The Best Pumpkin Bars I’ve Ever Had

These are the best pumpkin bars I’ve ever had. They have incredible spiced pumpkin flavor and aren’t quite as light and cakey as most other recipes I’ve tried. Instead, they’re soft and sturdy which pairs perfectly with the spiced cream cheese frosting on top!

pumpkin bars

I’m following up the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever had with the best pumpkin bars I’ve ever had. My pumpkin bars and pumpkin cake have their differences, which I discuss below, and I’m so proud to share both of these recipes on my blog with you. If you enjoy my pumpkin cake, you will FLIP for these pumpkin bars too.

These are the Best Pumpkin Bars I’ve Ever Had

And here’s why:

  • Big pumpkin flavor
  • Generously spiced with pumpkin pie spices
  • Sweetened with brown sugar
  • Soft, yet sturdy
  • Super moist
  • Cakey, but not as cakey as others– no fork required!
  • Finished with spiced cream cheese frosting
  • …and sprinkles!

pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting

Are Pumpkin Bars and Pumpkin Cake The Same?

Let’s clear this up right away! Some pumpkin bar recipes basically produce pumpkin cake. Sure, the bars are totally delicious, but they’re more like a thin and fragile piece of cake than an easy bar dessert. I set out to create something slightly different, but still maintain a favorably soft and moist texture.

I actually started with my pumpkin cake recipe because, again, it’s my favorite. Here we’ll reduce the baking powder so the bars have a little less lift. We’ll also remove 1 egg because less egg = less cakey. And, finally, reduce the granulated sugar and add a touch of maple syrup. The pure liquid sweetener adds flavor, moisture, and really gives these particular bars that little something extra. (These definitely stand out from other recipes.)

So, yes, pumpkin bars and pumpkin cake can taste the same. Follow my recipe for a little variation. By the way, if you’re craving pumpkin pie as a bar, here are my pumpkin pie bars. 🙂

pumpkin bars batter

How to Make Pumpkin Bars

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. You need flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.
  2. Whisk wet ingredients together. You need vegetable oil or melted coconut oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, pure maple syrup, 1 can pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract. By the way, I love when recipes use the entire can of pumpkin. So convenient!
  3. Combine all the ingredients and spread into a 10×15 inch baking pan. The size of the pan is key to their texture. Anything smaller creates thick pumpkin bars, which taste almost identical to pumpkin cake. A larger pan will promise thin and flimsy bars.
  4. Bake for around 30 minutes. Baking times can vary, so keep an eye on yours. The bars are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool, then frost.

Good news is that you’ll get a lot of use out of this particular size pan. (I recently purchased this one and love it.) Use it again for pumpkin roll, champagne cake roll, and apple slab pie.

pumpkin bars batter in baking pan

Baker’s Tip: A few lumps in the batter is OK.

spreading cream cheese frosting on a sheet pan of pumpkin bars

Topping for Pumpkin Bars

You can keep these pumpkin bars totally plain or even dust with a little confectioners’ sugar. They’re still fabulous without a special garnish on top! But, alas, I never pass up an opportunity for cream cheese frosting. To give them a little extra flair, add pumpkin pie spice to the frosting. You’ll be surprised how a *little* spice can totally transform frosting, as evidenced with my cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

Tangy, creamy, spiced, and sweet, this cream cheese frosting is the perfect partner for our pumpkin bars. I cut back on the butter in the frosting to (1) produce less and (2) create a thicker, sturdier frosting. Perfect for these portable bars.

Let’s Garnish!

To finish them off, garnish with festive sprinkles or even pumpkin icing decorations. Aren’t they fun?! I used Ah Maize-ing Twinkle Sprinkle Medley. Use code SALLYSBAKING15 for 15% off your Sweetapolita sprinkles purchase. 🙂

pumpkin bars

Pumpkin bars are a total classic and I hope you turn to this recipe the next time you crave a batch! How many votes for year-long pumpkin season?

PS: You need to try my pumpkin donuts this fall season too!

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pumpkin bars

The Best Pumpkin Bars I’ve Ever Had

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: about 24 bars
  • Category: Bars
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These are the best pumpkin bars I’ve ever had. They have incredible spiced pumpkin flavor and aren’t quite as light and cakey as most other recipes I’ve tried. Instead, they’re soft and sturdy which pairs perfectly with the spiced cream cheese frosting on top!


Ingredients

  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable oil*
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (65g) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) pure maple syrup
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree*
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • optional: sprinkles for decorating

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 10×15 inch baking pan. Or line the pan with parchment paper with enough overhang on the sides to easily lift the bars (as a whole) out.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice together in a large bowl. Set aside. Whisk the oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple syrup, pumpkin, and vanilla extract together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a mixer or whisk until completely combined. Batter will be thick.
  3. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 28-35 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The bars are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top or edges of the bars browning too quickly, loosely tent with aluminum foil.
  4. Remove the bars from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack. Cool bars completely. (After about 45 minutes of cooling, you can place the bars in the refrigerator to speed things up!)
  5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. If you want the frosting a little thicker, add an extra 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar. Spread the frosting on the cooled bars. To help “set” the frosting, refrigerate for 30 minutes before slicing and serving. This makes cutting easier and less messy.
  6. Enjoy with or without a fork, but definitely grab a napkin!
  7. Cover leftover bars tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you skipped the frosting, cover and store plain pumpkin bars at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare recipe through step 4. Cover cooled bars tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. You can cut the bars and freeze in a large freezer container, too. Bring to room temperature, make the frosting, frost, and serve. Frosted bars also freeze well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or serve cold.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Glass Mixing Bowls | 10×15 Inch Baking Pan | Icing Spatula | Pumpkin Icing Decorations
  3. Lining Pan: You can line the baking pan with parchment paper to easily lift out the bars as a whole. Or you can simply grease the pan. Once completely cool, you can (very carefully!!) slide a couple thin spatulas under the bars and lift out to put on a cutting board to slice. Or just slice them in the pan.
  4. Spices: Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon each in the bars: ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground allspice, and ground ginger. In the frosting, use a pinch of each, plus a pinch of cinnamon too.
  5. Oil: Instead of 1 cup of oil, try 1/2 cup (90g) unsweetened applesauce and 1/2 (120ml) cup oil. The bars are just as moist. Vegetable oil is best, but melted coconut oil works too.
  6. Pumpkin: I strongly recommend using canned pumpkin puree over homemade in this recipe, though 2 cups of homemade would be fine in a pinch. I found the flavor better with canned. I prefer Libby’s brand.

Keywords: pumpkin bars

108 Comments

  1. This is my new favorite recipe! It’s so easy and comes out delicious every time. I did Sally’s suggestion of using oil and applesauce to reduce the fat a little. I also only did half of the frosting recipe and, for my family, it was the perfect amount, just enough to cover the bars but not so much as to overpower them. Thank you Sally for such a great recipe!

  2. Could you make these in regular muffin tins? How many would you get from one recipe?
    I am thinking this might be easier to serve.

  3. Light, moist, and delicious. Made them for Thanksgiving along with a peanut butter pie and I couldn’t believe that everyone (myself included) loved these pumpkin bars more than the pie! I’m saving the recipe and will be making it every year.

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