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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 the texture. Anything smaller creates thick pumpkin bars, which taste almost identical to pumpkin cake. A pan larger than 10×15 inch will give you 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 the frosting on these banana cupcakes.

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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Made these with 1:1 Gluten Free flour mix, added 1 extra egg and they are amazing!!

  2. These pumpkin bars are the best I have ever eaten! I made two batches and took one to a sweet friend who had just lost her mother! She loved the as well!

  3. Hello,

    I am preparing to make this recipe today. Getting my ingredients together and I only have a “hot honey” bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. What are your thoughts about risking using vs regular maple syrup?
    I also have agave and also monkfruit that I don’t know much about using as a baking ingredient substitute.

    Thanks for your wonderful recipes! Can’t go wrong when followed!

    1. Hi Nora, you can certainly try using your bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. We’re unsure of how much it will impact the taste, but let us know if you do decide to give it a try. We’re not trained in baking with sugar substitutes, so it might be best to find a recipe that specifically calls for agave and monkfruit to use those ingredients in. Here are our recipes with agave if you’re interested!

      1. Okay, going to try and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted. Fingers crossed

  4. I made this recipe using 1/2 oil and 1/2 homemade applesauce. I used “hot honey” bourbon barrel aged maple syrup (it was all I had) and the recipe came out so delicious!

  5. Excellent flavor and texture. Beautifully moist but you can hold a square in your hand to eat! I love cream cheese frosting and I’m sure it makes these even better but these are delicious w/out as well if you are short on time or want to save some calories.

    If anyone else is curious, I halved the recipe and baked in an 8×8 silicone @ same time and temp and it came out so well. Will make again!

    1. Wowsers! Made these again last night (with frosting this time) to rave reviews and recipe requests from my girlfriends. This batter comes together so easily and works perfectly split in two 8×8’s with 28 mins bake time for me. Did the half oil/half applesauce and still wonderful and moist. Thank you for sharing.

  6. These were very good. As my son has a gluten intolerance I was going to use Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 flour. I made the bars and realized that I had actually used almond flour! Anyway, they turned out great! I did store them in the fridge as they were a bit softer perhaps. We all enjoyed them, and perhaps others will enjoy the gluten free version as well.

    1. Look into ordering European flour and read reviews, like on Amazon. Incredible amount of testimonials from people with gluten issues, and why they can eat anything in Europe or anything made with European flour. The way we mass produce our wheat in the States…is largely what causes the issues. They don’t have gluten issues across the pond. Unless they visit here.

  7. Can I use melted butter, instead of the vegtable oil? OR Can I use All Vegetable Shortening Sticks butter flavored? Thanks

    1. Hi Beth, the same amount of melted butter would work but the bars may not taste as moist. We don’t recommend the vegetable shortening. Hope you enjoy these bars!

  8. I was expecting them to be more of a cookie bar but mine came out 100% cake…

  9. I have been baking for years and tried many pumpkins bar recipes but this beats all of them hands down

    1. Hi Bonnie, You can make these in a 9×13 inch pan, but they will be thicker and, as a result, taste cakier.

    1. Hi Lucie, it’s deep enough but that size pan is a little too large. The bars will be very thin and flimsy. I recommend 10×15 inch.

  10. I used homemade mashed pumpkin as I had it on hand. I think they taste great, but I will try canned next time to compare. I will also try 1/2 applesauce 1/2 oil, to cut calories. Will be storing them in the refrigerator for our Thanksgiving dessert!

  11. I’m hoping it’s a 5 star. I’ve made 2 batches of pumpkin bars today. The first one was a thin cake. I thought maybe I could fix it using two instead of three eggs. It didn’t even bake correctly. I went looking for a real BAR and found your comments about the difference. I have to take 24 bars, nice sized, to a breakfast Wednesday morning, so I plan on making two batches. Since it’s
    a breakfast, I plan on dusting them with powdered sugar, then piping a large closed star flower in the center of each one. I’m counting on your recipe tomorrow!

  12. I made these for a Halloween party and they were amazing! I’m making them again for Thanksgiving. Can I refrigerate just the batter for a couple of days and then bake them off fresh?

    1. Hi Brittany, so glad you love these bars! We don’t recommend making the batter ahead of time – the raising agents will activate too soon and the bars won’t rise properly when baked.

  13. hi! i’ve been trying to find a good persimmon cake recipe that’s a bit cakey just like this one, so i was wondering if i can substitute the pumpkin purée for the same amount of persimmon pulp? would that work and would the texture be different?
    thank you!

    1. Hi Nishi! We’ve never tested that, but please let us know if you do 🙂

  14. I only wanted a pumpkin bar that I could make without having to dirty up the mixer, but this is now my pumpkin bar recipe. My guys both have severe GERD and have a hard time with spices, so I made it a little milder for them. I didn’t use canned pumpkin because I had a New York Cheese pumpkin on hand, and I do find those to be flavorful. Home-pureed seems to be wetter than canned, so I threw in a handful of dried currants. Raisins , dried date bits or dried cranberries soak up the water and would be yummy too.

  15. These were perfect for a Thanksgiving gathering with several guests who don’t like pie. EVERYONE raved about them! I didn’t have the recommended size pan, but a 1.5x batch baked up perfectly in a half sheet pan (18×13).

    Thanks for another great recipe!

  16. Hi!
    Can I add fresh or frozen cranberries for a taste/ texture variation or will the texture be affected by the additional moisture?

    1. Hi Jennifer! Absolutely, we recommend dried cranberries – anywhere between 3/4 – 1.5 cups would work!

  17. Made these and loved them! Followed both recipes to a T; curious if anyone has calculated calories on this?

  18. Yep, these are the best pumpkin bars I’ve ever had! I just made them for Christmas 2021. 🙂

    1. I swapped out the syrup for molasses and added ginger. The kids asked, “Aunt J, are these gingerbread or pumpkin bars?.” I said, “yep.” Call ’em whatever you like, they’re sure yummy,

  19. I’ve had so much success with Sally’s recipes, but sadly I feel like these are still very much like pumpkin cake and not bars, won’t make again.

  20. These are definitely more of a cake than a bar. I did substitute half applesauce for the oil, and baked in 2 8×8 pans. I found the frosting to be too soft for a bar as well, and I had add more icing sugar. I also had enough frosting leftover to do another pan. HOWEVER, these were absolutely delicious!! Quite happy to cut into cakes size pieces and eat with a fork, it’s so good! Thanks ,Sally, your website is the best on the internet for baking.

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