Ever since I started training for my first marathon, I’ve been more particular about the food I eat.
Aaaand since it’s the season for everything pumpkin, I’ve given homemade larabars a new twist: pumpkin larabar bites!
In their simplest form, larabars are dates and nuts. They’re super convenient to have on road trips, on long flights or when you got to keep the kids entertained as you finish up the last bit of your grocery shopping.
But they’re NOT super cheap, hence the reason I’m making them on my own (and trimming the cost by around 50%).
I’m also making them because after awhile, dates + nuts = boring. Let’s interject some flavor in there!
I don’t like waiting on a big honcho to officially declare pumpkin “in season” (which is always not soon enough in my opinion), so having a pumpkin larabar recipe means making them anytime I want (which is all the time, really).
Inside Look at Pumpkin Larabar Bites
Dates + Nuts
For the best homemade pumpkin larabar (or for any flavor really), you want whole pitted medjool dates. You can find dried dates, dates with the pits in them and even a different variety of dates, but you don’t want those.
I repeat: whole pitted medjool dates.
I found mine at the local grocer, in the produce section, usually on a shelf on the end cap of a row of produce. If you can’t find it, ask someone in the store to help you. The containers aren’t that big and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might miss them.
Or you can get them in bulk on Amazon and have them shipped to your door in 2 days. Boom. Done.
As for the nuts, I specifically chose walnuts for pumpkin larabar bites because they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, which is important for eye health. Walnuts also compliment the season of pumpkin well and they tend to be on sale this time of year.
You can substitute other nuts in lieu of walnuts if you’d like – cashews and almonds would work well and they’re a bit cheaper in general. Or when the holiday season is over, dump the last bit of nut crumbs from all the bags into the blender. That would work too.
Coconut + Pumpkin + Spice
Similar to when we make sweet & salty energy bites, we’re adding shredded coconut to create a bit of a textured binder so the bites stay together.
Coconut has healthy fats that help refuel the body, but if you don’t like coconut, oats are a great replacement. Almond meal would work too if that’s what you have.
As for pumpkin, both canned pumpkin and homemade pumpkin puree work here – pick your poison. Since pumpkin is somewhat bland on its own though, we’re adding a hefty dose of pumpkin pie spice to liven it up.
I normally don’t have pumpkin pie spice on hand, but since I knew I’d be testing a lot of pumpkin-pie-spice recipes this season, I caved and bought it. You can easily make your own though (this recipe makes 2 ½ tablespoons):
- 1 ½ Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- ¾ tsp ground allspice (substitute cloves)
- ¾ tsp ground cloves
Equipment for Making Pumpkin Larabar Bites
Normally I’d recommend a food processor when you’re chopping up things like dates or nuts because the average blender doesn’t do the job well enough. But thanks to a totally awesome splurge of a birthday gift, I don’t have the average blender!
I used the Twister Jar with my Blendtec and the dates were nice and mushy after just one round. If you don’t have a fancy blender, definitely use a food processor. Or even go old school and use a wooden spoon to really mash the dates to smithereens.
Once you’ve got everything combined well and good, you’ll want to use a cookie scoop to make the pretty little bites. You CAN use your fingers, but it’s definitely messier. Plus cookie scoops are pretty cheap, and I use them ALL.THE.TIME. in my kitchen. From breakfast cookies to meatballs to energy bites – even pumpkin or strawberry lemonade donuts – I love my cookie scoop.
Storing Pumpkin Larabar Bites
Because pumpkin larabar bites are soft, you’ll want to store them in the freezer. Don’t worry – they won’t freeze solid. You’ll be able to bite into them straight out of the freezer, but they will be solid enough to not turn to goo in your hands.
I pack these in school lunches, but they are soft by mid-day. The kids don’t seem to mind, but I give them a spoon just in case and pack them in the small section of this Planet Box container or in a small glass container on their own so they don’t “melt” into another part of their lunch.
If you don’t want to mess with packing them, just keep them in the freezer and offer them as an after-school snack, part of lunch at home on the weekends or as a healthy dessert.
And if you’re still craving pumpkin after you devour these pumpkin larabar bites, give my overnight pumpkin French toast casserole a try!
- In a food processor or a high powered blender (I have a Blendtec), combine dates and up to 1 cup of nuts. (If you want a more textured larabar bite, add ⅓ cup of of nuts. If you want a completely smooth larabar bite, add all the nuts.)
- Process the nuts and dates until you have a thick, yet mostly smooth mixture. Remove mixture to a medium bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a spoon. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Using a cookie scoop, scoop the mixture into balls onto the parchment paper. If desired, gently roll the balls with your fingers to shape.
- The larabar bites are ready to eat at this point, but we prefer to eat them after they've firmed up in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Store pumpkin larabar bites in the freezer.