Pumpkin Palooza: Pumpkin Caramel Swirl Brownies

Vegan, Candida Diet, Sugar-Free Pumpkin Caramel Brownie Recipe on RickiHeller.com

Like everyone else in North America this time of year, I’m currently having a bit of a love affair with pumpkin (shhhh, don’t tell Kale).

It all started with Almost Instant Pumpkin Porridge the other day, and reveals itself today with these vegan and gluten-free Pumpkin Caramel Swirl Brownies. Next up are some amazing homemade glu–oops, almost let it slip, there! You’ll just have to wait and see. 😉

Although we virtually never ate pumpkin when I was a kid, my sisters and I were certainly enthusiastic about Halloween. True, we didn’t have a carved pumpkin on our front porch; in fact, we didn’t even use those plastic pumpkin pails (you know, the ones with black handles, designed to collect loot while trick or treating)–we thought they were way too small for our purposes. But we did enjoy pumpkin-shaped mellowcreme candies, plus all the other goodies that were only allowed in our house on October 31st.

In fact, for my sisters and me, the entire activity of trick-or-treating was approached with a seriousness and precision of military proportions.

The evening went something like this:

Time: 1800 hours

Suss out targets and decide which ones require immediate hits. Note the key markers identifying each target: carved pumpkin with flickering candles inside indicates “good” treats available; paper pumpkins affixed to window panes indicates cheapo loot, such as bruised apples, peanuts in the shells, or pennies; AVOID. Strategy: hone in on the carved pumpkin houses while steering clear of the losers.

 Time: 1900 hours

With the first run already completed, dump booty in haphazard piles on the living room floor (ensuring the protective gate has been pulled across the entryway, to avoid canine infiltration), then head out for a second round of assault. By this time, success is more likely, as the targets may be growing tired.  If a target is spied blowing out the pumpkin candles and preparing to close up shop, rush to the door and solicit more treats. This may precipitate a full surrender of all Halloween candy remaining in the house–TREAT VICTORY!

Time: 20:00 hours

Under cover of darkness, rush back to base camp to unload the spoils of warlocks (and witches). Dump everything on the floor and prepare for the victory party. . .

Pumpkin Caramel Swirl Brownies on RickiHeller.com

. . . .And so it went.  Once we got home, we began the sorting operation: similar items were lined up in parallel rows across the floor (chocolate bars like KitKat, Caramilk, Aero, Oh Henry, Smarties in one line; candies like SweeTarts, caramels, jaw breakers in another; less popular items such as potato chips, Halloween kisses in a third). Next, the negotiations began. We traded candies the way teenaged boys trade stories of dating conquests, feigning disinterest or refusing to look impressed so that we could ultimately get more out of our rival.

“What? You want four caramels for a measly bag of chips?” the CFO might say. “Forget it!” Or  I’d counter, “I’ll give you a Caramilk and two kisses for the Oh Henry, but that’s it, NO MORE.” We’d haggle and argue until everyone had a pile of goodies that was relatively equal.

And finally, the pièce de résistance: eating. Halloween was the one night of the year that gorging ourselves was not only permitted, but somehow tacitly sanctioned.  Our parents left us alone to attack the treats without so much as a word. When our bellies were finally so full that they began to resemble pumpkins themselves, we packed what was left of the candy in grocery bags to be consumed over the following few days.

Until recent years, I always thought of pumpkin as something merely decorative, the thing that you carve and then discard the next day. It wasn’t until I began to play in my own kitchen as an adult that I discovered sugar pumpkins (also called pie pumpkins) and that you could make your own pumpkin purée at home (just like canned–except more work!). I guess I’ve still not caught up with the general pumpkin-mania, as it only occurred to me recently that I have no recipe for pumpkin pie on this blog! (Yes, I must rectify that oversight asap).

In the meantime, these brownies are a stellar way to use up any extra pumpkin you may have on hand either from your Canadian Thanksgiving feast or simply because you visited the grocery store and came back with more pumpkin than you needed. They are truly fudgy and dense, with welcome ribbons of gooey, soft, pumpkiny caramel filling hither and yon. The filling is somewhat like a cross between fudge and caramel; a pumpkin ganache, if you will.

These days, I look back on my childhood Halloweens with nostalgia (and a bit of a stomach ache). As I mentioned last year, the HH and I have all but given up on participating, what with the kids being driven away from our house in droves. Besides, the HH refuses to carve another “real” pumpkin, which leaves just the option of a paper pumpkin taped to the window. . . and we all know how many kids that will attract.

Pumpkin Caramel Brownie on RickiHeller.com

Looking for Thanksgiving recipes? Here’s my mega roundup of 75+ Healthy, Whole Foods, Vegan & Gluten-Free recipes.


This recipe is shared at Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Allergy-Free Wednesdays.

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  1. The wizard does it again! These look ridiculous Ricki!!!! xo

  2. You don’t buy chance know the calorie count do you? The recipe looks wonderful!

    • Hi Maggie,

      Sorry, no, I don’t. . . as a rule, I no longer count calories. But I can say with confidence that they are less than conventional brownies! There are no eggs and very little fat added (just 1/4 cup coconut oil), so overall these are a much healthier option. . . lower glycemic, too. 🙂

  3. oops, *by I mean…. Haha, I was thinking of the ingredients I need to BUY for it!

  4. MY stomach hurts just *reading* about your youthful Halloween escapades! We take our kids trick or treating, my kids get to choose 10 or so candies & then my husband steals the rest of it & eats it for the rest of the year (because you know, that kind of stuff NEVER goes bad…). Did your parents allow a free for all just on Halloween, or were they apathetic about what you all ate? Just curious…I think my parents were the kind that didn’t pay attention to that sort of thing so I had many experiences (not just Halloween) with gorging on junk.

    Love fudgey brownies, looks so yum.

    • Mine does, too, Janae!! 😉 In general, I’d say my parents tried to teach us to eat healthfully. My dad was a great role model in that area (still going strong at 92), while my mom was a terrible one (she had Type 2 diabetes and loved sweets herself. . . died at 62). Eating junk food was never openly sanctioned, but my mom did tend to “look the other way” a lot of the time (probably because she wanted to eat the same thing!).

  5. These are clearly sensational brownies, Ricki! I, for one, love pumpkin anything, although I haven’t really gotten into pumpkin eating yet this fall. I’ve got three sugar pumpkins ready to be baked though. Today might be the day! Certainly this recipe is a good incentive. 🙂

    Love the memories. They are similar to ones I share with my sister. Thankfully, by the time we had our son, we simply drove him to the home of his grandparents (including his third set, his babysitter and her husband) and aunts and uncles who fixed reasonable treat bags for him. Or sometimes he’d attend a friend’s party. He never really got into the usual trick or treating, but enjoyed dressing up and the festivity of it all.


    • That sounds like SO much more of a healthy approach, Shirley! For us (at least the way I remember it), the costumes were secondary–we were totally focused on the goodies. SO unhealthy!! I love the idea of kids trading some of their treats for other things, or giving away to charity, or any of the myriad other approaches I read about today that seem so much wiser than what we did!

  6. Wow Ricki! I’ve been struggling to decide which of the brownie recipes in NSAGF to make first and now you bring another one into the mix to make the decision even harder!!
    Your Halloween sounds pretty hilarious. I’ve never been trick or treating believe it or not. It’s just not (or at least didn’t use to be) a big thing here. If the young Emma knew what she was missing out on though…I’m sure she’d have been up in arms!

    • My friend who lives in Oxford and has 3 kids tells me the same thing–she actually wishes her kids could go trick-or-treating! And sorry about the brownies. I actually thought to myself “gee, there are FIVE brownie recipes in Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free–do you really need another one?!”. But I guess I really (really) love brownies. 😉

  7. Fantastic – I tried this combo when first blogging and it was just slodgy – I love how fudgy these look.

    As for your halloween shenanigans – sounds like our easter (all poor quality chocolate) but I have never done halloween as a child or adult – heard a discussion about it on the radio about whether it was just a sugary american tradition we should avoid or an interesting pagan tradition. Do you see more than the candy tradition in Canada?

    • I think things are changing these days, Johanna. Parents are SO much more conscious about what their kids eat, and there are more, and healthier, options available (though I’m sure there’s still lots of junky candy!). I also know many parents who allow the kids to choose some goodies the first night, then somehow arrange for them to disappear, or else trade them in for something else, after that. 🙂

  8. Jennifer D says

    This is the second or third recipe that I have seen lately with lucuma powder. And they all look scrumptious! I guess I better order some so I can get to baking. 😉

    I was one of the weird kids. My sister and I dressed up and went trick or treating just like everyone else. When we got back home, my sister would gorge herself into sugar-induced oblivion, while I would pick out the few Skittles and Starburst and hand the rest to my parents. I have never been a big candy person. I love my chocolate in cakes, cookies and brownies, but I can’t handle it as a candy in itself. Blech! lol

    • Thanks for your comment, Jennifer! And yes, lucuma is delicious. . . I love it for this type of flavor enhancement. 🙂 And wow, lucky you–a child for whom candy WASN’T king!! 😀

  9. These look awesome!!

  10. Ooh, you figured out the ratio for pure stevia powder! I’m going to buy some Right Now and pray it doesn’t have that lingering aftertaste. Whoop whoop!

    • Hi Laurel,
      I thought we’d nailed this during testing for the book–? It’s just a general equivalent (since every brand of liquid stevia is different), but a good starting point. 🙂

  11. Ricki, thank you! These are perfection – chocolate, pumpkin, bars!! The best of all worlds 🙂

  12. Caramel swirl! – I’ve been thinking “caramel swirl” for one of my recipes recently – how funny! As usual these look fantastic!

    Please don’t be surprised if you see caramel swirl mentioned in one of my creations soon (though it’s not vegan).

    • Yay for caramel swirl! And to be honest, as I said, this isn’t *exactly* caramel, but more a cross between a caramel and a ganache. 🙂 Looking forward to what you cook up, though!! 😀

  13. Oh my goodness, Ricki! These look *amazing*! I cannot wait to make them. Fudgy brownies are the ONLY kind worth eating 🙂


  14. Oh you are good Ricki! 😉
    These look delicious!! Wow!
    xox ella

  15. Well Ricki, my friend, you’ve just described by childhood Halloweens TO A TEE! Me and my siblings did the same thing. In fact, I remember calling out (as the oldest), don’t bother with that house, move along, look for the festive ones…as we frantically sprinted down the street from house to house. We sorted and exchanged our candy (me exchanging most of my loot as I am allergic to peanuts), we binged, we dreamed about candy, we loved the smell of our bags (yes bags instead of plastic pumpkins), and my parents were probably asleep in the other room happy we were entertained and (for the most part) quiet. We also stayed up late watching those Disney Halloween cartoons. My kids don’t eat candy, and I am okay with that. We make our own fun on Halloween. They get to trick-or-treat and exchange their candy for mom’s healthy treats (or a small toy). I love Halloween (I dress up every year), I don’t love all the candy. Oh my, all the candy. I have turned into the “lame” house that I used to avoid – I give out stickers, pencils, erasers, etc. Ha ha. Now I get it…now I get it.

    This recipe is so fabulous, Ricki. I have to tell you really quick, that I have made 5 of your recipes from your cookbook. I have a batch of your flour mix in my cupboard…and left over pumpkin…and everything else you listed. Sooo, these will be made very soon. Can’t wait to share my review in a couple of week.


    • That’s so funny, Amber! Of course we thought we were the only ones who used grocery bags, who held trade-a-thons when we got home, etc. etc. And my parents may not have been sleeping, but they were certainly glad to leave us to our own devices–it meant they got a night off! 😉 I do remember watching the It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown cartoon, but that’s about it during this time of year. Ah, memories!! I’m sure I’d be just like you about Halloween if I had kids today. And of course, our house is an “avoid” house–the dogs would never let anyone get close!!

  16. It’ so not fair that some countries don’t celebrate Halloween! It looks like awesome fun, even for the adults. This recipe looks devilish and divine! I Think my husband is gonna be calling for more baked goods (aka pumpkin brownies) from now on. LOL

  17. Ricki, these look amazing! Thanks so much for sharing them at Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

  18. I just have to make these! I have all the ingredients except psyllium husks, what would you suggest as the best possible replacement? 🙂
    Thanks in advance!

    • You can always try ground chia instead of the psyllium (except use a bit less–maybe 1-1/2 Tbsp or 22.5 ml)–but I think they’ll be a wee bit more gummy and won’t hold together quite as well (I haven’t tried it with chia). Let me know how they turn out! 🙂

  19. wow, these look amazing!

  20. Three favorites in one dish! Featuring your recipe Ricki…thanks for sharing it with us!

  21. Amber Simons says

    Happened upon your recipe. im stoked to go home and make it. Normally when i look at recipes my head is swapping ingredients out automatically, once it gets to too many, i generally write off the recipe. Your recipe i did that a total of 0 times. you use all ingredients that i love to use, and generally sub with. so, thank you! im looking forward to this. looooove me some pumpkin, caramel and brownies. what a great combo!


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