I created these pumpkin pie brownies because I needed a “sweet treat” that contained absolutely no sugar. And by no sugar I mean not even unrefined sugars such as coconut sugar or rice syrup. No dates, no fruit, nothing.
The reason for this crazy idea is I’m doing a cleanse to improve my gut health which requires me to cut out all sugar for 6 weeks. For someone who loves their desserts this has been pretty hard. But it’s also been really interesting too. When you start looking at ingredients and thinking about how you cook, you realise just how much extra sugar is hidden in your diet.
Being a big dessert person I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this cleanse without any sort of sweet treats. So I racked my brains to think of what I could make that would meet the “no sugar” criteria.
First off I tried using stevia in my raw chocolate avocado mousse recipe. This mousse is usually pretty amazing (if I say so myself), but tragically when I swapped the maple syrup for stevia the resulting mousse was inedible!
Stevia has a very sweet flavour but because it’s not a sugar, it doesn’t mix with the rest of the flavours in the same way that pure maple syrup does. When I had a spoonful of my stevia mousse creation I was immediately overpowered by the bitter cacao flavour. A few seconds later I started to taste the super sweet stevia flavour which continued to linger long after. Not pleasant at all. From this experience I think stevia might be best left to sweetening things like hot drinks and smoothies.
Since stevia was out, that pretty much left me with vegetables.
Sweet potatoes, beetroot, carrots and pumpkin are all very sweet tasting vegetables and when cooked, they have a great workable texture. Pumpkin pie immediately sprung to mind so I started experimenting with a butternut squash as it has the sweetest flavour.
Squash and pumpkins contain quite a lot of water so by roasting them in the oven instead of steaming, you avoid creating a soggy cake or brownie. Once the butternut was cooked and cool enough to handle, I mixed it with pumpkin pie spices, ground pecans (because their caramel flavour goes so well with pumpkin pie!), coconut milk and eggs. I poured the batter into into a brownie pan, baked it in the oven for 20 minutes and the result was pretty damn amazing according to my sugar deprived tastebuds!!
The best way to describe these pumpkin pie brownies is the filling from a pumpkin pie. It’s the right amount of sweet and spicy and has a lovely soft, custard-like texture. So if you’re a spiced pumpkin pie fan, I think you’ll love this brownie.
I do need to say, however, this pumpkin pie brownie is not a super sweet treat. It’s definitely not savoury (I wouldn’t do that to you), but it’s just not sickly sweet as some brownies or pumpkin pies can be.
So if you’re a person who really likes your desserts sugary sweet, and you’re not in the middle of a sugar cleanse, then this recipe may not be for you. I did take this pumpkon pie brownie to a dinner party and 5 out of 6 of guests loved it. The 6th guest didn’t say anything and still politely ate their piece but you could tell they wouldn’t be coming back for seconds. Perhaps they just weren’t a pumpkin fan or, as I said above, it may not be for everyone!
As this miraculous dairy, grain and sugar free brownie is sweetened only with pumpkin it’s a great treat to feed your little ones too. Depending on their tastebuds, you may just want to adjust the amount of spices you add. Likewise, anyone on a low or sugar free diet, or anyone following a full paleo diet, this pumpkin pie brownie is for you! It’s delicious straight out of the oven and even better chilled the next day.
I hope you give these pumpkin pie brownies a try and I would LOVE to hear your feedback. Did you like the recipe?
Have you tried anything like this before?! Leave me a comment down below.
Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie Brownies
Servings: Approximately 18-20
Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 45minutes + 20 minutes
1 medium butternut squash to yield approximately 1 1/2 cups cooked puree
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
pinch Himalayan pink salt
1 cup/ 250ml coconut milk
1/2 cup/ 70g pecan nuts, finely ground
Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan bake. Cut the butternut squash into quarters, leave the skin on and seeds. These can be scooped out later and prevent it from drying out too much while cooking. Smear a little coconut oil on the cut flesh and place on a baking tray in the centre of the oven. Roast for approximately 30-45 minutes, until you can easily cut the butternut with a butter knife. Remove from the oven, place in a bowl and cover. The steam will make the skin easier to remove.
While the butternut is roasting grind the pecans into crumbs using a food processor, and set aside. Line a small brownie tray approximately 15 cm x 25 cm with baking paper.
When the butternut is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and seeds and mash the remaining flesh. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of butternut mash and place in a mixing bowl. Add the spices, vanilla, salt and coconut milk and stir well to combine. Add the eggs and mix in well. Lastly add the pecan nuts and stir to ensure evenly mixed.
Pour the pumpkin pie brownie mix into the prepared baking tray and place in the centre of the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes. When its ready, the brownie will have puffed up a little and a knife inserted into the middle should come out clean. Removed the brownie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Cut into slices and serve warm with a dollop of coconut yoghurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon. This pumpkin pie brownie also tastes amazing chilled the next day and can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Enjoy!
Really excited to try this recipe at the weekend. I will keep you posted!
Hi Hannah, so pleased you like this one!! Can’t wait to hear what you think 🙂
Hi José, you seem to use vanilla powder (rather than liquid) in a lot of your recipes. Do you think it matters to substitute for liquid?
Hi Jo, yes I quite like using vanilla powder because it doesn’t have any sugar or alcohol added as it’s literally just ground up vanilla pods, and it’s a cheaper alternative to whole vanilla beans. I’ve specified vanilla powder in this recipe because it’s a completely sugar free recipe, so you could also use a scraped vanilla pod as another sugar free option. That said, as you usually only use a small amount of vanilla to flavour a recipe, the amount of sugar in the liquid form is probably minimal so it’s entirely up to you which form of vanilla you use 🙂
For what it’s worth, I have mostly used vanilla extract because it’s mostly readily available to me BUT, the liquid version does affect the taste of the final product, and NOT in a way that my palate likes it. Imo, it leaves a rather unpleasant bitter alcohol flavor.
I will definitely be seeking the powder online. Btw, your recipes are stunning and seem fairly easy to make. I am very interested in the sweet potato brownies (& the mousse!) because I have quite a few on my counter-top at the moment. I try to minimize my sugar intake as well, and love a deep, dark treat so I see myself coming back to your blog often. Thank you! Gina in Florida 🙂
Hi Gina, that’s so interesting about liquid vanilla affecting the flavour of these brownies! I specify vanilla powder because it doesn’t have any sugar or alcohol added – and this is obviously a sugar free recipe. Vanilla powder is literally just ground up vanilla beans, so a scraped vanilla bean would also work well.
The sweet potato mousse and brownies are even better than these pumpkin pie brownies so you should definitely give them a go!
Thanks for your comments 🙂
Hi José, thank you for this recipe. Any suggestion to make it nut free? I can’t have nuts (etc) because of kidneys stones. Could I replace the pecan nuts with oats? And thanks for making me discover vanilla powder, I didn’t know that existed, very useful and exactly what I was looking for!
Hi Emmanuelle, yes you could substitute ground pecans for oat or any other type of flour. If you want the brownies to remain sugar free which includes all grain flours however, you could try something like coconut flour, desiccated coconut, ground flaxseed or ground sunflower/pumpkin seeds. I haven’t tried the recipe with any of these alternatives so I’m not 100% sure what the result will taste like. But if you try one come back and let me know! I love vanilla powder too – such a great alternative to sugar/alcohol based vanilla essence.
Thank you very much, José, for those suggestions! I shall go and experiment and I will let you know the outcome hehe, let’s see! It’s gonna be fun! 😉