Happy Halloween, Pumpkin Muffin

Pumpkin bread is one of my favorite things in the world. It's one of the few reasons I tolerate autumn (the other being the almighty apple). In my book, things get even better when raisins are thrown into the mix, but I know not everyone shares my love for the teeny dried fruit. (Those mini boxes of Sun-Maid raisins have been a thread in my life since grade school.)

Pumpkin muffins studded with raisins and pepitas (Kim O'Donnel)

I like how pumpkin bread settles in with a cup of coffee, be it breakfast or late-afternoon snack time. I take comfort in its golden harvest color, its spicy perfume and its earthy crumb.

With Halloween just a few days away and the doorstep jack-o-lantern de rigeur (at least for this weekend), a pumpkin-y treat is undoubtedly in order. In keeping with a festive theme, I upped the pumpkin ante and made muffins, which would work equally well at a kid's Halloween party, a workplace breakfast meeting or potluck thingamajig.

Using a recipe for mashed sweet potato muffins (which also sound tasty), I tweaked things with pumpkin in mind and I am pleased to report they are lovely little morsels. Next time, I'll add a pinch of ground cloves and maybe even a wee bit of ground cardamom for even more spice depth. I particularly liked topping the muffins with pumpkin seeds, which add a rich nutty crunch and a little extra fiber. This trick is one I'll keep on hand for future batches.

What's your favorite pumpkin treat? Are you a raisins or nuts person? Share in the comments area below.

Pumpkin-Raisin Muffins
Based on a recipe for sweet potato muffins from "Best Foods Cookbook" by Dana Jacobi

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup light olive oil or canola oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used non-fat, but I think low or full fat is fine, too)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 tablespoon raw pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease the cups of a 6-cup muffin tin with butter or oil spray and place paper liners in cups.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. In another bowl, whisk together oil, sugar and egg. Mix in yogurt and vanilla. Stir in pumpkin puree until mixture is smooth. Fold in raisins.

Incorporate wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients, and mix just until blended. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them to the top. Sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds over the top of each muffin.

Bake about 25 minutes, until muffins are lightly colored and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan, then unmold from pan and allow to cool completely.

Recipe may be doubled.

Note: If you're keen to try this muffin with sweet potatoes, you'll need ½ cup of roasted, mashed sweet potato and ¾ cup shredded carrots. Omit the pumpkin puree.

By Kim ODonnel |  October 27, 2006; 10:27 AM ET Autumn Classics , Breakfast , Lunch Box
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This looks great! Two things --

First, you've got a typo up in the ingredients. "Pumpkin seeds ... also known as pumpkin seeds"? I bet you meant "also known as pepitas".

Second, how many cups of baked butternut squash puree would I need to substitute for the can of pumpkin?


Posted by: Rebecca Hartong | October 27, 2006 11:31 AM

Rebecca, Oops. Yes, you are correct, I meant "pepitas." I'll go change that pronto. RE: using fresh squash: You'll need a four pounder to yield about 1 1/2 cups of puree.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | October 27, 2006 11:51 AM

And if you don't like regular raisins, try golden raisins or dried cranberries.

Posted by: BakerMom | October 27, 2006 12:00 PM

Would it work if a silken tofu were substituted for the yogurt?

Posted by: JR | October 27, 2006 2:03 PM

JR: I think you might be able to pull it off with silken tofu, yes. The jury is still out on the eggs, though. I haven't tinkered with recipe enough to know if it likes egg replacers. Anyone have thoughts?

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | October 27, 2006 3:02 PM

I also love pumpkin muffins. My recipe is close to yours but I add walnuts and if I'm feeling decadent, a little cream cheese frosting. Gotta run to the store now to get the ingredients.

Posted by: julie | October 27, 2006 3:16 PM

I know what I'm doing this weekend! I think I will add some of the fresh black walnuts we harvested this year (first fall at our new house!).

Posted by: zenjen | October 27, 2006 4:51 PM

Having grown up in the 'Raisin Capitol of America' I think you may have meant SunMaid Raisins :-) SunKist is a citrus brand name isn't it?

Posted by: Raisinette | October 27, 2006 4:59 PM

Raisinette: Excuse my brain for being like a sieve. It's been a tough week. I'll make the change. Thanks!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | October 27, 2006 5:22 PM

Kim-Thanks for the great recipe. I just found my Mom's pumpkin tea bread recipe the other day, and was thinking about making it. Also would love to find a way to merge carrot cake and pumpkin bread. Carrot cake is my hands-down favorite, although I am still on the search for the best recipe (NO raisins! And I'm allergic to walnuts, so I substitute pecans.) Maybe I'll tinker with some merger on my own....

Zenjen- You might also want to consider black walnut cookies. But whatever you make, be SURE to wear gloves when you shell the nuts--otherwise you will get blackish stains on your fingers that won't come out forever.... My late father LOVED black walnut cookies, and his mother was a marvelous baker... and with seven kids in our family, we had plenty of free labor for the very long process of shelling black walnuts. Loved the end result, and it made for a good lesson in the value of work!

Posted by: M | October 28, 2006 8:17 AM

Chocolate chips instead of nuts or raisins!! pumpkin muffins are a staple in my son's lunchbox.

Posted by: Colleen | October 29, 2006 7:59 PM

Kim -- I used egg replacer and soy yogurt to make up a batch yesterday. They are fabulous. Moist, tasty and quickly disappearing!

I also added a handful of crushed walnuts.


Posted by: Liz | October 30, 2006 9:57 AM


Could I tweak this recipe to turn it in to a pumpkin bread? I promised to bring pumpkin bread to a bake sale and love the idea of using plain yogurt. By the way, whenever I make pumpkin bread, I always use cinnamon, ginger and also ground cloves and nutmeg.


Posted by: Bethesda Mom | October 30, 2006 11:21 AM

Kim, this is a great recipe- healthy, relatively low fat, super simple, and easy to tweak. I added a little extra ginger, pecans, and instead of pumpkin seeds (which I confess I never really liked), put some chopped crystallized ginger on top.

Posted by: Reine de Saba | October 30, 2006 12:41 PM

Bethesda Mom: I think you should give this batter a shot in the loaf pan. No harm in trying. I would definitely add the pumpkin seeds on top!
Thanks to the handful of you who are sharing your tweaks to this recipe, most helpful. By the way, I froze a bunch and they held up beautifully.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | October 30, 2006 1:21 PM

This pumpkin muffin recipe looks excellent, similar to the one I used for pumpkin bread this past weekend. In mine (which was approx. double this recipe) I upped the nutritional value by using half white whole wheat flour to add a little fiber (which seemed a little less dense than regular whole wheat flour), adding a few tablespoons of blackstrap molasses, and grinding up some flax seed. The resulting bread was delicious; my coworkers loved it!

Posted by: Baltimore gal | October 30, 2006 7:09 PM

made these this weekend, subbing walnuts for raisins, and they disappeared in 12 hours. YUM. The next day I made apple pie, putting cheddar cheese & dry mustard in the crust (from a New Basics recipe). The recipe called for Crisco...made me think it would be a great service to your readers if you ran a test of various trans-fat-free pie crusts (lard, the new no-trans Crisco, and palm or coconut oil)--since butter-only really is inferior in flakiness, in my opinion. just a thought...love the blog!

Posted by: Charlotte | October 30, 2006 9:38 PM

Kim: How much cardamon would you use?

Posted by: danielle | October 31, 2006 9:53 AM

Kim, I too often substitute half of the flour called for with whole wheat flour. It gives it more nutritional fiber and isn't too heavy tasting as it might be if you used all whole wheat. Also, I use eggbeaters or similar products all the time; they're 99 percent egg, and I've never known them to negatively affect a recipe. I read through the responses quickly--did you ever respond to the query of how much cardomin (sp?) to use. Finally, I sometimes add chopped pecans to recipes and they have a nice light crunchy taste, a bit of a change from walnuts. Thanks for providing so many wonderful recipes! Happy cooking!

Posted by: Debbie | November 2, 2006 12:44 PM

Debbie and Danielle: I would use about 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom, or a few crushed pods.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 2, 2006 2:42 PM

Kim, the recipe sounds delicious and I'm keen to try... But I can't eat sugar and don't care for sugar substitutes. Is there a natural ingredient, perhaps a fruit, that you suggest as a subsitute for the sugar? Thanks!

Posted by: Lisa | November 3, 2006 4:56 PM

I absolutely love pumpkin muffins. I have a recipe that involves a crumbly brown-sugar-and-oats topping, that is truely addictive. Obviously not that healthy, but they are starbucks-caliber yummyness.

Posted by: Janet | November 3, 2006 5:01 PM

Another suggestion - substitute oil with apple sauce. Reduces fat and calories significantly and you can also significantly reduce the sugar, Lisa, since natural applesauce is sweet on its own. I am going to try it this way today.

Posted by: Meredith | November 4, 2006 4:30 AM

Thanks, Meredith, for suggesting applesauce to Lisa, who's looking for sugar-free subs. Applesauce could be the ticket. Lisa, I might also consider agave nectar. This is a naturally occurring sweetener that vegan pastry chefs are using, as well as raw foodists. It's not cheap, but could be your answer. Keep me posted.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 4, 2006 8:51 AM

Thanks so much Meredith and Kim! I'll try both suggestions and report back.

Posted by: Lisa | November 7, 2006 12:07 PM

I have a newly diagnosed wheat allergy - and am learning to substitute other flours. Can you sub. oat flour in for the all-purpose flour? Thanks.

Posted by: Kate | November 9, 2006 9:25 AM

I just watched Rachael Ray the other day (yes, yes, I know what all cooks think of her but I get some good ideas and recipes to tweak from her) and saw her make a stuffing out of store bought pumpkin muffins. I was intrigued with the idea of pumpkin muffin crumbs instead of bread crumbs but I would definitely want to make my own muffins not buy them, do you think these would work in an oven baked dressing (as opposed to stuffed in the bird)? I am a little nervous as I would like to serve this to my family on Thanksgiving but don't want to make icky stuffing and ruin everything.

Posted by: Meg | November 10, 2006 6:35 PM

Meg -- I saw the same Rachael Ray episode and thought how oversweet and soggy that dressing would be - not exactly "Yummo!" But, I love pumpkin and was intrigued by the idea. I would do this: up the salt to 3/4 tsp. and omit all the sugar (or keep 1 tablespoon if you prefer sweetish dressing) That will make it closer in flavor to cornbread. Then to dry it out, I would break the muffins into large chunks and toast them (400 degrees until browned and toasted) before using. Then add apples, onions, broth etc. and bake.

Posted by: Elizabeth | November 16, 2006 4:33 AM

My favorite fall treat is my pumkin-apple curry soup. My recipe is featured in Crescent Dragonwagon's Passionate Vegetarian.

Posted by: sholamith1 | October 24, 2008 8:42 AM

Kim, as to your question - nuts or raisins.
Definately both - one of my all time favorites are homemade soft chewy oatmeal cookies with raisins and nuts. can't wait to try the pumpkin muffins this week and will probably use both raisins and nuts along with the pumpkin seeds.

Posted by: longn1 | October 26, 2008 6:35 AM

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