Healthy Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread

Give me moist, dense pumpkin bread or don’t give me any at all. Sorry, was that rude? If the bread could be extra heavy on the pumpkin puree, that would be great too. I can be pretty particular (annoying) when it comes to baking. I’m almost certainly that person at the party/brunch/xyz celebration that will nibble on other people’s desserts while going back for heaping seconds and thirds of their own. Sorry in advance.

This pumpkin bread recipe is one I keep returning to for more. While I have posted other (lesser) varieties of it in the past, this exact one is the champion. It’s #1 status is largely thanks to the extra fat dollops of (freshly roasted) pumpkin puree I decided to stir into the batter last minute. The beautiful matrix of flavors is also due to the addition of a very heaped 1/2 cup of dates, 2 tbsps of coconut oil, and 4-5 tbsps of maple syrup. Yes, this recipe calls for a lot of wet ingredients. And yes, this pumpkin bread does in fact bake up into a sweet, spicy, packed loaf that has never so much as grazed shoulders with the words dry or bland.

I’m not a fan of overtly sweet anything, unless it’s perfectly ripe and juicy mango. But that’s a different kind of sweet than the type that most breads and cakes are saturated in. Well, I’ll be upfront and say that there’s none of that intense, sky-high-then-crash, sugar here. Just dates and maple syrup. And more of the former than the latter. Is it possible to make a loaf of ‘sweet’ bread that is truly tasty and, uh, sweet, with no more than the former two ingredients carrying the weight? Yes. Yes. And Yes!!!! It’s stupidly easy to do.

I opted for 4 tbsps of maple syrup and have to say that I found the bread a tad on the sweeter end of my baked goods spectrum. Still, it is far from white-sugar-sweet, so if you’re entertaining for people who still have a lot of refined sugar in their diets, you may want to increase the syrup to 5 tbsps. As for the dates, please don’t leave them out or try to replace them with more syrup. Or do, but don’t tell me about your sneaky swap. The dates help boost the sweetness, sure, but they also provide a heap of wet, stickiness that binds the ingredients and keeps the loaf from drying out. Like I said, only moist, dense bread here.

So maybe you prefer fluffy sweet breads; my use of the word ‘dense’ made you hesitate to keep reading. That’s fine. We all have our own tastes and preferences. But…. you’re here now. And have you ever had a dense pumpkin bread like this one? You won’t know until you’ve tried it, obviously, so… maybe you should just do it. Oops. I’ll take a step back now. I respect you’re palette, no matter how different it may be from mine, so all attempts at trying to convert you to team moist-and-dense-and-perfect-pumpkin-bread end now. All done.


1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
3 tbsps bran flakes
1 cup roasted pumpkin puree
1/2 packed cup dates (deglet noor or medjool)
4-5 tbsps maple syrup (add 5 for a noticeably sweeter loaf)
2 tbsps coconut oil, melted
1 egg
2 tbsps water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 heaped tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, dried fruit, or chocolate chips to top or stir-in


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Blueberry Tahini Bran Muffins

Makes 6-8 muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat)
1/3 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup tahini
1/3 cup plain soy milk or other dairy free milk
3-4 tbsps fine raw sugar (or other granulated sugar)
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 egg
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp table salt
1/3 cup blueberries, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, or other stir-in of choice


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Triple Layer Tahini Brownie Slice (Vegan)

Makes 12 small slices or 9 large

Brownie layer:
1/4 cup cocoa powder*
3 tbsps whole grain rye flour
1/3 packed cup sweet potato puree
3 medjool dates
1 tbsp rice malt syrup (or sub with another sticky liquid sweetener)
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp plain soy milk or other dairy free milk
1/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Tahini filling:
1/4 cup tahini (unhulled or hulled)
2 medjool dates
1 1/2 tsps maca powder
Generous pinch of salt

Dark chocolate layer:
1 1/2 tbsps cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsps cocoa butter
2 tsps natural peanut butter (preferably unsalted)
1 tsp dairy free milk
1-2 tsps rice malt syrup or other liquid sweetener (add based on desired sweetness or omit for a bitter dark chocolate)

*I use Dutch cocoa powder (Van Huten), which goes through a unique alkali process resulting in a less acidic and thus more mild, cocoa flavor, so, if you are using regular cocoa powder, i.e. Hershey’s, replace the baking powder with a scant 1/4 tsp of baking soda (I say scant because these brownies aren’t very sweet and too much baking soda will leave an unpleasant chemical flavor).
*the cocoa butter helps solidify the tahini filling just enough to keep it from turning into an uncontrollable, gooey mess out of the fridge; you can, however, replace all of the cocoa butter in this three part recipe with coconut oil, but know that the tahini and dark chocolate layers won’t stay as solid at room temperature and will have to be eaten straight from the fridge/freezer! Also, know that the cocoa butter adds an extra oomph of fudgy texture and white chocolate flavor to the brownies and tahini filling, so that will be lacking in a coconut-oil-only slice (it would still be delicious though!!)


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Healthy Vegan Pumpkin Bread

Since making my way to more whole-foods based baking, I’ve grown attached to pumpkin bread. I’m also incredibly, fingers-clasped-on-hard, attached to banana bread, zucchini bread, sweet potato bread, and, uhm, you get the idea… pretty much any baked loaf that has a packed half or more cup of pureed fruit or vegetables in it. Vegetables in bread? I know, it doesn’t connote the happiest, warmest feelings, at first that is; once you have a hand at making healthy root vegetable based bread, sans the refined sugar and oil, you will feel weird…. weird because, well, surely this isn’t real life? A bread loaf heavy on the pumpkin and light on the not-so-loving ingredients? After a few bites of moist, spicy pumpkin bread you will realize that yes, this is real life, this wholesome pumpkin bread is tangible and tasty and deserves all the praise it can get. Also, you deserve a little praise for treating your body and mind with so much thought and care.

Pumpkin puree, as well as sweet potato and banana puree, are the best replacements for oil in baking. Oil lends in creating a moist loaf of bread or cake, but adding 1/3 cup or more to a supposedly healthy pumpkin bread doesn’t feel right to me. If I’m in the mood for something a little bit more indulgent, say a bread that I’m sharing at a party or brunch, I may dump in a bit of the oil, but when it comes to a lazy Sunday morning lounging around the house with my loved ones, I’m going to make something that I can eat two or three slices of without feeling lethargic and cloudy after. So, I scrap the oil and the heaps of sugar. Now what? Things are looking pretty pitiful… no oil (or butter), no sugar, and, because I’m really striving for the utmost nutrient-dense ingredients, not even any syrups (rice malt, maple, honey).

While the pumpkin puree works to replace the oil, the mashed dates and tiny bit of banana puree/applesauce replace the sugar, offering up some of the sweetness one usually expects in a slice of pumpkin bread. Seeing as the fruit is sticky and wet, it’s not necessary to add milk or even eggs to the batter, making it 100% plant-based and vegan-friendly; the sticky dates help bind the ingredients together, resulting in a finished loaf that doesn’t fall apart.

Of course, replacing oil and sugar with pumpkin and fruit will create a different kind of loaf, there is simply no way to perfectly emulate conventional, coffee shop pumpkin bread without the former ingredients. This pumpkin bread is definitely on the denser side. I happen to very much enjoy a slice of extremely moist and dense pumpkin bread, especially more so than moist and dense banana bread, but that is just my preference. So, if you don’t need fluff in your pumpkin bread to fully enjoy it, then this recipe still has a chance at winning you over. It’s also worth mentioning that when you take a bite of this bread your immediate thought won’t be ‘wow, this is yummy, *because it’s sweet*’. Instead, you’ll probably think something along the lines of ‘hmm, this is yummy, *because I can taste the spices and sweetness at the same time*’. If you have a very big sweet tooth that can’t be pleased with fruit alone, then add 1-3 tbsps of fine raw or brown sugar, but truthfully, I don’t think it’s necessary. Leave the gut-destroying pumpkin bread to Starbucks to perfect and give your insides something good to feed on.

Makes one small loaf or eight 1-inch slices

3/4 cup & 1 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat)
1 tbsp wheat bran
1/2 packed cup pumpkin puree
5 medjool dates
2 tbsps mashed ripe banana or applesauce
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 heaped tsp ground ginger
1/4 heaped tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, dark chocolate chunks, dried berries, etc., take your pick!


Preheat oven to 180 C/365 F. Bake for 37-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean except for a few loose crumbs.

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Graham Fruit Cookies

Makes 10 cookies

1/4 cup & 1 tbsp whole wheat graham flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat)
1/2 a small ripe banana (spotty but not black all over)
3 medjool dates
4 pitted prunes (I used California prunes)
2 tsps natural, unsalted peanut butter
Optional: 1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks/chips


Preheat oven to 180 C/356 F

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Sweet Potato Veggie Cornbread

Makes 8 medium muffins

2/3 cup corn flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 packed cup sweet potato puree
1/3 cup broccoli, finely chopped
1/3 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tbsps red onion, diced
2 tbsps coriander, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup buttermilk (I used vegan buttermilk, but dairy works fine)
2 tbsps milk (I opted for soy milk, but again, dairy will work)
1 egg
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/8 tsp table salt (add up to 1/4 tsp to taste)
1/2 tsp olive oil (for sautéing the veggies and garlic)


Preheat oven to 200 C/392 F

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Fiber-Packed Graham Muffins

These muffins miiiight not be sweet enough for you. Unless you’ve been weaned off refined sugar for a while or very actively try to avoid it (i.e. you don’t even reach for the Heinz ketchup anymore, knowing how much corn syrup is packed into each squirt), you may consider these muffins to be a bit too rugged; rugged because of the uneven texture provided by graham flour, but also rugged in taste. Does that word put you off? I apologize, but I mean ‘rugged’ in the most positive, endearing way; these muffins transport me to a cozy log cabin in lush, deep green woods I’ve never been to (yet). Refined sugar can’t be found in these woods, but fruit can, and fruit these muffins do contain.

These muffins are not standard sweet muffins; they contain one ripe banana and a handful of gooey medjool dates, both of which lend in creating a subtle, gradual sweetness unlike the tooth-shocking, eye-popping kind found in packaged pastries and, much to my dismay, trendy coffee shop pound cake. I enjoy surprises (so long as they don’t involve people popping out behind curtains and corners), so I dumped chunks of walnut and diced red apple into these muffins. Considering how simple and versatile this batter is, any sort of stir-in should work; next time around I’ll definitely step up my muffin game and add dark chocolate covered berries.

Replacing white sugar and even so called ‘healthier’ sugars, such as honey and rice malt syrup, with fruit, will take your baked goods to miraculous heights. I still rely on liquid sweeteners sometimes, but upon recently discovering the world of fruit-sweetened ‘treats’, I’ve become Cinderella at the ball and I’m not quite ready to lose my slipper and return to normal sugar laden life. Also, the more online research I do, the less convinced I am that occasional unhealthy indulgences are worth it (also, the word ‘occasional’ allows for a dangerously vast pool of interpretation! My ‘occasional’ may = three times a week, but yours may very well be once or twice a day. And honestly, how often do we stick to plans that are so ridiculously vague?) When I look back on the past few years, it becomes increasingly obvious how often I would use the ‘once in a lifetime’ excuse when presented with sweets and junk food. In reality, choosing not to taste a donut or cinnamon roll from one particular cafe somewhere in the world will not affect my potential for happiness in the future (or even in that moment!) Coming to terms with the former fact has been tough; I’d like to believe one single cinnamon roll could alter the course of my future and be tasty enough to cause a lifetime of regret if not eaten, but the truth is, the only affect it may have on my future is by increasing my risk of heart disease, cancer, and I’d rather not think about what else.

I used to reserve muffins and cookies for my shameful snack times after school; the drudgery of the weekday always got to be too much, too boring, too demanding, and highly processed, sugary and fatty foods offered themselves up as the perfect escape; indulging in a box of Oreos melted away the stress of a failed Math test and a big bag of sweet chili chips covered up the chatter of social anxiety and insecurity. Weekend nights presented the most different avenues for escape; everyone feels more apt to lose themselves, whether to sweets or alcohol or insert vice here, on the weekends. Indulgence is easily justifiable when you’re feeling down in the dumps and lethargic, so it’s no surprise that the more sugar you eat, the more unhappy and tired you feel, and thus, the more you want, no, the more you NEED, sugar; it’s a vicious cycle that kills and ruins lives and exponentially lowers one’s potential for happiness.

So, can you really be happier with a date and banana filled muffin as opposed to a sugary, frosted one? Yes. Giving up the devilish sweet stuff can sometimes feel like giving up a big chunk of happiness; but if you think about it, try reasoning with a smoker or drug addict and they will tell you the same thing, how can I ever be happy again without my daily pack of cigarettes? Replace cigarettes with conventional pastries and sweets and I can say that the same words have rolled off my tongue many more times than I can remember. Am I a sugar addict? Apparently so. Apparently, lots of people are. In fact, most people are (in the USA at least). It’s a little chilling. And frightening and startling and spooky to think of all the children growing up with sweet tooth’s the size of canines and appetites for sugar that may very well land them in hospitals one day. It’s sad, but it’s the reality at the moment. I find that reality deeply unsettling and am quite simply unwilling to accept it into my little sphere of life; sugar sugar, go away, come again another day in the form of caramely medjool dates and ripe bananas and dried figs and juicy, juicy mangos. Thank goodness for fruit.

Makes 5 muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat graham flour
1 small VERY spotty banana
3 medjool dates, mashed
5 tsps unflavored/unsweetened soy or nut milk
2 tsps chia seeds
1/4 cup finely chopped red apple (pear would probably be nice)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or nut of your choice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
Pinch of nutmeg and/or ground ginger (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/365 F. In a large bowl, mash the banana with a fork before stirring it together with the mashed dates, milk, and vanilla extract. Once combined, add the flour, chia seeds, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, dash of salt, and nutmeg/ginger if using. Lightly stir together the mountain of dry ingredients before thoroughly stirring them together with the wet mixture. Add the chopped apple and walnuts. The resulting batter will be quite thick and rocky in texture, thanks to the bran in the graham flour and the seeds, nuts, and apple. If using silicone muffin tins, don’t bother oiling them down, but if using metal ones, it would be safe to do so. The batter equally divided among 5 of my tins, but it may be closer to 4 or 6 depending on the size of your tins. Bake for 14-18 minutes until fully set and an inserted chopstick/toothpick doesn’t come out gooey and wet. Allow to cool on a rack before enjoying with peanut butter or 100% fruit jam!!

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Dark Chocolate Vegan Hob Nobs

Ingredients in McVitie’s Chocolate Hob Nobs:
Rolled Oats, Milk Chocolate [Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Dried Skimmed Milk, Dried Whey (Milk), Butter Oil (Milk), Vegetable Fats (Sal and/or Shea, Palm), Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin, E476), Natural Flavouring], Wholemeal Wheat Flour, Sugar, Vegetable Oil (Palm), Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Raising Agents (Sodium Bicarbonate, Ammonium Bicarbonate), Salt.

Ingredients in these Vegan Chocolate Hob Nobs:
Rolled Oats, Whole Wheat Flour, Dark Chocolate [Cocoa Powder, Cocoa Butter, Soy Milk, Rice Malt Syrup], Olive Oil, Rice Malt Syrup, Wheat Bran, Raw Sugar, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Salt.

Take your pick!

Makes 10 cookies

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsps wheat bran
3 tbsps mild olive oil (or sub with melted coconut oil)
3 tbsps rice malt syrup or maple syrup
1 tsp fine raw sugar (or sub with light brown)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt (less than 1/8 tsp)

Chocolate frosting:
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsps cocoa butter*
2 tsps unflavored soy or nut milk
1-4 tsps rice malt syrup or maple syrup (add based on desired sweetness)

*you can substitute the cocoa butter with coconut oil, but know that the frosting won’t harden up as much (if at all) at room temperature and might require a few tsps of powdered sugar instead of syrup and milk (cocoa butter seizes up and becomes creamier when combined with syrup/milk, while coconut oil does not)


Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F

Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes until noticeably golden brown and crisp around the edges; they well get a lot crunchier once set.

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Vegan Cinnamon Doughnuts (oil-free & date-sweetened)

Makes 6 small doughnuts and 6-8 doughnut holes

113.5 g whole wheat pastry flour (plus 1 tsp for dusting)
50 ml vegan buttermilk*
3 medjool dates (72-74 g), mashed/pureed
0.87 g instant yeast (just under 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of table salt

Cinnamon sugar topping:
2 tsps rice malt syrup or liquid sweetener of choice
1 tbsp fine raw sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

*to make vegan buttermilk, simply add 1/2 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup and pour in unflavored soy/nut milk until the mixture reaches the 50 ml line; allow it to rest for 10 minutes until noticeably curdled


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A Simple Fruit Crisp

Serves 4; makes a heaped amount for one 7-inch pie pan 

1 medium-large red apple
1/2 cup fresh cherries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries*
2 medjool dates, mashed
2 tsps fresh grapefruit juice, including the pulp (or sub with orange)
1 tbsp potato starch
2 tsps chia seeds
Pinch of table salt (scant 1/8 tsp)

3/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 packed cup whole wheat pastry flour*
2 tbsps mild olive oil or melted coconut oil
1 1/2 tbsps rice malt syrup or maple syrup
1/4 heaped tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp table salt

* using fresh berries is fine, but know that they may contribute e a tad less liquid to the filling as they cook
* you can substitute the whole wheat pastry flour with half regular whole wheat and half all-purpose


Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the topping takes on a deep golden/light brown color. Check on the crisp after 2o minutes to ensure it’s not browning too fast; if it is, loosely cover it with foil.

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