The Pumpkin Spice Hype and Our Healthy Alternative (Vegan Pumpkin Muffins!)

Pumpkin spice is having a moment. The first signs of fall have been solidified not from the crisp air or the colorful foliage, but the appearance of pumpkin versions of everything you can imagine. From Hershey Kisses to waffles and coffee creamer, there are so many pumpkin spice products. However, none of these are health foods, and few contain, well, pumpkin! What's going on? This post will explain the difference between pumpkin flavoring and actual pumpkin, and also offer a quick and easy pumpkin muffin recipe made of entirely whole, plant foods.

Pumpkin Spice in Processed Foods

Pumpkin spice flavoring in processed foods can be made up of all sorts of ingredients which may or may not be spelled out for you on the packaging. Ingredients may or may not be pumpkin or spices. In the instance of Starbuck's famous Pumpkin Spice Latte, the pumpkin spice flavored sauce is made up of sugar, condensed nonfat milk, high fructose corn syrup, unnatural color ingredients, and natural or artificial flavors, salt, and preservatives. The pumpkin spice topping is made of cinnamon and nutmeg, which would be wonderful real spices but,for some reason, Starbucks add sulfites to this mix that can cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and DNA damage. Basically this drink is made up of all sorts of poor quality, unnecessary and unnatural ingredients.

The one thing that pumpkin products have in common is that they all contain a lot of refined sugar (the Pumpkin Spice Latte has 50 grams). Refined sugar has no place in a healthy diet. Once you give up sugar, you will see so many health improvements that you will never miss it. Read more about our thoughts on sugar and sugar substitutes.

Alternative Fall Drinks That Are Good For You

There are so many simple ways to make a fall drink that's good for you! One of the easiest being to steep an organic rooibos chai in hot water, or to steam almond milk with organic powdered spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. You could use the same dried spices to make your own chai on the stove top. Here is very healthy caffeine-free pumpkin spice late recipe. There are also many great smoothie options using organic pumpkin puree--which is actual pumpkin!! I like this recipe for a pumpkin spice smoothie.

Nutritional Benefits of Fresh Pumpkin and Raw Pumpkin Seeds

So finding health this season has nothing to do with giving anything up, but finding and/or making better options where we use real food to satisfy our seasonal tastes. Real pumpkin is amazing! There are many different varieties, but my favorite is kabocha squash, which is called pumpkin commonly in Japan, Thailand, and Korea. Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene that benefits the skin, hair, and eyes, and have tons of fiber. Fiber helps us to feel full and satisfied, while helping to flush out toxins and keep our whole health in check. Raw pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, and are especially good for our skin, hair, and nails. Pumpkin seeds should be eaten raw as roasting alters the benefits. Find out much more on pumpkin benefits in this article.

Pumpkin Muffin Recipe Using Whole Foods

A way to incorporate pumpkin into your diet is through these wonderful pumpkin spice muffins that can be made in 30 minutes. This recipe was found at Forks Over Knives is an eye-opening documentary that examines the idea that we can prevent or cure illness through our diet.  It is the film that inspired my parents to go plant-based. It is revolutionary, and if you have time now, go watch it (it's up for streaming on Netflix)! Make the muffins later!

Now that your back...we basically followed the FOK recipe to the T, however, omitted the semisweet chocolate chips, which is just our taste preference. Oh, and I say we because I was able to bake with my Mom during a visit to Pennsylvania!!


  • 1 medium banana, mashed
  • 1 15-ounce carton organic pumpkin puree (or you can make it yourself by steaming fresh pumpkin, or substitute with yams or sweet potatoes for a sweet potato muffin)
  • ¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 cups whole oat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder (try to find this in a white lined, aluminum-free can)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (we always use Pink Himalayan, see this post  for more
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger


Preheat oven to 375°F. In a mixing bowl, mash a ripe or over-ripe banana. The more spotted and brown the banana, the better for mashing (and digesting). Then add the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl (or the same if you are working quickly) combine the dry ingredients: oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Add dry and wet ingredients and mix together gently until well combined with a wooden spoon. Do not over mix for texture purposes. It is ok if you can still see some banana pieces. 

Spoon batter into a lined stainless-steel muffin pan. Try to purchase unbleached muffin cups if possible. Bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins are lightly browned. An amazing smell will start to reach across the kitchen. Remove muffins from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. 

Let us know your favorite pumpkin spice product in the comments section below, and we'll respond with how you could enjoy something similar made of whole, plant foods. If you have a chance to make the muffins, please let us know! We'd love to see them. Tag using #theforkfulway on social media so that we can check it out. Happy autumn!