October 21, 2020
Last Updated:
January 25, 2023

Functional Fall Recipes: A Delicious Guide to Eating Seasonal, Wholesome Foods

Fall is often celebrated with comfort foods, like pumpkin bread and butternut squash soup, filling your kitchen with the delicious scents of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Not only are these dishes flavorful and warming for the soul, they can also provide a variety of nutrients for your diet.

We refer to these foods as functional – foods and ingredients that taste great and promote health! Functional foods, like nuts and seeds, and spices, like turmeric and cinnamon, can enhance your typical oatmeal, latte, or soup recipe and provide extra nourishment. Better yet, they can even help you crowd out some of the unhealthy options at your next holiday meal!

Ready to start eating more creatively and nutritiously this fall? We asked some of our IIN community members to share their favorite fall recipes that are not just delicious but also provide functional nutritional value. 

Breakfast Bites

Jump-start your metabolism and provide your body with energy for the day ahead:

Pearl Millet Pancake

Recipe by Zeba Junaid Ansari, HCTP May 2020 Accelerated; Image via Shutterstock.

Functional Food Highlight: Pearl millet

Pearl millet is a high-energy grain packed with fiber, protein, and iron! This grain can be ground into a gluten-free flour, making the recipe gluten-free. These pancakes are also dairy- and refined sugar–free. The pancakes can be stored in the freezer for up to 15 days and in the fridge for two days.


  • 1/2 cup pearl millet flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1 egg (or flax egg: 1 tablespoon flaxseed soaked in 2 tablespoons water)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • Optional:
    • Maple syrup (for serving)
    • 1/2 cup mixed fruit (for serving)
    • Dairy-free whipped cream


  1. Mix pearl millet flour, rice flour, egg (or flax egg), salt, and coconut milk together in large mixing bowl.
  2. Beat until pancake-like consistency.
  3. Heat pan on low and pour batter, making pancakes as little or as big as desired.
  4. Flip after 3–4 minutes, or until bottom is golden brown, and cook the other side until completely cooked through.
  5. Optional: Top with maple syrup, mixed fruit, and/or whipped cream.

Pumpkin Spice Turmeric Latte

Image and recipe by Carleigh Ferrante, HCTP May 2020 Accelerated

Functional Food Highlights: Pumpkin and turmeric

Looking for a healthy replacement for your favorite java spot’s latte? With pumpkin and turmeric, this antioxidant-rich drink is grounding, balancing, and a great pick-me-up for cold, fall mornings. Get yourself in the pumpkin spirit while also obtaining key nutrients like vitamins A and C and potassium.


  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant-based milk of your choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup hot water


  1. Blend all ingredients except water in high-speed blender.
  2. Pour over hot water.
  3. Enjoy warm!

Oat and Buckwheat Cinnamon Bowl

Image and recipe by Christina Zakhem, HCTP July 2017

Functional Food Highlights: Oats and cinnamon

Start your day with a filling and blood sugar–stabilizing breakfast bowl! Cinnamon is known to stabilize blood sugar and adds a subtle, warm flavor that pairs well with sweet and nutty toppings. This heart-healthy breakfast is also full of soluble fiber from oats and buckwheat, plus healthy fats and anti-inflammatory benefits.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat
  • 2 small dates, or 1 large, pitted Medjool date, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • Optional toppings: pecans, goji berries – whatever you want!


  1. Bring water to a boil and add salt.
  2. Add oats, buckwheat, and dates. Cook for approximately 6 minutes.
  3. Add almond butter and cook for another 3–6 minutes. The longer it cooks, the creamier it gets!
  4. Once ready, allow food to cool for 2 minutes. Stir in cinnamon, add toppings, and enjoy this protein-packed breakfast.

Snacks and Pick-Me-Ups

Healthy snacks can satiate you between meals and prevent overeating. Here are a couple of satisfying and nutritious ideas: 

Hormone-Balancing Energy Bites

Recipe by Carleigh Ferrante, HCTP May 2020 Accelerated; Image via Shutterstock.

Functional Food Highlight: Seeds

Ever hear of seed cycling? Seed cycling refers to eating certain seeds during the two main phases of the menstrual cycle: follicular and luteal. During the follicular phase, hormone experts recommend focusing on flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds, while during the luteal phase, sunflower and sesame seeds are best to munch on. These energy bites can help balance hormones during the menstrual cycle, boosting levels of estrogen and progesterone at appropriate times during the 28-day period.


  • 1/2 cup of each type of seed:
    • Flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds for follicular phase (days 1–14 of cycle)
    • Sunflower seeds and sesame seeds for luteal phase (days 15–28 of cycle)
  • 8 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons maca powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Soak seeds overnight and strain well the next morning.
  2. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until well combined.
  3. Roll into bite-size balls and store in refrigerator. (Optional: Roll balls in hemp seeds, chia seeds, coconut, or additional cacao powder.)
  4. Eat two energy bites per day when seed cycling.

Vegan Brownie Batter

Image and recipe by Jadenaè A. Trabacchi, HCTP September 2020 Accelerated

Functional Food Highlights: Sweet potato and cacao powder

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Do you love licking the spoon when baking brownies or cookies but dislike raw egg? This alternative take on brownies is filled with healthy fats, fiber, and iron – and you can safely lick the spoon (and the bowl!).

In this simple recipe, cacao powder provides flavonoids to improve blood flow, dates provide antioxidants to reduce inflammation in the body, and the sweet potato provides fiber that aids in digestive health. This batter/quick fudge is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up that can satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthier way!


  • 1 large sweet potato, cooked and mashed
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted, soaked, and blended
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins, chopped


  1. Cook sweet potato in oven at 400°F until soft and able to be poked with a fork.
  2. While sweet potato is cooking, soak dates in filtered water.
  3. When sweet potato is cooked, place soaked dates and water in blender with flesh of sweet potato and blend to combine.
  4. In a large bowl, combine sweet potato mixture with almond butter, cacao powder, and cinnamon.
  5. Add chopped pecans and raisins to mixture.
  6. Transfer batter to airtight container. Allow to cool in the fridge, and enjoy!
  7. Optional: Substitute pecans with walnuts, swap pumpkin spice for cinnamon, add vanilla extract if desired, or use almond milk to soak dates instead of water. 

Vata-Balancing Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Image and recipe by Carleigh Ferrante, HCTP May 2020 Accelerated

Functional Food Highlights: Pumpkin and connection to Ayurveda

This refreshing smoothie can help balance your Vata, the Ayurvedic element responsible for energy and movement. Autumn corresponds with Vata, creating a dry, rough quality in the body that can affect your immune system. Pumpkin is an augmenting vegetable, meaning it has a heavy and sweet quality that helps the body create healthy muscle and protective fat, grounding the Vata in your body.


  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or any unsweetened plant-based milk of your choice)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon tahini or nut butter
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Water and ice as needed
  • Optional: 1–2 dates for more sweetness


  1. Blend all ingredients together, adding additional water or ice as needed.

Main Dishes

Whether for lunch or dinner, you can create well-rounded meals that contain vegetables, protein, and whole grains. Our graduates have some great recommendations:

Miso Rice Bowl with Marinated Mushrooms and Crispy Kale

Image and recipe by Martina Zand, HCTP January 2012

Functional Food Highlights: Mushrooms and kale

This high-nutrient rice bowl is a quick and delicious dinner staple. All you need is leftover brown rice or any kind of leftover grain. It combines superfoods, like mushroom and kale, into a tasty Asian dish, providing antioxidants, vitamins C and K, and immune-boosting benefits.


For the marinated mushrooms:

  • 2 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the crispy kale:

  • 2 big kale leaves (doesn’t matter if curly)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For the rice:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice

For the toppings:

  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon kimchi, sauerkraut, or pickled food of your choice


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine mushrooms, garlic, coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, cumin, and pepper. Set aside to marinate.
  3. Slice kale into thin ribbons. Massage with olive oil and salt, then spread on baking tray in a single layer. Bake kale for 15 minutes until crispy.
  4. Add water and miso paste to a pot, and whisk to dissolve.
  5. Add rice to miso water. Heat gently until the water has evaporated and the rice is creamy – about 5 minutes.
  6. To assemble everything, place miso rice in the bottom of a bowl. Top with marinated mushrooms and crispy kale. Add toppings and enjoy the warm comfort.

Turkey Chili with Corn Bread

Image and recipe by Nina Zorfass, HCTP March 2015

Functional Food Highlights: Tomatoes, bell peppers, and beans

There’s nothing quite like a warm and hearty bowl of chili on a cold and blustery day. Not only is this recipe simple – you pretty much throw everything into a slow cooker! – but it’s packed with important nutrients that can keep you healthy during colder months. Bell peppers and tomatoes are high in vitamin C, a key factor in promoting immune system health, and tomatoes are full of lycopene, an antioxidant. The beans that provide great texture to this chili are also full of protein, fiber, and important vitamins like folate.

(While these ingredients are lectins, we tackle why eating lectins may be beneficial in this blog post!) This chili lasts up to five days in the fridge and up to two months in the freezer.


For the chili:

  • 1 pound ground turkey, cooked until just browned
  • 1 can (29 ounces) tomato sauce (no salt or spices)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes (no salt or spices)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1–2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup corn (frozen or fresh)
  • 1–2 chilis in adobo sauce (add more or less depending on desired spice)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the corn bread:

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup almond flour (or flour of your choice – except for coconut flour as texture won’t be the same)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup almond milk (or unsweetened plant-based milk of your choice)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted) + 1 tablespoon coconut oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • Optional: sliced green onions, shredded cheese


  1. Place all chili ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low heat for 6–7 hours or high heat for 3–4 hours.
  2. When chili has about 30 minutes left to cook, preheat oven to 350°F and prepare corn bread.
  3. Combine all dry corn bread ingredients in large mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine all wet corn bread ingredients.
  5. Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients.
  6. Use a spatula to thoroughly combine all ingredients.
  7. Grease an 8” x 8” baking dish with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. You can use a paper towel to make sure the entire pan is well greased.
  8. Pour the corn bread batter into the baking dish and evenly distribute it.
  9. Bake for 20–30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden brown.
  10. Serve warm chili with a piece of warm corn bread, and garnish chili with desired toppings.


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