This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

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. Or for breakfast try these simple pumpkin muffins. 🙂

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. You can use homemade pumpkin pie spice here!
  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. I’m unable to find a link to the exact pumpkins you see in the photos, but these pumpkin decorations are also adorable. Here are our decorated Halloween cookies and Halloween cupcakes if you need additional seasonal dessert ideas!

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?

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
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 store-bought or homemade 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 store-bought or homemade 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: You can find pumpkin pie spice in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or make your own homemade pumpkin pie spice. If you don’t have either and want to use individual spices, use 3/4 teaspoon each: ground ginger and ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each: ground cloves and ground allspice. Do not leave out the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon that is also called for in this recipe. In the frosting, use a tiny pinch of each, plus a tiny 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. This is my third year making these pumpkin bars. First two I made exactly to the recipe, pan size and all. Today I decided to switch it up a bit. I used one full recipe ad split it between a square pan and two mini cupcake pans. The minis were done in about 15 minutes and the square was around 18-20.
    The first set of minis I filled a little too high so the tops puffed up and the second round I filled conservatively and they are the perfect bite size.

    No matter the size, the texture remain the same, a very moist and dense cake.

  2. Amazinggggg!!
    First time I made these for a reunion and I didn’t have the larger pan size so I made this exact recipe in a 9×13 pan. Yes, baking time extended but omgggg so delish!! Obviously they ended up a little more like cake then bars but still SO amazing!
    Making this recipe for the second time today for my husband and his union buddies (finally purchased the recommended pan size)— I’m kind of jealous I won’t be able to taste them this time around! I’m sure they are just as amazing!

    Thank you for the recipe!

  3. I’ve been eyeballin’ this recipe for a while now and finally decided to try it. It’s absolutely fantastic and I can’t believe I waited so long! Although now I wish I’d kept right in waiting, what with the fact that I can’t seem to stop eating it.

    Also – I didn’t have cream cheese (I know, right!?) so I whipped up some of the maple icing from your Maple Brown Sugar cookies – Holy Hotpants, Batman!

    Thank you for another wonderful recipe

  4. I’ve made a lot of pumpkin bars over the years and this is by far the best. Very moist! Follow the directions and put the spice in the frosting. Amazing!

  5. I made these exactly as the recipe states except I used a 9×13 pan. I tested a few times to know exactly when they were done because of the different pan size. This is truly an amazing, perfectly spiced pumpkin bar. But everyone in my family agreed it was more like a tender cake than a bar. For us a bar implies a more dense and chewier consistency. Regardless, we all loved it!

  6. I make these every year, follow the recipe exactly, and its a crowd pleaser, everyone loves these. They are so EASY to make. I basically look forward to to fall for them! They may be pumpkin but these are not “basic” they are a flavor symphony. So declivous.

    1. Husband been down with Covid. Finally has a request, and was these bars….oh my word, they are fantastic. These bars are husband approved.

  7. I made these pumpkin bars for our family gathering this weekend! They were delicious! I wasn’t sure I’d like the spiced frosting, but I made it as directed and I’m glad I did. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  8. I made these pumpkin bars exactly as written but used cup4cup gluten free flour. I didn’t tell anyone except my celiac daughter. They were so good! Everyone loved them. I’m making them again for a baby shower dessert buffet.

  9. Disappointed Followed the recipe exactly but it was lacking pumpkin taste. The texture was ok. Has anyone tried using more than 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree?

  10. I feel funny asking this, I read your notes as well as comments from readers. Is there a way to adjust the recipe and use a 9×13 pan?
    Thank you so much, just trying to avoid buying another pan.

    1. Hi Susan, the size pan is essential to their texture, but you can bake in a 9×13 inch cake pan for more cake-like bars and follow the baking time from pumpkin cake as a guide. Or, you can try splitting the batter between two 9×13 pans for thinner bars. Let us know what you try!

    1. Hi Donna, you can add chopped pecans or walnuts to this batter. We recommend anywhere between 3/4 – 1.5 cups total add-ins.

  11. I made these and they turned out AMAZING! I was short on frosting so I doubled the butter, and added 2 more cups of powdered sugar. The icing was the perfect amount then, and still tasted like cream cheese frosting even though I didn’t add any more cream cheese. I used the recommendation to add the pumpkin pie spice, and I also added a splash of pure maple syrup… IT WAS DELICIOUS! I used 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice since I added more powdered sugar and butter. I would highly recommend these!

Leave a Review!

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.