. I’m working on a new one to post soon!

  7. I too am a cinnamon freak! It was cinnamon toast this morning for breakfast as I waited for cake to cool 🙂 The pumpkin bars look amazing…I feel in the spirit of Thanksgiving even though I’m from the UK 🙂

  8. Since I’m eating THREE full-on Thanksgiving dinners this year, these bars are exactly what I need! You had me at muffin top (never thought I’d put those words together, lol). I can totally picture these as the base of a vanilla caramel sundae or in the morning with coffee. Thanks for this light and versatile recipe Sally!

  9. You pumpkin spice bars look so good! I also love your pumpkin chocolate chip oatmeal bars. They would make for a great snack; I think I might make them today!

    By the way, I just found your blog and I’m practically drooling over all of your recipes. I can’t wait to follow it!

  10. He doesn’t like pumpkin? Well, I guess all the more yumminess for you to enjoy. Yay for a small pan of lightened up bars. And I love all the cinnamon goodness in these…I like to be able to really taste my cinnamon and spices, especially in pumpkin goodies!!! With a week of nonstop eating ahead of me, I need some of these bars to help balance out the fat.

  11. Sally these look and sound amazing! You’re living proof that you can skinnyfy (skinify?) a recipe and still have it turn out and taste out of this world. I heard you can replace butter with yogurt, not sure whether that’s true or not.

  12. Keep the lightened-up recipes coming! Between all the sweets + heavy meals we eat around the holidays, I need all the lightening up I can get. And these bars look absolutely wonderful – i’ll take two with my evening tea, please! =)

  13. Yum. Yum. YUM! I made these a couple days ago, and my boyfriend and I ate the whole pan ourselves in less than two days! Irresistible! I did use only whole-wheat flour, so maybe that helped make them even healthier! 🙂 The pumpkin kept it wonderfully moist! Thanks for sharing! (I’m eating a chewy Butterfinger cookie that I made a couple days ago as I write; still soft and chewy!) Happy Holidays!

  14. These were wonderful!!! Even my husband who is not a pumpkin fan LOVED these 🙂 I ran out of whole-wheat flour so I substituted homemade oat flour which provided a nice texture as there were still small bits of oat. Thanks again – this will be a staple in my home!

  15. Sally!! I’m Chilean but I’m here in Miami for the holidays and I just couldn’t resist the urges of trying and baking something with pumpkin puree!! I made 1,5 recipe and used a baking dish (which I have no idea the size of) that was a bit smaller than a 9×13!! I used a granulated sweetener and used 1 and 1/3 cups of it. Out of this world, thanks a lot!!

    1. I’m so glad you made these bars, Catalina! They are a favorite recipe of mine for sure. I need to make them again and maybe I’ll increase the amount to make a larger batch in my 11×7 baking pan. 🙂 Thanks Catalina!

  16. So I made a double batch of this yesterday but only added a half stick of butter on accident. It was still amazing though!!!! 🙂

  17. Any tips for determine the calories in this or other recipes? I absolutely love punpkin and am super excited to try these. Thanks!

  18. Sally,

    Can you use all AP flour? Is there something that can be a substitute for the butter? Can pumpkin pie spice be used instead of the 3 spices listed? If so, how much would you recommend using?

    Thanks!!

      1. Hi Ellen! Yes, they certainly could. I’m not sure of the baking time, but keep an eye on them at the 15 minute mark.

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