Paleo Pumpkin Bars
Gluten-free, grain-free and dairy-free
Now I know that some folks see the fall as the time of year when they can get those pumpkin spice lattes from a certain coffee shop, but I am not one of them. I am not one for drinking artificial pumpkin flavor; I would rather just eat some pumpkin treats, made with actual pumpkin.
That being said, I do not like straight pumpkin. If you ask me, pumpkin always need a little help from spice, some sugar and, my favorite, nut butter.
I’ve been working on making healthier seasonal recipes lately and this one was a surprise. After making some mini pumpkin muffins, I wanted something that was more reminiscent of a blondie, but with the taste of pumpkin pie.
Give me all the nut butter
Pumpkin puree is a great substitute for butter in baking, but there is one thing that pumpkin doesn’t have: fat. I know that some want to get rid of fat all together, but you need fat for a good baked good.
In order to nix the butter all together, I used my all time favorite: almond butter. It provides the fat I need, while keeping things moist and giving a little nutty richness. I always have a jar of organic creamy almond butter around so it is the perfect thing. Cashew butter would also be delicious or peanut butter (not paleo, but still perfect).
What’s with the potato starch?
I realize it seems a little weird, but trust me. Almond flour can be crumbly on its own, but with the moisture of the pumpkin things can get real crumbly, real fast.
Potato starch sort of acts as gluten would; it holds everything together and gives these bars a little more structure. I promise you won’t taste any potato.
Easy on the sugar
Lately, I have been trying to cut out cane sugar from my baking. It is hard to find substitutes that taste and bake the same as cane sugar, but coconut sugar does. I am pretty sure I have 5 pounds of coconut sugar in my pantry (Madhava coconut sugar is my favorite). Normally, pumpkin recipes call for a lot of brown sugar. I use coconut sugar and maple syrup instead. Coconut sugar for the sweetness and maple syrup for the moisture (brown sugar still has the molasses in it, which makes it richer and caramely). If you don’t want to use maple syrup, you can swap honey or just use all coconut sugar. I wouldn’t recommend using a sugar alternative like Xylitol here. You won’t get the same sweetness, moisture or flavor.
1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree
1/4 cup organic smooth almond butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup organic maple syrup (the darker the better, I use grade B dark amber)
1 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract
1 large organic egg (you can substitute a flax egg here, 1 tbsp flax meal and 3 tbsps water)
1 cup organic almond flour
1 tsp potato starch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup allergen-free chocolate chunks (Enjoy Life’s are my favorite)
2 tbsps pumpkin seeds
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray an 8inch square with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the almond flour, cinnamon, potato starch, baking soda and salt. Make sure you get out any large lumps; almond flour has a tendency to clump
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, almond butter, coconut sugar and maple syrup and whisk until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk until combined.
Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix until fully combined. You want to make sure you get any lumps out. Fold in most of the chocolate chunks, saving some to sprinkle on top.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick to the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before slicing.
These bars are so good when they are warm. Heat them up in the oven for 5 minutes and enjoy with a cup of ginger tea.