A thick layer of rich, creamy, spiced pumpkin cheesecake sits on top of a gingersnap graham cracker crust for the most decadent and delicious fall dessert. Bake these easy pumpkin cheesecake bars in a 13 x 9 pan for a festive treat that feeds a crowd (they're also freezer-friendly). Don't forget the whipped cream on top!
Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Bars
What could be more perfect for an autumn birthday, a Halloween party, or a Thanksgiving dessert buffet?! This Pumpkin Bars recipe with a graham cracker crust comes together easily with a just a few simple ingredients. The treats are festive, they're tasty, and they can be made in advance to avoid any last-minute stress. It's truly the perfect pumpkin cheesecake!
Gingersnap Graham Cracker Crust
I wanted the bars to have a warmly-spiced gingersnap crust; however, I have found that using gingersnap cookies in a crust can sometimes yield a crust that is so hard you can barely slice into it. Instead, this recipe has a classic graham cracker crust that's reminiscent of a more traditional cheesecake, but the graham cracker crust is seasoned with cinnamon and ginger to achieve that cozy, fall-inspired gingersnap flavor. It's the best of both worlds!
This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you'll need for a pan of the ultimate pumpkin cheesecake bars. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.
- Graham crackers: the graham cracker crumbs form the base of the crust.
- Sugar: to sweeten the crust and the pumpkin filling.
- Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves: warm spices that give the bars that classic pumpkin pie fall flavor.
- Salt: to balance the sweetness and enhance the other flavors in the bars.
- Butter: to bring the crust together.
- Cream cheese: use blocks of full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese, not tubs of the spreadable cream cheese and not low-fat varieties.
- Pumpkin puree: make sure that it's pure pumpkin -- not pumpkin pie filling.
- All-purpose flour: thickens the filling.
- Eggs: give the filling structure.
How to Make Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
These bars are like a beautiful cross between pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin pie -- in bar form. There are no fancy layers or swirls to mess with, no caramel drizzle, and no streusel topping. Just a classic pie filling poured on top of a spiced graham cracker crust. I love to garnish each individual slice with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon, but that's totally optional. They're easy, delicious, and perfect for the season!
- Make the Graham Cracker Crust. Process the graham crackers, sugar, ginger and cinnamon to fine crumbs. Then add melted butter and pulse until everything comes together -- it should look like wet sand. Sprinkle the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and press down gently. Tip: use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to push the crumbs into an even layer. Bake the crust in a 325°F oven for 15-18 minutes, or until it starts to turn golden brown and it feels dry to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.
- Make the Pumpkin Cheesecake Batter. For the cheesecake layer on top of the crust, use an electric mixer to beat together the softened cream cheese, pumpkin puree, and sugar until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Finally, beat in the eggs to form the thick cheesecake filling. Pour the pumpkin layer on top of the cool crust and spread evenly.
- Bake. Bake the bars in a 300°F oven for about 45 minutes, or until the center is set. Turn off the oven and leave the bars in the oven with the door closed for 1 hour. Then remove the pan to a wire rack and let the bars cool completely. Refrigerate until cold before slicing and serving.
This is a simple and convenient make-ahead dessert! The cheesecake bars need to be refrigerated, so store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Add the whipped cream on top just before serving.
Yes, you can even freeze these pumpkin dessert bars! Slice the cooled cheesecake into bars and store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator -- not at room temperature.
- Add More Pumpkin Spice: this pumpkin cheesecake has a nice, mild flavor. You get the notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, but they're not overpowering. If you prefer a more prominent pumpkin spice flavor, I recommend increasing the spices in the filling.
- Add a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract to the pumpkin layer.
- Shortbread Crust: if you like pumpkin cheesecake bars with shortbread crust, I recommend following this crust recipe. Let the crust cool and then proceed with this recipe.
- Chocolate Crust: use chocolate graham crackers instead of regular graham crackers and omit the ginger and cinnamon.
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Chips: fold mini chocolate chips into the cheesecake filling before spreading on the crust.
Tips for the Best Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars Recipe
- Be patient. I know it's the hardest part, but it's important to allow plenty of time for the crust to cool completely before adding the filling on top. Again, let the cheesecake bars cool in the oven for an hour, and then at room temperature, and finally in the fridge. Don't try to slice warm bars, or you'll end up with a soft mess!
- Start with softened blocks of full-fat cream cheese. It's easier to mix the cream cheese into a smooth filling when the cream cheese is at room temperature. Do not substitute with tubs of spreadable cream cheese.
- Don't Over-Mix the Batter. You want the mixture smooth, but over-mixing can incorporate too much air in the cheesecake. This causes the cheesecake to rise too quickly in the oven, then fall and create cracks.
- Cool at Room Temperature. Allow the bars to slowly cool -- first in the oven, and then at room temperature -- before finally placing them in the fridge to chill. If you change the temperature too quickly (for instance, put the warm bars straight into the fridge) it can cause cracks and condensation.
- Add a Garnish. Finish the tops of each bar with a dollop of whipped cream, a dusting of cinnamon, a miniature candy corn or candy pumpkin, or a drizzle of caramel sauce. The options are endless!
More Desserts You Can Make With Pumpkin Puree
- Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Pumpkin Dump Cake
- Easy Pumpkin Cake
- Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
- 2-Ingredient Pumpkin Gingerbread
- Pumpkin Dip
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
FOR THE CRUST
- 15 whole graham crackers, broken into smaller pieces
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted
FOR THE FILLING
- 3 (8 ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups canned pumpkin puree
- 2 cups sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- Optional garnish: whipped cream; dusting of cinnamon; candy corn or candy pumpkins; caramel sauce
- Arrange rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Combine graham cracker pieces, sugar, ginger and cinnamon in a food processor. Process to fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Add the melted butter and pulse to combine, about 5 times. Sprinkle the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Press down gently and evenly.
- Bake crust for 15-18 minutes, or until it starts to turn golden brown and is dry to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.
- Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, pumpkin and sugar at medium speed until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Add flour mixture to the cream cheese mixture, beating until combined. Add eggs, beat until combined. Spread batter onto prepared crust.
- Bake in 300°F oven until center is set, about 45 minutes. Turn oven off and leave the cheesecake bars in the oven with the door closed for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
- Refrigerate until cold before slicing into bars, about 3 hours.