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

111 Comments

  1. They look delicious!
    I always get so sad because canned pumpkin puree isn’t a thing where I’m from, so i have to make it from scratch. But when I eventually will I am totally going to make these bars!

  2. I love everything pumpkin and this looks so easy to make and even yummies to nosh on. Today, I’ll be doubling the recipe and making a large batch to share with all the residents of my apartment building. I’m sure they’ll enjoy it as much as I will! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Yay the first pumpkin recipe of the season!!! I love this time of year and these bars will definitely be going on my pumpkin to bake list 🙂

  4. Oh my goodness, it’s like a brownie but in pumpkin form WITH frosting, and I am SO about it!! Love those cute little decorations too! These are beautiful, Sally!

  5. I’m with you; I find it so annoying when a recipe calls for just a small amount of a whole can of something-or-other. Nice, indeed, that this calls for an entire can of pumpkin.

      1. Hi Sally!
        I’m just chiming in here… I make all your recipes with King Arthur’s GF BAKING MIX (not Gf flour one). Everything from cookies to Chocolate Zucchini cake, loaf cakes, your yellow cake etc. ALL turn out wonderful. No extra steps or other substitutions. 🙂

  6. These look amazing. I love that they are non-dairy until you frost them, although I think they need the frosting. It is wonderful that you have links to so many of the products that you used. (Why link to the glass bowls? I did not see your suggestion of when they’ll be needed.) These will definitely be one of my fall baking projects, especially for the upcoming High Holidays. I love pumpkin. Thank you, Sally.

    1. Hi Judy, I link to the tools used in this recipe including the glass mixing bowls. (You need mixing bowls for the dry and wet ingredients.) Hope you love these too!

      1. Oh dear, of course. I have wanted bowls like those for ages and I love watching you use them in your video demonstrations. They look so perfect. I may treat myself to them very soon. I love your blog!

    1. Hi Mona! I don’t recommend substituting almond flour unless you play around with the recipe. Almond flour won’t soak up all this moisture. Let me know if you try anything!

  7. These are just what I’ve been waiting for! I’m gathering recipes for a teacher appreciation luncheon in October. These are perfect! Can I make the night before?

    1. Sure can! Frosted, they store wonderfully in the refrigerator. Unfrosted, just keep at room temperature. See last recipe instruction for storing. 🙂

  8. I vote for a very longgg pumpkin season and will be making these next weekend for a college football game!! I LOVE the cream cheese frosting you added to these. Happy weekend to everyone!!

  9. I made your pumpkin spice snickerdoodle recipe at the beginning of this week, which were warm, delicious and chewy, but since the recipe only used a small amount of pumpkin I was left with a lot of extra (I had a large can). This only gave me another reason to bake more pumpkin-y treats and I’m glad I did because I love these bars! I really like the texture and the spiced flavor. I’m not a fan of cream cheese frosting, so I decided to drizzle the bars with maple icing! I omitted the maple syrup in the batter, though, to avoid them being overly sweet. I’ll definitely be making these again and maybe even toss in some toasted pecans for a little crunch. Thanks, Sally!

  10. Yours is my go-to blog. I love your recipes and tutorials. Don’t get me wrong, these were delicious; however, it was NOT a bar but a dense layer of cake with frosting. I will make them again but will serve them always with a fork and plate and call it a pumpkin “short” cake!

  11. Made these for a potluck tonight and everyone wanted extras! I had none left over definitely a hit! I will be making these again for sure!

  12. This was fantastic!!! Tasted great and was still nice and soft the second day. I agree with you that I liked that we needed a whole can of pumpkin as I always hated throwing away that leftover pumpkin when I didn’t use it up after a few days. And the spice was perfect and loved it in the frosting as well! Hubby said it was the best cake I’ve made so far! THANK YOU!

  13. Hello! I bought a can of Libby’s Pumpkin Pie filling when I was visiting the USA, here in Aus it’s not a thing – can’t wait to try it out for these 🙂

  14. I’ve made two pumpkin recipes this fall and they both have been yours! Your best ever pumpkin bread was my first of course! It’s my favorite but since I had already made that I thought I would try these and they are SO good! Mine turned out to the bar consistency you talked about but I had the 10×15 pan so that probably helped. The frosting is amazing too! Cannot wait to make more recipes this fall. Will probably be making your pumpkin chocolate chip cookies next. Those are a fav as well! Thank you for all your amazing recipes!

  15. These were great and easy to make! I do wish they were a little bit sturdier, but didn’t have a problem eating them as bar. I only put cinnamon in the cream cheese frosting but wish I would have put all the pumpkin pie spices in it as called for, it needed that little bit of extra flavor to bring it altogether.

    1. Yes! Or you can leave it out completely. (No need to replace with anything, though you could replace with brown sugar if desired.)

  16. These were a huge hit at a work carry in! Mine came out more cake-like than I was expecting, but I think it might be because my pumpkin puree had been frozen and there seemed to be a lot of excess moisture when I thawed it out. Also, my batter didnt seem as thick as how the photos look. BUT it didn’t matter, they were delightful in taste and texture!

    1. Hi Sharon! The bars would be pretty thin in two 9×13 inch pans, but you can certainly try. The bake time will be shorter, so keep a close eye on them.

  17. Made these for dessert after dinner with our Priests….What a hit!
    Will keep making these for sure, we have a Pumpkin Carving party coming up and these will be perfect! Wish could attach a picture…

  18. Can nuts be added? What kind is best? What about diced crystallized ginger or cinnamon chips? Or dried cranberries or yellow raisins? Or some rum or bourbon?

    1. Hi Lee, you can add chopped pecans, walnuts, diced crystallized ginger, cinnamon chips, dried cranberries, or raisins to this batter. I recommend anywhere between 3/4 – 1.5 cups total add-ins. I’m unsure about rum or bourbon.

  19. Made these yesterday, what a great recipe! Replaced the cream cheese frosting with a different marscapone frosting recipe (since I don’t like cream cheese).

    Your recipes and instructions are always spot on and the final product is delicious, thank you!

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