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!

stack of pumpkin bars on blue cake stand

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 (just like my soft pumpkin cookies)
  • 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


Video Tutorial


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 in a bowl

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.

spreading pumpkin bars batter into 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 and festive for Halloween? I used “Ah Maize-ing Twinkle Sprinkle Medley” from Sweetapolita. Here are our decorated Halloween cookies if you need an additional seasonal dessert idea!

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!

Print
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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 (360gconfectioners’ 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

160 Comments

  1. Made these last night after throwing a whole pan away from a different recipe. I came to your blog because where else would I come in need of a recipe. I got in my car and grabbed a few things I needed. And these are awesome!!!! Also I didn’t have pumpkin pie spice but I had all of the spices separately and made my own. Thank you for posting the pumpkin pie spices and ratios below the recipe. This recipe is now my new pumpkin bars recipe. Thank you thank you.

  2. Super delicious! I didn’t even bother to frost them. The texture is “exactly right” according to my husband. Another excellent recipe – Thank you, Sally!

  3. Outstanding! Easy enough to make. Took them to my co-workers. They were gone in minutes! Oh, and………………….make the cream cheese frosting!!!!!!

  4. Can this recipe make muffins too?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carol, You could but they will be a bit heavier than a typical muffin. We love these Pumpkin Muffins (with or without the crumb topping!)

  5. Cindy l collins says:

    What pan can I use if I don’t have a jelly roll pan

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cindy, 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. However, if you try a different size pan and it works out for you, please let us know!

  6. Hi Sally!
    I am always so skeptical of googling recipes. Yours was so easy to follow and it was delicious! My husbands favorite season is fall and anything pumpkin. He raved about it. Thank you for your simplistic instructions and attention to detail (especially using the correct size pan)!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so happy to hear that you enjoyed this recipe, Lisa. Thank you for your positive feedback – enjoy!

  7. Absolutely, amazingly delicious!!!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!♥️♥️♥️
    DID NOT change a thing!! Perfect perfect perfect!!!!

  8. How would these be with the vanilla buttercream frosting you mention as an option for the Best Pumpkin Cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Absolutely!

  9. THESE ARE AMAZING….Enough said

  10. Can anyone verify that by using the size jelly roll that’s recommended that this does make 24 good sized bars? I am in charge of making desserts for my sons teachers for conferences this week and I need to bring enough for 24 people. I’m just worried I won’t have enough!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katie, correct, this recipe does yield 24 bars. Hope they’re a hit at teacher conferences!

  11. I made these for my husband and he said they were the best he’s ever had. He even took some to work and everyone raved about them. I’m not usually a fan but these are so amazing I am having one with my morning coffee I was out of my pure maple syrup so had to settle for the hungry jack I had on hand. Will definitely be my go to recipe like many of your others. Thank you!

  12. Fabulous recipe all by itself but I’ve also taken the license of adding 16 oz chocolate chips and roughly 12 oz chopped pecans…OMG truly ahmazing! I’ve also made this recipe with gluten free flour and have reduced the oil to 1/3 cup with 2/3 applesauce with literally no discernible difference. Last night, we melted the chocolate chips and swirled it into the bars for a really pretty dessert. Please make this with the cream cheese frosting, it is truly a wonderful recipe and super versatile.

  13. My family loves this recipe. Last year I think I made it 3 – 4 times over the fall season. I add toasted pumpkin seeds as a garnish.

  14. I thought I rated this recipe last year! I must’ve forgotten with all the pumpkin bars I was busy stuffing my face with. I’m out of the house right now and just committed to making something for a breakfast potluck. I knew JUST what I wanted to bring! These pumpkin bars really were THE best I’ve ever had! They went quick last year at the couple of events I made them for. I can’t wait to make them again. (*Bonus that you don’t waste any canned pumpkin! Woohoo!) (Also, because I found this recipe in a pinch last year, I wasn’t able to order the jelly roll pan and WM didn’t have any in stock. I bought what they had and it worked perfectly for this recipe. I’ll update later when I get home for anyone that’s on the hunt for a bigger baking pan).

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so thrilled to hear that you love these pumpkin bars, Cameo!

  15. What would the time/temp conversion be if I wanted to bake it in my mini silicone Bundt pan?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brooke! We recommend using this pumpkin cake recipe (or these pumpkin cupcakes for a smaller batch) for a mini bundt pan, the bake temp will be the same and the time will depend on the size of your mini bundt pan. Keep an eye on it in the oven and use a toothpick to test for doneness!

  16. Used a 10×14 inch pan and it worked just fine. Fantastic recipe. I also used reduced fat cream cheese and added a tbsp more butter in the frosting. It was delicious. I would add nuts to the bars next time.

  17. Wow!! These are incredible. Definitely the best pumpkin bars I’ve ever had too!!

  18. I’m guessing these can’t be frozen because of the cream cheese, is that correct?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kerry, these bars can be frozen with or without the cream cheese frosting. See recipe notes for more detailed freezing instructions.

  19. Yummmmm! I can’t stop taking slivers lol super easy to make and make that frosting! It compliments the bars nicely and isn’t overly sweet.

  20. These were amazing. My family loved them and I took some to work and everyone is asking for the recipe and asking me to make them again. The cream cheese frosting is the best!! Even my son who doesn’t like pumpkin is asking for them again. Amazingly delicious!

  21. Good morning ~

    Do you think I could use a gluten free flour without affecting the recipe?

    Thank you

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Connie, We haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flours, but some readers have reported success using 1:1 flour substitutes (like Cup4Cup). If you try it, let us know how it goes!

  22. Will this work in a standard lasagne pan?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ryan, is your lasagne pan 9×13? You can make these in a 9×13 inch pan, but they will be thicker and, as a result, taste cakier.

  23. Truly THE best. You’ve outdone yourself Sally!!

  24. These are delicious, but… I’ve been on the hunt for an even denser pumpkin bar. If I omit 1 egg, do you think I’d get an even LESS cakey version? Again, these are lovely, but just wondering!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Megan, The easiest way to make these more dense would be to cut back on the leaveners a bit so that it doesn’t rise quite as much. You could also try adding (not taking away) an extra egg yolk make the batter richer and heavier but we have not tested this. Let us know if you try anything!

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