An easy recipe for healthy, low fat treats!
Around 3 pm every afternoon, our little Chihuahua sits patiently beside my desk before nudging my leg with her nose. When I close my laptop screen and lace up my sneakers, she stretches into a yogi’s perfect downward-facing dog and bounces off down the hallway as I stand. She spins in circles as I grab the fraying leash from the closet, completely forgetting in all her doggie excitement that it’s impossible to clip her into the harness unless she stands still.
We slowly stroll through the park, stopping every 5 or 10 feet to sniff and inspect the leaves. We pass the children on the playground at a quick pace—toddlers love to tug on her cute curly tail—and loop around the college kids’ apartment complexes. After pausing at the mailbox to gather bills and ads, we speed up once we spy our driveway. We made it home!
Although comfortable and predictable, our daily walks still contain different and exciting bits. Which big crunchy leaves should she mark? How many cats will she run away from? Will any of the big neighborhood dogs get too close and need a loud barking reminder to stay away?
Just like our leisurely afternoon exercise, these Cranberry Cream Cheese Pumpkin Cookies are both comforting and exciting. Warm spices fill the soft and chewy cookies, while bright bursts of sweet fruit and savory cheese stud the surface. And despite their rich flavor, these pumpkin cookies are still light and healthy!
These skinny pumpkin cookies require very little effort to make. Just mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, stir the wet ingredients in another, combine together with the mix-ins, and bake! Without butter and sugar to cream, you can put away your electric mixer and form the dough with a fork. (Fewer dishes to wash too!)
The dry ingredients are fairly predictable: flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and cornstarch. Yes, cornstarch! Although it sounds strange, it’s my secret weapon to making extra soft and thick cookies. The cornstarch attracts moisture in the dough, which makes the cookies really soft and partially prevents them from spreading as they bake.
In this recipe, it is extremely important that you measure the flour correctly. Too much flour will dry out the cookie dough, which results in cottony, crumbly cookies. This is exactly the opposite of the soft, chewy cookies we want, so please measure carefully!
The wet ingredients begin with melted butter. Like I explained with this chocolate chip cookie recipe, melted butter increases cookies’ chewiness. In general, pumpkin cookies often acquire a cakey texture due to the excessive moisture in the pumpkin purée, so melting the butter helps combat that.
These low fat pumpkin cookies contain no eggs. As my friend Sally mentioned in her pumpkin cookie recipe, eggs bind together the ingredients to provide structure, but they also add a lot of moisture. Instead, I added extra pumpkin to imitate the eggs, which boosted the pumpkin flavor too.
I chose white granulated sugar for these pumpkin cookies. Although I almost exclusively put brown sugar in my cookies, the white sugar gave the cookies the perfect amount of sweetness while still allowing the pretty orange color to pop and the pumpkin flavor to shine.
A quick note about the mix-ins: you can use any cream cheese you’d like—regular, Neufchâtel, or fat-free—but you must freeze it while preparing the rest of the ingredients! If you cube it straight from the fridge, it’s too soft and smears into the cookie dough. Freezing the cream cheese for 15-20 minutes firms it up so it stays intact.
Because of the lack of eggs, this recipe is fairly adaptable to a vegan diet. Simply replace the margarine with butter and the cream cheese with your favorite non-dairy substitute.
These cookies bake a little longer than your average chocolate chip because of the additional moisture in the pumpkin. Leave them in the oven for 15-17 minutes—no more! They may appear underdone, but the centers continue to cook on the warm baking sheet. Once cool, the cookies turn out extra soft and chewy, and they soften even further overnight, if you can wait that long!
When you bite into one of these tender pumpkin cookies, the fruity cranberry flavor explodes on your tongue, followed by the tangy cream cheese and sweet pumpkin. With their warm spices and bright orange color, they’re the ultimate chewy cold-weather comfort food cookies.
My mom can attest to that. I brought 9 of these Cranberry Cream Cheese Pumpkin Cookies home along with the dark chocolate peppermint truffles. Between the both of us, we polished off every single crumb in less than a day!
Ready to start baking?
These soft and chewy pumpkin cookies are studded with sweet dried cranberries and tart cream cheese. They’re a fun combination of fall and winter flavors! They’ll stay soft for up to a week if stored in an airtight container.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
- Cut the cream cheese into ¼” cubes, and place on wax paper. Place in the freezer while preparing the cookie dough.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour and next 6 ingredients (through salt). In a separate bowl, stir together the butter, pumpkin, and vanilla. Mix in the sugar. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Gently fold in 3 tablespoons of cranberries and 3 tablespoons of cubed cream cheese.
- Shape the cookie dough into 24 balls, and place onto the prepared baking sheets. Press the remaining cranberries and cream cheese cubes into the tops. Flatten each to about ½” to ¾” thick. Bake at 350°F for 15-17 minutes. Cool on the pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Notes: For a vegan version, substitute margarine for the butter and your favorite non-dairy cream cheese for the dairy cream cheese.
The spice flavors are fairly prominent without being overpowering, but reduce the amounts if you prefer.
I hope my constant comments “fluffing you up” don’t get annoying, but GOSH you have such a way of writing your posts!! I blog about so much randomness, but your stories have a fun way of tying into your recipe. It’s so much more fun than just posting a recipe and being like, “OK, here you go!” You food bloggers work serious magic!!
Brittany, your comments are never annoying! They’re heartfelt and sweet, and they warm my heart every time. In the beginning, I struggled with writing blog posts, so it’s really rewarding to hear that you enjoy reading them. So thank you thank you thank you, from the bottom of my heart! 🙂
YUMMMMM! Be still, my pumpkin-loving heart! Brittany is right- you really do have a way with words. Your Twinkie story is the cutest! (and your cookie description is making me drool!)
Thank you so much Andrea! I’m touched by your comment about my writing; it was one of my weakest parts when I first started blogging. I think you’d love these cookies, and since I still have a small stash of pumpkin purée (and am still stocking up!), maybe we can bake them when we get together this month! 🙂 (And the little lady is curled up behind me on my desk chair as I type this… Such a cutie!)
I really enjoyed reading this post. I thought that it was interesting how you added more pumpkin in as a substitute for the eggs. Great idea!
You also talk about how you melted the butter to increase the softness of the cookie. When you melt the butter, do you have to wait for it to cool before you put it in the wet ingredients or does it not matter? Also, do you suggest always melting butter for cookie recipes? I just thought that was a great idea instead of always having to soften the butter in a recipe. And what an easy way to achieve a soft, chewy cookie! 🙂
Thank Katy, I’m glad you enjoyed it! When I melt butter for cookies, I usually like to allow it to cool to (close to) room temperature. I generally melt it first before assembling any other ingredients so it can cool on the countertop, but if I’m in a rush, I’ll stick the bowl in the fridge (or freezer) for a few minutes to speed up the process. For this particular recipe, the butter temperature doesn’t matter as much, but in recipes with eggs, it really helps to let it cool. Otherwise, the eggs rapidly chill the butter for you, creating tiny bits of solid butter in the process!
I wouldn’t advise melting butter for all cookie recipes. Some of them require creaming with sugar for textural reasons, but I think that it’d be fine for many “sturdier” recipes like oatmeal raisin or peanut butter. If in doubt, just follow the recipe’s directions! 🙂
Thanks for the reply and the info!
You’re welcome Katy! Happy baking! 🙂
If I eat one, then I eat eight….but it is worth it!
If I counted correctly, only 7… 😉 But since you enjoyed them so much, they might make an appearance at Christmas too!
Hari Chandana says...
Lovely cookies.. loved the 3rd pic a lot 🙂
Thank you Hari! I had just purchased the plate that morning and was really excited to use it in a photo shoot. I’m happy to hear that you loved that image!