Simone Appetit: Hawaiian-style pumpkin crunch bars pack punch |

Simone Appetit: Hawaiian-style pumpkin crunch bars pack punch

Simone Grandmain

Don't read that header and go looking for pineapple or coconut in the ingredients column. There is not a hint of the islands to be found in this recipe, but find these confections you will if you attend any local potluck in Hawaii.

Luaus, weddings, high school graduations, Super Bowl parties — it is not a celebration if someone forgets to bring the pumpkin crunch bars. (Or the steamed rice with the flat wooden paddle).

This is something I have never understood. I mean, pumpkin is not exactly indigenous to Polynesia. It's an import and barely affordable fresh or canned. So why the popularity of the pumpkin crunch bar?

It is a real culinary stumper. I mean SPAM I get. That "food" product was introduced to Hawaii during World War II and stuck. Let me re-phrase that: I understand how SPAM got there, I just do not totally get its staying power.

Yes, it is full of salty, fatty goodness and fries up to a nice crispy camping treat, but most locals eat it al dente. I cannot go there.

I do, however, jump the pumpkin crunch bar bandwagon whenever possible. They are delicious! Who cares if they are of suspect origin? In my household they are now part of our holiday heritage with a big fat "Mahalo" to whoever introduced them to Hawaii, thus replacing the Spam Bars (I've had them) at the potluck.

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1 box yellow cake mix

1 can pumpkin (15 oz)

1 can evaporated milk

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

2 sticks melted butter

nutmeg for sprinkle garnish

parchment paper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of 9×13 pan, placing a piece of parchment or wax paper on the bottom of the pan.

Combine pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl and mix well. Pour into pan, and sprinkle cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture. Top with nuts, drizzle melted butter over top, and bake for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown.

When cool, loosen pumpkin crunch from side of pan with a knife. Invert pan onto platter or very large cutting board (the top becomes the crust). Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen "must-haves" and food news at