It’s pumpkin season, baby.
Believe it or not, I’m really not a pumpkin spice fan. I absolutely love pumpkin pie, but “pumpkin spice” never really does it for me.
Every single year, my favorite dessert to enjoy at Thanksgiving is pumpkin cheesecake. It’s flavored with actual pumpkin and not just an insane amount of spice, which is exactly what I want.
While I toyed with trying to create a macro-friendly version of that, I decided to go the cookie route instead!
This recipe was inspired by my brownie batter stuffed cookie cups. If you haven’t tried that recipe, check it out! It’s high-protein brownie batter stuffed inside a chocolate chip cookie, and it’s incredible.
But let’s dive in here…
These cookies are gluten-free AND keto-friendly, so they should appeal to almost everyone!
Key Ingredients & substitutions
As with all recipes, I know there are going to be substitution questions. Here are the main ingredients used, and what substitutions (if any) you can make:
- If you’re in a country that doesn’t have canned pumpkin readily available, applesauce works great. If you make that substitution, there won’t be any pumpkin to this recipe, but it will still be a delicious cookie.
- Remember that these require baking SODA, not baking POWDER. Baking powder will create a poofy cookie and will not be like the authentic cookie that we’re looking for.
- I like to use coconut oil in these, but any other fat source will work. I tried using light butter to save some calories, but they did not turn out like the cookies I wanted at all. Since these are virtually carb-free, we NEED the fat to produce the end result we’re looking for!
- These cookies use brown sugar to help them retain moisture. If you do not have brown sugar, regular sugar should still work, but you won’t get quite the same texture.
- I often use protein powder that is a whey/casein blend, but I used a 100% whey protein in this case. You should be able to use a blend no problem! The major difference is the amount of liquid required depending on the type of protein you use, so you may need to add slightly more pumpkin to your cookies if you use a different kind of protein.
These cookies are not difficult to make, but do require some specific steps to get them just right! So, let’s walk through ’em quickly.
We start by mixing all of our ingredients together to make our cookie dough.
It may seem like there’s not enough liquid, but be patient! Keep mixing and it will turn into a beautiful orange dough.
If you make substitutions, there is a chance you need some extra liquid. If that’s the case, you can add a little extra pumpkin- but keep mixing to let it come together first before making adjustments.
We’re going to chill the dough for one hour- don’t skip this step!! It helps prevent the dough from spreading thin, so we get a nice big cookie when we’re done.
Along with the dough, we’re also going to make a very simple cheesecake filling with cream cheese, some vanilla protein powder, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. If you don’t want to use protein powder in the filling, you can omit it and just add some extra sugar!
Once everything is mixed and smooth, you just need to spoon it out onto parchment paper or a baking sheet, then freeze for one hour.
Note that I made enough filling for 8 cookies, only to realize I was making 4 cookies instead. I adjusted the recipe accordingly, but that’s why you see more filling than needed!
After an hour, the dough will be very firm and easy to work with.
Form the dough into 8 balls, flatten them out, then add your filling to 4 of your cookies.
Fold the sides up around your frozen filling, then take the other 4 cookies and cover the tops. Pinch the sides and form them into balls.
Sprinkle with a little more cinnamon or pumpkin spice, then pop ’em into the oven. That’s it!
These cookies can be enjoyed immediately, but the filling tastes more on the cream cheese side of things.
If you let these cool in the fridge for an hour (or overnight, which is when this photo was taken), the filling firms up so well and tastes just like a cheesecake filling!
I highly recommend letting them sit to firm up if you can. If you’re impatient, you can certainly enjoy them right away, but it won’t be quite the same.
Calorie saving note
If you’re looking at this recipe and thinking that 220 calories is a lot for a cookie, I have a note for you. Well, two notes, actually.
- These cookies are quite large. Compared to a protein bar that is typically around 220 calories, I’d take these any day!
- See above how we started with 8 cookie dough balls? You can stop right there and make 8 smaller cookies instead. You can omit the filling altogether, or make 8 smaller pieces of filling to create cookies that will only be right around 100 calories each.
Don’t forget these recipes…
If you like this recipe, then I have quite a few others that I can guarantee you’re going to love.
- Keeping the stuffed cookies going, how about Brownie Batter Stuffed Cookie Cups or Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein Cookies
- Cheesecake lovers rejoice, I have Protein Cheesecake Bites, Protein Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake, and Protein Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
- And of course, if you want more pumpkin, check out The Softest Protein Pumpkin Cookies
For Pumpkin Cookies
- 45g (1.5 Scoops) Vanilla Whey Protein
- 56g Almond Flour
- 28g Brown Sugar Substitute (I used Anthony’s)
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda (NOT baking powder)
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon or Pumpkin Spice (can use up to 1 Tsp for stronger flavor)
- 45g Canned Pumpkin (or pumpkin purèe)
- 21g Coconut Oil
For Cheesecake Filling
- 84g Fat Free or Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
- 7g (roughly 1/4 scoop) Vanilla Whey Protein
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 20g Powdered Sugar Substitute (I used Swerve)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients for your cookies (everything except the pumpkin and coconut oil)
- Microwave your coconut oil for 30 seconds to melt it- we just want it melted but not too hot. Add the coconut oil and pumpkin to your dry ingredients and use a silicone spatula to mix until a dough forms. It will be very dry at first; just be patient and keep mixing!
- Once you have a dough, add to the fridge to firm up for about 1 hour.
- Make the cheesecake filling by mixing together the cream cheese, protein powder, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar using an electric mixer. If you need to mix by hand and do not have an electric mixer, I recommend leaving the cream cheese out at room temperature to make the mixing process much easier. Feel free to add extra sweetener if needed.
- Using a spoon, create 4 scoops of the mixture and place on parchment paper or a baking sheet. Add these to the freezer for 1 hour so they are frozen when we go to bake.
- Note that you want to create more than 4 cookies out of the dough, you can scoop the filling into smaller portions to create smaller stuffed cookies.
- After the dough and filling have chilled for an hour, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Break your dough into 8 roughly equal-sized pieces, then roll them in your palms to create balls. Flatten each one down into a cookie shape.
- Take your frozen cheesecake filling and place in the middle of 4 of your cookies. Using the remaining 4 cookies, cover the cheesecake filling and pinch the edges to create 4 stuffed balls. You can use your hands to make sure everything is completely enclosed.
- See the recipe notes above if you want to see what mine looked like during this process.
- Sprinkle with a little bit more cinnamon or pumpkin spice (optional) and bake for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove from the oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
- You can enjoy these immediately, but the cheesecake flavor will not be quite as authentic. For the best cheesecake flavor, put your cookies in the refrigerator for at least one hour (overnight works great too) so your cheesecake filling solidifies inside. I promise, it's worth the wait!
- These cookies will hold up great in the fridge for up to one week.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1 Cookie
Amount Per Serving Calories 220Total Fat 14.5gCarbohydrates 7gFiber 2gSugar 3gProtein 16g