Nothing says fall like pumpkin, right? These days everyone and their mother sells something in the pumpkin family, whether it’s a latte or an essential oil or a sickly sweet bread that’s more like cake. My own family has a long tradition of making pumpkin bread for the holidays, which we serve at dinner but could easily be covered in frosting or whipped cream (which we also sometimes do) for a sweet treat. But relegating this nutritionally dense, delicious, and diverse food to a single category—namely desserts—is an insult to nature, especially when one is cooking and eating seasonally.
Often when eating a sweet pumpkin food, people complain about the overpowering flavor—but that’s not the pumpkin at all, it’s the sugar and whatever chemical additives were dumped in to make you addicted. But the savory side of pumpkin is one you’ll want to go on a third or fourth date with. With a mild, warming, and grounding flavor, it is more in line with what Ayurveda thinks of as the sweet taste (or madhura in Sanskrit). It thus takes on a complementary role when paired with the pungent and bright herbs in this recipe, plus the spicy olive oil and tangy sourdough starter.
While this recipe was mostly inspired by its seasonal ingredients, I was also motivated to make use of the discard sourdough starter that has been accumulating in my fridge for the last few months. Since starting this new hobby in July, I’ve become obsessed with baking—and anyone who’s hung out with me lately has probably walked off with a hunk of bread as a parting gift. But the thing about sourdough is that it needs constant refreshing, which means a lot of yeast that worked really hard to ferment could go to waste. That is, if you’re one to waste food. And I’m not one to waste or kill anything—even bacteria—and so I’ve been eager to use up my discard mature starter however I can. Although 1 cup of starter seems like a lot, the bread doesn’t taste overly tangy; just enough to balance the pumpkin, plus it adds some rise and lightness to what could be a pretty dense bread.
If you’re interested in learning to bake your own homemade breads, King Arthur Flour and Josh Weissman have been my go-to guides. Don’t let the chemistry scare you; as long as you name your starter and give it love every time you feed her, she’ll keep you fed in the most miraculously humble of ways—as all bread does.
Savory Vegan Pumpkin Bread with Discard Sourdough Starter
- 3 flax eggs
- 1 cup discard sourdough starter
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp rosemary ground slighly with mortar and pestle, or roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp raw sunflower seeds
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a loaf pan with parchment. Make the flax eggs by combining 3 tablespoons of ground flax seeds with 9 tablespoons of warm water. Let sit while you gather the other ingredients.
- Add the starter, pumpkin, and olive oil. Stir gently to combine.
- Add the flours separately, stirring to gently incorporate after each addition. Then add the salt, spices, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir until just combined; the batter will be a little stiff. *Do not over stir.*
- Place the batter in the prepared loaf pan, spread evenly, and top with the sunflower seeds. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top is crisp and a knife comes out clean when inserted. Let cool before cutting. Store in the fridge after 2 days.