Healthy Baked Pecan-Stuffed Apples
Healthy Baked Pecan-Stuffed Apples
This holiday season, take a break from traditional candied apples and unhealthy holiday cookies, and try these delicious baked apples stuffed with pecans and seasoned with holiday spices instead! These can be made with nuts other than pecans or a mix of nuts, served hot or at room temperature, and with or without a big dollop of (vegan if preferred) ice cream on top!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Allergens: Tree Nuts
- Servings: 6
- 3 apples (halved; I prefer Honey Crisps and red apples like Fuji or Pink Lady, not green!)
- 1 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 6 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
- 3/4 cup almond flour (or rice flour or oat flour)
- 2 tablespoons molasses or maple syrup (plus extra for drizzling)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Wash the apples and pat them dry, then cut them in half. Discard the cores and seeds.
Using a cookie scoop or an apple corer, scoop out the insides of the apple halves, leaving a hollow shell (¼ inch or so). Roughly chop the insides and set aside.
Place the cored-out apples in an oven-safe dish, hollow side up, and bake for 7 minutes.
Using a food processor on the pulse setting or a knife, finely chop the pecans and coconut flakes.
Transfer the mixture into a medium mixing bowl and add cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and sugar. Mix well.
Heat the coconut oil in the microwave in 10-second increments, stirring in between.
Drizzle in the melted coconut oil then add the flour, molasses, vanilla extract, and reserved apple insides, and mix well, making sure all these fragrant ingredients are well combined. (If you don’t have molasses, try using maple syrup.)
Place the baked cored apple halves into a baking pan or pie dish, then using that cookie scooper or apple corer, scoop the filling you just made into each half. To prevent burning and to help soften the apples, pour about 1” of water into the baking dish around the apples.
If you have cranberries or raisins in your pantry, add a couple of tablespoons of them to the mixture for a chewy texture. Or, want a little kick to the stuffing? Add ¼ teaspoon of ginger powder to the mix, or for a bit more warmth add ¼ teaspoon of cloves and ¼ teaspoon of ground cardamom.
Place the newly filled halves in the oven and bake for another 25 minutes. (If you'd like a softer baked apple, just add a few more minutes to the baking time.)
Let cool then serve warm or at room temperature.
Pro Tips: Make the pecan stuffing ahead of time up and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When ready to bake, add the chopped apples and mix to the scooped apples and add an extra 3 minutes to the baking time. If preparing these stuffed baked apples for a party, plan on one entire apple per person.
Why are Apples Good for your Health?
Seriously, what can’t you do with apples? You can stuff ‘em, dice ‘em, slice ‘em, fry ‘em, bake ‘em, and even grill ‘em. Whether it’s the star of the show or working behind the scenes, the apple is truly a magnificently versatile fruit that is not only delicious but also very healthy for you.
If you can’t tell, I love apples, and eating these pecan-stuffed baked apples makes me feel like I’m indulging, which technically I am but there is absolutely no guilt over eating this yummy dessert. I get all the health benefits while satisfying my sweet craving! Browsing through the produce section of any supermarket, you’ll find popular apple varieties like Pink Lady, Gala, Fuji, Golden, and Granny Smith — not only are they all sweet and delicious, they all have major health benefits (we’ve all heard the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, right?), including:
- Low in calories and a good source of fiber, which can aid in weight loss
- Good for gut health, which can reduce the effects of acid reflux
- Can help fix heart damage, lower cholesterol, and protect blood vessels (apple skin)
- Rich in antioxidants, which can reduce chances of cancer, heart disease, and Type II Diabetes
- Good for improving one’s immune system plus help with lung strength and asthma
Why are Baked Apples a Healthy Snack?
Depending on the cooking method and the type of dish being prepared, apples can stand on their own or complement many recipes. Apples can be wonderful mid-day snacks that are easily added to any lunch box, and they’re often seen in sweet dishes like cobblers, pies, and tarts, and savory ones like holiday stuffing, frittatas, and soups. Apples also make fun appearances in drinks like apple cider or apple cinnamon tea. There are lots of recipes you can make with apples, and this healthy, baked, pecan-stuffed version is sure to become one of your family’s favorites!
I actually prefer to eat apples baked. Baking is much healthier than frying because it cuts down on all the oil and other unnecessary ingredients that are filled with cholesterol and fats, without sacrificing the taste. Your body will thank you later! In this healthy baked apple recipe, all the amazingly fragrant ingredients marry together to bring out the best flavors in all the spices, which complement the apples, especially the molasses.
What is Molasses?
A lot of people don’t know much about molasses, but it really is the unsung hero in many bakers’ pantries, including mine! Molasses is a thick and robust syrup that is formed from the extraction of juices from sugar cane then boiled down to form sugar crystals. These crystals are then extracted from the juice, and molasses is formed through this process. Replicating this method will give you varying intensities, flavors, and colors depending on the number of times this extraction process is completed. Molasses is known as one of the most favorite sweeteners of the South when it comes to baking.
Is Molasses Good for You?
Heck yea! With its rich, dark, and earthy color and flavor, it’s hard to believe that something so delectable would be healthy, but molasses has some amazing health benefits. Along with being a good source of energy, carbohydrates, reducing stress, and improving digestion, molasses has:
- Calcium, iron, and copper, all of which are good for bone and blood health
- Magnesium and potassium, which are good for muscle health and recovery
- Vitamin B6, which is good for the heart, blood vessels, stroke, morning sickness, and even PMS!
- Selenium, which is good for boosting the immune system and can help with mental decline and reduced risk for heart disease
Molasses is featured in many treats we all know and love like ginger snaps and other spiced cookies we all enjoy during the holiday season. When I take a bite of one of these baked stuffed apples filled with molasses and other goodies, I always tell myself that I should make this recipe more often!
Health Benefits BY INGREDIENT
If prepared as directed above, there are a multitude of health benefits to this baked pecan-stuffed apples recipe. Here they are by each ingredient in the dish:
- Allspice: Anti-inflammatory, aids in digestion, and boosts immunity
- Almond Flour: High in protein and low in carbohydrates
- Apples: Low in calories and a great source of fiber and antioxidants to aid in overall health and boost the immune system
- Cinnamon: Loaded with antioxidants and can lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels
- Coconut Oil: Can help with heart health, balance hormones, and is a great skin moisturizer
- Molasses: Can help reduce stress and ease digestion, and is high in protein
- Nutmeg: Great for your skin, helps stimulate brain activity, and regulates blood pressure
- Oat Flour: High in antioxidants and protein
- Pecans: Good source of calcium, potassium, and magnesium to aid in muscle recovery.
- Rice Flour: High in fiber and can lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels
Separately each ingredient has it’s health benefits, and when all put together they create a recipe that’s healthy, gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free. What’s not to love?!