Healthier Pumpkin Brownies
Gluten-free, vegan, low sugar
I have said it a hundred times before and I am pretty sure I will say it a hundred times again: I love brownies.
I always have scraps in my freezer from past batches that I snack on straight from the freezer. However, I am always thinking about ways I can make baked goods, especially brownies, a bit healthier while keeping all the parts of brownies that I love.
There are 3 ways I tried to make these healthier: reduced the fat, reduced the sugar and used a mixture of flours.
First, let’s talk about the fat.
I would normally use butter, vegan butter or a mixture of almond butter and coconut oil, but here I am using pumpkin puree. Pumpkin puree is not just for pumpkin spice everything. It is a great substitute for butter or eggs in a recipe. It provides a lot of moisture, which we want, and has some added nutritional benefits as well: potassium, antioxidants, vitamin c and fiber to name a few.
Some may replace all the fat with pumpkin, but I don’t because I think that a little fat really helps the texture and flavor of the brownies. I used 2 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil because I like the subtle coconut flavor that it brings to the brownies. If you would prefer to use another fat, try avocado oil, olive oil, ghee or melted butter. I have not tried almond butter, but you can give it a go.
Alright, sugar sugar.
Sugar is one of those things I love oh so dearly (much to my doctor’s dismay). For the most part, I use low glycemic sugars (coconut sugar or maple syrup), but here I used a mixture of low glycemic coconut sugar and sugar alternative monk fruit syrup.
Normally, I use monk fruit syrup for keto baking or when I swap it in for maple syrup on my waffles. By volume, it is sweeter than cane sugar so you can use less of it, which is great. I like using the maple flavored syrup because monk fruit on its own can have a very distinctive aftertaste. I used it in this brownie recipe to reduce the sugar, but keep the moisture from a syrup (and of course get the sweetness).
And now the flour.
I will rarely use one flour all on its own (except for a gluten-free flour mixture). For me, almond flour always needs a little help and oat flour doesn’t always work so well on its own; so, I put them together. I love oat flour because you get the benefits of oats (namely the fiber), but in the form of a flour. Oat flour is also more absorptive than just the almond and cacao powder. These brownies can get very wet, so the oat flour helps to absorb some of that moisture while keeping a good bit of fudginess.
One little note about the cacao powder. I use a dutch processed cacao powder, which means the powder has been processed to have the acids neutralized. This is just my preference because dutch-process cocoa powder is a bit darker and richer. You can certainly use whatever cocoa powder you like or can find.
And now, it’s brownie time (my favorite sentence).
1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree
2 tbsp organic virgin coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar (my favorite is Madhava)
1/4 cup monk fruit maple syrup (I use Lakanto brand, you can also use regular maple syrup)
1/4 cup brewed coffee (you can use warm water, but I love the extra flavor coffee adds)
1 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract
1/3 cup sifted organic cacao powder
1/3 cup gluten-free oat flour
1/3 cup organic almond flour (Thrive Market is where I get mine)
1 tbsp flax meal
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (There’s a reason I wrote it this way, just wait).
Flaky sea salt for topping
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line a 8 inch square baking dish with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl with a fine wire sieve set over it, sift in the cacao powder, making sure to get out any lumps. Add the almond flour, oat flour, baking powder, flax meal, salt and whisk together to combine. Add the 1/2 cup chocolate chips and toss to coat the chips with the flour mixture.
In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, coconut oil, coconut sugar, and monkfruit syrup until smooth. Add the brewed coffee and vanilla extract and whisk again.
Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until fully combined. Place the 1/4 cup chocolate chips in a small microwave safe bowl, melt in the microwave in 30 second spurts. Once melted, add to the batter. Mix in the melted chocolate.
Scoop batter into prepared baking dish and spread so that it is evenly distributed. Top with flaky sea salt and bake for 22 to 25 minutes. I like mine to be slightly underbred; there are no eggs in here so don’t worry about cooking completely.
Let cool for 30 minutes before removing from the baking dish and enjoying a warm brownie topped with a little dollop of almond butter.