My family has never been big on pumpkin pie. I don’t ever remember that dessert on our holiday table or in our seasonal rotation. Even now, I could take it or leave it. Instead, the smell of pumpkin in our kitchen always meant one thing, and one thing only.

Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

My mom got the recipe from a neighbor nearly 30 years ago, and it has been a fall staple in our household ever since. We believe in eating them at all hours of the day. The recipe card calls for one cup of mini chocolate chips, but we all know that means one whole bag. We bake the muffins in both full and mini sizes, but the mini ones have always been our favorite, because you can eat one after another with less guilt.

I loved these muffins when I was growing up, but I grew to love them more when I moved away from home. I would return from fall break in college with a Ziploc full, and sharing them with my roommates would dull the fresh sting of homesickness. I baked them in the unpredictable oven in my first tiny apartment after graduation, and the sweetness helped ease the sadness of my first Thanksgiving away from my family. Two years ago, I baked more than 200 in my latest tiny apartment with my mom and my best friend, and the challenge was worth it to share them with my newly expanded family during my wedding weekend.

I haven’t been together with my parents and my sisters since last Thanksgiving. The pandemic has kept us apart this year, as it has so many others. That distance has been painful throughout these long months, but the holiday season makes it more acute. I recently woke up on a particularly beautiful Maine fall day, the kind of day that usually makes me feel so grateful to live in this golden place, and I felt overwhelmed by the thousand miles between us.

The recipe card Photo by Mary Lynn Doyle

So I put a can of pumpkin and a bag of mini chocolate chips on my grocery list, and I filled our still-tiny apartment with those familiar smells. I still missed my mom’s stained recipe card and the way my sister will never let anyone eat the batter even though it is so good and the way my dad makes us laugh by singing Adele songs in the kitchen and the feeling of all six of us together in one place. But this recipe brought me to them while I could not be there in person, so I will take one of these little muffins (but let’s be real, I never eat just one) over a slice of pumpkin pie any day.


Megan Gray never eats just one. Photo by Megan Gray


1 2/3 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder


¼ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1 cup chocolate chips (at least)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, salt) in a bowl.

Blend the wet ingredients (eggs, pumpkin, butter) in another bowl. Fold in the dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups. If using a large muffin tin, bake for 20 to 25 minutes until puffed and springy to the touch in the center. If using a mini muffin tin, bake for 15 to 18 minutes.

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