This is the Perfect Pumpkin Bread for you if you love spice. I'm not talking about just liking pumpkin spice for the everyday, lukewarm basic b cinnamon. I am talking about deep, true, unshakeable love for the hot, heady intensity of ginger and cloves and maybe even a touch of that unidentifiable thing we can only call chemistry. Shall we?
from reader edwest216 in the cooks' community:
"Wow, this was indeed the greatest pumpkin bread recipe I've ever made/eaten! ...
Everyone loves this recipe! As others have stated, It's a keeper!"
Stalk the Comments section to read more helpful reviews or add your questions and advice!
- What Ingredients You Need for Perfect Pumpkin Bread
- Instructions for How to Make Perfect Pumpkin Bread
- Can You Use Different Pans or Sizes?
- Substitutions and Variations
- Tools and Equipment
- Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
- What Else to Serve with Pumpkin Bread
- More Recipes with Pumpkin
- More Quick Breads
- Perfect Pumpkin Bread Recipe
I don't remember from where nor from whom this Pumpkin Bread recipe comes. The recipe is in my own handwriting on a ruled index card, a clear indication that I must have gotten it some time during college when I was pre-med and took classes that required memorization via flash cards.
The recipe calls for buttermilk, which is, a la Tom Jones, not unusual, but what makes this the last recipe for Pumpkin Bread you'll ever use is the method of alternating dry and buttermilk additions to the batter.
What Ingredients You Need for Perfect Pumpkin Bread
Here are the ingredients you need to make Perfect Pumpkin Bread. See recipe below for exact quantities.
- Brown sugar, dark or light
- Avocado or other neutral oil
- Pumpkin puree
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Cloves
Pumpkin Seeds are listed as optional ingredient to top the bread, but are they ever really optional when you use them every single time?
Optional Mix-In Ingredients
This Pumpkin Bread recipe is open to all kinds of mix-ins at the end. Add up to 1 cup of:
- dark chocolate chips
- chocolate chunks
- chopped white chocolate
- nuts, if you must
- dried fruit, also, only if you must
Fold the mix-ins into the finished batter right before pouring the batter to the pan. Note that the nutritional information per serving of the recipe changes, primarily the calories and fat, when you add chocolate chips.
Ok, now look, I know it's controversial, but I'm going to go ahead say it: nuts of any kind do not belong in Pumpkin Bread, or any baked goods for that matter. However, if you are inclined to add nuts, don't. Just kidding. You can add up to 1 cup of chopped nuts by folding them into the finished batter at the end.
If you add raisins to Pumpkin Bread, we are no longer friends.
Instructions for How to Make Perfect Pumpkin Bread
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour 9x5-inch loaf pan or line muffin tin with paper liners.
Cream 1½ cups brown sugar and ½ cup oil. Add 2 large eggs and ½ pound pumpkin puree. Combine well.
In a separate bowl, sift together 1½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon cloves, and ½ teaspoon salt.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet pumpkin mixture in 3 additions, starting with ⅓ of the dry ingredients...
...alternating with ⅓ cup buttermilk...
...and ending with dry ingredients.
Pour Perfect Pumpkin Bread batter into prepared loaf pan or divide into muffin tin.
Sprinkle pumpkin seeds over the top, concentrating toward the center. Lightly tap into batter to help stick.
Bake the Pumpkin Bread in a loaf pan for approximately 50 minutes or as muffins for 25 minutes, checking with toothpick about 10 minutes before. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then tip out of pan and cool completely before cutting or storing. Recommended, but I know you're going to want to try a slice right away!
Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Brown sugar. Light or dark brown sugar works for this recipe.
- Oil. Use any neutral flavored oil. I use avocado oil, usually this brand . If you want to use olive oil, use one that is lighter in flavor and color.
- Pumpkin Puree. Use 100% solid pack pumpkin in a can (or carton), not pumpkin pie filling, which has spices and other ingredients already added to it.
- Vanilla Extract.
- All-purpose flour. Use whatever organic flour is the most affordable off the shelf at my local grocery store.
- Cinnamon. Cinnamon is a common spice for baking, but is unfortunately overlooked as a superfood! Anything labeled "ground cinnamon" is fine for this recipe. But if you really want something fancy, look for "Ceylon" cinnamon.
- Nutmeg. This spice (which is not a nut) is part of the the recipe, but if you don't have it on hand, don't worry about it. That being said, nutmeg is a great spice to add to any kind of cooked green vegetable. You want ground nutmeg, not the whole thing.
- Cloves. My hypothesis is that we all lose out minds over "pumpkin spice," not because of the pumpkin, and not any of the other spices, which we generally encounter throughout the year, but cloves, because it is so strongly specifics to fall and winter. Like, who the hell uses cloves in like, July?
- Salt. I use this kosher salt for almost every cooking application (as opposed to a finishing/garnishing application). If you only have regular table salt, use half the amount in the recipe.
- Buttermilk. The buttermilk provides liquid for texture, but also provides acid, which works with the dry leaveners to provide lift. If you don't have buttermilk, substitute with another acidic liquid.
- Pumpkin seeds. I like using sprouted pumpkin seeds. The sprouting process releases enzymes that help make the nutrients in the seeds more bioavailable, i.e. more easily absorbed.
All other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can't find what I need at the farmers' market.
Can You Use Different Pans or Sizes?
Yes, you can bake this Perfect Pumpkin Bread in several different pan sizes and shapes! Part of what makes this recipe so easy is that baking in different pans doesn't require much, if any modification:
- Muffin Pan— This Pumpkin Bread recipe fits perfectly in a regular 12-count muffin tin and makes perfect muffins! Grease and flour the muffin tin or line with paper liners. Divide batter evenly among cups. Bake the muffins for 18-22 minutes.
- Different Size Loaf Pan—Because this Pumpkin Bread is meant to be easy, the recipe is flexible enough that you can use slightly different sized and shaped pans. An 8½x4½-inch loaf pan will yield a taller bread, and needs to bake for a longer time. Check the bread at 50 minutes.
- 8x8-inch Square Pan— An 8x8-inch square pan has similar capacity to a 9x5-inch loaf pan. The batter will spread out more, so you will need to decrease the baking time. Bake an 8x8-inch square for a shorter period of time, i.e. start checking the Pumpkin Bread for done-ness at 30 minutes.
- 9x9-inch Square Pan—In a 9x9-inch square pan the batter will spread out even more, making a slightly thinner/flatter final product. Bake a 9x9-inch square for a shorter period of time, i.e. start checking the Pumpkin Bread for done-ness at 25 minutes.
Substitutions and Variations
Pumpkin Bread, as with most quick breads, is forgiving, flexible and great for customization by making ingredient substitutions or additions. I have made this recipe many times as it's presented, as well as with the substitutions and variations as noted below:
- Whole Wheat Flour - Substitute in whole wheat flour for up to 100% of the all-purpose flour to add fiber to the nutritional profile and slightly more texture to the final product. I have made this Pumpkin Bread with whole wheat flour and it comes out perfectly!
- Almond Flour and Other Alt- Flours - Substitute up to half (50%) of the all-purpose flour in this recipe with alternative flours like almond flour, cassava flour, or coconut flour. If you'd like a completely wheat-free version, see the next section about making the recipe 100% gluten-free...
- Brown Sugar—Substitute up to 50% of the granulated (white) sugar in this recipe with brown sugar for similar results in texture and a slightly "warmer" brown sugar flavor.
- Reduced Sugar—You can absolutely reduce the total amount of sugar in the recipe to ¾ cup, or even ½ cup! Any less than that, however, and you will compromise the structural integrity of the bread, as sugar is not just for sweetness, but moisture and texture.
- Olive Oil or Other Oil — You can use olive oil for this recipe. For results closest to this recipe, use a "light" olive oil, or one that is fairly mild in flavor. An olive oil that's slightly peppery will complement the spicy vibe of the pumpkin in this bread.
Modifications for Dietary Needs
- Gluten-free - To make this Pumpkin Bread gluten-free, substitute a gluten-free flour 100% for the all-purpose flour. Two commercial baking-ready gluten-free flours my gluten-free experts friends have recommended are Measure-for-Measure by King Arthur and Pamela's, both of which you can substitute into recipes 1:1.
- Dairy-free. To make this Pumpkin Bread dairy-free, substitute with 5 tablespoons plant-based milk any kind + 1 teaspoon apple cider or other vinegar. You can, obviously, substitute with a store-bought plant-based buttermilk or yogurt for the regular dairy buttermilk. You can also use applesauce, which will slightly change the flavor, but provides the required acid!
- Vegan - To make this recipe vegan, make the buttermilk sub above, and use an appropriate plant-based egg substitute or a flax egg, which is made with ground flax seeds and water. I would not leave the egg alternative out completely.
Variations with Mix-In Ingredients
As noted above, additional mix-in ingredients at the end are great for customizing your Pumpkin Bread. Add up to 1 cup of any of the following into the batter at the end, with the understanding that additions will change the nutritional profile of the final recipe. Just fold into the final batter until well incorporated:
- dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chunks
- white chocolate chips or chunks
- chopped toasted nuts of any kind like almonds, pecans, pistachios, or walnuts
- chopped dried fruit like dried cranberries, dated, dried figs, dried plums or raisins
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make almost any recipe. However, that's not to say there are a couple of gadgets and tools that might make it a LOT easier to get Pumpkin Bread from your pantry to plate.
- 9x5-inch Loaf Pan
- 8x4-inch Loaf Pan
- Angled Measuring Cups.
- Parchment Paper.
- Mini ¼-cup liquid measuring cup
- Glass mixing bowls.
- Sturdy Whisk.
- Mini whisk
- Glass storage container with airtight lids, perfect size for storing leftover Pumpkin Bread and Muffins!
Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
Pumpkin Bread, like all quick breads and muffins, are perfect for making ahead and eating over the next few days or freezing and re-heating. In fact, it's worthwhile to make two loaves at once if the oven's going to be turned on anyway. You can eat one loaf now and freeze one for later. To store Pumpkin Bread, cool bread completely. Like completely. At least one hour, maybe two. Then to store:
1-2 Days. Store pumpkin bread, as a loaf or sliced into individual servings, at room temperature in an air-tight container on the countertop for up to one day, maybe two days as long as it's not too hot and humid in the house.
Up to 5 Days. Store pumpkin bread, as a loaf or sliced into individual servings, for up to 5 days in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.
Up to 3 Months. Slice bread into individual servings. Wrap each slice in a piece of parchment paper to protect from freezer burn and to keep slices from sticking together. Place slices in an air-tight zipper-top bag and remove as much as air as possible. Remove individual slices from freezer, unwrap parchment paper, and re-heat in a toaster oven (best option). You can also microwave the frozen pumpkin bread, but the texture will be slightly sticky.
What Else to Serve with Pumpkin Bread
A generous slice of Pumpkin Bread by itself is a perfect light breakfast or snack! If you like to make it a little more of an occasion, here are some great suggestions for what and how else to serve with Pumpkin Bread:
- Slather a slice, toasted or not, with whipped cream cheese; the whipped version is key as pumpkin bread is tender so you want something that spread onto it gently
- Spread a slice with nut butter
- Drizzle the entire loaf with cream cheese icing or vanilla icing
- Top the entire loaf with this Cream Cheese Frosting to transform your Pumpkin Bread into a dessert
More Recipes with Pumpkin
This Perfect Pumpkin Bread uses 1 cup of pumpkin puree, which is half a can of pumpkin. Here's what to do with extra leftover pumpkin puree:
More Quick Breads
Perfect Pumpkin Bread Recipe
- 1½ cups brown sugar dark or light
- ½ cup avocado oil
- 2 large eggs
- ½ pound approximately 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup buttermilk or yogurt
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour 9x5-inch loaf pan or line muffin tin with paper liners.
- Cream 1½ cups brown sugar and ½ cup oil. Add 2 large eggs and ½ pound pumpkin puree. Combine well.
- In a separate bowl, sift together 1½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon allspice, and ½ teaspoon salt.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet pumpkin mixture in 3 additions, alternating with ⅓ cup buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
- Pour into loaf pan or divide into muffin tin. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds over the top, concentrating toward the center. Lightly tap into batter to help stick.
- Bake loaf pan for approximately 50 minutes or muffins for 25 minutes, checking with toothpick about 10 minutes before.
Community Reviews and Advice
Baked the Pumpkin Bread recipe as printed, but in a smaller loaf pan, and the bread comes out higher and taller, my preference for aesthetics! To package for gifting, wrap in plastic or seal in plastic zipper bags, then wrap in parchment or butcher paper.
Close-up view of Pumpkin Bread recipe baked exactly as printed (no substitutions!) to see the cake-like crumb.
Toast slices in toaster oven or air-fryer to re-heat, but also makes slightly crisped, caramelized edges. So good spread with plain unsweetened yogurt and topped with caramelized butternut squash (use this recipe!), fresh pomegranate, and a drizzle of honey.
Spread with ricotta, fig butter, prosciutto and roasted salted pistachios to lean pumpkin bread toward savory
Substituted 1 cup of fresh persimmon purée in for the pumpkin, topped with labneh, cranberry sauce, and pistachios. Can also substitute in other types of squash like butternut or kabocha, or sweet potato purée works great.
Food for Thought
I started writing a post back in June, just before my birthday, just before the Summer Solstice, but I never finished it. To be more accurate, I barely even started it. The draft has been sitting in my queue of pending posts, has been hanging as a three-quarters (in)complete introductory paragraph to nothing with a sentence at the end that just stops at a single, solemn word:
Just like that. No words after it. No punctuation. Unfinished business that leaves one hanging in a whisper of sadness…melancholy.
One would think that after weeks of watching that pathetic attempt at a blog post slowly sink lower and lower down the screen, I would just delete it, but delete it I could not. It wasn’t that I literally couldn’t—that I wasn’t in front of a computer 20 of 24 hours a day, that I didn’t have access to the Internet, that I was too busy working on something else.
No, almost every day, the opportunity to delete that post arose. Almost every day, I would open the post, full of a strange, sad optimism that I would finally be able to express the emotions that were so intense that they had held my writing captive. I would find myself wrestling with thoughts, clawing at words, desperate to grasp something before an invisible deadline passed. Almost every day, I found myself exhausted after two, three, five hours of feeling everything again, but expressing nothing. Again. Almost every day, after getting to melancholy and letting out a sigh of surrender, I could have clicked "delete."
I could have deleted the post.
But I didn't.
And now a muffin that reaches for symbolism, because really, a muffin could be nothing more than a sad cupcake that was never finished with frosting.
This post and recipe, originally published October 2008, have been updated with new photos for clarification.