Pumpkin cheesecake bars are a delicious fall dessert recipe. Cheesecake is my all-time favorite dessert. I’ll take cheesecake over chocolate, or pretty much any cake. Well, unless the cake is carrot cake. But then again, CREAM CHEESE! (This post was originally published on September 23rd, 2013)
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I usually make this recipe as a regular round cheesecake, but when I updated it, I decided to go for pumpkin cheesecake bars. We like to serve a few desserts during the holidays and these bars are a smaller serving than regular cheesecake, which means you can have TWO desserts! These are the best pumpkin cheesecake bars I’ve tasted, with a buttery graham cracker crust, creamy cheesecake filling, and warm pumpkin spices.
Can I make these gluten-free?
I’ve made this with gluten-free gingersnap cookies as well as gluten-free graham cracker crumbs. Both are great substitutes. There is no flour in the pumpkin mixture, which means no other adaptations necessary.
What kind of canned pumpkin is best?
When it comes to canned pumpkin, you have to be really careful! Make sure that you’re reading the ingredients on the can of pumpkin so that you are 100% certain that you’re actually buying pumpkin. Some canned “pumpkins” are actually squash with NO real pumpkin at all! If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can make your own pumpkin. Here’s how to cook a pumpkin.
How long does it take to get the cream cheese to room temperature?
As long as you set your cream cheese out for about 30 minutes, that should soften it up enough and have it close to room temperature so that it creams up nicely for the cheesecake middle.
Can I substitute pumpkin pie mix for canned pumpkin?
Many bakers try and do this, but don’t! The two are totally different and it will have an effect on the recipe. Pumpkin pie mix is already sweetened and flavored so when you add in the other ingredients on this recipe list, there is a chance that you’ll make it too sweet.
Why is it so hard to find canned pumpkin?
Canned pumpkin can be hard to find, depending on the year. Since the pumpkins need to have good weather conditions to grow, when mother nature doesn’t cooperate, it can cause a shortage in the canned pumpkin world.
Ingredients for pumpkin cheesecake bars
- Traditional cheesecake uses crushed graham crackers for the crust. This version uses a combination of graham cracker crumbs and finely chopped pecans. The pecans give the cheesecake a bit of crunch and texture.
- If you’re not a fan of pecans or nuts, use 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs.
- I’ve also made this recipe with crushed speculoos cookies, which are like Biscoff cookies, and gingersnap cookies, in place of the graham cracker crumbs.
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans.
- melted butter
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (if using Biscoff or speculoos cookies, omit the sugar as they are quite sweet on their own.
- Pinch of kosher salt for balance.
- 15-ounce can of pure pumpkin puree. Not pumpkin pie filling.
- light brown sugar.
- pumpkin pie spice blend.
- 16 ounces brick-style cream cheese (2 8-ounce packages) at room temperature .)
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 3 large eggs
- kosher salt
- vanilla extract
Fresh lightly sweetened whipped cream, and finely chopped pecans just before serving.
Do I need to use a water bath?
A water bath is traditionally used to prevent cracks in a cheesecake. But this time I put a pan of boiling hot water in the oven on the rack below and the end result was the same; no cracks! This method is much less hassle than a traditional water bath.
How to make pumpkin bars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9″ baking pan with parchment paper. The parchment makes the bars easier to remove once they are baked.
To make the crust, mix the graham crumbs, sugar, salt, and pecans together by hand or in a food processor.
Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, using a measuring cup to press the crumbs down.
Bake the crust for 8 minutes at 350 degrees F. Remove crust from oven and allow to cool while preparing filling.
Reduce oven to 325 degrees F.
Pumpkin cheesecake batter
The moisture in canned pumpkin puree can vary. To remove some of the moisture from the pumpkin, spread it out on several layers of paper towels.
In a mixing bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese at a low speed. Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy, and any lumps are gone.
Next, add the sour cream and mix until well combined. Add brown sugar. salt, and pumpkin pie spice and beat until mixed.
On medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, until blended.
Fold in the pumpkin mixture, either by hand or in the stand mixer. Don’t over-mix batter.
Spread the pumpkin cheesecake mixture over the crust, smoothing the filling with an offset spatula. Tap or lightly drop the baking dish on counter or cutting board to settle the filling, and get rid of any air bubbles.
Bake at 325 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 F. and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the filling is just set and slightly jiggly. The cheesecake bars will continue to firm up as they cool. Wrap well and refrigerate once they are cool. They actually taste better the next day, so this is a great make ahead dessert if you’re preparing the Thanksgiving dinner!
Can I freeze pumpkin cheesecake bars?
These will freeze well if you’re saving some for a Thanksgiving dessert. For best results, do not put the whipped cream rosettes on the individual pieces. They’ll smoosh when you try and wrap them. Wrap the bars well with plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil. To defrost, unwrap them from the foil and loosen the plastic wrap. Allow them to defrost in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Looking for more pumpkin recipes?
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Graham Cracker Crust
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, pecans, sugar and butter.
- Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Bake 8 minutes. Let cool.
- Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt and spices.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer on low speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth (about 3 minutes)
- Gradually add the sugar mixture and beat until creamy and smooth (1 to 2 minutes).
- Add sour cream and mix until well blended.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down sides of the bowl each time.
- Mix in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree.
- Pour the filling over the baked crust. Smooth with an offset spatula and rap or drop lightly to remove any air bubbles.
- Place a baking pan of boiling water on the lowest rack in the oven.
- Bake the cheesecake for 30 minutes, on the middle rack of the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. and continue to bake the cheesecake another 10-15 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake are puffed, but the center is still a little wet and jiggles when you gently shake the pan.
- Allow cheesecake to cool completely. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.