Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl (With Make-Ahead and Mini Options!)

~ Decadent pumpkin muffins, with bursts of creamy chocolate and swirls of date-infused caramely filling.  Perfect for fall! (And we call ’em “Kids’ Favorite” for a reason!)  ~

This Recipe Is:     Ready in 30 Minutes or Less (Mini Muffins)    Freezable    Make Ahead    Vegetarian  

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Warm fall notes of pumpkin and cinnamon, studded with bursts of creamy chocolate. A harvest-time flavor party, for sure! But did we stop there? Nope – no way! We added a whole ‘nother layer of flavor with swirls of a date-infused caramely filling. Autumn in a muffin wrapper! You’re gonna love it!

In fact, these muffins are something of a legend at my house. We just call them “Kids’ Favorites” – and for good reason!

I’ve baked these countless, countless times since my kiddos were toddlers (healthifying them and adding the caramel along the way), and we’ve shared them with neighbors, teachers and friends. Rave reviews all around, plus request upon request for the recipe!

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Actually, these muffins are one of the very first foods that my family shared with Gretchen’s, back when her family had just moved to my town, and my son and her daughter happened to sit across from each other in third grade.

(Now here’s where Gretchen and I would really like to tell you a story of how we envision the future for these two kiddos … and ourselves!!! … a story about how we realized that one day we could actually be related and hang out even more … mwahahahahaha … But, our kids usually read these posts, and we figured they’d be shocked, outraged and utterly embarrassed if we told you how we planned to leverage their futures for our own self-serving gains.)

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Anyway, back in third grade, when our little ones were sitting across from each other, my son shared his daily snack (a “Kids’ Favorite”!) with the new girl. She loved them – and went home demanding that her mom (that would be Gretchen) get the recipe right away!

Now that we think about it, maybe that moment was the actual, unofficial beginning of Two Healthy Kitchens – we just didn’t know it yet!

So clearly, now that pumpkin season is in full swing, I just had to share this recipe with you! These five-star rated muffins are literally named Kid’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Muffins on the Very Best Baking web site. I’ve adapted that original recipe, and Gretchen and I used typical THK techniques to slash the fat, cut back on the chocolate chips (you won’t miss them!), and significantly reduce the sugar (again – you seriously won’t miss it!).

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Ooooooh … and that caramely swirl? It’s made with a surprise ingredient – dates! Dates are one of the current darlings of the Pinterest world. They’re not only nutritious and candy-sweet, but they can also mimic the flavor of caramel (in a much healthier way!).

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

For these muffins, I use my mini food processor to whip up a ribbony filling with dates, just a bit of brown sugar, water and a little vanilla. The result is lusciously sweet caramel that’s full of the health benefits of dried dates with just a little of the very fall-like flavor of the dates themselves – which pairs perfectly with the pumpkin in these muffins. It’s sooooo good!

But, as always, we also want to you to know you’ve got options! So here ya go:

Quick Tip: Need to whip up a batch of these muffins even faster? You can absolutely skip the caramel swirl. In that case, we recommend that you add just a little more sugar to the muffins to take the place of the sweetness in the caramel (as you’ll see in the recipe below – you should use 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar instead of 1 1/3 cups).

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Tip for the Little Ones: Want a super-fun snack for fall play dates or school parties? Mini muffins are perfect for tiny hands! It’s a bit difficult to incorporate the carmel swirl in mini form, so we recommend just using the basic recipe without the caramel for mini muffins. They look so darling and little ones just love ’em!

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

Make-Ahead Tips: Of course, we have suggestions for making these ahead of time. Check out the notes at the bottom of the recipe! (And call yourself “Time Manager Extraordinaire”!)

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

So there you have it – the “kids’ favorite” recipe that I shared with Gretchen long before we realized just how many recipes we’d soon be sharing with each other … and with you! It’s perfect for pumpkin season (and even for bringing families together!).

THK By Shelley

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Today is Halloween! So, we have two questions for you this week. Do you decorate for Halloween (spooky, whimsical, or otherwise)? And what was this year’s costume (for yourself – or your kids!!!)?

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Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl

Preparation 8-15 min. 2017-08-17T00:00:00+00:00 Cook Time 12-24 min. (plus cooling) 2017-08-17T00:00:00+00:00
Serves 24 regular muffins or about 48-60 mini muffins (depending on the size of your pans)     adjust servings



  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar (use 1 1/2 cups if you aren't using the caramel swirl filling)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

OPTIONAL CARAMEL SWIRL: (If omitting Caramel Swirl to make "regular, plain" muffins or mini muffins, increase the brown sugar in the wet ingredients above to total 1 1/2 cups)

  • 20 whole dried dates
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla


  • 3/4 mini chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare muffin pans (line muffin pans with 24 foil liners, for regular-sized muffins, or spray mini pans with canola spray or line with liners - you can use liners if you'd like, but we usually don't bother when making mini muffins).
  2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir well with a whisk until evenly combined.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine wet ingredients and whisk thoroughly.
  4. In a mini food processor, process dates, water, brown sugar and vanilla until completely smooth, scraping down sides once or twice as needed.
  5. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring just to combine and being careful not to overmix. Add the chocolate chips to the batter and stir again briefly, just to combine.


  1. Spoon about half of batter into prepared muffin liners.
  2. Divide caramel evenly among muffins, dolloping about ½ tablespoon into each cup.
  3. Top caramel with remaining muffin batter.
  4. Using a toothpick, swirl the batter in each muffin cup to distribute the caramel throughout each muffin. Swirl more for thinner, more evenly distributed caramel ribbons. Swirl less to achieve larger pockets of caramel.
  5. Bake for 22-24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes or until the muffins are beginning to set and are cool enough to handle. Remove the muffins to wire racks to cool completely.


  1. Spoon all batter evenly into prepared muffin liners.
  2. Bake for 22-24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  3. Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes or until the muffins are beginning to set and are cool enough to handle. Remove the muffins to wire racks to cool completely.


  1. Spoon all batter evenly into prepared mini muffin pans.
  2. Bake for about 12-16 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  3. Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes or until the muffins are beginning to set and are cool enough to handle. Remove the muffins to wire racks to cool completely.


Recipe Notes

Make-Ahead Options! The dry ingredients and wet ingredients can be prepared earlier in the day or the night before, and kept in separate covered bowls (dry ingredients on the counter, wet ingredients in the fridge) until you are ready to combine everything together and bake. For best results, however, we recommend that you don’t prepare the caramel swirl until the last minute, as it tends to thicken considerably upon standing. These freeze beautifully, so you may want to make a double batch! To freeze, wrap individually and store in freezer bags. They will thaw in about 45 minutes or, after removing foil liner, can be gently defrosted at 50% power in the microwave in about 50-60 seconds.

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Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}
Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl Recipe {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}


Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins with Caramel Swirl (With Make-Ahead and Mini Options!) — 39 Comments

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  9. I made these with the kids yesterday and took them along to a get together with other families. They were a hit! I love it when I surprise the Brits with the joy of sweet pumpkin treats. They’ve all asked for the recipe (and information on where to get tinned pumpkin – they thought I’d scooped it out!). I’ll be passing along the recipe and a link to your blog of course!

    • Oh, we’re so thrilled that these were such a hit on your side of the “pond” as well! Is it difficult to find canned pumpkin in London? Need a care package to share with your friends??? We keep promising to send Consuelo packages in Spain, so we may as well start shipping to Great Britain, too! 😀 ~G&S

    • It is a fabulous breakfast! We both can speak from experience! Actually, our families really enjoy these for breakfasts, snacks, desserts – anytime! Best part – they have tons of awesome flavor, but you actually feel good after eating one! No guilt here! 🙂 ~G&S

  10. Ooh this looks delicious! I’m going to have to make this tonight for breakfast all week! As for Halloween, we definitely went all out decorating. I’m even planning on looking for post-Halloween decoration sales today to see if I can stock up for next year on the cheap.

    • Hey, Dustin! Great idea to make them ahead for breakfasts! Don’t forget – they freeze beautifully, too! I’ve probably got at least a couple dozen snuggled in my freezer right now (we tested tons of batches on this recipe!), and we’ve been happily munching our way through them! ~Shelley

    • Aww thanks, Lori! We just couldn’t pass up the cute liners! There just screamed pumpkin muffins!!
      The dates were a perfect addition to these muffins – we were able to reduce the sugar but they still taste just as sweet! It’s a no brainer! 🙂 ~G&S

  11. Anything with a caramel swirl and I’m on board! That’s too funny that you’re plotting to get your kids married off to eachother. In college, two of my friends had plans to marry eachother’s siblings so they could be related (the siblings just didn’t know it yet, ha!).

    • Yeah – I’m with you there! I love caramel!! It’s my favorite! 🙂

      Lol! So did your friends end up related after all?? It’s just our secret plan – but ya never know!!! We’ll keep our fingers crossed! ~Gretchen

    • Aww! You’re the best Christine! So glad you tried the Snack Bites! And yep – a big hit at our homes, too! 🙂

      These muffins ARE scrumptious!!! Perfect for a breakfast on-the-go or a snack in the afternoon! My husband even eats them for dessert! They are just sweet enough to curb that sweet craving, but not overly sugary (like most Halloween candy!). Hope you enjoy these, too! ~Gretchen

  12. I love dates but not so much the man I married (I mean I love the man I married-well, you get it). I feel sneaky about these muffins!
    My house is a scary place without decorations!
    Happy Halloween!

  13. I’m so glad I came here to check if you had any new recipes! I finally got myself more pumpkins and found a nice chocolate-pumpkin muffin recipe.. but NOW I have a recipe that involves a caramel swirl as well!
    I love how creative you guys are btw! 🙂 You keep amazing me!

    • Oh, thank you, Abbe! Yep, yep – nothing says “Wanna be friends?” like fresh-baked muffins! And let’s go with the idea that you aren’t too lazy to break out those decorations – you’re just too busy with your wonderful blog! 😀 ~G&S

  14. I can’t decide whether I like the chocolate chips addition or the caramel better, they both look awesome!
    And WOW that date caramel, I’m trying it right now… it looks amazing and I can’t believe how healthy it is :O
    Happy Halloween 🙂

  15. Shelley, these sound delicious! I love your version of “caramel” 😀 I’ll have to give that a try, very clever. My kiddos don’t care for dates, but if I disguise them that would be awesome. Wow, I’m so excited to give this a try! Thanks 😀

    • Hi, Cindy! I truly hope your kiddos love these as much as mine do (well … and now Gretchen’s kiddos, too)! Shhhhhh … just don’t tell them about the dates – and if they do find out your little secret, just make these muffins without the caramel! Seriously – my little dudes love these so much, I’ve made these practically year round – you should see my stash of canned pumpkin! 😀 ~Shelley

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