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Low Fat, No-Refined Sugar Pumpkin Apple Muffin Recipe

Yvonne Spence loves to create healthy recipes and believes we don't have to give up enjoyment when we give up refined sugar.

Muffins sometimes get a bad rap for being unhealthy and loaded with sugar and fat. But they don't need to be. These muffins are tasty, and filled with fruit and veg! This recipe contains information on the best varieties of pumpkin to use in muffins, and the recipe has two variations for how to make the muffins.


Pumpkin and apple muffins are moist and delicious.

Pumpkin and apple muffins are moist and delicious.

Varieties of pumpkin to use

If you think of pumpkins as those lightweight, vegetables you hollow out for Halloween, think again. Pumpkins come in many varieties, and not all are watery, stringy and without substance or flavor!

Leave those featherweight pumpkins to the kids, and for this recipe choose a pumpkin that's dense in texture and heavier for its size than the Jack-o-Lanterns. I used a Blue Lakota pumpkin in these muffins and after making two batches there was enough left for a hearty stew and a pot of soup.

Blue Lakota pumpkin hails from the American Mid-west and is an heirloom variety. That means it has been grown for a long time, probably centuries, but not in large-scale farming. The seeds of heirloom vegetables and fruit are passed on through generations, and varieties have developed, but have not been genetically modified.You can see a Blue Lakota in the photo below. Do not try to carve this pumpkin! The seed cavity is small, and trying to hollow out its dense flesh would take a very long time and give you aching arms!

Although I've used Blue Lakota, any dense pumpkin variety will work for this recipe, and if you can't get pumpkin you could try butternut squash.

Blue Lakota Pumpkin

With its dense flesh, this pumpkin is ideal for baking.

With its dense flesh, this pumpkin is ideal for baking.

Should you precook pumpkin when making muffins?

Most pumpkin muffin recipes suggest canned pumpkin. I don't recommend this. The linings of almost all canned food contain Bisphenol-A (BPA), a hormone disrupting chemical, now banned in babies' bottles in several countries. I recommend fresh pumpkin instead.

I have given two variations of this recipe: in the first version the pumpkin and apples are grated or chopped in a food processor and added to the mixture raw. This is similar to how you would make a carrot cake, and the texture when baked is also similar to carrot cake.

If you want a texture closer to that of canned pumpkin, you can stew and puree the pumpkin and apples before adding to the mixture. This is easy to do - while the pumpkin and fruit are cooking you can prepare the rest of the muffin mixture. In this version of the recipe I have used dried dates to sweeten and they are stewed with the pumpkin and apple.

As you can see in the photo below the muffins do look different on the outside, but inside the texture looks the same. For the muffin on the left the pumpkin and apple was not precooked, and for the one on the right it was. Both versions are equally delicious.


Whole cane sugar


Natural alternatives to refined sugar to sweeten

Refined sugar has no nutrients and is linked to obesity and many health issues, including heart diseases. I avoid refined sugars and have tested out many alternatives. The first version of this recipe uses whole cane sugar, also known as rapadura or as jaggery. This is dehydrated cane juice - only the water is removed and the molasses and minerals remain, making it a healthier alternative to refined sugar. Other options are coconut blossom sugar, or 3 tablespoons of molasses, honey or maple syrup. All these are healthier than refined sugar, with active nutrients. For instance, maple syrup has anti-inflammatory properties.

This recipe already gains sweetness from the apples and pumpkins, and as you grow more used to living without refined sugar, you will notice their natural sweetness. It's best to use any sweetener in small quantities, and so my preference for additional sweetness is date puree. To make this, boil dried dates in water and then puree them. The second version of this recipe includes dates, which you can cook with the pumpkin and apple. You can of course, use pureed dates in the first version too.

Fats to use in low fat muffins

Most muffin recipes contain milk, but I discovered they kept better if I used water instead. This also keeps down on the fat, since water contains no fat! I've suggested sunflower oil, which contains no saturated fat but you could also use olive or canola oil, both of which are higher in mono-saturates. If you prefer them, melted coconut oil or butter are also fine to use in this recipe. Whichever you use, it's best to use organic because oils can contain a high pesticide residue.

If you need to lower fat even more, you could substitute no-fat yogurt for the oil.

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Vegan alternative

There is an egg in this recipe, but although eggs do contain cholesterol there are two types of cholesterol, free range eggs contain the type that is actually good for us: high density lipoproteins (HDL.)

If you want to avoid egg, use a tablespoon of cider vinegar instead. This reacts with bicarbonate of soda to act as a raising agent.

Cook Time at Oven: 375°F/190°/170°fan oven or gas mark 5.

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

20 min

40 min

12 muffins

Low Fat Pumpkin Apple Muffins: Ingredients

Ingredients for the pumpkin and apple mixture:

  • 225 grams /8 oz pumpkin (approx. 2 cups when chopped)
  • 2 eating apples
  • 3oz whole cane sugar or coconut blossom sugar - or 3 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup


  • 110 gram/4 oz /½ cup dates (chopped in half) and 100 ml/4oz /½ cup of boiling water

Ingredients for the rest of the muffin mixture:

  • 250 gram/9 oz/1½ cups wholemeal flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon each of nutmeg and ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 90 ml/3 fl oz/⅓ cup sunflower oil (or fat-free yogurt)
  • 90 ml/3 fl oz/⅓ cup water

Instructions for preparing the pumpkin and apple:

If you are not pre-cooking the pumpkin:

  • Peel and finely grate the pumpkin and apple. (Or finely chop in a food processor.)
  • Add the whole sugar, honey or maple syrup to mixture and set aside while you prepare the rest of the muffin mix.

If you are precooking the pumpkin:

  • Peel and chop the pumpkin and apple.
  • Place pumpkin, apple, dates and water in a pan, and simmer (cook gently) until soft. This will take about 15 – 20 minutes depending on the type of pumpkin you use.
  • Remove from heat, cool a little and then puree till smooth.

Instructions for the rest of the muffin mixture

  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Some of the bran from the flour may not go through the sieve. If so, that’s fine: just tip it into the mixing bowl.
  • In another bowl beat the egg with a fork.
  • Measure out the water.
  • Add all the wet ingredients to the dry, except for the water.
This is dropping consistency.

This is dropping consistency.

Dropping Consistency

Mix everything else together first, and then add a little of the water.

It is best to add the water slowly because pumpkins and apples vary in how much liquid they hold. You may only need a little of the water, or you may need more than I've suggested. Trust your mixture! The aim is to get a mixture that is “dropping consistency.” This means it drops off the spoon slowly. If it is runny you have too much water, and should add a little more flour.

The photograph above shows a muffin mixture that can drop off a spoon but is not runny.

Spoon into muffin tins


Spoon into muffin tins, and bake for 20 - 25 minutes. (Cooking time may vary depending on your oven, so it's best to check them after 20 minutes and return to the oven if they aren't ready.)

To test if the muffins are done, with your finger push gently on the top of one of them. If it springs back it is ready, but if your finger leaves a dent, cook for another 5 minutes.

Enjoy with a cup of tea.



Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on September 22, 2018:

I can't wait to try these muffins. Finally a truly healthy recipe. I love your photos and your interesting, helpful tips. I learned so much.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 10, 2012:

Thanks Magdaleine.

Magdaleine on December 08, 2012:

yummy and healthy, I will try it :)

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 31, 2012:

Susan, they are delicious. My husband bought the pumpkin and I wasn't sure at first what kind it was, but it tastes good. If you can't get that kind, any dense pumpkin variety will do, or even a squash. Pumpkin and spice just go together don't they? Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 31, 2012:

Wow, GoodLady, you could make me blush! Thank you so much for such a kind comment. Hope you enjoy these as much as we do.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on October 30, 2012:

These look delicious. I've never seen a Blue Lakota pumpkin before so I'll have to make these with a regular pumpkin. At the donut shop where one of my son's bakes for they make pumpkin spice muffins and I'm so addicted to them. I'm looking forward to trying your recipe.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on October 30, 2012:

Now THIS is seriously good recipe/food writing and your helpful discussions on ingredients are superb. The photo of that Blue Lakota pumpkin is wonderful. Everything about this hub is just the tops. I'm going to make your recipe and can't wait (the one with the pumpkin and apple un-cooked!)

Hope you get a HOTD for this. Voting etc. (And pinning and FB too)

Clicked 5 stars!!! I see you concentrated on apples for a few hubs, I did that on extra virgin olive oil.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 14, 2012:

Coffeegginmyrice, these muffins are definitely easy enough for an older child to do. Hope your daughter enjoys making them and you are sure to enjoy eating them! Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 14, 2012:

2patricias, thanks you for your kind comment about the photos. I had fun taking them (and eating the muffins.) Thanks also for adding this to your recipe index.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 14, 2012:

anginwu, I agree with you on muffins and cups of tea - but I guess that's obvious from the photo! I love muffins of many varieties and these are really tasty. It's definitely pumpkin season now.

Thanks for your comment and for sharing.

Marites Mabugat-Simbajon from Toronto, Ontario on October 13, 2012:

This is a wonderful recipe for a nutritious Fall breakfast and snack. I asked my daughter if she would like to try this, but she has to do the baking job, hahaha. And she didn't refuse it. So I'm bookmarking this hub and sharing.

Useful and beautiful! Thanks Melovy!

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on October 13, 2012:

I wish there was a button I could click for "great illustrations" your photos are so good!

These look delicious and healthy.

I'm adding them to my Recipe Index for HubPages.

anglnwu on October 13, 2012:

I've one, please. The last picture looks inviting--relaxing with a homemade pumpkin cupcake and a cup of tea. I just made a batch of pumpkin muffins myself, so here's one more way to make it even more interesting--thanks for sharing. Sharing this.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 05, 2012:

Thanks Rajan. I'm glad you like the pics! And now I must get up the link to your jaggery hub.

Bill, I've never tried these with butter, but I guess it would be nice. I do love them warm from the oven, though. Let me know how they go if you make them.

Thanks for your comment.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 04, 2012:

I love fresh muffin right out of the oven....a little butter....and they melt in your mouth. You can bet we will be making these; great recipe and thanks for the tips.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on October 03, 2012:

Melovy, a very interesting recipe. Nicely explained with great pictures. The muffins look very inviting.

Bookmarking, voted up & interesting.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 02, 2012:

ElleBee, these do go great together, especially with the spices. Thanks for your comment.

ElleBee on October 01, 2012:

This sounds delicious! Apple and pumpkin are two of my favorite recipes - sounds great to have them both in one recipe :)

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

RTalloni, I haven't made these with gluten free flour, but have made similar muffins. I suggest you add an extra egg so that they rise well, and then they should be fine.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

Peggy W, it's definitely the right time of year. Our shops are full of pumpklns of every kind. Thanks for your comment and hope you enjoy them.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

Blond Logic, the apples give a little more sweetness, and seem to work well with the pumpkin. I am really pleased to have discovered rapadura recently. It always seemed crazy to me that the goodness in sugar cane was removed so we ate only empty calories. It must be great to get it from local families.

Let me know how you like them after you've made them tomorrow, and thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

DS Duby, they are delicious muffins! Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

Deborah, thanks for sharing this, that's very kind of you. I also try to eat healthily.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

Ishwaryaa22, thank you for introducing me to rapadura/jaggery! This was the first recipe I tried it in, and my daughter uses it when she bakes cookies.

Glad you enjoyed the recipe and thanks for your comment and for sharing.

RTalloni on October 01, 2012:

Looks fabulous. I think I'll try the muffin recipe with a mixture of oat flour and garbanzo flour. Glad to see the extra tips and info for our health.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 01, 2012:

Wow...your pumpkin muffins look and sound delicious especially with the spices, apples and dates used in making them. Wish I had one to go with my first cup of coffee right now! Will have to look for those type of pumpkins in the stores. This is the right time of year for finding them. All kinds of up votes and sharing. Thanks!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:


Sounds like we feel the same way about BPA. I was shocked a few years ago to discover it was even in organic canned foods. I wrote to several manufacturers and they all used it. One was very rude in response but the rest did show concern and shortly after that one of the major UK supermarkets started instead using cartons to package their beans and a few other goods. I doubt if my email influenced them in any way, but it's good to have the choice to buy them.

Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

teaches12345, do you like tea with your muffin, then? Me too. Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

Carol they are delish… I made 14 on Saturday and we have 4 left now. Okay, make that 3, I'm eating one just now.

:-) Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

kittyjj, apart from when you first cut into the pumpkin, dealing with the skin isn't too bad. If I'm cooking squash I often boil if for a few minutes first as that softens the skin, and you could probably put a pumpkin in the oven to do the same. I do not recommend canned pumpkin though, especially since you have young girls, because of the chemicals. I think it's possible to buy pumpkin in jars so that could be an alternative.

Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

Kris, the first time I tried it, I was also surprised when the uncooked pumpkin worked. But it's very similar in texture to carrot so there's no reason why it wouldn't really. Either way it's very tasty, but the uncooked way is probably the easier of the two. Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on October 01, 2012:

Jennyjenny, be sure to get good solid pumpkins. Thanks for your comment.

Mary Wickison from USA on September 30, 2012:

I have made pumpkin muffins before but without the apple. That could have been what they were missing. I love the fact you showed rapadura. I live in Brazil and use it all the time. Here it is made locally by families who grow sugar cane in their field.

I will try these tomorrow.

DS Duby from United States, Illinois on September 30, 2012:

Awesome recipe, it looks delicious. I'll definitely be trying it. voted up, useful and interesting.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on September 30, 2012:

great hub great recipe.. sounds wonderful.. I will share on Facebook on cooking time and TOPS TAKE OFF POUNDS SENSIBLY.. I look for hubs on healthy food and exercise etc. hugs and blessings