This recipe for these healthy soft pumpkin cookies is delicious and moist! These soft pumpkin cookies are low refined carbohydrates, gluten-free, diabetic-friendly and vegan! And best of all, these are so easy to make! Try adding chocolate chunks for a festive chocolate chip pumpkin cookie recipe. The recipe was sponsored by iHerb, an online natural products store.
Working in a busy Diabetes Education Centre, I am always looking for new and exciting ways to get people excited about ‘healthy desserts’. We talk about the effects of carbohydrates on our blood sugar levels, better sources of carbohydrates (low glycemic index), how protein, healthy fats and fibre can help balance blood sugar levels, and how to incorporate all of this into healthy meals and snacks. That’s why I’ve created these totally delicious low-carb healthy soft pumpkin cookies, and they are also vegan, paleo and gluten-free!
Why I Made These Healthy Soft Pumpkin Cookies
These Soft Pumpkin Cookies Are Low In Sugar
While desserts are definitely still ‘allowed’, I do suggest clients limit anything that contains refined-flour or refined-sugar. Too much sugar or refined carbohydrate signals to our pancreas to secrete large amounts of the hormone insulin. Too much circulating insulin can make it difficult to manage weight, and over time can lead to type 2 diabetes.
These Soft Pumpkin Cookies Are Filled With Healthy Ingredients
All of these ingredients in these soft pumpkin cookies are packed full of nutrients – no empty calories here. Instead of flour, which is very low in nutrition, this recipe uses almond flour and coconut flour. Instead of white sugar, this recipe uses maple syrup which contains is lower glycemic index (GI), meaning it will have a lesser effect on blood sugar levels compared to regular sugar (see below for more information on GI).
These Soft Pumpkin Cookies Are So Easy To Make
Another benefit of not using flour in baking is that there are no special tips and tricks needed to make sure the cookies turn out. Regular wheat flour is more sensitive to mixing time (over mixing) compared to non-gluten containing flours. Basically just mix the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients – and there you have it.
Making A Diabetic Cookie
What Makes These Soft Pumpkin Cookies Diabetic Friendly?
They are low in overall carbohydrates with only 7.5 grams net carbs per cookie, with 2.1 grams of fibre. They contain a good amount of protein and healthy fats from the almond flour and coconut flour which helps with blood sugar control. The carbohydrates come mainly from the pumpkin and maple syrup which are both medium glycemic index foods, meaning that on their own they will only have a moderate effect on blood sugar levels*.
*When we consider the glycemic index of the entire cookie, and not just single ingredients, it is likely these cookies have a low glycemic index (delayed glucose response due to the fat and protein content).
Which Low Carb Flour Is Good For Cookies?
I often come across clients forgetting that flour, even whole-wheat flour, will break down into sugar. Too often we focus on the sugar in baking, but when we reduce the sugar content in a recipe by half, the bulk in the recipe is often made up of even more flour (which will eventually turn into sugar).
Flours that are made up of mostly fibre, including almond flour and coconut flour, contain very little starch and no sugar. These flours will have minimal effect on blood sugar levels, especially considering the content of protein, fibre and healthy fats.
Using Almond Flour In Baking For A Low Carb Cookie
Almond flour is low GI and low in total carbohydrates. A 1/4 cup serving contains 6 grams of total carbohydrates, but 3 grams of fibre, equating to 3 grams of ‘net’ or available carbohydrates.
Using Coconut Flour In Baking For A Low Carb Cookie
Coconut flour is the natural by-product of coconut milk production, and consists of the ground-up meat of coconuts and is therefore naturally high in protein, fats and fibre. A 1/4 cup serving contains 16 grams of total carbohydrates, but 10 grams of fibre, equating to 6 grams of ‘net’ or available carbohydrates.
Choosing A Low Glycemic Index Sweetener
Glycemic Index (GI) is a rating on how quickly a food will break down into sugar. Limit white or brown sugar which are high GI foods and break down quickly into sugar. Brown rice syrup is generally not recommended due to concerns regarding arsenic levels. The following sugars have a lower glycemic index than sugar:
- Maple Syrup: Choose real maple syrup, contains small amounts of polyphenols.
- Honey: Honey’s antioxidant quantity varies greatly based on type; buckwheat honey typically delivers the most.
- Coconut Sugar: Made from coconut nectar, and has a nutty flavour but does not taste like coconut. Has the lowest GI of the three sweeteners.
Tips On Making Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Using Almond Flour For These Soft Pumpkin Cookies
What I find tricky when searching through recipes that use almond flour for baking is that often the recipe does not decipher if the almond flour should be ‘packed’ or not. This recipe uses 1 cup of ‘packed’ almond flour, meaning that the flour should be pushed into the cup to ensure it is the proper amount and the cookies are the correct density.
Sifting Almond Flour For Baking
If your almond flour has lumps, make sure to sift it before adding it to the recipe otherwise large clumps of almond flour might end up in your finished cookie. After trialling a few brands I have found that Now Real Foods Raw Almond Flour doesn’t clump as much. Due to its high oil content, it is best to store your almond flour in the fridge.
Forming These Soft Pumpkin Cookies
I have found that refrigerating the batter for 15-30 minutes after everything is well mixed helps the batter stick together better. Roll the cookies into a ball, slightly smaller than a golf ball. After placing them on the prepared baking tray, flatten them only slightly with the palm of your hand for even cooking with the option to add some fork indents. Make sure not to over-flatten as we want a bit of volume in these cookies.
Baking Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Each tray of cookies needs about 16 minutes to bake. Check the cookies after 14 minutes to ensure they don’t overcook. The cookies should be slightly soft but with a little bit of give when you check them. Make sure you only bake one tray at a time. I have tried with two trays before and the result was flat cookies that took upwards of 20 minutes to firm up.
Notes On Making Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Using Flax Eggs For Vegan Soft Pumpkin Cookies
For a vegan version, flax-eggs can be used. They are also helpful when you forgot to purchase eggs! The best recipe I have found for flax-eggs is 1 tablespoon of ground flax to 2 1/2 tablespoons of water for one egg – mix and let sit to absorb for at least 5 minutes.
Note On Purchasing Flax Eggs
Make sure you purchase flaxseeds from a reliable source (not the bulk bins!) because they are high in unstable omega-3 fatty acids they are sensitive to heat and oxygen and can rapidly go rancid. Also make sure they are not pre-ground flax, as most of the beneficial compounds will already be degraded by the time they get from the processor to your home.
Using Maple Syrup For These Soft Pumpkin Cookies
The original recipe these cookies were adapted from used coconut sugar. When replacing a solid sugar with a liquid sweetener, the liquid in the overall recipe needs to be reduced otherwise the cookie will contain too much liquid and not set properly (coconut oil was reduced from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup). Make sure it is ‘real’ maple syrup like this one, not maple-flavoured syrup.
Using Honey For These Soft Pumpkin Cookies
You can use honey in place of maple syrup, though I do find the flavour of maple lends nicely to these spiced pumpkin cookies. When baking with honey, I suggest decreasing the temperature to 325° Fahrenheit to prevent burning – and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Using Pumpkin Puree for Cookies
Be sure to not purchase Pumpkin Pie Puree, which already contains sugar and pumpkin spices. You can make your own pumpkin puree by blending cooked pumpkin in a food processor. I like the flavour of kabocha squash.
Making Chocolate Chips Pumpkin Cookies
The chocolate chips are totally optional but definitely recommended. The darker the chocolate the better. Make sure you chop the chocolate chunks nice and small; larger chunks can result in the cookie not firming up as well. If you don’t have chocolate, these cookies also taste great with candied ginger chunks.
Boosting the Protein In These Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Try adding ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts to the mixture at the same time as the chocolate chunks.
Adding Spices To These Soft Pumpkin Cookies
The combination of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg really give these cookies a festive flare. Feel free to use 2 tablespoons of a premade pumpkin spice (see my recipe for Pumpkin Spice here). I like the Simply Organic Spices because they haven’t been exposed to irradiation which can affect the quality, nutrients and flavour of the spices.
Substituting Almond Flour In Baking
When baking with almond flour, it can be used at a 1:1 ratio when substituting with regular flour. Sift almond flour if lumps are present.
Substituting Coconut Flour In Baking
Coconut flour is naturally very dense so this needs to be considered when using in baking. You cannot replace a grain-based flour with coconut flour at a 1:1 ratio. It is closer to 1 cup of grain-flour replaced with ¼ cup of coconut flour. Also, because of the density, baking with coconut flour also requires more eggs. During my research for this recipe, the general consensus is 6 eggs (or flax-eggs) are needed for every 1 cup of coconut flour.
Adaption of these Soft Pumpkin Cookies
This recipe was adapted from Bakerita, I wanted to use maple syrup in place of coconut sugar because good quality maple syrup contains antioxidants, and can be locally sourced. Switching to a liquid sweetener also allowed me to reduce the coconut oil from ½ cup to ¼ cup which reduced the overall calories. I increased the cinnamon and ginger to give it more spice. After multiple attempts, I also found that I needed to increase the cooking time to 16 minutes from 11-14.
Want More Healthy Dessert Recipes?
Looking for some more healthy dessert recipes? Try these:
- Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 100 Calorie No-Bake Peanut Butter Energy Balls
- Raw Chocolate Brownie with Caramel Icing
- High Protein Peanut Butter Hemp Energy Balls
- Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
Soft Pumpkin Cookies | Vegan Gluten-Free Paleo
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil cooled
- 1/2 cup maple syrup real
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseed (+ 5 tbsp water) or 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extact
- 1 cup almond flour packed
- 1/3 cup coconut flour packed
- 3 tsp cinnamon ground
- 2 tsp ginger ground
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg ground
- 1/4 tsp cloves ground
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 block dark chocolate chopped (optional)
- Start by melting the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat to let it cool before using.
- If using flax-eggs for a vegan version, mix 2 tbsp of ground flax with 5 tbsp of water. Stir well and let sit for at least 5 minutes to thicken.
- While you are waiting, start mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl - almond flour, coconut flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. If your almond flour has chunks in it, use a sifter when adding the almond flour to the bowl.
- In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients in one bowl - pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, melted and cooled coconut oil and the flax-eggs or real eggs if using. Make sure everything is well combined.
- Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until everything is well incorporated. Be sure to remove any chunks of almond flour.
- Place the mixture in the fridge to harden up slightly. I find that 15 minutes is enough, but 30 minutes is even better.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
- Chop the chocolate bar into tiny chunks, the size of chocolate chips (you can use chocolate chips instead if you like!). I find the smaller chunks ensures that the cookies stick together better.
- Once the cookie batter has set in the fridge, take out and stir in the chocolate chips.
- Roll the mixture into 18 small balls, slightly smaller than a golf-ball, and place 9 balls on each tray. Flatten the balls only slightly with the palm of your hand, this helps with even cooking. Option to indent the cookies with a fork, but be gentle as you don't want to over-flatten the cookies.
- Bake the cookies one tray at a time. If you cook both trays at once, the cooking time will be longer and the cookies may not rise as well. Check the cookies after 14 minutes, they should be only slightly firm to the touch. I cook mine for 16 minutes each tray.
- Let the cookies cool slightly before moving to a cooling rack. This helps them firm up and results in a soft but textured delicious pumpkin cookie.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.