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?