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There are countless recipes available for pumpkin muffins. You can add cinnamon, sugar and cream cheese filling for a sweet treat or cheddar cheese, cayenne and black pepper for a savory bite. (The latter flavors are in my all-time favorite pumpkin bread.) You can use yogurt, sour cream, butter, oil or applesauce to get a moist texture; flaxseed, oatmeal, streusel topping or pepitas for texture. Your imagination is the only limit to a good pumpkin muffin. With that said, I’d like to strongly suggest that you consider these buttermilk-based beauties next time you get the urge to make pumpkin muffins. They are so light and airy, dancing between sweet and savory, almost more like a popover than a muffin. They are as nice with a mug of coffee as they would be to mop up the end of a bowl of soup.

The secret is buttermilk. If you’ve baked with buttermilk before, you know its ability to produce light, airy, fluffy, tender results is akin to alchemy. Buttermilk lends a slightly tangy flavor that is just so much more interesting than most other wet ingredient options. For these pumpkin muffins, the texture is not dense and crumbly like you might think, since that’s what typically comes to mind when one imagines a muffin. There is a time and place for dense, but the lightness of these is a welcome change. The spice is minimal and the pumpkin flavor is mild; both of these attributes contribute to the sensation of biting into something lighter than air. I suggest weighing down your bite with some raspberry jam or honey butter so it doesn’t float right out of your hand.

If you’re looking for a change of pace, or enjoy (like me) testing as many pumpkin recipes as you can find, these muffins are for you. We are officially in Soup Season, and I can’t think of anything I’d like more beside a steaming bowl of chili. Another bonus: they reheat well and taste great the next morning, which is not always the case with muffins. When you’re considering what to do next with pumpkin, keep these lovely muffins in mind.

buttermilk pumpkin muffins

Buttermilk Pumpkin Muffins (makes 12 standard muffins)

  • 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 T. melted butter
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 T. water or milk
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin well, or line with papers.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter (cooled slightly), buttermilk and milk or water. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and egg until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the flour mixture, stopping as soon as all dry ingredients are wet. Distribute the batter evenly in your prepared muffin tin and bake for 20-25 mins., rotating the pan once midway through cooking. The muffins are done when a skewer comes out of the center clean; they will be very moist, so be careful not to overbake. Serve warm or at room temperature, plain or with butter or jam.

Leftover muffins will keep, tightly covered at room temperature, for about 3 days, but are best the day they’re baked.