These super tender gluten free pumpkin chocolate chip squares are rich with warm spices and chocolate chips. An easy alternative to pumpkin pie!
Baking with pumpkin puree
I used to have mixed feelings about baking with pumpkin. It seemed to make everything kind of fluffy and wet. Canned pumpkin puree itself is not intensely flavorful, and since it has so much moisture, you can't add more and more without changing the texture of your baked goods for the worse.
The answer is pumpkin butter, for when you need lots of flavor without nearly as much moisture. We've talked about how to make your own pumpkin butter, and I recommend making it at least once a season. That way, you can make it as sweet and as fragrant as you like.
I've been making gluten free pumpkin chocolate chip squares for many, many years (since our gluten days) because they're my husband's favorites. There's a recipe for the old-school version in my first cookbook that we still love, but they're just next-level with pumpkin butter.
How to make these pumpkin chocolate chip squares
The method and recipe for these bars are similar to our recipe for gluten free chocolate chip cookie bars. To make them, first whisk together the dry ingredients (gluten free flour, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice (you can make your own! just see below), baking soda, and salt) and set them aside.
Then, melt the butter and granulated sugar together in a saucepan. Allow that mixture to cool a bit before adding it to a mixture of a well-beaten egg, vanilla, and pumpkin butter.
The pumpkin butter is sticky and a bit runny. When you beat it together with the egg and vanilla, it won't thicken very much but should increase in volume and become a bit lighter in color. That's what happens when air gets incorporated into the mixture, and that helps create the perfect moist and chewy texture.
Finally, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, then most of the chocolate chips and mix to combine. Scrape the super sticky mixture into an 8-inch square baking pan lined with nonstick aluminum foil (or heavy-duty aluminum foil coated lightly with cooking oil spray) and smooth the top. The last few chips are then sprinkled on top before baking.
Since the bars are quite thick, they'll take about 40 minutes to bake completely. Be sure to cool, then chill them a bit to get nice, cleanly sliced bars.
What else to make with pumpkin butter
I had always made my own pumpkin butter since it was so hard to find a ready-made variety. These days, though, it's relatively easy to find during the fall season. I often stock up the moment I see the jars appear on the shelf at my local Trader Joe's market.
If you plan to make your own pumpkin butter for this recipe, be sure to plan ahead. You’ll need to make the pumpkin butter, and allow it to cool to room temperature before baking with it.
It's lovely spread on some toasted gluten free bread, but it's also used in many, many baking recipes here on the blog. One of my favorite ways to use pumpkin butter is in our gluten free pumpkin swirl bread.
Pumpkin butter is also essential for making anything that has a crisp-tender texture, like our iced pumpkin scones which are remarkably like the ones from Starbucks. Our soft pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are also made with pumpkin butter, as it's the only way to make a soft and tender cookie that isn't cake-like and puffy-in-a-bad-way.
It also nearly goes without saying that, if you want to make pumpkin biscotti, the ultimate crunchy cookie, you'll need pumpkin butter in a big way. Basically, if you plan to go into a Starbucks during the fall season, you'll want to make or buy yourself some pumpkin butter so you can rush home and begin baking our gluten free versions!
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy-free: In place of the butter, try using half (4 tablespoons) Earth Balance buttery sticks and half (4 tablespoons) Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. You can also try Melt brand vegan butter, which generally works well as a butter replacement in a recipe like this.
Egg-free: Since there is only one egg in this recipe, you should be able to be replaced with it with one “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).
Cornstarch: If you can’t have corn, try replacing the cornstarch with an equal amount, by weight, of arrowroot or potato starch.
Pumpkin butter: There really is no substitute for pumpkin butter in this recipe, although you can use store-bought pumpkin butter or make your own.
Pumpkin pie spice: To make 2 teaspoons of your own pumpkin pie spice, combine 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger + 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves + dash freshly ground nutmeg.
Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
1 1/4 cups (175 g) all-purpose gluten free flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/4 cup (36 g) cornstarch
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell), at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
7 ounces pumpkin butter (homemade or store-bought), at room temperature
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick aluminum foil, or regular heavy-duty aluminum foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Set the pan aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to combine well. Set the bowl aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan, place the butter and sugar and melt over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Bring to a gentle simmer, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool until no longer hot to the touch. You can immerse the bottom of the pan in some ice water to speed the cooling, but take care not to let the water splash up into the pan or to chill too much that the ingredients re-solidify.
In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin butter, and beat until foamy (about a minute). Add the cooled butter and sugar mixture, and beat very well until the mixture lightens a bit in color and begins to increase in volume (about 2 minutes). Add the flour mixture to the bowl, stir until the streaks of flour disappear, then beat briefly to ensure that everything is combined. The mixture will be thickly pourable and very sticky. Add about 5 ounces of the chocolate chips, and mix until the chips are evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Pour the batter in the prepared pan, and smooth into an even layer with a wet spatula. Scatter the remaining chocolate chips evenly over the top and press them gently into the batter to help them adhere. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bars comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs attached (about 40 minutes). Remove the pan from the oven and allow the bars to cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before lifting them out by the edges of the foil. For cleaner slices, chill the bars until firm, then slice into squares with a sharp knife and serve. Wrap leftovers tightly and freeze.
Originally published in 2013. Recipe method modified; photos, most text, and video all new.