This Low Carb Pumpkin Bread with Dark Chocolate Chips is grain-free, sweetener-free and dairy-free and it’s the most perfect way to kick-off my favorite season of them all. Serve this delicious low carb pumpkin bread warm with a little butter, ghee, coconut butter or cream cheese. Depending on your vibes with sweet stuff, you might consider a light drizzle of maple syrup or raw honey.
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere autumn is upon us once again and we can get super basic and pumpkin spice ALL the things. I find myself getting super inspired in the kitchen this time of year, this is my favorite season to create. Cozy, comfort foods is my favorite, this is what it’s all about!
Because most of the pumpkin spice foods you find in the world are aggressively over-sweetened with refined sugars or corn syrups or to make “sugar-free” treats, they are blasted with highly-refined, non-caloric sweeteners, which I don’t personally love – it just doesn’t leave a lot of options!
REDEFINING SWEET with Sweetener-Free
As you all know, I am a really big fan of redefining the term sweet. Developing a new relationship with this important taste in our palate is something I find to be very important. Instead of continuously having to push the boundaries of sweet, going sweeter and sweeter and it never being enough, then taking on a bi-annual sugar detox where you completely cut out sweet entirely because it gets out of hand, all this before the cycle starts over again (because news flash, deprivation doesn’t work) – I prefer to instead break this cycle, redefine the relationship with sweet and really learn to appreciate and crave the natural sweetness of foods. I don’t think sweetness is a taste we need to avoid completely, it’s important to our palate and our food experiences – but I do feel that it is one that can be changed.
I love that by redefining what sweetness is for you, not only do you get the wonderful pleasure of truly appreciating the inherent sweetness and the subtleties of flavors from so many delicious foods, you also redefine the often troublesome relationship many of us can have with sweet things.
Many alternative sweeteners, natural and artificial alike, while they may not contain calories and they may not increase your blood glucose, they also can be anywhere from 100 to 20,000 times sweetener than regular table sugar. This can lead to a hypersensitive palate, where an individual will find that more and more sweet stuff is needed to receive pleasure and to placate the sweet taste receptors. But, it’s also common that other taste receptors are affected as well, the body’s ability to effectively taste (and therefore crave) important flavors like “bitter” (an important taste than can ensure that we are consuming nutrient-dense foods like dark-leafy greens, etc.) can also be affected, which is why you will often hear people who are addicted to sugar and sweet stuff adamantly swear they HATE the way some veggies taste. I believe it, they aren’t being picky, their taste buds are off!
Some research 1https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261179.php has also shown that while non-caloric sweeteners may not cause a blood glucose response, some may still trigger an insulin response and what’s worse, it’s an increase of insulin without the high blood glucose. When insulin rises without an increase in the blood glucose that it intends to shuttle out of the blood stream and this can lead to blood glucose levels to follow that fall too low.
Additionally, many of these non-caloric alternative sweeteners don’t raise important satiety hormones that tell the body when it is satiated, satisfied and full. These sweeteners also do not affect neurotransmitters the way that sugar traditionally does, so if the sweet receptors are triggered by the sweet food but it doesn’t receive the expected results of satiety or the feel-good vibes (due to the affects on neurotransmitters) that regular sugar provides it can be quite confusing to the metabolism and this can lead to overeating and increased hunger and cravings.
Finally, many non-caloric sweeteners can lead to GI discomfort like bloating and gas and many have been shown disrupt the gut microbiome, I am sure you know by now the gut plays an incredibly crucial role in our digestion, immune health and overall vitality! We definitely don’t want to be messing with that delicate balance.
In my personal approach, I would rather use a very, very small amount of the natural options on the rare occasion I want something sweet – a date or two, a banana, a light drizzle of unrefined dark maple syrup or raw honey. Not only are they unrefined and unadulterated, blasted with heat or solvents, unlike totally nutrient-depleted sweeteners and even refined table sugar, these foods left in their whole form do contain some actual nutrients. Now, I am not at all suggesting you chug maple syrup to get your B vitamins, but they are in there. Of course, the reason a little goes a long way with these foods is that the less you consume sugar and of course, the sweetener alternatives, first of all, the less you will crave them and the less you will need, but also the more sensitive your taste receptors becomes to sweetness. And suddenly a single date will taste like straight up candy. Coconut milk will take on a sweetness you never noticed before, 85% or 90% dark chocolate will be plenty sweet and warming spices often paired with sweets, like cinnamon or nutmeg or even a little pure vanilla extract, these alone will bring a little sense of sweetness to your palate. It’s incredible.
This Low Carb Pumpkin Bread with Dark Chocolate Chips is sweetener-free. I like it this way! Yes, the dark chocolate chips, depending on which you use may have a little sugar, this is going to be up to you. You can use dark chocolate chips that are stevia-sweetened like Lily’s or maybe go for 100% dark chocolate chips (YES PLEASE). If you are like “UMMM NOPE, Beth, I need some sweetness” you can add a little coconut sugar, maple sugar or date sugar to the recipe, start with 1/4 cup and go from there. Sometimes I will drizzle the littlest amount of maple syrup or raw honey over a warm, toasted slice of this bread, with a little salted grass-fed ghee or butter.
I plan to share a podcast episode or write an article going more into depth on my thoughts on sweeteners and sugar – is that something you might enjoy? If so, please share any questions you may have about alternative / non-caloric sweeteners and my approach to sweetness!
How Many Carbs, You Ask?
In case you are new here, you may not already know this about me, but I don’t count or track macros or carbs. I shared a post here about why I don’t include nutrition facts on my recipes, plus how easy it is for you to calculate the nutrition facts for yourself by plugging in the specific products and ingredients you used, adjusting serving sizes for how you serve a recipe, etc. It’s a very simple process. This bread is absolutely low carb and keto-friendly, especially when you compare it to traditional pumpkin bread made with all-purpose baking flour and a cup or more of sugar. On my loose calculations, not counting the dark chocolate chips, since there are MANY variables to consider there, including alternative sweeteners, the percentages of the dark chocolate chips are, etc – this low-carb pumpkin bread comes in probably somewhere between 8 and 10 grams of net carbs per slice.
For you folks who are trying to find a way to enjoy all of the amazing and delicious fall foods that you love without fearing carbs, first thing to know: there is ZERO need to fear real food! Secondly for context I want to share with you that 1 cup of pumpkin puree has approximately 14 net carbs, in a loaf that makes 12 slices, that equates to just over 1 gram of net carbs from the pumpkin per slice. The arrowroot starch accounts for about 2 grams of net carbs per slice and the almond flour, probably around 5 grams of net carbs. Enjoy your delicious pumpkin bread and go forth and be basic with everyone else swimming in pumpkin spice everything!!
Low Carb Pumpkin Bread Options
- You can leave out the dark chocolate chips and opt instead for chopped nuts or seeds or better yet toss some toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) on top.
- Try swirling in a little cream cheese to the top of the bread just before you bake, if you do dairy.
- Add shredded coconut or coconut chips.
- If you wish to increase the fiber in this recipe, you can try replacing the arrowroot starch with 1/4 cup ground golden flaxseed.
- Try adding in a small amount candied dry ginger or dried cranberries. Dried pineapple, cherries or other fruit would be nice, too and bring a little sweetness.
- A coconut butter glaze over top of the loaf would be nice! (Basically just melted coconut butter).
- For sweetness, you could mash 1 over-ripe banana and the rest of the 1 cup remaining would be pumpkin puree.
- Serve toasted with a drizzle of maple syrup or raw honey if you want sweeter. A pinch or two of coconut sugar would be nice, too.
- 2 cups blanched superfine almond flour
- ¼ cup arrowroot starch (tapioca starch would also work)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder (use or make a paleo baking power, if necessary)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice blend (make your own)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- ¼ cup ghee, melted (for dairy-free melted coconut oil or avocado oil. melted butter would also work)
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips (see notes above for other options)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a small loaf pan (my pan was 7.5 X 3.5 inches) with a strip of parchment paper, leaving two inches of overhang on the sides of the pan. Lightly brush or spray the lined pan with oil.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour breaking up any big clumps, arrowroot starch, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and pumpkin pie spice blend.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and ghee (or coconut oil) until well combined.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, slowly. Stir by hand until it is well combines, smooth and no clumps of flour remains.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter top to distribute the batter and eliminate any air pockets.Add a couple more chocolate chips on top, if you'd like. You can also add nuts or seeds.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes until it's a nice deep golden brown color on top and set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (if the top of the loaf starts to brown too quickly, tent it with foil).
- Using the parchment paper strips that overhang, carefully lift up and remove the pumpkin bread from the pan and transfer it to a wire rack to cool. Carefully remove the parchment paper so the bread can cool.
- Allow to cool at least 30 minutes. Cut into 10-12 slices, serve and enjoy.
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