Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bars

I spend every Sunday morning in the kitchen. It’s a routine that’s as calming as meditation to me. I get up early and take the dog for a long walk on the beach, eat a little breakfast, and then start cooking the week’s breakfasts, lunches and prep ahead for a couple of dinners so that I’m not pressed for time during the week. When the top shelf of the fridge is loaded up with storage containers bearing the fruits of my labor, I know I’m ready to face the next week at work.

As I was cleaning up from round 1 of cooking and prepping for round 2, I noticed the pie pumpkin that had been sitting on the counter from a CSA box two weeks before and had quickly turned into decor after I had forgotten about it. I didn’t feel like making pie, or pudding, so I went in search of a pumpkin bread that I could make with what I had on hand.

I settled on Karina’s recipe for pumpkin spice bars, and turned the volume way up on the spice – shooting for a pumpkin-gingerbread kind of vibe. Let me tell you, these bars are perfection. They’re lighter than I expected, and the addition of the extra spices and crystallized ginger just scream FALL. If you’re smart, you’ll cut these bars up and stash them in the fridge right away, out of sight…Mark and I ate 4 pieces between the two of us, standing at the kitchen counter, between shooting the pics for this post. I know I’ll be making this recipe again the next time a pumpkin shows up in our weekly produce box. And if you’re not a fan of frosting or want to trim a few calories, the bars are 100% delicious without the creamy frosting.

What’s your favorite treat to ring in the Fall? Share your love of seasonal Fall food below in the comments…

Pumpkin Spice Bars
Adapted from Gluten Free Goddess
Makes 15 bars.

2 large free-range organic eggs
1/3 cup extra light olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup pumpkin puree* (canned is fine)
1 T vanilla extract
1 and 3/4 cups gluten-free flour mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (if already included in your flour blend, omit)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice- or a blend of nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan or line the pan with greased parchment.
  3. Beat the eggs till blended; add the oil and beat to combine. Add the brown sugar and beat until smooth. Add the pumpkin, beat till smooth; add the vanilla, beat to combine. Add the baking mix, baking soda & powder and spices; beat just until the batter is smooth. Add in the crystallized ginger and stir by hand to combine.
  4. Dump the batter into the baking pan and spread the evenly. Bake in the center of a preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the bars are firm, and a wooden pick inserted into the center emerges clean.
  5. Cool on a wire rack. Frost when cool.
  6. Other options: in place of ginger, finely dice a medium sized tart apple and add it to the batter with pecans.

*Pumpkin puree note: If you’re roasting the pumpkin yourself, cut the squash in half, ppoke the shell with a fork a few times, scoop out the guts and roast it cut side down for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. When the pumpkin is cool, scoop the flesh into your food processer to make the puree. My puree was a little more moist than I wanted, so I scooped the puree into a fine sieve and let it sit over a bowl to drain for a few minutes while I gathered my ingredients.

Brown Sugar and Spice Cream Cheese Frosting
(half of Karina’s recipe, with the addition of cream cheese – I don’t like thick layers of frosting – a skim will do)

2 tablespoons butter
2 T packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoons apple cider
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
5 oz cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 cups powdered sugar, as needed

  1. Spoon the butter, brown sugar and cider into a small saucepan; and heat through on medium heat, stirring as it heats. When the mixture is smooth and hot, and begins to bubble, remove the pan from heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
  2. Pour the brown sugar mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the vanilla, cream cheese and spices, and beat with a hand mixer or stand mixer. Begin adding the powdered sugar, a little at a time and beat until smooth; add more sugar as needed to thicken the frosting.
  3. Frost the bars.