Wholesome and delicious, these pumpkin muffins are everything you could want in a baked snack. They’re light, fluffy and moist, with a hint of warming cinnamon for an extra-comforting vibe. And as you might expect, our recipe has a unique twist. We’ve added a few drops of red mandarin essential oil to give these pumpkin muffins a lively splash of citrus. Anyone else getting hungry?
Muffins are a popular treat to tuck into at coffee shops or bake at home. From chocolate chip to blueberry, there are all sorts of delicious flavours to choose from. However, here in the UK, the word ‘muffin’ originally referred to a different type of snack. Traditional English muffins are small, round flatbreads that are cooked on a griddle and date back to the 1700s. Meanwhile, the baked, cupcake-shaped style – also called a quick bread muffin – originated in the United States in the 1800s. You can easily identify them by their iconic domed top, and it’s this American version that we’ve based our recipe for pumpkin muffins on. The main difference between muffins and cupcakes is that cupcakes tend to be sweeter and topped with icing or buttercream. Muffins, on the other hand, have a denser texture and more homely decorative style. There are no real restrictions in terms of what ingredients and flavours you can use when making muffins. You’re free to add all kinds of extras to the mix before baking, such as nuts, fruit, seeds, and chocolate chips. For a more unusual twist, you could include a food-grade essential oil, like we’ve done in this pumpkin muffins recipe. This versatility allows you to create muffins that are suitable for enjoying at any time of day, from breakfast to dessert!
Pumpkin: an autumn classic
From pumpkin spice lattes to Halloween decorations, pumpkins are a quintessential part of autumn in many countries. With their vivid orange hue, impressive nutritional profile, culinary versatility and unique taste, the popularity of pumpkins is hardly surprising. But they have a far longer history than you might realise. Experts believe that pumpkins were first cultivated in Mexico over 7,500 years ago.(1) These original variations were smaller and harder than modern pumpkins, with a more bitter taste. Their durability made them a reliable crop in harsh weather. As such, they were likely a staple part of the Aztec and Mayan diet. When the Spanish arrived, they brought pumpkin seeds back to Europe and its popularity spread around the world. Many of us probably assume that the tradition of carving pumpkins for Halloween started in America. However, we can actually trace it back to here in the UK.(2) During the Celtic festival of Samhain, which inspired several modern Halloween traditions, people would carve terrifying faces into turnips. They would then place candles inside the hollowed-out vegetables, both to provide light and ward off restless souls. When Irish immigrants arrived in North America, they brought these traditions with them. Finding that pumpkins were far better for carving faces into than turnips, the squash quickly became the medium of choice. And now it’s impossible to imagine Halloween without them! Of course, in addition to their decorative uses, pumpkins are a great source of nutrition. It’s possible to eat almost every single part of the plant, including the seeds, skin, leaves, pulp, and flowers. Plus, we can use them in all kinds of delicious recipes, from pumpkin muffins to soup, curry, pies, and stews. Whichever way you enjoy them, pumpkins also offer some powerful health benefits.
The health benefits of pumpkin
Pumpkins have the advantage of being simultaneously high in nutrients and low in calories. For example, they’re rich in both vitamin A and beta-carotene, a carotenoid that our bodies can convert into vitamin A. Along with the vitamin C in pumpkins, these help to boost our immune system.(3) This enables us to heal more quickly and fight off infections. Vitamin A and beta-carotene are also vital for maintaining healthy vision, helping to reduce the risk of cataracts and blindness.(4) This benefit is boosted by the fact that pumpkin is a fantastic source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds further protect us from sight loss and age-related macular degeneration.(5) Pumpkins are additionally high in antioxidants. These carotenoids help to defend our bodies against the damage caused by free radicals. This in turn may stave off premature ageing and chronic diseases. For instance, antioxidants might lower your risk of developing certain types of cancer.(6) Who would have thought pumpkin muffins could be so nutritious! Further, carotenoids like those that pumpkins contain are beneficial for your heart. Studies suggest they may decrease your risk of developing metabolic syndrome.(7) This is a combination of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which increases your risk of conditions such as heart disease and stroke. The high level of potassium in pumpkin compounds this positive impact. That’s because potassium can help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.(8) Finally, tucking into pumpkin muffins could boost the health of your skin. For instance, research has found that eating foods high in beta-carotene may improve the appearance and texture of our skin.(9) In addition, it might even protect against damage from UV rays (although you still need to wear sun cream!).(10)
Wholesome and scrumptious: our pumpkin muffins recipe
There are plenty of delicious recipes to choose from when it comes to enjoying pumpkin. However, these healthy pumpkin muffins are definitely one of our favourites! First, you’re going to add two different kinds of sweeteners to your pumpkin purée. For the liquid sweetener, we’ve recommended honey or maple syrup. However, you can also opt for agave nectar if you’d rather something a little lighter. When adding the brown sugar, remember to leave a tablespoon aside to sprinkle on top of the muffins before baking. We prefer brown sugar to white because it has a deeper caramel taste that really complements the flavour profile of pumpkin muffins. To this mix you add the oil and salt, plus a fresh hint of lemon and dash of warming cinnamon. This gives your pumpkin muffins a gorgeous depth of flavour. You’ll see that the recipe also calls for 10 drops of red mandarin essential oil – more on that later! Make sure you whisk everything thoroughly, then add the oat milk and mix again. Of course, you can swap this for another type of plant-based milk if you prefer. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda. The recipe mentions all-purpose flour, however you can substitute this for a different variety. For example, brown rice flour and coconut flour are great gluten-free alternatives in pumpkin muffins. When you blend the wet and dry ingredients together, be gentle and try not to overmix them. Otherwise, your pumpkin muffins might lose their fluffy texture and come out tough. Finally, dish your batter into cases and sprinkle with the remaining brown sugar before baking. This will give your pumpkin muffins a beautiful, crystallised top. Delicious!
Why put red mandarin essential oil in pumpkin muffins?
You’re probably familiar with the concept of using essential oils in your bath or a diffuser. After all, they’re a popular part of spa treatments and at-home self-care nights. But why would you include them in your food? Well, essential oils are an easy, effective and wellness-boosting way to add flavour to a dish. This is especially true when substituting them for ingredients that are tricky to source or awkward to prepare and cook with. And because they’re so concentrated, just a couple of drops can really liven up a meal! For example, adding red mandarin essential oil to these pumpkin muffins gives them a sweet and zesty hit of citrus. The fact that you only need a few drops also means that you don’t have to adjust your recipes in any way to compensate for the extra ingredient. It doesn’t get much simpler than that! Bear in mind that essential oils are quite potent, so be sparing with how much you include. This is for safety reasons as well as culinary ones. Ten drops are all you need for these pumpkin muffins – remember to reduce the amount when making a smaller batch. In line with this, you should only use food-grade essential oils – like our Organic Red Mandarin Essential Oil – for cooking. These are ones which have been deemed safe for human consumption as well as therapeutic use.
Introducing our red mandarin essential oil
We make our Organic Red Mandarin Essential Oil using only the very best mandarins, grown sustainably on small farms in Italy. Once they’re fully ripe, the farmers pick the fruit by hand. Our team cold presses the rind to extract the oil, and we don’t add any hidden nasties to it. What you get is 100% pure, food-grade, essential red mandarin oil. So it’s perfectly safe to consume in your pumpkin muffins. We bottle all our oils in environmentally friendly glass jars. Please remember to reuse or recycle them once they’re empt