Pumpkin Praline Parfaits (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


It is a wonderful thing, when you think your choices are extremely limited, to discover that you have a lot more options than you thought. Even better, that those options appear to be increasing all the time. This is how I felt when I first found that my gestational diabetes was here to stay, that I was a diabetic for life. I thought that for baking, my sweetener options were limited to artificial products like sucralose and aspartame, neither of which I have ever much liked. What a delight, then, to discover a whole world of alternative sweeteners that were naturally derived and had little to no effect on my blood glucose levels. Ever cautious, I first approached them with some trepidation. Could they be for real? How could there possibly be all of these sugar alternatives that I’d never even heard of? Could they really sweeten my foods without causing a blood sugar spike?

For someone with a true passion for baking, these alternative sweeteners have been an absolute godsend. Notice I use the term “alternative sweeteners” instead of “artificial sweeteners”. This is because sugar alcohols like erythritol and xylitol, and other plant-based sweeteners like stevia, are all naturally occurring substances. Sure, they have to be processed out of the plants in which they occur, but it also takes a lot of processing to get sugar out of sugar cane. And guess what? Even if you never knew it, you’ve been consuming erythritol and xylitol all the time, because they are both naturally occurring substances in many fruits and vegetables. This fact alone makes me feel a lot better about using them in my low carb baking.

What’s especially heartening to me is that producers of these sugar alternatives are constantly striving to improve them. Recently on Twitter, I noticed a new follower going by the name of @swervesweetie. Intrigued, I clicked on their profile and discovered a new erythritol-based sweetener called Swerve. My new follower and I struck up a little correspondence, and they asked me to try out the product in my baking. So what’s different about this one? Well, they have formulated their product to be used cup-for-cup to replace sugar. Plain erythritol is only about 60-70% as sweet as sugar, but Swerve has been designed to be exactly as sweet as regular sugar. That’s pretty great news for anyone want to take a conventional recipe and make it sugar free.

For my part, I knew instantly what I wanted to make with it. I’d seen a recipe in the King Arthur Flour catalog that I wanted to make low carb, and I knew it would be a good match for the Swerve Sweetener. The King Arthur version, a Pumpkin Mousse with Salted Pecans, was anything but low carb, being made with their pastry cream mix. But I’ve had such success with pastry cream lately, I knew I could revamp the recipe to my specifications. And instead of salted pecans, I decided to use the Swerve Sweetener to its best advantage, and make some pecan pralines.

The Results: Okay, I officially declare this the perfect fall dessert. Really, it is amazing, like rich, thick pumpkin pie filling without the crust. And the pralines are to die for! Sweet and pecan-y, they add the perfect bit of crunch to the rich pumpkin pastry cream. If you haven’t decided what to serve for dessert on Thanksgiving Day, may I enthusiastically recommend this? I may be making a second batch for our Thanksgiving!

And how did the Swerve perform? Perfectly. I used it cup for cup in both the pastry cream and the pralines, and was very pleased with the sweetness of both parts of the dessert. And here’s an added bonus that the Swerve people didn’t even mention; there was none of the mouth-cooling sensation that is typical of other erythritol sweeteners. This is big to me, because I know a lot of people are put off by that when it comes to sugar alcohols. I think the Swerve folks need to make this a selling point, because it certainly is to me!

Pumpkin Praline Parfaits

Pumpkin Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup Swerve Sweetener
pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp butter, cut into two pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup Swerve Sweetener
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp molasses
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

For the pastry cream, whisk together whipping cream, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with Swerve sweetener and salt, then whisk in cornstarch until mixture becomes pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

Slowly whisk about half of the hot cream into the yolks to temper, then return the yolk/cream mixture back to the saucepan and cook until thick and glossy, about 1 1/2 minutes, whisking continuously. It thickens up suddenly and quickly, so watch carefully!

Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer to a small bowl and press plastic wrap flush to the surface. Chill in refrigerator at least 3 hours.

For the pralines, combine Swerve with the cream, butter, molasses and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until Swerve dissolves and mixture boils. Continue to cook until mixture reaches 280F on a candy thermometer and just begins to darken. Remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla extract and let cool 5 minutes. Stir in pecans and mix vigorously, then pour into a parchment lined baking pan. Let cool and harden.

To assemble parfaits, take about a quarter of the pralines and place in a heavy-duty plastic ziploc bag. Crush with a heavy kitchen mallet until broken into small pieces. Set aside.

Divide half of pumpkin pastry cream into 6 dessert dishes or ramekins. Sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon of crushed pralines, then top with remaining pastry cream and sprinkle each with 1 more tablespoon of crushed pralines.

Garnish with lightly sweetened whipping cream, if desired, and 1 pecan half.

Serves 6. Each serving has 8.1 g of carbs and 2.2 g of fiber. Total NET CARBS = 5.9 g.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Roxana GreenGirl {A little bit of everything} says

    I felt like you when I heard about my cholesterol. I thought it's the end of cakes, cookies and other good bakes until I start reading and discovering so many soy based products that are as good as dairy ones.
    Your parfaits look great! Glad to hear there's a new sweetener on the market since my new year resolution (2012 i mean) is to give up white sugar and flour.

  2. Rachel @ Baked by Rachel says

    Smooth, crunch and seasonal!? Perfect :) I'm always amazed to hear of the alternative sweeteners that I had never thought of before. Even using things like honey and agave don't always occur to me.

  3. kita says

    I've had pumpkin parfaits on my to do list for over a year! I love your take on this and the pralines sound like they really kick it up a notch! Motivation! :)

  4. healthyfoodietravels says

    Oh my, whenever I hear praline, I know I'm helplessly drawn in! :) Looks amazingly good!
    I discovered xylitol in China, it's pretty much all they use. I was very pleasantly surprised!

  5. Megan@foodalution.com says

    What a pleasure to have a new product turn out beyond what you have expected. Delicious recipe! And a good new find. I will keep my eyes out for the product – hope your Wednesday treats you wonderfully! xoxo megan

  6. Steph says

    I'm still amazed that you haven't let your diabetes get you down. I don't know if I would be able to move on and find so many new ways to still enjoy the things I love. This parfait sounds AMAZING!! Perfect fall treat!

  7. Lisa @ Tarte du Jour says

    These parfaits look spectacular! This is my time of year…I love pumpkin anything! I've never heard of Swerve before. I know people who are diabetic would appreciate knowing about this one.

  8. Birgit Kerr says

    This looks wonderful! You already answered a question I had about the cooling sensation, but I have another question on the Swerve. How about the recrystalizing properties of the regular erythritol? Is that different in swerve too? Did you get a chance to observe this?

    I could imagine that this yummy looking dessert was gone before any crystals could form though :)

  9. janet@cupcakestocaviar says

    This looks utterly fantastic! I ADORE anything pumpkin and contrary to what is in my blog, I try to be careful of what I eat most of the time. So this WILL be being printed out and tried.

    I am so happy for you that you are able to find ways to work with your diabetes when it comes to cooking. My dad, who died in 06, had type 2 diabetes and I wish things like this had been around for him even those few short years ago. Plus, my husband has type 2 diabetes and I love knowing that there are recipes like this out there for me to be able to make him.

  10. Carolyn says

    Hi Birgit,
    I actually still have some of the pumpkin pastry cream left and plan on having it for dessert tonight. I will make note of any crystallization, but I haven't yet had that problem in any of my pastry creams made with any kind of erythritol.

  11. Jackie says

    I have been trying to find sugar substitutes that I like, I will have to give swerve a try. It certainly sounds worth it. The recipe looks really good as well. I will be giving this a try.

  12. Nicole says

    I think I've only had a parfait once in my life – crazy, I know, but it only makes me want this more. I love, love pumpkin and can't even begin to describe my addiction to pralines, so the two of them together? Heaven.

  13. Lauren at Keep It Sweet says

    I'd definitely be ok with a limited diet if I could eat this for dessert on a regular basis! These look delicious.

  14. scratch-made wife says

    I'm seriously intrigued by this sweetener – and this dessert! I am amazed by the amount of wonderful foods you've found you can eat. I need to branch out and see what else is out there for me (I don't have diabetes, but a newfound insulin issue has recently limited my diet to be very, very low carb.) Keep posting the awesome recipes. I'll keep bookmarking them. :)

  15. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. says

    This dessert looks so yummy! I've never heard of Swerve, but now I am curious. I try to limit my sugars too, but I'm not a big fan of artificial sweeteners. I don't like the aftertaste!

  16. Becky says

    This pumpkin parfait sounds so good, and looks amazing. I'll have to look for the Swerve. As one who has to watch carbs and fat, I appreciate all of your efforts in the kitchen.

  17. Boulder Locavore says

    I echo your enthusiasm about the currently available 'alternative' sugar. For those unable to eat regular sugar for necessity or choice, having the only option be chemical does not seem the right solution. These new sweeteners are very exciting…..as is THIS dessert! Perfect fall dessert, I agree. Thanks for including it in the TG LinkUp!

  18. Belinda @zomppa says

    Thanks for sharing. It is difficult to know what alternatives there are out there that is healthy and tasty.

  19. Nami | Just One Cookbook says

    Hi Carolyn! The fact that you mention this is the perfect fall dessert said it all. I love pumpkin flavor and I am not a big parfait fan but I'd love to try this one. After all I might like all kinds of parfait. Your blog is a great source for making dessert with healthy choices. We're fortunate to know good source (your blog)!

  20. Kari says

    I like your points about alternative sweeteners – good food for thought and also reassuring to me on the occasions I use them.

    I also smiled at your pictures, because I made pumpkin banana soft serve recently and parfaied them with cereal, to look surprisingly like this. But your recipe sounds considerably nicer! The banana pumpkin combination didn't work as well as I'd hoped :/

  21. Foodness Gracious says

    Great post and very interesting, I have used erythritol before and experienced the cooling effect which was a little strange but it would be my go to sweetner again if the need arises,
    Take care..

  22. The Cilantropist says

    Carolyn these parfaits look amazing! I havent really ventured into the world of alternative sweetners, but whatever sugar you use I can imagine this has a lovely flavor. Thanks for sharing about Swerve!

  23. Jill @ MadAboutMacarons says

    C'est vraiment parfait! Yep, perfection in that glass and beautiful photos, too. Carolyn, this looks stunning!

  24. Karen says

    I don't love pumpkin pie, but this looks like a dessert I could get into! And the praline? Yes, please!
    That's great that the Swerve worked out so well, should I ever need to use something other than sugar…I would be lost if I had to change up the amounts to compensate.

  25. Katherine Martinelli says

    These look amazing!! And it's so great to hear that there are quality sweetener alternatives on the market.

  26. Mighty says

    A new sweetener…lovely, lovely and lovelier!!! I'm always on the look out to alternatives as well, so this is a nice discovery! As for the dessert t looks awesome as all your stuff does!!!

  27. Krista {Budget Gourmet Mom} says

    I am always inspired by your spirit and your ability to work with what ya' got. I would gladly eat anything you dish up and I have no doubt that I would love it!

  28. moonwinks14 says

    Made this yesterday – using Erythritol. I wasn't sure if I liked it as well as other pumpkin mousses, but I now know that it was because I didn't let it set in the refrigerator long enough, (couldn't wait!). We had it again for dessert tonight as is in the picture with a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on the top and it was EXCELLENT! I substituted xanthan gum for the cornstarch and had a great thickened pastry cream. When I made the pralines, instead of molasses, I tried for the first time a sugar free molasses extract and they also turned out very well. Incidentally, I noted in your list of ingredients, you do not have stevia listed, but it is listed in your directions to add to the praline mixture. So I did add some liquid stevia to taste. I did get the "cooling" effect from the Erythritol, so I went ahead and ordered a pound of Swerve for the next go-around, thinking I would make this over the holidays. Thank you for your blog and all your hard work. I have been diabetic for some time and most of the time, with the exception of holidays, follow Dr. Bernstein's dietary program (whom I have seen with excellent results). I appreciate your efforts and fine culinary skills! My best to you.

  29. Carolyn says

    Hi Moonwinks. I am so SO glad you liked it. My bad about the stevia, there shouldn't be any in the pralines. I don't know why I wrote that, except that I so often write that very term "add vanilla and stevia extracts", I must have just been on autopilot. Either way, I don't think the extra stevia would hurt.
    The Swerve really didn't have much, if any, of the cooling sensation that I find with regular erythritol. Try it out in a concentrated way, as in these pralines or another nut brittle and let me know what you think!

  30. Kate @ Kate from Scratch says

    This looks fantastic! Your creations always amaze me. So delicious, satisfying and yet, meet wonderfully healthy requirements. I love it.

  31. Gone-ta-pott says

    Ohhh you bet! Pumpkin Praline Parfaits are perfect Fall desserts with no question. I loved the post and I have to try this new sweetener and new recipe.

  32. Parsley Sage says

    You know, I don't think I knew that gestational diabetes could stay with mom after delivery! I thought it went away. Were you at risk of diabetes before you got pregnant?

    Enough prying into your life, this is a smashing dessert! Pumpkin and praline = singing! Looks delish :)

  33. Jennifer says

    Hi Carolyn – your dessert looks and sounds wonderful. The sweetener is interesting too. Wondering how they get the sweetness level to go from 70% to 100% that of sugar. What are they using in combination with erythritol, I wonder?

  34. Mike says

    I made these for a small event on Sunday and I waited to see the looks on the faces of the folks when they tasted it, I don't know how to descibe the WOW!!!!

  35. a happy little life says

    this is exciting! thank you for all the work you did to convey the information for the products and the differences in the sugars.
    big time pumpkin loving husband always looking at pumpkin recipes.

    i enjoy your blog very much and wanted you to know :)
    have a great day.

  36. Michelle says

    I made these pralines today. The only problem I see is that they are too darn good to put in the ice cream I intended them for. Thank you for another winner. :0)

  37. Catherine H. says

    I tried this recipe for a bit of a change from the usual pie, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed. For some reason, the pastry cream came out grainy, although with a good flavor. It was nothing like the deliciously creamy, silky pastry cream from the Boston Cream Pie, unfortunately. Also, there was too much erythritol (haven’t invested in Swerve yet–so expensive!), and I get a strange burning sensation in my mouth from overdoses of erythritol; I’ve never heard anyone else mention this experience, so this may be just a personal quirk. The candied nuts were a bit much for the same reason, but another commenter’s idea of putting them in ice cream sounds like a good way to mitigate the effects. I’ve had so many good recipes from this site that I’m not too discouraged by a setback or two.

    • Carolyn says

      Sorry to hear this didn’t live up to your expectations. It does sound like some people are very sensitive to the cooling sensation in erythritol and if you used regular erythritol, I can see how that would be very strong. I know Swerve is expensive :( In fugure, I’d say for you to always cut the erythritol with some stevia and not use full strength. I am always happy to help you figure out how to adapt a recipe to suit your tastes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *