Pumpkin Caramel Cups (Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free)

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“Third time’s a charm,” said someone very brilliant, someone who really knew what they were talking about. Somehow, this genius new it would take me three tries to come up with a sweet, chocolatey, pumpkin-y confection. I was determined not to let October go by without posting one. And at this rate, I still have time for another. If I can conjure up just the right idea.

A couple years ago, when I cared less about blogging only natural, wholesome recipes, I came up with this gem. (A winner in my not-so-humble opinion and that of everyone I sampled them too, mmmk?) A creamy pumpkin center inside a semi-sweet chocolate shell. They were delicious. And delightful. And different. And kind of a pain to make (because I made dozens and dozens and only had one little candy tray) and full of sugar and heavy cream and other things I try to avoid in my recipes nowadays. Not that I don’t eat them when someone else is doing the cooking ๐Ÿ˜‰

This time around, I was craving a health-ified version. The first round involved a date-based vegan caramel. Good, but not exactly pumpkin-y enough. And they were kind of ugly. That’s what happens when your chocolate congeals because you don’t melt it in a double boiler and try to scoop it into annoying-ly small little candy cup trays.

For the second round, I decided to go for a more traditional caramel, like the one I used in my vegan salted caramel ice cream. With pumpkin, naturally. It was pretty delicious, though I’ll admit the caramelized coconut sugar sort of overtook the pumpkin flavor. I mean, I had to really think about it to notice it. And at the very last moment, I decided to make caramel popcorn instead of caramel cups. It just seemed downright… right. Spiced pumpkin caramel folded into popped corn and almonds sounds totally tasty, right? And it was. I ate a lot more than I care to admit. But it was really dark brown and ugly looking and not pumpkin-y enough. Not what I felt like blogging.

Enter round 3. Returning to the idea of round 1 with the caramel of round 2. Only by this time I had eaten enough sugar (albeit lower-glycemic coconut sugar, but still) that I felt the need to lighten up a little. I have a huge bag of xylitol that I haven’t done anything wildly unique with, so I decided that this would be the day. Enter xylitol-sweetened vegan spiced pumpkin caramel. This stuff, my friends, is heaven on spoon. A cross between pumpkin butter and caramel, it’s rich and creamy. But the lighter taste of xylitol compared to brown sugar really allows the pumpkin to shine.

You’ve probably only heard of xylitol in relation to sugar-free gums and candy, and since “sugar-free” always seems to equate with “nasty chemicals” you might assume xylitol is one of them. So let’s clear some things up.

Xylitol Facts:

  • Xylitol is a sugar alcohol naturally found in plants and fruit
  • Xylitol is safe for human consumption, but harmful for dogs. If you have a pup, please make sure to keep xylitol in a place where he or she cannot reach it!
  • Xylitol is safe for anti-candida diets and is actually known to fight and control the growth of yeast.
  • Xylitol is great for your teeth! It kills plaque and fights cavities.
  • Xylitol has about 1/3 the calories of sugar, does raise blood sugar, and looks and functions like sugar in most cooking and baking.
  • Some people experience stomach troubles when introducing large amounts of xylitol into their diet. This can be controlled by eating a little at a time. In this recipe, you are only getting a small amount of xylitol in each candy so you should be safe!

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This recipe for pumpkin caramel cups is made using mini muffin liners, so you get a bigger bite of the good (and good-for-you) stuff. Is this a trick or treat? I say, have your candy and eat it too.

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Pumpkin Caramel Candy Cups

Yield: 24 pieces

Dark chocolate cups filled with a creamy spiced pumpkin caramel. Vegan & naturally sweetened.


3/4 cup
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cup maple syrup
1 cup + 2 tablespoons natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
10 drops liquid vanilla stevia


Combine the xylitol, coconut milk, 2 tablespoons coconut oil, pumpkin, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until, coconut oil is melted and xylitol is dissolved. Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. The mixture will become darker and thicker. Turn off heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool, and transfer to a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Line a 24-cup mini muffin tin with paper liners. Combine the 3/4 cup coconut oil, maple syrup, cocoa powder, salt ans stevia in the top of a double boiler set over water simmering at medium heat. Stir until smooth, then reduce heat to a low simmer to keep warm.

Spoon 1 teaspoon chocolate into the bottom of each muffin liner. Freeze for 5 minutes,until firm.

Place a small dollop of the pumpkin caramel mixture in each muffin liner, being careful not to let it touch the sides of the liners. (You may have some leftover.) Return to freezer for 10 minutes.

Transfer the remaining warm chocolate to a liquid measuring cup with a spout. Pour enough chocolate into each liner to cover the pumpkin caramel and fill in around the sides. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com

This recipe is linked to Healthy Vegan Fridays at The Veggie Nook and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

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20 Responses to “Pumpkin Caramel Cups (Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free)”

  1. 1

    Alyssa | Queen of Quinoa — October 19, 2012 @ 10:27 am Reply

    These look amazing Cara!! Can’t wait to try and make them ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. 2

    Joanne — October 19, 2012 @ 3:15 pm Reply

    Only you Cara, only you. And to think i thought Reese’s were my favorite little buttery cup of choice. As it turns out, I was wrong. Very wrong. Want.These.Now.

  3. 3

    Maggie — October 19, 2012 @ 4:46 pm Reply

    Mmmm is about all I can say! Holy moly. I’d love to try xylitol, I’ve been having way too many reactions to sugar (even coconut sugar). Xylitol sounds pretty good to me, especially in one of these sweet and yummy pumpkin caramel cups!

  4. 4

    Hallie — October 19, 2012 @ 5:28 pm Reply

    Love your photo collage, Cara! These are so cute and have so many healthy ingredients in them. Another winner from Cara’s Cravings!!

  5. 5

    Beth @ Tasty Yummies — October 19, 2012 @ 6:01 pm Reply

    YES!!! These look amazing. I am loving this combo!!! I cannot wait to try these.

  6. 6

    Nisrine — October 19, 2012 @ 8:30 pm Reply

    I love these, Cara. Aren’t pumpkin and chocolate a match made in heaven!

  7. 7

    Kate — October 20, 2012 @ 12:14 am Reply

    This is a great idea.

  8. 8

    Danielle @ Fresh4five — October 20, 2012 @ 3:00 pm Reply

    wow these look amazing! way better than a reeses!

  9. 9

    Kristina — October 20, 2012 @ 5:16 pm Reply

    Yum!! I have a horrible obsession with peanut butter cups ๐Ÿ™‚ LOVE this pumpkin-caramel version!

  10. 10

    Kim-Cook It Allergy Free — October 22, 2012 @ 12:49 pm Reply

    These are gorgeous…and totally delicious looking. ๐Ÿ˜€ Love them.

  11. 11

    Shannon — October 25, 2012 @ 9:16 am Reply

    oh my gosh, these sound fantastic!! gorgeous, too, i might not want to eat them! but who am i kidding, they wouldn’t last long ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. 12

    Alisa — October 25, 2012 @ 3:37 pm Reply

    Amazing Cara! Beautiful pics too. You always step ordinary recipes up a level!

  13. 13

    Javelin Warrior — October 26, 2012 @ 12:11 am Reply

    What fantastic little caramel cups! I love that you managed to work pumpkin into these cuties… I’m featuring this post as part of Food Fetish Friday (with a link-back and attribution) and thanks for making me drool!

  14. 14

    Summer the funfittravelgirl — October 29, 2012 @ 8:15 pm Reply

    I’ve made a batch with chocolate protein powder, stevia and coconut butter, but had to keep them frozen or they’d melt. I’m guessing the coconut oil keeps them firm if just below room temp. Awesome! Can’t wait to make these. My grocery store Erewhon has white chocolate pumpkin almond butter truffles sweetened with xylitol…to die for. Thanks for the recipe!

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  16. 15

    Heidi @ Food Doodles — October 31, 2012 @ 2:02 pm Reply

    These look fantastic! I’m so bad at making holiday specific treats before the actually holiday. It’s Halloween already and I want to make these now ๐Ÿ˜€

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  19. 16

    Jillian — July 28, 2014 @ 2:02 pm Reply

    These look and sound amazing. Right now I am only allowed stevia and xylitol , so maple syrup is out for me ๐Ÿ™ any suggestions for a substitute?

    • 16.1

      Cara — July 29, 2014 @ 2:53 pm

      Hi Jillian, thanks for the kind words! Unfortunately the way I developed this recipe, a liquid sweetener like maple syrup was necessary. I don’t know that you could directly substitute a dry sweetener, however, I’d bet there are other recipes for chocolate candy coating that hardens in the refrigerator, that do only contain stevia or xylitol.

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