This is a variation of our whole wheat quick bread base recipe. Pumpkin may be the taste of fall, but these whole wheat pumpkin muffin bars can be made all year round! These easy pumpkin muffin bars are made with whole wheat flour and are lower in sugar than traditional quick bread mixes or store bought pumpkin bread. They’re moist, delicious and hard to mess up! Plus, they use the whole can of pumpkin, so you aren’t left with an awkward leftover amount that you don’t know what to do with! Give these healthy muffin bars a try, then be sure to give us a review!
Three Must Know Cooking Skills
For recipe success, learn how to:
Culinary Tips for Fluffy Pumpkin Muffin Bars
Measure the flour properly to prevent dense bars. Fluff, spoon, and level; don’t scoop and pack!
Whisking the dry ingredients together mimics sifting, so don’t substitute another utensil.
Don’t overmix the batter! Watch our muffin method culinary technique video to learn how to mix the batter just enough so that you end up with light and fluffy muffin bars.
When measuring brown sugar, pack it in the cup. If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth or prefer a less sweet bar, reduce the sugar to 1 cup. The recipe will still come out great!
- Whole Wheat Flour: substitute whole wheat pastry flour, or spelt flour for a similar taste, color, and texture. You can also substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour and ½ cup all-purpose flour. Don’t substitute all regular whole wheat flour, as the bread will come out dense and grainy. To make gluten-free pumpkin bars, use a gluten-free flour mix, such as Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice: don’t have pumpkin pie spice on hand? No problem! You can make your own by mixing together cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, and nutmeg.
- Pumpkin: substitute mashed sweet potatoes. (Although then it wouldn’t be pumpkin muffin bars…)
- Buttermilk: substitute plain yogurt, Greek yogurt, kefir, or sour cream. You can also make your own buttermilk by mixing 1 cup milk or milk alternative with 1 Tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice.
- Brown Sugar: substitute cane sugar, but note that the flavor will be slightly different.
- Canola Oil: substitute avocado oil. Do not substitute olive oil, as this has a strong flavor. Do not substitute vegetable oil, as this is not a heart-healthy oil.
- Eggs: substitute the eggs with flax eggs to make vegan pumpkin muffins. To make one flax egg, mix 1 Tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 Tablespoons of water and let it rest for 10 minutes. Eggs help leaven the muffins, so vegan muffins might not be quite as fluffy.
Make these high fiber muffin bars by adding ¼ cup ground flaxseed (flaxseed mill) to the dry ingredients, using only whole wheat flour (the bars won’t be as fluffy), or topping the batter with pumpkin seeds. If using only whole wheat flour, we recommend white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour.
Want to bake muffins instead of bars? This recipe will make about 24 muffins, but check out our whole wheat pumpkin muffins recipe for a 12-muffin version!
Make oatmeal pumpkin muffin bars by substituting ½ of the whole wheat flour with oat flour.
Make whole wheat pumpkin chocolate chip muffin bars by folding ½ – 1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips into the batter. This increases the sweetness of the recipe, so we recommend reducing the sugar to 3/4 – 1 cup. If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll love this variation!
You just need a few basic kitchen tools for this easy recipe!
Are muffin bars healthy?
Well, that depends. Many quick bread mixes contain way too much added sugar. Some even contain up to or even more than your daily allowance of sugar – yikes!
The key nutrients that make these whole wheat pumpkin muffin bars healthier are whole wheat flour, pumpkin puree, and less sugar than leading brands.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat flour is a good source of fiber, B vitamins, Vitamin E, trace minerals, and phytochemicals. Replacing refined grains (i.e. white flour) with whole grains (i.e. whole wheat flour) may reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. (1)
Pumpkin is a great source of beta carotene, fiber, and potassium. These nutrients promote immune function, gut health, good cholesterol, and normal blood pressure. Be sure to purchase pure pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie filling, as this contains added sugar.
Less added sugar than leading brands
High sugar consumption is not good for health, and in general, most Americans eat way too much. Men should aim to consume less than 9 teaspoons (~36 grams) of sugar per day, and women should aim to consume less than 6 teaspoons (~24 grams) of sugar per day. (2) Each muffin bar in this recipe has 3 teaspoons (12 grams) of added sugar. Feel free to remove up to 1/2 cup of the brown sugar in the recipe if you are trying to reduce the overall sugar in your diet.
Top these muffin bars with some almond butter or serve with fruit and yogurt for a balanced breakfast, eat them on their own for a light snack, or enjoy as a tasty treat at lunch.
What to do with Leftover Pumpkin Muffins
Because these are moist bars, they will spoil more quickly at room temperature. Cool completely, then store muffin bars in a bag or container at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Got a busy few weeks ahead? These muffin bars are great for the freezer! Cool completely, slice, wrap individually, then store in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or reheat in the microwave in the morning!
Want more healthy whole grain recipes?
Check out these healthy twists on classic favorites!
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffin Bars
- 3 cups white whole wheat flour*
- 1 Tablespoon pumpkin spice
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2- 15 ounce cans pure pumpkin
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar
- ½ cup canola oil
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare a 13 x 18 baking sheet with nonstick spray or parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, gently whisk white whole wheat flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk pumpkin, buttermilk, sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until combined.
- Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture. Using a spatula, fold ingredients just until moistened. Do not over mix.
- Pour batter onto prepared baking sheet and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake 30 minutes or until slightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cut into bars. Enjoy!